A Winter Gift

I felt as if I were breathing for the first time in months. The clouds made way for the sun to shine brightly in our Ohio neighborhood. My family and I could hardly keep from simply running outside in our pajamas. The day seemed more like a dream because, after all, it was only February.

Now, earlier in the month Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early Spring, but who could believe the furry thing when it was so bitterly cold? Today, though, the groundhog found justification. After the long, frigid winter, we saw the signs of moving into a season filled with hope and newness of life.

The girls and I changed and headed outside to see if was really as warm as it looked. It was. My four-year-old Ella asked if she could take off her sweater. I balked at this idea because, after all, it was only February. A little while later she asked again with beaded brow, and I acquiesced. Why shouldn’t we shed the heavy layers and enjoy what has been given to us?

Cara and I began thinking of Spring and got to work doing some much-needed pruning and cleaning up in the yard. My three little girls broke out the sand toys and played in the sand and dirt until they were unable to return to the house without removing their filthy clothes. No one minded the dirt, and no one cared about the effort going into the projects or play. It was a wonderful day.

Only a week later, we woke up to a familiar brightness outside. Only this time it wasn’t sun – it was snow. The cold had returned with renewed vigor. I put on my heavy clothes and winter coat to get to work with the shoveling. I did mind the work. The ground was so wet and slushy, who could play? I couldn’t believe what a setback this was. Hope seemed stripped away. Either the groundhog didn’t know what he was talking about or his handler didn’t interpret well (I’m banking on the latter). Spring seemed far away once again.

As I’ve thought over my life, I can remember periods of bitter cold and the deadness of winter. When I was fifteen, my father left home. In my early twenties, I had been struggling with habitual sin and saw no way out. When I was twenty-six, I felt like a college-degreed failure as a server at a restaurant chain while my wife and I awaited the birth of our first child. In each of these times winter seemed lonely and lifeless.

Others go through various forms of winter. Loss usually takes us there. The death of a loved one, layoffs at work, divorce, bankruptcy – of such is the indications of an unwanted entrance into the dead of winter. It is never easy, and it is rarely, if ever, short. Our tendency is to simply bundle up and see if we can outlast the winter in our isolation.

At some point in winter, though, the sun’s rays seem to break through the clouds and cold and reach our longing hearts. We see improvement in kicking the habit, receive an interview for a great new job or develop some new relationships. It is as if we are breathing for the first time in months. We begin praising God for seeing us through the season and providing mercies that are new every morning.

Then, the setback. We fall again. The relationship doesn’t turn out as we hoped. The employer praises our qualities but doesn’t see a fit for the company. Our praising turns to bitterness. How long, O Lord, will you continue to keep me in winter? Why would you tease me with such incredible hope that Spring is finally here and drop me right back into the darkness? God, do you even love me?

Our experiences can cloud our view of Who God is. Of course, this is all the more reason why God’s Word should continue to inform our lives rather than the other way around. Instead of questioning God, we need to hold on to what we know. God is love. If this weren’t true, there would be no Jesus, no resurrection, no salvation, no eternal life. So, if God is loving, then my perspective of this “setback” into winter may be off. If God is not cruel to His children, then what good have I missed?

Winter is a season that can’t be rushed or predicted. It comes to us all – the just and the unjust. And Winter is long. Sometimes, I am amazed that I’ve made it all the way through, or rather, that God has sustained me during this period. If God, then, sustains me, then how does He do that? Could it be that the brief period of sunshine was not meant to tease but to give hope to sustain me until the Spring?

When I look again on that warm day in February, I begin to see what God was doing. I felt awakened from my slumber and motivated to prepare for Spring instead of remain in dormancy. There was work to do in Winter that I simply could not bring myself to do, but God gave me a jumpstart. As I felt the overwhelming sense of loneliness and lifelessness, God gave me a fresh hope that winter would soon be over, just not yet. God’s grace broke through in dead winter to encourage me to shed winter weight and bask in the light of His love.

In the midst of winters past and those to come, we may experience a breakthrough that lasts but a moment. When it comes, we should awaken, take joy, and make the most of it. That day is God’s gracious gift to get us through Winter. And, groundhog or not, be sure that Spring is coming.

2 Responses to “A Winter Gift”
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  1. […] spiritual winter, you feel a sense of dread. Life seems hopeless, lost, and bankrupt (Psalm 88). Loneliness is the […]

  2. […] touch can melt the icy cold of winter and open your heart and eyes to a glorious spring. Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like […]

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