C.S. Lewis penned an unforgettable line in his work The Chronicles of Narnia. Luci, one of the characters, is having hot tea with a faun named Mr. Tumnus, who appeared as Luci was exploring the newly discovered world. It was bitterly cold and covered with snow. Hot tea in his little hovel of a house warmed them as they chatted. Mr. Tumnus is telling Luci all about Narnia, and, at some point, he reveals Narnia is under the power of a despotic ruler, the “White Witch,” who has cast a curse over Narnia. The curse was that “It’s always winter and never Christmas.”
Always winter and never Christmas. If that isn’t the biggest killjoy! Year round, the land is bitterly cold and drab; the residents exist in their little caves and caverns, isolated and afraid. Not only is winter cold, but it’s also quiet and still. Not knowing when or how the curse would be broken, the inhabitants of Narnia were hopeless.
Prolonged winters that produce a sense of hopelessness aren’t limited to The Chronicles of Narnia. We all eventually encounter a “winter season” that stretches far beyond months on a calendar. It’s usually initiated by an unexpected loss, deep pain, or an unavoidable set of circumstances we can’t fix or change. Life loses its color and our hearts get swallowed in hopelessness.
Maybe that is where you find yourself today . . . you have lost a loved one, you are living with a health challenge no one can figure out, your marriage is falling apart, your child is failing school or hooked on drugs, mental illness has taken over a loved one’s mind and you’re at a loss to know what to do next. Those are just a few examples of where you may find yourself today, asking God how much longer, where is He, and telling Him you cannot bear the isolation, judgment, or loss any longer.
I’ve been in a winter season for a while now. I’ve wrestled with the silence of God, isolation, unanswerable questions, and prayed harder than ever in my life. Sorrow and loss have leveled me. Nothing puts us on our knees faster than pain of any kind. Having tried to fix things, find relief, and have my questions answered, I’ve cried out to Jesus for help. I’ve been learning there is no way around these dark valleys. We must learn to walk through them.
Winter seasons of the soul strip us down to the core and eventually force us to face the one choice we may have. That choice asks me, How well will I endure this season that has been entrusted to me and allowed by God for a purpose—a purpose I don’t have even a glimpse of from deep within the valley?
To endure well . . . what does that mean? To endure means to have the capacity—the inner fortitude—to tolerate or withstand adversity, suffering, or hardship. Inner fortitude cannot be handed to you, purchased, or delivered by Amazon. It must be built like a weightlifter builds muscle. Muscles are built by being torn apart first. Our bodies require rest in order to repair. As that happens, the muscle comes back stronger than it was before.
The same is true for the soul; it must be split open, then given time to rest and nutrients for repair. If fed the needed soul nutrients, our souls grow more resilient, steadfast, and unshakable. Endurance, then, is a process we cannot hurry.
Next, to endure well. Of all those who followed Jesus, the apostle Paul tells us and shows us how to endure well. In his second letter to young Timothy, Paul sends instructions on how to endure well in chapter two. He writes:
“Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things” (2 Timothy 2:3-7).
Paul uses three examples: a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer. The soldier isn’t caught up with what’s happening around him; he’s consumed with honoring his commander and chooses to establish a laser-like focus on one effort. The athlete sticks with the rules of the race, not looking for shortcuts, keeping his focus solely on the finish line. Finally, the farmer is hardworking, diligent, disciplined, and has an established routine regardless of how he may feel on any given day.
From this passage I’m sharing with you what I have been learning in this winter season of life, taken from the examples Paul gave.
The spell of winter in The Chronicles of Narnia was eventually broken just like our winter seasons will end. Winter seasons are difficult, yet they are also essential for growing up in the Christian life. Whatever is ahead, allow our God to reframe your perspective, shifting you from an earthly mindset to an eternal one. May you find hope in knowing that what is happening today is preparing you for a future only God knows about now. Take it one day at a time, and place your hope in the One who holds you and walks with you through the valley.
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In When Life Isn't Fair: What They Didn't Tell Us in Sunday School, Colleen Swindoll Thompson weaves together biblical truth, practicality, and her own growth experiences as a mother of a son with special needs. She writes with raw honesty about her personal crisis of faith as well as the hardship and humor that come with learning to trust God through difficult times.