I was fortunate to be able to take a lovely vacation at the beginning of January, and because I’m not a person who travels much, I was surprised how much I struggled to reacclimate myself to my normal life. Upon returning home, I quickly jumped into making summer plans and scheduling camping trips so I could recapture that feeling of “getting away,” because I felt pretty down about the day-to-day grind of life, particularly life in a season where the negative temperatures make being outside totally unappealing. There’s a reason people sometimes use the term “winter” to describe a difficult season; one that is challenging, barren, desolate. There’s a reason people often plan tropical vacations in January!
Minnesotans are well acquainted with long, cold winters, and I’m told there are those who love them. For those of us who don’t, it can feel like a struggle to see the coming light of spring. I sometimes live like I’m simply burning up time until winter is over. How often am I warm and cozy inside my home, but numbing myself with my social media use, or by fixating on planning more fun?
We are all called to different things, but all of us are called to make the most of our time (Ephesians 5:6). We all experience life differently, but are all called to pray without ceasing, and rejoice in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Pastor Kelly and I were recently discussing the idea that our beliefs are the driving force beneath our thoughts, feelings, and actions. What I believe will dictate how I behave. So now I need to reconcile this with the things I just said I believe I’m called to. Do I really believe the goal of my life is to glorify God rather than to simply experience as much fun as I can? I don’t feel like rejoicing when I’m filled with longing for less responsibility and more fun. Am I really living life abundantly when I’m wishing the time away instead of using it to serve the people around me and to honor Christ?
In one of my favorite worship songs, we sing the lines, “My hope is hidden in the Lord, He flowers each promise of His Word. When winter fades - I know spring will come...” He has promised that all things work together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Just as surely as that includes our seasons of abundance AND of suffering, it must include our mundane seasons as well. There’s a purpose to my days, even when they all feel tedious and aren’t particularly exciting.
Last year I read a book in which the author briefly discussed the concept of leisure time as a Christian. He asserted that while there is nothing wrong with intentionally making time to relax or to do fun things, the problem is we are far more prone to being totally unintentional with our time. We pick up our phones to scroll mindlessly because we are overwhelmed with a task at hand. We do the bare minimum required to get through a day of work so we can spend the rest of our day “doing nothing.” We seek our own pleasure and enjoyment above all else, often at the expense of others. When I am totally honest with myself, I know many of my struggles are the result of my own selfishness keeping me from the good I ought to do.
Now that I have identified this tendency to be always looking ahead to the next fun thing and struggling to embrace the everyday, what do I do with this self knowledge? I believe living a life for Christ ought to be marked with joy in all seasons, even as I know that the Christian walk isn’t going to be “summer” all the time. I know there will continue to be challenges and trials in this life, but even on the coldest days of winter, all it takes is a short look around to remember all that God has done for me.
Here are a few of the things that come to mind as I consider what might help me become a more joyful person, who makes the most of my time:
-Praying daily that I would be filled with the Spirit, and enabled to see God’s hand at work in all things, especially the things I’m not naturally enthusiastic about.
-Looking for opportunities to serve my husband, my children, and those around me, so my focus would be less on my own leisure and comfort.
-Making it a priority to read the Word so that I can know God, be well versed in the promises I’m trusting Him for, and be reminded of all that He calls me to.
Regardless of our individual struggles, may we all pursue a life that is filled with joy and marked by service to Christ and others, no matter the season of life.