A Canadian’s Guide to Surviving a Spiritual Winter (by Sarah E. Ball)

We have a common saying here in Canada – ‘If you don’t like the weather, wait 20 minutes!” Just this week alone I have enjoyed, snow, rain, hail, rainbows, high winds, sunny skies, t-shirt weather, icy roads, freezing frost bite air and this morning, beautiful hoar frost and fog! I often wonder how hard it must be for those not accustomed to our crazy weather, like our new Syrian families in Canada, or our excited Banff tourists ready to take on the ski hills. For them, the unpredictable weather and freezing temperatures can seem unbearable, and many of them come unprepared.  To a Canadian, it’s just winter.

I believe that our souls go through the same ‘winter seasons’, seasons that seem unbearable, unpredictable and faithless. I have gone through many winter seasons spiritually, seasons where I once could see for miles, then I was not even sure I was on the right road anymore because the fog was so thick.  Or once where I had faith, I then lack hope and every path I tried, I seemed to slip and fall. However, as I have endured as many winters in the natural as I have in the spiritual, I have learnt to endure, survive and even find joy in the midst. I have learnt that thriving in a winter season of the soul is very parallel to surviving a Canadian winter.

  1.  Dress Warm– one of the first rules of winter is to cover all of your extremities. On harsher days we will get frost bite warnings over the radio! It’s important when dressing for winter in the natural that we dress from head to toe. This reminds me of the verse Ephesians 6:10-18 “Put on the full armour of God” – When we go through winter seasons of our soul we are exposed and more vulnerable to the harshness of Satan’s tactics to rob, kill and destroy. When we are covered from head to toe with the armour of God- truth, salvation, righteousness, peace and faith, we can withstand the frozen arrows of the evil one.
  1. Drive Slower – when the first snowfall of the year hits our area, we can always guarantee that the ‘idiots’ (that’s a Canadian term for bad winter drivers) will usually be the ones everyone is trying to pull out of the ditch. When ice paves the highways, we instinctively know to slow down, take it easy, and proceed with caution. Same with our spirits. This is something I speak of often in my ministry, especially when it comes to matters of mental illness, burnout, depression or spiritual breakdown. We must learn that during these seasons of the soul, where our hope is diminished, our faith is weak, and our vision is blurry, we must learn to slow down, rest and not make fast decisions.
  1. Build a fire and stay near it – Every year in my small town, we have the epic Santa Clause parade! That’s code for bundling up all the kids till they can’t bend their arms, jumping up and down to keep the body warm, and waiving at the 5 lights strung tractors as they go by. One year it was so cold it was -40 degrees! If it wasn’t for the large fire barrels on each corner we would have been up a frozen creek without an ice pick! When we are going through seasons where we feel our heart is about to freeze over for eternity, we must find a source of fire to keep us alive. When I find my heart is weary I will make sure that I always keep a source of fire, and that’s the Word of God for me. It’s not easy to read when I feel so disconnected, but I know if I don’t, I will freeze to death. Maybe it’s worship for you, or fellowship, either way, find your source that keeps you warm and huddle near it.
  1. Go sledding!!! – I recently did a day trip to the mountains with my family to go sledding. We’re old school sledders too, no helmets, not debris clearing, just a brief “swerve the trees” pep talk to our kids. It’s a blast! I get up to the top (the climb is the hardest) load the kids on my lap and push off. The thing is with sledding, you have no idea which way the sled will go, how the dismount will look on Facebook, or if you’ll get hurt – you just have to surrender. When we are stuck in a season, where the climb has been so weary we’re not sure we can take it much longer, we have to give up control to God. There is always the fear of getting hurt, or going off course, or not knowing the outcome that keeps us from letting go. But I promise you, the thrill of life is in the surrender.
  1. Help one another – I think that’s why Canadians have such a reputation for being nice. When we hit 4 months of frozen lock down, we have to help one another to survive. There is always comradery during the winter months – the men go and start the cars for the ladies, the teens shovel the old neighbor’s walks, and everyone; men women and children push out stuck cars. It’s the winter way in Canada! When we go through winter seasons, one of the best ways to get through it is to look around to see who else is stuck there. Scraping, pushing, warming, ending, shoveling and tongue to frozen pole removal, we find purpose. When we get our mind off of ourselves and begin to serve others it’s amazing what we can do and what God can do!

Even if you are a self-proclaimed ‘snow bird’ our (Canadian term for retired Canadians who migrate to Florida), we all experience winter seasons of the soul. I hope that a little Canadian winter survival will help you through yours. Remember, that even though the frost is covering any evidence of life, when spring does come you will rejoice as those first tulips pop through!

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FullSizeRenderSarah E. Ball is a speaker, columnist, and author of The Shame Project. She lives with her husband and five children in Alberta, Canada. Sarah has a deep determination to see people set free from emotional and mental torment. She has made several television appearances and speaking engagements talking about shame, fear, hope and her deliverance from anxiety, depression and harm OCD. You can download a FREE copy of The Shame Project on her blog Virtuous Woman Exposed, follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


Published by B.J. Condrey, PhD

Dr. Condrey holds a Bachelor of Arts in both Philosophy and Psychology from the University of Missouri-KC, a Master of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Southern Mississippi, and a Ph.D. in Ethics & Practical Theology from the University of Edinburgh. He is ACSI certified. Dr. Condrey writes courses and teaches Psychology, Bible, and C.S. Lewis at Enlightium Academy, where he began working in 2016. He has served as a youth, young adult, and small group pastor in the local church, and currently teaches Ethics at the University of Southern Mississippi. He has a book published by Wipf & Stock (Breaking Ground) along with other publications. In his spare time, he enjoys reading and writing, spending time with his family, traveling, trout fishing, family hikes, and drinking coffee! He is passionate about helping young people construct a biblical worldview so that their faith involves both the mind and heart. He has been married since 2009 and has two children.

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