“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”—Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Ecclesiastes is thought to have been written by a teacher. Based on the original Hebrew name for the writing—Kahal, meaning “assembler”—it is possibly one of the few scriptures written by a woman. The author likely taught at a Hebrew school that offered wisdom for life like Proverbs and the cultural letter of the law. At face value, these writings can feel despondent, but consider reading these verses as if they were in response to the unending questions of a challenging apprentice to a teacher of wisdom.

What are we, as perpetual students, asking about our human condition?

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Why are there wars and famines when we teach peace and plenty?

Why do I have sadness and pain when I faithfully adhere to my religious beliefs?

Why me, God?

Consider this from Jesus Christ Heals, written by Unity cofounder Charles Fillmore: “Man sets into action any of the three realms of his being, spirit, soul, and body, by concentrating his thought upon them. If he thinks only of the body, the physical senses encompass all his existence. If mind and emotions are cultivated he adds soul to his consciousness. If he rises to the Absolute and comprehends Spirit, he rounds out the God-man.”

Asking Deeper Questions

Ecclesiastes’ guarantee of both pleasant and distasteful life experiences comes from thoughts centered in our body. As we contemplate personal resistance to the array of human conditions laid out in these verses, we may uncover important insights through deeper questions.

Can I find God in my pain?

Where is Spirit when my life feels torn and God seems silent?

In Leddy and Randolph Schmelig’s book, Steps in Self-Knowledge, we read, “While it is good to arrange your life to be more conducive to mystical experience, remember that the great mystics of the earth have often achieved union with the Absolute at the most unlikely times, in the midst of the most (apparently) antagonistic events.”

Ecclesiastes deepens our intimate and complete relationship with God through all situations by embracing the complete spectrum of life’s experiences as a normal and necessary part of the infinite whole.

These verses of Ecclesiastes refer directly to such events—death, killing, breakdown, losing, hating, warring. Now we understand that these events can also be a gateway to a mystical experience or direct knowledge of God.

In order for humanity to comprehend Spirit, to grasp the fullness of the Absolute, we require the experience of the relative world. Unpleasant life experiences can appear to be oppositional and devoid of God compared to birth, building, laughing, healing, and dancing. Could we know what happiness is if we had not experienced sadness? If we were to live every moment ensconced in a hug, would we feel imprisoned instead of comforted? Would we still have the thrill of finding something if we did not understand the dilemma of loss?

Consonance and Dissonance

Experiences of comfort invite us to homestead, to take up residency as if the world will never change. Experiences of discomfort invite us to pioneer, to explore the wilderness as circumstances change. Situations of dissonance challenge us to find Absolute harmony. Situations of consonance challenge us to release any sense of separation from God.

We do not learn when we are living in the classroom of what we know. We do not stretch our souls when we feel in control. We do not fully grasp the breadth of the Infinite, the completeness of God, without being challenged to find God in those places where we fail to see Spirit.

Ecclesiastes presents the relative yin and yang of everything as the way it is meant to be. Unity presents it as the relative and the Absolute in the threefold nature of humankind.

The verses awaken us to the idea that, in spite of appearances, everything is part of the whole. In spite of our misperception that there are opposing conditions, we can be enticed to consider these are actually all integral to infinite wholeness of the one power and presence. This infinite wholeness is expressed through the entire spectrum of human conditions and the creative process.

Embracing the Complete Spectrum

Ecclesiastes deepens our intimate and complete relationship with God through all situations by embracing the complete spectrum of life’s experiences as a normal and necessary part of the infinite whole.

This has been taught throughout the history of Unity.

Unity minister Sue Sikking wrote in Only Believe, “We will change, change, change until we come into our absolute expression. All changes are to establish us in our own true state of unfoldment.”

But as H. Emilie Cady wrote in Lessons in Truth in 1903, we can be assured that in spite of it all, “Spirit, our innermost, real being, the absolute part of us, the I of us, has never changed, though our thoughts and our circumstances may have changed hundreds of times.”

Read more Unity Bible interpretations about expressing our spiritual truth in the human experience and other lessons from this passage in Ecclesiastes.

About the Author

Rev. Sharon Ketchum (she, her) is the minister at Unity Spiritual Center of Lansing, Michigan.


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