I wake up early with the baby on the first morning in November. It is dark outside, and the chill permeates the house. For the first time in months, I feel the darkness creeping into the corners of my mind. As melodramatic as it sounds, I wonder how I will survive another winter; I don’t have the energy to fight.
When winter comes, I long viscerally for sunshine. I turn my face toward foggy windows ablaze with sunlight and feel surges of happiness when I wake up to light dancing on our hardwood floors. But on cold, gray days—especially the damp ones—I feel down, stuck in my head, on edge.
Before I became a mom, I had no problem with winter. I loved being inside and the feeling of coziness. My favorite things to do—reading, writing, little creative projects—were not dependent on sunshine and warmth. In fact, I remember enjoying winter because I didn’t feel guilty for staying inside.
Now that I’m a mom, winter is just hard. Sleep-deprivation only intensifies because it’s hard to get restless kids in bed and harder to drag myself out of bed in the morning. Sickness often leads to isolation and loneliness. The house feels stuffy, but the thought of bundling up the kids for ten minutes of fresh air is daunting.
As I wrestled with a soul-deep gloom on the first of November, I felt overwhelmed at the thought of fighting. I didn’t feel like researching which vitamins to take. I didn’t feel like the mental battle. I just felt tired. I confessed this to God and I remembered these words Moses tells the people before they cross the Red Sea: “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Ex. 14:14). What comfort these words gave me on that cold morning. And I’ve seen them to be true as I’ve fought this battle this year. Particularly, God has given me a clearer understanding of light and its role in our lives.
In the beginning, God created the world. He made the sun to rule the day. Life on this earth depends on the sun. The sun determines the seasons, makes things grow, and gives us joyous summer days. It’s no wonder I feel close to God when the sun soaks into my skin.
However, the sun is only a shadow of God—the author and true source of light. He can make the sun stand still. We see him guiding his creatures as a pillar of fire, light and warmth interwoven.
The fall means that the whole world is broken and with it, our bodies and minds are broken. We get sick, depression falls heavy, and the cold weighs on us.
As part of our fallenness, we often worship the creation rather than the creator. I worship those sunny days, and if I can’t have them, I rely on cups of coffee and too-hot baths. I am tempted by my craving for sun, and I let the winter days be my excuse for sin—snapping at my husband, speaking impatiently to my kids, and neglecting the work God has given me.
But winter isn’t my biggest enemy. The fall also means a deeper, more pervasive darkness. Paul writes, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).
This struggle for hope isn’t just an individual problem or a temporary issue. There is a real battle going on—a battle for souls, including my own. The cold and darkness of winter is a shadow of our spiritual state without Christ: dead in our sins and without hope. My inability to overcome the gloom of winter is just a shadow of my inability to overcome the problem of my sin.
The gospel tells us that this deeper darkness and spiritual coldness is what Jesus came to redeem. I feel no strength this year; as winter descends, I feel like I can’t do anything. And that is true because Christ says, “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). But where I could do nothing, He has burst through with his light and done it all. Paul tells us that Christ “has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:13).
And when that kingdom finally comes in all its fulness, in the New Heaven and the New Earth, we won’t find days full of sunshine. John tells us in Revelation that Christ himself is the light (Rev. 21:23). The craving for light and warmth we feel is just a shadow of our heart’s craving for him, a craving that he satisfies with himself.
Not only that, but he calls us to be bearers of this light in a world still lost in darkness. Our lives—even on the dreariest winter day—can be characterized by his light and marked with patience, gentleness, and hope. He gives us his grace so that we can “walk as children of the light” (Eph. 5:8). When we trust in him our identity changes, as Paul writes, “We are not of the night or of the darkness” (1 Thess. 5:5).
These lines from the hymn “Let All Things Now Living” have become my hope-filled anthem:
His banners are o’er us, his light goes before us
a pillar of fire shining forth in the night,
‘til shadows have vanished and darkness is banished,
as forward we travel from light into light. (Katherine Davis, 1939)
Today I’m sitting in the light, and it dances when I close my eyes—rose gold, bright orange, and magenta. My husband tells me tomorrow will be rainy and cold. So I soak up this day—the one with sunshine and birds and a few leaves still on the trees. I take my fish oil and open my Bible. Tomorrow I might not have this light, but the chilly darkness will remind me that he has won the greater war against spiritual darkness. Because of Christ, we are children of the light, even on the darkest days.
This may seem trite—or too simple. But already I have found God’s promises in this darkness to be true. He has fought for me. I’ve found hope and peace this year that I never have before, and instead of clinging so tightly to each rare day of sunshine, I delight in each one and then let it go, seeing it as a gift, but looking more and more to the Giver. I have confidence to face the rest of the winter because He is our light, and we are traveling to the day when darkness is forever banished.
Some references: Genesis 1:16, Joshua 10:12-13, Exodus 13:21, James 1:14-15, Eph. 2:1-2; Col. 2:13, Philippians 2:14-16