I’m fond of saying I love winter . . . for three weeks. Give me one good snowfall per year, preferably on Christmas. (Just as long as it doesn’t linger and turn into frozen piles of dirty sludge. Ick). Sure, I’ll happily pull out hats and gloves or spend a day on the couch under warm quilts once or twice, but day after day, week after week? Count me out.
This time of year can feel as barren as the trees in our backyard. Winter inevitably makes us wonder: will we ever see the sun again? Is this languishing feeling here to stay? That’s true for us individually and it can be true for our areas of ministry. Bible study attendance often drops with the temperatures. Icy roads and COVID numbers can turn our good intentions into constant starts and stops. The darkness outside can lead to an uneasiness in our hearts. But what if we could rethink winter, not as a season to be endured but an opportunity to grow something significant?
A Four Seasons God
It’s easy to recognize the presence of God when the sun shines warm on your face. Though God never changes, we are in a constant state of flux. This can lead us to oversimplify, seeing bright seasons as good and fruitful and dark seasons as bad and unproductive. If you feel like the wheels of your ministry feel as stuck as the wheels of your car in deep snow, listen to the words of the Psalmist.
Yours is the day, yours also the night;
you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.
You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth;
you have made summer and winter. (Ps. 74:16–17, emphasis mine)
God made every day of every year. He is Lord of every season. That’s true of our calendars. It’s true of our lives. It’s true of our ministries. Ups and downs, triumphs and defeats, moments of joy and of deep disappointment, He has made them all. Every season is an opportunity to enjoy God and give Him glory.
Learning from Spinach Leaves
God has used the little farm I share with my husband and sons to teach me rich lessons about the power of seasons. Right now my garden looks like a sterile patch of mud, but I know better. I always plant spinach seeds right before the first frost in a process called overwintering. Nothing visible happens for months. There are no little green shoots or new leaves waiting to unfurl—but that doesn’t mean the seeds are wasted. Deep underground they hum with the possibility of what is to come. At the very first signs of spring, just as soon as we can string a few sunny days together, spinach leaves emerge from the still frozen dirt. Before I can eat a bowl of fresh greens the plants do a remarkable work: they replace the nitrates stripped from the soil the previous year. Even when I can’t see it they’re working. What’s true of spinach is true of God. May it be true of us.
As leaders, our lives are our greatest teaching tool. The women you shepherd know what it’s like to face dormant seasons. If they’re anything like the women I serve, what they don’t know is how to steward “down time.” Show them that such moments are opportunities to grow roots instead of leaves. Consider a less programmed approach to ministry in these dark months to give women the freedom to rest, to ponder, and to seek the Lord for themselves.
Winter isn’t a wasted season. It’s meant to be a time of restoration. Take a cue from my garden and embrace this chance to “produce” less. Perhaps the Lord wants to use these dark winter months to replenish the spiritual nutrients we often use up the rest of the year: silence, solitude, stillness . . . these are the gifts of winter. Enjoy them. Like the snow that may cover your backyard as you read this, these days won’t last much longer.