Bring Back the Springtime
Manna 83: Spring

Timothy Yeung—Toronto, Canada

 

 

When in the spring, the flow’rs are blooming bright and fair

After the gray of winter's gone,

Once again the lark begins its tuning

Back in the meadows of my home.

 

Lord, make me like that stream that flows so cool and clear

Down from the mountains high above;

I will tell the world the wondrous story

Of the streams that flowed from Calvary.

 

Chorus:

Lord, to my heart bring back the springtime,

Take away the cold and dark of sin;

O return to me, sweet Holy Spirit,

May I warm and tender be again.[1]

 

 

Every time I sing this hymn, I am reminded of my first experience of winter in North America. After the beauty of the fall season, everything became quiet and desolate. As the temperature dropped, many animals prepared for hibernation and sheltered themselves in order to survive the long and chilly winter. Leaves fell, flowers withered, and it seemed everything had come to a pause. The snow softly fell on the dry ground, and the lakes and rivers froze, yielding to the bitter cold of winter. There was little sign of life as temperatures dropped to sub-zero. Everything seemed lifeless; people became weary, and some even became depressed.

 

After more than twenty years living in Canada, I have learned to survive the cruel and severe winter. And yet, each year, I still appreciate the wonderful springtime that follows. 

 

As with seasonal winter, we may also face spiritual winter. What kind of situation can put us into deep spiritual winter and take us far from the warmth of God’s love? And how can we bring ourselves back to a springtime of spiritual renewal?

 

 

THE WINTER CAUSED BY SIN

 

After David sinned gravely against God, he experienced a spiritual deep freeze. He implored God:

 

Have mercy upon me, O God,

According to Your loving kindness;

According to the multitude of your tender mercies,

Blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

And cleanse me from my sin. (Ps 51:1–2)

 

David, like many saints in the Old Testament, enjoyed an amazing closeness with God. He felt God’s presence, guidance, and blessing daily. However, after he committed adultery with Bathsheba and plotted the murder of her husband Uriah, David’s conscience was seared. Although he hid his evil deeds from everyone, he could not deceive his own conscience, which is the lamp of God (Prov 20:27). As he tried to cover his transgression, he also covered himself from the light of God’s face, which shines on those who fear and love Him.

 

David could pretend that he did nothing wrong when he took Bathsheba, but deep down in his spirit, he must have suffered constant guilt and regret. The burden of telling lies to cover his sin would have been stressful; he would have felt far from God. His soul wandered in the wilderness of deep winter—destitute, lonely, and hiding from the truth, fearful that his evil deeds would be exposed and judged.

 

For a person who has experienced God, there is nothing more dreadful and hopeless than what David went through: God had stopped listening and speaking to him. How painful would it be for us today to experience such estrangement from God? Yet, when we choose a path of sin and selfish denial, we will find ourselves in the deep freeze of spiritual winter.

 

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened,

That it cannot save;

Nor His ear heavy,

That it cannot hear.

But your iniquities have separated you from your God;

And your sins have hidden His face from you,

So that He will not hear. (Isa 59:1–2)

 

Have you ever experienced this kind of spiritual winter? On the surface, we appear close to God, but spiritually we can neither feel His presence nor hear His voice. There is a deep void that cannot be filled, and our heart cannot be satisfied. We might pray to God, “Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me” (Ps 51:11). But the root of the problem does not lie outside, but rather, it rests deep inside our heart.

 

 

HOW TO BRING BACK THE SPRINGTIME

 

A Transformation of the Heart

When the prophet Nathan confronted David, David chose to do the right thing and admit his guilt to God. With a contrite heart and a humble spirit, he begged God for forgiveness. This was David’s turning point, opening the way for him to rebuild his relationship with God.

 

The transformation of the heart starts when we acknowledge our sin, both privately and publicly. As David wrote:

 

For I acknowledge my transgressions,

And my sin is always before me.

Against You, You only, have I sinned,

And done this evil in Your sight—

That You may be found just when You speak,

And blameless when You judge.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,

And in sin my mother conceived me. (Ps 51:3–5)

 

In this psalm, we see that David decided to face his sin, rather than to hide or defend it. How hard it must have been for a king to admit, “I am wrong; I am a sinner.” But David no longer cared about his reputation—he acknowledged his sins and decided to face God, the Source of life. He knew that only by confessing to God and humbly accepting the consequences could he be pardoned and, perhaps, received by God once again.

 

Have you ever done something terrible or wrong that you regret? Have you ever tried to hide yourself from your past, or from God? Have you tried to start afresh with a clean slate, but failed because you did not address the mistakes of your past? Have you ever blamed others for your misfortune? Or do you simply blame your environment, or even God?

 

Winter occurs when one hemisphere is furthest from the sun, owing to the tilt of the earth’s axis and the position of the earth in its orbit around the sun. It is not the absence of the sun that causes the arrival of winter, but where the earth is in relation to the sun. In the same way, a spiritual winter is not caused by God’s departure, but by our own maneuvering away from Him—to end the deep freeze, we must be the one to change.

 

 

Newness of Heart

 

Create in me a clean heart, O God,

And renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Ps 51:10)

 

Winter does not arrive overnight, and it takes time for a lake or a river to fully freeze over. Similarly, a heart grows cold over a period of time. When David was in distress, being pursued by his enemies, his heart was very close to God because he needed God at every moment. David’s dedication to God was unwavering and sincere, and his love for God was as fervent as the love of a newly wedded couple. However, over time, as David was blessed with power, fame, and wealth, secular desires gradually occupied his heart. The pursuit of sensual pleasure replaced his earlier thirst for spiritual fulfillment, and God no longer held first place in his heart. This process happened so gradually that David failed to notice his heart was no longer the same. The point to note is that it was not God, but David’s heart, that changed. What’s worse, David did not realize winter had arrived until the sunset of that fateful evening.

 

This picture may reflect our own spiritual decline over the years. In the midst of secular enjoyment, countless work commitments, and pride over our own achievements, has our heart departed from God? This is why Jesus said:

 

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” (1 Jn 2:15–16)

 

To re-establish our relationship with God and bring back the springtime of spiritual vitality, transforming our heart is key. Let us reflect: Has our heart changed from the time we first loved God? Do we give ourselves, our hearts, and our love fully to the Lord Jesus alone?

 

God tells us, “My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways” (Prov 23:26). How deep is our heavenly Father’s longing to own and fill our heart with His wonderful love! Let us not disappoint Him.

 

 

Seek Help from the Holy Spirit

 

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,

And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. (Ps 51:12)

 

David understood that he was solely responsible for the spiritual winter he was in. But he also knew that God could melt the deep freeze and turn it into a warm spring of life, restoring him from spiritual death.

 

Just like a dilapidated old building, our spiritual life needs to be restored and maintained. We need a master craftsman who possesses the skill and patience to rebuild us from the ground up. A building cannot restore itself, and we cannot transform or revive our own spiritual life through our own efforts. Jesus highlighted this limitation clearly to His disciples: “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mk 14:38).

 

David knew the limitations of his flesh, so he sought God’s generous Spirit to help him overcome his weaknesses and embrace the warmth of God’s love. If only we had such self-knowledge; instead, we attempt to face temptations, trials and tribulations with our own strength, unable to admit how weak we really are. When we are defeated, we crumble in hopelessness. We need to remember that God is faithful, and has offered His Spirit to uphold us:

 

And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. (Jn 14:16–17)

 

The Holy Spirit is our helper, and He is the Spirit of truth. If we seek His help, He will guide us into the truth, unlock the mystery of the truth for us, and help us to walk in the truth. David knew that without the help of God’s Spirit he could not possibly change himself. But how does the Holy Spirit’s transforming power work? It is only through prayers that such transformation is possible.

 

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Rom 8:26–27)

 

Restoration starts with prayer, but only if we know how to pray and what to pray for. There are times when we pray for the wrong thing, with the wrong attitude, or with the wrong aim. But if we pray with humility, earnestly seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance, then He will teach us where we need God’s loving hand to redirect our ways. The Holy Spirit will reveal to us the weaknesses that hinder our spiritual growth, whether it be hidden pride, lack of trust, or deep anxiety caused by lack of faith. When the Holy Spirit shows us our imperfections, we must submit and allow ourselves to be fine-tuned to His will, so we can be redirected to where God wants us to go. By the end of this process, our prayer will be in harmony with the intercession of the Holy Spirit, and we will regain strength from the transcending peace of God. When we are facing spiritual winter, we should not pray for God to give us things or to do things for us; we should ask the Holy Spirit to teach us.

 

And though the Lord gives you

The bread of adversity and the water of affliction,

Yet your teachers will not be moved into a corner anymore,

But your eyes shall see your teachers.

Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying,

“This is the way, walk in it,”

Whenever you turn to the right hand

Or whenever you turn to the left. (Isa 30:20–21)

 

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;

Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Make me hear joy and gladness,

That the bones You have broken may rejoice. (Ps 51:7–8)

 

When prayers are heard, sins pardoned, guilt removed, anxiety calmed, and our relationship with God rebuilt, then the springtime of joy and gladness will slowly return. It could be a long and hard process, with many setbacks, but the joy that comes afterwards is worth the effort. This period of pain and distress causes our faith to grow and mature.

 

There is no winter without end, and no destitution without the chance of restoration. God is always there to embrace us, if and when we are willing to return to Him. The choice is ours: to remain trapped in the deep freeze of spiritual winter, a self-imposed exile from God’s grace, or to let the springtime of God’s love return to us again.

         

For His anger is but for a moment,

His favor is for life;

Weeping may endure for a night,

But joy comes in the morning. (Ps 30:5)

 

 



[1] Hymn 437 of Hymns of Praise, published by True Jesus Church, USA (1993). Kurt Kaiser, “Bring Back the Springtime.” Copyright: 1970 by Word Music (a division of Word, inc.).

Date
Jul. 13, 2017
Author
Timothy Yeung
Publisher
True Jesus Church
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