As the saying goes in St. Louis, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait.” We have seen some dramatic examples of that this winter, haven’t we? From below zero to the mid-60s in a matter of days, it has been quite the roller coaster this year. Personally, I’m pretty much done with winter. I am ready for spring to be ushered in, when barren trees become lush and when chirping birds return. I am ready for baseball season, for barbecues, and for pleasant (sans-winter coat) walks in the neighborhood with my family.
Our recent sermon series in Philippians has me thinking a lot about the age to come. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” As much as we want to speed up the arrival of the renewal of springtime, how much more is the return of Jesus worth offering the yearning of our hearts! The inescapable pain and death of this present life will be purified as we see the Creation restored in ways that we can only imagine. No more cancer. No more failing marriages. No more scarcity. Those sins that so often beset me will no longer plaster me with shame and fear. We will live as God intended us to live, finally.
So what are we to do in the winter of life if Jesus does not return tomorrow, or in our lifetime? The season of Lent begins in early March this year, and while we do not formally observe it, I think it is a wonderful season to reflect on this question of waiting. With our eyes toward Easter, waiting expectantly to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, how might we warm our hearts during these final days of winter?
Gratitude. One of the greatest challenges of our lives in this present age is that it is polluted by darkness. The darkness of death, of sickness, and of our sin. It is hard to see rightly in the dark. But if the Lord would give us eyes to see, we would see light penetrating the darkness, even now. Where are you seeing light in your life or in the lives of others, and how can you show gratitude for it? Like a 60-degree day in the dead of winter, gratitude can revive our souls in powerful ways. It allows us to see God at work, even in the midst of pain. It encourages those around us, and gives them strength to carry on through their own trials.
Repentance. The effects of the fall and of our sin are very real, and pervasive in all the earth. As we wait for Jesus to return, it can be tempting to see the problem as exclusively “out there.” No doubt, there are myriad problems “out there.” But let’s not kid ourselves…there are many problems right here at home, in my heart and in yours. When we repent of our sins with hearts flooded by his powerful and renewing grace, to God and to one another, sunshine comes bursting into the frozen tundra of our lives in profound ways, thawing our hardened hearts and restoring our broken relationships. The enemy of our souls does not want us to repent, because he knows how powerful it is to overcome his evil plans to destroy us. What might you repent of in the days ahead, and how might God use that to breathe restoration into the world through you?
Encouragement. There is no escaping the reality of this present darkness, unfortunately. A stiff upper lip is not going to cut it when real pain and struggle come to winter in our lives. I have the privilege of walking with so many of you through your struggles – struggles that are exceedingly painful for you and for those that you love. In the midst of our struggles, we need to be encouraging one another with the certain hope that Jesus is reigning at the right hand of the throne of God, and he is coming again. When we are down, we need fellow believers in our lives to point us back to this certain hope as we walk together through our pain. Encouraging one another in this way gives us the strength to continue to run the race set before us.
As we enter into the month of March (and the end of winter, in theory), we ask the age-old question: will it come in like a lion, and go out like a lamb? And don’t even get me started on our furry little friend, Punxsutawney Phil. I’m pretty sure he didn’t see his shadow this year. Spring feels like a long time coming, and regardless of our favorite cultural superstitions I think we can all agree on that. Within our yearning for springtime we can hear an echo of our yearning for the age to come and Jesus’ triumphant return. Let’s reflect on that glorious truth together in these coming days with gratitude, repentance and encouragement.