Seasons of Life: ‘This, Too, Shall Pass’ — But God’s Work In Us Will Last

By Tom Gilson Published on December 14, 2019

Seasons. Advent and Christmas remind us that life has its rhythms, year by year. So does the turning of the leaves, and the falling of the snow.

But there’s another sort of seasons which we all experience. I don’t understand it fully, but things seem to come in waves. Silly things, sometimes. I have vivid memories of a six-week period when about 40 different things broke down in our home and cars. It averaged out to almost exactly one a day, day after day, week after week. At least one of those fixes took two of us several hours of work together.

All these breakdowns were unrelated to each other, and there was no discernible reason for them to cluster that way. It just seemed random. And pointless. I got so weary, spending so much time fixing things, instead of doing what I wanted to do — and then it stopped. Things quit breaking down on us. It was just a season, and then it was over.

Seasons of Calm

Advent-2019 candles seasonsSeasons come and go. For Sara and me it has been relatively calm the past couple of months (with emphasis on relatively). It’s like taking a breather, allowing our souls and bodies to catch up again. Catch up from what, you ask? I could give you the list, but our list isn’t the point. You’ve got a list of your own, whether it’s current experience or recent memory.

And obviously, I am grateful for relaxed times like these. I mean, no kidding, halfway through writing this article I walked out to the mailbox and brought in a check from the Ohio department of taxation. “Refund for Tax Year 2015,” it reads. I have absolutely no idea how they came up with that for us. It’s not a huge amount, but still, how often does that happen?!

“This, Too, Shall Pass”

So, yes, I’m grateful. Yet I know that this, too, shall pass.

That line echoes a story one of my undergrad professors told. It’s the tale of a king who wanted to have a wise answer for every report that was given him. He gathered his council of sages, and told them, “I need an answer. I mean I need one answer. I need one answer that will always sound wise, no matter the report I hear.” The sages went off to consult among themselves, and lo and behold, they came up with one: “This too shall pass.”

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Like the years, life itself has rhythms. Easier times follow harder times. We catch our breath, and then along comes something so excruciating we wonder if we’ll ever get through it. Yet somehow, even with the pain we carry from it, there comes a period of peace again. That’s the normal course of life, at any rate. Up, then down; easy, then challenging; soaring, then crashing, then gliding free again. “This too shall pass.”

God’s Soul-Building Life Rhythms

I’m sure that king’s attempt at “wisdom” didn’t last him long. That, too, must have passed, as people caught on. Not that the line itself is so wrong; everything passes, right? Except for this: Neither the king, the sages, nor my prof knew of God’s eternal nature. His Kingdom will never pass away. Neither will His word. And neither will the souls He is building us to be — those who will trust Him with their lives, that is.

And this leads me to believe God is doing something very intentional by taking us through our seasons. The clusters of challenges aren’t random. They’re God’s curriculum, course work for our souls. Times of testing give us much-needed training in character (James 1:2-4, Romans 5:1-5). Sometimes, too, however, we need the spiritual equivalent of spring break, or even summer vacation. God uses these rhythms to give us personal strength, and to establish us in that strength.

Building for Eternity

I’m convinced it’s all preparation for what will never pass — eternity with God. Advent is preparation for the same; not only for Jesus’ first coming but also for His expected return. And whatever God is building in us will be ours to carry throughout eternity.

So I’m grateful for the breather God has been allowing us, but I know it could end any time, even this afternoon, for all I know. For this, too, will certainly pass. But God’s course work in us will last. For this, I am grateful, too. May God grant me the trust in Him to keep on saying that as the seasons continue to change.

 

Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream, and the author of A Christian Mind: Thoughts on Life and Truth in Jesus Christ and Critical Conversations: A Christian Parent’s Guide to Discussing Homosexuality with Teens, and the lead editor of True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheism.

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