They hit me rather suddenly – seemingly out of nowhere, those nasty winter blahs! It may have been Sunday sometime. I know that by Monday morning, they were full throttle. And then, just as suddenly, sometime on Tuesday, they were gone. No complaints here, though I have a sneaky suspicion, they will come back again before spring (and probably more than once).
Monday morning, I dragged myself to the elliptical. I cut my morning workout in half, and had my eyes closed for the first five minutes. While I tried to cover it up, my mind was functioning at half speed most of the day. Tuesday morning was not much different. In retrospect, I am sure it was what transpired the rest of the day that changed things
You see, my major assignment for Tuesday was to assist Monica in watching our granddaughter, Brooklyn. We had fun playing in the morning, and she basically entertained herself for the bulk of the afternoon. I even was able to get a good chunk of worship planning for Lent finished off. The 1.5-hour Board of Directors meeting in the evening flew by. And suddenly the winter blahs had disappeared.
It does not matter if you are prince or pauper, a pastor or a pagan, I don’t think anyone can avoid emotional downs, cloudy days or the winter blahs – in fact, I think people in Florida, Arizona and California get them, too. Thus, I don’t think the proper strategy is to put all our effort into avoiding them, though some effort in this area is definitely appropriate. Rather, I recommend finding a way to muddle through the struggle, while continually recognizing that “this, too, shall pass.”
Psalms 120 – 134 are known as the “Song of Ascents.” While various histories for these psalms are suggested, I prefer to think of them as the psalms sung by religious pilgrims as they completed their long journey to Jerusalem. Picture yourself walking for about a week through Israel to get to Jerusalem, and then spending the final day going up-hill, your body filled with fatigue while your heart is filled with anticipation.
If one stops mid-journey, they will remain in the doldrums. The only reasonable action is to keep putting one foot in front of the other while finding some healthy ways to think about things other than your weariness. You can hear it in these psalms. “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue … too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!” (Psalm 120.1-2, 6-7) By the time we get to the end of the song, the mood has changed. “Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord! Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the Lord! May the Lord bless you from Zion, he who made heaven and earth!” (Psalm 134)
I am thinking of leaving a bookmarker in these psalms for the next couple months so I can easily turn to them every time those winter blahs come creeping in. My mind will play tricks with my moods. My body will complain with loud wailing. But, by God’s grace my lips will echo the words of David, “O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high … But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.” (Psalm 131) and before I know it – like this past Tuesday – fresh joys will have driven far, far away those winter blahs. Perhaps you and I can try this together, and then compare notes around Easter.