The clouds cover the sun, there is a slight chill in the air. Shades of color begin to hint that a season is turning. Days are moving shorter, and my heart beats faster. The smells of warm spice fill the air, and I briefly remember this season in years past. A time before I was acquainted with the word, "depression". A time when the season and the one to come was filled only with sweet holiday smells, playful adventures, and memories. And then time came and time went, and I grew. Depression became personal. It seems each year the depression fight increases. A healthy spirit and soul rage war against a body that still insists on keeping depression caged within. And, although, I have become well acquainted with its ways and even know how to keep it within my control-it sneaks through most in the cold seasons.
My heart is beating faster and earlier each year as the air turns with the color of the trees. Seasonal depression creeps its way in and I am not ready for it.
Are you familiar with it? This darkness. I know many are. I have had many a quiet conversation about it. Fall and winter represent death and while we love the smell of pumpkin and apples, the leaves are changing colors because they are dying. They will fall, and snow will fall, and the earth will become dry and barren. The clouds will cover the sun and bitter cold will seep in. Try as hard as we might, we can't stop the turning of the seasons. And, in much the same way, we can't stop the passing of our lives. The barren, dry, bitter seasons that cease us. The depression that overtakes us. The proverbial clouds that cover the light of day.
No, we can't stop the passing of time and our bodies may struggle with a powerful sickness and we may sometimes forget the light, but there is a quiet redemptive narrative that takes place in the midst of the barren seasons.
This story, this exquisite narrative speaks of restorative power that takes our brokenness and spins beauty and grace. It tells of a Father that makes the hard places soft and tender. A God who does His greatest work in the winter, whispering-shh, my child, new life comes only from what has been laid to rest. For what must live, must first die.
I can look at the impending winter with dread, I can close my eyes and pretend it's spring. I can busy myself to ignore the darkness. I can let myself be swallowed in the darkness. Yet, this causes me to think of a simple statement in 1 Peter 1 where it implores us to not return to our futile ways of living. You who know redemption, you have hope. You who know redemption, you know the winter is necessary. Things must die, so that others can live. Pruning, change, barrenness - all of these are necessary.
Depression, while it's a thorn in my side, it does not control me or define me. Winter seasons, either metaphorically or literally, do not closet my hope. 1 Peter 1 says we have been given a living hope. It's a LIVING hope. Time will pass, seasons will change, uncertainty is inevitable - but this hope - His hope, oh it will never tarnish, fade, or waiver. His hope remains through all seasons. It's a hope that He is making all things new. A hope that restoration and redemption will be birthed out of barren, winter seasons. New life will come again.
Rest, solace in Him is our prescription. Facing the darkness, naming the depression - acknowledging our barren seasons, this is the solution. Self care, soul care become life lines. Warm drinks shared with friends, vulnerable words spoken with mentors and counselors-this becomes like the air we breathe. Beware of isolation. Ignorance, busyness, and avoidance will not cut it. For some, it may get you by until spring. Yet, the treasure of true redemption and the "all things new" narrative is experienced only when one is willing to acknowledge, accept, process, and surrender.
Depression no longer causes me fear, and although it remains a part of me, it does not control me or define me. Spring will come, and sun will shine again - but until then - I will embrace the pruning of winter. I will breathe deeply. I will dance in the leaves and I will smile at the snow. I will step up my efforts in soul care, and I will insist on extra time with Jesus. I will play with my family and make time with my friends. All the while, I will lean heavily on grace. Grace to sustain, grace to breathe, grace to live.
My heart smiles at the thought of God's work this winter. Oh what will be pruned, what will be changed? What will be redeemed and restored? What beautiful work shall have me shouting, "O taste and see that He is good"!
"The Father's work in us does not sleep-though in spiritual winters he retracts all advertisement. And when He does so, He is purifying our faith, strengthening our character, conserving our energy, and preparing us for the future. The sleepy days of winter hide us so that the seductive days of summer will not ruin us." A. Chole