A wintered faith
I am sure we all remember Thursday, November 10th. It was the day when the temperature rose to 75 degrees in the afternoon, only to fall dramatically into the 30s that evening. That evening, I saw that the weather forecast for the foreseeable future showed winter conditions and temperatures. The warmth had officially come to an end!
As this dawned on me, I remember a mixture of emotions swirling within myself as I lamented the passing of warm days, patio socials, outdoor grilling, and walks through the park. Yet, I also smiled at what would be for Liz and me our first Iowa winter in six years, anticipating breaking out all our soup and chowder recipes, winter boots, and the beginnings of Christmas planning.
There’s something about the change in weather that reminds me of a life of faith, and I think it also inspired the author of Ecclesiastes when he wrote Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (“For everything, there is a season”). I do not believe faith demands that things be a certain way or a specific temperature. I do not think faith tightly grasps onto that which God has laid to rest or changed. I see winter as a reminder that our faith becomes a life-or-death endeavor when death strikes, and winter is a death of sorts.
A sometimes better word for faith is trust. This faith we seek to live out is a particular kind of trust that can shape our lives so that no matter which season, circumstance, or event life hands us, we can trust God to hold all of it in God’s hands and to walk alongside us into a new season that sometimes arrives uninvited and thrusts itself onto the scene of our lives without notice.
Thankfully, winter is something we can always expect and anticipate to arrive at around the same time every year. While some of us would prefer beachside weather all year round, there’s something about winter that can remind us about what truly matters and teach us something valuable about faith. It’s a season when we visit family and share our time and gifts perhaps more often than any other. And it provides opportunities to face the dreaded, unwelcome cold snowstorm outside our window juxtaposed with children making snow angels and packing snowballs.
When we can joyfully embrace the winter, I think we’ve come closer to discovering a profound truth. Namely, what it means to find joy amidst cold and death-ridden circumstances. Indeed, winter is a time of death, but it can also be a time when we learn more about finding joy in places that, at first, are seemingly devoid of it. As worshipers of a crucified God, we can confidently trust and have faith in the possibility of discovering joy and grace in these kinds of places, seasons, and life circumstances.