Welcome to the first week of the Season of Rest Bible Study! The next four weeks we will be preparing for the end of daylight savings time and the beginning of some very short days and loooong nights.
My neighbor, who I like to call my “other mother” (and who will be called “Other Mother” in this study for future reference), and I were walking our dogs around the neighborhood and reminiscing about last year’s winter months. To put it lightly… we are not looking forward to it this year. While winter brings with it nostalgia, crisp nights, and relief from summer heat, it also brings some emotional hardships.
Shorter days means less serotonin in your body and higher levels of melatonin. Having these hormones out of whack can lead to emotional imbalances, along with disruptions in our circadian rhythms (your body’s internal clock).
This kind of shift in your body causes a series of symptoms that lead to what psychologists call, SAD. How ironic. SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. This disorder varies in intensity depending on your geographic location and genetic history (i.e. those who have things like depression and addiction in their family history). However, the adjustment of daylight affects everyone to some degree.
I want to list off the symptoms of SAD, because there are potentially harmful results that can occur in regards to not only our emotional and physical state, but also our spiritual health. The beloved Wikipedia had the best summarization of these symptoms and they go like this: “…feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, thoughts of suicide, loss of interest in activities, withdrawal from social interaction, sleep and appetite problems, difficulty with concentration and decisions, decreased sex drive, a lack of energy, or agitation. Symptoms of winter SAD often include oversleeping or difficulty waking up in the morning, nausea, and a tendency to overeat, often with a craving for carbohydrates, which leads to weight gain.
Look at this stuff!
“Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness.” There’s not a lot of motivation to enjoy life if you feel like there is no point and that you have no value to add.
“Thoughts of suicide.” Another awful potential for this winter season. Research has shown that suicide rates are not highest during this time, but I guess that doesn’t stop people from thinking about it when they feel they haven’t seen daylight in months.
“Loss of interest in activities” and “withdrawal from social interaction.” Not only is there a feeling of purposelessness and thoughts of suicide going on, but the body and the mind have become static and apathetic.
Then, there’s the oversleeping due to darkness rolling in sooner and a tendency to overeat (and let’s just say it’s not healthy food one is craving during binge sessions in the winter). Comfort food, anyone?
What we see from shortened days is a desire to hide in our homes and not come out until it’s over. We isolate ourselves from community and take comfort in eating, watching Netflix, and crashing in bed.
If we are emotionally and physically depleted, there’s not going to be much desire to work at our spiritual health either. Being in a depressed state of mind makes even the thought of praying seem impossibly difficult… too much effort. This time of darkness can tempt us to check out from life and check out from our relationship with God.
You know what all this sounds like to me? Spiritual warfare.
Well, game on.
To start this Season of Rest off, turn to Psalm 139. Familiarize yourself with this Psalm, but focus on verses 11-12 as you prepare for the winter months. King David writes,
“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,
And the light about me be night,’
Even the darkness is not dark to you;
The night is bright as the day,
For darkness is as light with you.”
God is going to be your light in these dark months. There is no darkness so long and so depressing that God cannot redeem. That is why, instead of calling this a Season of Darkness, we’re turning it into a Season of Rest. God knew the days would be shorter for a long period of time and He knew the effects it would have on our bodies. Perhaps the reason we suffer from depression, oversleeping, overeating… is because we have not asked God what to do with this time.
We know that the darkness will cover us soon enough and we know the light about us will turn to night. However, we also know that when God’s presence is acknowledged and we connect with Him, the night vanishes.