Like a lot of other people in this part of the world (New Jersey), I don’t like winter. The temperature goes way down and it stays cold for months. The days get shorter. It’s a dark and dreary time of year. Then there’s snow. Snow is beautiful – as long as my contact with it is looking at it in pictures. I like to look at new-fallen snow in my back yard, as long as I can look at it through my window and not have to go out in it.
It would be great if I could experience nothing but spring, summer, and fall. Actually, I did have that experience in the winters of 1958 and 1959, when I went on sea cruises to the Mediterranean Sea. Not the kind of cruises you pay a lot of money to go on. My cruises were totally free. In fact, I got paid for going. My cruises were aboard aircraft carriers, on which I served as a musician in the U.S.Navy. The only snow I saw was in the distance in the French Alps. Only once, when there was a heavy rain in Marseilles, did I have to wear a coat.
All that is just a memory now. Since then I have endured cold winter temperatures, snow and ice, and long dark nights, year after year. And now the nightly TV weather reports keep reminding me that we’re again getting closer and closer to that dreaded season – winter.
There was a time when I prayed for good weather. But I finally realized that there isn’t much point in that, because God doesn’t micro-manage the weather. Certainly not to please my preferences. There are people who look forward to winter. It would be nice if God would make it snow in the Poconos (in Pennsylvania, where the ski resorts are), and let the sun shine here every day. But I have no hope of that happening. That’s just wishful thinking. I just have to accept that the weather, not to mention the rest of the world, is not always going to work the way I want it to work.
I could get up every day and complain that it’s getting colder, the days are getting shorter, and that there will be times when I’ll have to go out in the snow. But I want to be a person of hope. S o how do I find that hope as I go through yet another winter? The same way I do in other difficult areas of life. I ask God to give me just some little signs of hope by letting me experience a little bit of good news in the midst of bad news. And God does that. For example:
* As is true in all areas of my life, I have found that as long as I try to do my best to discover what God wants to do with me in the way of transforming even a little bit of the world, and as long as I do my best to use the grace he gives me to do whatever that is, I can endure the winter and a lot of other things I don’t like.
* I think back to all the winters I’ve been through. They really weren’t all that bad. Someday I’ll look at this coming winter and be able to say the same thing.
* I turn a negative into a positive. Instead of saying “bad news – the days are getting shorter and about two months from now it will be dark at four o’clock in the afternoon”, I say “good news – about two months from now the days will start to get longer. And will continue to do so for the next six months.”
* I look back and realize that God created this universe in such a way that we can count on certain things happening in more or less the same way, over and over again. Yes, there will be winter every year, but spring, summer, and fall will always follow. Yes, in every season we will probably find some bad news. But if we look for it, we will always find some good news.
* I see with the change of seasons as part of the natural rhythm of life God established at creation and maintains to assure that the universe continues to function so that we have life on earth. God has arranged that in each season something happens that enables the rebirth of the next season -as the lyrics of the song Sunrise, Sunset say – “One season following another”. When the seasons work together in this way, life goes on in the natural universe. And that’s good news.
Here’s some more good news. Some more reason to have hope. Just as God has arranged for a change of seasons in nature, he has done something similar with human beings. Birth and early childhood is the spring of our lives. The years of our youth, young adulthood and middle age is the summer of our lives. Our mature retirement years are the fall of our lives. Finally there is death, which is the winter of or lives. Of course, if that’s all there is (birth, growth, decline, and death), life would be pointless and hopeless. That would be bad news. But that isn’t all there is. God has promised, and gives us hope, with the good news, that human death is not the end of human life. Instead, there is one more season of life that God desires for and offers to every human being. We might call this our fifth season. A season which will never end. God gives each person a lifetime to decide if they want to accept that offer and spend eternity in that eternal state of being, in which there will be no tears (except tears of joy). No fears or worries. No anger or hatred. No crime. No war. Nothing but peace, love, and joy – forever.
There are a number of ideas being discussed these days about where, when, or how this all takes place, and exactly what it will look and feel like. Too many to discuss here. So I’ll leave you with just one way the Bible describes it (I Corinthians 15:51-52) “We will not all die, but we will all be changed (transformed), in a moment…”.
There have been a few times when I have briefly experienced real peace, love, and joy. I believe what I will experience as a reborn and transformed human being will be all of that multiplied hundreds of times over. There will be total and eternal good news – beyond my imagination. We will be a people who give and receive love. A people who know without a doubt we are loved by God and who will love God and love each other as we love ourselves. Until we get there, we can do and experience all of that to some extent here and now. When we are doing that – living now as though we are already in our fifth season – we are living as God created us to live. Yes, we can do that here and now – if we really want to and if we use the grace God gives us to do so. As for me, I suppose what I could do when the first snowfall comes this winter is not to say “Oh no”, but to thank God for all the weather he provides (including winter) to keep this world working. I invite you to join me.
Grace and peace, Ray