Winter Blues

I don’t know if we can call it “winter blues” when we’ve yet to truly experience winter this year, but today it’s cold and the sun won’t shine, so I’m calling it. The winter blues are in swing.

The constant chilly drizzle combined with my ever growing list of Research Statistics due dates has me feeling all kinds of gloomy. I know the ways to fight it. Go to the gym. Increase those endorphins. Get some Vitamin D; if the sun won’t provide it, take a supplement or buy a sun lamp. Eat more oranges.  Listen to happy music. Take action. Do the things instead of think about the things. And yet, I will sit at home and grumpily stare at my statistics homework and pout. Because winter blues are the worst.

Some of us are truly affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder. I am not one. I get the winter blues every now and then because I would like the world to be something other than gray, but there is always an underlying issue that lengthens it’s duration. And that is the real danger of the winter blues: it can dig up the roots of deep bitterness, sorrow and grief and provide us with an excuse to wallow. Currently I’m struggling with a lack of hope.

Romans 5:3-5 says “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame.”

I grew up mindlessly reciting this scripture. As a kid, it was always tied to the persecution of Christians or some sort of suffering on the same level. But as an adult it’s taken a different meaning. I read this passage this morning and wondered, “am I struggling to find hope, or am I rejecting hope?” On a first read through, I relate to this scripture. My sufferings produce endurance. Sure they do, and I take pride in it! When life gets hard, we tough it out. We are over-comers. Hupernikao! Right? Endurance produces character. I sure hope so. Being over-comers hopefully strengthens our character in more ways than one. I hope it increases compassion and understanding for others’ situations. But “character produces hope”? Hope for what? And when does it kick in? Why do I always feel like I’m waiting for the next step, rather than taking hold of my hopes and dreams, and striving for those? Why am I rejecting the hope that should naturally come with the building of endurance and character?

Because hoping for something means there’s a chance I might not get it. With hope comes expectation, when expectation is not fulfilled it hurts. Not getting what my heart expected hurts. And somewhere in my life, I’ve associated hurt with weakness and weakness with shame. If my sufferings produce endurance and endurance produces character, suffering should be making me strong, not weak! Either I’m not the only one who thinks this way, or Paul knew me when he was writing to the Romans.

“…and hope does not put us to shame.”

The idea that hope will put me to shame is the lie I fight. Hurt is not shameful. Weakness is not shameful. Doubt is not shameful. God will not put my hope to shame, whether it is seemingly unfulfilled or genuinely unfulfilled. He can take all of that hurt and turn it into something even greater than I know. So I will hold on to this line until the day I die. There will be a day when my heart accepts what my head knows: hope will not put me to shame. Hope is the evidence that I trust and believe. Hope is my guiding light that there are far better things ahead than there are behind. That God is inviting me to take hold of His promises with the expectation of fulfillment, for He knows the desires of my heart far better than I ever could.

With love,

Julia

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