Summary: The key to thriving in a season of waiting is contentment, and trusting that God has a good purpose in it.

As you probably know, it’s now officially Autumn. Along with many of you, I was in southeastern Ohio yesterday for the church’s family retreat at Seneca Lake. It was beautiful there, wasn’t it? The air was crisp and cool, the sun was warm. The leaves were just beginning to turn. It was one of those gorgeous Fall days that takes some of the sting out of the fact that summer is ending.

That’s one of the things that my wife and I love about Ohio – here there are four distinct seasons. We lived in Dallas, Texas for eight years, and Dallas had two seasons – cold and hot. Aside from that, nothing else much changes. No snow, no leaves turning colors, just cold and hot. And I mean HOT. For instance, just last month in Dallas, the temperature exceeded 100 degrees on 27 out of 31 days. That was a record. It’s so hot in the summer in Dallas that you avoid going outside at all costs – you dash from air conditioned house to air-conditioned car to air-conditioned office. The only thing that moves outside in Dallas in the summer is fire ants.

Then we moved to Vermont. We lived there for five years. Beautiful state, but a slightly different climate. 100 degree temperatures are not a problem in Vermont. 100 inches of snow over the course of a winter are more of a problem. In Vermont, they say you have two seasons – winter, and four months of bad skiing. The summer is beautiful, but very short. It was my favorite week of the year. Spring – well, they refer to that as “mud season”. That’s when all the snow melts. Fall, of course, is gorgeous, but it leads quickly to winter, and once the first snow hits, you don’t see the ground again until May. Forget the ground – you won’t see the fire hydrants again until May.

So, now we’re back in Ohio, hopefully to stay, and we enjoy the four seasons we have here. The reason I bring this up is that our lives also have seasons. Long and short, pleasant and unpleasant. And the important thing about seasons, seasons in the weather and seasons in life, is being prepared, mentally and logistically. If you’re going to survive and thrive, you have to anticipate what the new season is going to bring, you have to know how to prepare yourself. If you’re living in Dallas and it’s May, you’d better be making sure that you’re stocked up on sun block and your air conditioner isn’t low on Freon. If you’re living in Vermont and it’s September, you know it’s time to get your snow blower tuned up and your supply of firewood laid in. You don’t wait until there’s a three-foot blanket of snow on the ground before you call L.L. Bean and order those fleece-lined boots.

This morning, I’m starting a series of four messages on Life Seasons. My goal is to help prepare you for some of the common “seasons” that we all face as we go through life. Like annual changes in the weather, some of these seasons reoccur many times throughout our lives. Some are long, some are short. Some are more enjoyable than others. But the important thing for us is to understand each season and be prepared. Then we’ll be able to survive and thrive, no matter what the weather.

The first season we’ll be looking at is the season of “Waiting.” We tend to think of this season as a delay, an interruption, an unwelcome intermission. We view it about as positively as we view sitting in a doctor’s waiting room reading old National Geographics, or being put on hold. Just cooling our heels. Not accomplishing much. Just sitting tight until enough time has passed so that the thing we are anticipating can become a reality.

Anybody here experiencing this season?

* You may be single and waiting for a mate, waiting for the right guy or girl to come along.

* You may be waiting to finish school, to graduate and get out on your own.

* Waiting for a promotion. Waiting for your business to take off. Waiting to retire.

* Waiting to have children. Or waiting for your kids to be grown and out of the house.

Waiting for ____. You can fill in the blank. Most of us spend quite a bit of time in this season. So why do we dislike it so much? Why do we tend to view it as something negative? Why are we so eager for it to pass? Here’s one reason: because we are dissatisfied with our present circumstances, and we hope that the thing we are waiting for will satisfy us. Because we think that whatever we’re waiting for will make us happy. “Once I get married [or get divorced], once I have kids [or once the kids are out of the house], once I get a new job [or retire] – then things will be different.” But it won’t work. It never does, not in the long run. [Why do people read supermarket tabloids, or People magazine, or watch “Biography” on A&E? Because the enjoy seeing that those people are just as miserable as they are! They’ve gotten to the top and the view stinks.]

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