Regardless of what you may feel about the meteorological season, I want us to think about a kind of winter of the soul. Spiritual winter.

You may be able to relocate to some part of the world where you can avoid cold weather, but there is no place you can move to escape spiritual winter.

Theologian Martin E. Marty wrote a book of reflections about the terminal illness and loss of his beloved wife. He said one of the resources human beings need is what he calls “a wintry spirituality” for times when the warmth and joy is taken away from us and a sunny disposition is not enough to bring them back. We need a way of holding on to God when it feels as if God has let go of us.

You may relocate to some part of the world to avoid cold weather, but you cannot escape spiritual winter.

Winter may come when someone has lost a job or experienced vocational failure. They feel a deep sense of sadness, even shame. They are not sure, without this job, who they are anymore.

Winter may arrive the day the word comes back from the doctor’s lab that the test was positive. All the dreams you took for granted—that you will watch your kids grow up and get married, that you will grow old with your spouse and die when you’re good and ready—suddenly torture you with the thought that you won’t be there to see them fulfilled.

Maybe winter comes when you feel as if you have failed as a parent. Or it arrives the day someone you loved with your whole heart has died. You prayed so hard, you hoped so much, you don’t understand.

Any of these events may chill the soul. Any of them may announce the onset of winter. But they are not its worst feature. The hardest part of winter is that God seems gone.

I cry to you for help, O LORD; in the morning my prayer comes before you.

Why, O LORD, do you reject me and hide your face from me?

It is the aversion of God’s face, what feels like his absence, that is the psalmist’s greatest pain. C. S. Lewis wrote after the death of his wife, “Where is God? . . . Go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.”

This is the hardest part of winter of the soul. It’s not just this or that bad event.

We can’t find God. He doesn’t answer. “Why do you reject me? Why do you hide your face?”

Ortberg, John. 2009. God Is Closer than You Think. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


We have just completed a 10-Part Study of John Ortberg’s book, God Is Closer Than Your Think. It is available as part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Lesson Subscription Service. It is also available on Amazon