"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven" Matthew 5:14-16
Today marks the second week of March, the first Sunday of Lent, and 11 days until Spring. That last one seems to be what many appear to be focusing on more than anything else right now.
I don't believe I need to go far to find someone who is sick of this cold, snowy winter that most of the Eastern USA has been experiencing so far.
Me, I am a summer girl at heart. I do enjoy the snow, but like many, I have concluded that enough is enough. Cold weather and a lack of sunny days can take a serious toll on many, and I've both seen, and heard of many, that have fallen into some serious funks this winter because of it.
A few weeks ago, after I returned home from church, I sat down and listened to an online sermon from a Lutheran pastor on The Lutheran Hour. During the sermon, Pastor Gregory Seltz, was discussing how rough this winter had been, and how badly humans needed sunlight.
He spoke of a town in Norway that from November to February, the sun would never rise more than just a slight peak over the horizon. It got so bad that the town had to install special mirrors in the town square, so for those moments when the sun peaked, the mirrors reflected the sun's rays and shined "a 6500-square foot ray of light directly into the town square" to give locals a chance to soak in some of the sunlight. He explained further that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects many in the winter months, and how their moods and daily living will sometimes come to a screeching halt under this disorder during the cold months.
He went on to joke about a comment he had heard from someone who asked "why can't we go right from Christmas to Spring? Why do we need such a long stretch of cold weather?"
I thought about that and it brought me back to a question so many people, usually non-Christians, ask me: "why do people suffer?" To which, of course, there's no easy answer, but we are all sinners. We live in a sinful world.
If God were to take away our suffering on Earth, would there even be a need for Heaven? No. Suffering is not something that God creates, but it IS something that makes us stronger, and is also something that we need.
Let's switch the topic slightly, for a second, and talk about novels. How would you feel if you picked up a book, started reading it, and realized when you finished that there was no conflict. No drama, no struggles, no life-changing discoveries that resulted because of trials; nothing. As a writer, that would make me automatically make me give that book a failing grade. You would be so bored reading that. Conflict makes stories interesting, exciting, and makes people want to read on.
The same goes with suffering in real life. Our world would be so boring, dull, and unmotivated if we did not have conflict. We would not learn from our mistakes, we would not bother achieving goals, or rise up from a national tragedy. Struggling brings out the best in us. It shows our strength, and makes us believe we can accomplish great things when we overcome those struggles. The greatest reward for our struggles as Christians, comes from when we struggle and refuse to give in to losing our faith to a sinful world. Heaven is our greatest reward, and if we didn't struggle to get there, Heaven would mean nothing to us.
I realized that same principle applies to the weather. I can't say how many times I caught myself telling customers at my job "only a few months until spring." Or "spring will be here in just a few short weeks." But having short winters would not make us appreciate the warmer months.
Having a long-drawn out cold, snowy winter is exhausting, it's depressing, and you know it's bad when even the kids are sick of the snow by early February.
We are struggling through the winter knowing that eventually, we will feel the warmth of the sunlight rather than the snow under our feet. It feels like it's taking forever, but we know it won't last forever and things will get better. Soon the color green will return to the areas, the snow will melt away, birds will be singing, and beautiful spring flowers will begin popping up everywhere. Those who are suffering through the winter blues, will slowly see their bodies and moods return to normal when they can walk outside without a jacket, or open a window to breathe in the fresh, warm air.
Things will get better, and the winter struggles will make us appreciate the warmth so much more the longer we struggle.
Around here, we are a living novel called "Upper Eastern USA 2014," and we are enduring the heavily conflict portion of the story. It's heavy, it's rough, but like most novels, conflict always leads to resolutions, change, and better days.
As such, we must keep all of this in remembrance even as we enter into the final weeks of winter. All human beings need sunlight to survive, but we also need the light that is brought to us in the form of the Holy Spirit, found only through our Lord Jesus Christ. As Christians, we are the ones who are carrying the lit torch. We are called to be a shining example to others, to love one another, and in that sense, we need to show others that we struggle just like the next person.
If you out there are struggling in any way, no matter how major or minor, remember: it does get better. You will get stronger and you will be able to overcome the obstacles in front of you. The saying goes "God will never give you something that you cannot handle." So take heart knowing that if you are dealing with something challenging, someone out there believes you can beat it.
Today is also known as, Daylight Saving Time, in North America. A day when most of us lose an hour of sleep when we turn our clocks ahead one hour, but also a day that we get to enjoy the sunlight for a longer period of time before it sets over the horizon.
When the sun does set at the end of the day, remember that it will rise again.
May the light of the Holy Spirit, however, never fade over your horizon. Keep that fire burning, even through the toughest of times, and remember, God is with you, always and forever.