It was Groundhog Day this week. Which for me means two things: I watched the movie Groundhog Day and we can mark our calendars for six more weeks of winter. (2016 update: apparently no shadow this year!! Unpack the paddle boards, folks!)
My husband and I just moved back to the midwest where six more weeks of winter could be pretty intense. In an interesting plot twist though, it was actually 60 degrees and fairly sunny the day we pulled into Nebraska in the middle of January. But prior to that unexpected blessing and as we were getting ready to move, I found myself thinking about how crazy we were to move to a place much colder right in the middle of the winter. I started to have fear about not being able to safely drive across the country because of snow storms as well as a low-grade dread about the remainder of a treacherous winter I would most likely experience once in Nebraska. As I found my heart becoming fearful, I was gently reminded by the Lord of the winter past and how God carried me through. And so, I began to ponder the ways of enduring winter and what good it can mean for my soul. Here are a few of those thoughts.
It seems like a general observation from life that most suffering/struggle comes in season, as Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV) says “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Experiencing the natural order of the seasons on this earth (Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer) is actually an amazing way we can spiritually reflect on the restoration that God is bringing to earth and in our lives. In this we find that after the bitterness of winter there is the hope of spring- the promise of new life, restoration, resurrection. Thinking of spring helps me because perseverance through hard times seems a lot more doable when there is a promise of hope, and so I want hold on to the fact that winter is not the final say. It will end, and there will be spring.
This is a truth we find in salvation, too. If there is no resurrection there would be no gospel. There must be victory over darkness. So, we can endure the winter (literally and metaphorically) with joy because we know it is not the end, and because it will end. As Hebrews 12:2 (ESV) says about Christ, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Romans 5 says, “hope does not put us to shame….” As we live in the tension between the already and the not yet of this life, we have experienced the joy of the resurrection of Christ but we still anticipate the final return of Christ. Even if we don’t have immediate relief from suffering in our life, we know and can trust we will have ultimate relief when Christ returns. If we do not hold on to the hope of heaven we will constantly be disappointed. We must view earth in light of heaven, and we know this world offers nothing that compares to that hope. And so we hold on to hope, believing he is restoring all things in Christ. The winter of life builds hope like nothing else (Romans 5). When we get through it, we look back and see He carried us all the way. We see His amazing steadfast, covenantal love in new ways. We then see the beauty of the spring and we appreciate it all the more, giving glory to God for the new life he created.
For me, the spring and summer is all the more amazing when I have walked through a hard winter. So right now as I endure this winter, I have the blossoms of spring to look forward to. And when they come, I will look at them with fresh eyes and they will beckon me to give God glory for the work He did in the depths of winter to bring about the new life of spring. I’m reminded it’s right now that God is making things new. Even now, when I look outside and see snow and look at the weather and see it may get to -12 tonight, He’s doing something.