It’s been a long few months. This season of Winter has seemed to seep deeply into everything. It’s like the cold, the snow, the aggravation of inconvenience caused by closings and bad roads have all conspired to slow us down, send us inside, give us ample opportunity for reflection. Everything stops and the dust settles. And we are able to see in the quiet discomfiture exactly how things really are.
I will never forget the day early in my ministry when I was sharing my heart with a pastor friend, just pleading that after so much struggle in my life I just wanted to be happy. He replied that God doesn’t want us to be happy but rather holy. I must say I did not feel the warm fuzzy consolation that so often accompanies the spiritual gifts of compassion and encouragement. Instead I felt deflated and misunderstood. However, his words have stayed with me. And often I also recall the wisdom shared by someone else that often people who feel holy are really just happy. The point is that once a person’s happiness is removed holiness (or lack thereof) is quickly revealed. Winter also I believe is a revealer of these kinds of things. Because we can’t quite get comfortable, the stuff of our character has ample opportunity to show up. Winter reveals the shape of things.
I love this especially as it relates to trees. Early in my life I bemoaned Winter as a desolate and ugly time of year. I was all for foliage, beautiful buds announcing the newness of Spring and the lush, rich depth of Summer leaves shading the heat, singing in the breeze. Even Autumn held a special gift of igniting the landscape with fire. Each of these seasons spun beauty in my eyes. But I believed Winter held no beauty, simply because the trees became so bare, naked and empty of visible life. I only believed the obvious could be beautiful. But in my later years, God has been showing me the deep promise and extraordinary gift of Winter time, especially as it relates to trees.
Trees need Winter after all. The most important growth happens then. This is the season when the roots grow deep, penetrating earth to reach the water and nutrients needed to bring growth and new life. It is also the only time of year that we get a glimpse of the bones of the trees we admire all year long. We see their strength in the thickness of the trunks, the reach of the spindly branches and twigs stretching to heaven, the tenaciousness of new growth that resumes even when branches have been cut off, the provision of hospitality to birds who build their nests and raise their young nestled snuggly in their arms. How sweetly Winter reveals the shape of things.
In our lives with God, we too pass through seasons. How we long for the excitement of Spring, the lush provision of Summer, the glory and bounty of Autumn harvest. Yet it is in Winter time that we send our roots deep into God’s presence, and when everything else falls away, our hopes and dreams, comfort and status. It is here that God shows us where we really are and what we are really made of. I treasure this time for its quiet gifts. And because I am an encourager, I don’t see it as a bad thing. Instead I see it as God’s grace, revealing qualities to us that we never knew we had. He takes the time to show us to ourselves, and the vision is really quite beautiful. We get to see our strength, sustaining ourselves and those in our care from years of trials and trusting Him. We get to see how hungry we are for His grace and glory as we reach towards heaven. We get to see how God’s mercy has allowed new life in those places where circumstances caused an amputation that we thought we could never recover from. We even see the ways that God has entrusted others into our care and how they are safely perched within our love, caring and tending to the life God has given them. How sweetly even our spiritual Winter reveals the shape of things to us and for us.
My dear friends, do not be discouraged. You are a God-song resounding with beauty that only He can give. But sometimes we confuse the world’s song with our own God-song welling up from within. And for this reason God allows the Winter seasons of the soul to draw us deeply into Him and to show us exactly how beautiful we really are. The world cannot sing in Winter; it’s why everything seems to come to a halt and the outer trappings of life come to a standstill. But our beauty has nothing to do with outer things; it has everything to do with that God beauty within. The same beauty we forget and hide in the regular ordinariness of our lives because the world does not understand it and often does not value it. This beauty is the very thing that makes you Holy, and it is the Holiness about you that is revealed when happiness falls away and you realize you are, and cannot be anything but, His.
So here I am with you dear one, in Winter time. Like you I am stretching my hands up and high, reaching for all I’m worth toward heaven. And like you I’m digging deeper, trying to get to that deep, hidden well of God’s living water that will spring forth and quench my thirst. And like you I’m walking by faith, knowing that this life is beautiful, because ultimately this life belongs to Him.
This is me trusting Him,