“But forget all that – it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
– Isaiah 43:18-19
We are in the midst of a changing season – literally. Spring is in the air, We can see it, and we can feel it. The warmer weather is here, and the flowers are blossoming. There is brightness, color, and beauty all around us. And I must admit, I’m usually more of a colder weather person. I usually prefer the crispness of fall – the bonfires and falling leaves, the warm sweaters, and curling up under a cozy blanket on a chilly day – but this year I have a greater appreciation for Spring.
I usually love the freshly fallen snow of winter, but this year we didn’t get any snow where I live. Instead, we watched from afar as Texas was hit with an unexpected snowstorm that left so many without food, water, heat, and electricity. Homes were destroyed, businesses were destroyed, and lives were lost. This year, we saw how destructive something so beautiful can be. Sometimes it takes the bitter coldness of a long winter for us to appreciate what a beautiful gift it is to be able to transition into a new season, a warmer season, a more fruitful season.
2020 was the year none of us saw coming, the season none of us were prepared for. This time last year, we could never have expected what was coming next. This time last year, many of us were going about with our regular lives. We could never have imagined that within a few short days, our whole lives would be completely flipped upside down.
At the beginning of the stay-at-home orders, I remember seeing a post on Facebook that talked about the word quarantine and how it comes from the Latin word for “forty” which is such a symbolic number in Scripture. Forty is the number of days the flood lasted, the number of years the Israelite’s wandered in the wilderness, the number of days Moses stayed on Mt. Sinai, the number of days Jesus fasted in the wilderness. The number 40 represents change. It represents a time of preparation.
20 + 20 = 40. The year of quarantine. The year of change. The year of preparation.
I fully believe 2020 was a collective wilderness season. I fully believe God has been preparing us, now more than ever before, for His return. I believe, now more than ever before, that the Kingdom of God is at hand. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that 2020 was a census year in the United States, and Jesus was born during a census. Jesus was born to save us from the cyclical nature of our sins. God destroyed the earth once by flood because of the sinfulness of His people, and He promised to never do it again (Genesis 9:11). Scripture says the next time would be by fire (2 Peter 3:10-15). The year 2020 started out with wildfires in Australia, and ended with wildfires across the west coast of the United States. The end is near. The time is now. There is an urgency for us to live with boldness and intention in following the ways of Jesus.
The word for “destroy” in 2 Peter 3:10 means “to loosen one bound, to unbind, to release, to set free.” I’m not one to usual study Biblical prophecy, but I interpret this to mean that God has been withholding his judgement, and there will come a time when His judgement is “unloosed.” God has been so very patient with us. That’s what seasons teach us – they teach us patience. There is a song from Hillsong called Seasons and the lyrics are, “Oh how nature acquaints us with the nature of patience. Like a seed in the soil, I’ve been buried to grow. For your promise is loyal from seed to sequoia… I can see the promise. I can see the future. You’re the God of seasons, and I’m just in the winter. If all I know of harvest is that it’s worth my patience, then if you’re not done working, God I’m not done waiting.”
The song goes on to talk about how God could have saved us in a second, but instead he sent a son. He sent a baby in a manger – a baby who had to learn and grow through the same seasons of life that we do. He had to depend on the very hands He created to carry and raise him. That’s humility. That’s patience. That’s love. He gives us time. He gives us grace. He withholds His judgement until the time is right (Ezekiel 20:21-26).
Early in 2020 I had started studying about sabbath and rest. I was listening to sermons that had been preached and reading books that had been written that I now believe were prophetic of the moment we were about to enter into. God commands us to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy (Exodus 20:8-11). The Sabbath is one day each week where we stop working and honor the day God rested. We rest, reflect, and prepare our hearts for the week ahead. But did you know that in Scripture, God also required a Sabbath for the land as well? Every seven years the land should also take a rest (Leviticus 25:4). I recently heard Pastor John Mark Comer of Bridgetown Church talk about “fallow seasons” which are defined as: “usually cultivated land that is allowed to lie idle during the growing season.” During this season, the land is tilled up, but nothing is sown. You plow the ground and break it up, but you don’t plant any seeds. Doesn’t it feel like that’s what we’ve been living through this past year? It feels like there’s been a lot of plowing and brokenness, but not a lot of growth or harvest. So what is the purpose of a fallow season? Fallow seasons are intended to give the land a break and allow for a time of rest. The purpose is for weeds to be destroyed and soil moisture to be conserved.
When the quarantine started and people were staying at home, no longer on the go and traveling, no longer commuting and polluting – rivers started cleaning up, vegetation started growing, and the air started becoming cleaner. That’s the power of stopping, resting, and practicing sabbath. Division in our country has been at an all-time high – but there have been hard conversations taking place about important topics where change is desperately needed. The church had to learn what it meant to be the church outside of the church doors. Families have been spending more time together. We’ve realized the importance of human connection. In a sense, distance has made our hearts grow fonder. Being indoors has given us a greater appreciation of the outdoors, and being constantly on our screens has made us more appreciative of face -to-face interaction. During this season, we have seen darkness and evil exposed, but we have also seen the goodness and creativity of humanity highlighted. There are lessons to be learned in every season we endure.
From the beginning of time, God has created the world to operate in a rhythm of seasons.
In Genesis 1:4 God spoke and said, “Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days, and years.” Then in Genesis 8:22 Scripture says, “As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.” In Psalm 74:17, the Psalmist wrote, “You set the boundaries of the earth, and you made both summer and winter” and Psalm 104:19 says, “You made the moon to mark the seasons, and the sun knows when to set.”
There are many different ways to define the word “season” – It is most commonly defined as the four different divisions of the year: spring, summer, fall, and winter. This definition of a season is “marked by particular weather patterns and daylight hours, resulting from the earth’s changing position with regard to the sun” (Oxford Dictionary). In other contexts, the word “season” can be defined as adding more flavor or zest to your food. It can also be “to treat something (such as wood or a skillet) to prepare for use, to fit by experience” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
In every definition, the common denominator is TIME.
Each season of the year lasts a certain amount of time. Each season has a beginning and an end, though there may be some overlap as they transition from one season to the next.
When we season our food, we have to let it sit and marinate and give it time to simmer. You season a cast iron pan by putting it to use – time and time again. Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Matthew 5:13 says, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”
A person who is “well-seasoned” has lived and put forth a lot of time and effort to gain the wisdom and experience they have.
If something is described as being “in-season” that means it is at just the right time to be picked, eaten, or hunted.
There is a time for ALL things.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says:
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”
There is a time for ALL things – and Romans 8:28 tells us all things work together for good. Spring brings new beauty, growth, and color – but it also brings those dreary April showers. Summer brings warmth and sunshine – but it also brings intense heat and severe thunderstorms. Fall brings coolness and color – but it also brings the “falling away” of the beautiful leaves. Winter brings rest and peace – but it also brings a bitter coldness and a sense of confinement.
What seasons have you gone through in your life?
Have you gone through pruning seasons where it feels like your life is being pruned back and what once was good is being cut away? It’s in these seasons where we may experience grief and loss, depression and anxiety, loneliness and addiction, pain and suffering.
Have you gone through fallow seasons where it feels like the ground is being tilled up but nothing is being planted, or maybe the seed has been planted, but nothing is coming to fruition? These may be the seasons of singleness, infertility, homelessness, or unemployment – seasons of waiting and hoping for a promise that has yet to come.
What about harvest seasons when God provided the answer to your prayers and fulfilled a long-awaited promise in your life? These are the seasons of fullness and joy, fruitfulness and blessing – but this season does not come without hard work, long days, discomfort, and growing pains.
What lessons did you learn in each of these seasons? How was your heart shaped more into the image of Jesus?
Because we know that Jesus endured seasons of change in His life too.
Jesus had a hidden season where He undoubtedly encountered many of the same struggles we do growing up, though his childhood and adolescent years remain largely hidden from scripture.
Jesus had a season of active ministry where he traveled with his close friends, eating bread and drinking wine, teaching to large crowds, performing miracles, and sleeping on boats. He celebrated at weddings, and grieved the loss of loved ones.
Jesus also had a season to die. He knew suffering. He knew pain. He knew betrayal. He knew heartache. He knew death.
“Change is the only constant in life” – Heraclitus
We are always in transition. We are always moving from one season to the next.
Think about the various seasons of life and how they transition into one another…
- Labor and Delivery is the transition from the safety and security of the mother’s womb to life in the outside world.
- Newborn to Toddler involves the transition from drinking milk to eating solid foods. During this season a baby transitions from sleeping in a bedside bassinet, to a crib, to a toddler bed. During this season, they transition from being carried, to learning to crawl and walk. During this season they transition from crying to talking, and from diaper changes to potty-training.
- Toddler to Childhood involves the transition from home or daycare to school. This is the season where they learn to read and write. This is the season where they discover what hobbies they enjoy, and learn how to make friends.
- Child to Teenager is a transition period with more responsibilities, and more independence. This is the season of learning to drive, getting that first job, and going on that first date.
- Teenager to Adult is the transition from high school to going to college or starting a career. This season involves moving out on own, making your first major purchases, and learning to be financially independent.
- Young Adult to Middle Aged is typically the transition into a season of marriage and family, homeownership, and a more established career.
- Middle Aged to Senior Adult is typically the transition from work to retirement, from a busy home to an empty nest, and from an empty nest to becoming a grandparent and starting new traditions with a new generation.
Throughout these various seasons of life, we experience other transitions as well. Maybe we transition from singleness to marriage, or from marriage to divorce. Maybe we transition from perfect health, to chronic pain or sickness. Maybe we move to a new place, start a new career, or begin a new relationship. Maybe we lose friends, or make new friends. Maybe go to a new church, start a new hobby, or learn a new skill. Maybe we experience changes in our political views, religious views, or general worldviews. No matter what transition we go through – change is scary. Change is unpredictable, and we often feel unprepared and ill-equipped for what is coming next.
Why are we so resistant to change?
We resist change for one of two reasons: a lack of comfort, or a lack of control.
When we are used to things as they have always been, we find comfort in what is familiar and predictable to us. Change becomes an unwelcome and dangerous enemy who threatens what feels safe and secure to us – so we resist it and run from it, or fight against it.
Unfamiliar situations bring fear and anxiety, because we feel unprepared and unqualified to face them. We embrace the familiar because we feel a sense of control over the outcome. We feel more equipped the face the battles we’ve been through before. We feel more in control of the waters we’ve navigated before. We trust in our own understanding based on our own abilities and our own experiences. We’re afraid to let go – afraid to lose control, afraid of becoming uncomfortable.
But there is so much more to be discovered outside the borders of our comfort zones. There is so much more of the world to see when we can trust the pilot to fly the plane, or the captain to navigate the ship. Our vision is limited to what is here and now, but God sees the full picture from beginning to end, and He wants to take us on a journey that only He can see. We have to reach out and grab hold of His plan for us when all hope seems lost. We have to step out of the boat and onto the waters when all logic seams gone. We have to trust Him with each step we take, and believe that He will not lead us astray.
If we want to embrace change, we have to put forth the time and effort.
Proverbs 20:4 says, “Those too lazy to plow in the right season will have no food at the harvest” and Proverbs 10:5 says “A wise youth harvests in the summer, but one who sleeps during harvest is a disgrace.”
We have to embrace the process of change for the purpose of growth.
Galatians 6:9 says, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”
We can’t give up. We must press on. We must endure.
So how do we endure through changing seasons?
We endure by abiding in Christ. We endure by putting down roots and establishing a strong and secure foundation on which to build our faith.
Psalm 1:1-3 says, “Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.”
Through every season, we can hold tight to the truth and promise that God’s love will always remain. His love will hold us secure. His love will be the foundation, the roots, that keep us planted firmly enough to endure the changing seasons.
There are lessons to be learned in every season.
We can curse 2020 and make all the jokes about the dumpster fire of a year that it was (I’m guilty!) – or we can rejoice that the world is waking up and change is happening. We can rejoice in this day that the Lord has made (Psalm 118:24). We can laugh without fear of the future (Proverbs 31:25) because we’ve fully trusted the future into God’s hands and know that He changes the times and seasons (Daniel 2:21). We can redeem the time and make the most of this opportunity we’ve been given (Ephesians 5:16). Wherever you are at in life right now, whatever season you are in – God can use you. God is using you. God has a purpose and He will bring you through this season. He will create something new. He will make rivers in the wasteland.
“Preach the word. Be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
– 2 Timothy 4:2-5 (ESV)