My summer tan lines are fading and I’ve dug out my cold weather gear. Fall has arrived and winter is coming.
As I attempt to embrace the changing of seasons–and stop my mind from leaping ahead to the frigid days on the horizon–I realize that the change of seasons is a really helpful analogy.
During a year of global crisis, these shifts–in temperature and daylight–are not foreign. Yet they are unnerving, nonetheless. Nature is readying for a barren winter… bidding goodbye to her blooms and shedding her summer leaves. And we, armed with hot beverages and our favorite jeans, are powerless to stop the changing.
Winter Reveals our Vulnerability
The autumn experience is not one to be missed though. During this harvest season, my spirit is humbled because, as much as I hate to admit it, the coming winter is a persistent reminder of my own vulnerability.
It’s a reminder that we humans are not who we long to be; we are not invincible.
If you hadn’t learned that lesson prior to 2020, you’ve likely been fighting the downward current these past few months and are avidly nodding alongside me. Friends: We. Are. Fragile.
This reality is that everything in this earthly life ceases. Few things remind us of that like winter does. And honestly, the barren trees and loss of light are very difficult for me. Each year, I long for the first sign of spring.
Yet, as we approach another winter, I’ve noticed that my perspective is more nuanced this year. Because of COVID-19, I understand the value barrenness more than ever. The coronavirus, and its implications, have launched us into a tundra that is desolate, lonely, and completely unknown. As a result, my life has been radically changed for the better.
Winter Teaches Desperation
Everywhere I look, I can see it written on people’s weathered faces: we are tired; and we are very cold.
But here’s one thing I have found to be true: the Lord God doesn’t just sit with us as we wait out the storm. He powerfully moves in the storm. And more importantly: He moves in us. It’s something I’ve found to be true during this pandemic. Even as I look out my window right now and hear the cold wind, I am reminded that the same humble desperation that winter arouses has come about through this pandemic season.
At first, I floundered under the stress of quarantine. I hard-core face planted, if I’m honest. And in the midst of that incredibly dark period, God graciously revealed how incredibly weak I am outside of Him.
Friends, sometimes we need a few of our leaves to die. We need to see the vast landscape without the clutter of life. We need to find the space to breath.
Despite my best efforts to evade a global pandemic, I’ve faced similar challenges and sacrifices that you likely have. As I took stock of the frozen wasteland that seemed to surround me, my Type-A personality freaked:
My 9-5 office routine? Gone. Regular therapy appointments? Gone. In-person church services? Gone. In-person Small Group? Gone. Social events and meals with others? Gone.
I felt like a naked little tree bending in the wind. Life seemed unmanageable.
But as I said, God opened my eyes to how much I need Him and that was when things began to change. For the first time in over five years, I started to see a deeper joy in living. And while that’s a story for another day, I’d be remiss if I didn’t recognize how much God used COVID-19 as a catalyst in this freedom journey of mine.
Winter strips us bare and re-roots us in desperation. If we let it: these winter seasons can set us free.
Winter Strengthens Our Spiritual Muscles
When it comes to the physical-temperature, one thing I’ve learned is that 70 degrees in August is a lot different than 70 degrees in October. When we hit the high 70s in the Midwest last week, I leapt for joy. What a heavenly gift!!! But a 70 degree summer day would have brought out the grumbler in me. Why? Because we’re not used to colder temperatures during the warm months.
The same thing is true of our spiritual health. If you’re reading along, it should be no shock at this point that the past six months have gutted me (like I said, that blog post is in the works as God leads). And, at the same time: they have deepened my prayer life, my time in the Word, my intrapersonal awareness, and my love of the Lord like never before. The desperation that has resulted from this barrenness has given way to more spiritual-discipline.
Is the same thing true for you? I don’t ask that in a haughty way, but in a friend-to-friend way–one that would be accompanied by a hug if I could indeed hug you. I ask you because I spent the first two-ish months of this pandemic in a downward spiral and am finally seeing the light. I want that for you, too. I want you to grab ahold of your need for the Lord, desperately turn to Him, and grow like a stubborn flower that survives any winter frost.
I want you to endure.
Since the late summer, I’ve been going through the book of Psalms. It’s been an adjustment for my otherwise-studious personality. And it’s exactly the direction I needed to go. I’ve needed to bathe in the Lord’s goodness, to step out of legalistic living and into an overwhelm of God’s love for His children. As I’ve read, one particular passage has become the battle cry of my anxious, COVID-19 season heart:
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me (Psalm 57:1-2).
Did you catch that? We can take refuge in Him! Until these storms of anxiety, unknown, illness, political tension, racial injustice, pain, and death pass by. He is our refuge. He is the Lord Most High and Jesus is our friend who is closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24).
So let’s run after Him… run to Him. As we humbly and desperately collapse in His arms, there’s one thing I know to be true: He will faithfully hold us. He will strengthen us. He will fulfill His purpose for us.
Friend, if you’re running through a spiritual blizzard, keep going! If you’re lollygagging in a meadow, turn and start running! If you’re weary in the battle, know that COVID-19 and the difficulties it has wrought for many of us can be used for great good…. for spiritual revival. That’s my prayer for you and for me as we run this race together.