Another good work in winter is waiting. Winter forces us to wait. And waiting forces us to grow.
In winter we pray, call out, cry out, spread our hands. God seems indifferent, or absent, or opposed to us. He doesn’t show up. He leaves things unchanged, or let’s them change for the worse. Still we pray, day and night. It’s met with silence. With hardship. Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength, we remind ourselves. But in the meantime, in the waiting, our strength languishes.
The psalmist in Psalm 88 unintentionally gives us a hint about what to do with that. He points to something only those whose faith is grounded in resurrection hope can grasp. It’s this: he says his closest friend is darkness. This is meant to be a statement of hopelessness. But how could it be for the people of the resurrection? No moment in history was darker than the day after Good Friday. No day ever seemed so devoid of light, or comfort, so depressingly lonely.
The day after that, it’s still dark. Two disciples, grieving and bewildered, walk toward Emmaus. Darkness is their closest companion.
Then joined by a third, a stranger. His presence, at first, is an annoying intrusion into the splendid isolation of their gloom and misery. But He talks, and talks, and slowly the two disciples’ hearts warm.
And then, just as night comes, so does day: the stranger, He reveals, is no stranger at all. It’s Jesus, who been there with them all along, in darkness, in the grief, in the bewilderment, walking with them in the fellowship of sharing in their suffering.
It’s odd. Why didn’t Jesus announce Himself or disclose His identity the moment He joined them? He does that only in His departure. This is often the shape of winter — the Christ who meets us and walks with us all along doesn’t reveal His identity until we arrive at an end.
But why? Why not tip His hand sooner, when it would mean so much to us, when even a glimpse into the eternal would relieve our doubt and sadness and pain? Why not turn the lights on straightaway? Why wait?
My guess is the waiting builds faith’s backbone. The waiting is necessary to cultivate a faith to die for and live for, a faith that will literally change the world. Waiting is necessary for faith in the same way a chrysalis is necessary for a catapillar, to change it from a grin that crawls the earth to a butterfly that dances the air. Many of Jesus’ disciples, then as now, would die for their faith. That kind of faith doesn’t grow in a week. And, mostly, it’s not grown in warmth and sunshine. Miracles can only take it so far, and after that can actually stunt it. It’s hardiest growth, where roots get deep and tough, happens in darkness.
That would be true of Cheryl. Carol has been gone a while now. There was no miracle that intercepted her dying and only one miracle that came out of it that I know: her brother, long estranged from God, put his faith in Christ just before he died of cancer almost a year to the day Carol died. It was Carol’s courage in the face of her own death, and Carol’s death, and Cheryl’s friendship with him in his own sickness, that turned him round.
Cheryl’s faith today is leaner and tougher and less prone to doubts and setbacks. It‘s more a faith that is certain of things hoped for, assured of things unseen. It’s more based on who God is, not her circumstance of the moment.
It is a gift only winter could devise.
Which brings us to the strange bounty of winter.
~ Darren’s Comments ~
Fretting, anxiousness, being afraid, being apprehensive, being fidgety, being concerned or nervous, worrying, and fear all has the same root. We can dress it up into which ever way we want, yet it still has the same root of not being in control. Alll we have to do is let God take control, and He has been trying to get it back since we first sinned, including His Son coming into the world and dying and resurrecting for us. Yet, we, humans, are plagued with being in control and the lack of having it. That’s why the Holy Scriptures speak to that issue saying not to fear 365 times. That’s one for every day of the year. That, right there, tells you how much we are prone to fear if we somehow lose control. If we lose control, we are more likely to sin.
Now, I have many reasons to fear like recently I had received a diabetic pump, an upgrade from my old pump. The whole ordering process I began in September 2020 and had to the end of the year to receive this pump or be stuck with the other pump for a year longer. I waited and waited. I finally called my health insurance company only to be relayed over to a healthcare supplier that my company works with. A little source of frustration, a frustration that can lead to sin.
Through the Holy Spirit, I prevailed on, and finally (I thought) we had come to a resolution in which both the representative from my health insurance company, the healthcare supplier, and me were on the phone together leaving me with the impression that I was going to get the new pump. I waited a few more weeks and didn’t hear anything about it, so I made a call back to the insurance company which relayed me over to the healthcare supplier. They said they needed a prescription for it. Figuratively, my blood began to simmer. With that answer, I contacted my endocrinologist to have her write out a prescription for me for a new pump and send it over to the healthcare supplier to secure the new pump for myself. I waited another couple weeks and still nothing. I got concerned, so one of the nurses that works for my endocrinologist said give it another week, which would be the 3rd week in November. I got really concerned because the end of the year was in 5 weeks and I had to take comfort in the fact that God has it all in control (Matthew 6:26-33).
That was not the end of my dilemna, however. My blood was burning with frustration as I was told to contact one of the representives from the insurance company, and I knew that they were going to let me talk to the healthcare supplier. All in all I found out there that my old diabetic pump was under warranty till late this December and that I couldn’t get a new pump until that warranty expired. I was disappointed. So I took my disappointment to the only One who cares, Jesus Christ, by praying. “Lord,” I said, “if You want me to get this pump, I’ll praise You. If You don’t want me to get this pump, I’ll still praise You because I know that You will supply all my needs.” I made several calls to the company that would be supplying my new pump. What do you know, I received my new pump the 2nd or 3rd week this past December. I had the assurance from God’s Word that He would supply all my needs (Matthew 6:26-33).
When this was all over I received my new pump inthe latter half of the month, and each person that I contacted said thaat they had just witnessed was a miracle. I just smiled.
Where did my assurance in God stem from? Simply, early in my life, before I was 20 years old, I was in a doozy of a car accident. If you never read my blog before, I periodically tell the whole car accident story, how I was on a different trajectory to become a youth pastor, how it ended shortly after my 18th birthday, how I was working over 80 hours a week, apparently I thought I was invincible because I was up over 24 hours before the accident happened which led into a when skull-crushing car accident. I layed in a coma for 30 days with no signs of life in me except a tiny heartbeat that almost gave out.
The cold breeze of winter feels the same way until it breaks forth with a little bit of life, the same way I did. See, with each passing day of the coldness of winter the days get longer and sun brighter and temperatures start rising until we are in springtime, the same can be said of people. We have to wait, but still you can see a little progress each day.
The latter half of the summer of 1989 I had spent in Northeast Rehabilitation Hospital, and I will never forget the moment that I surrendered my life to Christ to do whatever the Lord wanted me to do. Coming back from a skull-crushing accident isn’t easy, but I knew had had to wait in order for God to reveal my new mission was going to be. It took almost ten years when I finally settled on God’s mission for myself — to spread the Gospel of Christ into an almost forgotten segment of the world’s population: the disabled, their family and friends, and the team of doctors, nurses, therapists, and caregivers.
God allowed the almost death-inducing car accident because He knew I could survive with His help. See that’s where Romans 8:28 comes into play:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (ESV)
Indeed, if you have a period of time in your life where it seems spiritually lifeless, or extremely difficult or hard, maybe you are in the dead of winter. Don’t give up hope in Jesus since you may have something that needs to be pruned out of your life by the Master Gardener in order for the tree to flourish the way He wants.
~ Darren Beattie, The Soul Blogger ~