Spring is here! It comes every year. It comes no matter how blustery the winter has been or how gentle. I receive that as a great encouragement, and I also give it to you.
“10 My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. 11 For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; 12 The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; 13 The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.” Song of Solomon 2:10-13 KJV
Horrible, stormy weather has inundated much of the nation. Tornadoes ravaged the South. Floods continue to devastate folks all along the muddy Mississippi. BUT if you listen and watch, interesting stuff is going on in the midst of the heartache and destruction. People are finding compassion within themselves. Neighbor is helping neighbor. Hope remains that the damage will not be as bad as originally feared and broadcast. God, in His supreme wisdom built into the seasons an order in which we can all find comfort?
If we look at the beginning of the Bible, we find in the midst of the chaos, GOD. He ruled in the midst of the chaos. He ruled over the chaos, and out of that chaos, He brought magnificent ORDER. There is order in all of Nature, and there is order inside these bodies of ours. We have spiritual seasons, too. Sometimes they coincide with the natural seasons and sometimes not, but either way, it is so good to know that there IS an order … In the heart of a wilderness experience, we are reminded, “This too shall pass.”
Some of you know friends or maybe you yourself are enduring a difficult “winter.” What happens in winter? Everything dies, or at least it LOOKS like everything dies. Winter is a hard season, even harsh, sometimes. If we look at nature, there are animals that starve to death because the cold or snow prevents them from obtaining food. Do we allow our circumstances to prevent us from nourishing ourselves on the Word of God or spending time in His presence?
A few years ago, God gave me a song that became part of our congregational worship for a time. This song went like this:
chorus: More of You and less of me
More of You for the world to see,
Your love and mercy make me free
Holy Spirit, come move in me
1. Set me free, Lord, to believe, Lord,
Every Word that You have spoken.
Set me free, Lord, to receive, Lord,
You are the One I love.
2. Purify me, deep inside me,
Satisfy my longing
Purify me, deep inside me,
You are the One I love.
The song is based on John 3:30, and is a reminder that if we want the world to see more of Jesus in us, more of us must “die.” I don’t think any of us enjoy this process. Death is a part of our walk just as it was with Jesus while He was on earth. Jesus experienced a severe “winter,” I think we’d all agree. (LUKE 4:1 – 14) Sometimes this “death” involves a vision we believe God gave us, a mission, or ministry. Sometimes it is a relationship, or a job, or a dream. There is much in us that has to go through the “fires of affliction” or the hardships that produce godly character in us. Ever read Phil 3: 8-11? Verse 10 reads: “0 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” (emphasis mine) To get to the “power of the resurrection,” we have to go through the “conformed to His death” part. Want another one to think about? Try Colossians 1:24. This verse blows my mind. The point is that suffering is part of our walk. It comes to each of us at different times, in different ways, but as surely as winter comes, so does suffering. Our job, should we accept the challenge, is to embrace Jesus and the work He desires to do in us through the winter season knowing it doesn’t last forever! Spring does come … eventually!
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 NKJ
To whom was God speaking in this verse? He had a “captive” audience – that’s a hint! God was talking to Israel captured and ruled by the Babylonians. This was not Israel’s best hour, but God was revealing something about Himself … about His intentions toward us, each of us. What was it the serpent proposed to Adam and Eve in the Garden? That God was withholding something “good” from them … that He did NOT have their best interest at heart. The serpent raised doubts about God’s intentions, and Adam and Eve bought it, and because they did, sin is now part of our base nature.
On one hand, it’s good to know I’m not the first believer to question God’s motives. On the other hand, the consequences for their doubts have affected every human thereafter.
There are many reasons we have these doubts. Winter LOOKS bleak and barren. Trees LOOK dead. Our comfort level tells us something is wrong. The serpent is right there whispering, “God is blessing others, but not you! You’re a failure! You’re a loser! You have missed it big time, now!” Our experience tells us there aren’t very many people we know whose intentions toward us are continually pure and effective for our good. We are taught young to question people’s motives, and that runs over into our relationship with God. “Why God?” “Why me?”, “Why my ____?” The minute we embrace any of these questions, like Adam and Eve, we have bought the serpent’s insinuation that God is NOT for us, that He somehow has ulterior motives that are really NOT for our best interest, that God has withheld something that we really want/need for no good reason.
Standing in the checkout line at a grocery store with toddlers is a real challenge experienced by many of us. Little hands reach and grab. Is everything they touch good for them? Is everything they touch age/maturity appropriate for them? Is everything affordable? As human parents, if our toddler grabs a toy or something that is harmless, appropriate and affordable, do we not permit it at least sometimes? What about the times we don’t. What are the reasons? OK now, big question, do we ever withhold s treat or toy maliciously or with evil intent? Hmmm yet, some of us feel somehow Daddy God has withheld what we feel are blessings, and because we cannot see His motives, we buy the lie … “God’s out to get us.” Or maybe you are more performance based, like me, and assume, “I must have messed up someplace that God is withholding this blessing from me.”
God spoke to the hearts of these captured and imprisoned Israelites just as He speaks to each of us. He revealed His heart to us just as surely as He does every spring. He knows our limitations (1 Cor 10:13) and has taken that into account (2 Cor 12:9). He promises each of us that our future is in His hands AND that it is good (Rom 8:28) because He is a GOOD God! Each Spring, we see NEW signs of life, His life growing in us. Watch for those snow crocuses as they peek through the melting snow. Listen for the return of the robins (at least here that is a good thing! ) and know that spring is coming, as it always does, and that which has seemed dead, will bring forth New Life.