September 23, 2019 // by Laura Malone
As I write, we are still melting in the heat of a Texas summer and I can’t help but flip through my calendar to check the date of fall’s much-anticipated and “official” arrival. And guess what? It’s today! Of course, if you live in Texas you know that our transition from summer is always slow as the coolness of fall drags its feet. My husband declares fall’s arrival when he smells football in the air. I start itching for it right around my August birthday. All the stores glow with aisles of orange pumpkins and somehow, I always leave smelling like cinnamon spice.
Oh, how we suffer through the 30 days of September’s lingering heat! But fall is always sure to come. Just as spring will eventually unroll her green carpet after the white one has melted away, fall will come gently and just when it has made itself known, winter will begin to take the stage.
“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintry light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen.”Ernest Hemingway
The seasons are faithful, aren’t they? You can count on them. They are the stability amid chaos and the expected among the unexpected. They are the faithful grandma and aunt that show up for every childhood performance. You glance out to the audience because you knew they would come, and seeing their face reassures you that everything is as it should be. The seasons bring the change we often crave and calm our souls in this otherwise confusing world.
Witnessing their continual faithfulness since the beginning of time, we have to admit God must have a purpose for them, right? And maybe that purpose goes beyond the obvious scientific explanation of the earth rotating on a tilted axis.
"He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him." Daniel 2:21-22
So, as we go digging for wisdom, let’s see what hidden treasures God has planted.
Seasons of Life
The first thing we see, and probably the most obvious, is the seasons of life that all living things encounter. Whether it’s plants, animals or people, we are all born and go through the same seasons, in the same order. Spring brings birth, summer-growth, fall-decline and winter-death. There’s no going backwards or skipping around. This is God’s design for all living things. There are no surprises.
But it also seems that most nonliving things go through all four seasons at least once, if not repeatedly. I can’t think of many things that don’t, except maybe plastic. 😉
Think about something as simple as an idea. It has a beginning, and as you think about it and act on it, it grows. Then there could be a period of decline, where that idea is no longer as relevant as it once was, or you’ve lost your enthusiasm for it. Then the idea could die, but maybe not forever. Maybe at the right time, it comes back to your mind to grow and to be enjoyed. And just as the vibrant fall foliage dies in the winter to create a thicker, grander tree in the spring, the death of an idea, dream or even a relationship could enable it to come back with more clarity and beauty than it possessed before. That which has died could be preparing itself for a new season. A perfect season.
Is there something you’re holding on to that’s going through unavoidable changes? Accept the change. Trust God as he works in the hidden depths, enriching the soil to bring about something better. For you.
Our Relationship with God
We can see the same seasonal illustrations in our walk with the Lord. We start with winter, being dead in our sins. As we become a Christian, we die to our own will, and are reborn into a new life with Christ. Then we begin growing in the Spirit as we seek to know Him better. Walking with Him daily, our souls are on fire for Him and we bask in the lighthearted and joyful days of a spiritual summer.
So, where do fall and winter fit back in? They are the seasons we often prune back our trees, right? We prune them and then they enter a deep sleep so when spring finally arrives, they are refreshed and can put all their energy into new growth. Jesus tells us that there will be purposeful times of pruning by Him, the Great Gardener. Why? Because He knows that in time, it will produce new growth in us. There will be times we question why life is so difficult. We are so confident in our plans and then unexpectedly, someone puts up a detour sign. Guess what! God is also the Great Construction Worker. The detours are for our good and His glory. Don’t let it discourage you because these are the times we get to see His power and love in the most intimate way, if we choose to draw near to Him.
Sometimes, a spiritual fall becomes our reality because of our own lousy choices. If you look around and see that multiple parts of your world are falling apart, this could be your warning sign. Go to your Father and just ask Him, “Is this me or is this You, God?” And if He shows you that the problem is you, have the wisdom to turn around. Back up and retrace your steps. Pay attention to the characteristics of the wrong trail so you won’t take it again. And remember, if you stay in the fall too long, you enter the cold, lonely and bitter winter. But, the good news is that God is persistently inviting us out of the winter and into the spring, a spring that produces a stronger, bolder faith than the one we owned before.
On your walk, take time to look around. How does your spiritual tree look? Is there fruit? Or are the limbs bare and brittle? What spiritual season are you in right now?
Now, stepping out of the “Relationship with God” analogy, there’s one more thing I can see God teaching us through the seasons. Appreciation. The simple fact that we can’t appreciate the good if we never experience the bad. Doesn’t the irritating heat of summer and the frostbite of winter seem to last a little too long? But it causes us to crave and appreciate the cool air of fall and the welcoming warmth of spring even more.
In the same way, the mountains and pruning in our lives have purpose. They can be miserable, but they cause us to crave and appreciate the good times again, the simple life. They tend to magnify our priorities so we can see them more clearly. But, I won’t tell you to slap a smile on, be a big girl and tough it out. I say, be human. Cry when a relationship falls apart and grieve death, so that you will naturally dream and hope for better days. And when they come, your rejoicing will be raw and real, like none you’ve experienced before. The goodness of God will then be tangible, laid out before you, to be another page in your story, another arrow in your quiver so you can face the next round of seasons with a stronger faith. And remember, to experience the glory of the resurrection, there had to be the cross.
What is your mountain right now? What are you learning to appreciate?
"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." 1 Peter 5:10
As we step into fall today, wherever we are, let us thank God for the things in our lives that are in a natural season of decline and rejoice because we know that’s where He does some of His greatest work. He paints a masterpiece we can’t possibly enjoy in the other seasons. Look for the beauty in this season of life and breathe. Eventually, spring will come again. And it’ll be better and more beautiful than the last.