I see them emerging like bears from a long hibernation. Yes, the fire ants have arrived again. But I’m talking about my neighbors. Spring is almost here, and in my part of the country, as soon as the temperature rises to at least 60 degrees, the waves from friendly folks in the neighborhood resume. Lawn mowers crank up when the first blades of green grass pop up, and the dead things are lopped off so the new blossoms can peek through the flowering shrubs.
This year, winter seemed to stretch its cold fingers over a longer period of time. But through the years, instead of clinging to old patterns of wishing things would change—whether in nature’s seasons, or in my personal seasons of life—I’ve learned how to embrace them and to accept them for what they are. Yes, even the long winters. Do you ever struggle with how to handle those seasons? If so, here are five ways to embrace the seasons of life that might be helpful to you.
Embrace the seasons of life for what they are (Contentment and Joy, Philippians 4:13)
We associate certain characteristics with the seasons of nature. Spring offers fragrant smells like fresh rain showers and sweet flowers. New beginnings and the end to dormancy lure me outside to my garden or to my back porch swing with my Bible, making this my favorite time of year.
And hot summer? Who can resist a glass of iced tea in an air-conditioned room, or the continual colors of garden vegetables and floral offerings? And for most of us, summer is the prime season for vacations—time to getaway and rest from our too-crowded schedules.
And who can argue with the beautiful oranges and reds of fall, the crunch of leaves beneath our feet, or the sound of geese flying south in formation. Fall’s not so subtle shifts remind us that we, too, need change.
But I also love winter: sharing coffee on a frigid morning beside a warm fire, the contrast of a red cardinal perched on a tree limb laden with snow, and the savory smells of home-cooked soups. And yes, with the beginning of a new year, hope springs up to overcome last year’s disappointments or failures.
Each season, in its own way, presents us with mega opportunities to find joy and contentment, even if those seasons occur earlier or later in some parts of the country. But even if you live in an area where seasons are not as pronounced, as I did for several years, you can still embrace them for what they are and the positive benefits they can offer you.
But how do you handle the negative aspects of those seasons?
Embrace the seasons of life for what they are not. (Gratitude, 1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Every season has its down times, and not all aspects are enjoyable. Springtime is not a season of perfection. The wonder of childhood, the chasing of dreams, or planning for a bright future are all great. But we can misplace our dreams, and some dreams often die. It’s fun to enjoy a garden, but it takes work to cultivate beauty and produce edible food. Not to mention floods, tornadoes, and other natural disasters that nature throws our way—and not just in spring, but throughout the year. And then there are the March winds and associated allergies.
Summer can bring the joys of recreation and diversion. But it also produces record hot temperatures, melting our defenses and making us cranky as we wipe the sweat from our brow—not to mention higher water bills during drought. One vacation hardly seems enough. At times, we may ask, where is that promised rest?
Fall may offer a learning from our experiences, and a fine tuning of the character qualities we want to exhibit in our lives, but at our house, it also leaves a mess on our lawns—and our neighbors’—when brown, falling leaves from our multiple trees curl and drop, creating piles and endless raking. And isn’t there a certain sadness to see the last of our green garden fade and die, leaving a crumpled mess to prune or remove? And then there are those unexpected, southern “northers” that can invade our perfect temperatures on any day. Sometimes “change” is not a welcome word.
And what about winter? Flu has been epidemic this year, and cold temperatures have plunged to outrageous numbers in some parts of the country. Sickness can stretch from weeks to months. One friend of mine described her ordeal in winter this year on Facebook:
“Surprised after 2 rounds of flu, a kidney infection and bronchitis in the last 3 months, just how much strength I have lost. Surprised at how lonesome and cut off a person can feel. Basic life has been such a challenge.”
Yet after admitting her impatience, her next words were filled with gratitude—that she was not in the hospital and that she was still alive. And then she added words of encouragement to others as well as praise to God “who is sufficient to meet our needs.”
My mom once told me, “Be grateful for the things you can do, and don’t worry about the things you can’t do.” The same principle can be applied to our seasons: Be grateful for the good things they offer you, as well as the challenging ones.
Embrace the seasons of life for what they (and you) are becoming. (Patience, Philippians 1:6)
Seasons in nature are set in place forever (Genesis 8:22), though at times it seems like they are changing in their intensity and devastation. But just like the seasons of our lives, each one has the potential of good things to embrace with joy and gratitude—and we have proof that God created a season for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-22). New seasons of life will come, but in the meantime, even the difficult ones can contribute to our maturity and grow our patience as we learn to wait on Him.
At times hope can fade as impatience tries to steal your joy. Years ago one “springtime” season turned into a temporary nightmare for me that never seemed to end—one that threatened to shrink my faith and stability. But as I waited on God, His words to the prophet Habakkuk gave me new assurance (Habakkuk 2:3 TLB):
“Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day!
As the years and seasons of life pass by, I am learning to cling to Habakkuk’s response—no matter what happens, or how long it takes:
“I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights” (Habakkuk 3:18-19 NIV).
And God has done that—in so many challenging seasons of my life. Of course, learning patience is a life-long process!
Embrace the seasons of life for what they can teach you. (Wisdom, Psalm 90:12)
You may be in the middle of “winter”: a season of testing, or a season of discouragement. And you’re wondering, what’s the purpose? How long will it last? And how am I to handle it in the meantime?
Ask and seek God’s purpose in every stage of your life: what goals to set, how to best use your gifts, how to parent, and how to number your days in such a way that brings faithfulness to the surface and pushes disappointment to the background—acknowledging both, but pressing on to give God glory in each season. Accept imperfection in yourselves and in others. But strive for excellence. There is a difference.
God wants us to ask for wisdom. He’s promised to give it to us when we ask (James 1:5-6 NIV).
While your understanding of the current situation or season may seem slow in coming, and years may pass (sometimes a lifetime) before God gives you a clue or opens your heart and eyes to receive the truth, He will counsel and guide you, and He will strengthen your relationship with Him, especially as you embrace the next truth.
Embrace the seasons of life for what they can be. (Faith, Philippians 4:6, Isaiah 55:11)
I think this truth involves more than just hope. It includes faith. I’ve found that kind of faith as I’ve embraced the character of God—and what those seasons have taught me about Him.
The seasons of nature are predictable. I noticed a picture of daffodils on my Facebook profile the other day on its posting of memories from a few years ago. And as I mentioned earlier, this winter has seemed particularly long and cold—with even a drought where I live. However, two weeks’ worth of rain has suddenly launched a new record for our area: the wettest winter in decades. And guess what? I looked out in the backyard the other day and spotted my daffodils blooming on the exact same day as the past Facebook post recorded.
And while the seasons of our lives are not predictable in their intensity or length, they do point to One who never changes and is always dependable—the same, year after year:
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 3:8 NLT)
Nature’s seasons may not parallel the seasons of our lives by age. Retirement from major activities or the dilemma of ill health don’t always characterize every senior, though that’s what we may expect. Some experience a joy in slowing down, while others discover a new, energetic desire to try new things. But all can choose to apply the wisdom they have learned, and to increase relationships with a deeper intimacy.
Sometimes our circumstances can dictate our seasons, and we simply ride them out. I know some young mothers and dedicated parents who, through no fault of their own, are bearing the weight of unending challenges that seem like hot summers or cruel, icy winters. And it feels like they are stuck in seasons that will never change.
In either case, Jesus is the same: the Provider of all our needs (Philippians 4:6), the Creator of all that is beautiful, the Sustainer of Life, and the Hope of a better life to come when we draw our last breath.
I don’t know where you are. I don’t know what season it feels like you are experiencing right now. But I do know this: God is not finished with you yet. He will help you embrace every season with joy and gratitude, to accept the things you cannot change, to change the things you can (like the Serenity Prayer) and to renew your trust and hope in a God who still moves impossible mountains. Your situation may remain unaltered; but your approach and attitude can change.
Practice thanksliving, not just in November, but all year long. Finding joy in the little things and giving God thanks for all life’s seasons—the good and the challenging—will make a difference to you and others around you.
No matter where we are in life, we can find His purpose for each season.
I am constantly asking God to show me the way through the seasons of my life. Do I mean only my age and my current situation? Yes and no. In good times, in hard times, in times of adjustment, and in times of resting, I petition the God I have embraced since early childhood. He prods me through seasons of repentance and faith, through discouragement and new goals, and through victories and failures–all the time.
To me, embracing the seasons of life means embracing the One Who gave His life for me, and who loves me with mercy and grace through every season—no matter what.
I pray you will experience that same intimacy with Him—no matter what season of life you encounter.
My Personal Prayer for You
Sometimes the seasons of life are totally unpredictable. In those times, teach us to depend on You, to wait on You, to learn from You, and to give praise for Your faithfulness and for Your constant promises. You are good, and you want nothing but good for us. When we can’t understand, You are patient with us and love us through our difficulties. You never abandon us. For the good seasons of life, we are grateful. And for the challenging ones, we give thanks too. Because in all things, as Your children, You have made us victorious. And You are always working through us to make us more like You. What more could we ask?
What season of life are you experiencing right now? How are you embracing this time?
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