The holidays are over. You’ve realized that, once again, you’re probably not going to keep many (if any) of your New Year’s Resolutions. The weather is mediocre, at best. January is the Monday of months. How can we find joy in January, the gloomiest month of the year?
Cartoonist Brian Gordon expresses it perfectly in one of his Fowl Language cartoons entitled “The Two Stages of Winter.” In Gordon’s words, the two stages of winter are December and January-Spring. While December is “a magical wonderland of lights,” January-Spring is “a cold, gray, bucket of suck.” (Pardon that last word—it’s not one of my favorites, but it expresses perfectly how I feel about everything from December 26 until about mid-March.) There are no fun holidays in the winter (ask any student). We know that spring will eventually get here, but it’s sooooo far away.
But there’s a purpose for winter. Let’s turn to science. Think of your outdoor water lines during the winter. If you’re smart, you’ll insulate them or shut them down to prevent water expansion that can burst them. Many plants work the same way. They become dormant in the winter—they cease all reactions that require water in order to survive the cold weather. They’re storing up energy for new growth in the spring. Many animals hibernate—bears, box turtles, hedgehogs, skunks, and bumblebees, to name a few. Their body temperatures drop and their heart rates and respiration slow, allowing them to conserve the energy required to survive the season.
Perhaps you’re detecting a metaphor in the making. Actually, it’s going to be a simile. We human animals are very much like plants and hibernating animals. We are like daffodils and bears. Yes, we are even like shasta daisies and skunks. We become dormant in the winter, too. We slow down. We store energy (possibly by eating too many leftover holiday carbs). But how can we use this “down time,” these gloomy days of winter, for something positive?
Here’s the Bible connection. God rested on the seventh day, and since He designed man in His image, we must need rest, too. Genesis 2:2 tells us that “By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work.”
Are you tired because you work too much? “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
Does your brain keep you awake in the middle of the night?? Try repeating Psalm 4:8—“I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
Are you worried about your kids/your job/your health/politics/your crazy neighbor? “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
Rest is important in our spiritual walk with God, and we often forget the value of resting. We need rest in order to renew our minds, bodies, and souls so that we can continue with strength and focus. I’m not suggesting that you sleep away the winter, although the temptation is real. But while you “rest in the Lord” (Psalm 37:7), whether it’s January or every Sunday, set aside some time to replenish your strength and focus—for example, through prayer, scripture, and/or meditation.You may even need a long winter’s nap. Whatever activity (or inactivity) you choose, may you find joy in January!
Psalm 30:5 For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
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