Southern California does not have seasons like most of the rest of the country. The temperature in Los Angeles stays pretty even all year round. But we do have periods of the year where it rains, and periods when it usually doesn’t. We have periods when the winds blow harder than at other times, and we have times when we are more likely to suffer from wild fires. So while we may not have the radical changes of the traditional winter, spring, summer and autumn, there are still noticeable differences between July and January.

Life has seasons and like Southern California, they do not fall into four neat categories; nor do they follow any particular pattern. One cannot experience something in life and then think, well spring is coming or “after this, it’s going to be winter.” Still, the concept of “seasons of life” is a useful analogy.

We sometimes say, “Into each life a little rain must fall.” Sometimes that feels more like a flood, to maintain the Southern California analogy. And then we get hit with the mudslides and forest fires.

With any crowd of people, we can probably arrange them into three seasons: one section will be metaphorically sunning themselves on the Riviera, their lives near to perfect as they can get. Another section will be watching their umbrella tumble down the road as they get drenched in a monsoon. But the bulk of the people will simply be sitting in an office, a half drunk coffee gone to lukewarm on their desk, and a small stack of papers in their inbox: they are largely content, they have a few problems but nothing beyond managing, and life is sort of ordinary. That’s where we all live most of the time: bills to pay, children to get to soccer games, short of time and long on things to do. Everything is mildly hectic and we’re looking forward to a break on the weekend. Tonight we expect to kick back on the couch, watch some TV, and then head off to bed. And in the morning, we’ll do it all over again.

What is important to realize is that we will have to live through all three seasons, in no particular order. Most months will be the just okay place. The Riviera time we won’t have any trouble putting up with. It’s the monsoon season that’s the problem.

In the time of disaster, the comfort is to remember that it won’t last forever. Season’s always change. On September 30, 1859, Abraham Lincoln told a story in an address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society in Milwaukee:

“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: ‘And this, too, shall pass away.’ How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!”

For many, Lincoln’s words are so familiar that they barely register. They have become an empty platitude. But platitudinous or not, Lincoln’s words are still true and if we choose, they give us insight into how to keep life’s seasons in perspective.

In his poem “If,” Rudyard Kipling wrote that triumph and disaster were both imposters and that we should learn to treat them just the same. That is, we need to recognize how transient our seasons are and how to rise above them. “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a bit. It will change.”

Lincoln’s words are but one way to express the old truth of life’s seasons. When a Roman general returned in triumph from his conquests, he was granted a magnificent parade called a Triumph. His soldiers, their captured booty, their defeated foes were paraded down the street and at the end of the parade, in his chariot, rode the general, with a slave whispering words into his ear: “Look behind you, remember you are only a man” and “Remember, you are mortal.”

Similarly, Paul wrote in a letter to a church in the ancient city of Philippi:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

“I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:8-12)

Life has seasons. We can get through them all. Over and over again.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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