After a slough of rainy, snowy, Spokane-wintery Sundays, there was one in early February that looked like spring. It was Superbowl Sunday, but the sunshine was so alluring that our family headed out for a hike before settling down to watch the game. The sky was spectacularly clear that day; it was the kind of blue that might tempt some into leaving their jackets in the car before a hike. I was almost duped into doing just that, until I looked at the ground we were about to tread. Dry pavement gave way to treacherous patches of ice and snow before we even reached the trail, and as we walked toward it, I zipped my coat up to my chin, thankful the blue sky didn’t fool me. It is still winter, after all, I reminded myself.
The drama of the changing seasons unfolded before our eyes as we began our hike: we tiptoed over snow that had frozen and melted and refrozen many times, trying to find footing in the slippery steps of previous hikers. In other spots, our feet slid and squished and squashed through mud, where sun and snow had wrestled in the dirt. Felled branches, stripped of their leafy glory, littered the trail. The woods were wearied by winter, and as the wind slapped my cheeks and stuffy nose, so was I.
“In the longest seasons, we can trust that He will make all things new.”
There was something so familiar about the way the trees seemed to groan beneath the weight of winter, a sort of longing in their branches to be clothed in leafy green again. Looking at them struck an oddly empathetic chord in me, reminding me of different seasons in my life and in the lives of those around me that have left us not so much leafless as lifeless. True winters of the heart: seasons of struggle with sin, unemployment, infertility, singleness, illness, estrangement, bullying, unbelieving family, grief of any kind, can leave us feeble and desperate for truth and hope. Even as believers, we see and are affected by the brokenness of the world and rightly lament the effects of sin. Though we know that God is not far off, our hearts lament with the psalmist in Psalm 10:1, “Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” We long for Him to breathe life into our weary souls.
If you’ve ever planted a tulip bulb in the fall, it’s hard to imagine what beauty will unfold in your garden the following spring while the world slowly deadens with winter. You wait and trust that beauty will come. Similarly, in the midst of difficulty, it’s hard to trust that the Lord will use each circumstance for our good and for His glory. We long for a springtime of the heart–a renewal of life, joy, peace, and hope. And often, we long for our immediate desires to be met. We long for a job, a spouse, a child, a friend, a guarantee that the prognosis isn’t as bad as the doctors think. When the goodness of God and the fulfillment of our desires seem distant, we must remember that just as winter doesn’t keep, neither will the winters of our hearts.
Recall the words of Paul in Romans 8:18-19, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us... for we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Sin plunged us into the longest, weariest winter of the heart as it separated us from God. In Christ, He has redeemed us and made us new. More than that, He has promised to redeem what sin has ruined.
We join creation’s groan and look forward to the day spoken of in Revelation 21:4-5, “‘He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’” That day is our ultimate hope when our hearts are heavy and weary from the effects of sin in this world. That day is still our ultimate hope when our hearts are cheery and thankful and delighting in the gifts God has given us on earth. Christ is our hope on the good days and the hard days, when it seems our earthly desires are abundantly satisfied and when they remain unfulfilled. In every season, Christ is our greatest, fullest hope.
Winter feels long, as do times of suffering and trials. In those times, it is all too easy to forget the promises of God and be convinced that sin and death are winning. That’s one of the beautiful things about Easter landing on the calendar precisely when it does: right when winter seems to be too much, the green of tulip bulbs poke through softening dirt. Greening branches of forsythia burst into pops of yellow blossoms. The groaning of winter gives way to the life that comes with springtime, and we celebrate the resurrection of Christ, who died to bring us out from under the greatest devastation we could ever imagine and into glorious life with Him. In the longest seasons, we can trust that He will make all things new. May that truth transform our weary hearts to live in an Easter morning joy, the kind of joy that winter cannot touch.