During this lockdown period, I’ve been watching the Netflix documentary series, Our Planet, narrated by David Attenborough. An incredible series that has moved me towards praise for the amazing planet we get to enjoy.
Yet, it has also reminded me of an intrinsic truth: the existence and necessity of seasons. We do not only see seasons in nature, but in our lives too.
I’ve always wondered why we couldn’t consistently remain in those good and comfortable seasons. But, with time I’m realising that, just like in nature, seasons are necessary for our ongoing growth too.
Often, the difficult conditions that some seasons bring are necessary to bring about the change that leads us toward full life.
During one of the Our Planet episode about forests, they discuss a certain group of plants called pyrophytes. Pyrophytes, such as Eucalyptus, actually need fire in order to germinate.
Eucalyptus have cones or fruits that are completely sealed in resin. For these cones or fruits to release seeds, they require the intense heat from fires to melt the resin. So, forest fires are surprisingly essential for the ongoing prosperity of the forest.
When hearing this, I couldn’t help but think pyrophytes were unmistakably symbolic of Christian life.
Haven’t we all, at times, allowed the ways of the world to encapsulate our hearts? Comfort, self-sufficiency, idolatry – you name it – they all, just like resin, slowly barricade our hearts and stifle the growth of spiritual fruit in our lives.
Sometimes those intense, often painful, experiences are required to destroy those things that imprison our hearts. I’m not saying God brings about these things – certainly not – but I’m definitely saying He uses them for good (Romans chapter 8, verse 28).
For just like in a raging forest fire, there is purpose in our pain. It is the nature of His upside-down Kingdom – in the midst of destruction, there is life.
In the death of our Saviour, there is victory.
There is not only purpose in pain, but in absence too. It is during seasons where certain things are lacking that we realise the longing and cries of our heart. Seasons of loneliness and spiritual distance from God come to mind for me.
Chip Dodd argues that: “each feeling has its own specific purpose in helping us live fully”. Furthermore, that each feeling we experience reveals specific longings in our hearts that drive us towards fulfilment.
Similarly, Proverbs chapter 16, verse 26 says: “The appetite of labourers works for them; their hunger drives them on”. Our loneliness reveals our ‘hunger’ for connection and relationship, and it ‘drives’ us towards intimacy. I know that when I experience loneliness, I reach out to others and my relationships are fortified.
Equally, I forget my deep need for His presence in my life until it seemingly isn’t there. Just as Frederick Buechner says: “I suspect that maybe God speaks to us most clearly through His silence, His absence, so that we know Him best through our missing Him”.
It is when I miss Him that I generally pursue Him most earnestly.
The glory in the getting up
In other seasons, when we’ve experienced failure, it is easy to feel as if God has abandoned us. When things hurt or fall apart, I know I’m quick to question why He would let such a thing happen.
But comparing our heavenly Father to a parent helps me understand. C.S. Lewis captures this beautifully: “He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take His hand away; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles”.
Sometimes stepping away is necessary for our growth. I haven’t had a child, but I can imagine it must be hard seeing them injure themselves as they learn to walk.
As a parent, you can hold their hand indefinitely but there comes a time when you have to let go and let them figure it out for themselves. They will bump their heads, land on their butts, and let out the odd scream. Yet, the end-product is all worth it.
In the same way, as hard as it sounds, I think sometimes our Father doesn’t prevent us from falling because He knows the growth in the getting up far outweighs the pain of the fall. Isn’t that the crucifixion in a nutshell?
Thankfully, however, stepping away does not mean abandonment. Through His grace, our hurts can be healed as we pursue greater growth. Romans chapter 8, verse 18: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us”.
There is purpose
I guess what I’m trying to say is that no matter what season you’re in, there is purpose in it. Although many of us would wish for perpetual seasons of comfort, the truth is that seasons are necessary if we are to become all that He created us to be.
So, whether you are in a season of refining, developing a spiritual appetite, or you are getting up from a fall, we can all be encouraged. I think that if we truly believe that He loves us, we can approach every season with hope.
For we can trust that, even though we may not see it now, we will look back one day and realise: it was love all along.
Matthew Thornton is studying at the University of Auckland, Matthew finds that writing is one of the prime ways he connects with and grows closer to God. He loves seeing the way in which God has wired everyone uniquely and finds immense fulfilment in seeing others discover who God is to them. He would love to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org