I have been debating writing this blog post. It feels a tad somber for this season of winter joy and yet, it’s perfect. What better time to talk about feeling barren than winter? When outside, the yellow leaves cover the ground and the wind bites with a chill and the feelings rise to the surface because you have a little bit more time on your hands.
Christmas time is weird.
It can feel like everyone else has this joy. The presents, the bright white lights of the Christmas trees, the warm holiday cookies. For some, there are engagements and holiday celebrations and more. In this hard season, a song that comforts me is you’d never know by BLU EYES. Her voice, her words, her piano–they just hit. “The dead of the winter of my life in the middle of a summertime,” her lyrics are perfect when you’ve hit your barren season. Maybe you’ve been handed a string of rejections or someone you loved has left your life. Perhaps an opportunity you’ve been looking forward to ended up not being anything like you thought.
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I’m sorry. In the joy of Christmas, it can be hard to be in the midst of a winter in your life. I wish it wasn’t like this for you. My heart is with you. You who are struggling, you who are feeling hopeless. I’m so sorry.
When I was in Israel, I visited the Church of the Nativity. The Church is filled with many pieces of art. Everywhere you look, there’s something to catch your eye. Walking around, Hannah caught my eye. It was actually spelled Hanaah. Nothing else really touched me, but her. She stayed with me. The longer that I’ve been in this weird limbo of graduating college and what’s next, the more I’ve thought of her.
Let me explain. Hannah is a woman in the Bible in 1 Samuel. She enters the stage in 1 Samuel 1, the wife of Elkanah, but a barren woman. Elkanah’s other wife Peninnah kept provoking her. Hannah would weep. But she goes and prays. She makes a vow to the Lord that if she had a son, she would dedicate him to the Lord. (I love Hannah for this bold prayer.)
We all have been where Hannah was. Barren. Hoping for more. Waiting in the dark for the light to come.
In the barren places, it’s easy to isolate. It’s easy to get alone and sink into a hole of despair. And you might need to get away and do that for a time. Cry it out. Let your body process what your heart knows.
About where you are. How you’re feeling. What went wrong. Part of the barren place is that it’s hard to get yourself to feel. You’re either feeling so much you want to be numbed out by Netflix and TikTok or you’re not feeling at all that you place yourself in places you shouldn’t for some emotion. We need to allow ourselves to feel. And often our minds need to give that invitation to our bodies. This looks like long walks in silence for me. But it could look like writing bad poetry for you. Connect with your emotions and let them run through you.
You can feel without being run down.
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If God’s not your thing, that’s okay. Draw near to community and friends that you can be honest with and bring all that you’re feeling to. Go to those you trust and walk alongside them as you’re processing your season of barrenness. But if you’re like me, you’re going to be struggling to remember God. It’s not that He isn’t there, it’s that you’re wondering about His character. He’s good but is He kind? And if He’s kind, why are you walking through the barren road? Why does it feel like we’re walking alone?
I don’t know, friend. There are many theological explanations (theodicy) for this sort of thing. But I will venture to say that we think we need answers, but answers won’t justify our pain. Answers won’t remove the weariness of the barren season on our souls. Stay close to the Shepherd. He is with you in the valley of the shadow of death. In John 13:7, Jesus says “You don’t understand what I’m doing, but someday you will.” We have to trust in who God has revealed Himself to be to us, and I hope that you feel His comfort, even if you don’t feel His presence.
Do what you can.
Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not doing things you usually would. Maybe you’re a neat freak but your room has turned into a disaster. Or maybe your hobbies are laying around collecting dust. Don’t beat yourself up.
This season isn’t like other seasons. You may not have the ability of desire to be as productive or present as usual. Accept what this is. This could look like cleaning up a little section every day. Or hanging with a friend if your hobby doesn’t bring you as much joy. If you can’t pray, sit in silence. If you can’t sit, walk. Shaming yourself isn’t the way out of the barrenness.
Be wary of trying to fill the void with consumerism or too many things on your calendar.
Lastly, let go of what you can’t control.
We humans are so self-important. We think that if we made a different choice or said something different that things would turn out differently. The world doesn’t revolve around us. So give up trying to control it all. Sometimes life just happens and the best we can do is accept it. Because that’s the only way we can move forward. We live in reality and then make the best of even the worst of situations.
If you’re still hanging with me, I hope the barrenness lifts. I hope you find peace. And I hope you found some comfort through these words.