George Bowers Sr.: It’s that time of year
As I write this column, the mercury in my thermometer is more petite than it’s been the last several weeks and for this I am very grateful. Although we will still have some warm days, their numbers are getting fewer. I have enjoyed the summertime, but I’m always anxious for fall to arrive and I look forward to spending some time in the woods.
Cool September mornings warn us of even cooler mornings to come later in fall and winter that we need to prepare for now. Folks with oil and gas furnaces need to make sure their tanks are full and those of us with wood stoves had better be stocking our woodpiles. If we wait until the snow starts flying and the wind begins howling to cut our wood or call for a delivery, we are in for some very chilly nights.
The reality of approaching cold weather and the need to plan now should remind us to prepare for other stressful events in life as well. Illness, the death of a loved one, or the loss of a job are but a few of the cold periods that we all face from time to time. Unlike the predictability of the seasons, however, these often come with little or no warning so the need to be ever ready is great. In Proverbs, Solomon reminds us that a wise youth makes hay while the sun shines and that even ants are smart enough to gather food when it is available so they can still eat when it isn’t.
While we know how to get wood in and fill our fuel tanks, how do we get ready for these other challenges? Doesn’t their unpredictability actually prevent preparation? To be sure, some difficulties cannot be anticipated, but there are several ways we can and should stock our spiritual woodpiles for such events.
We can learn an important lesson from many homeowners who work at being perpetually prepared. They purchase supplies throughout the year and keep stocks on hand. Some buy generators for power outages and others have stores of water and non-perishable food. While none of us want to ever use these, if we wait until they are needed, it’s usually too late, resulting in inconvenience at best and severe loss and possible death at worst.
Spiritually, wise preparation involves maintaining a daily relationship with our heavenly Father through prayer and time in his holy word. It means not waiting until a disaster hits our lives to cry out for God’s help and mercy. Thankfully, he has promised to receive whoever comes to him through Jesus in faith believing, but it’s significantly easier to sense his presence and peace in tragedy if we’ve cultivated these with him through comparatively good times.
In addition, it’s important to develop relationships with other people. God never intended for us to live as hermits but rather placed us in community with others. Maintaining friendships with believers as well as good relations with family both help to provide strength when unexpected trouble hits.
We all like to imagine that nothing bad will ever happen to us, but the reality is that no one gets through life unscathed. As Longfellow reminded us, “Into each life some rain must fall.” We don’t escape the rain by pretending it will never come; we survive it by making prior preparations and persevering through it.
Most importantly, we must receive the forgiveness of sin and salvation that only Jesus can provide. No matter what storm may come our way, ultimately we’ll all encounter death one day if Jesus doesn’t return first. Ignoring this reality because it makes us uncomfortable will not delay nor prevent it. It will only hinder us from being ready. The time is now to prepare for the second date that will be chiseled into our tombstones by turning from our sins and receiving God’s grace and love.
As you prepare for the colder days ahead this fall, take the time to prepare spiritually as well, knowing that God can and will give us what we need to face whatever winter days may come.
George Bowers Sr. is the senior pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of seven books, including his devotional collection, “Blessings.” He can be reached through www.georgebowersministries.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.