Keeping going through seasons of struggle
It’s getting colder now. It’s getting darker as well. Summer is a fading memory, gone too soon. And the yellow leaves which line the paths around my home in London are a clear sign of what I know to be true from every previous year of my life: winter is coming.
I know some would choose winter as their favourite season. After all, Christmas, cozy fireplaces and crisp mornings each have their appeal. But for me, the bitter cold and bleak landscapes often make it seem as if winter is to be endured more than enjoyed.
And yet, just as surely as the yellow leaves announce the arrival of winter, so too, in time, the green shoots will announce its departure. Winter may feel like a time of waiting, but that’s okay - because spring always comes.
The narrator of the book of Genesis records these words of the Lord after Noah and his family leave the ark (ch.8:22):As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.
Thousands of years of history have since passed, and yet this promise of God has remained utterly unbroken. Year by year, the seasons come and go. Spring, summer, autumn, winter, each passing in its time. Every changing season is a reminder that God’s faithfulness continues. The great hymn writer Charles Wesley captured it like this:And all things, as they change, proclaim. The Lord - eternally the same
The changing seasons are a mark of an unchanging creator God who sustains the world and maintains his promise.
Winter: the season of waiting
While as musicians our work may perhaps be less dependent on the seasons, this verse in Genesis invites us to step into the muddy boots of a farmer. Here, God assures us that as long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest will never cease.
Harvest is the good time in summer when the crops are gathered and there is food for another year - a time of joy and celebration. Seedtime comes in the autumn, as the fields are prepared and seeds are sown for the following year. So what about winter? In the fields, winter is a time of waiting. The sky is bleak and the fields look bare. Little can be done, except to wait for what is to come.
Winter is a season of waiting. I can certainly relate to that waiting right now, as the coronavirus pandemic has brought much of my everyday life to a sudden stop. Outside, winter is coming. But inside too, metaphorically, it feels as if most of 2020 has been one long winter. I am waiting - waiting for things to get back to normal.
In fact, I think very few of us would label this time as one of ‘harvest’ - filled with joy and celebration as hard work comes to fruition. As musicians, the fields are bare. The arts industry looks to be in peril. Much of our work is lost, and our day to day lives are restricted. It feels like winter: a season of waiting.
Perhaps you have had other ‘winters’ in the past - times of waiting for disruption to end, or times when the fields were bare and the nights were dark. Times when the circumstances of life were bitter and hard. Perhaps right now you’re living through a colder, harsher winter still than the one which the coronavirus pandemic has brought along. Life on this earth inevitably brings both seedtime and harvest, summer and winter, rejoicing and waiting.
Yet we know that our God reigns through the winter just as He reigns in the summer. His word endures through the dark nights and the light evenings. His promises remain through the cold and through the warmth. He is faithful all year round - not only at the time of harvest. Our souls often need to slow down and hear this: the seasons change, but He does not.
So our time of waiting is not a time for fear. We do not need to panic. Nor must we lose hope. For the God who brings the winter is also the God who brings the spring.
We have to be careful in our thinking. Until this broken world is restored, there will be signs of sin’s curse which endure. The chill of winter will linger on, and some of our struggles will remain real until His day of redemption comes. God does not promise healing for every hurt, not yet. Music will be frustrated by illness and injury. Our mental health will interfere with our musical capacity, and our circumstances will sometimes cost us opportunities.
But at the same time, we can be hopeful in prayer, confident that the Lord orders and plans our lives. Because He has prepared a path for us, we can have faith that He will, in time, lead us from the frustrations of winter into the excitement of spring and towards the joy of the summer harvest. Winter is transformed: it is a time to wait on God, trusting that He is still at work, waiting to see the fruit of His good plans in our lives.
Even in this bitter winter, when music is frustrated and our plans are derailed, we can have confidence as we wait on the Lord. His plans are on course, and the seasons still follow the sound of His voice. His plans for Your life are not ruined. Though the seeds may be buried, so that when you look at the fields they seem empty and bare, He has a purpose for you, and this season is part of it.
So, as musicians, what do we do during the winter? Keep trusting, keep hoping, and keep praying. Pray that God would show you His will for your life, and then invest in it. Is he redirecting your path? Is He causing you to slow down? Is he presenting new opportunities?
Grow in your walk with Him while you have more free time. If he has led you towards a career in music, then work hard at it, trusting that spring will come again in due course, and His plans will prove good. Share the gospel with those around you, praying that these circumstances will make them more open to hearing it. Waiting does not mean inactivity. In the winter, we live as those who are confident that spring will come.
Harvest: the season of plenty
Our hope does not end there. At the other end of the Bible, God gives us a tantalising glimpse of the world made new - the world where He and His people will live, together, forever. There is plenty to be excited about, but look at these words from Revelation 22:2-3:
On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse.
In the new creation, there is no autumn seedtime. There is no winter of waiting. No, here we are told that in that new world, every month will be harvest. This great orchard will bring the healing which this world could not, and life beyond all that we have tasted here. In the glory of God’s presence, the changing seasons of this world will finally cease, and we will live in permanent harvest: the celebration and enjoyment of plenty.
This world will have its winters. But that world will not. The curse of sin will be no more. We can find the strength to endure the dark nights here through knowing that one day both darkness and night will be banished, and we will enjoy that glorious harvest time celebration for all of eternity.
Imagine a world where we sing His praise together and our voices never grow sore. A world where music lives on, but illness does not. A world where our creativity and pleasure is untempered by mental health issues. Music itself redeemed from sin’s curse along with all of creation.
We look to that day. The frustration of this world is like the yellow autumn leaves, reminding us that winter always comes. But we can have confidence that like the green shoots of spring, Jesus’ return will signal the best season which is yet to come.