Stop Holding Your Breath
Shanna D. Gregor
Winter is not my favorite season; it never has been. I crave sunshine and would rather it be 110 degrees or more, than to drop below 70 degrees. And whether I like a season or not, I believe God created seasons on the earth to reflect the seasons of our hearts.
Thomas Wentworth Higginson wrote, “How many lessons of faith and beauty we should lose, if there were no winter in our year!”
And Anne Bradstreet said, “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”
Spiritual winters, at least for me, are tied to storms in my life and a season of loss.
Job 36:33 says we feel God’s presence in the storm (TLB).
Job 37:1 says, “Whenever this happens, my heart stops— I’m stunned, I can’t catch my breath” (MSG).
Sometimes storms knock the wind out of you and can bring you to your knees in a way that you just forget to breathe.
January 4, 2022, my mother died from COVID. It was unexpected and quick. And immediately an ice storm arose in my soul.
The tempest [storm] comes out from its chamber,
the cold from the driving winds.
The breath of God produces ice,
and the broad waters become frozen (Job 37:9-10 NIV).
Something about those verses is comforting to me. In the wake of her death, the pain and shock rested on my chest – a heavy numbness that felt as big and solid as an iceberg. Some days I would catch myself holding my breath against the bitterness of this spiritual cold winter.
Death is shocking because we weren’t created to die. I knew at some point my mother would go to Heaven, but her father lived to be 95, so I had an expectation for so much more time on earth with her, since she was only 75. My soul felt severed. I didn’t feel connected to anything or anyone. I didn’t feel any less spiritual or less loved by God, but I didn’t feel close to Him.
It was as if a frigid winter snow had fallen on my heart and then smothered me with a driving hard ice storm that hardened over the top of it.
I wanted to be still, to be quiet and let the chill overtake me.
The enemy tried to tell me that I was disconnected from God, that He wasn’t there, but I knew He was. Then more lies … he tried to twist it into a performance issue, condemning me with thoughts that I wasn’t praying like I should, that I wasn’t reading my Bible or participating in church.
Wisdom from a friend
As I shared my feelings and thoughts with a good friend, she comforted me with her words of understanding. “It’s like a dark winter in your spirit,” she said. “And winter isn’t bad. Sometimes we don’t like the lingering cold, the messy snow or the lingering dark clouds that bring days or weeks of no sunlight. But it’s not bad,” she said again. It’s a season and every season serves a purpose.
Under the blanket of spiritual coldness, God was doing something. I couldn’t see it; I definitely didn’t feel it, but I had to trust that in my stillness, things were happening that would prepare me for the next season – a season of new; a season of fruitfulness in my spirit.
If you’re going through a winter season in your soul, take a moment and reframe your view.
Just like the natural winter season, a spiritual winter is not permanent, but a time of preparation for spiritual spring, where growth, renewal and revival can occur.
Max Lucado encouraged, “Reframe the way you see this season of winter. Recast the struggle for what it is, an opportunity for God to do again what He does best: flip a story on its head and resurrect life out of death.”
This past week, my husband, Blaine looked out our back window. It’s an empty lot with a few trees and shrubs. In the winter, all I see is a bleak canvas with ice cold sky, dead looking grass and naked trees. But he said, “I love this time of year because I can look out there and immediately see the red cardinals against the gray backdrop of winter.”
God is at work in all the seasons of our lives. It just seems harder to see Him at work sometimes in the winter seasons.
8 Tools You Can Use to reframe your view of the season you’re in:
- Identity the source.
For most, the storm comes after some type of loss. More than 40 different losses people may experience have been identified. My loss personal, and I was grieving.
2. Become aware of your view.
I was standing in a place of isolation; a place I didn’t recognize. I had known loss, but every loss is different. I couldn’t really see or feel anything.
3. Examine your thoughts and consider the voice.
At some point, I was able to think / breathe again. As I examined my thoughts, I realized some thoughts were mine, some were the Word of God (brought to my remembrance) and some were lies, trying to keep me isolated and alone.
4. Realize God is there no matter what you feel.
By faith and remembering what God had brought me through in other dark winter seasons of my life, I KNEW He was there – with me in my pain.
5. Ask for what you need.
I needed help. I needed someone to talk to. Someone who loved me but would tell me the truth.
Now, it’s important to also know that some people just can’t help you, no matter how much they love you and that’s okay. So many close to me were also under the ice.
6. Accept help from those you trust.
I slowly began to thaw with the words of my friend, reminding me of the things I once knew but seemed to have forgotten while frozen.
7. Believe God is bringing you through, and spring is on the way.
Listen for His Good News (two words for this season – SURRENDER and GRATITUDE). Blessings rise through the melting ice like a snow orchid.
For me, the news of a sweet baby grandbaby girl coming later that year began to thaw me out as I worked through the layers of grief.
8. Begin to move in faith (for a 360 view) and you’ll start to see the signs of growth and life.
Take baby steps if you need to but move forward. You may not see results, but they are coming. Trust God is at work underneath it all, working all things for you good.
Shanna D. Gregor
Editorial Content Manager, Family Life Radio