Always Winter, and Never Christmas: Dealing With Discouragement

When Lucy first entered Narnia in C.S. Lewis’ book The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, Father Christmas had not been there for years. The land was subject to endless winter, with none of the joys a holiday like Christmas brings to such cold surroundings. Each day brought the same bleakness.

There are seasons of our life that seem like they will never end. Unlike the Narnians, we actually had the Christmas season a couple months ago, but what follows is the immensely unmotivating ordinary time, as the liturgists call those days. This is the time where the lights are no longer sparkling at night but continue to hang, reminders of yet another chore to get done. The time when the thrill of gifts have faded, freshly fallen bleach-white snow (depending where you live) has turned to sloshy, gray guck, and the chill is porous, settling into your bones. Warm weather is far in the future, and some places still have the fifth season, “mud season”, to anticipate.

How do we get ourselves past the doldrums? How do we keep ourselves from getting mired down in the Slough of Despond described in Pilgrim’s Progress? Some may have grown up in households where pessimistic, cynical attitudes were the norm. “That will never happen; things will never change; you can’t trust anybody.” It may be harder for some to escape the quicksand than it is for others. Our culture is saturated with advice in “positive thinking”: say daily affirmations, read uplifting (albeit untrue) inspirational quotes; pursue your own dream and don’t let anyone stop you. However, the solution is not to chant positive affirmations, but to remember the reality God has revealed in His word:

“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.” -Ps. 121

 

How did Pilgrim escape the Slough of Despond? Help came along, gave him a hand, and pulled him out. To remember the reality God has revealed in His word, we must know what the word says. When facing discouragement, it is always good to start with what God has revealed about Himself.

“For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.” – Malachi 3:6

Christian, are you being consumed? This may be a terrible time in your life. You do not know how you will make the next step, or how you will endure the pain or frustration you are feeling. You are not sure you can go on, and do not know how your circumstances can change. But are you being consumed? If we are honest, we have to admit that we are not. As painful as whatever ailment we are experiencing is, we are still present on this earth. We are not utterly destroyed.

Why, despite the discouragements that surround us, are we not consumed? Because of the nature of God. God does not change. Since God does not change, His Word does not change. And what has He said about this life on earth? Even if it seems like our circumstances will never change, or that we will never change, God has said that they will:

“While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, And cold and heat, And summer and winter, And day and night Shall not cease.” -Genesis 8:22

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1:6

Change will come. The mud will dry, the sun will shine, and warmth will once again be felt. Your current suffering, the trial of today, your season of suffering, will end. It may end tomorrow like a fairy tale, or it may end at the moment of your death. But it will end someday.

Press onward, despite your circumstances, despite the discouragement, despite the long winter that each day fails to bring about the Christmas you long to see. We can keep moving because change is inevitable. The One who does not change has said so, and He will not consume us.

 

All Scripture references are from the New American Standard Bible.

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