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Seasons of our Lives

four seasons

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by Dennis Pollock

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease.'  (Genesis 8:22)

Our lives are made up of seasons. The Scriptures tell us that this is more than the natural result of time and chance; God Himself is the Author of the seasons, both natural and spiritual. In the Psalms we read that it is the voice of the Lord that “makes the deer give birth” and “strips the forests bare.” We are tempted to think that it would hardly take a word from God to cause a deer to lie down on the forest grass and give birth. Surely that is simply the outworking of natural law. But the Bible reveals that God is actively involved in even the simplest of the cycles of nature. Whether an animal giving birth, the trees shedding their leaves in the fall (the forests being “stripped bare”), or the biting cold of winter giving way to the gentle warmth of spring, it is the voice of our Creator behind each and every season and cycle.

Being pretty conservative by nature I am not especially thrilled with most changes. I tend to find rhythms and patterns of life that work for me and stick with them. Getting up around six-thirty, reading the Scriptures, going out for a walk or a jog, and watching the news as I eat my breakfast have become second nature to me. My day would feel all wrong if I didn’t have tea around 5:00 pm and coffee with a light snack in the evenings. Routines are safe, secure, and so orderly! When things are going well, I find myself wishing I had a truly universal remote control I could use to hit the pause button, and just keep things the way they are until Christ calls me home (which is one interruption I will gladly welcome!).

I have discovered that God is not nearly as sold on keeping things constant as I am. Just when I think my life is under control and safe, He sometimes blows my little routines and rituals out of the water, and brings about radical changes in my life without so much as an “if you please.” I can no sooner “permanentize” my life than I could keep a beautiful spring in Dallas from morphing into the blast furnace of a Texas summer. Just as no amount of faith or willpower could hold spring in place all year long, neither can we, through our feeble efforts, keep our lives from undergoing major seasonal changes that have been scripted by the Father for our spiritual progress.

To understand the purpose for the various seasons of our lives we must know what God is after in His dealings with His children. Once we have been born into the family of God through faith in Christ, God’s great desire for His children is threefold: 1. To continually and increasingly reveal Himself to us (“Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”) 2. To build character (“Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.”) 3. To make us a blessing to others (“I endure all things for the sake of the elect.”)

It would be convenient for us if the best way for these goals to be achieved would be if we were in a constant state of prosperity and blessing. If the sun always shone on our lives, if everyone treated us well, and we had an unbroken season of abundance we should like to think that this would be the optimum condition for our spiritual advancement. Sadly the Scriptures (and even common sense) reveal that such is not the case. In one of the most difficult of all God’s commandments, James exhorts us to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience…” The term James uses here to describe how these things hit us is both interesting and appropriate – so often we “fall” into various trials. They blindside us with such unexpected ferocity that “meander” or “stroll” would not tell the story.

Thankfully, not all of the seasons of our lives are difficult ones. God graciously grants us times of blessing with (relatively) few hardships. After Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness, we read that the devil “departed from Him until an opportune time.” As with our Master we, too, have times where it seems that temptation and danger have departed from us. But like our Master we find that it is always for a season. Pressures and pain may have disappeared, but assuredly they will be back in a new guise in a new season. It is the way of life.

A study of the seasons God takes His children through during their lives could easily take up a full-length book. For our purposes, however, we will limit our study to a few of the most basic and fundamental principles.

All Seasons are Good

We tend to divide the various seasons of our lives into bad and good. The happy and carefree times are good; the painful and fearful times are bad. Certain times we look upon as the “good old days;” other times we prefer not to remember. But could we see as God sees and think as He thinks we would recognize that there really are no bad seasons of our lives. The God who makes all things work together for good to those who love Him also makes all seasons work for our good. Indeed if we had eyes to see it, it is likely that the tougher times were actually the most profitable seasons of our lives.

Soldier doing pushupWhen my son joined the Marines I warned him that he would not like basic training. All branches of the military make basic training tough, but the Marines’ training is the toughest of all. Recruits are screamed at, de-humanized, and tested to the very limits of their endurance. My words proved prophetic!

My son spent some time in Iraq and he and I were both glad for the training he had in those early days. The pushups, ten mile hikes, obstacle courses, and the rest were not much fun, but it would be foolish to categorize the “season” of basic training as a bad one. In the ultimate sense it was necessary and very good.

The Scriptures tell us that tribulation produces perseverance, which produces character, which produces hope, which results in God’s love erupting within us by the Holy Spirit. It should be no surprise that seasons of difficulties are both necessary, and, in the eyes of God, good.

All Seasons have Dangers

While we cannot divide our life seasons into bad and good, clearly some are a lot more pleasant than others. During those times that are painful and filled with pressures, the danger is that of discouragement and turning away from a vibrant fellowship with God. We tend to look to the past, wishing we could somehow get back to that time when life was more carefree. God’s word warns us against this:

Do not say, "Why were the former days better than these?'' For you do not inquire wisely concerning this (Ecclesiastes 7:10).

Looking back to better days is a very human thing to do, but it can be ruinous to our spiritual and emotional state. The widow longing for past married bliss, the old man in the nursing home who is depressed and constantly wishing for his youth, or the lonely mother whose children are now grown and gone, sadly remembering times when her house rang with the sounds of laughter and play – these are all examples of those who “do not inquire wisely.” What we fail to recognize is that God has embedded every season of our lives with special blessings, and often the times that seem the most painful (or lonely or scary) have the greatest measure of hidden treasures buried within them. But we will never discover these treasures if we decide to punish God for allowing us a season of pain by backing off from our walk with Him.

Pleasant seasons of abundance can also be dangerous. After forty years of trudging around the wilderness, living in tents and temporary shelters, and eating a constant diet of that mysterious manna, Israel was finally ready to enter the promised land. The supply of manna would disappear, and God promised they would enjoy “a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper.” No more measuring their small amounts of daily manna for Israel; they would have all they could eat and then some.

But in the midst of the abundance there was a danger to beware. God strictly warns Israel:

When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you. Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments… lest when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God…” (Deuteronomy 8:10-14)

If difficult times can lead us to forsake the Lord, times of abundance have their own problems. Here the danger is not so much to reject God as to forget Him – to gradually allow Him less and less involvement in our lives. When life was great yesterday, is wonderful today, and shows every sign of being even better tomorrow, it becomes easy to let your prayer life slide. While there may be no atheists in foxholes, there are plenty of people who don’t have time for God living in mansions. It’s not so much that they consciously reject God; they just find Him irrelevant.

God’s Instructions

One of the things God instructs us about the seasons of our lives is pretty simple, yet absolutely necessary for us to comprehend: “In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other, so that man can find nothing that will happen after him” (Ecclesiastes 7:14). No matter how carefully you arrange your life, no matter how you brace yourself to avoid change, change will come. There is no pause button for our lives. Some seasons will be exciting, some will be fun, some will be scary, and some will be downright painful. And behind these seasons is a sovereign Creator who has “appointed the one as well as the other.”

The most important of all the truths about seasons for the child of God is that God is the one constant in our lives that will never change. Spouses may die or leave us; children will grow up, jobs may dissolve, prosperity may come and go, but God goes through every season with His children.

Jesus is our faithful Shepherd, leading us from season to season in that continual process the Bible calls sanctification (growth in grace). He rejoices with us in our blessings and comforts us in our losses. His presence gives hope when circumstances are arrayed against us, and assures us that we are heading for that ultimate season where we will live in the presence of God forever, where there is “no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Until that day we can endure. He has promised us “I will never leave you nor forsake you” – winter, spring, summer, or fall.

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