I lived in the Chicago area most of my life. In fact, I worked in the city for 15 years. In my opinion it is one of the most beautiful cities. It has always been a very clean city with much to appreciate. There is a beautiful lake front where you can go for a dip to cool off on a hot summer day or take a casual stroll around Navy Pier where you can do a little shopping or ride the 200-foot Ferris wheel. There are stunning green parks that serve as the home for concerts, the Taste of Chicago, The Bean, and many afternoon family picnics. Chicago has beautiful architecture, a river running through the heart of the city, sports teams, and the list goes on. And the food, let’s not forget the delicious food. But the winters! My whole life I whined about the seemingly never ending winters. They were bitter cold, with lots of snow, whipping winds, and for months the sun rarely made an appearance. We often hung on for dear life, longing for spring to arrive.

Then there was springtime! It was probably my favorite season. Life began to spring up all around. All the snow melted and the dirt left behind was washed away by the warm rains. I remember the flowers, particularly the tulips, poking through the thawed ground and the trees budding with new life. I would stand outside, turn my head towards the sky, close my eyes and soak up the warm, bright sun. Even the attitudes of people began to thaw. Everyone was just a little bit nicer during the spring.

A little over nine years ago, I sold my shovel and snowblower and left those cold winters behind when God called us to serve in California. Winters in northern California are very mild and much shorter, to say the least. Although I don’t have a big desire to move back to an area where the winters are cold and long, I do miss the springs.

This got me to thinking that what I really miss is the suffering. As odd as that may sound, the tougher the winter, the more I appreciated spring. Of course most of us would love to skip cold winters and would promise to appreciate the springs just as well, but after being in California for nine years now, I would have to say that I do not appreciate the spring season nearly as much.

How true is this for many things in our life? The greater the struggle or pain, the greater the appreciation. These past months have been hard during this COVID pandemic, but with it came a greater appreciation for family and friendships. After the planes flew into the twin towers in New York on 9/11, people had a heightened appreciation for life and appreciation for our country. When the wildfires in California burned people’s homes, and everything in it, to the ground, it again created a greater appreciation for life and family, and not the many things we worked so hard to a accumulate. Or maybe you had an opportunity to see others struggle with their health, or even put a decent meal on their table, and you realized just how blessed you are.

So no, we don’t like the suffering. Yes, we try to appreciate all the blessings that God showers us with every day, but the truth is, without the cold winters the grass would be a little less green, the showers a little less warmer and the flowers a little less beautiful.