Whether or not the little critter sees his shadow, we can find God on Groundhog Day as we think about fear and how it might hold us back.
This article is adapted from Dianne Neal Matthews’ book The One Year on This Day (Tyndale House).
According to tradition, February 2 is the date that the groundhog, or woodchuck, wakes up from winter hibernation and comes out of its burrow. The legend says that if the sun shines that day, the groundhog will be scared by its own shadow, return to its burrow, and winter will last another six weeks. If the day is cloudy and the groundhog doesn’t see its shadow, it will stay outside and spring will come soon.
For several hundred years, European farmers had similar traditions involving badgers, bears, and other animals. Early German settlers brought their custom to Pennsylvania. Plentiful in the eastern and Midwestern states, the groundhog became the animal linked with our Groundhog Day custom in America. Since 1887, “Punxsutawney Phil” has been the official weather prophet in well-attended Groundhog Day celebrations in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
We’ve all experienced the desire to hide from circumstances that threaten us, just like the traditional groundhog. Some Bible scholars assume that Paul’s allusion to timidity or cowardice refers to a problem that Timothy had. Others interpret it as a general encouragement to Paul’s young protégé as Timothy spread the gospel in hostile environments. In either case, the verse reminds us that the Holy Spirit does not bring fear but instills in us the ability to control ourselves beyond our natural capabilities.
God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)
Fear is a problem with everyone to some degree. God told Isaiah that the Lord is the only one we are to fear (Isaiah 8:13). Fear will be replaced by faith if we concentrate on pleasing the One who holds our destiny in his hands. Then we can say with David:
“I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4 (NLT)
There’s no need to be frightened by scary shadows around us as long as the Son is shining.
Think about it: How do your fears keep you from being all God wants you to be?
At groundhog.org you can find out everything you ever wanted to know about Groundhog Day history and more.
Watch this fun video to learn more about groundhogs and to find out how much wood woodchucks chuck:
© Dianne Neal Matthews (www.DianneNealMatthews.com). Dianne is a freelance writer and the author of four daily devotional books.