The Never Ending Winter

It was the winter that never seemed to end. Seriously, it felt like the winter of ten thousand years. As the temperatures dropped, so did my spirit. As the snow piled up, so did my struggles. In those long, dark weeks of winter, we felt like we hadn’t seen the sun all winter, but honestly, I felt like I hadn’t seen the Son all winter, either. As everyone around me begged for the spring of melting snow and blooming flowers, my soul craved a spring of it’s own.

Winter had become a series of unfortunate events that had piled up and weighed on my heart heavier than if an elephant had been sitting on my chest. I remember sitting in my parked car as the snowflakes of another winter storm landed on the windshield with gentle thuds. I wish I could say that I folded my hands and said a nice little prayer and everything was better, but that would be a lie. In reality, I sobbed like a big baby. The cracks in my heart had finally given way and released all the pain they had been feeling, the exhaustion of sleepless nights, the failure of friendships that had fallen apart, the worry of my uncertain future, and the weight of the day to day struggles that just kept piling up. Did I turn to the Great Physician of body and soul? No. I just sat there and cried.

I wish I could have said that I turned to God and everything turned into sunshine and rainbows, but in those moments of vulnerability, my heart couldn’t hold onto the fact that God was writing my story and that this was only a page in it. I knew that it was true, but my days weren’t getting any brighter. Trusting him and his plan was a task harder than parallel parking in downtown Chicago in the middle of a blizzard. I kept thinking, “How can I fix this? I can’t handle these things anymore. I’m not strong enough to do this.”

Then in the depths of my winter, I felt the warm spring breeze of promise. As I thought about what I was saying, I realized that over and over I kept saying “I”.  This whole time, Satan was whispering lies into my ear that I had to be the one to fix things, that I needed to overcome it, that I needed to be strong enough. The worst part of it all... was that I believed it. In these long weeks of winter, I had been trying to shovel my snow storm of problems with a plastic spoon, when I knew someone who had a heavy duty snow plow. No wonder I had felt overwhelmed!

I remember laying in bed that night begging God to remember me as his dear daughter, the one that prayed, read her Bible, and loved everyone with a smile on her face instead of the girl with overwhelmed mind, complaining attitude, and discontent heart. I tossed and turned while my mind rambled up to heaven, I finally got up to grab my Bible. On a whim, I opened up to 1 Peter 5. It was God’s eloquent answer to my late night prayer,

“The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little while.“ (1 Peter 5:10 CVB)

Right there in his Holy Word, God told me that I was going to suffer. He told me that he was sending me a cold, snowy, miserable winter. Immediately, I thought back to painful moments that had left me feeling not good enough, worthless, rejected, and unlovable. Those dark memories flashed through my head as hazy memories that burned like the icy winter wind, but the gospel words warmed my heart like a hot spiced chai latte on a cold day. “Restore, Establish, Strengthen, and Support,” Promises straight from God that felt like a much overdue sunny day with beginning signs of spring.

As my prayers echoes from that deep and dark valley, he lifted me out, dusted me off, and set me back on my feet. I could hear my Savior’s message whispered in my ear that felt as refreshing as the first blooms of spring, “Sam, you won’t fix this, I will. You can’t handle this, I can. You’re not strong enough. I am. You do not need to have your life together, I will put it back together for you. I will restore, establish, strengthen, and support you, no matter what.”   

He never promised that there would be no winters in life, even tropical places have little cold spells every once in a while. He says right there in 1 Peter that you will have sufferings, but we can hold tight to the promise that he will restore, establish, strengthen, and support us through it all. (Even if we think we don’t need it.)

Winters will come and go. Sometimes you get a half inch of snow and it melts two days later, and sometimes you get two feet of snow and it is fifty degrees below zero. No matter what winter you find yourself in, cling to the gospel promise of spring. Let God lead you to those patches of green grass, sunny days with light breezes, and the tulips and daffodils that always seem to pop out of the ground first. In the meantime, don’t believe lies the Tempter whispers in your ear. The traps of worry, comparison, busyness, discontentment, or insecurities may always be in our lives this side of heaven, but we have a Savior who will give us strength and help us dress in a warm jacket, insulated boots, and a matching hat and mitten set to get us through our own personal winter.

Now don’t forget. Those dark days will end and spring is coming. Just like the snow will melt and the green grass will make its grand reappearance, renewal is coming for you too. Set the burdens of your overwhelmed heart in the hands that were nailed to a cross for you. Give your struggles, troubles, and worries to the one is who commands the universe, because yes, he really does want to hear about how you think orange washes you out or how you struggle to live a life that shines for Christ, and everything else in between that weighs on your mind. Let him shovel through the snow, melt through the ice, and warm you up, for he is sending that long awaited, promised spring of blessings no matter how rough the winter may have been.

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Day 28

I hope you’ve heard about or have been following along with our Grateful to God challenge here at Holy Hen House for the month of November. If you missed out, no worries, you can make any day “Day 1” of the challenge to think and meditate on some of the blessings our wondrous God so freely gives to us. Regardless, here is today’s blessing to consider on “Day 28” of the challenge.

Strength (noun): the quality or state of being strong; capacity for exertion or endurance

Strength is one of those words I consider to be “loaded.” What can be portrayed and communicated by those eight letters is so much more than that simple definition from Merriam Webster. In all honesty, there were actually nine different definitions for that one word and still those descriptions feel like they fall short.

How does one describe the ability to stand up when you’ve been knocked down over and over again? How does one give thanks for the motivation to “keep on keepin’ on” in a life and world that is anything but easy? How often do we stop to think about whom that motivation and desire even comes from?

Life is hard. It is so often filled with challenge after challenge - a difficult co-worker, a family member that no longer values a relationship with God, a personal health crisis that makes you want to doubt everything you’ve ever believed. Challenges that beat day after day on that weathered door leading to your heart and soul. Will the wind and rain ever stop?

You know, the beautiful thing about God’s blessing of strength is that it doesn’t matter what’s happening on the outside. It doesn’t matter if that storm stops or if the wind finally calms. With God and with His promises, we can know and trust and believe in everything (and I mean everything) working out for our best whether or not it looks or feels that way right now. Having that faith, that trust, and that hope in our extraordinary God certainly does renew our strength and it is that blessing of strength through and from our Lord that continues to help us face any trial.

Thank you Lord for strength.