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Christian Viewpoint: The dark nights are shortening. Spring is on the horizon

By Contributor

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For those of us who journey with anxiety and depression, the dark days of the year’s turning are hard. For me, they are invariably days of choosing to be positive despite my negative mood, writes John Dempster.

Two things offered encouragement this time round. “Look out!” I told myself. “Don’t focus on the internal, on your feelings, but lift your eyes, take in the world around you.

“Look, as you’re walking the dog at the beauty of frosty blades of grass, of gaunt trees dusted by misty sunlight.”

Yet while I knew that what I saw was beautiful, it was a beauty my emotions could not engage with positively, and my only felt response was sadness.

I “looked out” at folk celebrating Christmas – the loveliness of candles, tree, baby-in-crib, carolling, joy and kindness, the incarnation of God’s love – and yet I experienced nothing. All I could do was to remind myself of those times when the joy within me danced with the joy around me.

I tried to pray, to thank God for the rhythm of the year with its annual reminders of milestone events in the Christian story.

A friend posted a picture of the family dog in her husband’s arms with the caption “Sometimes you just need carried.” Oh, Father God carry me!

The second thing offering me encouragement was the realisation – while listening to a podcast ­– that “I am because you are”.

God is intimately present in the whole universe, holding all things in relationship. I exist because God exists; God wills my existence at this precise moment, God is with me, within me, sustaining me, calling me into relationship with the divine and with every other created thing.

Nothing can separate me from the love of God. This mist, this absence is an illusion. I choose therefore to live in the light of that unwavering love.

“But why do you absent yourself from my emotions, Father God?” I ask. And then a friend sends an email: “You know that you remain very much in my prayers.” And it seems that in those few words God awakens in my heart and says “Fear not! I will never leave you. I will never fail you.”

The dark nights are shortening. Spring is on the horizon.

“I very much hope” that God is “benign and in charge of us” said 20th century poet John Betjeman.

Sometimes such a tentative faith is all that I can manage.

But often, I can say with more confidence “Yes, it is true!” And occasionally there’s that wild joy when I feel healed and whole and all is well, a joy I trust will visit me again with the rising of the sun and the coming of spring.

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