What to do During a Winter of the Soul
Peek at my archives and you’ll sense the swell and deflation, my spirit in its own seasonal rhythms. Blogging for a few years now, I’m just now able to see it myself, how my passions ebb and flow, how I handle darkness, how I celebrate Spring.
When my soul hits Winter, I feel compelled to hide, ashamed sometimes by the quietness from my God, by my lack of interest in otherwise totally enjoyable things, and by my strong sense of aloneness – the island feeling.
And I feel everything to the quick; so when I first saw the title of Mark Buchanan’s new book Spiritual Rhythm, I knew what it was about and quickly acknowledged that my soul had spent much time in Winter, and I was ready to know why and take some advice on what to do about it, how to see it.
I know the soul’s Winter because of things I would never write here. Yes there are things that I do not write. Some things aren’t mine to tell. Yet I own them all the same.
Buchanan actually begins Spiritual Rhythms with Winter, exactly what I needed. I didn’t expect such beautiful writing, and I didn’t expect anyone to ever articulate Winter of the Soul the way he does: from experience with dark sorrow that renders one mute and friendless. He knows Winter well after having lost a dear one.
The snow still lays on the florescent ground at least 15 inches deep. The sun breaks through the window blinds, and I read the chapter called, “Winter Activities.” And without stepping foot out of this needed season of struggling faith, I am truly encouraged.
There’s extra work to do in every season, and winter’s work is the hardest for me: prayer, pruning, and waiting. But Buchanan calls it good, and I believe that he’s right because He’s agreeing with Biblical truth.
I’ve been with the Lord long enough to know that He faithfully meets me on the other side of my funks, but I’ve never been diligent enough in the dark places to see the growth of pure faith while it’s happening, to persevere in prayer according to what I know of God rather than according to what I see of God. No matter what I feel or experience, I desperately need to learn to pray without ceasing because isn’t true faith believing in the unseen, a “fierce, hardy Scotch broom of a thing that clings to rock and ledge, grows in sour places, withstands hurricanes (53)”?
Without Winter, we couldn’t prune for Spring, wouldn’t see the fruit blossom in nourished abundant expectation. Buchanan encourages a cutting back during our soul’s Winter, to “ask honestly if these [responsibilities] are bearing fruit or just sapping energy (50).”
Also in the winter waiting, true faith grounds itself in hope that is certain, the hope of heaven, when we’re finally filled with glory. We know full well and long for Spring, the resurrection.
A Winter of the Soul comes with gifts that no other season offers, too: opportunities to re-imagine our lives as they really should be, to know what matters and what doesn’t, to anticipate heaven the way only one who’s suffered can. Releasing the branches that go with pruning allows a lightened load and opportunity for unadulterated fun. In Winter we can allow ourselves to play.
Jesus is indeed a man, yes a God, of every season, and Winter wouldn’t be cycled into our souls were it not to make us like Him, acquainted with sorrow and filled to the brim with greatest hope.