Winter blues. It’s when everyone else is all “Ho, ho, ho!” and you’re just plain ho-hum.
The mercy in me often wonders if Scrooge and the Grinch were really just suffering from Seasonal Affected Disorder. How SAD! If you are like me, then the winter blues is this unwelcomed houseguest that arrives every December and doesn’t move out for six months. They say sunshine helps. But I’ve lived in some very sunny states, like Colorado with 300 sunny days a year and Florida, “the Sunshine State.” Yet, I only found true sunshine when we moved to the bleak and blustery Midwest.
When we first moved here from the beach, the unknowns of our first winter terrified me. I struggled with depression in all my sunny states, so I couldn’t help but predict an ominous dark cloud coming my way. I cried when the geese flew south, longing to go with them. I tried to walk a few times, but the frigid temperatures just forced tears down my cheeks. Apparently, this is the body’s way of preventing your eyeballs from turning into ice-pops! Sheesh. This ain’t no beach! Here in the Midwest, we don’t see our neighbors from about November until it warms up again in April. Suddenly, neighbors have newborns on their hips, and we never even knew they were expecting!
This April, I visited with a neighbor as we walked down to the mailbox. She grew up here, so when she said, “This winter sure was brutal, wasn’t it?” I didn’t know what to say. I just smiled. I wanted to say, “This was actually my best winter ever!” but I didn’t want to rub it in. Her comment served as a litmus test, proving I passed through the winter without any effects. In fact, I felt better than ever!
For the past decade, no matter what I did or tried, I still suffered from depression. So why was I suddenly experiencing such sunshine? Lots of things, really. Physically, I finally got up the courage to get medical help. Spiritually, God delivered me from a lot of bondage. Emotionally, one thing really helped…
I decided to believe all of God’s Word is true.
Last winter, I was not sleeping, drowning in spiritual oppression, exhausted, and chronically ill. Without my basic needs for food and sleep met, I struggled to believe God’s promise that “goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” (Psalm 23:6, ESV). However, when I stumbled upon Psalm 84, I decided to print off a copy and tape it to the wall in front of my toilet. (That’s the one place I sit without distractions.) I determined that I have no other choice than to fully believe this is true:
For the LORD God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory.
The LORD will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.
Psalm 84:11 (NLT)
So, even if I only got three hours of sleep, even then, God is not withholding any good thing from me. He must have a better “good thing” for me that I just can’t see… like perseverance, grace, and glory to make it through another day. Like the opportunity to lean into the Holy Spirit for emotional stability and physical strength in a way that I’d have NEVER experienced if He gave me a full night of sleep. That shift in perspective helped me cling to God’s goodness toward me even in the midst of difficult trials, trusting that He gives me everything good I need even if it’s not the good thing I wanted. Maybe you needed to hear that today too (even if you didn’t want to)?
Ever been in an airplane high above a sheet of clouds? The sun—warming. The sun’s reflection off cloud tops—brilliant. But in a moment, the decent through clouds leaves you in a gloomy, rainy place with a blur of dim lights below. That’s how depression feels—dim, lacking, helpless in the descent. But still, we know that just on the other side of the heavy clouds, we know the sun still shines.
This became a picture of faith I held on to. I had to trust that the sun still shines even though all I see are heavy clouds. After reading Psalm 84 and going on that airplane ride, I drove around town often, looking up at the freezing grey cloud-cover above, and I smiled!
“The sun is still shining. I just can’t see it,” I told my soul. “I lack no good thing,” I told my soul. I began to see with eyes of faith, believing that My God is my Sun and my Shield. I saw my life and my prayers differently too, believing that no matter how dim and hopeless things looked, that the Light of my God was and will continue to cast out and expose every darkness.
Are you under those heavy clouds today? Maybe it’s the fog of depression or mental illness? Maybe it’s the overwhelming heavy weight of debt or shame or grief? Maybe it’s simply that literal cloud-cover in the sky? Friend, as we look these clouds in the face this winter, let’s tell our souls, “The Sun still shines in my life, even when I just can’t see Him.”