As winter comes to an end, I can easily get absorbed in the renewal and beauty of the earth around me.
For most of us living in the snowy states of the Midwest and traversing through what I call, the wilderness of the winter months, springtime is like a rebirth, a new life, a time to enjoy the blooms, the birds, the sights, the sounds, the smells of this season that we call spring.
But before we can enjoy spring we have to make it through the barrenness of winter.
Every year some of us vow not only to exist in it but to enjoy it. In other words, we tell ourselves we are going to get out there and build a snow man, or snow fort, put on the snowshoes and walk through the woods, take up skiing, snowmobiling or whatever winter sport or activity we can find, and the list goes on and on, but we never do it. We just grin and try to bear it.
When I was a child and young adult, it didn’t bother me as much as it does now. This is where my ancestors settled. This is where I grew up and so I built snowmen, ice skated and never thought much about winter being anything more than just another season.
That has changed somewhat for me now. Don’t get me wrong. I do love a little winter and can’t imagine myself living in a state without some snow. I like to put the fireplace on, drink hot chocolate, or a cup of coffee topped with whip cream. I start making crocks of soup, stew and roasts. It’s a cozy time. I’ll even boot and bundle up to venture out for walks through the newly fallen snow. The first snowfall and what follows for a few weeks is pristine and pretty.
Yes, I do enjoy a little winter but usually only until the end of December. In other words, only up to and shortly after Christmas. At Christmas, the lights adorning houses and tree branches glistening through the white backdrop is magical. There truly is beauty in our winter wonderland. Then January comes and, I’ll be truthful, I want to see green grass, trees full of leaves, hyacinths and other flowers blooming. I want springtime.
So my husband and I took a break from winter this year and followed the snowbirds south for a while.
We warmed up for a bit and came back again to cooler temperatures with barren trees, brown grass and a longing for spring to bloom in Michigan.
The Calendar may have said it was spring but it still looked like winter in these parts. The trees were bare and there wasn’t even a hint of a flower bud anywhere.
It has been one of those years, probably one of the worst winters on record. Many people longed for spring to show up in Michigan.
We all have longings. There’s something deep within us that yearns for something better. I believe we’re searching for paradise. Like a place where we could live in perfect harmony with one another and the earth, sea, birds, animals and everything covering the earth would be in perfect balance. With fresh air, beautiful blooms and perfect peace.
In the beginning that was the intended purpose for creation and we want it back.
After the fall of humanity, we lost it and all of its perfectness.
So we try to seek it through temporary avenues. The problem is we can’t fill the void. As much as we try, we never stay full and it becomes a vicious cycle of trying to manufacture it again and again.
The wilderness of winter is like a tutor for life. We will walk through wilderness periods. Or what some call the deep night of the soul.
I refer to any loss whether it’s the loss of a loved one, a job, a relationship, health, or dreams as those wilderness times of life. It’s the unexpected call that comes at an unexpected hour with unexpected news and we are over wrought with unexpected emotions. We’re consumed and so begins our wilderness experience.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a Michigander, it’s that winters do end. We won’t walk through the wilderness forever. There’s hope ahead.
As the harsh winds give way to warm breezes, the snow piles lessen, sunshine warms the earth, the white evaporates, brown grass turns green, gray skies become blue, and flowers bud…relief finally comes.
Trying to make it through the wilderness periods of life can seem daunting at times. Our hope seems gone, joy hard to find and our soul feels barren. Yet we will make it through. We do make it through.
God is faithful to see us through the wilderness, even as he did with the Israelites through the barren desert, even if our wilderness lasts longer than any Midwest winter.
Wait for him. The key is remembering that he is faithful and the only way out of it is through it. Not alone, but with him.
When we go through the wilderness, and can’t seem to see the end in sight, there is hope. There is always hope and even in the midst of horrible circumstances God is good.
Life is hard. The longing we have in our hearts is for paradise — for God. I believe he put the unrest in us so we’d seek him in all things and in all seasons. It’s the longing to live in perfect peace with a perfect God in a perfect place. That day will come. God will create a new earth…he will give paradise back to those who love him. (Revelation 21).
Until that day, renewal happens within us. Through Jesus. Jesus’ strength for our weakness, his peace for our pain, his comfort for our grief, his perspective for our bad attitudes and hope to move forward again. It often happens through prayer — his word — by being thankful for the simple pleasures in life — by taking the focus off of ourselves and placing it on him.
As we walk through our wilderness periods, the Lord’s presence goes with us. It’s where we often learn that he is enough. With him we’re not consumed. Renewal, like spring, will come again. Maybe not in a change of circumstances but with a change of heart. Look for the beautiful in the messiness of life. It’s there. Sometimes pain masks it but it’s there. Wait patiently and it will return. I will leave you with these words from Jeremiah from the book of Lamentations:
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3: 21-24
Written by: Nancy Janiga ©2014