I cannot remember a longer winter, not in terms of days but in its emotional length. Seemingly endless days of cold, clouds and precipitation cast a gloom over me that I have rarely felt. In reality, however, the weather has served only as a backdrop for some very challenging months physically and emotionally, which indeed have clouded my view of the coldest of seasons.
The metaphorical use of winter in the Scriptures is not found. The word is mentioned only 16 times and only to describe the time of the calendar year. “Desert” is their more favorable choice to describe struggling times, particularly by the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. Yet, winter seems a much more appropriate word to use for those of us not living near a desert when describing enduring times of challenge.
Winter is typically gray and lifeless. Trees are barren and flowers are non-existent. It is cold and often harsh with howling winds. And with winter comes the most sickness of the year. Colds and flu abound. Yes, it is a skewed view, but it fits when we feel discouraged and things appear bleak.
This winter has indeed been a winter for me. Sickness and emotional heartache combined to bring me low. The harsh winds blowing in my mind were lies of the Enemy that I failed, that the future is bleak, and the spring would never come. It sounds worse than I know it really is, but that is what can happen when we are weakened in body and spirit. Our minds fixate on the negative and the devil is happy to amplify it.
In the middle of my most recent illness, which explains my absence in this space for the past several weeks, my wife said I just worn out. She is absolutely right. I was exhausted before 2019 even began. We both were. Emotional and physical exhaustion are a prime opportunity for the Enemy’s schemes and he is doing his best to take advantage.
Late last week, I was probably at my lowest. I looked at most everything through the tainted lenses of discouragement. I had the sense to know it was happening, but still there I was in the thick of it. I did my best and probably fooled a lot of people, but I knew I was not in a good place.
The last time I remember being in a similar situation was after my first wife left me and sought a divorce. I was walking along a trail outside of Taos, New Mexico in early March during a short sabbatical. It was still winter and gray. I came upon a surprising sight. In the middle of the trail was a small, yellow flower. I just stopped and stared at it. As I was enjoying its beauty and the miracle of its presence, the Lord impressed upon me that the trail was my life. It was barren now, but Winter would soon turn into Spring. The flower represented that promise.
And so it came to be, eventually. The winter of my life turned to spring. The sun shone once again and I basked in its warmth and light. God revealed his goodness and faithfulness. Now 16 years later, the lessons I learned on that New Mexico trail have come back to me. It has been winter for a long time, but there are signs of it turning into spring. The fact I am writing with energy and enthusiasm is one of them.
In the Gospels, we see Jesus experiencing a lot of winter, and though he knew from the beginning that it was coming, it still got to him, most obviously in the Garden of Gethsemane. I take solace in that even the Savior, the Son of God struggled in the face of the harshness and barrenness of winter. Yet, he persevered because he knew what would eventually come.
I hope this resonates with you if you are currently experiencing a harsh winter in your own life. You are not alone in your experience. The promise Jesus made to us in John 16:33 is the promise of winter eventually turning into spring. I am clinging to it. I hope you will as well.
© Jim Musser 2019