When Winter Ends

When Winter Ends

Written on 05/03/2024
Jenna C. Hoff

As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner.


Under an evening sky slowly darkening, my family and I quietly walked through our neighborhood. The spring air bore a deep underlying chill that skulked over the last remnants of winter’s snow.

One of our young sons eagerly bounded ahead toward the longstanding neighborhood gathering point—a beloved community garden—and then sputtered to a hard stop.

The familiar haven of peace, rest, and flowers intermingled with carrots and birdsong had been replaced by gaunt heaps of dirt.

Gone were the happy neighbors, chatting together and planting seeds; gone were the wooden flower boxes. The dirt heaps stood like quiet graves, bearing empty witness to the desolation of a garden dismantled.

When our son confusedly ran back to us, we reminded him that over the winter, the garden’s land had been sold to a residential builder. The garden was no more. While we assured him that we’d find another place to plant flowers this spring, his sadness remained.

I’m struck by the significant parallels of this situation to Christian life.

While winter in my Canadian city is long and drawn out, equally dramatic is spring. After months of cold and snow, we revel in the return of warm sunshine and an earth refilling with flowers.

However, some years when winter ends, we discover we have been deeply scathed. It might be that months of heavy ice and snow caused underlying road, plant, or structural damage—or that over the winter, a beloved neighborhood garden was dismantled.

Similarly, in life, we sometimes emerge from difficult seasons profoundly changed, impacted, or scarred.

You might stand beside a beloved family member for months or years as they battle a serious illness until, one day, the Lord calls them home. As the acute period of deepest mourning begins to lift, you find yourself grappling with who you are now that your loved one is gone. You are forever changed. Where do you go from here?

Or perhaps you have worked incredibly hard for decades, counting down the years until retirement. Finally, the big day comes. The company buys you a cake and throws a goodbye party, from which you drive home wondering what on earth you are supposed to do next. You gulp a little as you ponder what retirement life will be like. Are there seeds to still be planted, new life to yet grow?

Maybe, like me, you live with disabilities and chronic health issues that have exacted a heavy cost. After years upon years of prayers for a healing that hasn’t come, you’ve reached a level of acceptance and determined that your health issues will not be your whole story.

In the face of my disability, I often wrestle with how to live with purpose, how to run well the race God has put before me while living in a disabled body wracked with pain.

Similarly, I often wrestle as a parent who adopts children and youth out of highly traumatic circumstances. In adulthood, one of my children continues to struggle immensely. For years, I did all I could—fighting for every possible resource or opportunity that might help my child, loving them with all I was. It wasn’t enough. My child’s transition into adulthood hasn’t heralded the independent, good life we long dreamed of, that we trusted and believed God for.

Instead, heartbreakingly, my beloved child has tried to fly and then crashed, tried to fly again and crashed again even harder—over and over and over again until finally they gave up on trying to fly and began to crash themselves repeatedly into the ground. To witness this is a unique form of parental heartbreak and desperation.

In those short seasons when my adult child’s life seems somewhat momentarily stable, even okay—sometimes it is then when my parental sorrow, anger, and pain over my child’s long-term suffering are the highest. This is when the emotions finally have the space to be expressed. It can be then that I most wonder where God is.

Sometimes, answers are hard to come by, not just in the difficult winter seasons of life, but in the spring seasons that follow, especially the ones in which we realize we have emerged changed and confused.

And yet, even then, God is still God—a loving God who remains at work in our lives no matter the season.

The difficult springs can be a time when we find the courage to sit back, listen, take stock, and prayerfully consider where God is bringing us next. In faith and trust, we can reach out to God as he walks alongside us and carries us in directions we couldn’t have fathomed during the winter months. This can be the beginning of deep, lasting change and growth that God begins to work in our lives and hearts.

Sometimes, this growth comes in the form of a remembrance and acceptance that our lives are not our own. Our calling and purpose aren’t to seek the good life but to love God and our neighbor with all we are, even when life is hard and we are scathed.

This realization helps me in my journey through the challenging days with my disability and health, and it also helps me in walking alongside my adult child in their struggles. While I know sorrow and pain at a different level than I ever dreamed, I’ve also learned more about what love is.

And I’ve learned much about trusting God even in the difficult springs, holding on to Philippians 1:6: "Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."