by Gary Colville - Seasons come and go
I love the passage in 1 Chronicles 12:32 that says the men of Isaachar “understood the times/seasons (Hebrew - ‛êth) and knew what Israel should do.” It’s a great passage for us as men to remind us that we can understand and know what to do in the seasons of our lives.
Just as the four seasons, summer, autumn, winter and spring, all have characteristics which bring changes in the world, so too we experience seasons in our lives. We create some seasons and some seasons come in spite of our expectations. In my new found faith at seventeen I felt I could avoid winters in life but like it or not life has them.
In reality we have choices about how we respond to those seasons and therefore how much they can impact or control our lives. Unlike the seasons on earth, which are pretty set, the length of our seasons will be largely determined by how we respond to God’s ideas and input.
We can create great seasons by the way we respond and live in them. Longer autumns and winters will be our lot when we allow things like worry, fatalism, negativity, passivity, or anger to control the journey we face. The trouble is that sometimes, just like Job, some winters come without us triggering them.
Let’s look at what the seasons we face may look like.
Autumn; leaving things
It’s a time of letting go. It’s about facing change, letting go of destructive stuff and things we would love to hold on to, even great things that have served us well.
Maybe you have had to let go of some things like a relationship, job aspirations, a profession, money goals or you may have realised that you need to shift in the way you think, relate or behave around people.
Maybe there are other changes to your life circumstances that are not necessarily bad but you find change hard and letting go of your norms is what you need to do right now. Anxiety about those ugly clouds on the horizon or winds of adversity swirling can lead to insecurity. Spiritual seasons of fall, as autumn is often called because the old falls away, may cause us to doubt God. Even Elijah after a powerful victory over Ahab, Jezebel and the priests of Baal, struggled in his walk. Autumn as Charles R Swindoll says; ‘The roots grow deep when the winds are strong.’ If autumn, the season of reflection, has come, expect your roots to deepen. Count on it. Yet, be assured of this, the Lord God specialises in roots. He plans to deepen you and strengthen you. But He won’t overdo it. He is sovereignly and compassionately at work. We are more impressed with fruit. Not God–He’s watching over the roots. We like the product, He emphasises the process. And painful though it may be, ‘He who… began… will keep right on… until His work… is finished.’ So we can boldly declare, ‘Come wind, come weather, welcome autumn!’
Winters are uncomfortable but we can stay warm.
I don’t like winters of the soul; One because we can’t avoid them and secondly because I don’t enjoy suffering. Things like unemployment, a broken romance, grief over a recent loss, loneliness, spiritual malnourishment, feeling unconnected, fearfulness, failure, guilt or even feeling unwanted by God will often take us into winters of our soul. In winter it’s easy to self-blame, allow others to blame or want to blame. Winters in our life can certainly be our fault but Job’s winter was not created by human influences around him but his friends opinions did make his winter worse.
Scripture paints a clear picture of things we do to cause many of the winters we face. Things like not actively stepping out and bearing the fruit God desires, lording over our children or mistreating our wife or dwelling on wrong thinking, beliefs or behaviours. Then we will lose connection with God, even to the point where God will not listen to us. Winter does not need to be your testimony of life. Unnecessary pain results in holding onto a winter season because we are unwilling to let stuff go or continue doing wrong or carrying beliefs that are not in line with God’s thoughts. You could easily be hacked off the vine by staying in winter; see John 15:1-2.
In winter good things can occur. Tree trunks grow another dark ring, building its core strength to endure the force of spring storms, stave off blight, and carry the weight of fruit in summer. At the same time, the tree stretches deep, extending and expanding its roots to absorb nutrients and develop a firmer base. How we respond to things in life determines whether we keep facing winter or move into greater things. Paul’s responses on facing tough winters gives us good perspective; 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
Winter never feels like the best experience but the great thing is that we the have the power to change the stuff that causes our winters and come into the newness of spring and move into a life of summer in our lives. Paul describes the progression in Romans 5:3-5 ‘We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character and character, hope. Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.’
Spring; the choice toward greater things
At the beginning spring feels a little like winter is still here. The vibrancy and freedom of spring is something many Christians never experience. They live in a prolonged winter. Old methods, habits, prayers, songs, sins etc are familiar so we hold on to them and rob ourselves and the Church of God’s best. We can avoid autumn and live in the constant low spiritual temperature of winter.
When we let go of the old, even the good old stuff however stale or great it has been, and connect with God, He will brush fresh colours into our thinking and actions making us look and feel fresh and alive. Hope lives and introduces summer.
Summer is a great time.
It’s a place of warmth, laughter, freedom adventure, empowerment and fruitfulness. Oh what glorious, powerful satisfaction is waiting for those who are willing to be reclaimed, reshaped and renewed during autumns and winters. This deep satisfaction only comes when we have an attitude of being ready for the adventure God wants to partnership with us in.
It may not feel like it sometimes but if we are seeking in every way to honour Him, God will be with us in every season of our life. When we face the unknown, we can trust that He is in control and working out every situation for our good. When we tackle life with a real trust in the intentions of God for us and we pursue them with healthy aggression, total availability, Godly optimism, creativity and focus on being the Christ-like person that we are called to be, our springs and summers will be long, pleasant, fruitful and satisfying. Our autumns and winters will take the past life we have and bring change and strength into everything we do and in the way we respond to situations. This will leave us in a far stronger place and empower us to be fully alive, carrying the joy and peace that Jesus promised right through all our circumstances in life. We will be ‘strong and of good courage, not afraid or discouraged because we have that certainty that God is with us’ Joshua 1:9. (Dig deeper into this topic by reading Romans 12:11-12, Matthew 7:19, Luke 3:9.)
Gary Colville is a popular PK speaker and long-time friend of the PK ministry including providing technical oversight and assisting with event theming. He has served as Senior Pastor of Hosanna Porirua for more than 35 years, retiring earlier this year.