In a Bleak Mid-Winter

Have you ever experienced winter when the weather conditions align in such a way to paint the landscape in diamond-like crystals? It usually happens when it’s very cold. It’s so beautiful, you almost forget that it comes out of the bleakness of winter.

Let me be honest – I don’t like winter. I don’t like the cold, and I don’t want to be outside. I’m not the kind of person who participates in activities like skiing, snowboarding, or sledding. When winter comes, I am inclined to hunker down inside my warm house. Yep, to me, winter is cold and dark and goes on far too long.

I haven’t always lived in a place where winter is long and cold and dark. For a time I lived where there was barely a discernible change from one time of year to the next. There was a lot to like about living in this area of the country – namely the weather. I loved the predictably warm days, and didn’t mind that it never changed much. Christmas on the beach in shorts never really bothered me. In a place like that, day flows into day, with little change. That seemed like the way it should be.

Still, I’ve been thinking a lot about how good it is for our souls to experience changes in seasons. There’s something renewing about winter changing into spring.

Anticipation of the next, warmer season becomes a force that drives me through days and weeks of cold and dark. Winter can be hard, but without it, I don’t know that I would truly appreciate spring.  

There are times when life can feel like winter. And often, when we face cold, dark, and bleak times in life it can be hard to imagine spring will follow. No one is exempt from this – for all of us, life ebbs and flows, and at some point, we’ll all face a winter season. (John 16:33)

So how do we move through it and look forward to the change?

First, recognize a time of darkness and cold are common to all of us. The Bible is full of examples (Gen 50, Ruth 1, Job 1). When it happens, we can feel isolated, but try to remember others have experienced winters too.

Second, learn to change your thinking. Recognize the season you’re in, but don’t get frozen in it. It’s not always easy, but it is very necessary. Without purposefully redirecting our self-talk, we will remain in constant winter, and convince ourselves we’re the only ones who’ve ever been in this place.

Third, remember it is a season; it is not going to last forever (Ecc 3:1-8). One of the most critical parts of moving through winter experiencing in the moment, while remaining focused on the spring ahead. It’s easy to wistfully daydream about how great it was before winter began, but that’s never helpful. We can waste a lot of time and energy stuck in one place focusing on last spring. But moving forward requires forward-looking. Don’t stop and focus on the cold. Remember, we’re supposed to walk through the valley, not sit in it (Psalm 23).

Keep walking, and keep looking. Spring will come (Hosea 6:3, Song of Solomon 2:11-12).

Finally part of surviving winter is noticing the beauty of it. Yes, I said it – there is beauty in the bleakness. Even winter offers an allure. There is something so lovely about the crisp white covering of snow (Isaiah 1:18). It’s preparation for the next season as nature prepares for a season of growth and renewal. And, so it is for us. 

Don’t despise the colder seasons. Remember, when it’s cold and bleak, we also get to see the magnificence of sun upon ice crystals, reminding us of God’s promises of restoration and redemption (Proverbs 3:5-6, James 1:2-8, John 16:33, 1 Peter 5:10).

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