Winter: Trial or Teacher?

I'll start with an apology to all you winter lovers out there. I know you are not happy that your favorite season is being questioned. I'm not one of you, but I understand how you operate. You break into joyful song as the temperature plummets. You shriek with excitement as snow and ice blanket the land. You pray that it's sunny on Groundhog day. You're just weird. (is that too harsh?) Ok, maybe you're not weird, you're just a little different from normal people.

Me, I'm not crazy about winter. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy drinking hot cocoa in front of a crackling fire and building a snowman or going sledding with my kids as much as the next guy. But does winter really have to last for more than one week? I'd like to propose that winter be condensed into the week around Christmas. We have a white Christmas, we do all those fun "wintery" things and then we move on. We go straight into a season that everyone enjoys, spring. Who's in?

To be fair, winter is not all bad. I have been able to find something very positive about it. It can teach us some valuable life lessons, particularly about hard times. Here's what I mean:

Perspective Matters

Here in this part of Ohio, we have fairly moderate winters. It gets cold and snows, sure, but we don't see the extremes of, say, a Minnesota or Michigan. Some say that the weather here is hard to predict. One thing that is predictable is that come the first winter storm warning, everyone will act like they've never experienced winter before. They flock to the grocery stores, buying everything, stocking up with months of supplies for the 6-8 hours that they might not be able to leave home. It borders on hysteria. Weathermen fan the flame, claiming the Snowpocalypse is upon us. The next day, schools are canceled, stores are closed, traffic (is there is any) is a disaster, and residents peer sheepishly out from their homes and wonder how they'll be able to function with an whole inch of snow on the ground.

Come February, it's a different story. Snow and ice and subzero temperatures are old news. Only a blizzard could keep folks from their normal schedules. An inch of snowfall is not even noticed. Why is this? Why can the same happening get such a different reaction? Perspective.

When we go from a time of relative ease, when things are going pretty smoothly, to a period of trial, the stark difference is a shock, making the oncoming trial seems to much more tragic or epic than it may really be. Talk to someone who has been in the midst of "winter" period of life for a while, they view things differently. They understand that their trial will someday pass and have learned that they can still function in the midst of the cold wind and blowing snow. Yes, it's not the way that they'd like it to be, but it's not the end of everything, either.

Adversity Builds Endurance

As I write this, we are coming out of a few days of single digit high temperatures. While I have still tried to dress warmly when I go out, I find that I don't need to bundle up as much as I did even a month ago. It seems that spending extended time in these extremes has raised my threshold for the cold weather.

I'll be the first to admit that I like things to be easy. It wouldn't hurt my feelings if life was one big smooth-sailing adventure. But it's not like that. At all. When we took our first breath we entered into a world that is challenging, unpredictable and often harsh. At times we think that the hard times will defeat us. But that's not true.

I've had the opportunity to get to know some great old mature people who were strong and resilient. As I got to know them better, I discovered that those attributes were not formed on warm sunny beaches (so to speak), no, they were forged in their challenging journey through the dark and cold seasons of life.

Contrast Brings Appreciation

I can't wait for spring! I am so excited for warm breezes, blooming flowers and the smell of fresh cut grass! I close my eyes and I see images of a bright blue sky with a few fluffy white clouds floating over me as I leap and dance with joy in my front yard, yelling "Spring is here!! Spring is here!!" Now truthfully, that scene will never happen. Two reasons. One, I don't leap or dance (at least not in public). Two, because if I did, my kids would probably die from embarrassment. But, I think you get the idea of how I'm feeling. Why am I so excited about tepid temperatures, increased allergies and yard work? Because compared to what I'm experiencing now, those things seem awesome!

I look back on the the most difficult times in my life and I think two things: "I would never ever want to have to go through that again" and, "I'm very thankful that I had those experiences." How can those two thoughts coexist? Because, I know that my gratefulness for even the small, simple things in life was born out of times when I felt like I didn't have anything. My deep thankfulness for those who love me comes out of the pain of past loneliness and rejection. While that part of my story doesn't define me, it is a forever part of who I am. As I live my life, every experience is filtered through the lens of my past. And in contrast to my "worst of times", today seems pretty dog-gone good.

This Too Shall Pass

Like winter, trials and difficult times are inevitable. Just like I know that the coming summer will be followed by fall (which I also like) and then by another winter, so I know that ahead of me lies difficulty and hardship. And, the same way, I know that even though the cold seems like it will last forever (and drive me crazy in the process), I realize that it will soon be spring and trust that God will be faithful to melt away the snow and ice and, again, provide for me (and you) a season of warmth, joy and new beginnings.

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens..." (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

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