We watch chickadees flutter above the deck, and the snow melts all over again for the sixth time this winter. It seems that exactly when we start to believe things are looking up – right when the jade flecks of grass reemerge through the mantle of white – a bitter north wind descends and everything alive turns back to ice again.
These storms just keeping rolling in, one right after another, and I wrap Caleb in a blanket on my lap as we watch the chickadees out the window. I find that in winter, I like to place my hope in the promise that spring will come again. I like to dream of warmer days and children splashing in baby pools and the sun darkening my ashen skin as we rest on the sandy bank of a creek somewhere.
When the storms rage on, it’s tempting to put our hope in the light at the end of the tunnel – the calm that comes after the storm. It’s tempting to close our eyes and dream of a different season when the cares of today are washed away. It’s tempting to put all of our hope in the coming day when the painful diagnosis is reversed, when the broken relationship is restored, when the grief finally lifts, when we can buy a new puppy to replace the one we lost, when the long-awaited vacation provides a reprieve from the grueling pace of ordinary life.
Watching the chickadees, I’m reminded that my hope doesn’t rest in the promise that my circumstances will improve. Circumstances might improve, but there really aren’t promises that things will turn out exactly as we hope. Hope doesn’t rest in the promise that vacation will be refreshing, winter will turn to blissful spring, or wrongs will be made right in this lifetime. Hope rests in this: Jesus has promised that he will be with us always (Matthew 28:20).
Hope built solely upon improved circumstances is likely to become hope deferred. The hope that anchors me is the fact that Jesus is with me in the winter seasons of my life just as he is with me in the warm season of summer. He is with us in the sorrow, the uncertainty, and the fear, and he is with us in the joy, the celebration, and the victory.
Our circumstances might improve. But if they don’t, we hold onto hope when we cling to the One who promises to walk with us through it all. We let the hard times come and refuse to be offended that he permitted the hard times, we trust that he really won’t leave us, and we believe he’ll use the winter seasons to make us more like him.
When we’re not certain of where to turn in the midst of the winter storms, he invites us to find shelter in the comfort of his wings. In the shadow of his wings, we find refuge, kindness, love, security, protection, and joy. Yes, even joy . . .
We find refuge in the shadow of his wings
Psalm 57:1 reads, “Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, For my soul takes refuge in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until destruction passes by”
We find kindness and tender love in the shadow of his wings
Psalm 36:7 reads, “How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.”
We find security in the shadow of his wings
Psalm 17:8 reads, “Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Your wings”
We find a shield in the shadow if his wings
Psalm 91:4 reads, “He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.”
We find joy in the shadow of his wings
Psalm 63:7 reads, “For You have been my help, And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.”
Winter carries on here, and the chickadees keep searching for food. We wrap ourselves in another blanket and claim the joy that comes when learn to rest in the shadow of his wings.