After the holidays are over, it’s temptingly easy for me to slide into a post-celebration slump. The skies where we live are perpetually gray, the ground is frozen solid, and the buzz and glimmer of celebrating the holidays with family and friends have come to a grinding halt. The thrill of the new year has trickled into a predictable routine, and compared to just a month ago, there is so little to look forward to. My soul is tired and worn down. Everything just feels dreary.
But I’ve circled the sun enough times now to know myself and to know this particular battle that I face—a battle to find joy and contentment in Christ in every season. I think this is the same struggle that many of us face as the calendar flips over. And while I’ve invested in a good sunshine therapy lamp to help ward off the winter darkness, the deeper and more important work is what I must do, practically, to tend to my soul this time of year.
Because there is joy to be found in Christ in any season, perhaps especially once all the twinkle and bustle of the holidays are behind us. That’s because we don’t need the season of Advent (or even Lent or Easter) to take delight in our Savior. Rather, the delight that comes from knowing him has the ability to lift our spirits to wonder and worship any time of year.
With that in mind, here are three practical ways for us to buoy our hearts up in Christ in these early—and potentially dreary—months of the new year.
Recount His Faithfulness in Dreary Seasons
Whenever I’m wary of the weeks or months ahead, I have found that instead of looking forward, I need to look backward first. The Bible is full of God’s people looking back and recounting what he has done for them—and it's a model for us.
David declares in the Psalms: “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds” (Ps. 9:1). The psalmist Asaph, when under great duress, turns to remembering God’s goodness, and his heart is comforted: “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds” (Ps. 77:11–12).
All of Psalm 136 is a beautiful and powerful recitation of God’s faithfulness to his people from creation onward, with every line of remembrance followed by the declaration, “for his steadfast love endures forever” (Ps. 136:1). When we recall God’s goodness to us in the past, we remind our hearts of his faithful love and goodness—and it gives us hope for the future. (See also Gen. 28:10–22, Josh. 4, and 1 Sam. 7:12, three examples of when God’s people set up stones of remembrance to help them and others remember and recount what God had done for them.)
If your soul feels tired and worn down at the start of this year, take time to look back at the last year and remember all that the Lord has carried you through. Read the Word and remind yourself of how he has always cared for his people throughout history, and know that he will always carry you. The year ahead has great joy in it—because the Lord your God goes before you and will be with you!
Rely on the Word in the Present in Dreary Seasons
When I’m in a season where I feel unmotivated or discouraged, it’s tempting for me to turn to my emotions as the gauge for my days. But my emotions are constantly shifting, and they don’t always reflect what is ultimately true.
What my heart needs is to look upon the One who is true, to turn my attention to the One who is never tired or indifferent. For while my energy, hope, and excitement about life fluctuate daily, God’s never does. “The Father of lights” is the one to whom my heart needs to look—the one “with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). He is constant, consistent, and full of beauty and hope today—and in every season.
And so the Word becomes my tool for fixing my eyes upon him in the moment. It is the tool for calling my heart to worship him today. Why? Because the Word of God is able to transform my doldrums into praise and hope, calling my heart to praise the One who is the Hope of the World (Matt. 12:21).
The psalmist understood that in our discouragement and sadness, we must speak to ourselves and remind ourselves where our hope lies—in God himself:
Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!
Reading the Bible focuses us on Christ’s goodness and beauty on this very day, helping us to praise him. His Word gives our hearts and minds an anchor that holds fast when our emotions seem unsteady.
Look Ahead with Hope in Dreary Seasons
Depending on where we find ourselves at the start of this year, it may feel difficult—or nearly impossible—to look to the months ahead with hope and encouragement. It may seem that everything ahead is hard. And it may be hard and discouraging. But in the middle of whatever you face, you can look ahead with hope.
Why? Because of the Lord’s promises to us. Christ has always been honest with his followers: “In this world you will have trouble.” And yet he does not stop at the trouble, at the heartache, at the worry or the fear. He continues: “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV).
No, your current circumstances may not change. Things may not get better immediately—or any time soon. But there is a day coming where every tear will be wiped away by our Savior—a day where “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore” (Rev. 21:4; see also 2 Cor. 4:16–18). When our precious Lord returns as the reigning King that he is, all our earthly struggles and disappointments and hurts will be made new in him. That glorious, magnificent day that is coming will outstrip any longing or desire that currently goes unmet—and this truth can fill our hearts with an unshakable hope!
So if these early months of the year find you full of exhaustion and weariness, turn to God’s Word. As you recount his faithfulness, rely on the Scripture to guide your heart in the moment, and look ahead with hope, knowing you can rest in Christ’s love and goodness in any season—even the dreary ones.
Meet the Author:
Ann Swindell is the author of Still Waiting: Hope for When God Doesn’t Give You What You Want (Tyndale) and The Path to Peace (Bethany House, May 2022). Ann is a member of Wellspring Community Church in Hudsonville, Michigan, where her husband is a pastor. She teaches Christ-centered writing courses at Writing with Grace, and you can connect with her online at AnnSwindell.com.