Well, as has become typical of weather here in Northern VA, we are quickly progressing through Fall and dealing with winter cold already. How I wish we could have a longer Fall!
Last week we began considering seasons -how they are healthy and good for us to see in nature. In the same way, we can appreciate different seasons the Lord brings into our lives and marvel at his faithfulness amidst the changing weather of our life.
Winter is not a season that many people relish. I have yet to meet someone who enjoys freezing cold weather. People love snow, hot chocolate, Christmas, cute clothing layers, but no one that I know is thrilled about all the extra work that staying warm requires during these months. A lot of extra work is required just to stay alive.
Let’s consider three different analogies that help us to understand a different “seasons” of our walk with God.
God declares in Malachi 3:6-I am the Lord….I change not. He is still in control even when our circumstances would tell us otherwise. In Winter, when nature is barren, and it is freezing, it can be easy to wonder if the sun is doing anything for the earth. It is good for us to see that the sun is ever-present, amidst the cold. It may not feel as warm, or like it is shining, but it is still shining. So we need need to remember, the Lord is still God and He is still in control. It takes times of winter to help us appreciate that just because we don’t see signs of life in our bodies, our relationships, our circumstances, He has not changed.
I have a good friend who is walking through a proverbial winter right now. Her oldest son who is a senior in high school was diagnosed with cancer and their whole family is reeling from the news. What are you do when the strength and the vigor you have always known is taken? This friend of mine has pressed into Jesus and it has been amazing to watch her grow and find that her roots are sure in the midst of the frost.
She wrote me yesterday saying that her time with the Lord has become much more precious to her. That she’s praying differently now, and learning to listen better. These are all signs of life but only now appreciated when other signs of strength and outward life have been removed.
You come to appreciate the unchanging nature of God when your world is being shaken. He remains unchangingly faithful. Often it takes times of stripping and death of what you are familiar with to make you embrace the peace that His faithfulness brings.
Winter is a time when all outward signs of life are removed-many trees are barren of leaves, other plants go dormant, and animals hibernate. There’s not much that shows health and vitality. But there is a difference between death and dormancy. The tree is still very much alive, and the roots are still bringing in the nutrients and distributing them to the rest of the tree. Everything necessary for health is still present- soil, warmth from the soil, water and the sun. The outward signs of life might not be there, but that doesn’t change the nature of the tree.
In our lives, we can easily get caught up in pointing to outward accomplishments or actions to show our vitality, but those are a proof of life, not the cause of it. We are able to see that God is more concerned with our life than what we produce. Yes, fruit comes from a life lived for God, but fruit is born in the season GOD determines for it (Psalm 1). Times of Winter force us to focus on the basic essentials of our faith-the Gospel and the Word of God and prayer. All other signs of life are affected by these things. Being stripped down to the bare tree can be a proof of life or a proof of death. Which will it show in your life?
Finally, Winter allows nature to rest. This is essential. It’s completely counter-cultural in our capitalistic American mindset, but it is imperative that plants have time to rest. The cold weather allows for this.
Whenwe lived in Southern CA there was a bark beetle infestation that had gotten out of control in the mountains. These particular bugs usually die off in the Winter, but it hadn’t gotten cold enough for a few years to kill them off, so they had multiplied and were destroying thousands of pine trees, causing a huge fire risk when the Santa Ana winds picked up in the Fall.
Christian, REST. Psalm 23 speaks of a place of rest before it speaks anything else. It tells us that our Great Shepherd leads us to times of rest and stillness. Has He led you there and you’ve decided to get caught up in other things, refusing the rest He offers? If He is leading, why are you choosing to fight Him? Rest.
When God brings you to the cusp of Winter, you have a choice. Will you continue the essentials for life despite what you see, or will you focus on the painful stripping of the outward signs you’ve come to trust in. Christian, take a lesson from nature and allow for this cold. It will prove the strength of your life in Christ.