This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Cold comfort

Late winter — when spring looms close but the forecast remains cold — is an annual opportunity to practice patience.

And thank goodness. We need the practice. Small, daily opportunities for patience-building skills are dwindling. Today, we can communicate across the world with hardly a pause, find immediate answers on Google and order anything we need on Amazon with free two-day shipping.

Most of us hate to wait and find ways to avoid it. And when we’re forced to wait — like at the doctor’s office or in line at the post office — we fill the time with distractions on screens.

With less time spent patiently waiting, the kinds of waiting that can’t be controlled — like a birth, or a cure, or getting someone to change their mind about something — grow more difficult. And these moments often come without warning. These are the times when we need to call upon the skills of patience that can bring peace of mind.

The slowness of spring’s arrival can test our patience. This year in particular brought the coldest temperatures later in the season — in February — for many. It is easy to curse the cold and question whether spring will ever come. But we know it will. We can count on it. Late winter is a time to wait well and practice patience.

Jesus highlights the importance of patience when he describes a farmer in Mark 4:26-29. The farmer in the parable does not stay idle as he waits for his plants to grow.

Jesus also did not sit idly as he waited for the death he knew was coming. As winter transitions to spring, Christians celebrate the season of Lent, with 40 days for pausing, praying, thinking and often aiming to improve some aspect of themselves.

Before spring comes, the slow, dark days of winter allow space to prepare for personal transformation in each part of life. Things like quiet, meditation and self-improvement are easier in the long, blanket-covered days of winter.

As winter winds down, the final cold weeks can seem to go on forever. Fresh snow no longer comes accompanied by sleigh bells and merriment but now offers only brown slush and another scramble to entertain homebound children.

Like waiting for spring, change can seem slow in the church, the family, the community and the world. Remembering patience in winter, seeking a way to prepare in the midst of waiting, can help us practice waiting for the change we seek at home, in church and community. And we can respond to our God-given responsibility to help shape it.

James 5:7 says: “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming.”

Practicing patience as winter lingers, we search for signs of the new season and prepare for the coming of the next good thing God has in store.

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