When Your Future Feels as Bleak as Winter

I don’t know what the weather’s like where you are, but here in southwest Michigan the trees have donned their coat of many colors, the air is bursting with the delicious aroma of nearby vineyards, and the sun is growing lazier and lazier with each passing day.

Fall has always been my favorite season. Growing up in Arkansas, it was the first sweet relief from sweltering summer days when I could finally enjoy that open-window weather and drink hot beverages without breaking into a sweat. The vibrant colors, the beginning of college football, pumpkin everything. I’m big fan of it all!

Until this year.

As the first days of September crept into view, I found myself dreading any signs of autumn. I became an autumn scrooge but couldn’t understand why.

I thought maybe it was because I moved north and realized that although the colors and cool breeze are lovely, the season is accompanied by a dread of something sinister—winter. But even that, I discovered, was not the true reason for my cranky attitude. It wasn’t the actual farewell to summer that I wasn’t ready to face; it was a new life season I was hiding from. That “season” was a difficult diagnosis I received in August that to me looked as bleak as a sunless day mid-January.

It’s one thing to deal with a harsh, new reality when the sun is shining and the flowers are blooming and everything outside is at peace even when my heart is not. But the thought of entering into a Michigan winter with this burden was, quite frankly, terrifying.

Fear of the Coming Frost

Facing an unknown is nearly always intimidating. We all like to be in control and know what to expect and how to prepare. So when thrust into a new situation armed with just enough information to frighten me, I reach for the eject button. If there’s a way to get out of a difficult scenario, I will look for it like Winnie the Pooh in search of honey. But even when I’m tempted to flee, I have to remember that an escape route isn’t God’s planned pathway for me.

Out of the bitter darkness of winter is birthed vibrant new life.

Embracing this new season of life meant giving up control of my health. And I did not want to let it go. I clung to “summer” like my life depended on it, because that’s exactly how I felt, like my life was dependent upon a season of robust health, warmth, and sunshine. I was upset that God had chosen to take away my vitality and replace it with a disease. I didn’t want to walk through a harsh, cold season in the prime of my life. I didn’t want to be dependent on God. I didn’t want to be broken.

But God is using this season of fear to remind me of His truth. Out of the bitter darkness of winter is birthed vibrant new life. You cannot have one without the other. And while I’d rather spend my days basking in the summer sun, for now He’s asked me to wear a cloak of trust as He leads me through a dim, cold valley.

Don’t Panic!

What season in your life are you dreading? Do you look ahead to college, motherhood, or old age and shrink back in fear?

If you’re fearful of your future, more than likely the problem is not what first meets the eye. It’s not that you don’t like taking tests, it’s that you’re afraid of failure. It’s not that you think you’d be a terrible wife or mother some day, it’s that you crave independence. Just like my sudden aversion to my favorite time of the year was not about the weather but my lack of trust in my Creator.

As I processed my emotions, God helped me realize that in my frenzy to fight off fall, I was missing the beauty of the present season. It’s as if He said, “Don’t panic. It’s not even winter yet! Enjoy the season I’ve placed you in, and be content here.”

God’s Word tells us that there is a season (and a reason) for everything in life. In Ecclesiastes 3:1–8, we read that there is:

  • a time to be born, and a time to die.
  • a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted.
  • a time to kill, and a time to heal.
  • a time to break down, and a time to build up.
  • a time to weep, and a time to laugh.
  • a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
  • a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together.
  • a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing.
  • a time to seek, and a time to lose.
  • a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
  • a time to tear, and a time to sew.
  • a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.
  • a time to love, and a time to hate.
  • a time for war, and a time for peace.

Written out like that, it all sounds very matter of fact. But what happens when you’re blindsided by a time of mourning in the middle of your dance? What if it’s time to speak up but you want to remain silent? How do you handle war when your heart craves peace?

God’s timing is not always ours. His ways are so far above ours that we simply cannot comprehend all that He is.

God’s timing is not always ours. His ways are so far above ours that we simply cannot comprehend all that He is. He is so much greater than our understanding that He sees beyond this miniscule point in time (that for us is all-consuming) and can genuinely act with our best interest in heart. That’s why the apostle Paul could endure imprisonment, beatings, and rejection and still say “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

So as the temperature continues to drop and the leaves begin to fall, I’m reminded of the grace available to me to face the future and I thank God for it. I may not always look with eagerness to what lies ahead, but I know I can trust the very capable hands of the Shepherd who will lead me through it all season long.

How about you?

  • Is there something that lies ahead that you’re dreading?
  • Is there a season that feels especially scary to you?

Tell me about it in the comment section below.

About Author

Leanna Shepard

Leanna began serving on staff with Revive Our Hearts in the summer of 2014. Though originally from Arkansas and now residing in Michigan, her citizenship is in heaven, having been adopted as daughter of the King at age ten. She loves a cup of hot tea with a good book, experimenting in the kitchen with a new recipe, and cheering for the St. Louis Cardinals.

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