"Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." Nehemiah 8:10
The New Year has arrived with cold winds. When the sun makes a rare appearance, the ice crystals glint like diamonds in the snow. The land's harsh edges are softened. The snow blows about like powdered sugar, with drifts forming and reforming as the winds change direction. Amidst the cold, stand my three evergreens: my blue spruce (small but mighty) and two Austrian pines. Everything else is dead, or at least appears to be so. The grasses are buried under the snow and the sunflowers are skeletal remains along our road. If you didn't know better, you'd think we live in a wasteland.
It is desolate right now. The landscape is barren and rather foreboding. But my evergreens remind me of the beauty of the land to come in the spring. The green will return. The Lord has designed the planet to operate like clockwork, so I can trust the return of the spring.
The landscape of the nation is rather desolate now. It is winter in America. The cold winds blow. What is the Evergreen of our hope? It is God. Listen to the words of Habakkuk, who was told that punishment was coming to his beloved Judah:
16 I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.
The joy of the Lord is our strength, our evergreen tree of hope in the desolate winter landscape of these times. He gives us strength so we can stand in the snow, green and hopeful because of His faithfulness. We can remind each other of His presence, so we can "go on to the heights." We don't ignore the landscape, but we can stand in it with confidence. The days are hard, the days are dark, but we serve a mighty God!
One last thought: under the snow, the seeds sleep. The many bulbs that my son and I planted in the fall are still there, deeply buried in the frozen earth. When we had a few days of a rather warm sun a few weeks ago, one little plant dared to poke up through the forbidding snow and seek the sun. If we don't find ourselves as evergreens--yet--dare to lift up your head, look to His warmth, and seek the Son. Your efforts, even if you take them to be small, will encourage others. Whether tall or small, we are to live in this current landscape like we mean business--our Father's business.
Prayer: Lord, the days are dark, just like the depths of winter. Help me to be ever green, resting in You and trusting You to sustain me, so I can be truly joyful. Not with a joy born of ignorance, but a joy born of confidence in Who You are: the One Who loves us. In Your Son's most precious name, amen.