December can be a troubling month if we let it. None of us, I think, are fully immune to the occasional toll of winter’s doldrums. In the year just passed it seemed more tempting than most to let overcast skies on cold days dampen my outlook. Optimism was harder to embrace than before.
I’m not dealing with any devastating struggles, the kind that make each day a challenge and warrant being on a prayer list. Yet even though I realize I’m blessed beyond measure, there were some days in December when I felt a bit out of sorts. Maybe part of that feeling is because of the disquieting events and atmosphere in the world around me.
Political, racial, and societal divisions are uncommonly vicious and unsettling. COVID-19 continues to forge a path of devastation that will be felt for years. A plethora of problems without easy solutions dominate headlines across our country. And we don’t have to look far down the road to find a friend who is carrying a heavy load.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when the heavens are painted solid gray. But every now and then a moment in the sunshine reminds me the dreary clouds of winter are only temporary. They don’t diminish our blessings; they just make them a bit harder to see.
Several days in mid-December were cold and damp, unfit for doing much of anything outside. It’s not hard to fall into the trap of feeling like that’s the norm, of focusing on the clouds as if they were permanent fixtures. It’s easy to forget how good the sunshine will feel when it returns.
One morning at our farm I stood near the rusty tin walls of an old shelter. The day was cold and windy, but the sun was shining brightly. On the south side of the building the wind was completely blocked, and the radiant glow of the sun was perfect.
I leaned against the warm tin for a few minutes, remembering how much I enjoyed that place and others like it during my childhood. There were times in those long-gone years when I had briefly paused in such places while alone. The best memories, though, are of leisurely sitting on the grass with a canine friend beside me. There’s something wonderfully comforting in finding a cozy spot outside on a blustery day. Sharing that experience with a good dog makes it even better.
There were other days in December that were much the same, cold and windy but having the advantage of sunshine. More than once I took a break from doing something that had no urgency just to sit for a few minutes in my truck. It’s remarkable how the sun can warm a cab by shining through the glass. Sitting in my pickup didn’t change the weather, but it changed how I felt about it.
That’s not so different, I believe, than how God works in our lives. My tendency is to ask God to take away whatever may be bothering me, to calm the storm like Jesus did on the Sea of Galilee. (Matthew 8:23-27) There are without doubt occasions when God intervenes in a magnificent way. More often, however, I believe God leaves the circumstances as they are and changes us instead. Rather than calming the storm, He offers us the comfort of His shelter.
If every day brought sunny skies and gentle breezes, they would easily be taken for granted. Routine perfection might even become mundane. It’s the cold days of winter which help us better appreciate the warmth of sun and shelter, which cause us to look forward to the arrival of spring.
I’m trying to take a better approach in how I view things that concern me now, especially those matters which are beyond my control. Instead of dwelling on clouds that darken the day, I’m reminding myself that the One whose birth we just celebrated is The Light of the World. It’s comforting to know that He invites each of us to walk with Him in that Light.
On a wintry day in December, I leaned my back against the side of an old shelter, looking for a place to escape the cold. The sunshine warmed my body as I knew it would. And quite unexpectedly it soothed my soul as well. Blessings abound, I was reminded, if we look for them in The Light.
December can be a troubling month, but only if we let it.