When You’re Walking Through More Than “Just a Season”: Perpetual Living in the Season of Chronic Dying

I love seasons. I love how there is always something to anticipate, always something to look forward to: snowy woolish white, new green buds, lush full life, the brilliancy of death in the leaves of autumn.

And the season motif was first put forward by the wisest of men: Solomon.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

a time to tear, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 ESV)

I’m not sure how I would have survived the “season of motherhood” that included multiple littles with no older kids, little sleep, crazy amounts of diapers, and very little adult conversation without the constant reminder that I was in a season, that there would be an end, that what faithfulness to that job looked like would not be what it looked like forever. In a few short years, faithfulness would be teaching reading, tying shoes, and working on a solution to toothpaste on the walls, cabinets, and floors.

And now, faithfulness has expanded to include in-depth conversations about the Scriptures, help with increasingly difficult homework, maintaining rhythms and schedules, cultivating mentor-like friendships with my own growing kids, and legitimately funny jokes.

But I’ve noticed that there are some areas of life that are perpetual seasons; they aren’t “just a season” as the sages like to say. They are things that won’t relent until we die.

What about the depression that is vastly longer than the season of “post-partum”? What about the hard marriage that lasts fifty or sixty years? What about the unwanted singleness that endures your whole life? Or the diagnosis that doesn’t have a cure? Or the early death of a loved one who you never do get to see again in this life? Or infertility that doesn’t abate? What about seasons that have no transient time-tables?

What about caring for a child with special needs whose needs remain into adulthood? There isn’t a changing of the seasons in the same way that there is with other children, and while many parents are either longing for or dreading the day their children are independent adults, parents of kids with significant special needs do not anticipate that season in the same way. Which isn’t to say that things are stagnant or always look the same for those parents or kids. We all do change. Things can be easier or harder, simpler or more complex. And many people like myself, simply do not know what future stages will look like. I have reason to be very hopeful, but I simply cannot know. I must walk forward with no predictable season in front of me.

I’ve heard parents with “typical” kids say that that’s true for everyone, not just special needs parents and kids: none of us know what the future will hold for our children. And of course they’re right. But there is a legitimate difference of how we anticipate the future with “normal” kids and special needs kids. With my “normal” kids, it’s true I don’t know the future, but there is a template of growth, development, and maturity that is to be expected, not because we’re pretending to be God and predicting the future or presuming on his kindness, but precisely because what Solomon said is true. To everything there is a season.

Anyone who’s observed life knows how things are supposed to go. The reason we grieve special needs or untimely death or terrible illness is because those seasons have been interrupted or the predicted flow of things has been changed. The reason the grief over the death of a fourteen-year old is particularly horrific and different than the grief over a ninety-eight year old is because we have an innate understanding of how this is supposed to work.

Yet, there is great hope in knowing that while you may not be in “just a season” temporally speaking, this whole temporal life is a season. This life is the melting of winter for Christians. For some of us who have been set down in the shadow with little to block the bitter wind, we may weather this life with an ongoing chill in the bones. And for others, the sun may be throwing a bit more warmth as we perceive a centimeter of green on the tips of the trees. So, for some, this thing called life is a season with a certain sort of predictability to it—with one thing leading to another. And for others, this thing called life is a season of ongoing and chronic trial that doesn’t follow a pattern. And for most everyone, it is a combination of both.

But, we must know that winter is doomed, no matter our experience here and now. We wait for the fullness of life to come, but it is coming. Things are changing in unseen places. The seeds are underground, but they are pushing up. We may be in a chronic season of dying—dying to our expectations, our hopes, our good desires even, but we can live through it. We can perpetually live in the season of chronic dying because Christ has died once for all and he has put us in himself. He has put himself in us. Let Christ in you, the hope of glory, keep you renewed in each and every season—especially the one of chronic dying.

He knows a thing or two about how to help you live through that.


4 thoughts on “When You’re Walking Through More Than “Just a Season”: Perpetual Living in the Season of Chronic Dying

  1. Appreciate this. Yes, our daughter will not “grow up and leave home” unless we are no longer able to care for her. Quite different from friends our age who are empty nesters.

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