I write this today as the northeast portion of our country is dealing with a major snowstorm. There are parts of eastern New York State that may see 2-3 inches/hour. Today, I am going to begin by talking about the weather but today’s snowstorm is not the inspiration for this article. The content here is something I have been reflecting on since the last snowstorm.
As I was conversing with a friend about the weather, in particular the clearing of snow, we both spoke of while we may not like having to shovel, we need some snow. Yes, I said “we need some snow.”
Probably most people’s idea of perfect weather includes sunny days and temperatures in the 70’s (maybe 80’s for some people). I personally enjoying sunny days in the upper 70’s with a gentle breeze. However, I know that if every single day was 70’s and sunny, we would have a problem.
Why? Because we need water. The plants and the trees need water to grow. We need water to drink. Without water, the plants and trees would die. Given enough time without rain, we might even die ourselves, either from lack of water or from lack of food because the plants died.
So, we need rain to maintain the water table. In western NY where I live, winter snow is a major provider of water. Whatever the temperature may be, whether it comes as rain or snow, we need the precipitation.
There are people who enjoy the cold and snow (skiers might the largest group here). We all have our preferences for weather, we need balance. We need some sunny days so plants and trees have sunlight for photosynthesis to happen. We need rainy days to provide water. This is the way God created nature, to operate in balance.
As part of this, God created the four seasons. I am fortunate to live in a part of the country where we experience the full effect of the changing seasons. It is the cool Fall weather that triggers the color change in the leaves, making for beautiful scenery. Throughout the winter, plant life lies dormant. Spring comes and we see new life as the grass turns green and the flowers come out. Is not an image that provides us with hope?
God knew what He was doing when He created nature, including the weather and the four seasons.
Of course, I am not writing today just to talk about the weather. With the weather, there are good days and bad days. Is life not the same way? We have days that are full of blessings. We also have days when we face suffering.
I think we all have a natural preference for the days full of blessings. We want things to be easy. We embrace Jesus’ words, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Matthew 11:30) while his words, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). We don’t want to suffer. We don’t want to take up a cross.
Yet, suffering is a natural part of life. Sometimes suffering lasts only a short time. We give thanks to God when the suffering ends. Sometimes the suffering lasts a long time. Then, we ask God to walk with us through the suffering. God is always with us. Our sufferings can help us be aware of our need for God and to be aware of his presence.
Here I think of Paul’s words to the Corinthians, “Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated” (2 Corinthians 12:7). What thorn have you been given that keeps you humble?
We struggle. It is in our weakness that we are made strong (see 2 Corinthians 12:10). It is in our weakness that we realize how much we need God. Paul first prayed that his suffering be taken away. “Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness“(2 Corinthians 12:8-9). Here I think of the poem “Footprints.” It is when we suffer that God not only walks with us, He carries us.
It is in our suffering that we might most be aware of God’s presence. It is in our response to suffering that we can give the greatest witness to God as we place our trust in him. Paul writes, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” (Colossians 1:24). Jesus endured his Passion, giving his life for us on the Cross for us. How could anything be lacking? And how could we possibly fill what would be lacking?
The only thing lacking in Jesus’ suffering is for us to accept our sufferings. We are called to accept our sufferings and offer them to God with Father with Jesus’ suffering. This is our witness to others.
Jesus speaks of the yoke He provides in Matthew 11:28-30. Yokes were placed on the farm animals so they could pull their load. The yoke was not a burden. In fact, the yoke made it easier for the farm animal to do their work.
We all suffer. We don’t always respond well to our sufferings. At least I know I don’t. Jesus gives us the yoke of faith so that we may bear our sufferings well. Without faith, suffering may be impossible to bear. With faith, our burdens become lighter. Trust in God.