“Now is the winter of our discontent” are the opening words of the play, Richard III, by Shakespeare.
This has definitely been a “winter of discontent” in most of Canada. Everywhere I go, the hottest topic of conversation is the weather. Specifically, when is winter ever going to end?? Here we are in the second week of March and we are still experiencing snowstorms and temperatures in the negative double digits! Is there light at the end of the ice road?
While I was raised in Southern Ontario, Canada, I have spent most of my adult years living in Northern Ontario. (and for those of you who live in southern Ontario, Parry Sound is NOT considered Northern Ontario). I have also lived in Ottawa, Ontario which is considered one of the coldest capital cities in the world. When I lived in Kapuskasing, Ontario, I had 2 very small children and it was often hard to go outside with them because there would be weeks where the average “high” was -25*C. My birthday is near the beginning of May, and after years of living “up North” I was never surprised to see snow falling around that time and ice still on the lakes. So I know a little bit about long, cold winters.
I have now lived in Southwestern Ontario for four years, and I must admit to chuckling (ok – I smirk too) when I hear “Southerners” complaining about the winter. Personally, I have realized that I actually prefer many aspects of northern winters over southern ones. While northern winters are usually colder, the days are often sunny and dry. Here in SW Ontario, the temperatures are usually milder BUT the winters tend to be very damp, raw, windy and grey. YUCK!
Jesus was a great fellow for using analogies to teach spiritual lessons. I think that the weather can be used as an analogy for both life and spiritual lessons. I have experienced many long, dark, cold winter nights in my personal and spiritual life. Sometimes, living with chronic illness can seem like one long winter season. The loss of a marriage or a loved one can leave you feeling barren, cold, and alone like you are living in the Arctic Barrens. A diagnosis of cancer can take your breath away like a stiff, icy, northern wind and leave you gasping and brain numb. And along with those things, I have experienced a cooling off, a numbing and a darkening of my faith. Sometimes, it just feels like the “winters” in life are never going to end!
Yet, throughout all those cold, dark times, there was, (and is) a hope of light at the end of the ice road. Jesus is that hope; he is that light.
Mat 4:16 The people who sat in darkness saw a great Light; and Light has sprung up to those who sat in the region and shadow of death.”
Joh 8:12 Then Jesus spoke again to them, saying, I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
When I am living through a literal winter, I try to look for things that will bless me: the bright scarlet flash of a cardinal; sunlight reflecting diamonds in the snow; the twittering, chirping and whistling song of a tree full of starlings; the downy blanket of snow on evergreens, a breath of fresh, crisp air; and snuggling up to my warm hubby (which is good any time of year!) I try to keep in mind that winter is not forever and that spring will eventually make it’s appearance (although not today – it is snowing as I write this). And to help remind me that spring really is on it’s way, I have a pot of hyacinths, just coming in to bud, on my windowsill – I can’t wait to breathe in their sweet fragrance!
When I am going through a “physical” winter, I try to focus on things that I can be thankful for: access to free medical care, helpful medications, safe and cozy home environment, a loving, understanding and supportive husband, family and friends who pray for me, and I am especially thankful for a loving God who holds me in His arms, His healing words in scripture, and the sure and certain hope that one day I WILL be healed and delivered from pain forever.
For me, my times of “spiritual” winters may have been the worst kind of winter. When you are ill or in pain, there are often real, physical things that you can do to help alleviate the symptoms. In my spiritual winters, the solutions don’t always seems so clear-cut, straightforward or easy. During those times, I try to focus my energy on using those “Winter survival tools” that God has made available to help me “shovel through the storm”.
I am thankful that I have a collection of uplifting Christian music that I can listen to. I am a “rock ‘n’ roll” girl at heart and it is difficult to avoid getting up and dancing to the Lord when Steven Curtis Chapman or Michael W. Smith are rockin’ it to the Lord! Thirty minutes of praise and worship is a sure fire way to get your physical and spiritual heart a-pumpin’. (“Put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, lift up your voice to God…”)
I also make use of books of uplifting and encouraging scripture such as “God’s Promises for Your Every Need”. The Book of Psalms is one of my favourite books of the Bible. In it, I read how David struggled with fear and faith yet he always gave praise to God, in whom he trusted to see him through. I am grateful for people like Joyce Meyers who have “been there, done that”, who tell it like it is but use humour and truth to show us God’s ways.
Pro 4:20 – 22 My son, listen to my words; bow down your ear to my sayings. Let them not depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and health to all his flesh.
And lastly, but certainly not least, when “having done all to stand”(Eph. 6:13), I am thankful for prayer. I am thankful that because of what Jesus did for me, I have the right and ability to approach God’s throne of grace.
Heb 4:16 Therefore let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
I am so blessed to be able to pray in tongues when “I know not what I should pray for”. I have peace knowing that the holy spirit that God has placed in me is communicating more closely with His spirit.
Rom 8:26 And in the same way the Spirit is a help to our feeble hearts: for we are not able to make prayer to God in the right way; but the Spirit puts our desires into words which are not in our power to say;
Rom 8:27 And he who is the searcher of hearts has knowledge of the mind of the Spirit, because he is making prayers for the saints in agreement with the mind of God.
Dear reader, if you are experiencing a “winter” in your life, I want to assure you that just as sure as Spring follows Winter in the physical, climactic realm, so too will God bring you through your dark “winter of discontent” into the warm light of new spring life if you will earnestly seek Him out and trust in Him.
Rom 8:24 For our salvation is by hope: but hope which is seen is not hope: for who is hoping for what he sees?
Rom 8:25 But if we have hope for that which we see not, then we will be able to go on waiting for it.
Rev 21:4 And God will wipe away all tears from their eyes. And there will be no more death, nor mourning, nor crying out, nor will there be any more pain; for the first things passed away.