January 14th, 2017


               According to the National Institute of Mental Health: “Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer.  Symptoms of the Winter Pattern of SAD include having low energy, hypersomnia, overeating, weight gain, craving for carbohydrates, and social withdrawal.”  It is most commonly treated with one or more of the following:  medication, light therapy, psychotherapy, and Vitamin D.  But this is not a class in psychology and we are not in medical school.  We are in church and we are going to look at this from a Biblical perspective.

          First of all, a milder form of S.A.D., which I call the ‘winter blues’ probably affects quite a few of us.  I know people who are so eager for the Christmas holidays, they can’t wait to get out the decorations right after Halloween.  But when Christmas is over and they are put away, the winter blues settle in.  And there are folks like me who enjoy outdoor activities, such as running and gardening, most months out of the year, but when the winter months arrive, they come to a screeching halt.  Boaters put their boats away, and fishers their poles (unless they are into ice fishing).  Of course, those who like skiing and snowmobiling can’t wait for the winter snows to fall.  But for many of us, the shortened hours of daylight, the cold – even frigid – temperatures, and the icy roads cause us to be less than enthusiastic about getting up in the morning.

          So how do we stay joyful when the skies are gray and the ground is frozen?  How do we keep our hearts warm and our spirits bright? 

          I like to think of January as a month of rest and reflection.  Remember how Jesus said to his disciples, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest" (Mark 6:31).  December is a very hectic month for many of us.  While the Christmas holidays are meant to be spiritually uplifting as a celebration of the birth of Christ, they can also be draining on our physical and mental energy.  We need to recharge our energies and quietly contemplate our plans and goals for the coming year.

          In our second Scripture reading (1 Peter 1:3-9) you heard about going through trials in this life.  Think of winter as an annual trial.  Did Peter consider trials something to be depressed about?  No, instead he spoke about rejoicing, because we know that trials we suffer for a short time are nothing compared to our inheritance waiting for us in heaven.  He said that because we believe in Jesus we are filled with a glorious and inexpressible joy.  But are we?  Or do we sometimes let the season, the weather, and other circumstances steal our joy?

          In our third Scripture reading (Psalm 43:3-5) King David wrote, “Why am I discouraged?  Why is my heart so sad?  I will put my hope in God!  I will praise him again - my Savior and my God!”  Yes, even King David went through periods of depression.  But he also knew what to do.  He put his hope in God and praised Him!

          Yes, true joy, lasting joy, the kind that overcomes trials, alleviates depression, and gives us hope even in the face of tragedies, is only found in Jesus.  Doctors and psychologists can treat hormonal imbalances, and other physical causes of mental and emotional distress.  But only Jesus has the cure for the true underlying cause, the deficiency in our spirits, spirits that were infected by the virus of sin from the moment of our conception (Psalm 51:5).  If you have never asked Jesus to cleanse you from your sin, and give you new life through the Holy Spirit; trusting Him alone as your Savior, and following Him as your Lord, then you are at the mercy of the god of this world, Satan, who will use winter, or any other means at his disposal, to put negative thoughts in your head, to fill you with depression and despair, and to cause you to lose all hope and joy in this life.  

           But even Christians can go through dry spells in their faith, their hope, and their joy.  If winter has you down, if your ambition is low and your joy even lower, take some time to rest and reflect, but then turn your focus outward.  Don’t lock yourself away from other people.  Even if the roads are bad and you can’t always get to church, meetings, and other social gatherings, there is always the phone.  Reach out to people.  There are people who you can bring joy to, and they can bring you joy in return.  Isolation, other than for a brief time of rest, prayer, and reflection, even for those who are natural introverts, will only heighten feelings of depression.  So if you know someone who is snowbound, physically incapacitated, or otherwise shut off from society, reach out to them!  By doing so, you will not only help them, but you will find new purpose and meaning, even in the dead of winter.  God has something for you to do before Spring finally arrives.  Ask him in prayer.  Then listen to the Holy Spirit, as He leads you to find fulfillment in your life through His plan.   Maybe it is visiting a lonely friend or church member.  Maybe it is taking a class, or helping with a project.  I was asked to lead a photography workshop at East Bay Camp in February, and have been working on getting that prepared, as well as laying the groundwork for the 5Ks to be held this summer for both churches.  Or maybe it is even something more dramatic, a major change of some sort.  But trust God’s leading.  He wants only the best for you.  And He wants you to be filled with joy!

          So study God’s Word, talk to Him in prayer, sing praises to Him (even when you’re not at church!), and listen to the Holy Spirit within you.  Remember, one of the names of the Holy Spirit is the Comforter.  He is there for you and will get you through the winter.  Plus we have Spring to look forward to, and even more so, the eternal Spring of heaven.  Amen.

    Children's Message:

Every season has its good,          

and every season its bad.

Wintertime especially,

can make some people sad.

It is cold, it is snowy,

and there is lots of ice.

People, too, are often cold,

and sometimes not too nice.

But we should not let weather,

or the time of year,

Make us cold and bitter

to those that we hold dear.

We have the promise of Springtime,

and summer after that.

So let’s be happy and joyful

as we wear our winter hat.