Jesus came to earth and, through His cross and His grave, set everything right. But He left many things unfixed for the moment, things we cannot expect to change. Christine Hoover has lived practically her entire life trying to avoid or fix what Jesus left unfixed, figuring if she tried just a little bit harder, took firmer control, prayed harder, or willed up just a bit more faith, she’d finally wrestle her life into order. Perhaps, she thought, by doing so, she could bypass pain. But to bypass pain is to bypass the beauty of redemption; it’s to bypass God, something she learned soon enough. In her new book, Searching For Spring: How God Makes All Things Beautiful in Time, Christine reminds us that we aren’t meant to be completely fulfilled on this earth. We are instead meant to be wait-ers in this perpetual winter, waiting to see with our eyes how God is turning all things beautiful. It’s a grace to welcome Christine back to the farm’s front porch today…
In the middle of January, the days are short; pitch-black darkness descends before I’ve even finished preparing dinner.
The heater kicks on often, and on the days when I can’t escape the chill, I stand over the floor grates and feel the warm air pushing up through my wool socks.
The excitement over rediscovering the new scarf I tucked away the previous winter has long waned, the overcast days and bare trees fill me with hunger for the sun and for color.
In early March, I will stand at the kitchen window, feet on the floor grate, searching for signs of spring.
Our souls know this life, a hand-me-down from Adam and Eve, as a type of winter, as a searching and even groaning for spring. We long for release from barrenness; we long for growth and renewal when all we see around us is death.
Last fall, with winter coming on the horizon, I collapsed in tears in my closet.
One moment I’d been putting away clean laundry and the next I was on my knees, crying for reasons I couldn’t understand.
My body felt heavy, my tears uncontrollable, because I was weary, the kind of weariness you feel in your bones.
My life, in perpetual motion, came to a crashing halt—against a wall it felt—and my heart cracked on impact.
Spilling out through its cracks were thought patterns and beliefs I hadn’t known were there—thoughts and beliefs that had taken me on travels so far from peace and rest I’d forgotten my true home.
Echoes of Adam and Eve’s uttered words had passed from my own lips: Perhaps I am my own god. Perhaps I know better what is beautiful and good.
Suddenly, in pieces on the ground, I could see it all for what it was. A type of spiritual death had come, and I’d made the wreckage myself.
I’d believed I was a messiah, a savior.
I’d believed keeping people happy was primary; I’d fashioned them into my created gods.
I’d believed I needed to be strong at all times and without physical limits, as only God Himself is.
At the realization that my life had become joyless, I sobbed tears onto the closet floor.
I’d lost sight of beauty.
For the days following, I couldn’t seem to find it. Something dramatic had occurred but I couldn’t yet see what it was. In that darkness, I felt despair over the state of my soul. I felt deserted by God, for no truth comforted.
I wondered if I was going crazy.
I am not alone in my winter.
All of us, at some point in our lives, come to a place where the reality of our existence is so stark, so dark, we wonder if we’ll ever know joy again.
Must this be the depth to which Adam and Eve fell after knowing perfect contentment? The ground under them must have groaned as sin infected all of creation. We, too, as products of that infestation, live with similar groaning.
Though we are wretched in our sin and creation groans under the burden, the residual beauty speaks just as it did at the dawn of time.
All of it still speaks about God—He exists, He is powerful, He is active, and He is beautiful. Even the decay of our groaning world communicates about Him.
Fall turning to winter: death comes for each of us.
Winter itself: a large portion of life is waiting by faith.
Winter turning to spring: there is a very real hope for new life after death.There is a time for death, but there is also a time for birth. Our hearts, though heavy, need not despair.
We, too, are residual beauty from the beginning. The design of our physical bodies—just our skin alone, without seam or hem and able to renew itself in time—tells of our first parents.
Our hearts, though sickened and shriveled by sin, are locked in a time when creation was not yet marred— we are beauty seekers and beauty creators as Adam and Eve were.
We still carry in ourselves the image of God, and our creativity and search for unseen realities still compel us forward.
Creation, in other words, began the persistent drumbeat that continues to this day. We must bend our ears to hear what it speaks of God, especially as we endure this long, cold winter.
The lizard with severed tail able to grow a new one, a sea star with severed arm able to regenerate what was lost, a forest taken out by fire able to start anew, a body that has lost blood able to restore its supply.
What do these natural occurrences say to each of us who come with bended ear?
God is still creating beauty.
In fact, He is creating now a beauty that didn’t exist at the earth’s birth but that only began after Adam and Eve’s devastating decision.
It is the beauty of redemption, and because God is still creating, He is at this very moment weaving this beauty in us.
What a thought. God is currently revealing His greatest artistic accomplishment, and we ourselves are the medium.
Are we seeking?
All may seem lost, but, in fact, the past tells us there is unfolding beauty to behold in the present, beauty that will send us to our knees with arms raised like the apple trees: if there is a time to die, there will be a time of rebirth as well.
I discovered this myself after a few days of unexplainable tears, of giving myself to physical rest and crying out to God in repentance and sorrow over where I’d traveled.
I recognized that the wall I’d run into had been put there by God Himself. He hadn’t deserted me at all; He loved me enough to carefully restore my joy.
He also wanted me to know His beauty once again and how much he wanted to create new beauty in me.
To get there, I would need to engage the process—the painful, wringing process of repentance and change. From death to new life.
I clung to the belief that God can bring beauty from the ashes, that my faith and obedience could be the soil from which He would one day produce pleasant fruit.
Mostly, I clung to the belief that God is the Artist-Creator, writing the beauty of redemption in my life.
All my other hopes had shattered, but this one remained.
Christine Hoover is a pastor’s wife, mom, speaker, and the author of From Good to Grace, Messy Beautiful Friendship, and The Church Planting Wife. She has written for The Gospel Coalition, Desiring God, and Christianity Today.
In Searching for Spring, Christine Hoover takes you on a treasure hunt for beauty in both familiar and unexpected places. She tells us what God’s spoken to her in her own pain: His loving eye is right now on the broken-down, the ones who know beyond all knowing how spiritually poverty-stricken they are. If that is you, He has so much to say, and it all begins with, “Blessed are you.” Because the beauty of His grace and truth can richly fill the emptiness in your poverty. He only asks you to shift your eyes from tangible pain to an invisible hope. If you are in the midst of suffering, if you find your faith withering, if you are questioning whether God is at work–or even present–as you wait for something in your life to become beautiful, this book will be a welcome reminder that God never stops his redemptive work . . . and that there is a time for everything under heaven.
[ Our humble thanks to Baker for their partnership in today’s devotion ]