By Ann Chen
Those of us who grew up in California don’t experience seasons too much. Having beach weather in January is a beautiful thing, but we definitely don’t seem to handle any changes in our climate very well. Raindrops fall and chaos erupts on our freeways. Constant vents about the wet and the gloom can be heard everywhere, and most people yearn for the moment when the sun will shine again and we will go back to our normalcy.
I think in similar ways, in our spiritual lives, we aren’t too fond of seasonal changes, particularly when we enter into seasons of rain that disrupt normally clear skies.
It’s the rainy season right now here in Malawi. While we still experience the occasional sunny day, most afternoons and evenings, a daily ritual will begin. The sky gets dark and lightning will begin to fill the sky. Thunder reverberates throughout the region. Rain begins to fall… hard. Roads become muddy, even impassable. For the villagers who live here, life completely stops. People will huddle near the few trees and awnings that provide shelter, waiting for the storm to pass, hoping that these rains will not destroy their houses, with their fragile grass roofs with often only plastic sheeting as protection.
It can be a very difficult time of year, but it is an absolutely necessary one. Without the rains and the storms, life would cease. Here, people are dependent on the rain to come. Endless maize fields fill the land. They provide the staple food here. The amount of rain will determine the amount of yield and whether families will be full or potentially hungry the rest of the year. So while the rains are a huge disruption to life and even can be destructive, it is also well understood that without them, there would be no growth and no life.
I’ve come to recognize how important and how divine seasons are. What we see in the natural has so much relevance to our spiritual. In my time here, I’ve seen God bring me through seasons, including times of rain and storm. When the rains did come, they stopped me in my tracks and I got stuck. For me, it was deep loneliness, unfulfilled hopes and dreams, and broken relationships. It felt hopeless. All I could really do was try to wait it out and hope not much got damaged in the process. However, the season eventually passed, the sun came out, and I was able to see the fruit of it. Growth came — growth that would not have come had the rains and storms not come. And I realize, God creates these seasons. We all face them. … they are necessary for the growth that we need to truly sustain through life.
I’ll head back to California weather soon enough. And while I’m well aware this year that the state is in drought and the land is thirsty for rain, the time will come again where most will once again dread the arrival of the dark clouds. I hope that I will not be one who only wants clear skies for myself. Rather, I hope to look beyond the difficulties that rain brings for the current season, and recognize the value and growth that it brings for the future.
Ann Chen is an International Staff member with Epicentre Church and recently finished up her degree in Intercultural Studies at Fuller Seminary. She currently serves in Malawi, working to see a discipleship making movement raise up amongst the Yao.