I wonder if you are enjoying the sheer intoxication of springtime, the season of renewal and transformation with its vibrant palate of colours, jubilant bird song and abundance of fresh green foliage everywhere, so lyrically described in the Song of Songs.

“See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land.”

Ahead of us lie the long-light days that stretch from the dawn chorus to hazy dusk in the golden rays of a warming sun.

The dog walkers are passing by under the window, eyes totally dedicated to a small hand-held screen. If you were to ask later, “Did you notice the cluster of scarlet tulips? Did you stop to admire the exuberance of cherry blossom? Did you catch the fragrance of the red currant bush? No. Nothing but the screen. How sad to miss the generosity of nature’s bounteous gift and the therapeutic hopefulness that it stirs in the spirit, so needful in this confusing, chaotic and often cruel world. But what if winter-cold seems to be clinging relentlessly onto your spirit as you cope with depressing situations, unresolved problems and dwindling resources? What if the clouds of weariness or doubt dim the sun and drain the colour of life?

“In the midst of winter, I found there was within me, an invincible summer”, wrote Albert Camus. All very fine, but what happens if the unseasonable rains of adversity blight the crops of security and expectation, leaving us feeling withered inside?

This is a pertinent time to take a look at the helpful lessons that God presents to us in the season of rebirth. We de-clutter and clean our homes, but do we de-clutter our attitudes and ditch the restricting effects of dominating habits? Can we sit with open hands in prayer, accepting that the dear wishes in which we once put confidence, have bio-degraded and now we need to trust God to fill our empty palms with his blessings and directions? God is faithful to his promise of seedtime and harvest, and he specializes in transformation, tadpole to frog, egg to chick, bud to fruit, caterpillar to butterfly. If we lack the courage and resolve to weed out the slights and criticisms that have stunted the growth of talent and confidence, God is a willing husbandman. He plants hope where there seems nothing but dry ground, watered by consistent love and nourished by his word. He transforms relationships through forgiveness. He seeds empathy from shared experiences. He provides support from soul mates.

Someone advised, “Be kinder than necessary. Everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle.” So, we need to look out for opportunities to offer encouragement to others too, whose hopes have been dented.

Considered a dullard at school, the writer Sir Walter Scott’s prospects seemed poor indeed. One day however, he encountered the poet Robert Burns viewing a painting under which were two stanzas of a poem. No one knew it origins. Timidly, the teenager Walter supplied not only the name of the writer, but also the remaining stanzas of the poem. Laying his hand on the boy’s head, Burns commented, “Ah bairnie, ye will be a great man in Scotland some day.” Walter’s outlook was transformed, and the rest is history.

How much greater then can God’s hand on our mind and heart, transform our view and our prospects under his care. Like Bunyan, we can lay the burden of guilt and folly at the foot of the cross of Christ, and walk into the sunlight of revelation, inspiration and freedom to grow.

Iris Niven

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