I’ve been thinking about these “teachers” for the past few days.
Let’s face it – none of us welcome trial with great exuberance. None of us want to experience failure, poverty or heartbreak but retrospectively, most of us would admit to deep lessons learned in these particularly painful times. There’s something about human nature that positions us to merely, “coast” through our days when we are experiencing seasons of plenty, love and success. We feel good, we put our feet up and enjoy – this is rarely a time of deep self reflection. We don’t often ask, “Why me?” when things are going well.
In his book, “Helping Others on the Journey”, Terry Wardle explains that most Christians will pass through four seasons on the journey to Christlikeness – spiritual seasons of great change:
- the season of delight
- the season of distance
- the season in the dessert
- the season of darkness
“Identifying the four seasons is simply a way of helping people understand the different ways the Lord shapes a person on the journey of life…Times of delight, distance, desert and darkness do happen and they serve the ‘all things’ plan of God.” Terry Wardle
Christianity teaches that, contra fatalism, suffering is overwhelming; contra Buddhism, suffering is real; contra karma, suffering is often unfair; but contra secularism, suffering is meaningful. There is a purpose to it, and if faced rightly, it can drive us like a nail deep into the love of God and into more stability and spiritual power than you can imagine.” Tim Keller, Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering
Three of these seasons listed above don’t “feel” good but they “do” good to us because they have such potential to position us to choose Jesus and hope in Him more than in ourselves. Anticipating these seasons motivates me to prepare and practise disciplines and mindfulness that will comfort, help me focus and settle into the difficult times. I have recently experienced one of these painful seasons and I am so thankful for the ability to press into and process, rather than react and resist. Certainly, I hope this season will end sooner than later but there has been something very significant for me to learn through this time that I would not have learned in the easy and good-feeling moments of life.
While other worldviews lead us to sit in the midst of life’s joys, foreseeing the coming sorrows, Christianity empowers its people to sit in the midst of this world’s sorrows, tasting the coming joy. Tim Keller
All I can say to this comforting, powerful, life-changing truth is “Amen.”