‘He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.’ Ecclesiastes 3:11-14
I was reading the above words from Ecclesiastes this morning and three principles stood out very clearly which help to make sense of my personal journey over the last few years and which give me tremendous hope and encouragement as we enter a new decade –
‘that God has set eternity in the human heart’ (verse 11)
‘that it is the gift of God to find satisfaction in all their toil’ (verse 13)
‘that everything that God does will endure forever’ (verse 15)
Nine years ago my husband had a brain haemorrhage and underwent several months of tests. At each consultation the diagnosis and prognosis worsened – he had an aggressive brain tumour and was expected to live 52 weeks. Just before we received the final terminal diagnosis, I believe that the Lord showed me a clear picture of the future. I was looking down an embankment at a footpath where a disused single railway track had been. There was a bridge over the path. I saw my husband and myself walking hand-in-hand along the track and enter the bridge. However, I came out on the other side of the bridge alone and continued to walk, but the path ahead was misty, and I couldn’t see where it led. I felt a strong sense of peace, that, whatever the medical outcome, Stephen’s life was in God’s hands and my role was to support him and walk with him towards eternity, and that gave me the strength to deal with the very challenging task of caring for him as he deteriorated. He lived a further two years and was surrounded by prayer, both within our church in Middlesbrough and by friends here in Halesworth Community Church. The Lord didn’t heal Stephen physically, but he experienced a depth of spiritual and emotional healing and was at peace throughout his illness. He went to be with the Lord in August 2013.
As it says in Ecclesiastes ‘No one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end’ (3:11). I don’t understand the path I’ve walked, and it certainly isn’t the path I’d hoped for or expected but God has been faithful throughout my journey. I was reminded again of his goodness and faithfulness on a recent visit to Wetherby. On Christmas Eve I went for a walk with my son-in-law and two small grandchildren and we came to an old railway embankment. As I looked down, I saw a disused single-track railway line with a bridge part-way along – it looked identical to the picture I saw in my mind’s eye nearly nine years ago and I felt a powerful sense of gratitude to the Lord for his faithfulness during the intervening years. The path I’ve walked has had its ups and downs, joys and sadness’s, but the Lord has been faithful at every point. I’m grateful for my growing family (a son-in-law, two grandchildren and a prospective son-in-law have been added to my family in recent years), for my church family and for the work that the Lord has led me into and enabled me to do.
The author of Ecclesiastes writes ‘that it is the gift of God to find satisfaction in their toil’ (3:13). My job with Middlesbrough Libraries became redundant after Stephen passed away and I moved down to Suffolk to be part of Halesworth Community church and I have found great satisfaction in the work I’ve done in the church, in building the church website and in getting John’s first book ‘Insights from the Bible’ ready for publication, along with ghost-writing ‘Baptism of Fire: Life, death and Piper Alpha’ for a friend in Middlesbrough. Both books and the website contain truths about God’s goodness and faithfulness, truths that will ‘endure forever’ (3:15). It’s a privilege to be part of recording that truth and making it available for others to read. It has been good to pause at the end of the year and the start of a new year and a new decade and reflect upon God’s purposes and his faithfulness, which I can see so clearly in my own life. As we approach 2020 the words of Ecclesiastes contain important truths for all of us, that our life on earth is set within the context of eternity and that perspective helps us to lift our eyes above the struggles and circumstances we face, that everything we do is for the Lord and everything he does in and through us will endure forever.