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 seek, and a time to lose. (Ecclesiastes 3:1–2, 6)
When a new child is born, a new crop is planted, a new project, phase, degree, career, friendship, resolve, marriage, house is pursued, we feel fresh excitement and anticipation. We enter a new season feeling hope about the future. We invest a lot of dreaming, planning, energy, and often money in our beginnings, which explains all the books and videos and coaches offering to help us begin well.
But there is not nearly as much help available teaching us how to end well. Probably because the demand is much lower. We typically don’t relish thinking about or planning for endings, because endings are goodbyes. They are chapter closings that often leave us feeling regret, grief, or confusion over who we are and what our purpose is going forward — or some ambivalent mixture of the above.
Are Beginnings Better?
But the end of a season is often more important than its beginning. When a person dies, we can see much more clearly who they really turned out to be, which is eternally significant. When a crop is harvested, we know what the season and farming diligence actually produced. When a season of life ends, we see, at least to some degree, the true fruit of all our dreaming, planning, labor, and investment.
This is why the Bible says, “Better is the end of a thing than its beginning” (Ecclesiastes 7:8). At a beginning, when we’re looking ahead, we envision a possible future, not a real one. And our vision is always some mixed bag of good and bad motives, love and selfish ambition, serving Jesus and serving ourselves. But looking back, we see reality with greater clarity how various factors — our indwelling sin and Spirit-filled goodness, our strengths and weaknesses, the futility woven into this created age (Romans [8:20]–21), and others — affected what we began.
In other words, endings are usually more truthful than beginnings. A review of the day in the evening is more truthful than the caffeinated optimism of the morning’s good intentions.
So, why is a sobering dose of realistic retrospect better than a hopeful high of optimistic prospect?
Because wisdom does not want to build its house on the sand of fantasy. It wants to builds on the solid rock of truth.
Because at the end of a thing, more than at its beginning, we see our need for a better, more lasting hope than anything we could possibly build here (Hebrews [13:14]).
And because often an ending, more than a beginning, exposes our idols — things or people in which we have placed false hope and from whom we have drawn a misplaced sense of identity.
Endings are often better than beginnings because they more powerfully point us to God as our only hope.