Did You Know? The Bible Actually Says ‘There Is a Time to Refrain From Embracing’


Could this unusual verse bring some much needed hope? Let's take a deeper look at the parallels of this verse and our current world.

from our partner

written by

Jerry Pattengale

It’s as if the writer of Ecclesiastes had our pandemic in mind when he wrote: “There is… A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing.”

Perhaps you are more familiar with other verses in this chapter, like “A time to be born, And a time to die,” and “A time to weep, And a time to laugh” (3:2-5). These Bible verses resonate with our human condition.

After each section of verses from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 are my parenthetical reflections on this COVID crisis.

To everything, there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:

(COVID-19 timestamps 2020,
Though reasons allude us on earth;)

A time to be born,
And a time to die;

(Youth shows resilience,
And old age its vulnerability)

A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted;

(Medical stockpiles were arranged,
And their picking prematurely exhausted)

A time to kill,
And a time to heal;

(Wars seem everywhere foreign,
And saving life a near universal goal)

A time to break down,
And a time to build up;

(Impeachment attempts once dominated,
Affirmation of heroes now abounds)

A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;

(We cry daily for stricken social servants,
And smile at YouTube posts from their peers)

A time to mourn,
And a time to dance;

(We strap masks over our countenance,
Though energized through FaceTimed friends)

A time to cast away stones,
And a time to gather stones;

(We removed fences and embraced Globalization,
Now renew walls for a modified nationalism)

A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing;

(We pore over images of past gatherings,
And now blow Zisses [Zoom kisses] from afar)

A time to gain,
And a time to lose;

(We rode the bull to record market highs,
And now hope to stop the bear from frightening lows)

A time to keep,
And a time to throw away;

(We filled storage bins and designer bags,
And now share with hospitals, precincts, and Samaritan’s Purse)

A time to tear,
And a time to sew;

(Groups of ten bury COVID victims,
Companies repurpose to flatten the curve)

A time to keep silence,
And a time to speak;

(Fauci, Birx, and Pence inform while a nation listens,
Our creative responses are our voices)

A time to love,
And a time to hate;

(We protect the elderly, nameless or known,
And show enmity for purveyors on fear and pain)

A time of war,
And a time of peace.

(Communism and terrorism are never idle,
But we direct major energies against a common unseen enemy)

The popular passage in Ecclesiastes is attributed to the “preacher” or “teacher,” often associated with King Solomon, “the son of David, king in Jerusalem” (1:1). It indeed has become iconic wisdom.

The timeless application of the Bible’s message sheds light on why it is history’s best-selling and most-distributed book. Its narrative resonates with humanity’s deepest longings, its promises with our deepest fears, its miracles with our penchant for fascination, its central story of redemption with our requisite desires, and its timelessness with each generation’s needs.

Countless peoples have succumbed to invisible enemies, viruses or bacteria often brought from foreign lands. The Aborigines, Indigenous peoples of Latin and North America, and a mélange of tribes throughout Sub-Saharan Africa watched masses succumb to unseen foes.

Their lands also witnessed abuse from visible enemies—often identified with a misrepresentative Christianity and this same Bible. As they began to shed their captors’ yokes, an amazing thing happened. They kept the foreigners’ Bible—but they now call it their own. On every continent people say “our Bible.”

Its message, taken without a political or ethnocentric filter, has universal appeal. Ecclesiastes 3:11 informs us that we are part of something larger than ourselves, and for billions, this has given hope:

“He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.”

Jerry Pattengale is author of many books, including the new release, Inexplicable: How Christianity Spread to the Ends of the Earth, and co-author of the TBN series by the same title. He is the inaugural University Professor at Indiana Wesleyan University, and one of the founding scholars of the Museum of the Bible.