Thursday’s warm temperatures gave me hope that our upcoming winter would be mild. But my hope was shattered as I awakened today to temperatures in the mid-20s. The over-night rain ushered in a cold front that dropped our temperatures significantly. So much for global warming!!! And we are expecting our first winter storm Monday evening. I must admit that I prefer 90-degree temperatures to ice and snow.
For some of us as widows, winter seems to fit our mood right now. We are navigating one of the stages of the grieving process and seem to be stuck. The beautiful summer flowers are gone; the landscape is barren; the gray clouds hide the sun’s warmth, and spring seems an eternity away.
How do we escape the doldrums of life’s winters? We don’t! We embrace them as part of the process and look for beauty even when everything around us seems dead. I’ve planted many bulbs and perennials in my gardens, and I know from experience that they are alive in that black dirt and even in the process of multiplying, although I cannot see one sprig of green.
I can’t tell you how excited I get when my daffodils peek through the snow. For me, this demonstrates that even when life circumstances are at their darkest moment, God is at work producing new life and beauty. When we see the smallest indication that we are passing though one of grief’s trials, we should rejoice. The warmth of praise will produce further growth. The apostle Paul exemplifies this in Philippians.
Paul was in a Roman prison for sharing the gospel. We are unsure in which prison he was housed during the writing of this letter, but we know he was suffering greatly. It was so difficult that he longed for death (Phil. 3). Incarceration then was nothing like today’s prisons. He had to provide for his own food and necessities, was often isolated from others, and conditions were unsanitary. He may have been confined underground, making it impossible to see light. The believers in Philippi sent Paul help several times, and he thanks them in this letter for their generosity (Phil. 4:14). Most of all, this letter reflects Paul’s attitude under very challenging circumstances: JOY.
If our life is rooted in Christ, we can maintain a joyful attitude even when we are experiencing deep pain. Paul found joy through praying for and ministering to others. He did not ignore his situation. He even labeled the world around him as “crooked and depraved” (Phil 2:15). Paul told the Philippian believers to “rejoice always” (Phil. 4:4). And, just like Paul, we are able to “shine like stars” (Phil. 2:15) as we face our circumstances without “complaining or arguing” (Phil 2:14).