Classes get cancelled, teachers have to reschedule. Parents have to miss work and pay checks to stay home with the kids or go to work and pay extra for child care. Some people make it home by the grace of God and the angels that walk among us, while others abandon their wrecked vehicles on the icy roads and trudge their weary way home alone. Some of us heeded the warnings, slept late, and never left our warm houses. Some of the city’s homeless citizens froze to death on the cold streets last night even though multiple warming centers were open. They went with a warm coat and blankets, their need to be outside overriding their need to be warm. Some people feel safer in the open, even if it doesn’t make sense to you or me.
Most of the time we see winter in this way, like an old sumi ink painting: black and white with only a few marks denoting the strengths of the shapes and their lines. The rest we only imagine into being from what we remember to be true in the other seasons of the landscape.
So it is with our spiritual life, when we are caught in a time when things are out of sorts and nothing goes right. This isn’t what we signed up for! Maybe it’s a health crisis and now you can’t work at the job you love. Maybe you just got a pay raise, but now the company has been sold and you’ve been outsourced; life ain’t fair! Or the love of your life decides to leave, or your kid says that he/she wants to change to a different sex than the one you’ve loved this child as for all these years. Surely this is the winter of your discontent!
God asks the following question of his suffering servant, who seems to unjustly be the victim of woe,
“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail, which I have reserved for the time of trouble,
for the day of battle and war? What is the way to the place where the light is distributed, or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth?” (Job 38:22-24)
Of course not. Job hasn’t visited these unknown places! They are known only to the good Lord himself. The lesson God has for Job and us is that calamity falls upon both the good and the evil of this world, but God is always with us. We want to be spared from all harm, just as we want to spare our children from any distress, harm, trial, or pain. This keeps our children from growing strong, however, so just as we endure trials in life, we grow stronger spiritually with God by our side. Either that, or we freeze to death because we didn’t want help. One of the most frequent names for God in the Old Testament is Help or Helper. When Job recognizes God speaking to him, he reframed his thinking:
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? ’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me. ’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:2-6)
Sometimes we need to see the black and white world in the beauty of God’s colors.