By Joshua Gibbs, Upper School Humanities
Graduates, in the next year, you will finally lay hold of the freedom and control over your own lives which you have known was coming to you for quite awhile. As children, adults told you how to dress, where to sit, when to sleep. Now you will leave home, and you will decide for yourselves what to study, where to go to church, when to go to sleep— if at all.
A human life contains many seasons, many stages, and no matter what stage you are in, there will always come the temptation to believe that the next stage is the one where the good life begins. Just a little more power, a little more freedom, a little more money, and you could be happy.
Junior high students cannot wait until they are old enough to drive, drivers can’t wait to date, daters can’t wait to graduate, graduates can’t wait to move out of the house. Courting couples can’t wait to set a date, engaged couples can’t wait to tie the knot, newlyweds can’t wait until they’re not broke. Once you’re not broke, you have kids, then you’re broke again. You start in a career and can’t wait until you’re recognized for your achievements. You’re recognized for your achievements and you become impatient for a raise.
The next stage of life is always the one where you achieve the perfect amount of autonomy, freedom, and money. You’re not greedy, but just a little more and you could be content. And so many people pass their entire lives like the mythic figure Tantalus, for whom the boughs of sweet fruit always receded just beyond his fingers when he reached for them.
The Devil preys upon those who believe happiness is just out of reach. As with Eve, he tempts us to believe that those in authority are selfishly hoarding the good things, and that if we want them, we simply must be willing to seize them.
Of course, while we often believe that the good life begins with the next stage, we have also met people in that next stage who have said to us, “You don’t know how good you have it. Life only gets harder.” There is often the stench of bitterness about a man who speaks in such a manner, for he doesn’t really want younger people to be grateful for their lives, he simply wants to complain about his own.
So which perspective is right? Does everything actually get better in the next stage? Or does life only get harder?
In truth, neither perspective is right.
While more money and more freedom can provide you with more pleasure, they cannot provide you with more contentment. The world is crowded with people whose lives abound in pleasure, but are miserable and dissatisfied nonetheless.
Contentment is a condition of the soul, and it does not come with getting what you want, but in giving thanks to God for what you have been given. Any man who believes he cannot be content unless he has more time or freedom has made an idol of these things, for he believes that earthly things can grant spiritual virtue.
A little more money and a little more freedom will grant a little more pleasure… for a while, but once a man has fallen into this cycle of thought, he realizes that if a little more freedom brought a little more pleasure, a lot more freedom would provide a lot more pleasure, and then he becomes frustrated once again with his place in the world.
In Ecclesiastes, Solomon teaches us that God has appointed a time and season for every work under heaven. The seasons of our lives are not arbitrary, they are not accidental. The stages of our lives, and all that is vexing and joyous in them, have been given to us by God that we might know Him in each. He has given us…
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance…
The man who constantly longs for the next season of life rejects the gift God offers today. The knowledge of God we get in the time for tearing down is different than the knowledge we gain of him in the time to build up.
God is always the same, but we are not, and different seasons of life open us up to different aspects of the Divine Nature. Do not reject the season of life God sets you in simply because you encounter the God of weeping when you wanted to find the God of laughing. Graduates, by all means, enjoy all the good things which come with the next season of life, for there are many, and when you find that the next season of life involves more waiting than you expected, and less freedom than you hoped for, do not become weary. The same Christian insights which earned you praise in Mr. Trumbo’s classroom will often earn you scorn and mockery in a university classroom, but there is a time for glory and a time for embarrassment. God calls you to both.
Later in Ecclesiastes, Solomon teaches his son, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” The expression “whatever your hand finds to do” is a euphemism for “whatever God puts before you,” whatever your Father leads you to this day, this week… You may do whatever your hand finds to do, because all of your life is a gift, which means that all of your life is fodder for gifts which can be given to others. All of your life is a gift, which means you don’t have to deal with the stress and anxiety of holding on tightly to anything other than Jesus Christ as He presents Himself to you today.
For everything there is a season and a time, so Graduates,
when God gives you time to study, study all night.
When God gives you time to sleep, sleep as deeply and luxuriously as a prince.
When God gives you a time to flee temptation, run like the wind.
When God gives you time to mourn, cry your eyes out.
When God gives you a time to laugh, exhaust yourself in laughter.
And when God gives you a time to share in the lives of others, don’t hold anything back for yourself.
Pour yourself out and God will fill you up, and your cup will run over.
God bless you all.
Contact the author at Josh Gibbs | firstname.lastname@example.org | (804) 874-5445