Will winter ever end? Encouragement for surviving an endless season of wandering in the wilderness.
Each winter, there comes a point where the chants begin. Can you hear them? I’ve been hearing it in my ears for a while now. It’s time for spring. It’s time for spring. It’s time for spring. The rhythm and cadence continue to echo in my ears; it builds into the sound of an angry mob and my voice joins in.
It’s that time of year when we feel like we’ve been enduring winter for an eternity. We know there’s an end, but it’s not in sight. After another day of being stuck inside, more snow, and a round of illness, I found myself wondering if this is what the Israelites felt like? Surely during all that time in the desert, they felt the urge to move on to the next season. Surely their hearts chanted bring on the promised land, bring on the promised land. I opened my Bible to Exodus to find out how they handled their endless season.
They wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. They, too, knew there was an end in sight. God had delivered them from the hands of the Egyptians and promised them a land flowing with milk and honey. And how did they handle the waiting?
They complained and they forgot.
“In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron” (Exodus 16:2). Well, we have that in common. I find myself grumbling, too. Complaining about the cold, complaining about the snow, complaining about all the illness, complaining about being stuck inside, complaining A LOT.
The people of Israel not only complained, but they also forgot. “But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, ‘Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?’” (Exodus 17:3). They focused on their current situation and forgot how the Lord had rescued them from slavery. They forgot He crushed their enemies in the Red Sea. They forgot He miraculously provided enough manna for each day. Am I like the Israelites in this, too? Have I forgotten?
Yes, I, too, have forgotten. I have forgotten about the drought-like conditions last summer that left cracks in our yard and that the snow I’ve come to dread is nourishing the ground where my garden will grow in a few months. I have forgotten that God has provided a warm home where, with the touch of a button, I can make it feel like the summer heat. I have forgotten that each time someone in my family has come down with a stomach bug, fever, or cold they have made a complete recovery. In this way, too, I can relate to God's people wandering in the wilderness.
As we look at the Israelites, we see ourselves stuck in the middle of winter. And what can we learn from them? Even in the midst of wandering, God was with the Israelites. He provided, He loved, and He was merciful. And even in the midst of our endless winter, He provides, He loves, and He is merciful to us. While we will not wake up tomorrow morning to green grass and warm sunshine, we will wake up to another day with the Lord. We will cling to the hope that winter will end. We can be reassured that our Lord will remain beside us through the day of delivery as He was with the Israelites. We can remember His promise, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5b).
Sometimes our endless winter comes in the form of cold, snow, and illness. But, sometimes, we encounter a different type of wandering — through difficult circumstances, grief, long-term illness, family struggles, addiction, or loneliness. And through those seasons we will complain, and we will forget, but our Lord will still be with us. His promise will still be true: He will never leave us or forsake us. There is a promised land, and when we get there, like the Israelites, we will be able to look back and see all the Lord has done.
“It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our parents up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. And the Lord drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God” (Joshua 24:17-18).
When spring finally arrives, we will breathe deep the fresh air of new life. And as we exhale, we will speak into the sunlight, “We too will serve the Lord, because He is our God.”
Lord, sustain us through this season. Lift our eyes to you so that our spirits may be lifted, too. Forgive us for the complaining and forgetfulness. Thank You for Your presence, Your love, Your provision, and Your mercy. Lord, bring us through this season. We will serve You, Lord, because You are our God.
In Jesus Name,