Trees stand cold and bare like great brown skeletons. Grass lays brown and crunches with frost. The earth is hard like stone. Snow and ice lay in freezing, crusty piles. The days are short and dark. Your breath leaves your mouth in clouds, and it feels as if you are exhaling your soul as frigid air makes your lungs ache. The wind stings your face and causes your eyes to water.
Christmas is long gone, taking its warm candles, cinnamon, bows, bulbs, and songs with it. New Year’s Day has passed, and its promises and parties have disappeared leaving only the old daily grind of last year.
After such a peak of festive joy, it’s difficult not to fall into a valley of dark disappointment or even despair. The gross, gray slush from the streets takes up residence in your heart as you long for a warm spring breeze that feels so far away.
It doesn’t have to be January for you to feel this way.
My soul has lived through its fair share of dark winters even as the sun shone warmly in clear blue skies and birds sang in leafy green trees outside.
But we must remember that winter isn’t the only season. Every season must be weathered, and every season must pass.
Just like nature, our lives go through seasons. We have hope filled springs that drip with promises. We have warm summers that bring growth and new life. We have crisp harvest times full of thankfulness and blessings. And we have winters –cold, stinging, numbing winters.
Sarah Clarkson writes of one of her long winters in her book, This Beautiful Truth. Like the curse the White Witch placed on Narnia, casting it into a hundred-year winter void of Christmas, Sarah’s OCD and depression kept her trapped in a winter of the soul. In chapter two of her book, she recalls a trip to an art museum in Poland which placed the stark contrast of life plainly before her eyes.
She entered the first gallery, full of warm portraits and vivid landscapes. She could almost hear the laughter and music. This wide, bright, windowed room almost made her forget the ice and snow that held her mind. She slipped like an eager child down the hallway to the second gallery to discover what beauty was held within. But when the door creaked open, she was met with images of bloody snow, blue faces, empty eyes. Death, death, death; everywhere she turned. The cold wintery deaths of war-torn Poland during WWII.
Sarah’s chest tightened with terror as she forced herself through the gruesome gallery. When the exit door came into sight she darted out, trembling and lightheaded. This is what she wrote:
“My mind could not reconcile those vastly divergent stories for both told the tale of the same people. Two galleries. Two stories… One of beauty so exultant it seemed indestructible. The other the tale of its breaking, a shattering so complete it seemed that beauty never was and never could come again… Caught between these two vivid histories I abruptly recognized myself…” (p 60)
Winter; stark, harsh, unrelenting. They come to all of us. There is nothing we can do to stop them or ward them off.
Sarah was trapped between a beautiful life and a mind ravaged by gruesome, intrusive thoughts. Her life was an enigma of contrasts that she could not break free from. Nightmare vivid as loving reality. Moments rich with starlight, God’s touch, and hope of healing, versus those riddled with pain, fear, and stalked by abandoned dreams.
The contrast of the galleries tore at her heart, and the contrast of her life tears at mine.
For Everything There is a Season
I have had winters that felt like Sarah’s, and I am sure you have too. Like a lake is frozen over you—you are drowning and numb with no sense of up or down. Winter. Cold, soul-killing winter when you wonder if God is even there – and if He is there, if He even cares.
Whether it’s because your mental health is diving to a whole new low, your family life is roaring like white water, you’ve lost someone you love, or your health is plummeting into illness, we all have winter seasons.Winters come to all of us, we can't stop them. But we can dress warmly and draw close to the fire, clinging to the truth that spring will come—and it will come. Every season ends. Sunshine always melts the ice. Click To Tweet
But we can dress warmly and draw close to the fire, clinging to the truth that spring will come—and it will come. Every season ends. Sunshine always melts the ice. Spring comes after winter.
In order to get to spring though, you have to walk through the winter. Crocuses will peep from thawing ground, but first snow must fall on the fallen leaves of autumn. Enduring winter and waiting for spring are matters of patience. And patience perfects us.
“But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete lacking nothing.” – James 1:4, NKJV
My favorite song by Hillsong is called Seasons and it addresses the concept of winters and patience: “Like the frost on a rose / Winter comes for us all / Oh how nature acquaints us / With the nature of patience / Like a seed in the snow / I’ve been buried to grow / For Your promise is loyal / From seed to sequoia / I know / Though the winter is long even richer / The harvest it brings / Though my waiting prolongs even greater / Your promise for me like a seed / I believe that my season will come.”In order to get to spring you have to walk through the winter. Enduring winter and waiting for spring are matters of patience. And patience perfects us. Click To Tweet
That day in the art museum as she is reeling from fear, Sarah finds this truth in a third gallery, behind a third door in the anteroom. The door was only opened a crack, but a warm breeze gently pushed it farther, revealing blue sky and golden sunshine. Spring. A season of hope and clarity. God invites us into spring.
There is a third gallery waiting for all of us. A place where God is creating new things we can’t even imagine made from the pain and joy of the past.
Spring brings redemption. Dead things that have decomposed and laid dormant bring forth new life. Flowers begin to poke up out of softening ground, watered by the melting ice. Your soul will find redemption too, the rejuvenation of spring. Seasons is infused with the hope of this spring.Spring brings redemption. Dead things that have decomposed and laid dormant bring forth new life. Flowers begin to poke up out of softening ground, watered by the melting ice. Your soul will find redemption too. Click To Tweet
“Lord I think of Your love / Like the low winter sun / And as I gaze I am blinded / In the light of / Your brightness / And like a fire to the snow / I’m renewed in Your warmth / Melt the ice of this wild soul / Till the barren is beautiful / And I know / Though the winter is long even richer / The harvest it brings / Though my waiting prolongs even greater / Your promise for me like a seed / I believe that my season will come.”
When God draws near in your weeping, like He did for Sarah, and like He has done for me, His presence is like a soft blanket wrapping around you, reminding you that warmth exists.
It is Aslan who finally ends winter in Narnia. It is Aslan who brings spring. “Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight, At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more, When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death, And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.” Those words are as true for us as they are for the characters in the story.
Because of Christ, every winter will come to an end, until one day winters will be completely ended. The promise is made, all we must do is be faithful and wait patiently.
I sit by the window, as I write these words, staring out at the cold and blustery day. Snow and rain both fall from the sky in a gross downpour. It seems as if the entire world is barren and gray. But my heart is warm and tastes the coming spring, because our God is good, His steadfast love endures forever, and His blessings are renewed every day.