What comes to your mind when you think of winter? Short days? Chilling blasts of air? Flames in the hearth? Many people have a love-hate relationship with the wintry season. There's something cozy about snuggling under thick blankets on frosty nights.
But reduced daylight and plummeting temperatures can affect our mental and physical health. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of winter depression that hits half a million people due to inadequate sunlight.
We need sunshine for physical and emotional well-being. Too much sun damages skin, but too little reduces the production of hormones that help us remain healthy and upbeat. Sunlight produces vitamin D in the body. Lack of vitamin D results in chronic fatigue and depression.
Some people become "SAD" in the winter of life, too. They look sadly back over the springtime of their youth, the summer of mid-life, and the autumn of advancing years. Facing them now are the cold blasts of winter, and they feel their time on earth is drawing to a close.
We can face winter at any age, of course. We never know when an illness, trauma, or tragedy, a reversal of fortune will chill us to the bone.
Even so, we often equate winter with advancing years when many adults live alone. The onset of age begins removing life's most precious possessions -- friends and family, health and energy, employment and meaningful activity, even hobbies. A sense of uselessness creeps over the soul. The elderly often become worn down by the dark days of inactivity and illness.
In the winter of life, "SAD" stands for Sickness, Age and Death. Depression affects 18 percent of the elderly, but only 8 percent of the young. But it doesn't have to be dark in winter. Christ can make the difference.
In the dead of winter, doctors treat Seasonal Affective Disorder with light therapy. Daily treatment with a lamp 10 times the intensity of ordinary lighting is 85 percent effective.
A similar prescription works for those facing the Sickness, Age and Death of life's cold winter. Bask in the Light on a cold winter's day. John the apostle lived to a ripe old age, and he faced life's winter with enthusiasm because of "Light Therapy":
"Jesus spoke to them..., 'I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life" (John 8:12).
"If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7).
If you're facing the dark days of life's winter, let the light of Jesus brighten your days. Here's an aggressive treatment of Light Therapy.
First, rededicate yourself to Christ. He wants you to trust Him even with sickness, age and death. He was faithful earlier in life, and He will not forsake you now.
Jesus faced winter, too. On a cold night He was betrayed. Under dark skies, He faced death. But He rose three days later -- and it was springtime, Easter, which brings to an end the tyranny of winter and ushers in a beautiful world of new and eternal life.
Second, spend extended time basking in the study of God's Word.
Third, let the light of Christ reflect from you to others. During the winter of life, God can often use us more powerfully -- more time and experience to pray, witness and uplift others through notes, calls, volunteer work. We could encourage our grandchildren, pastor, family -- anyone in need of a ray of sunshine. Be God's Light Therapy.
Are you facing illness? Trust Christ and walk in His light. Are you facing old age? God won't forsake you. Are you worried about dying? Even in death, the Lord opens the doors to new life.
Don't worry about the passing seasons. If it's icy now, spring is just around the corner. If it's winter now, remember that Easter is near at hand.