One of the most unique things about living in the Midwest is the extreme difference in weather that comes with each new season. All four seasons are accompanied by their own natural brand of temperatures, scenery, and unpredictability. It’s probably why small talk with strangers around here usually defaults to the weather – I mean, I’ve never lived in Southern California, but I can’t imagine the daily, expected forecast of “75 & sunny” would make for much of a conversation starter. But since we’re comfortably nestled here in the heartland, let me engage with you in some small talk on the weather.
(This is where I warn you that you’re about to be subjected to a paragraph-sized dose of my personal opinion). This week we are quickly approaching the month of April on the calendar, which means we’re also in the middle of the greatest seasonal transition of the year – when winter is barely visible in the rear view mirror, and spring is officially here. Let me clarify: I’m not saying spring is the best season, but that this is the best change of seasons we experience each year – not because springtime weather is so awesome – often it isn’t – but because it simply means winter is over. I hate winter. I’ve hated winter as far back as I can remember. It’s just the worst. Instead of green grass & multi-colored leaves, we witness the slow death of plant life. Instead of rain that (usually) drains harmlessly through the ground, we get snow that piles up & creates all kinds of inconveniences. There’s an evil substance called ice that freezes our car doors shut or causes the pipes in our houses to break. And then there’s the worst part of all: the air itself. Instead of enjoying a warm breeze while sitting out on the deck, we get piercing blasts of cold air that freeze our nose hairs. We use phrases like “below zero” and “wind-chill” – terms created by meteorologists that are just fancy ways of saying, “it’s stupid outside.” I saw a meme this year that perfectly encapsulates a thought I’ve probably had every winter:
And while I’m sitting here making a list about the worst parts of winter, it makes me wonder…how do I make it through that torture every year? How did I survive winter…again? Now, I readily admit I’m being a little over-dramatic, but I think the only reason I can “survive” winter is the knowledge that it doesn’t last forever. It’s not all there is…it will end. Something much better is coming. The hope of spring is what gets me through the winter.
As I go through this thing called life, something I’m learning about our God is that He doesn’t let anything go to waste. Great teachers are able to turn any situation into a “teachable moment” – and Jesus is the greatest Teacher. This year as I caught myself in moments of disdain toward trivial things such as cold temperatures, Jesus directed my mind to a much greater lesson.
Sometimes life finds us in the dead of winter. Instead of days filled with laughter & happiness, we get “snowed in” for weeks of sadness & loneliness. Times of gratitude & rejoicing are sometimes exchanged for seasons of regret & mourning. Life can get hard, and it doesn’t take long to feel stuck & become discouraged by the lie that this is all there is. But how can we get through these times…how do we survive the winters of life? In very much the same way that the hope of spring gets us through the coldest of winters, the hope found in the resurrection of Jesus Christ can bring us through the most desolate seasons of life as well. And that is exactly why the Easter holiday we just celebrated truly has daily implications.
Every type of pain we experience in this life can be linked back to one cause: sin. The entrance of sin into our world caused widespread brokenness (Romans 5:12). Both the created world and mankind are broken with sin. Thorns and weeds impede the growth of what was intended to thrive. Pain and sorrow overwhelm lives intended for joy and worship. Death waits to prey on bodies intended for eternal life and fellowship. Everything is broken, and it’s all because of sin. But that’s not the way it was meant to be.
The apostle Paul explains beautifully in 1 Corinthians 15 that our hope in this life rests first & foremost in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The death of Christ in our place conquered the very sin & death that brings so much pain in this life – but His resurrection secures His promise that He will fix what is broken. The empty tomb guarantees eternal life after death for those who have placed their faith in the finished work of Christ. And the hope of that guarantee is what brings us through the dead of our winter. Knowing that this sin-stained life is not all there is. Something much better is coming.
The curious thing about the arrival of springtime in Iowa is that it doesn’t always mean we’re “in the clear.” Sometimes there’s a surprise snowstorm in the middle of April. But the future we long for as followers of Christ will never see a single snowflake fall from the sky…because on that day, Jesus will make all things new. On that glorious day, “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.” (Revelation 21:4)
That day will be the full & final realization of the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:54-56 – “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This is our “winter survival kit”: HOPE. Hope found solely in the resurrection & life of Jesus Christ.