Updated: Jan 11, 2020
Today is officially the first day of fall and it is a crisp 88 degrees here in Auburn, AL which means we will not feel the effects of the autumn season for at least another month. If you watch the weather channel at all, other parts of our country are already experiencing fall and even winter-like weather. In comparison, the South stays in summer mode for almost half the year. Regardless of when it rolls around, the season will undeniably change.
So far in my adult life, change has been something that I have both embraced and resisted greatly. When I am in a valley, I am ready for change, even if it’s negative. Just a new challenge or something gives me a new mission and focus for my efforts. Though ugly, these seasons of life have made me feel empowered and capable, like the person that knows exactly what to do when the plane goes down. When I’m on the mountain top, I don’t want anything to change. Why do I have to get down? Why can’t I just stay here? Or, better yet, what can I do to stay here forever? #LifeGoals seems to be the ability to look around and say “I made it”, throw it in cruise and coast to retirement.
I love how God created an earth that has seasons of change. No matter what, each hemisphere periodically rotates away from the sun and adapts to a new season. Thinking on this, I realized that change is something God expects us to do. Growth is not possible without change, but neither is closeness with God. For most of my life, I didn't realize that I needed to actively seek God. I envisioned myself standing in line with the rest of humanity and when it was my turn, a great mission and anointing would be bestowed on me. No sooner, no later; and, most importantly, only if I stayed in the line. That shows dedication right? Staying in a line with no intention of using my gifts or talents until I was sure of what to do with them? See, the problem with a line is that it’s horizontal. It can’t lead you to a mountaintop or even a valley. It’s flat, unchanging, and requires very little emotionally, spiritually, or physically.
How often do we work for a life that mimics a horizontal line? One that won’t take us through any kind of season. No changing, no learning, no challenges, no climbing, no failing, no improvement, no growing, no fulfillment, no risk, no reward. The life we think we want is actually awful. Sunny and 75° will eventually dry up our dreams, goals, and purpose.
So, since they're coming anyway, let's just work on preparing ourselves for the seasons that are destined for us. I'm not talking about Southern people buying all the milk and bread for the flurry. I mean fully preparing for a life well-lived during a storm.
1. See It's Beauty. It's easy to see the beauty of fall, but what about the season to follow? When skies are gray and gloomy with wind and cold precipitation, can you still see the beauty? Can you see the current condition and appreciate what it brings? "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:10-11) Every cold winter, low valley, and dark corner is setting you up. Trying to skip over it or push through it faster will only cause us to miss a crucial time of reflection. It should be a beautiful time to look inward and replenish a vision of how we will plant our seeds.
2. Relentlessly Praise God. Sometimes life can feel like we will never get out of the season we are in. Maybe you've worked really hard to get to where you are and you don't want it to end. Maybe life has been truly horrible and you can't win for losing. Praising God keeps our eyes on the eternal instead of the temporal. When I praise God through good and bad times, I am reminded that it's all got a purpose. A bad time is not just something in the way that I have to tolerate. After I see it's beauty, I need to praise God for how it's working for God's Kingdom in ways I can't understand yet. I know that's a tough pill to swallow for some people, especially those who are struggling through seemingly impossible things. But, I would challenge you to think of it the opposite way. What if there is no point to your pain? What if it truly is something you are tolerating for an unknown amount of time for an unknown reason? What if the conclusion is just confusion and brokenness? Praising God in a bad season is not whimsical or silly, it's thanking him for using what you are going through for a greater purpose. Psalm 147:2-5 "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit."
3. Choose Joy. Proverbs 17:22 "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." If the joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10), then no joy means no strength. Nothing is for nothing!