Surviving the Bleak Mid-Winter

Surviving the Bleak Mid-Winter January 16, 2017

In my opinion, once Christmas is over, the snow can dismiss itself until the following November. But of course, I’ve not been put in charge of weather patterns. So once again I find myself stuck in white wintery bleakness, deprived of vitamin D, and dealing with muck-slushy roads until our Maker breathes some warm air our way.

Did I mention it’s freezing? And I’m freezing? And every chronic illness I have is flaring?

Rejoice in the Lord always. 

That’s the commandment.

But it’s Jaaaaanuary, I say nasally. What is there to rejoice in once all the holiday hubbub has settled? Not settled, like you would imagine Pixie dust settling. Settled like you would expect dust that’s been repeatedly run over with heavy equipment to settle.

I don’t feel prettied up like I would if Tink had, in the style of infant baptism, sprinkled me with her magic. I feel patted down. Kinda desperate. Like if someone (Someone) doesn’t shoo off the heavy things of life pretty soon, I’ll be irreparably flattened.

Well. Maybe I don’t have any pixie dust … but a pixie cut would do the trick? Try something new and exciting. Cut off all my locks and enjoy a big change.

I would. Except my track record states that cutting significant amounts of hair releases a dam of emotions that no amount of chocolate or love making or new clothes can stop. I just have to cry it out, and then I’m forced to wait eight long months before my trusses lay with any sense of order. 

So you see my thinking is backward. The gain of goodies, possessions, relationships, new hairs, or any tangible thing does not evoke the kind of rejoicing God is looking for. Rejoicing is a work of the soul, and cannot be manufactured by acquiring mere num-nums. Just ask Edmund Pevensie. Sure there are times when sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy. And if my stomach would allow me to eat a bag of Dove milk chocolate, or even just a few pieces without any dire consequences, I’d wear a silly clown grin for a time. Like, an entire week. But the earthly goods God has graciously given for our enjoyment are not meant to fill soul holes. They are gifts we are free to richly enjoy, but gifts that should ultimately serve to point us to the Giver.

I don’t mean to be cryptic about what heavy things are patting me down. I’ll tell you vaguely. It’s difficult relationships, lack of food, lack of energy, waiting on medical test results, medical bills, lack of available sunshine, trying to care for a Parkinson’s patient, which takes far more emotional energy than physical at this point, but when it comes to my own health issues, emotional energy is the same as physical energy.

So many other things, too, that are broken and bleak and beating me down. Beating others down.

How long, O Lord?, we ask with the Psalmist.

Our hearts naturally question when things are bleak. But David, though he was a professional inquirer amidst discouraging and sometimes terrifying circumstances, also talked to himself. He made a habit of bringing his thoughts under the submission of the truth, which led to a position of faith and obedience. However bleak his circumstances, he talked himself into what was right, and the result was a resurrection of faith that led to genuine rejoicing.

And so, if you’re still reading (what is that echo?), here’s my conclusion to this messy blog:

It’s possible to feel patted down to near lifelessness and (as I found out last week) run an errand in the gross slosh of snow, flip on the radio, and simply, humbly sing It Is Well with your soul. Try it. You won’t feel like anything is so very well at first, especially your soul. But there’s something about that old hymn, about rejoicing no matter the Biblical song, that brings us to say “Patted down, yes. But not completely lifeless and buried.” Not unlike Paul:

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. ~2 Cor. 4:8-10

Our afflictions have a purpose. We have a purpose. And in spite of every little bleak thing, our souls can be well, because the promises of God are sure. And all the promises of God find their Yes in Him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. (2 Cor. 1:20) Our Amens point back to Him. And that’s the big idea: to glorify God by rejoicing, even when we are afflicted. 

Winter is on our heads, but eternal spring is in our hearts, said Victory Hugo. 

May our lives reflect that truth. 

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