The first time it happened it took me by surprise. We had had a fairly significant snowfall. The wind had picked up and created massive snowdrifts. The plows were valiantly trying to clear the roads so that life could continue in a normal, winter fashion. I got in my car and headed in the direction of downtown. As I came to the first intersection and looked to my right, I could see that the end of the street was completely blocked by a massive snowdrift. I continued on to the next street, only to discover, not only had that street drifted shut, the snowplows had added to the pile. I was beginning to wonder if I was going to escape our neighborhood. Much to my relief, as I turned right at the final intersection, the end of the street had been cleared of snow and I could get through. Later, I asked someone about the closed streets. They responded by telling me that it was common and that they should have warned me in advance.
I have had plenty of experience with snowdrifts. Where we used to live, it was common for the snow to drift across our long driveway. If the drift was not too big, I would just plow through it. But there were times when that did not work. On more than one occasion I miscalculated the depth of the drift and found myself stuck fast in the snow. For me, one of the most sinking feelings is when your vehicle stops in the midst of a snowdrift and then sinks. At that point, you are sunk. On more than one occasion, I had to enlist the help of a neighbor to get me unstuck.
Just as there are physical snowdrifts, so there are spiritual and emotional snowdrifts as well. Sometimes these spiritual snowdrifts catch us by surprise. We are following a path that we have followed many times and then one day our way is blocked. When that happens, we need to decide what we will do. We can try to plow through, which works sometimes or we can look for a way around the snowdrift. We can seek help to clear the snowdrift, or we can get stuck and have to call for help to get us out. Snowdrifts are inevitable, but getting stuck is not.
When the snowdrifts are small, the Bible instructs us to persevere and not allow them to impede our progress. The emotional and spiritual snowdrifts that block our path do not need to mobilize us. With a little effort, we can make our way through.
Timothy faced a number of spiritual snowdrifts. Rather than stay home and wait for the snow to melt, Paul instructed Timothy to press on. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:15-16)
There are spiritual snowdrifts that pose a real threat to us. In those cases, it is wiser to seek an alternative route. There are times in our lives when we can clearly see the danger of the obstacle before us, but we plunge in anyway. We usually pay a price for doing so. Instead, when we see certain snowdrifts looming in front of us, we need to change direction. No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
No matter how careful we are in life, at some point we will get stuck in a spiritual or emotional snowdrift. At those times, the wise thing to do is to call for help. Unfortunately, we often labor to dig ourselves out instead. Our efforts exhaust and discourage us, and prolong how long we are stuck. James challenges us to admit that we need help and then accept it when it is offered. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)
Writing to the churches of Galatia, Paul challenged the believers to be ready to help one another overcome the spiritual snowdrifts of life. Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2) I really appreciate that Paul warns us to not be overconfident when we seek to help someone else, because we could get stuck ourselves.
It snowed again last night. If the wind picks up today, I can expect to encounter new snowdrifts. We live in a fallen world that is constantly placing obstacles in our way. We should expect the spiritual snowdrifts to come. We don’t have to get stuck in them.