My father, a Naval officer, used to say, “Red at night, sailor’s delight. Red in the morning sailor’s warning.” I realized later that Jesus had said this same thing long before my father: “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” (Matthew 16:2-3) Jesus’ words speak to being able to tell what the times are about from “signs,” whether for one day or many. It is so important to discern the “times,” to recognize the spiritual seasons of life through which we pass.
Why Should You Know the Seasons of Life?
If we know that there are seasons to life and that they are temporary; if we know their characteristics, and how to deal with each season, we’ll pass through many experiences with so much more peace. That’s the reason to get familiar with the seasons of life.
I know I am not the first one to write about this, but unlike some others, I am not going to equate the natural seasons, winter, spring, summer, and fall to seasons of our lives. No, I’ve noticed four seasons I would name very differently and they are: the Wilderness, Warring, Winning, and Waiting seasons. They are spiritual seasons of life. Maybe you’ll be able to relate to them too.
Growing in the Wilderness Season
I love being in the wilderness. For me, “wilderness” is the Sonoran desert in the southwest United States. Hiking there takes real preparation because without water, perhaps mixed with electrolytes, and high energy snacks, sunscreen, a hat, and for me, trekking poles – walks can be very hard, even deadly.
Getting dehydrated, being bitten by a snake, falling from rocky ledges – so many things can happen. As a result, it is a real training ground for getting strong and savvy about hiking in the desert. Not only that, it is a place for deep spiritual reflection in the stark, dry surroundings which are actually teeming with life. Life that has learned to adapt.
What Does God Say to us in the Wilderness?
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” (Hosea 2:14 ESV)
God teaches us in the wilderness seasons of our lives how to live and thrive in what is coming next. We can see it in the life of King David. Years before he finally took the throne as the king, he spent many years in the wilderness learning lessons of survival, of leadership, of depending on God and seeking God’s leading.
It’s no different for us. Sometimes we may feel “set apart” or unseen. Chances are we are in the wilderness – God has not forgotten, demoted, or forsaken us. He is most likely training us and getting us ready for the next thing that may take more skill and wisdom. Relish the times when you feel set apart from others. You may some day look back on it and say, “I never felt closer to God. I had so much time to learn and soak in His presence.”
Doing Battle in the Warring Season
It’s important that you understand wilderness times or else you may mistake them for the warring seasons. What is a warring season? It is a time when you encounter so much opposition, so many setbacks. You may be ill, struggling financially, doing battle with several people or groups of people. This type of season brings with it a great deal of pressure.
Now you can get it confused with the wilderness season because you may feel isolated. Things that you valued doing may be taken from you through attack. Don’t confuse it with the wilderness season and see it as something God is orchestrating for you. A wilderness period may make you feel that you are not moving forward, but it will feel peaceful and you will recognize that you are growing.
A warring period, however, will feel turbulent and you will be able to see attacks from opposing people or forces. It is important to identify from where the attacks are coming so that you don’t blame God with words like, “God made me sick, God took my job away, etc. Rather, He is “our refuge and our strength, a very present help in times of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1 NIV)
The devil and his forces are our adversaries. People’s sins (including our own) are the things that trip us up. If we know this, we’ll seek God’s help and He will bring us through our battles.
Enjoying Blessings in the Winning Season
What prompted me to think about seasons was a conversation with Mimika Cooney on a recent episode of my podcast, Rooted by the Stream. Mimika is an author, leadership mentor, podcaster, and so many other things. She is also a wise woman!
We were talking about different seasons and learning to be patient and let God lead us. Mimika says she always operates on “hyper-drive” and is prone to getting way ahead of Him. She said, “I am like a dog riding in a car with my head out the window. ‘Let’s go, let’s go!’ I am saying, too impatient to wait on God.” That is her mood a lot of the time, she says.
But, there are other times when she resists leaving the past behind and moving on. She said, “I can tell when I have a season of grace.” (I call it a winning season.) Mimika says in these blessed times, everything goes well. She spoke of the 15 years that she had a photography studio. The pictures were beautiful, the clients delightful, and the camera always seemed to work. It was a time of favor and grace, a winning season. But, since there are spiritual seasons of life and times when God says, “Move on,” Mimika came to a time when the grace lifted – her camera had problems and many other things fell apart.
With those signs, she knew God was moving her on.
Resting and Healing in the Waiting Season
There is a fourth season, the season of rest.
I just received a prayer request from the daughter-in-law of a 78 year old pastor. This woman lives here in the US. Her father-in-law is a dynamic, unstoppable pastor in India. Unfortunately, he just suffered a stroke and now must take time off. How hard that may be for him!
I do not think for a moment that God caused the stroke. But, because of it, God is calling the pastor aside to rest and heal. Many times, even without a precipitating event like this, God instructs us to take some sabbath time, time to rest and heal.
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” Jesus said. (Matthew 11:28 NKJV)
I know many of us can get caught up in performing for God. We forget everything we have is by His grace. So, in our busy hearts and thoughts, we may say, “But I can’t stop. I can’t quit. Not enough has been accomplished.”
God wants you to know you can rest and labor with Him. Both are of value.
Final Thought on Spiritual Seasons of Life
I am sure we could think of other spiritual seasons of life if we “worked at it!” But these are the four major ones that come to mind. Truth is, they can overlap too, can’t they? We can be in a winning season – doing the right thing at the right time in the right way – and still have warfare come against us. These seasons don’t necessarily alternate.
But knowing when we’re in a wilderness of training and not seeing it as punishment or knowing it’s time to rest and God wants that for us – is so important. Being astute about the times and seasons brings us peace.
I’ll close with something I posted on Facebook ten years ago. It just popped up yesterday:
“Love the reading from Mike Bickle’s Loving God devotional book. I’m paraphrasing it. ‘If you love God and know that He loves you, you are a success regardless of the rest of what you see. The goal of life is to have a mature faith – the rest is…well, the rest.'”
And our different seasons carry us on toward this mature faith which is true success!
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