Insights: Long Winters

Indiana has long, cold winters, but they are few and far between compared to 2013 – 2014. I’m used to the Jet stream trends that draw cold air down from the north, but  I hadn’t been familiar with the term “polar vortex” until this year. A polar vortex1 is an area of low pressure in the upper atmosphere that has centers near Canada’s Baffin Island (NE Canada) or over northeast Siberia. You know it as “cold temperatures!” Here in Indiana our winter has been longer and colder than usual. I’m sure there are some who would love to take a nap and wake up in the Spring!

I’ve heard more than a few people say that they are tired of it. I understand. I’m not writing about this to be critical or judgmental (and it’s NOT because I grew up in Minneapolis). I’m saying that this is like many things of life – we have to learn contentment regardless of its conditions.

Can you imagine what it was like to be forced to walk with Israel in the wilderness for 40 years? God used these wanderings to help Israel grow up, grow stronger and become more dependent on Him.

God did not send the Israelites “out the door” to endure this long journey on their own! No, He was right there with them to help them grow, “And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” (Deut. 8:2) Do you think God is with you during these cold winter months?  Yes, if you have trusted in Him as your Savior, you can count on Him to be present.  He’s waiting to teach us through the hardship!

What is He teaching us? In Israel’s case, God taught them that His Word was more important than food to eat, “So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.” (Deut. 8:3) Do you think that God wants us to learn that we do not live by warmth alone, but by His presence?

Can you believe that during those long years in the wilderness, Israel never lacked? Moses wrote, “Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years.” (Deut. 8:4) Yes, God had a purpose for Israel, “You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you. Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him.” (Deut. 8:5-6) In other words, regardless of the conditions, everything boiled down to this: keep God’s Word, walk in His ways and fear Him. Wow, that makes life so much easier!

You see that God’s intent was to bring them into the Promised Land,

7 “For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; 8 “a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; 9 “a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper. (Deut. 8:7-9)

Is His presence not better than any temporary condition on earth? Is His presence not better than a week in Florida? (I know I’m stretching some of you!) One day we’ll be with Him forever and ever. It will be far beyond any thought or expectation we can imagine. Yes, shivers now are uncomfortable, but the blessing of faithfulness in contentment will reap rewards and blessing forever.

As we transition to the warmth of Spring, let us find our contentment in Jesus alone. He said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) The Apostle Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ  who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13) And Nehemiah wrote, “…for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Neh. 8:10)

Contentment is something that we have to continue to learn regardless of our situation in life and regardless of our age. Paul said it best,

11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. (Phil. 4:11-12)

I’m so grateful for our deacons who have been faithfully  clearing the walks and parking lots! I’m grateful for a warm office where I “go to war” (my place to study!). I’m grateful that through cold and snow, so many have embraced the weather with joy, because Jesus is Lord! For those who are struggling with the cold, the warmth is coming!2

1http://www.wunderground.com/news/polar-vortex-plunge-science-behind-arctic-cold-outbreaks-20140106

2I’d encourage you to read the rest of Deuteronomy 8:10-20, because it is very clear regarding why we go through testing in life and can help you be content and joyful!

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