It’s springtime! Flowers are blooming, birds are chirping, winter coats are hibernating in the backs of our closets (or the middle for the northerners, just in case). As spring greets us on the calendar, many of us are noticing a spring (couldn’t help it!) in our steps as well, and that’s not sheer coincidence. According to scientists and psychologists, “a combination of timing, the natural human body program, hormones, and most importantly, light,” work together to create a general sense of positivity and happiness when springtime heads our way. It’s a lovely thing.
But of course, cheery as it sounds, it’s not a universal truth. Some of you look at the sunshine breaking through the clouds and almost feel taunted by its presence, wondering why it still feels like winter in your soul. Some of you feel caught in the gap between the beauty outside and the harsh cold inside, the inner ice of stress or depression or grief or sadness. I have been you, and more than once. It’s a lonely, disorienting feeling. So what do we do when the calendar’s pages are beckoning us into springtime, but winter’s grip seems to linger in our souls?
While there’s no formula to follow that will suddenly thaw the chill inside you, I’d like to offer a few suggestions that have served as a warm blanket for me in various seasons of my life.
1. Be Kind to Yourself
First, be kind to yourself, and consider what kindness really means. Kindness is not simply niceness, nor merely finding time for yourself to do something relaxing, though that may be a part of it. True kindness is offering to yourself that which will breathe life into you. Start with what you know, and work toward exploration and experimentation.
- Read Scripture (even if it’s one verse that you can meditate on throughout the day).
- Pray (even if it’s in the carpool lane). Be honest with God about your sadness, about the distance between the happiness outside and the sadness within you.
- Think practically and proactively about how you can do basic human things like drink enough water, eat nutritious food, and get some exercise (a walk around the block counts!).
- Take ten minutes to write out the things that you like to do to relax, and circle the ones that you could accurately describe as “restful.” Pick one or two of those restful activities, get out your calendar, and find a space.
These little kindnesses toward mind, body, and soul won’t fix everything, but they’ll help you feel cared for. They’ll help you believe that as an image bearer of God, you are worthy of kindness, not because of anything you’ve done, but because of Who made you and Who saved you.
2. Look for the Helpers
Second, in the words of Mr. Rogers, “look for the helpers.”
- Ask a friend or two to spend some time with you, someone who can you trust to bear your burden with you.
- Consider seeing a counselor or therapist, someone who, as my Mom says, can give you “a place to put things.”
- If possible, challenge yourself to commit to a small communal activity each week or month. You may not always want to go (I’m speaking from experience), and you may not even always be glad you went (I may still be speaking from experience). But the practice of faithfulness to a church community (that is healthy) can be a gift in and of itself, and we can train our hearts and minds to find joy through that discipline.
Again, these actions won’t work like magic. But they will help you set some rhythms. And when life feels harsh and chaotic, a steady downbeat can bring a great deal of comfort.
3. Find a Way to Serve
Lastly, and this idea will sound counterintuitive so bear with me: find a way to serve. It doesn’t have to be big, it doesn’t have to be official, and it doesn’t have to be forever. Don’t let yourself be paralyzed by the fear of picking the best cause or serving in the most important way. There is something about putting our hands to work that is for the benefit of others that draws us out of ourselves, and that could look like a million different things. Service reminds us that, as Christians, we are part of a body, we are valuable, and we are here for a reason.
- Be honest with yourself about your current limitations: schedule, emotional health, family life, work, etc.
- Ask God to help you think creatively about how He may be calling you to serve, whether it’s a way that you have before or something entirely new.
- Talk to a friend, church staff member, or community leader about how what you see in yourself that could be valuable to others, and ask for help in connecting your gifting, abilities, and availability to a felt need.
While I cannot promise that these practices will swing your soul into springtime, I can tell you that they’ve been a warm seat by the fireplace for me on days when my heart was shivering. Our God is the giver of good gifts - of kindness, of help, of the body of Christ. May you find this to be true as you walk forward in faith, even in seasons of sadness.
Image Credit: Unsplash.com/@seteales
Abby Perry has written for The Gospel Coalition, Christ and Pop Culture, and Upwrite Magazine. She is a co-host of the Shalom in the City podcast with Osheta Moore and coordinates communications for a non-profit organization. Abby co-facilitates community efforts in racial reconciliation and in support of foster and adoptive families. She currently attends Dallas Theological Seminary and lives with her husband and their two sons in Texas. Find Abby at www.joywovendeep.com and on Twitter.