Encouragement for anyone who has endured a long winter of the soul and is tempted to believe hope is the enemy. Hope is not the culprit; it is the answer.
(Published March 22, 2015)
The groundhog is a prophet. The last few weeks have ushered in snow, ice, and waves of below freezing temperatures. It’s the winter that just won’t give way to spring.
But then. Earlier this week, the thermometer rose and the snow melted. When my youngest came home from school, she stretched out on the front porch for an hour, just soaking up the sun.
But then. Today as I drove her to school, it was again cold, rainy, and all around dreary.
She pondered the weather and then with a straight face declared, “I might be ok with it if I had dressed warmly. But I’m in spring clothes and I have on flip-flops. Ugh! The weather should match my outfit.”
And there it is. From the mouths of
babes, er, millennials.
I sympathize with her, though. It feels like spring just toys with us as it makes its entrance on the stage. Like a shy ballerina who sticks out one pink satin slipper and then draws it back behind the curtain.
And thus, I have trust issues with spring.
Seasons of the Heart
Maybe where you live, the climate is less fickle and your seasons are more tame. Or despite temperamental temperatures, you don’t have trust issues with spring because you’ve learned seasons come and go. Regardless.
But what about the seasons of your life? Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a long winter, where …
… either the winter in your soul just wouldn’t let up, and it began to feel like you’d never see the sun again.
… or (perhaps worse) – you got glimpses of spring, only to have the bitter cold rush into your soul and send spring scampering away like a frightened creature.
Maybe you are there now. Even those mature in their faith can eventually feel worn down after being pelted by one hailstorm after another.
And sometimes … Not always … But more than any of us care to admit …
The winter season in our lives begins to settle deep into our heart.
“If I don’t hope; it won’t hurt”
If you’ve ever experienced intense pain, you know the first response is to draw up and draw in.
Hold still. Don’t move. Don’t breathe.
You pray that your feeble attempts to control what you can … will somehow help you manage what you can’t.
Pain does that to you. Emotional distress and mental anguish can also have the same effect.
As your thinking spirals and the deceitful heart gains more jurisdiction, you easily believe the lie that hoping must be the culprit. Every time you think it’s going to get better, it doesn’t. And somehow that makes it worse.
And so you decide to stop hoping for better days.
Hold still. Don’t move. Don’t breathe.
“If I don’t hope; it won’t hurt.”
My own long winter
I know this all too well. My trust issues with the weather may be a lighthearted joke, but my response to a long hard winter of life has been no laughing matter.
At first, I pressed on and leaned in. I watched for signs of God working and hurried to proclaim His provision at each baby step of progress. But over and over it was (quite literally) one step forward and two steps back.
It began to seem like each celebration of answered prayer was quickly followed by something worse – or at the very least, a setback.
Eventually, I became shy about celebrating any steps forward.
It seemed pragmatic at the time. It made sense to wait to fully embrace spring until I was sure winter was over.
But I’m here to tell you, that doesn’t work.
Hope is not the culprit; it is the answer. Hope brings healing.
My hope began to return once I stopped trying to insulate myself from the cold and submitted to the season, whatever it might bring, for however long.
Spring will come
The Creator ordains the timing of the seasons and their transition from one to the other.
“Both day and night belong to you; you made the starlight and the sun. You set the boundaries of the earth, and you made both summer and winter.”
(Psalm 74:16-17, NLT)
The same is true with the winter of life and the night of the soul. They belong to Him.
And so when I am stumbling around in the darkness and can’t see signs of spring, I can trust that my Creator is working and that He will make all of this count for something.
The Lord of all — who never changes — has appointed everything a time and a season and a reason. Spring will come when winter has accomplished its purposes.
Until it does, I’m going to lift my eyes toward the sun and feel its warmth on the days it chooses to make an appearance. I’m going to trade black for pink and find my sparkly flip-flops.
And even if it doesn’t happen today … one day, the weather is going to match my outfit!
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Thank you ma’am. I have never experienced the actual winter, but I have been through the winter of life so many times. Not only did you encourage me, you let me see that I had long given up on Hope. THANK YOU!
I see from the dates this a couple of years old, but it is still helping. In the last 2 1/2 years 3 non-fixable health problems… wondering if my purpose on earth is done, wondering if He’s discarding me like an old shoe, ( My 65th birthday is next week) wondering how I can be of any use to anyone in this condition. In the last few days wondering if this is just His way of changing my focus to a different job, and being afraid to hope it is. I didn’t even realize until reading this that my hope has been stolen and I need to reclaim it. Thanks for writing this.I think it’s time to unearth my flip flops.
And so, somehow I missed these words of wisdom back last spring, when you put words and thoughts to your computer screen for the Internet magic to broadcast. But, in fact, these words of wisdom speak even deeper into my world today. Yes, it is the lie of the evil one to tell us our problem is having HOPE. Thank you for the challenge to recognize that “hope is not the culprit—it is the answer. HOPE brings healing.” I’m writing this on a 3X5 card…..it’s going on my mirror for my daily thought-re-ordering.
OH, friend. How I love you for considering that my words might have any value such that you’d be stumbling around this space.
You are the wise one whose counsel has been life-giving so many times.
That little thing called hope? Yes, it is the answer, not the culprit. How the enemy loves to distort who the real enemy is.
So needed this this morning. Thanks friend for the encouragement!
And that. That is why I stick my slipper out occasionally. That anything I could offer could be counted by someone else as encouragement drives me to my knees in thanksgiving for getting to be used. Love you so much for all the encouragement YOU have poured into my life.
Favorite line… “He will make all of this count for something.” That article that you shared and now this post- really changing the way I think, pray and live! Thank you for sharing YOU!! Love you Cousin!!
Amen! “Make it count” permeates my thinking and prayers on a daily basis. Thank you for how you love me and let me know my feeble attempts count for something. Love you!
THIS. Mercy. This morning in church we sang “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord” (and by “we” – I mean that I made it through about 4 words of the first verse and then I just listened and mouthed the words.). “When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say, ‘Blessed be the Name of the Lord, blessed be YOUR NAME.'” That word “darkness” overtook me as the reality of darkness so often does these days. This reminder that HE orchestrates the seasons – and that when the dark of winter has served its purpose – my sparkly flip flops (and I have several pairs, obviously) will be ready to face the sun – THIS gives me hope. Love you, SISTER.
THIS. You. So often your face came to my mind as I wrote this post. I know how often you have stood and watched the eclipse cover your sun. Believing with you that God will make it count. Love you!
And then….One day you put on those pink flip flops out of habit, and it’s mid-day before you realize it’s not cold anymore! Hey! They SON came out!
Glad to see you sticking your ballerina toe out from behind the curtain. Love you!
I think we should be ballerinas in heaven.