Seasons of Life & Ministry

I am reading a great book, Spiritual Rhythms by Mark Buchanan. The book is all about being in sync with whatever season of life you’re going through. It acknowledges that there are seasons of life. A cycle of life for everyone. I know, we all know about seasons. But what I like about the book is how it describes being in sync with the season you’re currently in. I’ve really enjoyed it and want to share my thoughts with you as I reflect on it’s implications in my life and yours.

We all go through seasons of life.

For most of my 20′s, I enjoyed a season of spring. From 21 years old to 27 years old, I was doing a lot of ministry and had lots of freedom. I was single, in seminary for many of those years and heavily involved in ministry to kids and preteens. I planted a lot of seeds in a lot of young people’s lives and leaders’ lives. I got to see a lot of preteens surrender their lives to Jesus and be changed from the inside out. I grew as a leader and Christian. I invested myself in others.  I lived in sync with God, listening to his voice and responding to what he was doing around me.

Springtime is busy with a lot of activity. A lot of planting. With God’s work in the spring, we enjoy the busyness of serving others, loving others and giving our lives to them. We find passion in serving God. We give to others, God fills us up with more of Him, then we give more to others. It’s a season marked by the joy of activity and planting.

Little did I know, winter was right around the corner. I met the girl of my dreams. We got married within a short time of dating (6 months to be exact) and quickly had kids. In fact, we had three of them back to back (not recommended), none of which were expected (guess God had other plans).

My early 30′s were marked with a long season of winter. I tried to keep up my pace of ministry life with a new wife and young kids. It didn’t work. Winter quickly set in with a lot of personal problems. It was hard juggling a growing family and ministry, both for me and my wife. New family responsibilities weighed us both down. I felt overwhelmed. I had to figure out what it was to be a father and husband. We had marriage problems. Both of us had to rely on God for change, which seemed like a long and painful process. We had to figure out who we were as a family, which was quite different from the models around us. We had no money. My wife was at home with the kids and I worked full-time in ministry, which didn’t pay the bills. We got in debt and I made some bad financial decisions. Ministry life seemed unfruitful. It wasn’t fun anymore. I had lost my passion and joy in it all. It seemed like every day was painful. Was it going to be like this forever? It seemed there was no light at the end of tunnel. How could life have turned out so ugly?

Winter comes in on us all. A tragic loss, failed relationship or just fill in the blank for you. Life is full of chaos at times for us all. Ministry life is full of winters as well. You have to deal with death. People dying. Suicides. Single moms dying of cancer at 40 years old. Broken marriages and kids stuck in the middle. It often comes crashing all at once. Out of the blue, the world comes crashing down. It wears you down. Your heart gets heavy and tired. What happened to the springtime? Winter brings a sense of hopelessness and darkness. Will things ever get better?

The answer is yes. Winter won’t last forever. It is a season of life. As you trust in God, peace will eventually come. Sometimes your circumstances change, but sometimes they remain the same. Either way, winter won’t last forever. God will bring peace. He will heal the broken hearted. He will bring refuge to the worried. He will bring victory to those defeated. Good things will come again..one day.

I am now entering a season of summer. Things got better. I took some time off full-time ministry. During that time, I launched preteenministry.net. But my major focus in life other than God was my wife and kids. Most of it was a good season. After a year and half off of any kind of ministry, we moved from New Orleans to San Diego. I went back into ministry as a Children’s Director in La Jolla. PreteenMinistry.net grew. My platform to be a voice in the world of preteen ministry grew. It was (and still is) very exciting. Our family found a rhythm. My relationship with Jena and the kids deepened. Things were starting to get better.

For the last 10 days, I have had a lot of time to myself to relax, reflect and pray. My wife and kids are visiting New Orleans, and I am at home all by myself. It is quite a weird experience for me. All alone in a quiet house usually filled with life and excitement. But it’s given me time to reflect on the fact that our family has entered a time of summer.

God moves all around me. I see him working in my wife’s life, my life and each of my kids’ lives. I see him at work in my ministry at church, the website and all the other things I have my hands in. I am busy serving God, but it doesn’t feel busy (like it does during spring). I experience peace and rest in my work. I appreciate the goodness around me. I soak it up. I am not sure how long it will last, but it feels great after such a long period of winter.

That’s what summer of the heart is like. Effortless. Joyful. God does something in everything you do. You soak up His goodness everywhere. Spring is busy with planting but summer is busy with reaping. Beauty is all around you. You take time to relax and soak up God’s goodness. You reflect and enjoy more. You reap after a long season of sowing.

For those going through a winter right now, know that it won’t last forever. One day, summer will come. Peace win win over chaos. Love over hate. Light over darkness. Winter doesn’t last forever. Summertime will come.

A funny thing about summer is that you feel guilty. At least I do. When you look around and see so much pain and suffering in the world, it is hard not to feel guilty when the sun is shinning your way. But I think with the gift of summer, we should give to others. We give with a full heart. A whole heart. A wise heart. A heart that knows the pain of winter.

Summer of the heart is just beginning to come our way. I know it won’t last forever. We’ll have other winters, springs and falls. But it is a taste of the paradise God has for us all after death. Summer is a taste of heaven. One day we’ll experience God’s goodness all the time. The endless summer. It’s going to rock!

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ndiliberto@churchleaders.com'
Over twelve years ago Nick Diliberto lauched a preteen ministry with a handful of volunteers and about 25 kids. Over the years it grew to over 100 kids and has impacted hundreds of young people's lives. Nick is the driving force behind PreteenMinistry.net, Children's Director at La Jolla Presbyterian Church, workshop speaker and author of an ongoing preteen column in Children's Ministry Magazine.