A wintry phenomenon
Like a magical tower in the land of Narnia, this beacon beckons us to marvel at the wonders of creation. Underneath this fairy-tale like facade is one of two lighthouses located on a pier in the town of St. Joseph, Michigan. Built in 1907 this range light, which is still operational, is known as the St. Joseph North Pier Outer Lighthouse. Perhaps you have already come across this or similar images which, along with an amazing drone captured video clip, has been circulating the internet since December 19th. Extreme cold weather in Lake Michigan has caused ice accretions to cover the lighthouse and pier. But more amazing than this wintry phenomenon is the fact that although everything surrounding the lighthouse is frozen its light continues to shine!
We also go through seasons
Winter is one of the seasons God established for as long as the earth remains. In the northern parts of our planet winter is usually accompanied by moderate to severe cold and icy conditions. In some cases, deep freezes can actually bring a whole populated region to a standstill. While hot summer days usually encourage people to travel to places where they can cool off (beaches, pools, air-conditioned malls) extremely cold winters discourage people from venturing out. They are forced to brave the bone-chilling weather only to go to work, school, or acquire a few essentials. Many actually feel despondent during this time of the year. Hence, the winter blues.
Just as the earth goes through seasons so do we. Many people I know and have read about have experienced fluctuating spiritual periods; times when they have felt close to God and times when they have felt distant from any relationship with Him and even other people. While many refer to the latter as dry spells or desert times, I rather think of them as spiritual winters. Times when the blazing fire of God in our hearts gives way to soft smoldering embers. Times when the enthusiasm of gathering with other believers to worship is replaced with uncaring apathy. And times when the desire to be intimate with God in prayer and Bible reading is overtaken by sighs of despair. All of these are usually accompanied by feelings of abandonment, half-heartedness, and/or confusion. Do you know what I am talking about? If you do, you have definitely been through a spiritual winter. You are probably experiencing one right now. But don’t resign yourself to remain in that condition. It’s just for a season.
You’re not the only one
Biblical and modern-day patriarchs of the faith have all had to endure spiritual winters of their own. I have experienced them myself. Some of the most faith-freezing times have not been so much feeling rejected by God as feeling guilty and unworthy. These are the times that I have allowed the enemy to use the memory of my past and my shortcomings to condemn me. Times when I have focused more on my failures than in the victories God has given me. Times when I have allowed the consequences of a bad choice to paralyze me instead of relying on the grace of Christ to set me free. Yet I can honestly say that my frozen faith has always, always, been thawed out by the warmth of God’s embrace. The assurance of His steadfast love has set me ablaze for Him over and over again. However, to get back to that state is not always that easy. His word, His promises, and the memory of His faithfulness have to be rooted deep in your heart in order for the Holy Spirit to use them as embers to rekindle the fire.
You can shine in spite of the weather
Granted, no one undergoing a spiritual winter has the desire let alone the energy to shine. Yet, like the St. Joseph Lighthouse we can keep shining in spite of the cold spell because the light within us is not our own, it is God’s. In the midst of our winter, we must show the world that His power is greater than any trial we can ever face. I am not suggesting that we hypocritically smile all the time and act like nothing is wrong. What I am saying is that while we can and should allow others to see our humanness, they also need to see that our faith is more than just a vocal declaration. It must be evident in the way we respond to our challenges. It must attest that we are guided by God’s faithfulness and not by our circumstances. Like Paul, we should be able to be content (to shine) in every situation, whether having abundance or suffering need. In fact, it is very likely that in our times of trouble someone somewhere is experiencing the same thing we are or even worse. That is why we must be ready to shine in spite of the weather. It might encourage you to read my devotion titled When You Are Needed The Most.
Be prepared for the inevitable
As I mentioned earlier, earth’s seasons have been established by our Creator. Spring, summer, fall, and winter are inevitable. Those who are blessed with the opportunity to experience them all know that the key to enjoying them is to be prepared for them. Just like the passionate horticulturist stays busy during the winter preparing for the spring we too need to take care of our spiritual winters lest they become a year-long condition that will end up in spiritual hypothermia. Trials will come. Jesus forewarned us about them. But He also encouraged us to keep our light shining by being of good cheer. Because he overcame the world and its challenges we too can overcome by keeping our eyes fixed on Him and our faith anchored in His promises.
As a lighthouse for God, here are a few things you can do to help you prepare for spiritual winters:
- Don’t stop adding oil to your lamp
Pray even if you don’t feel like it. Remember, prayer is just talking to God. It’s OK to tell Him exactly how you feel. Even it means telling Him you don’t feel like talking to Him. Doing so still proves that you have faith that He is there and listening. You’ll be surprised what a simple and honest prayer can do. And read the Bible. Yes, read even if you are too tired, lazy, or uncaring. The word of God has the power not only to save but to heal and restore.
- Take proper care of your tower
Physical health is as important as spiritual health. An unhealthy vessel is limited in what it can do for the Lord and it lacks the energy needed to properly carry out spiritual disciplines. Be serious and intentional about your diet and exercise regimen.
- Seek lighthouse assistants
The Bible says victory comes through counsel. Seek advice from spiritually mature friends and church leaders. This does not mean you should become dependent on them, but rather conscious that God has placed them in your path to encourage and guide when you face trials of different kinds.
- Learn to detect potential malfunctions
Winter is always preceded by falling leaves, chilly winds, and dry air. Learn to discern when the enemy is using people and situations to discourage, aggravate, and even tempt you. The bible says we are to be constantly vigilant for the enemy of our soul is looking for the opportune moment to strike. Be sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit whose job is to warn, convict, and quicken you to stay away from potential spiritual downfalls.
- Remember, it’s only for a season
Winter is inevitable, but it is not forever. Every dormant tree rebuds in the spring. Whatever challenge you are facing now or may have to face in the future is only temporary. Even if your spiritual winter seems to be unending remember that in the midst of it you can still shine for God and be a witness to his loving mercy and grace. Plus, you can rest in the promise that one day every tear will be wiped away and there will be no more sickness, death, crying or pain.
Prayer: God of all creation, you who have set the seasons in place, grant me the strength to endure the spiritual winters in my life. Help me to keep your light shining brightly. Even in the midst of my challenging plight. Rekindle the fire of God in me, Oh Holy Spirt. And keep me from spiritual dormancy for the sake of those who depend on your light shining through me. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.