For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Things have turned here in the last month and life is once again about rain jackets, warm fires and gumboots. The night seems to go on and on. Bowls of soup and extra cups of tea and coffee are required to warm the hands and heart.
Winter is here, and in southern Australia that means shorter days, the darkness taking over, and all the time our habits and rhythms shift. The question I’ve been wrestling with is - ‘What about our spirits, how do we remain hopeful when darkness seems to be closing in around us? Where does Jesus meet us in the midst of these ‘seasons’? Where do we see the light breaking in?’
In Australia, Winter also means the middle of the year, providing time to take stock, reflect on what we have achieved so far... maybe look back at our New Year resolutions. We are now not at the beginning, and we are far from the end. It also makes us reflect on how we 'keep the faith' and solace during this season. Is it at all different from other 'seasons' of the year?
In thinking through these questions we chatted with some of the Tearfund staff about how they go about ‘keeping the faith’ during the physical and metaphorical seasons of winter in life. Here we share some of their responses.
International Program Officer
I’ve been listening to some pretty cheesy 1970’s praise and worship music lately. Music I listened to on vinyl, and that always takes me back to my parents living room as a child. Now the songs help me with words that I can’t find myself. A lot of the songs draw from the Psalms, which I have loved since I discovered as a young person. They contained both “praise God” and also “I am angry or lost or confused, but God is still good”. In these old songs, between the words about how wonderful God is, I hear things like “I was broken, but them you came and you made me whole again”, or my favourite, lifted right out of Psalm 73, “My flesh and my heart my fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever”. Even, and especially, when the days are cold and dark.
Head of Advocacy
Ten years ago, my husband and I walked El Camino de Santiago, a 788km ancient pilgrim route across Spain. It took just under a month, an average of 27km a day, and each night we would stay in a hostel with fellow pilgrims. The rule of the road is that you can only ever stay one night in these places. Come the morning, you’re out the door and on your way, no matter the weather. We walked through rain, hail, shine and snow. We didn’t always feel hopeful but we kept walking. And I will never forget the joy I felt, arriving at the Cathedral in Santiago, having walked all that way.
The writer of Hebrews says, “let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross…” (Heb 12:1-2) My experiences in Spain taught me a lot about the joy that comes with perseverance. My husband and I walked out of Pamplona and into a blizzard. The next day brought sunshine and butterflies. The weather, whatever it is, will pass. Seasons come and go. We can endure whatever confronts us now, knowing there is joy to come. And so we keep on walking.
International Program and Effectiveness Coordinator
Winter…yes, the nights are longer, and the days are colder, but in the hills outside of Perth, winter also means that the brown dead grass of the long summer is refreshed with the first rains, and the green shoots take over. Soon the ground is covered in green, and the plants and the bush take on a fresh, new look. The bush itself seems to stand up taller and seems more alive. The birds and animals thrive and play; darting around the bushes and the trees, the bandicoots chase each other and forage for bugs and worms that have also become more active. And the rain… after the dust of the summer the rain falls on the tin roof to clean it, it falls on the paths and tracks, and we watch as it fills the water tanks. Hopefully, if there’s enough, the creeks will start running.
There’s a lot of life in winter and the summer dust and heat and dead leaves are washed away.
Hope comes as the old is washed away and the new, fresh opportunities arrive. I give thanks to God for the beauty of his Creation and the refreshing and renewing of it in winter. That, and mulled wine next to the fire.
I find myself reflecting on God’s good gifts to us– His generosity and faithfulness which build my hope for all seasons.
International Program Officer
Ah - ‘Brinter’ is here and by that I mean Brisbane Winter. Brisbane winter is brief and beautiful. A time when the humidity is gone and replaced by a wind chill, and when the very hot burning midday sun is replaced by a gentle and soft warmth.
It’s a time to be outdoors – to enjoy long bike rides and sidewalk cafes with friends and wear long sleeves and socks for a couple of weeks. Winter feels restorative to me – a time to appreciate things that at other times of the year are not so easily appreciated – like the sun. I find myself reflecting on God’s good gifts to us– His generosity and faithfulness which build my hope for all seasons.
Head of Communications and Education
The apples you eat in Autumn come from trees pruned in Winter. We have a bunch of fruit trees at our place, including apples. Through the winter months they go ‘dormant’ and that’s the time to prune back. To remove the old growth, to do the work that plans ahead for the ‘hoped for’ coming harvest. This past ‘harvest’ season has been a great one. There is such abundance in God’s creation when the conditions are good. I guess that is part of the lesson and invitation from the Parable of the Sower.
Doing the ‘Winter’ jobs at our place of pruning and clearing pushes me to think about the seasons beyond and preparing now - both practically and spiritually. To that end, I find winter naturally drives me inside, to a quiet corner with a book, time for reflection and prayer.
Being in the midst of winter can often feel like being stuck in a passage or hallway. I know where I’ve come from, I know where I want to go, BUT presently I’m in between the past and future.
To me Winter feels dark, gloomy, and way too cold. It’s a time to bunker down, retreat from the hectic pace of life, pause and reflect. I seek out my physical comforts of home- flannel sheets, electric blanket, Winter pj’s, and of course heating. I draw spiritual comforts by slowing down from the hectic pace and demands of life and leaning into my God of all comfort, seeking His contentment in the waiting for this season to pass... “This too shall pass.”
Be still and know I am God – Psalm 46:10
Tearfund staff share about books that have challenged their thinking & prompted them to reflect on the many ways God’s love can be seen in action in our world.