It’s a rainy day in Central Virginia, but I can feel the sun trying to peek out from the clouds. The cold still makes my joints ache, but the tease of Spring makes me feel more alive. About a week ago, my hope for an early Spring was denied by nature and Punxsutawney Phil. Six more weeks of winter, it is.
Winter is weird around here. I can always smell it coming before we drop into freezing temperatures or before the first hint of snow. And all winter long, from those early whispers of snow to the bitter cold of the past few weeks, I’ve tried to pop on here and say hello. I’ve tried to write something deep or meaningful, or something encouraging. I’ve tried to talk about Christmas and the New Year. I’ve tried to write about how depression can so easily turn into a darker kind of darkness when everything gets dark and cold outside. That somehow it feels like everything is dark and cold inside me, too. And that when the sun hides, it makes me want to do the same. For those who brave the depths of depression, it can feel a bit like trying to run through wet concrete, leaving you throwing your hands up to the air yelling at anything or Anyone that will listen.
I tried and tried, to no avail. I really wanted to be the brave depressed girl who posted her truest and most vulnerable thoughts for the world to see, because I think our words written in the dark deserve the light. I wish it were that easy. I wish that rolling out of bed didn’t feel like running a marathon, or that sitting down to sort through the million thoughts and words in my head didn’t feel like the most terrifying task of the day. Putting in the emotional work of keeping your head above water can be so physically draining. In the middle of a season that tends to be overloaded with routine changes, extravagant celebrations, and online oversharing, I simply had to keep saying to myself “Just survive. Winter will end. Spring is coming.”
…then the damn groundhog comes out and crushes all my dreams.
The truth is, I feel like I’m always waiting for Spring. When will things come back to life again? When will all be well and whole? When will we see goodness and redemption from all the death and suffering?
This Christmas season I felt a lot of melancholy and sadness as those questions lingered in the back of my head. I began the season celebrating Advent, devoting time to reflect on the people of God waiting anxiously, painfully, excitedly and sometimes just really unfaithfully for the Messiah. I read the prophecies of the coming King who came to make a way and redeem his people. I sang, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel.” I joined with the weary world rejoicing on Christmas Eve and thought of the scared teenage girl bringing the Hope baby into the world.
And then I woke up on Christmas morning and felt…disappointed.
What do you when it doesn’t feel like Hope has come? When the longing for justice and wholeness and peace hasn’t been satisfied, and the weary world still feels really weary. The sting of death still feels sharp and the grip of sin still tight. When your waiting is not over, and no hymn or prayer or catechism brings total comfort or true rest. When the brokenness of the world still makes you plead, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel.” What do you do when a season of hope actually makes you feel a little hopeless?
There are no easy answers to that question. I know all too well the damage it can do to oversimplify dilemmas of the heart and mind, especially when we use Jesus to do it. It can be painful and isolating and downright traumatic. I get it. But somehow this one truth in the back of my mind helped me to hold onto hope this blistering winter season:
Winter will end. Spring is coming.
It’s okay that Christmas didn’t satisfy. Maybe it wasn’t really meant to.
And what if the first Advent comes up kind of empty without the hope of the second Advent? When he comes back and takes his people home and all is made well and whole. Hunger will be satisfied and hope fulfilled. The sun will have no need to shine. God will make his home with us. Death will be no more and his blessings will flow far as the curse is found. I’ll sing songs like, “Joy to the world! The Lord is come!” without a hint of hesitancy or striving or faking it. Aching joints and freezing winters will be a thing of the past, and Hope will be the realest thing.
Winter will end. Spring is coming. I know it.
When the snow is on the earth
Birds and waters cease their mirth;
When the sunlight is prevailing
Even the night-winds drop their wailing.
On the earth when deep snows lie
Still the sun is in the sky,
And when most we miss his fire
He is ever drawing nigher.
In the darkest winter day
Thou, God, art not far away;
When the nights grow colder, drearer,
Father, thou art coming nearer!
For thee coming I would watch
With my hand upon the latch-
Of the door, I mean, that faces
Out upon the eternal spaces!
- -George MacDonald