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Why aren’t some people joyful? Or what do we do if we’re a little down in the joy department? This is Part One of a series that hopefully helps us to experience more joy, no matter what season we’re in. To do this, we’re going to draw from the wisdom of man at the end of his life. We find this man in a book of the Bible called Ecclesiastes. Yes, this is an awkward title. This man was King and a teacher, and he had everything. Everything.

In Chapter 2 he says he had an abundance of silver and gold, servants, the treasure of kings, singers, a harem of women, many houses, building projects, parks, gardens, and vineyards for wine. To quote him, he says: ‘I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;  I refused my heart no pleasure.’

So, I’m guessing this guy must be joyful. He’s gained more than any of us could ever hope for! Yet this is the sentence he keeps repeating throughout the whole book:

‘Meaningless, meaningless! Everything is meaningless!’

Now, if this guy who gained everything can’t find meaning, satisfaction and joy – what hope do we have?!

Well that why he is writing this.

He knows the path to unsatisfaction and wants to show us a way to be satisfied and joyful. But how?

He begins with a poem that suggests we view the way we age incorrectly. You see, I used to think that life happens in one linear line: as we age we become strong, accomplish things, and grow in wisdom. Sure, this line can be a little wobbly, but the general direction is up.

This King disagrees.

See if you can pick the common theme in the three images he presents:

‘The sun rises and the sun sets,
and hurries back to where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
ever returning on its course.
 All streams flow into the sea,
yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
there they return again.’

Did you get it? All of these images are cyclical in nature. Sun. Wind. Streams. Back and forth. What if life doesn’t happen in one line? What if it happens in cycles? In seasons? Primary School. High School. Uni. Single. Married. You have a career. You’re retired. You’re a parent. A grandparent. Just like the seasons of summer and winter, no season lasts forever.

Every season has its beauty, and every season has its turmoil.

A Peschooler gets nap time and their lunch made for them, but they have little freedom.  As a teenager, you get to go school with people your own age. You growing in strength and intellect, and you have hope for your whole life ahead. But you are also at peak insecurity and puberty is just awkward (except for those lucky ones who never got acne, never had braces, and their voice went deep in an hour. I couldn’t stand those people back in high school. I digress).

At university you finally get to study the subjects you want, but you’re also totally broke because you wanted to be independent and moved out of home. Or, you live at home and fight with your parents because you want to be independent but cannot because you want to save cash. Funny that one.  As an adult you can finally buy a home, but you also have to live in debt with a mortgage. You may be single and enjoy freedom, but you also may be lonely. You may enjoy the companionship of a romantic relationship, but you also have to endure conflict. In your 30’s and 40’s you tend to be comfortable in your own skin, but you also notice the stress of work dominates your life. Retirees enjoy the freedom of not having to work, but they also taste boredom. The elderly are wise and being a grandparent means you can spoil your grandchild without the sleepless nights of raising a child. But the elderly deal with the pain of a failing body and the loss of people close to them.

Seasons come and seasons go.

Every season has its beauty and every season has its turmoil.

Part One of the King’s wisdom is to accept this.

We shouldn’t wish too quickly for the turmoil of one season to end, as we will just trade that turmoil for another. Even worse, we could miss the beauty of the season we’re currently in. For example, when I was 16 I was on my ‘L Plates’. My Pop used to teach me to drive, but it was so annoying having him next to me! I longed for the next season on my P’s when I could be free of an adult next to me! But when I did get my P’s, I now had to pay for petrol every time I used the car. That sucked. Also, wishing ahead for the next season meant I missed out on the beauty of my patient Pop helping me out.  He passed away a few years ago, and I’d give anything to have him in the car next to me.

So this week, this term, this season – let us be grateful for all we’ve been given. At Northern Beaches Christian School, one of our values is gratitude. Grateful people are joyful people. Let us be grateful for all the beautiful things we get to enjoy in this season, and this season alone. Don’t miss out on the beauty. Don’t wish everything in this season away too quickly. That’s Part One of the Biblical wisdom that the King is trying to pass on. But the King has more to share, and we will learn more from him in Part Two next time.

Damien Whitington
Senior Chaplain