Living in the Midwest as long as I have, I have come to appreciate the seasons. Where I grew up in northern California, we only had one season: “Awesome.” Yes, 365 days of “Awesome!”
When we lived in Georgia, we quickly learned that there are three seasons: “Pollen,” “Hot,” “SEC Football.” But here in the Midwest, we have all four seasons. Each of them has its place and purpose. The one that Midwesterners talk about most (and by that I mean complain about) is Winter. Ask anyone here in Chicago, and they will tell you that winter always comes way too early and lasts far too long.
Technically, in the Midwest winter is only supposed to last from mid-December to mid-March, but last year it snowed on Halloween. Really! Do you know how hard it is to see a kid dressed like a ghost in the middle of a snowstorm? Winter in the Midwest can be brutal. During my first winter in Chicago I couldn’t get over how my nose hairs would freeze. I didn’t even know that was a thing. But apparently it is. Every year, winter comes, and just about everything in nature closes up shop and hangs a “Be Back in April” sign in the window.
With everything being dark and cold during winter, it’s easy to assume that in nature nothing is happening, but that couldn’t be any further from the truth. Trees, for example, go into dormancy. They literally slow their metabolism down during the coldest months (which is also a practice I hold during those months) and stay alive by living more simply and exerting less energy. They stop growing branches and leaves to save energy for when it’s the right time to grow. Any arborist worth their weight in acorns will tell you that if you keep a tree from the process of dormancy, you actually limit its growth and lifespan. In other words, this annual shutting-down is normal and necessary. Without winter, a tree is not fully ready for spring.
I suppose the same is true of our lives. We encounter our “winter” seasons—a season of death or loss or shattered dreams. A season of dreams deferred. A season of calling out to God, only to receive the icy silence of winter. A season when it seems as though all is lost and the story is over. Yet, if you’ve walked through one of those seasons in the past, the simple act of your reading these words now is proof that not all was lost. My hunch is that there are things that have grown in and out of you because of that dark and dormant season. Life has somehow come from that death … as it always does.
If you happen to be in one of those seasons right now, then with all grace and as much strength as you can muster … take heart. It may seem cold and dark and lonely. That’s only because it is. Winter comes to all of us, and it needs to stay as long as it needs to stay. But just because all may seem lost or not as it should be, or not as you would like it on the surface, that doesn’t mean that God is not at work behind the scenes and beneath the soil. He is working something out in you and for you that, honestly, can’t be worked out in any other season.
So be present with the season that you are in. Do not mourn too long the seasons that have passed, for they will come again. And do not be so fixated on the next season that you miss the one that you are in right now. Just as God took care of His people through 400 years of silence, He will take care of you in this season.
Take comfort in the words that God gave to David: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). Trust that this season will last as long as is needed and will pass when the time is right. Like every season since the dawn of creation, like every single season in the Bible, and like in every story of every person who has walked through winter, remember this: God is at work. The story continues and, if you are present to it, it gets even better … even when it seems as if nothing is happening.