We recently drove into Yosemite National Park with friends and entered a surprising Winter Wonderland. In my almost twenty-five years of living in Central California, I have rarely ventured into nearby Yosemite during winter. We typically go in spring when the blooms light up the hills and valleys with rainbow hues, or in summer when the river is robust and trails are ripe for hikers. A trip to see the fall foliage is always worth it for the color show of emerald, gold, and amethyst.
But winter? Winter is not typically my jam.
Winter is cold. The landscape is more stark and barren. Like the woodland creatures, I’m more inclined to hibernate and hunker down at home with my people near a heater.
I grew up in Chicago where the wind freezes your nose hairs in winter and I attended college in Grand Rapids, which required navigating the snow and icy paths to get to class. I moved to California for the warmth and mild winters the Sunshine State promised.
Yet when we entered the national park, I was filled with a sense of awe at God’s unexpected glory dancing on display before us. The mountains rose majestically around us. The contrast between the steel-gray granite and the bright white snow was stunning. Rows upon rows of trees greeted us with open arms. El Capitan nodded his hello as we rounded the bend, and Half Dome welcomed us with a wink.
In the Old Testament, after God promised Noah He would never again flood the earth, He said this: “As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night” (Genesis 8:22 NLT).
The word winter or “ḥōrep̄” in Hebrew often refers to the cold, a time when the harvest is gathered and the land is quiet. The Hebrews divided the calendar year into six parts. Winter was considered half of January, all of February, and half of March. Winter was used in the Bible as a metaphor for the more mature season of life.
Psalm 74 reminds us that God controls nature and created the seasons:
“You caused the springs and streams to gush forth,
and you dried up rivers that never run dry.
Both day and night belong to you;
you made the starlight and the sun.
You set the boundaries of the earth,
and you made both summer and winter.”
Psalm 74:15-17 NLT
Winter was part of God’s intention for the rhythms on earth and of our bodies. He could have made forever spring or endless summer, but He chose to weave in winter too. Winter may feel like the opposite of harvest. We may feel like winter seasons in our lives are marked by disappointment, uncertainty, and hardship. Things may look withered, bald, even dead during the winter.
But what if we were to lean in more to see the wonder in winter? What if we embraced the quiet, the darkness, and the cold as opportunities to turn our faces upward toward the sun?
What I discovered in Yosemite National Park is that winter warrants hope.
I think about the winter of grief I endured after my husband’s death. God showed up in that season with His comforting presence.
I think about the winter of rejection in my career when I kept coming up against closed doors. God built up my courage and resilience.
I think about the winter of loneliness when I wondered who my true friends were. God walked with me in the darkness and provided companionship.
Perhaps the most spectacular exhibit of nature I saw that day at the park was Yosemite Falls. I have seen this same waterfall when the water cascaded down with unbridled force and volume. I have also witnessed it during a drought when the water was more like a bathroom faucet leak. I have zig-zagged to the top of the trail to view the falls from the unique perspective above.
To see it in winter provided a whole different phenomenon.
The ice splayed out against the rock in a starburst pattern, while water surged through the middle. I gasped a little when I first saw how water and ice co-mingled against the mountainside. This was a visual reminder that in winter there are unexpected ripples that confirm God is still at work. We may feel buried in the snow, but we may just be on the brink of a breakthrough.
As we were piling back into the car after a walk around the park, snow began to fall in a festival of flurries. Our smiles and spirits turned upward. The flakes were full — each one unique and breathtakingly beautiful.
Dorina helps people discover God’s glory in unexpected places through her weekly Glorygram and Instagram.
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