What is your favorite season? What about your least favorite? I remember as a teenager and college student that I hated winter. I even disliked fall because it meant that winter was coming. Winter makes me want to curl up in a ball and wait for it to be over. My favorite season was spring. New life. Beauty. Flowers. The feeling of a cool breeze when you are sitting in the warm sun. Ahhh. At that stage of my life, I knew I wanted to be a missionary and I was willing to go anywhere but was hopeful that God wouldn’t call me to a cold country. You can imagine my thankfulness to God when he called us to tropical Thailand. Now after 15 years of living overseas in a warm and sunny country, I have a better appreciation of winter. I still hate being cold but after sweating for most of my days, I think fall is fun. Sitting by a fire and feeling cold is enjoyable at least once every 4 years.
Recently my daughter, Erica texted and said “I’m cold. It’s not even freezing but it’s cold and I’m tired of it.” Then a few days later she said, “I don’t think I can handle being cold much longer.” I responded “You’re gonna love spring.” Erica grew up in Thailand and the frigid temperatures of South Carolina are a drastic change for her. I wanted to say to her “Don’t be discouraged. Spring will come. Be content in the season God has you in right now.” As I reflected on how I would give her advice for this season, I realized that I needed to give myself the same advice. I needed to give myself advice about the spiritual season that I am in. Physical winter reminds me that we have seasons in our spiritual lives. My daughter was discouraged by winter. And I have been discouraged by what seems like spiritual winter in my life.
God is the author of seasons. The famous old hymn says “Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest…. join with all nature in manifold witness to thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.” Seasons testify to God’s omnipotence. Psalm 74:17 says that God made summer and winter. So, if it is from God, it is a good gift. Summer has a purpose and so does winter, as much as I hate to admit it. Recently I was reading “Love in Every Season” by Debra Fileta. She said this about winter “It is hard to believe that winter can be beneficial, much less have a purpose. But there is an unseen purpose to the cold, harsh months. In nature, the season of winter is extremely important to farmers across the country because it is during this season that the freezing temperatures eliminate many harmful insects and pathogens. It is also the time of year when plants go into hibernation, reserving their energy for the season to come.” Strangely, that explanation encouraged me. Winter has a purpose, physically and spiritually.
If I can be honest about my challenges in this season of life (and that is not always easy for any of us) I would say that this stage of life feels an awful lot like winter. For weeks I have been trying to figure out why I feel like I’m trudging uphill. It is challenging to figure out how to parent adult children from 9003 miles away. It is tough learning how to live with different family dynamics. Preparing for the next child to leave home is a constant pressure and background thought. Ministry in pandemic times in NE Thailand is very discouraging and slow. When I read Fileta’s description of winter, I realized that I am in a season of winter in my life. And that encouraged me so much. Why, you ask? Because, what comes after winter? Spring!
As I realize that this season of life is very much like winter, I can have peace. I remind myself that it is a time that God has ordained. It will end and there will be a new season. I want to be content in the season that God has called me to now. I want to take the time to sit, bundle up (I mean, it is winter, right?) and delight in my Savior’s presence. I want to wait on Him, not a passive waiting but an expectant waiting on Him. I want to surrender to what he is doing in my life. Life is a little slow, ministry is hard, and the vision is dim but I serve a God who is working in the waiting and who has a plan. I can trust Him. I still don’t really like winter. I don’t like being cold. But winter is ordained by God for His plan and purposes. So, I will ask God for grace to accept it from his good hands and try to find a cozy fire to sit by while I wait for spring.