This was published in the December 2015 issue of NW Catholic.
Winter is whispering its presence in nature all around us. And knowing that it’ll pass, we endure the cold weather and icy roads because the hope of Springtime spurs us on.
Really, it’s a beautiful thing, this turning and change of the seasons. The seeds get planted in springtime, they flourish, yield fruit, get harvested and then the earth lies fallow, restoring the nutrients to the soil and lying in wait for the new cycle to begin. In the cold earth there is still unseen growth and change happening.
Yet we object to this on an personal level. We resist the natural rhythms of the interior life and want to stake our tent firmly in the soft, yielding grounds of spring and summer and stay there forever. We praise God for hopeful inspirations. For sweet consolations. For the abundant harvest of spiritual gifts. And we run away from the spiritual winter. We protest when He removes the sensation of His presence. We cry out in anguish and wonder what’s wrong. What did I do to deserve this? Let me just hear your voice! Let know your presence! My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?! The same words cried out in the end hours of Jesus’ life… during the winter of His soul that would bring His work to its final completion.
Where would we be without this winter? What if Christ ran away from the cold sting of His Father’s absence? He had to see it through. He chose Love.
Believing in Love is the only way to survive the spiritual elements. We have to expect a rhythm in our soul with the seasons of inspiration, consolation, fruition and desolation. If we are constantly chasing the summer of the soul, our sanctification can not mature properly and we will be spiritually stunted forever.
God’s presence will leave you. You can be sure of it if you are progressing in the spiritual life and we should try our hardest to close our eyes to the emptiness and the darkness and simply stay the course. Receive the sacraments, with or without enthusiasm. Move our lips in prayer… even if without devotion and while battling distractions, but with the worthwhile virtue of perseverence. Our sentiments don’t matter; but our faithfulness does. The rhythm will always continue with a soul that is healthy. Indeed, experiencing the darkness is a surefire way to recognize that something isn’t WRONG with you, but that something is incredibly RIGHT. He is moving in our souls unseen. He has asked us to love Him deeper.
There’s an old quote that used to comfort me greatly as a military wife who endured long deployments without a husband… “Distance is to love what wind is to fire: it extinguishes the small and enkindles the great.” So it is with our feelings of closeness to God. Some winters will be easy; you just have to push through a few weeks of dryness or distraction. Some winters will be hard. Even brutal. It may last months or even years. The emptiness and pain and bitter isolation will ache and the storm may try to steal the roof off your heart and hurl in a torrent of doubt and despair. Hold your flame through the darkness, regardless of how you feel. Turn your face to Mary. Appeal to the saints who have gone through this before you and are waiting, arms outstretched, to welcome you on the other side. His love is as great for you now as it is in the warm summertime of the soul. And through every winter, the new life of Spring is promised. The Son will rise in the east and if you can hold tight and trust through your doubts, He will greet you on the other side with words that will fall like honey from His lips: “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”