It is natural and reasonable to worry about what happens when winter comes. When autumn winds grow chilly and sharp, we have a foreshadowing of the cold months ahead. Back when the United States was primarily an agrarian society, people had a healthy fear of winter, especially if crops had not done well and there was less food to store and last until the first crops of next spring and summer.
Winter is pretty scary, too, in the chronological seasons of life. Who has not visited someone in a nursing home and come away with dread: “That will be me someday—stuck in a small room, dependant on others, not free to do as I wish, just killing time”? As a 50-something, I heal slower than I used to; a broken bone or a serious illness feels more threatening. I worry more about what it will be like to be alone someday with various physical limitations—or mental limitations. Those of us who have children and grandchildren worry that we won’t have the strength, ability, or resources to help them down the road—that, instead, we will burden them with the challenges of our later years. A person’s “winter” brings specific kinds of challenges; we are naïve not to at least think about them.
So what can we do during autumn besides worry about winter? Does autumn become a time of storing up all the money we can, taking out as much insurance as we can, and doing everything possible to stay healthier longer? Does it become a time of seeking shelter, of doing our best to build the best shelter for the years ahead?
Can our faith help us here? Did Jesus speak about the kind of worries we encounter in the autumn of life? After all, he died in his thirties (although, back then, thirties were probably today’s fifties, in terms of health and longevity), so how do we relate our issues to his message and mission?