y wife and I pastor in Chicago. We absolutely love living in the Midwest. Part of its charm is getting to experience four distinct seasons every year.

Spring always brings the city back to life before giving way to summer. Thankfully we have mild summers, although the lifelong locals would probably disagree. They think 90 degrees is unbearably hot.

After summer, we are greeted with the best fall on the planet. The trees begin to change their colors and we are soon surrounded by golden yellows and vibrant reds. We welcome the cool, crisp air with sweaters and blankets. Conditions are perfect for fire pits and hot chocolate. In our home we don’t just embrace the fall season—we celebrate it.

Before long, we move to winter and get an entirely different experience. Being from the South, I wasn’t accustomed to dealing with snow. Since moving to Chicago, I have learned when winter comes, you better be prepared. If you don’t properly prepare, you can suffer. By suffer, I mean freeze to death—literally.

The cycle continues each year. Some winters are colder than usual and some summers are hotter, but we always have an idea about what to anticipate. We know when to expect change because seasons are predictable.

Churches and leaders also have seasons. Some seasons we anticipate and prepare for, while others come out of left field. In my experience, it’s more difficult to navigate the unforeseen seasons.

If you are a pastor in the midst of a sudden “winter,” it can feel nearly impossible to move your church into “spring.” Ask anyone who has accepted a new pastorate. Things can be rough at times. You can expect some hard days and long nights, but they won’t last always. Seasons will change: winter will give way to spring.

It’s difficult to describe that feeling you get as a leader when you look around and realize you’ve survived the hardship and transitioned into a better season. You have watched the snow melt, giving way to the fragrance and colors of a new season.

I have also discovered that good seasons are the hardest ones to leave. It is difficult to transition out of an easy season into a hard one. Every leader who reads this can identify with me. It’s hard to leave behind the successes of yesterday and work for something new and undiscovered. As someone once said, the greatest enemy of tomorrow’s victory is yesterday’s victory.

During one of those transitions in our life, my wife and I received the greatest piece of wisdom from a dear pastor’s wife in Mobile, Alabama. She could hear our heart, so she knew we were hurting. We felt so disappointed that nearly a decade of ministry and hard work seemed to be for nothing, and we could not understand where we were. She told us, “It’s impossible to reap a harvest from a season that has already passed.”

That simple sentence was one of the most freeing revelations we have ever experienced. It gave us such peace to know and understand that we cannot live in harvest forever. We cannot live in perpetual reaping. Seasons do not work that way.

Sometimes a new season will mean a new field. We again have to break up hard ground. We have to sow seed again. We have to let the rain soak our seed, and then we have to wait. But when we understand the seasons, we can be encouraged that harvest will follow. Yes, summer will come again.

Honestly, I have hated some of the seasons we have faced and storms we have had to endure, but I have learned to rejoice in the change. In order for us to be fulfilled and reap all that God has established for our lives, we must go through the various seasons. We need the busy, exciting times of summer, but we also need the hardship and stillness of winter.

There are certain things God will wait until the quiet of winter to tell us because we cannot hear them in the business of summer. In the winter seasons of life, we pray more. We learn to trust more. We draw close to God in pursuit of answers, wisdom, and peace.

Winter seasons will shut you up in your home to escape the brutal conditions surrounding you. There, during those lonely and dark days, you discover the unwavering presence of God is always more than enough to sustain you.

I’ve learned that different seasons require different levels of preparation. During the summer we can get dressed quickly, slide on a pair of sandals, and walk right out the door to start our day. However, when winter comes to Chicago, we take great care in the morning to get dressed appropriately before leaving the comfort of our warm home. We need extra layers of clothing. We need thick socks, winter boots, and waterproof gloves. We need fleece-lined hats and scarves thick enough to repel the bone-chilling cold. We need to cover our skin properly or it can be damaged by the harsh conditions.

The minimal level of preparation needed for summer could be catastrophic in a winter. Likewise, if the level of winter preparation were used in a summer season, it would produce immeasurable discomfort.

How are you preparing each day spiritually for the season of life you are in? Are you tired and frustrated trying to harvest in a season meant for sowing? Are you disappointed looking for new life in frozen ground?

Just as summer prayers won’t cut it in winter seasons, so spring efforts won’t work for the fall. Discerning the season you are in, personally and as a leader, will allow you to make necessary preparations and bring you peace for the journey.

Regardless of the season you find yourself in today, be encouraged! Things will change, God is in control, and you will be fine if you keep serving Him. Hard seasons don’t last forever, and you will find another peaceful season.

You cannot control the times and seasons, but you can control your responses to them. Stay faithful. James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life” (ESV).

Be strong, be encouraged, and be faithful because your season is changing.

Chris Wallace is director of youth and discipleship for the Church of God in the Great Lakes Region, and serves as pastor of Chicago’s Victory Church.