15 years ago, If you would have told me I would be married with five children at this point in my life, I would’ve laughed at you. Well, that’s exactly how life is laughing right now. Life is funny — sometimes it’s a “haha” funny, while other times, it’s more about the irony of it all.
Seasons—like life in general—are often unexpected and/or unplanned.
I love having a large family, but I do recognize its limitations. For example, I can’t go out with my single friends every night if I expect my family to stick around. But I recognize I’m in this season, and being in the season of family, I don’t have the desire to leave my family every night and go hang out with friends — I’d rather be with my family.
We’re always in a certain season of life — in the middle, or in a transition. And every season is beautiful in its own way, even if it’s painful or difficult.
I want to start with a quick parable from an unknown author…
“Four Seasons of a Tree”
There was a man who had four sons. He wanted his sons to learn not to judge things too quickly. So he sent them each on a quest, in turn, to go and look at a pear tree that was a great distance away. The first son went in the winter, the second in the spring, the third in summer, and the youngest son in the fall.
When they had all gone and come back, he called them together to describe what they had seen. The first son said that the tree was ugly, bent, and twisted. The second son said no–it was covered with green buds and full of promise. The third son disagreed; he said it was laden with blossoms that smelled so sweet and looked so beautiful, it was the most graceful thing he had ever seen. The last son disagreed with all of them; he said it was ripe and drooping with fruit, full of life and fulfillment.
The man then explained to his sons that they were all right, because they had each seen but only one season in the tree’s life. He told them that you cannot judge a tree, or a person, by only one season, and that the essence of who they are–and the pleasure, joy, and love that come from that life–can only be measured at the end, when all the seasons are complete.
If you give up when it’s winter, you will miss the promise of your spring, the beauty of your summer, fulfillment of your fall. Don’t let the pain of one season destroy the joy of all the rest. Don’t judge life by one difficult season. Persevere throughout the difficult patches and better times are sure to come some time or later.
I think this quick story sums up the idea that we’re all in one season or another. Plan for your season, and you’ll be happier and more productive. If you try to plan as if you’re in a season you’re not in, you’ll never feel fulfilled. Let me explain…
The Seasons of Life
There are all kinds of seasons in life. Some easier than others, of course. We’re all in a certain season. Planning your life based on the season you’re in will help you recognize your potential, and your potential limitations.
Most people go through the basic seasons: single, married, having children, and eventually, an empty nest. There are also common seasons that prove to be more difficult, such as going through a big move, getting out of serious debt, starting a business, changing careers, fostering, adopting, losing a lot of weight, and the list continues…
Moreover, you have the challenging seasons you may go through. These are things like divorce/re-marriage, becoming a widow/widower, dealing with a terminal illness in the family, fighting a legal battle, military deployments, depression, having a special-needs child, or the arduous burden of losing a child.
That seemingly exhaustive list doesn’t come close to encompassing all the seasons you could face. Once you start planning and adapting your life to your season, stress and strain will begin to fade. Maybe not entirely, but substantially.
The first step to “handling” the season you’re in is to know and actually recognize which season you’re in. Once you’ve accepted that, realize your season has limiting factors.
Life is funny, because we don’t realize how much time we have when we’re single until we get married. Then we don’t realize our freedom as a young married couple until we have kids. We don’t realize how “easy” one child is until we have two… you get the point.
That’s the nature of life. A parent can tell a single person about how much time they have, but we need to actually experience it to fully understand. I’m sure life is like that for a reason, but I have figured out the reason yet. As a single person, you may feel like you don’t have much free time. You’ve likely filled your schedule full on your own accord.
People tell me all the time: “I don’t know how you guys do everything you do with five kids.” My response is always the same: “You’d do it too if you were in my shoes.” We—human beings—adapt, overcome, conquer. When we face challenges and difficulties, we either overcome them, or we’re overcome by them. It’s a choice. Events and circumstances aren’t always a choice, but our response is always a choice.
Circumstances and Planning
Limiting factors are what determine how you live in your season. Once you know and accept your season, it’s easy to plan. The more limiting factors, the more planning is involved.
Saying our life is busy and my schedule is full would be an overt understatement. But we handle it with one word: planning. Planning is the difference in making life work for you and life working against you.
Let’s get to the practical application and go over some specific seasons 1.
1. The Season of Singleness
Look at your married friends and friends with kids. Try to realize how much time you have. Right now, it’s all about you (planning-wise). You may not feel like it, but it is.
This is the perfect season to:
- Write a book
- Build a successful career
- Find your ideal partner for marriage
- Start a business or a side hustle and go all in
- Spend time with friends and build relationships
- Devote yourself to a cause bigger than yourself (e.g. missionary work, Peace Corps, military, etc.)
- Ultimately, work on yourself. Grow. Learn. Prepare.
You have the time to do something big right now — something that takes a lot of time. Use all of the time you have while you have it. Prepare and plan for when you don’t have this much time.
2. The Season of Marriage
It’s not all about you anymore. But you’ve still got a lot of time. You may be looking for a home, and making big life decisions like career choices, location choices, and whether or not to have kids now, or later, or at all. You have a lot of decisions to make with your spouse.
This is the perfect season to:
- Figure out where you want to live your life
- Get your house in order and make career decisions
- Attend marriage seminars to strengthen your bond
- Get to know your spouse and develop a deep relationship
- Have an active social life and develop relationships with other couples
- Start a side hustle that doesn’t compete with your spouse for attention
You still have a lot of time. Use it wisely. And prepare. A child is coming. A wise person once said, “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.” 2
3. The Season of Having Children
Having children is likely the biggest change you’ve experienced so far. Don’t worry though. You’ll go through periods where you feel like you have no time—especially in the very beginning—but these times are temporary. You will start to get your time back soon.
It is kind of weird to go from living alone to living with your spouse, but you’ve been living with other people your whole life. It’s unlikely that you’ve been taking care of children your whole life (I know some big brothers and sisters are disagreeing right now).
Hopefully you’ve prepared for this season financially and physically, but even if you aren’t prepared, you’ve got this. Thousands of children are brought into this world every day to parents who aren’t prepared. Honestly, it’s impossible to fully prepare for your first child, but any advance planning you do will help enormously.
You may feel like your life is over and your free time is gone, but that’s not the case at all. Your priorities have changed. That’s all.
This is the perfect season to:
- Focus on your family, spend time together and get your house in order
- Start a side hustle that doesn’t interfere with family time (i.e. early mornings or late nights)
- Work to provide for your family, but it’s not the season to work 100 hours a week — speaking from experience
You should be focusing on your family right now. Especially in the early years. I constantly had people telling me I was working too much when I first started my family, but I kept saying “I’ll cut back once I [insert whatever the next life event was at the time]” or “I’m just working this much now, but I won’t continue like this forever.” I didn’t continue like that forever (because I finally learned my lesson), but I missed a lot of my first daughter’s early years due to my work, and I can’t get that time back.
I wish I would’ve listened and cut back then, instead of years later. Take it from someone who has been there: don’t use these years to make all the money you can, use them to be with your family.
You don’t need as much money as you think you do. Try to cut your expenses instead.
The Season of Adoption
I could write an entire series about adoption, and I actually plan to. It’s been one of the most rewarding things we’ve ever done. But as far as seasons, it’s really just about taking the time to allow the adopted children to adapt. Take some time off work. Take a vacation if possible. Allow for that bonding time. Make their first memories in your home sweet ones.
Don’t rush the process. Depending on their age(s), it will take more, less or no time, but you should allow for that time. Since this is such a vast topic, if you’re in the process of [or considering] adoption, ask any questions you have in the comments below.
4. The Season of an Empty Nest
I don’t want to say much here, because we are far from this stage. In fact, if you’re in this stage, please provide all of the wisdom you have in the comments!
By the time you reach this stage, you probably have a good idea as to what you want to do with the rest of your life. By this point in life, my wife and I should be down to only ministry and travel — we know plans almost always change though.
This is the perfect season to:
- Travel the country or the world
- Get your house like you want it, or build a new one (finances permitting)
- Write that book, create that product, or whatever else you’ve been putting off
- Do the things you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t found the time for
This is the stage where you can appreciate the amount of time you have above all other stages. You should be able to do anything you want!
5. Special Seasons
For the sake of time and space, when I say “special seasons,” I’m referring to every season other than the basic single, married, children and empty-nest seasons.
The main thing the other seasons have in common is this: something fairly rare and/or unexpected comes into your life, and you must make it your priority whether you want to or not. Most of the time, you should be focusing on getting through this season and not much outside of that.
Whether it’s moving out of your town, divorce, re-marriage, grieving a loss or awaiting legal results, you will have to put most of your attention towards this season. Focus on getting through… sometimes as quickly as you can.
That being said, in every season, appreciate the days. Don’t get so caught up on counting the days until something is over that you waste those days, months, or years. Regardless of our situation, we can rejoice in the Lord and be joyful, just as Paul did in the New Testament when he was in prison.
I don’t want to speak on seasons I don’t have much experience in, but I do want to briefly touch on them, because there’s a good chance you’re going through one of these difficult seasons right now…
Seasons That Change Your Life
I want to touch on a few things here, but I must admit, I haven’t dealt with these personally:
- A special needs child
- Terminal illness
- Losing a child
What do these have in common? They all alter the rest of your life, and they’re unexpected. Whether the terminal illness applies to you, your spouse, or a child, it will affect you similarly.
1. Special Needs Child
My wife has a heart for people, especially children, with special needs, and with God working the way He does in our life, it wouldn’t surprise me if He entrusted a special-needs child to us. But for now, we haven’t had direct experience with this.
The most important part of caring for another person who requires a lot of attention, whether a special-needs child or an ill parent, is seeing the experience as day-to-day.
People who have personally dealt with this—I know several people who have—say you can’t look at it from a lifelong perspective. Don’t ask, “can I really take care of this person for the rest of their life?” Ask, “can I take care of this person today?” I guarantee the answer will always be “yes.”
Day-to-day thinking will help you appreciate your time with them and keep you from getting overwhelmed. Reach out to your support network. Family and friends often come through in large numbers for people who face times such as these. If you don’t have a strong enough support network, reach out to some different organizations or groups online who are going through the same thing you’re going through.
2. Terminal Illness
I’m referencing any terminal illness under your roof. It could be you, your spouse, an extended family member, a child. You should give the person—even if it’s you—the fullest life imaginable. The Make-A-Wish Foundation specializes in this, but you can also do it yourself.
Let them live out their final years by doing everything they’ve wanted to do.
It’s not about how long you live, but about how you live while you’re here. Help them work of their relationship with Jesus, as they will likely be with Him sooner than you.
3. Losing a Child
I couldn’t imagine going through this, and if you have, let me just say, I give you my most sincere condolences. You’re an extremely strong person emotionally and even though you may not feel like it now, this experience will probably be your largest season of growth.
Personally, I have to turn to God here. If this were to happen to me, I would pray my heart out. I would lean on God to get me through each day and lead me into recovery, even if I never fully felt recovery (I’ve been told you never really do). Some great friends of ours recently lost their child when he was a young adult — their strength in trusting God through it all has been inspiring. If nothing else, knowing you will be with them again will get you through.
While I don’t believe everything happens for a reason (because that would mean the most grotesque pieces of history happened for a reason), I do believe God can bring good out of anything. We live in a fallen world with principalities and powers of evil at work 3. Much is the work of Satan, but God has a way of turning grim to good.
The important thing to know in situations like this is, it’s ok to be sad. I’m not a psychiatrist or a medical doctor, and I’m not giving professional advice, but you shouldn’t need anti-depressants if you just lost a child, you should be sad. You have every right to be sad. Sadness, crying, and mourning are the natural ways to begin healing. I know anti-depressants have their place—I’m not totally against them—but let yourself grieve properly. Turning to medication immediately can hinder the natural process of grieving.
If you’re going through this right now, you really need to read this article by Angela Miller, someone who has experienced this. You can also find online support like this forum to reach out to others who have experienced loss like this. Finally, I’m no expert (as I keep reiterating), but I would love to offer advice and help if you need it. Just reach out to me here. If nothing else, I will give my fullest support in your time of sorrow.
The most important takeaway from all of this is to tailor any advice to your season. Take podcasts for example. It seems like some of the most popular podcasts are delivered by fairly young, single guys. You shouldn’t expect to be able to implement everything they’re doing if you’re no longer in the single season.
That also shouldn’t be an excuse. You can always do more than you think you can do, but don’t try to do more than you know you should do. So take the advice, consider the season you’re in, and decide the best way to implement it.
If you’re not sure exactly how to do that, comment below and let’s talk. I haven’t been through every season, but I’ve been through several. And if I forgot a season you think needs to be on here, please discuss that in the comments as well.
Use the season you’re in. Make the most of it. As far as other people are concerned, you never know what season they’re in. It could be a season of depression, masked by a seemingly happy life, whether single, married, or married with children.
We only know what we see, and that’s typically around 1% of what someone is actually going through. Just be kind. It’s that simple. You were kind enough to read this entire article, and I appreciate that. See, you’re already doing it. God bless you.
Further Bible Reading
Further Book Reading
- The Seasons of Life by Jim Rohn
- The Seasons of Life by Paul Tournier
- Calling All Years Good by Cahalan & Miller-McLemore
- The Seasons of a Man’s Life by Daniel Levinson
- The Seasons of a Woman’s Life by Lois & Tony Evans
- Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life (Devotional) by Charles Swindoll
- There is a Season (Bible Study) by Laurie Cole
- Life After Divorce by Scott and Leah Silverii
- Life’s Final Season by Richard Holm
- How to Travel Light With Kids (A Comprehensive Guide)
- 8 Minimalism Books to Help You Declutter Your Entire House
- How to Teach Kids the Dangers of Debt (And My Debt-Freedom Story)
- How to Save Money on EVERYTHING for Your Family: The Complete Guide
- Stop Saying Adoption is Expensive
- 10 Practical Steps to Start Practical Minimalism
- These tips and ideas are adapted from my article on MoneyMiniBlog, titled “How to Plan Your Life According to the Season You’re In.”
- Fun fact: Though the original creator of this playground song is unknown, a variant of this rhyme can be found in Mansour, David (2005). From Abba to Zoom: A Pop Culture Encyclopedia Of The Late 20th Century. Andrews McMeel. p. 263. Thank you, all-knowing Wikipedia. “All-knowing” was a joke. Don’t get offended.
- “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12