The cold weather has been on its way for some time. It’s normal at this time of the year. Winter in Gauteng is from June to August … today is 14th June. Each weekday morning for the last two weeks has seen the temperature decline to close to zero. Whatever the temperature was last night and early this morning saw our four bird baths frozen up. So, I have known for some time I needed to cover certain plants with frost cover … and I did not … so this morning, some shrubs and bushes had severe frost damage.
I googled and found this: “Cold weather, particularly frost, causes the water in plant cells to freeze, damaging the cell wall. Frost-damaged plants are easy to spot, their growth becomes limp, blackened and distorted.” Today, I was forced to cover these plants, understanding that damage has already been done but hoping that perhaps some are salvageable. In applying the covering, I accidentally bumped my right hand into cactus thorns, one of which broke off into my finger.
Removing the thorn was a challenge. Jenny tried to remove it unsuccessfully, resulting in me digging around and eventually removing the thorn with a tweezer. Due to my negligence, I have frost-damaged plants and bushes and a sore finger. Irrespective of how many excuses I tried to raise in my mind, such as going shopping, going to the optician, traveling to Kempton Park and Randburg, helping in the kitchen, preparing wood for making clothing trays … they just did not cut it. I knew what I needed to do and did not do it. After all, this is June … degrees of 0 and below come at this time of the year. I have no excuse whatsoever! The frost damage is entirely my fault and I must accept full responsibility for it. After the winter is over, I might find my negligence very costly … but it’s my fault.
The four seasons of the year could be applied to our spiritual condition. Summer is when you flourish spiritually. This is where you want to be, because this is where you are right with God, growing closer to God and serving God faithfully as you await glory.
Then, there is autumn. This is where you might start to battle, losing spiritual ground. You start to meddle in borderline sinful thoughts, desires and attitudes, progressing to a steady decline in your relationship with God.
This leads you into winter, where you become spiritually negligent to the point where you stagnate. God and His requirements for your life just don’t feature … it’s almost as if you close the door on God.
Perhaps after some conviction and spiritual embarrassment, spring starts. This is when you start to recover spiritually. You put effort and desire into rectifying your state before God … getting your mind focused on God and His will for you leading towards summer.
This type of cycle might apply to many people … but the tragedy is that it feels like we often move three steps forward and four backwards. Over any year, you actually lose spiritual ground even though at times there is healthy spiritual life. The obvious place to be is in spiritual summer … where the heart beats favourably for the Lord Jesus, where love and passion for Him and His purposes flourish.
It seems to me that over the years of walking with Jesus, most if not all believers go through periods of spiritual draught … and it could be extremely taxing to get back on track. Take the Psalmist in Psalm 40:
Ps 40:1 I waited patiently for the LORD, he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.
Ps 40:4 Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust,
who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.
Look at his winter in verse 2a … slimy pit; mud and mire. This is what the early reformed church fathers would call “the declension of the soul”. Was his spiritual winter related to the attraction of the false gods of verse 4? It seems like it was and that this was his own spiritual negligence! His spiritual spring started when he called (cried) to God for help in verse 1. What is so remarkable is that when God sees the heart that is sincere (waiting patiently–v1), He responds, changing your condition and desire (v2b-3a). The results are witnessed by others (v3b).
Read Psalm 51 and see that David’s spiritual winter was created through personal sin … and even though this sin was against Bathsheba and her husband, he acknowledges that sin is firstly against God!
Ps 51:3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
This was winter! Then he pinpoints his rebellion is against God and must be dealt with before God.
Ps 51:4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.
He asks God for a few things… The first is cleansing:
Ps 51:7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
He needs to be pardoned, for his winter is extreme (bones you have crushed). Then he needs a pure heart:
Ps 51:10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
A pure heart retains God’s presence and Spirit and is filled with joy once again! The only way to bring back your spiritual summer is to be totally honest with God by returning to Him as the prodigal son or daughter. He and He alone knows the heart’s genuineness!
Dear God, thank you for the many instances in the Scriptures where I can see myself. Thank you too for the road map back to You. Help me to be faithful to You, remaining in spiritual summer. Your mercy is amazing. Amen.