I am reading a very thought-provoking book by Mark Buchanan called “Spiritual Rhythm: Being With Jesus Every Season of Your Soul.”
He compares spiritual changes to the seasons in the year, helping the reader to know what to expect from each season and thereby prosper spiritually.
I began reading about the winter season first because in many ways, it has been winter in my life for two years.
I am not complaining. As hard as it has been, I am grateful for it.
It is during the winter seasons in life that we have absolutely no idea what God is doing; when He seems very far away; and disappointments are frequent and sometimes heartbreaking.
Winter brings to mind cold, gray, bleak days, doesn’t it?
Yet winter can also create much beauty: pristine snows blanketing everything in white, vivid blue skies, the shining sun causing the snow to sparkle like glittering diamonds.
In the same way, the spiritual starkness of winter reveals the blazing beauty of Christ like nothing else can.
Mark Buchanan perfectly describes what ‘winter’ faith looks like as he described the psalmist’s faith as recorded in Psalm 88: “In this man’s wintertime, he prays, though his capacity to believe is strained almost to extinction. He prays anyhow and in this way: according to what he knows of God, not what he sees of God…his praying is anchored in God’s revelation of Himself in Scripture, not in the firsthand experience of God in daily life…He doesn’t pray because He can taste and see that the Lord is good. He prays in spite of that, contrary to the evidence at hand. What he tastes is bitterness; what he sees is darkness. Circumstances erode his faith rather than buttress it. So he pushes himself beyond circumstances. He resists the temptation to equate circumstances with God. He prays…because God’s Word says God’s good and he’s betting the whole farm on that being so. That’s biblical faith. ..Everything short of this is a faith based on what I can, at least dimly, see. And to the extent that I can see it, it’s not yet pure faith. Winter grows pure faith…like no other season can. It combines the unique conditions that nurture the certainty of things hoped for and the assurance of things unseen. It is the season above all seasons where we walk by faith and not by sight. There is no better ground for growing an abiding faith that weathers the worst life can throw at you.”(pp. 46)
I love those words. I have lived them…certainly not perfectly…but with an open heart and a willingness to endure because in the process of pushing myself beyond my circumstances, I have seen and experienced Jesus in a way I never have before. And that is worth anything I have to go through.
That is the gift of the winter season of the soul.
It is a gift that liberates one from living by circumstances, feelings, and assumptions …and frees one to live by the eternal truth of God’s unchanging Word.
During the winter season, Jesus invites us to cling to His living Word–which is how we cling to Him this side of eternity (John 1:1-3)– with all our strength…and then we are given the priceless opportunity to experience Him. Those verses are no longer just words on a page because Jesus has written them on our hearts forever. They become part of us…and in the process, our wounds are healed. That is a beautiful thing.
I want pure faith and He has given me the opportunity to possess it by living…dare I say thriving?!..through a winter season.
Pure faith produces a passion for Jesus as He truly is…not as we would like Him to be.
A.W. Tozer rightly stated, “Left to ourselves, we tend immediately to reduce God to manageable terms.”
During winter, that is impossible.
When the winter season comes, we are forced to deal with a Jesus who allows what we would have vetoed.
We ask ourselves, “Who is this?” (Matthew 8:27)
And Jesus asks us, “Am I enough for you?”
Of course, He IS enough. He is EVERYTHING. He is the Author of life. All things were made by Him and for Him. He sustains ALL things by His powerful word (Colossians 1:15-19).
“There is not a single square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!'”–Abraham Kuyper
But we tend to not acknowledge that.
So Jesus, in His perfect wisdom, allows a winter season to bring our wandering hearts back home to Him. Back to joy…to peace…to increased intimacy with Him…to a purpose greater than our ourselves, which is to glorify Him.
“When we take the hand of Christ in relationship, not only are we holding the hand of the Creator of the universe, we’re holding a hand scarred by nails. When we agree to follow Him, He demands a life of sacrifice and promises suffering along the way. Yet this is the path of abundance He promises. Abundance of sustaining grace, not necessarily an absence of pain. Abundance of joy, regardless of circumstances. Abundance of contentment, regardless of our financial state. Abundance of peace, even when we deserve guilt. Our lives can be defined by His love the way He intended, instead of being ruled by events beyond our control.”–Harry L. Kraus Jr.