A CONSTANT IN THE MIDST OF SEASONAL TRANSITIONS
The nature of our lives is seasonal. Winter, spring, summer, fall, but hardly ever in that order. I’ve watched men and women and boys and girls go with dramatic suddenness from one to the other. Tomorrow, I attend two funerals. One for a man whose death was “in season” — he was eighty something, had lived well, loved deeply, said what he needed to say by way of thank you and goodbye.His wife misses him terribly, but her heart is buoyant with hope and anticipation. It’s not wintertime for her, at least not deep winter, and already there abound signs of spring.
The other funeral is for a woman whose death was “out of season” — she was fifty something, mother to two young adults, in prime health, who contracted some rare strange virus and went away without proper leave-taking. Her family is bewildered, angry, dismayed. They are so stunned that they have not even begun to grieve.
Winter is hard upon them, and it will likely be a long dark season.
I’ve seen the suddenness of seasonal change. And I’ve seen its gradualness. I’ve watched this past year my dear friend and colleague and mentor, Joy Brewster, go from high summer (and that was in her seventies) into a long deep winter, but slowly. Her kidneys are failing, and the illness and its remedies have sapped her energy and muddled her brain. There are hopeful signs. They come with a doctor’s upbeat report or a few days of feeling that old pluck and strength coming back. And then they’re gone., chased away by a doctor’s grim report or several days of debilitating weariness.
And I’ve seen, both sudden and gradual, similar movements between seasons: a man who, because of childhood abuse, walked in the gloom of shame most of his life, then one night had a dream and woke up walking on sunshine, and it’s lasted; a girl who, from a nasty drug habit, reaped ten years of bad harvests, then went to rehab and got serious about God, and now is reaping good things; a couple who struggled in their marriage for twenty-five years but who went to a counselor who called them to deep repentance and heartfelt obedience, and who now are in summertime so abundant and sweet and warm and full of light that other couples are getting healed by just their shadow falling on them.
But always, in season or out, young and old, single or couple, the constant is one thing: perseverance. But not just persevering in that grueling, teeth-gritting, sweat-of-my-brow sense. Rather, persevering with Christ who walks with them everywhere and always.
“Where are you?” That was God’s question to Adam back in Eden, when He came to walk with Adam and couldn’t find him. God often asks me that question. Me, I am usually in the middle of something. I’m long past the exhilaration of beginning. I’m a long way from the sanctification of finishing. I’m somewhere in the middle: fifty years old, twenty-five years married, twenty years in pastoral work, perpetually renovating my house.
And what I need most days, in this wide stretch of land, is perseverance. To keep moving, or stay put — whatever persevering means in each case. To stay the course or stand my ground. And it is strength to me that God finds me here and wants to walk with me.
Where are you? When God comes to walk with you, where does He find you? So excited, He has to run to catch up? So weary He has to lift your feet?
Or in the middle somewhere, just putting one foot before the next? Know this, He’s come looking for you, to walk with you. He wants you to finish the course. He has good things along the way, and very good things awaiting.
Why am I happy? With Christ by my side, summer doesn’t distract. With Christ by my side, winter doesn’t destroy. With Christ by my side, the hard work of the fall and spring does not overwhelm. I get knocked down, but I get back up. I forget for a moment, but I live mostly in remembering His faithfulness, anticipating His goodness.
I’m not disappointed.
The Man for All Seasons will do that for you, every time.
TIME-IN 26 ‘WHERE ARE YOU?’
God is inquisitive. He’s always asking questions: “Where are you? Who told you that you were naked? Where is your brother? Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath? Where is your faith? Why are you so afraid? Why do you call me good? Who do you say that I am? Some of these questions — most, in fact — don’t feel rhetorical, asked in the cool posture of the academic or politician setting herself up for dazzling oratory or clever commentary.
God genuinely seems to want to know.
It’s not that he doesn’t know the answer Himself. It’s more, I think, that we don’t— that we haven’t paused to sift and ponder our own motives and actions. We’re just barreling on ahead, blithely living the unexamined life. The question stops us midbreath, midstride.
Who do you think Jesus is?
Why am I so afraid?
Why do I call Him good?
Who told me I was naked?
Where am I?
Let me ask you God’s original question: where are you? Can you locate yourself within God’s proximity? Can you identify where you’re drawing near, and where you’re pulling away? Can you identify what you’re trying to hide from Him?
“It’s a dreadful thing,” Hebrews 10:31 says, “to fall into the hands of the living God.”
Only one thing is more dreadful: not to fall into His hands. So let us heed the counsel, also in Hebrews 10, “to draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22).
~ Darren’s Comments ~
God made me to persevere. Going through all the bad things in my life, (especially when I turned 18 — you can read the last installment before this of Spiritual Rhythm: PERSEVERING ~ HOLDING ON, PRESSING ON)- God has turned them into good (Romans 8:28). Yet, for a majority of times, He doesn’t answer the way I want Him to, more often than not, whatever it is that I’m praying for, because I am not one in God’s will. And that can be incredibly frustrating because I want relief now, not to soldier on through it. But, yet, I am reminded of this verse (when the Holy Spirit inside of me convicts me to be more like my Savior):
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”
(1 Peter 2:21 ESV)
Ouch! That hurts. You mean that I have to suffer in order to be like Christ for His name sake? It appears so. Likewise Jesus said it multiple times, but I am going to remind you of a few passages:
“And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”
(Luke 9:23-26 ESV)
“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.”
John 17:6-19 ESV
Also, from Hebrews:
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Hebrews 4:15-16 ESV
You see, God made you to persevere too. What ever you have to go through for Christ’s sake, do it. In The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken, one of the true stories was of the terrible conditions Stoyon’s father, who was a preacher, was subjected to, all for not agreeing to stop preaching in the name of Jesus. Would you do the same? It’s hard to tell if we’re not subjected to overt persecution and suffering for the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. But I’ve had my personal run-ins with doubt, not thinking I m enough to do the Lord’s work, expressive aphasia and slowness in talking and moving. I’m like Moses who battled with similar circumstances; however, I knew the full story of Moses from Exodus through Deuteronomy, and how he tried to give up on God due to his slowness in speech. Here in the U.S., turning 18 means freedom from your parents, but it was the beginning of my dependence on God as I was in an almost death-inducing car accident. I found myself needing God’s help in a tremendous way (Running With Christ . . .). And therefore, I recommitted my life to the Lord, with my expressive aphasia and severe slowness due to the accident I incurred just 3 weeks after I turned 18.
See, Christ who sent His Holy Spirit to indwell believers to be just like Him. Therefore, we need to stop grieving the Holy Spirit by our iniquitous ways of our flesh. And if and when we do (our flesh causes us to sin), then we have the promise of forgiveness if we take advantage of that promise. To suffer or to be persecuted is pointless unless it is for Christ.