For as long as I can remember, the months of January and February have always been my least favorite. Whether it’s the endless days of cold-darkness, the fact that the Christmas festivities have all but died out, or that the excitement of summer still lies just out of reach, I’m not entirely sure. But every year, without fail, I find myself succumbing to the darkness of these months; letting myself fall victim to their monotony, and allowing each day to become just as lifeless as the deadest tree outside.
However, I have found that most of this “winter blues mentality” directly correlates to my outlook on life and my perception of winter. In the winter, there are no sunlit days spent exploring the beaches of the Great Lakes in the 70-degree heat. The sun – if it decides to shine at all – only peeks out for a little bit before disappearing beneath the clouds for another two weeks of haziness. Likewise, in the middle of the school year there is an abundance of responsibilities to fulfill: projects to finish, hours to work, papers to write, sports to practice. Unlike the spontaneity and freedom of the summer, winter imposes a strict schedule and there is the ever-tempting allurement to forget all responsibilities and retreat to my warm bed with Netflix and a cup of hot chocolate.
As a seasoned pro at the aforementioned, I can say firsthand that as comfortable and wonderful as hiding from the cold may be on occasion, repeatedly doing this it is not what brings light to the dark days of winter. Sure, it’s comfortable, but comfort never allows us to grow! If we really want to escape the dull dreariness that winter so often becomes, we must embrace the cold darkness that turns us away in the first place. This requires us to go outside in pursuit of beauty (yes, even when it’s cold!), to start a good book instead of watching The Office for the fifteenth time through, to dig deeper in our relationships – both with God and with others - and to, no matter what, not settle into the monotonous, “comfortable” routine of winter.
While coldness and darkness are often perceived as sad, terrible, lifeless things, I have come to understand that they are required in order for light and warmth to be received joyfully. One can’t appreciate warmth without the knowledge of cold, and it’s impossible to see light without any darkness. On a spiritual level, the darkness outdoors often creeps into my prayer life, leaving me less motivated to pray and less inclined to choose joy. It requires a conscious choice, on my behalf, each and every day, as to whether I choose the light of Joy in Christ or whether I allow the sadness of winter to win me over instead. Of course, the darkness of winter is hard on us, as intrinsic lovers-of-light, but we can be confident that it won’t last forever. Just as when Christ died, and darkness overcame Calvary, so too have we been enveloped in a similar darkness. And just as through the Resurrection of Christ, The Son’s light overcame the darkness of death, so too will the sun’s light outshine the darkness of winter.
So, as February continues, and we trek on in our everyday lives, I want to encourage you all to step outside, even in the cold, and seek beauty, be it in the sunrise or the snowstorms; to not settle for what seems most comfortable, but rather to make yourselves uncomfortable in the hope that it will allow you to grow. Most importantly, I encourage you to view the wintery darkness as a sign that the light will come again, and that it will be more beautiful, more awe-inspiring, and more life giving, than we can even imagine. Because nothing—not even a Michigan winter—can detract from the fact that a life in Christ is a plethora of beautiful beginnings, of opportunity, of simplicity, and of love, none of which can be diminished by darkness.