As I write this, it’s cold outside, as it should be, because it’s winter and cold is what winter brings. We don’t question this is as it should be, because there are patterns ingrained into our world: the sun rises in the east, it crawls toward its height by midday, and it sets in the west. The tides go in and go out. Our bodies, just the same, are made to fall into sleep and rise again.
As there are patterns for our days, there are also ingrained patterns for our seasons. Summer gives way to fall and fall gives way to winter and winter to spring and so on, indefinitely.
What do these patterns tell us? Why did God write the pattern of our days and seasons into the DNA of the world? They are physical reminders of a deeper reality; they display God’s pattern of redemption.
Summer turning to fall shows us our sin leads to death. Fall turning to winter warns that death comes for each of us. Winter turning to spring proclaims that there is a very real hope for new life after death.
If, as God says it does, nature speaks of him, what is he saying to us through the seasons? He’s saying redemption is still in process.
Throughout Scripture, a pattern emerges there, too, that teaches us how to live in the already, not-yet of our redemption. This is the pattern, handed down by God: look back and then look forward.
In the Old Testament, God repetitively required his people to build altars, to recall to their children stories of his acts, and to celebrate feasts that marked his miracles. Over and over, he said to them, “Look back. Remember.” They were to remember how God made freedom from their slavery and provision from their lack. Why? So they’d trust him in their present circumstances, their present winter.
Later in the Old Testament, God’s refrain through the prophets then became, “Look forward.” They were to look forward to a perfect deliverer and forever rescuer, when God would make beauty from their ashes, so that they might trust him with those ashes in their present state.
In the New Testament, the same pattern emerges. After the Gospels, the writers continually point back to the death and resurrection of Christ and then forward to his future coming, all so that we’d look at the past with gratefulness and awe, the future with faith, and the present with eyes wide open to hope.
And so, where are we in the pattern of the seasons? We are, of course, in winter–literally and figuratively–and we feel it profoundly. We know barrenness. We know cancer. We know uncertainty. We know loneliness. We know what it means to groan under the weight of winter.
There are those who say the present is all we have. As believers watch for Christ’s return, to everyone who’s waited for all things to be made right, these people say, “Where is He? Where is your God?” Sometimes we ask this, too.
He is enduring, that’s where he is. He is enduring the world’s winter just as we are. God endures the world’s pain so that his work of redemption can continue and can be completed, so more people can experience it for themselves.
And so, here we are in our winter, waiting. As wait-ers, we lace our tears with joy instead of despair when we trace the pattern God’s given us. We look back and remember: God has created and he has come to dwell with us in our winter. We also look ahead and remember the promise, that Christ will come again and we will dwell with him in eternal spring.
These practices remind us that, in the present reality of winter, there is a world in motion going on beyond what we can see, because God, whom we cannot see, never sleeps and is at work, bringing about our final redemption.
As sure as the seasons that have existed before we were born and will continue long after we die, spring is coming. The seed in winter is dormant but it won’t be dormant forever.
Christine Hoover is a pastor’s wife, mom, speaker, and the author of From Good to Grace, Messy Beautiful Friendship, and The Church Planting Wife. She has written for The Gospel Coalition, Desiring God, and Christianity Today. Blogging at www.GraceCoversMe.com, she enjoys helping women apply the gift of God’s grace to their daily lives. She lives in Virginia.
Christine’s newest book, Searching for Spring: How God Makes All Things Beautiful in Time, releases from Baker Books on March 6, 2018.