The following article is a guest post by Rebecca VanDoodewaard, author of Uprooted: A Guide for Homesick Christians, Your Future ‘Other Half’: It Matters Whom You Marry, and Reformation Women: Sixteenth-Century Figures Who Shaped Christianity's Rebirth.
Some of my children are still young enough to jump up and down, squealing, as the first snowflakes float down past our windows. As a Canadian mother, I rejoice with them. The first snow is something I look forward to starting in July—it is part of my heritage, part of my best childhood memories, part of a real, northern Christmas. But snow tends to be something that people love to complain about unless it’s December the 25th. It’s a bother, a mess, and hopefully over soon. For people who did not grow up with it, snow can be frightening and depressing. But there is more to snow than that. Just as rain is more than water droplets, snow is more than frozen rain.
Snow is powerful. “He gives snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes. He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs; who can stand before his cold?” (Psalm 147:16–17). That is a rhetorical question, as you know if you’ve ever felt the moisture inside your lungs freeze as you step outside on a winter morning and inhale. The power of cold is humbling. Frozen precipitation is a reminder that we are little creatures in God’s big world. To cope, we need special equipment. We need different foods. We need more clothes. Warmer coats, higher boots, snow tires, slower driving, good shovels, staying home, and hoping that the power stays on, are things that expose our winter neediness. “From its chamber comes the whirlwind, and cold from the scattering winds. By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen fast” (Job 37:9–10).
The part of Michigan where I live gets five feet of snow a winter, on average. Two hours north, that number doubles. The power of snow forces people to come together in the winter like we don’t in the summer. People share snow blowers and borrow snow gear. Neighbors who don’t usually talk will push the same car through the snow drift at the end of the street. It’s people trying to get through a challenge together. But even strong communities are not always enough to face the power of snow, and cars do get stuck in ditches and the power does go out for a couple of days and people do have damage to their homes and bodies. Even in Canada, all the knowledge, experience, and equipment isn’t always adequate in the face of the snow and stormy wind, fulfilling God’s word (Psalm 148:8). We have to admit that we have not entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail that God has reserved for trouble (Job 38:22).
Snow is beautiful. More than just raw power, snow is spectacular beauty. November—at least around here—is not a pretty month. The leaves are gone, the clouds are here to stay, and the wet is a soggy, muddy damp. Snow mercifully covers the bleak bareness with white. All the hard edges soften. The air is crisp again. Brightness returns, even on a cloudy day. And when the sun does come out, that white blanket dazzles—brighter than sun in summer, brighter than sun on water, outstripped in its whiteness only by redeemed souls (Psalm 51:7).
But there is something strange about the beauty of snow. In the summer, we mow and trim, plant flowers and pull weeds, sweep off driveways and paths—our work adds to and stewards the beauty of creation. Snow isn’t like that. Human touch takes away from its beauty. My shoveled driveway becomes a black scar in a pure world. Footprints look like moth holes in a white wrap. Even adorable snowmen stand in the middle of the mess that their creation necessitated. The beauty of snow is a gift, and we cannot add to it by anything that we do. Our efforts just detract. The best way to steward its beauty is admiration. To the snow, God says, “Fall on the earth” (Job 37:6), and as we watch it come, we get to worship the One who sends it.
Snow is a promise. When we feel “cold from the scattering winds” and “ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen fast,” when the brilliance of a winter morning leaves us breathless, there is still more. The power and the beauty are reminders, reminders of God’s faithfulness. This is true for the way that he sustains creation: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease” (Gen. 8:22). This is our Father’s world, and we can trust his care of us in it. He has fixed all of the earth’s boundaries, he has made summer and winter (Ps. 74:17). But there is more. “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Is. 1:8). Snow is a reminder of salvation—the promise of forgiveness that breaks the guilt and power of sin. And that promise holds greater power and beauty than even snow itself. When we look at snow this winter, let’s take hold of it.