Have you ever had a time in your life where your mind was suddenly filled with exciting ideas about future possibilities? Or have you had occasions when you had a restless feeling in your spirit, and you knew something major in your life was about to change? At other times have you felt overwhelmed at all the work you still had to do? Yet other moments when it felt like you had finally mastered your work? Life is like that. It changes. Sometimes it seems for the better, other times for the worse. We know this instinctively, even if we do not understand it.
Scripture indicates: “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven” (Ecc. 3:1). Have you ever considered the fact that, just as in nature, God created your life to flow through seasons? And, just like a farmer, if you don’t recognize what season you are in and act accordingly, you are never going to experience the abundant life that was available to you? I experienced this truth last spring. I live in South Carolina. The previous summer heat had scorched a portion of my lawn. So, novice horticulturalist that I am, I lay down some topsoil and grass seed and voila! a week or two later, tender blades of grass were shooting up. Buoyed by my success, I decided to try my hand again, several weeks later on patches I had missed earlier. This time, however, I had no luck. I put out more soil and abundant grass seed. Still nothing. I added fertilizer. It seemed I had suddenly lost my touch. I finally talked with a local expert who informed me that spring was over. Summer had come. The temperatures were too hot now for grass seed to germinate. I was unsuccessfully attempting to do spring activity in summer.
What can often have much greater consequence is when we fail to recognize the changing seasons of our life. We can be doing spring activities in our autumn seasons, and that leads to frustration.
Have you ever wondered why God created seasons? He could have set the earth’s thermostat at a perfect greenhouse temperature and left it at that. Or the Creator could have made the earth to be in continual harvest and made farmers enormously wealthy! But He didn’t. Now I know that various regions of the earth experience seasons differently, but those of us in North America are most familiar with spring, summer, fall, and winter (Unless you live in Phoenix where you experience, hot, and really hot weather!).
God created the seasons with a specific purpose. All of them are important. Spring is a time of beginnings, new life, possibilities, and potential. It feels vibrant and energetic. It is when the farmer plants seeds. Summer is a time of growth, labor, and maturation. It feels hot, and can be draining at its peak. It is when seeds planted in spring grow and mature. Autumn is the time of harvest, when seeds planted in spring and grown in summer, ripen and are harvested. It is an exhilarating time as we reap what we have sown. Winter is the season of closure, withdrawal, rest, and even death. It is when fields lie fallow and people withdraw from the bitter climate and rest. Yet, invariably another spring eventually comes and the cycle begins again.
What has challenged me is that I have come to see that our lives also cycle through seasons. I believe that in every stage of our lives: preschool, childhood, youth, college, young adult, parenthood, career, and retirement, we cycle through all four seasons. For example, when I first became a pastor in my twenties, I entered the springtime of my career. It was exhilarating! I had so much to learn! I was intimidated by my lack of experience yet enthused about the possibilities for my life and ministry. Eventually, I entered the summer of my pastorate. I developed effective routines. I became more comfortable with my ministerial duties. I honed my skills and gained confidence. I worked hard! Eventually I entered autumn. I had developed some expertise in my field. I was enjoying success and being recognized as a “good” pastor. I began to be asked to chair committees in my denomination and to speak in conferences. Then one day I realized that winter had set in. God was moving me from the church and pastorate I had grown to love, and initiating an entirely new spring season of my life as I became the president of a seminary. Over the next thirteen years, I would cycle through all four seasons again. Then, one day, winter set in again, and I left that school to embrace a new stage of my life as president of BMI.
As I have studied the phenomenon of seasons, I have realized that it explains much of what I have experienced in life. God built change into the fabric of nature. Whether we are prepared for it or not, the seasons of our life are going to change. Those who recognize when a new season is dawning and embrace it with gusto are the ones who will get the most out of life.
Unfortunately, we tend to hold on to seasons long after their expiry date! It becomes clear to others that winter has set in on a particular role or relationship, yet we tenaciously cling to it because we are fearful of what lies ahead. Even though I no longer receive joy from my job or my job performance is slipping or I no longer enjoy favor from my boss, I refuse to consider that God has a new assignment for me. Conversely, some people are too anxious to move on to a different season in their life so they don’t fully embrace the one they are presently in. Teenagers can be too quick to get married and have children without considering the possibilities they have to obtain further education or to travel and gain new experiences. Or retirees can grieve the absence of their career so that they miss the amazing new springtime opportunities God has waiting for them in the springtime of their retirement years.
The key is to recognize the season you are in and to embrace it enthusiastically! The more I look at this issue, the more I recognize that God has specific purposes for each season of my life. As I learn to recognize the season I am in, I can also detect God’s purposes for me.
Do you know what season you are currently in? Are you thriving in it? As Jonathan Swift once said, “My you live all the days of your life.” Life is not meant to be endured; it is intended to be savored. May you fully embrace the life God has for you!
For more information on life’s seasons, see Richard Blackaby, The Seasons of God: How the Shifting Patterns of Your life Reveal His Purposes for You (Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2012). To purchase this book from BMI, click here.