The frost descends on the garden. It chills the plants, shriveling their flowers and drying out their leaves. The buds hang their heads in silent death. All of the brightness is gone, shrouded by cold shadows—the greens and pinks and yellows, fading to a dull brown. The ground cracks; the soil is frozen. The sun hides behind a gray, overcast sky. Everything looks lifeless. As I stand here staring, standing in this garden, I feel alone. Cold. Scared. Where is the warmth, the joy I once had? The Gardener I once loved? Is everything dead now? Will I perish in this winter of my soul?
* * *
First of all: no, you are not the only one.
Not every Christian is currently basking in the warmth of their Springs and Summers—times of refreshing, joyful, fruit-bearing closeness to God.
Some are stumbling through their first Winter, or are lowering their heads against the wind as they continue the long trek toward the summer light.
Perhaps that is you. Perhaps this analogy seems strange at first. I don’t know why it resonated with me so much when I was one and a half years deep into my depression. The phrase slid off my pen as I journaled my thoughts and prayers to God. It made sense to me, to my experience.
Winter is cold. The inexplicable despair left me raw and frostbitten. I wanted comfort, shelter, more than ever before. My faith became a matter of life or death.
Winter seems lifeless. My normal way of judging the fruitfulness of my life as a Christian—through my warm spiritual emotions—could no longer work. I had to learn to see the evergreens of longing and hope, once the flowers of euphoria had faded.
Winter lingers. I always felt (and still do) that winter as a season just dragged on. Especially in January, after the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. It seemed like it would never end. Internally, depression tempted me to forget I’d ever had a summer, or a spring, or an autumn. I couldn’t find help by looking back, but by looking forward. I knew eventually the winter would melt and the garden would blossom again.
Winter is hard. It brings snow. And snowstorms. Treacherous roads, dark days, cold mornings when you don’t want to get out of bed. But I discovered, over time, the secret to surviving the Winter of my soul. And it involved two of the most difficult tasks for us when we are suffering:
Keep going, and wait.
But how do you keep going?
And how do you wait?
Not passively, that’s for sure.
Let me be a companion for you as someone who has traversed the Winter of her own soul. Our Gardener has not abandoned us. He has things to teach us here until the summer returns.
This is the first article in a new series on depression, called Winter of the Soul. Be sure to follow this series as we discover strategies and encouragement for enduring depression. Together, we can find joy and beauty in the Lord–even in the midst of the worst Winter.