By Pastor Philip B. Roland
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30
Have you noticed the exhausted, out-of-gas energy levels residents are displaying these days? There are less than 30 days left of this long, very cold winter. Residents are winter weary from the relentless snow storms and cold spells that seem to be coming back to back. We’re all suffering from cabin fever and the effects of restricted sunlight. Counselors refer to the human impact of this season as SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Personally, our first winters in this region were 1976 and 1977. Snow was everywhere. In the church parking lot the snow was piled up by the plows until it was over a tall man’s head in places. Snow plows threw snow to the roadsides. There the snow piled up until it was only a few feet to the phone and power lines.
My oldest girl came to me with winter weariness on her face and in her voice. She had traveled with us from bland, warm Southern California and had never experienced weather like this. She said earnestly, “Dad, are you sure we haven’t made a mistake coming here?”
I never felt coming here was a mistake. Protecting her and her siblings was part of our decision to move 2,600 miles to our parsonage home in Northeast Ohio. I have always felt we were sent here by God. I believed it then and I believe it now, 36 years later. We prayed for a country church remote enough that our kids could be protected from big city pressures. God answered our prayers and we served that church more than 11 years.
Winters, however, have always been a trial of endurance. We have learned to adapt. We wear long johns and extra clothing even around the house. My favorite cloth has become flannel, the thicker the better. When we go out we always cover our head and ears. This winter, however, has been so cold a face mask outdoors is recommended.
Then, there is the emotional response to perpetually grey skies and very limited sunlight. It’s difficult not to experience some depression. Collectively we are worried, weary and worn out.
Relief is found in the person of Jesus Christ. David understood that relief from depression was found in a relationship with God: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” – Psalm 42:5-6 (NIV)
Through the Weary Winter
We must live through the weary winter,
If we would value the spring
And the woods must be cold and silent,
Before the robins sing.
The flowers must be buried in darkness,
Before they can bud and bloom.
And the sweetest and warmest sunshine,
Comes after the storm and gloom.
So the heart, from the hardest trial,
Gains the purest joy of all.
And from the lips that have tasted sadness,
The sweetest songs will fall.
For the peace comes after suffering
And love is reward of pain
So, after earth, comes heaven
And out of our loss, the gain.
– Poet unknown, 1988
The Rev. Philip B. Roland is founding pastor of Sheepfold Ministries, Sharon.