In the Northeast, early November is a conflicted time of year. Fall color still brightens the landscape, supermarkets display everything Thanksgiving and we start to make plans to see family and friends. And then there is of course, just under the surface, the excitement of Christmas – especially if you have kids. They continually revise Christmas lists and ask when we’re getting the tree, and we look forward to decorating our homes with warm lights and deep colors.
And yet, there is also mounting dread. It’s cold in the North in the winter and it’s dark. Soon the leaves will be totally gone and the beauty will disappear. Cold, bleak and grey: too cold to bike ride, and no snow yet to play with. Kids will be inside more, inflicting all that boundless energy on tired houses, and dark afternoons will mean seeing neighbors less as we all begin to settle in for the long hibernation.
You don’t see a lot of life in the winter: no fruit and no flowers. Birds sing less and animals emerge only long enough to get more food. Everything is in survival mode. This is a picture of what we all go through at one time or another in our lives. Life isn’t always Spring.
Whether you live in the North or in the tropics, everyone sometime will endure a winter season of the soul. Winter comes when you experience great loss: the death of someone dear, a major medical battle or the demise of a marriage. It comes with disappointment; you’ve celebrated yet another birthday and you’re still single or still childless. Your adult children are still prodigal or you’re still unemployed. You are reeling under a heavy burden and every day it takes extraordinary energy to get out of bed. A person has died, a dream has died or a relationship has died, and right now, life is about survival.
Winter of the soul also comes when life is good but overwhelming: you’re drowning in your job or your small children, sleep deprivation and loss of personal freedom. Your house is a mess, your body is a mess, your skills untapped and your marriage neglected. And to make matters worse, if you had a free morning, you’d choose sleep over anything else.
Nevertheless, there is something redemptive even about winter. When life is winter, God is near. The atmosphere is rife with His presence. You hear Him when you’re in the shower, the car, when you’re doing chores or in the early morning before you’ve crawled out of bed. Your hearing is heightened, like it is for a blind person, and He instructs you moment by moment. You’ve read that He is near to the brokenhearted and now you know it for a fact. What was once theoretical is now real and deep and true. You know God like you’ve never known Him before and as you cling to Him, He not only keeps you alive, but He heals you.
Much of nature becomes dormant in the winter, everything slows down and production ceases almost entirely. No one expects apples on the trees or strawberries on the vine; that would take too much energy. Nature rests, draws in, stays quiet.
The same is true for us. If you are in a winter season, you will not be incredibly fruitful, and that is fine. Just go deep in God, stay alive, get healed. Spring will come and fruitfulness will come, but not yet. In due time, the air will begin to warm, your creativity will come alive and joy will begin to flow. In due time. God changes the time and seasons (Dan 2:21). And when the air warms and the days lengthen it will be time for you to shed the heavy winter layer and step into the lightness of Spring. But right now, nestle down, get your Bible and your tea, light your fireplace and let God breath life into your soul.
“There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven.” (Eccl. 3:1)