Winter months can be long and dreary. Heavy clouds carry snow and rain, blocking out the sun. And its cold! And wet! And you’ve got to put on coats, hats, gloves, scarves and boots and you’re still cold. There is even a winter condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder - a depression related to lack of sunlight.
Getting through the dark weeks of winter can be tough.
Psalm 42:11 asks a poignant question: “Why, are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” It’s part of the human condition to become downcast. Some develop a more serious, clinical depression that may required medication, but everyone faces that downcast feeling.
Part of my downcast-ness, is from just trudging through day after day. When I’m in the middle of that, I will find myself walking down the alley on my way to the church on a beautiful, if rare, winter day. The sky is blue, the air is a little warmer, even the wind feels refreshing rather than freezing. But I still have my head down, picking my way through the slush. I’ve discovered that if I stop, look up, and let the sun shine on my face, something inside wakes up, like daffodils breaking through the snow.
So I suggest you break it up a little. Change up the way you trudge through these weeks of cold. If you aren’t outside from day to day, step out on your front porch and just breath. If you are home day after day, go somewhere. Make a point of watching for a good day, and taking the opportunity to go somewhere just to get out. It will feel like someone has broken a layer of ice off your soul.
In the movie, A Family Thing, Robert Duvall plays a man named Earl. Earl discovers that though he grew up with his white father, and his own skin is white, his real mother was a black woman. Earl goes to find his black family and meets his nephew, Virgil. Virgil is a young man with a grudge, hating every moment and everyone. Earl says to him, “There was a man in my town who owned a fix-it shop. He hardly made any money, but every month he would take his wife to the city and buy her something, a scarf, a new dress, something. As the trip got closer he had a light in his eye. After ten years or so his wife died. But he was approved to adopt a little boy. It started all again. Every fourth week they took a trip, and he bought the boy a toy or something. One day I asked him about it. He said, ‘Being happy ain’t nothing more than having something to look forward to.’” Then Earl said, “You need to find something to look forward to.”
Sometimes we need to find something to look forward to. So make a plan, build a hope, and smile even though it’s dark.
Some years ago I came across the story of a man who, throughout his lifetime, each January wrote down a list of commitments for the coming year. He began the practice as a young adult. And he kept each annual commitment throughout his life.
At his death his family found his collection of annual commitments in a box in the attic. They had known about his practice and were eager to see what he had written each year for so long.
They discovered that the commitments he made were simple and related to the basic responsibilities of life. To their great surprise, however, his list changed very little throughout his life. In fact, every year included some of the same commitments: 20 pushups every day, reading this Bible every day, kindness to strangers, honesty in business, faithfulness to family. For an entire lifetime this man had committed every year to the same things.
At first his family was disappointed. They thought that making the same commitment each year was perhaps a little shallow, a little easy. But as they thought about him, they realized that he had lived each of those commitments, perhaps not perfectly, but consistently. They began to feel that the secret to his life had been his unwavering commitment to what was really important. His annual recommitment to the same foundations expressed and empowered his determination to do what he said he would do.
At New Year we may be thinking about how we will live the new year. Perhaps we are looking for something new, exciting, creative. That’s not bad at all. But there is great power in reviewing the most basic demands of life and faith, and recommitting to keeping them again in the new year.
What would you measure to be foundational to your faith and life? Would you include spiritual disciplines like prayer, Bible reading and study, application of biblical truth to your life? Would you identify kindness and compassion to others? Would you write down serving your Lord by serving those in need?
Would you commit yourself again to do what you know is the center of God’s design for our lives? Its not a bad way to start the year.
~ Pastor Byron
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.