On the rare occasion in my childhood that I woke up to a blanket of white stretched across the landscape, I remember how my heart would leap at the sight! There’s nothing like an overnight snowfall to bewitch the senses of a young girl living in a warm climate like Arkansas.
The memory of one such morning is still embedded deeply in my mind. My daddy gathered us kids around the breakfast table and presented us with a proposition–would we be willing to double up on school tomorrow (oh, the joys of homeschooling!) to enjoy a surprise today? One by one, my siblings decided it was worth the gamble, so I joined the bandwagon and eagerly awaited the revealing of the day’s surprise.
And what a surprise it was! Daddy moved toward the window and gradually pulled back the curtains, setting off an eruption of squeals, shouts, and clattering feet as we raced to get a better view. It was like Christmas morning! We siblings did not regret our decision as we spent the day sledding and building snowmen.
Fast Forward Twenty Years
Last week I experienced a similar morning. Even my curtains are eerily similar to those of my childhood. But what ensued as I drew them could not be more different. When my eyes rested on the fresh snow that so beautifully covered my neighborhood, my heart sank. No squeals of delight or unconstrained excitement. For a moment, I even missed the beauty of the serene, picture-perfect setting.
What happened to my child-like joy? Is the snow different now than it was in my youth? Of course not. The change was in me.
As an adult, I no longer see snow as a cause for rejoicing because I view it through my (ahem) “mature” eyes–and all I see is inconvenience and hard work. To my credit, I’ve seen numerous snowfalls since that frosty morning twenty years ago, particularly in the last two winters of living in Michigan, so the initial charm has long worn off.
Gone are the days where a twenty-percent chance of flurries warrants a trip to the Wal-mart with eleven-hundred-million desperate shoppers all seeking to contribute to the uncanny consumption of bread and milk. No, here we get a foot of snow and the next day are shoveling our way out the door. What’s new?
So why this drawn-out illustration of snow? Because one morning something happened. What I saw in those white flakes falling from the gray sky was the gospel.
When as a ten-year-old I could first call the peace-giving, saving grace of Jesus my own, I couldn’t get enough of God’s Word. I was enamored by it and soaked it up like a sponge. I wanted to enroll in every Bible study, took sermon notes each Sunday, and faithfully started my day by reading a passage from both Old and New Testaments. In short, I was full of wonder and awe for the gospel story that had so recently rescued me from my sin and given me new life.
But now the newness has worn off, and there are times when I’m just not “feeling it”. My excitement wanes. I lose the wonder. Oh, I’m still grateful for the gospel story and praise God for it with my mouth, but in my heart the enthusiasm is gone.
What happened to my child-like joy? Is the gospel different now than it was in my youth? Of course not. The change was in me.
News flash: Following Christ is hard. It’s not the bed of roses that it’s commonly believed to be. You won’t hear a health-wealth-prosperity gospel from Jesus. But . . . the gospel is also beautiful, like the fresh snow. It should never be cast aside like a worn glove. (I suppose that’s a pretty ancient metaphor . . . How ‘bout, like an outdated iPhone?)
So how do we keep the wonder?
- Preach the Gospel to Yourself
The gospel isn’t like rich chocolate which you may tire of after eating too much. Wait, did I just say there’s such a thing as having too much chocolate?? Ok, so maybe chocolate isn’t the best analogy (especially while there’s post-valentine’s sales going on!), but the point is if you’ve lost interest in hearing the gospel, you don’t set it aside for later and hope your appetite returns. No, you all the more let it infiltrate your heart and mind.
- Preach the Gospel to Someone Else
This does not mean you schedule a Sunday morning at your church to fill in for your pastor. It might mean you schedule a coffee date with an unbelieving friend with the intention of clearly and lovingly laying out the gospel for her. You may be surprised what telling someone else the old, old story of Jesus and His love will do for your own heart.
- Read the Gospel
Perhaps this should have come first, after all if it’s been a while since you’ve had a passion for the redemption story, you might need a refresher before “preaching” it. The English Bible is formatted in a way which makes it very easy for us to identify which books tell the message of Christ’s work on the cross: they’re called “the Gospels,” a/k/a Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But don’t quit there. Jesus is on every page of Scripture! Psalms is another great place to revisit.
- Sing the Gospel
I don’t know about you, but I am rarely more prone to worship than when I’m praising God in song. Pick out songs or hymns with lyrics that spell out the gospel and focus on God’s attributes. Use this time–alone or in corporate worship–to thank God for His mercy in saving you, to praise Him for His sovereign plan for mankind from eternity past, and to celebrate His victory over sin and death for the never-ending days to come.
Here are some of my favorite go-to gospel songs (in no particular order):
- And Can It Be
- Arise, My Soul, Arise
- Before the Throne
- Hark! the Herald (It’s not just for Christmas time!)
- When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
- I Know Whom I Have Believed
- Hallelujah! All I Have is Christ
If you’re still not feeling the joy deep, deep down in your heart, turn to the Lord in quiet prayer and reflection. You may find it necessary to examine your heart to see if you really are in the faith. (2 Cor. 13:5)
2 Samuel 11 gives us the sad account of King David. His affections for God waned, and he spent the better part of a year living in pride and hidden sin. But God was not finished with him. He granted David mercy and forgiveness, and restored to him the joy that David ached for in his prayer of confession, recorded for us in Psalm 51.
So take heart, my friend, when the snow is falling and you’re just not feeling it; when the wonder in the gospel feels foreign to your soul. God will not turn away the cry of a humble heart (Jn. 6:37; Jas. 4:6). Find hope in this prayer of the Apostle Paul to the Ephesians,
I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)
In light of what Jesus did on the cross to personalize the gospel story–making it my gospel story–following Jesus is no sacrifice. It is a delight.