Living in the south these past six years has taught me to appreciate the different seasons. Sure, we don’t experience the extremes our more northerly friends do (there seems to be a line of latitude we haven’t been able to break in all our moves), but each season is distinct here and brings with it a reminder that God has created everything to operate with particular rhythms. These rhythms promote life, growth, expansion but are signaled by changes that sometimes bring pruning, loss and death. Jesus affirmed this when he said unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 12:24.) Do we know how to identify what spiritual season we’re in? The Lord has been encouraging me lately with this promise — spring is always on the other side of winter.
Winter is God’s gift to the world, right? Maybe that applies to the look of a wintery wonderland after a nice snowfall, but otherwise everything looks dead in winter to most of us. Trees are bare, animals have disappeared and long runs outdoors are made impossible without thermal outfitting! How can winter possibly be part of God’s plan? What we aren’t seeing is all that is happening beneath the surface.
Here are a few reasons to embrace winter:
1) Some things weren’t meant to live forever
Winter kills many unwanted weeds, pests and bacteria. Every September living in South Carolina reminds me the first question I want to ask God –why did he create mosquitos? They’re unbearably present and aggressive until the first big chill wipes them all out and suddenly it’s safe to venture outdoors again. Let’s be honest, we often need seasons that force pruning in our lives otherwise we’d often seek to preserve that which sucks life out of us.
2) Good fruit requires good roots
Winter forces many seeds, plants and trees into necessary dormancy in preparation for future germination. It is a critical time of storing up energy for new growth. Fruit trees depend on these “chilling hours” to promote greater fruiting in the next season. Another way of saying this is trees rest before they work. And we’re wired the same way! We were created to work from rest. Winter seasons give us an opportunity to slow down, take stock and reflect. These are the times we hear from God most deeply and clearly; where our faith expands; where we receive what we need for greater fruitfulness.
3) Life is preparation
Winter is preparation for spring! Of course the experience of winter may be different in various locations, but you cannot get to spring without passing through winter. If you’re like me then you want to know things without having to learn them; be good at things without having to practice; eat dinner without having to prepare it. Here is a simple kingdom principle–today God is preparing you for tomorrow; this week for next, this month for next; and so on. Life is not like Monopoly; you won’t get a card that allows you to pass over the cost of skipping to GO and collecting your $200. Remember, each winter is doing in you what he intends in the next season to do through you.
Paul reminds us that we rejoice in our sufferings because they produce perseverance, which in turn produces character, and character produces hope that does not disappoint (Romans 5:1-5). The wintery seasons of our lives promote an unseen growth, the deepening of our character that promotes greater strength and stability of heart. Do we rejoice in these sufferings? Do we believe in the deep, unseen work of the Spirit in our hearts to increase character and capacity? Do we embrace these winters for what they are? Do we know how to lead our families, teams and communities through these seasons to get the most out of them?
As difficult as this may be, you can trust spring is always on the other side of winter. It’s been this way since the world was created.
As I reflect on the journey of our family, our team and my work in the kingdom, I feel like we are in a season of winter. Events and opportunities are slowing. Our focus has turned more inward. We are shifting from an emphasis on kingdom structures to covenant ones. Drawn into greater abiding we are hearing afresh from the Lord and learning to rest in his words. This can be unnerving for an apostolic leader, but in all this I choose to rejoice knowing spring is on the other side!
Embrace your winter!