Believer, are you thankful for winter? Here in Michigan, where it is not as cold as in my native home of Minnesota, but neither is it as sunny, winter is often gray and uninviting–unless one is an avid outdoorsman. Many Michiganders are not, and some of them, like the geese, head south for the winter. For me personally, I too miss the sunshine, as well as the sunlight. It is an encouraging thought to me that the days are starting to get longer again. Comforting in itself, the word “again” reminds us that we are experiencing a cycle of seasons that God instituted and perpetuates. Winter is His invention, and is formed by many of His created, obedient “servants”, including the sun, wind, clouds, and snow (Psalm 119:91). During winter, what are these created messengers of the heavens saying to us (cf. Psalm 19:1-6)?
What is winter itself saying to us?
First, winter tells us that God is faithful. “While the earth remaineth,” God told Noah, “seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22). This cycle of seasons is God’s promise to us, and how we take it for granted! While nations rise and fall, amidst all the changing customs and laws of man, God’s created order marches with obedient precision beneath our feet, as Stephen Charnock once pointed out. We live, as Calvin once noted, within the theater of God’s glory, and we take the theater for granted, because it is so orderly and predictable. Oh, when the heavens will someday shake, then men’s hearts will fail them for fear (Luke 21:26); but for now, we Christians rest in the covenanted grace of the return of winter:
“Summer and winter, springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.”
Second, winter tells us that God is powerful. Tornadoes in the spring, hurricanes in the fall, and the late summer droughts that make the heavens above brass and the earth beneath iron (Deuteronomy 28:23)–all seasons have their specific terrors, but there is something ominous as well about the perils of winter. How small is a house in the raging roar of a blizzard, and how tenuous its heat in the surrounding abyss of northern cold! When God gives snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes, casting forth His ice like morsels, then “who can stand before his cold?” (Psalm 147:16-17).
Third, winter also tells us that God is good. It is a marvel to me how beautiful winter can be. For all the drab garb of bare trees and brown ground, He often drapes it all in the dazzling white of new-fallen snow! So beautiful is the scene, that one gospel compares the shining raiment of the transfigured Jesus to the white of snow (Mark 9:3). In new-fallen snow, the ground shimmers in the sunlight with tiny diamonds, which is nothing compared to the radiant prisms in the trees following an ice-storm. How amazing is the grace of God to clothe the dormant world with such radiant splendor!
And then there is the dormancy itself. “To every thing there is a season,” says the Wisdom of God, “and a time to every purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Winter is a season of rest. The nights are long, and the days are short; the ant is enjoying the fruit of his labors, having stored up for the winter in the summertime of activity (Proverbs 6:6-8). As each day has a season of sleep, so the year ends and begins with the world sleeping in a season of rest. It is of God, and its timing is beautiful.
Believer, be thankful for winter. As God gives sleep to those He loves (Psalm 127:2), so embrace winter as His gift, as a season of rest. When the snow blinds your eyes in the brilliance of the sun, so see your scarlet sins washed white as snow in the blood of the Lamb (Isaiah 1:18; cf. Revelation 7:14). When the snow or bitter cold keeps you from your favored activity, remember that you are human and that He is God. And when you see the spring winds blow and the run-off flow, then know that it is God who faithfully sends His word to start the cycle of seasons again (cf. Psalm 147:18). It is time then to say once again to yourself:
“This is [our] Father’s world, the battle is not done;
Jesus who died shall be satisfied, and earth and heaven be one.”