It's been nothing but rain and snow for months. Every Canadian understands the struggle. The cold doesn't relent, the forecast taunts us with sun only to let us down with snow. Night comes in the late afternoon, and our precious hours of daylight are few.
The other day, I went for a walk through my university's Back 40. The land behind this campus is beautiful. Trails lead me across bridges and under archways, among giant trees and along bubbling brooks. It's quiet and serene. Benches along the way provide places to sit and reflect. The air is fresh and fragrant with the scent of the cedars.
I had to bundle up. Although the day was sunny and bright, it was still winter. The trails were slick with ice and snow. The bubbling brooks were halfway frozen. There were a few birds braving the cold, but mostly, it was still. The snow in the meadows was deep, and the branches of the trees were heavy with icicles.
And as I trudged through the wintry woods, I kept on thinking to myself: "I can't wait for spring. I can't wait to go for walks through this forest when the snow is gone and the trees are green and the flowers are in bloom. I can't wait for the sun to rise early in the morning, and for the birds to fill this place with their songs. I can't wait to go for a stroll out here in a t-shirt and shorts. I can't wait for spring."
It's all I could think about. While I enjoyed the beauty of the moment, my mind could hardly resist thinking ahead to the wonderful spring days coming up in just a couple months. I imagined the warmth and the mild breezes and the laughing waters of the creeks. I thought of the sun and the warm rains. I thought of longer days and shorter nights.
There I walked in the middle of wintertime, giddy with the anticipation of spring.
And it suddenly occurred to me how peculiar my eagerness truly was. Not for a moment did I think to myself, "I sure hope spring comes this year...." Not once did I worry, "Gee, I sure hope this winter doesn't last forever." No, the possibility that this winter might never end did not ever cross my mind. My excitement for the turn of the season was based in positive confidence, not feeble wishing. I knew that spring would come. I knew that winter would end. There was no question in my mind.
I knew that it would just be a matter of time.
I knew that it would be a matter of patience, not luck. I knew that this year, just like every other year of my life, I would have to patiently wait out the winter. But I knew that the reward would be great. I knew that when spring finally came, it would be worth every second of these cold, harsh winter months. I didn't wish, I simply knew.
That's how seasons work. They cycle through, again and again and again. Ever since the Good Lord set our earth into orbit, the sun and the moon have marked the passing of the seasons. The tides have continued to ebb and flow. The wheels have kept on turning. There's always been sowing time, and there's always been harvest time. There's always been rainy seasons and dry seasons. Floods and droughts. Prosperity and famine. Day and night. That's how time works. That's how life works.
And I began to wonder why we don't look at the seasons of life in the same way. As long as we've been alive, we've witnessed the seasons passing through our own lives and through the lives of those around us... and yet, we still get trapped into thinking that our times of trouble and suffering are permanent. As we grow, we all observe the chapters of life cycle through. We see birth and we see death. We see infancy pass to childhood, and childhood pass to adulthood. We see rags to riches. We see individuals become couples. We see children grow to become parents, and parents grow to become grandparents. We see students become teachers. We see employees become managers. We see subjects become leaders, and leaders become subjects.
Throughout our lives and looking back at the vast scope of history, we've seen kingdoms rise and fall. We've seen nations conquer and be conquered. We've seen empires prosper and perish. We've seen heroes succeed and fail, armies win and lose, wars start and end. We've seen it all.
And yet, when we find ourselves in the depths of despair... we forget that time still goes on. The clock still ticks, and the seasons still change. But suddenly, when we are the ones in the winters of our lives, we think it's all there is and all there will ever be.
And that's why we tend to lose hope so quickly. We look at the future and despair. Perpetual winter with no Christmas. We think we will never see the calendar flip. Even though we've been promised spring, we worry and fret because we feel stranded in the bleak midwinter. We fear that we won't see the other side. Depression sweeps in like a fog, obscuring the hope of future joy.
David felt the same way. Constantly. It seems like, more often than not, David lived in emotional winter. He waited and waited and waited for things to change. He cried out in frustration and shouted to God in agony.
But he also knew the truth: Seasons change.
Psalm 130:1-2, 5-6 - From the depths of despair, O Lord, I call for your help. Hear my cry, O Lord. Pay attention to my prayer. I am counting on the Lord; yes, I am counting on him. I have put my hope in His word. I long for the Lord more than sentries long for the dawn, yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.
I love the image of the watchmen waiting for the morning sunrise. The sentries patrolling during the night look eagerly ahead to the first rays of light. They know it will come. They know the earth is still spinning. They know that time is still ticking. They know that however long the night may feel, it is not everlasting. They know that, no matter how painful the wait, no matter how terrible the darkness, the morning is always coming. Guaranteed. That's how time works. That's how life works.
As children of God, we have been told to consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of many kinds. We have been promised that the testing of our faith will produce perseverance. We have been told that through patient suffering, our maturity will develop. We will grow to become more like Christ. We will learn to trust and to live righteously. The sheer amount of times God's Word tells us about patiently waiting on Him with confidence is a testament to the Truth: He will deliver us from our struggles. Even if we have nothing else but Jesus, our salvation is secure. Our identity is protected. We have nothing to fear.
Even in the middle of winter, in the blizzards of life, He will be our warmth. Even in the pouring rain, He will be our shelter. Even in the middle of the night, when we feel lost and confused and irreparably discombobulated, He will be our Light.
Maybe this is your time to cry, but rest assured- your time to laugh is coming. Maybe this is your time to grieve, but hang in there. There will be a time for you to dance. Maybe this is your time to search, so keep searching until the time comes to discover. Maybe this is your time to plant and wait and wait and wait... but plants don't grow in a day. They grow over time. So wait patiently and with eager expectation for that future harvest. It may be your time to be quiet, but someday you will have a time to speak. It may be your time to tear down what you've made for yourself, but have no fear. You will get to build again.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 - For everything there is a season
The joy may not come until Heaven, but it will come. The peace may not come on this side of eternity, but that doesn't mean it's not coming. We won't see the season of perfection until we pass from this life to the next, but we will see that season of perfection. Don't worry if you're grieving while your neighbour is dancing. Don't fret if you're still planting while your neighbour is enjoying their harvest. The whole reason we have been redeemed by Christ is so that we may place all of our hope in Him. Acknowledging Him as Lord, relinquishing control, and surrendering our will to His... it's so that we can survive the winter, all the while looking forward joyfully to future spring.
In the words of Jon Foreman, there will be "Future gardens from all this rain. Future flowers from present pain."
Time goes on. Seasons change. There is a time for everything.
It's a promise as certain as the coming spring.