We are heading into the deep winter of the upper Midwest. If you have ever traveled to or lived in the North Woods, you know that winter is quite beautiful, but crisp and sometimes cruel. As I put on my winter gear to face the outdoors, the sound of the zipper brings me back to when I first received this coat.
Being fifteen, my parents knew I wasn’t going to grow much more, so it was time to invest in a good winter coat that would last a long time and keep me warm out on the country roads. The only problem was agreeing on a coat. As a teenager, I wanted something that was in style and cute. Something that would show off my slender frame. As a father, my dad wanted something that was practical, bigger to allow room for extra layers, and would help me survive in arctic temperatures. Since he was paying, he won, and we got the extra-large green and cream Columbia jacket with detachable layers. I was mortified: What if someone saw the size tag! They are going to think I wear a size XL! I can’t wear this to the movies; it won’t match my sweater underneath! How could he expect me to wear this? Doesn’t he understand?
Winter came and so did the negative wind chills. -10, -20, -30… Pretty soon that jacket didn’t feel so bad waiting for the bus. In fact, many winters came and went, and I had that double insulation to warm me through them all. The coat kept me warm on my way home from practice when the car broke down, fit the extra layers for skiing and snowmobile rides, caught my tears on the way home after a break up with a boyfriend, matched the green in my eyes that my husband fell in love with and now, eighteen years later, fits around the frame of my 9 month pregnant body in the heart of winter.
As a teenager, I could have refused to wear the coat, resulting in being foolishly cold and dishonoring my dad. You see, my dad wasn’t just thinking about the winter that what approaching. He was thinking of the years to come and the many different ways it would be used to provide comfort from the cold. What I thought was mortifying and cruel ended up being thoughtful and caring.
How many times do I interpret what God is doing in my life as inconvenient and embarrassing? Needing to work a few part-time jobs, having my two-year-old knock over the drum set at church, facing unexpected bills or illnesses, managing stresses in a marriage… “God, why are you doing this? Is this necessary?” But it is. You see, Paul writes to the church in Corinth about the God of all Comfort. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 it says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
Notice that it doesn’t say “stop” affliction. Buying a winter coat didn’t stop the harsh cold winter from occurring. Instead, it provided comfort time and time again through the winter. The same applies now as an adult. When seasons of difficulty and pain bear down, we want to refuse to go through the experience, but instead we need to trust and embrace the comfort provided. The comfort provided in all affliction! My dad knew that this garment was going to be so much more that a “cute, sophomore, slenderizing, color-coordinating” coat, and God also knows that this current affliction you are dealing with will provide you strength and comfort to then share abundantly with others.
My dad probably didn’t realize that this coat would provide me comfort this long, let alone keep his daughter warm through four pregnancies, but God knows exactly what you are dealing with and the coat he provides you with is planned perfectly for the comfort you need, exactly when you need it. Embrace the comfort he is providing you and honor him in the winter you may be experiencing. Bundle up: it may get brisk and cold, but you have the comfort of a coat from your Heavenly Father.
Susan is a pastor’s wife and mom of four superheroes who lives and works in central Minnesota. She loves coffee, follows Jesus, and is passionate about seeing women connect across generations and finding their beauty in Christ. You can see more from Susan at www.eucharisteomoments.com.