Seasons in Life

We walk through different seasons, both literal seasons (Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall) and seasons that encompass a specific period in our lives. These seasons can change with a new job, the birth of a child, or even as we age. Sometimes the seasons change subtly, like following a conversation with a friend or after reading a book. Other times they change more dramatically, like after the death of a loved one or after receiving a difficult medical diagnosis.

Three years ago, I was brought into a season riddled with chronic pain brought on by an autoimmune disease called ankylosing spondylitis (an inflammatory arthritis of the spine). It forced me to relearn how to live life in a more slowed down, gentler version than I was used to. There were times during those years when having my devotions and even praying were hard. This created a feeling of distance in my relationship with God. However, in the midst of that, I had a few key verses that I kept repeating to myself, so that I was regularly reminded of God’s faithfulness. One is Deuteronomy 31:6 (ESV), “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

During this season I learned to take things moment by moment, and God continually revealed to me how intricate and complex his creation of our bodies is—how they can heal, how they process the world around us, and how they can hold onto emotions and feelings that have not been fully processed. These unprocessed emotions can wreak havoc on how we feel and how we view other life experiences. These emotions can cause our pain receptors to fire randomly and tempt us to stop listening and paying attention to what we need to hear and do. This was part of my issue with chronic pain. While I have physical pain, I am also dealing with the emotional baggage attached to it. What I’ve found is that once these emotions get trapped, they can start altering the way I feel, think, and process what is happening around me day to day.

We as humans rely on our feelings to help us understand, process, and react to what we experience in our lives each day. Feelings can help protect us from danger, form a connection with someone else, and even help us decide the next steps to take in a decision we are working through. But feelings can also sometimes lead us astray and leave us questioning the choices or decisions we need to make or have made. Feelings aren’t always honest and trustworthy. Feelings can give us a false sense of security if we spend too much time ignoring them, and they can completely immobilize us if we allow them to inundate us.

What I’ve realized through this journey is that if I use my human sense of feelings to judge my attachment to God, it places God in a box and limits my view of what he is capable of doing in my life. God does not work solely in the realm of our human understanding. He is all powerful, all knowing, and ever present. We can only understand how he works as far as he gives us the understanding to do so, and that’s a good thing.

Another truth this season of life has brought to the surface for me is that sin separates us from God. That means that any unprocessed guilt—guilt that hasn’t been brought to the Lord—will give us the feeling that God isn’t close to us. But that is the enemy sowing seeds of doubt. The more we dig into God’s Word, the more we are reminded that he is ever present regardless of what we are feeling. He is constantly pursuing us and reminding us of his love, his grace, and his mercy. He tells us in 1 John 1:9, that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” The Holy Spirit uses passages like this to encourage us to unburden ourselves and leave those feelings of guilt, doubt, and shame at the cross, where they were crucified.

Sometimes when we are in a season where we are feeling distant from God, we can benefit from “changing the tape” (a phrase my mother used a lot). This can mean slowing down and taking in only a verse or two at a time when we do our devotions and then concentrating more on spending time in prayer. We might need to listen to the Bible being read to us while we sit and meditate on what is being spoken over us. Other times, instead of using prewritten Bible or book studies, we may find benefit in just digging through Scripture itself, verse by verse, chapter by chapter. All these ideas remind us of God’s promises and help us stay connected to him.

Each one of us, at one time or another, will feel distant from God, but that does not mean that God is far away. He promises numerous times throughout Scripture to be near to us. Psalm 113:5-6 encourages us by asking, “Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?”

What a fantastic reminder that God cares so much about us that he stoops down to be a part of every season of our lives. Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is proof of that. So, no matter what you are going through, take comfort in knowing that God is near to you, he is listening to you, he is hearing your prayers, and he is responding in his perfect timing. These truths are what empower me to echo what is written in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Lindsay Natale is Secretary of the Eastern Region of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren and a member of Faith Chapel in Cranston, Rhode Island.

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