My sister loves winter.
She loves the snow, the cold, the way your lungs freeze up and give out when you try to breathe, all of it. (Okay, fine, I embellished the breathing one, though she does like breathing cold air.)
I’m not a fan.
I love sunshine and warmth and the smell of dirt and trees. I love being outside and hiking and adventures and going barefoot and being at and in the lake (that isn’t frozen). I love outdoor sports and Enoing (is that a verb? Let’s go with yes) and picnics and grilling and barbecues and, as you can see, pretty much anything that includes eating outside.
On the other hand, it’s unnatural how much I hate jackets and coats. I would rather risk pneumonia than put on a jacket. You know what else I could go the rest of my life without? Socks. And short days and having to start your car 20 minutes before you go anywhere so your hands don’t permanently freeze to the steering wheel.
Things I enjoy about winter:
- Christmas (and all that comes with it)
- Blazing fireplaces
That’s it. We have reached the end of the list.
Well, okay, upon further consideration, I do love sledding, snowball fights, building snowmen, and the winter Olympics (though the summer Games are far superior).
And maybe it’s on my list to go snowboarding and skiing one day. Maybe.
But that’s it. There is absolutely nothing else appealing about winter.
Or is there?
FROSTBITE & FUTURE HOPE
Over the last few days, a winter storm has hit our tiny patch of western Kentucky, leaving everything coated in ice, sleet, and enough snow to send my sister (and their puppy) into fits of elation.
But sometimes winter isn’t just found outside, is it?
One day last week I journaled a prayer,
Remind my wintery, frost-bitten soul what sunshine is like.
As much as I dislike winter weather, it’s even worse when it’s in your heart.
Once, I bought a used book that had an inscription on the inside from the previous owner. The words have always stuck with me:
There is One who can keep it always Christmas in your heart.
One naturally assumes the writer was referencing the moment in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe when the beloved fawn Mr. Tumnus tells Lucy Pevensie upon her entrance to the snow-covered world of Narnia,
“It is winter in Narnia,” said Mr. Tumnus, “and has been for ever so long… always winter, but never Christmas.”
By the end of the book (or movie), we find that the good-but-not-safe lion Aslan not only brought Christmas back to Narnia but also spring and all the glory that comes with it.
And don’t we know the reality of that fictitious tale? The true and better Aslan can indeed keep it always Christmas in your heart, even in the scorching heat. Even in the dead of winter.
(Side note: Why is it called the “dead” of winter? Oh right, because winter = death. Silly me.)
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” -Ephesians 2:4-7
One thing is for certain: death brings life.
That’s our certain hope as believers in Jesus. We stake it all on that unfailing truth. Therefore, as the winter creeps into our climate and maybe into our hearts, we receive it like the most beloved guest knowing it brings the best gifts.
Life follows death.
Spring follows winter.
Flowers follow rain.
Light follows darkness.
Thaw follows frost.
And the Lord reigns over all.
The winter snow might force me to put on a jacket, but as I walked around our property today, breathing in fresh air, talking to God, and taking these photos, reality hit:
There is grace here.
Winter may be my least favorite season, but it’s still packed with meaning and purpose and more beauty than we deserve.
You can hear it in the quiet stillness (Psalm 46:10).
Feel it in the lower temperatures (Job 37:5-10).
And see it in the white blankets everywhere, the ones that whisper of the way God washes our scarlet sins and transforms them into robes of purity (Isaiah 1:18).
Sermons abound in winter.
My boy Charles often wrote about the winter of the soul, something he was well-acquainted with, but this is one of the best things I’ve read by him on the subject.
You should go read the whole thing (it’s only three paragraphs) but here’s a snippet:
“Winter in the soul is by no means a comfortable season, and if it be upon thee just now it will be very painful to thee: but there is this comfort, namely, that the Lord makes it. He sends the sharp blasts of adversity to nip the buds of expectation: He scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes over the once verdant meadows of our joy: He casteth forth his ice like morsels freezing the streams of our delight. He does it all, He is the great Winter King, and rules in the realms of frost, and therefore thou canst not murmur. Losses, crosses, heaviness, sickness, poverty, and a thousand other ills, are of the Lord’s sending, and come to us with wise design. Frost kills noxious insects, and put a bound to raging diseases; they break up the clods, and sweeten the soil. O that such good results would always follow our winters of affliction!” -Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, December 1
Perhaps my sister is right (as usual). Perhaps winter actually does hold treasures found in no other season and perhaps, if we can’t see the treasures now—just like we can’t see the growth of blooms working under the snow—we can trust the steady hand that governs each season and take heart:
Winter won’t last forever.
But, until it’s departure, let’s look for the sermons our Father preaches to us right here.
Let’s look for the grace tucked into every cold, frost-bitten detail.
Let’s look for the way God is proving His character right here and now.
Let’s look for the way He is working the icy conditions to warm our hearts toward Him.
Let’s look for the way He is killing our sin and growing our trust.
Let’s look for the life that will follow this death.
Let’s lean in. The Lord is at work.
And He does all things (even winter) well.
A couple more quotes on the beauty of winter:
“Glory follows afflictions, not as the day follows the night but as the spring follows the winter; for as the winter prepares the earth for the spring, so do afflictions sanctified prepare the soul for glory.” -Richard Sibbes
“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” -Anne Bradstreet
“Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.”
-C. S. Lewis