Thursday, January 23, 2020

Winter Beauty

An Arkie's Faith column from the January 23, 2020, issue of The Mena Star.

What is your favorite season? I've always been a big fan of spring. There is nothing like the anticipation of springtime after three long months of winter. Crisp air, budding trees, greening grass, and blooming flowers make spring an amazing time. I have never liked winter. Short days and cold weather put me in a bad mood. My favorite thing about winter is that it signals that spring is on the way.

Even though winter isn’t my favorite time of the year, I find that winter can be beautiful. A fresh snowfall makes any landscape delightful. What is under the snow might be ugly, but the snow hides any blemishes and makes everything pure and white. God does the same thing with each of us. We may have a sordid past. We may not be currently living as we should. But God longs for us to ask for forgiveness so that he can cover our sins. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Isaiah 1:18 (KJV)

Have you ever been pleasantly surprised when you woke up and looked out your window to see snow covering the landscape? A dull and dreary day unexpectedly transformed into a beautiful winter day blanketed with snow. As I write this, our area hasn’t seen any snowfall, but that doesn’t mean that we haven’t had some winter beauty.

A week ago, a major storm made its way through Arkansas. It started with temperatures in the upper 60’s with heavy rain, thunder, lightning, and possible tornadoes. The following day, temperatures dropped into the 20’s and 30’s. The roads remained clear, but a thin layer of ice coated some trees. When temperatures in our area are hovering around the freezing mark, it is usually a few degrees colder on the Talimena Drive going to Queen Wilhelmina State Park. We decided to drive to the park and see the sights.

As we drove out of Mena and gained elevation, it became very foggy, and white frost covered the trees. Bare and seemingly lifeless trees turned into marvelous works of art. The fog and the trees changed the landscape into a mystical, magical place. The fog, ice, and frost filled the mountain with winter beauty.

I enjoy a bit of fog; it turns the world into a surreal landscape. But driving in a heavy fog can be frightening. You must slow down and be very alert. Faith is like driving in the fog. As we go through life, we don’t always see what’s right in front of us. Like a drive on a foggy day, life is revealed to us little by little. We can’t see into the future. God wants us to slow down and to make each action carefully and deliberately. He doesn’t want us to get in a hurry. That’s when accidents happen. We must trust that we will get to where God wants us to be when His timing is right.

Although a snowstorm makes the landscape look clean, white, and beautiful, driving in a heavy snowstorm isn’t any fun. I grew up in Colorado and experienced lots of snow and cold weather. I can still remember how frightened I was the day that I experienced a Colorado blizzard. When I headed home from work that day, the snow was coming down hard. Soon the snowfall was so heavy that visibility was almost zero. As I inched my way along, I frequently stopped the car and got out to find the edge of the road. I knew that if I slipped off the road, I would never be able to get out. My progress was very slow, and the storm intensified as time went on. I ended up being stuck and stranded for a few hours before I was able to make it home. It was a frightening experience.

“Faith assures us of things we expect and convinces us of the existence of things we cannot see.” Hebrews 11:1 (NOG) When you drive in a blizzard or fog at night, your headlights can only illuminate a few feet in front of the car. It creates tension and fear. What if there’s something I can’t see? What if the road turns and I miss it? High beams that help you to see farther when it’s clear, only make the situation worse. To feel safe, you must drive slowly and carefully. True faith is finding certainty in uncertain times. It is learning to trust God in the patches of fog that happen in everyone’s life.

To have faith is to believe that God is with you, whatever your circumstances are, whether life is going smoothly, or you are experiencing the foggiest night of your life. When the foggy night comes, we are not alone. In Psalms 32:8 (NIRV), God makes this promise to you; “I will guide you and teach you the way you should go. I will give you good advice and watch over you with love.”

Gentle Reader, in our lives, we need to stay constantly connected to God. If we put our faith in God, we will be okay. The confusion of a foggy night or a blizzard may come, but we can trust that God will guide us through. Don’t panic because you can’t see into the future. Don’t let the fear of the unknown unnerve you. God knows your future. He has promised to guide you. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) Trust God to guide you through the storms of life, and to get you where you’re going right on time. “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.” Psalms 119:105 (NAB)

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