I have never been a big fan of winter. I do enjoy that first snowfall and the beauty of its transforming power on the land. I love to see it falling during the hunting season because it easily marks the movement of any deer in my area. I enjoy its beauty at Christmas as it sets the tone for the holiday season. Snow paints the landscape for all that is about to come. That being said, once Thanksgiving and Christmas are past and January is well under way, my vision is set on the lengthening days ahead and the final arrival of Spring. In short, I am ready for the sun to come out, warm the land, and bring everything back to life once more.
As I sit here writing this particular entry it is March 18th. Last year on this very day I was enjoying my early-morning time with the Lord and a cup of hot coffee on my back sun porch. It was 64 degrees and the sun was shining in on my freshly planted garden. Life was as it should be! Today, the temperature outside my window is 1 below zero. A record-breaking snow-filled, bone-chillingly cold winter has been followed by a record-breaking, bone-chillingly cold spring. The maple sap production is down by 60% and so is the hope of everyone I meet. Many are angry with the weather man, not that it’s his fault, and cabin fever is at an all-time high. Every place I go people are still bundled up and I hear the familiar sound of “when is it going to warm up?”
This long delay in spring has not just hit the hearts of the people, it has hit their wallets as well. Fuel consumption has been way above normal. Heating bills nearly doubled this winter and spring for many home owners. I had to sit down myself when I opened our last gas and electric bill for the past 30 days. At a time in the year when we should be turning off the furnace and opening the windows for spring cleaning, I am still paying hundreds of dollars above normal to our service providers to keep my house warm and my pipes from freezing. Spring, oh Spring …. where have you gone?
Proverbs 13:12 gives a clear and accurate assessment of the human heart when something it longs for has been delayed for no apparent reason. We as humans have our own ideas about how things should go, and when that fails to happen we can quickly sink into despair. This is what the Bible calls being heart sick. We begin to look at our circumstance and magnify it above the God who loves us and is in control of the situation. Yes “hope deferred makes the heart sick”, but that scripture goes on to say, “but when desire comes, it is a tree of life”.
So the question I have to ask is “how does this apply to the deep freeze we are now suffering through”? How could this possibly end up being a tree of life? What I discovered was quite amazing because it literally is being fulfilled in my own front yard. You see, I have four large, 200 year old Ash trees that shade my house in the summer and let the sunlight in during the winter. However, over the past few years it has been so warm that some type of disease has actually been killing them. Last year the one on the west end of my lot was so bad that it had to be cut down.
What really upset me was that I saw signs of the same issue beginning to happen on the other Ash trees that shade the south side of my house. So last fall my wife and I prayed that God would show us what to do to prevent the loss of these last three beautiful trees. The answer came in a most unexpected way. It came in the winter and spring that we just experienced. Apparently what was killing my trees does not do well in subzero weather. In fact the bitter cold we experienced (and are still experiencing), is what keeps ash trees healthy.
Hope has indeed been deferred, but for a good reason! Had it not been so cold, all my Ash trees would have suffered the same fate. However, when my desire for warm weather is finally fulfilled, it will most certainly be a tree of life, right in my own front yard. Now that I know there is a great blessing that awaits me at the end of this long cold winter, it makes all the difference. Could it be that this is what God is wanting us all to do when we hit a wall of delayed hope? It may still be 1 below zero outside my window on March 18th, but now I see the cold as an answer to my problem, not a problem to be answered! My question for you is simple: “Is your situation a problem to be answered or an answer to your problem”?