What Life's Seasons Teach Us
I think — and so, I’ll inevitably write — a lot about seasons.
Seasons of our friendships.
Seasons of our careers and businesses.
Seasons of our marriages.
Seasons of our parenting.
And so on.
Perhaps it’s the volatility of my life that has generated such thought. My wife and I have had three kids, lived in three cities, purchased two homes, and had a nice little collection of real-housewives-level “drama” in our lives just in the past five years — the first five of our marriage. The contrasts between my peaks and troughs have been intense, allowing me to survey and surmise a few [what I deem to be] interesting conclusions about the seasons we all experience, endure, and evolve through in life.
 Seasons of hardship produce empathy.
Rough seasons can feel much tougher in the moment than they seem on paper — you know, when we’re not enduring them.
Hardship, whether financial, relational, or otherwise, is never as related-to in others as pronounced and grueling when we’re the one in the trenches. Just like the undertow of a ghastly wave is unseen from aboard a floating vessel, the pains we experience from hardships witnessed “above water” are deeper and more tumultuous than other people can relate to.
We didn’t just get denied the job we wanted. It’s the fourth denial in as many months, and we begin doubting our skills. We begin doubting our worth, our potential, or whether our personality is a fit for the jobs we're going for.
We’re not just “fighting with our spouse.” What they said when the kid-gloves came off made us feel eight years old all over again — at the complete mercy of someone we love, vulnerable as ever, being mercilessly judged based on both our unhealthy experiences and theirs.
We aren’t just weathering “a tough financial season.” Our savings account is getting uncomfortably low. We're losing sleep at night as we visualize our children missing opportunities for growth and happiness due to our inability to make it happen. We’re enraptured with stress as our every effort to dig ourselves out seems only to dig us deeper into failure, loneliness, and self-doubt.
This is real, gut-wrenching pain. No longer is it in a headline as a statistic or breezed over at cocktail parties with our fellow social elites as a symptom of poor decisions amongst the less hardworking; it’s our life, our curse, our Goliath.
If any of these resonate with you, you're not alone. In fact, I have felt all these things at some point in my life. Please don't ever forget that just as Spring follows Winter, rough seasons end, but the difference between earth's nature and ours is that the next season's arrival depends on our belief in it. Just take one, simple, right step at a time, and you'll be out soon, my friend.
"...just as Spring follows Winter, rough seasons end, but the difference between earth's nature and ours is that the next season's arrival depends on our belief in it."
But despite our raw grasping of how difficult these seasons can be, it's odd how fast we forget their bitterness when that next season finally arrives. Perhaps when a wound heals, it forgets the salt that helped it heal. Our empathy will forever be limited by our experience.
Solution: Journal, at least weekly, and allow yourself to stray away from goals. Get into vending also. Be real with yourself about what you're going through. When things change, you can look back. We must always remind ourselves of what has been both gained and lost to stay both appreciative and humble.
 Seasons of comfort produce apathy.
Seven months ago, I finally reached the precipice of a bloody battle with career (and consequently, finances). I could say that it was a “hard fought victory” and to some degree, I’d be accurate, but the way that I finally reached that precipice was not of my own strategy, effort, or performance. I believe with every fiber of my being that it was handed to me by God once I had embraced the appropriate heart posture — “serve others, and trust in Me.”
You’d think that this odd means of attaining my current job would’ve produced an enduring sensitivity in me, but I admit that it hasn’t. I see myself committing acts with money that I promised myself I would never repeat when I accepted their offer. Here I am, entitled and comfortable and complaining-over-little-things all over again, just as I was and did before I entered the mental realm in which a role like this was embossed with gold.
What a fool!
We really are creatures of habit and comfort. When we don’t have, we want. When we have, we take for granted. The time-lapses between our desperation and our entitlement are far too acute, and I’m the perfect example of that.
The time-lapses between our desperation and our entitlement are far too acute.
Solution: In dry seasons, tell others what you wish you could do to help others in your situation. Make plans to turn around, serve, and stay close to the issues you're currently facing by giving others the right to hold you accountable. You will forget, but if you have true friends, and you confide in them well, you will not be allowed from growing apathetic.
 They all grow us if we allow them to.
We cannot resent the seasons -- and that includes even our dramatizations of their contrasts. These fluctuations are natural, organic, and fair. They all serve a purpose.
Spring — a season of planting, waiting, and hoping — cannot last forever. Whether our efforts lead to thriving crops or unmet expectations, they are worth it -- we're paid our portion either tangibly or intangibly. Spring plays its role and we must play our role in Spring, the latter of which produces endurance, faith, and nobility in our hearts.
Whether our efforts lead to thriving crops or unmet expectations, they are worth it -- we're paid our portion either tangibly or intangibly.
Another product of Spring is the aforementioned empathy — something that whispers to us in passing in the future through others’ stories but originally screamed into our eardrums as part of our own story. Just like the most promising seeds a farmer plants before the season rains, our empathy can still get covered, and perhaps it just takes time to take root.
Spring is beautiful in that while unbounded growth is potential, nothing is promised. After all, if we all knew for certain that our efforts would result in success, would they be rewarding efforts at all?
Fall — a season of harvesting, charity and thanksgiving — cannot last forever. If it’s a rewarding and luxurious season, we should drink in its riches and thank God for the season with full knowledge of its temporal nature (again, a rule). A wise harvester knows that in some years, the rain did all the work, and in others, no amount of rain can blossom their most prudent efforts. There is an odd, rarely-proclaimed peace in knowing that our efforts cannot wholly dictate our experiences.
A wise harvester knows that in some years, the rain did all the work, and in others, no amount of rain can blossom their most prudent efforts.
And so while our comforts can soften our passions to change the world and relate to others in hardship, the very fact that our comfort was given to us can encourage us, remind us that we’re not the only Farmer, and show others that their fortunes may change along with the next season.
Instead of trying to bend yourself to navigate each season of life with a consistent posture, try to embrace each season for what it is. Do your best to assess both your behaviors and perspectives while you weather its unshakable rhythms.
As for me, I will ease the self-judgement of enjoying my current season. I will be both grateful for, and responsible with, the assets I’ve been afforded, but I will remember that another Winter is indeed coming and that I am not in its full headship.
That truth ripens my appreciation for today, my preparation for tomorrow, and my remembrance of how small I am (yet still loved).
Let’s trust the seasons, cut ourselves a little slack as we lean into their contrasts, and relish the sweet, predictable unpredictability of life.
Would we want it any other way?
Some questions for those trying to grow...
What season are you in right now?
If it's a dark one, how is it making you stronger?
If it's a brilliant one, how could you help brighten someone else's?