In Season and Out

In the part of the world where I live, we have seasons. Summers in Memphis can be pretty hot and sticky, but plenty of places have far more severe winters, so I’m not complaining. I am reflecting, though.

We define seasons by the rising and setting points of the sun throughout the year. The angle of the earth in relation to the sun, and the particular part of the globe we live in, changes the weather we experience. When summer’s on its way, we watch vegetation come to life. As winter approaches, long sunny days turn short and gloomy. Dry days turn damp with rain or snow. In the midst of the current season, we always know that the next season will come. We also know it will not last forever, and we know that each season—even winter—brings to the earth something it needs to nourish our lives.

Not everyone has uniform opinions about a season. One may complain about freezing, inconveniencing snow while another marvels at its exquisite glistening. One may disdain the humidity of summer while another in the same city revels in the feel of sun on skin. What makes the difference in our experiences of seasons? Of what we focus on? Is it simply a personality inclination to see the glass half empty versus the glass half full, or is there an undercurrent of our ability to receive the gifts of each distinct season?

Perhaps you have figured out that I am not so much talking about the meterological seasons of the year that come as the earth spins through space, but pondering the seasons of our lives as we live and move and have our being in God. Even the health of our lives goes through seasons: relational dry spells make us ache for love; sloshy work situations prepare us for a new phase; physical or emotional pain prod us to practice deep breathing. These are winter longing for spring’s new life.

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah’s beautiful words explore the metaphor of seasons, our relationship to God, and God’s care for the poor and needy.

“Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you. For you have been a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in their distress, a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat. When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm, the noise of aliens like heat in a dry place, you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds; the song of the ruthless was stilled” (Isaiah 25:3–5).

Isaiah spoke to a people whose national history included seasons of enslavement, desert wandering, struggling for identity, and oppression by enemies. The nation of Israel was not always faithful, but God’s love was steadfast.

After a chapter describing rank upon rank of suffering and judgment, Isaiah turns to words of comfort and redemption. Notice the words that bring to mind God’s presence in Israel’s history and the promise of God’s ultimate triumph. In the heat of desert wanderings, God gave a pillar of cloud to shade and guide the people. When ruthless enemies attacked, God took action. The poor and needy—and don’t we all fall into that category in some way?—found refuge in God in times of distress.

Health at various levels may be compromised by literal or figurative rainstorm, heat, and drought. Ruthless enemies may seem to have the upper hand. Some seasons of our lives feel like barren winter. Ultimately, God triumphs.

Whatever the seasons look like where you live, turn and tilt your face toward the sun of God’s faithfulness. Health and salvation wait for you there.

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