The groundhog never saw this one coming. Longest. Winter. Ever. I live in Wisconsin; we Midwesterners are used to being stuck inside over the winter months, but the emergence of warm weather is usually our time to come out of hibernation, stretch our legs, enjoy the beautiful sunshine, dig in the dirt, grill out, and gather around the bonfire. Not this year. We are still stuck . . . not gathering, not playing spring sports, not attending graduation parties, not traveling outside of our cities. All of this makes it seem like the White Witch has come out of the wardrobe from Narnia to plague a new world.
During a normal winter, what do we cling to? We cling to the fact that spring will come again. Hope in the future. Every year spring has come, and though in the Midwest we know better than to think we might not see snow into the months of March . . . and April . . . and May, still the warm weather days start to win out over the cold ones, and spring comes. Every year it comes, no matter what time frame the wise groundhog foretells. This year it has seemed like the proverbial winter of our discontent. We’ve been stuck in our houses for more reasons than the weather, and so it has dragged on and we feel there’s nothing to look forward to. And yet, the coming of spring can teach us something about this season we are in—we can still have hope. This too shall pass, and God’s promises remain.
Spring shows us some things about God, and of all the springs that I’ve ever lived, I need these reminders more now than ever:
- God is joyous. After a long, cold winter, when that first tulip pokes its head out of the ground, joy explodes out of the earth. When the birds return to sing their songs, joy explodes out of the sky. More color, more sounds, more smiles. God, our creative Creator, has given us this glorious gift of spring to show us what joy is. Joy is a baby goat jumping and kicking—God created that goat. Joy is a lilac bush in full aromatic blossom—God created that bush and our olfactory senses. Joy is kids splashing in mud puddles after a spring rain—God created those pools of water and those kids to splash in them with the perfect amount of gusto. God is joyous and life-giving. Through the season of spring, God shows us a renewal of life and joy in Jesus. Life after death. Joy after sorrow. Glee after drudgery. “See! The winter is past; the rain is over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land” (Song of Songs 2:11,12).
- God is our caretaker. Baby goats. Lilacs. Puddles and kiddos. God created them all, but he didn’t stop there. He continues to care for his creation, and that includes the land, the flowers, the animals, and us. He makes sure the sun rises and sets, the flowers blossom and bloom, and his people? God tells us we are more valuable than the sparrows and the lilies (Matthew 6:25-34), which leaves us with complete confidence that he will take care of us according to his good plan and purpose. Sometimes this means he is watering us and feeding us life-giving fertilizer. Sometimes it means he is pruning us, which hurts because those Felco pruners are sharp, but this pruning will help us bear more fruit in the seasons to come. Either way, he never leaves us to tend to ourselves or fend for ourselves. He is the best gardener, the best vineyard owner, the best shepherd, the best caretaker. “Ask the Lord for rain in the springtime; it is the Lord who sends the thunderstorms. He gives showers of rain to all people, and plants of the field to everyone” (Zachariah 10:1).
- God is faithful. Spring proves that God is faithful and that he always keeps his promises. God orchestrates the cycles of the days and the seasons of the year. In the late autumn/winter, the leaves fall off and die, the flowers die, the grass dies . . . but every spring there is a renewal of life. Those plants had to die to make way for new life, just as God sent his Son to die to give us life. God is faithful. Through death, life comes more abundantly. Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”
There’s no sugarcoating it; our present is unsettling and boring and arduous and disconcerting and weird and discombobulating. I’m sure there are more words we could use to describe it, but all the word-of-the-day toilet paper was hoarded back in March. That’s the present. But the future—there is hope. The past confirms it. Spring comes every year. God is with us through all the seasons, and his mercies are new every morning.