Note: This is entry 1 in a study guide series called “Four Seasons of Healing: A Pathway for Those Living with Chronic Illness” covering the introduction to Winter and December: Questions Upon Questions.
For a list of entries click here.
Part I: Winter (December to February)
My soul is in deep anguish. How long, LORD, how long? (Psalm 6:3)
Shortened days with darkened skies mark the winter season. Punishing storms reshape the landscape, eroding surface features through harsh winds and rivers of rain.
The winter of a long trial such as chronic illness marks its arrival with an initial diagnosis or flare-ups of old symptoms. Like a strong downpour on a dusty desert floor, everything in life that is not securely grounded and rooted gives way to a barrage of uncertainties in this dark season.
Yet winter exhibits its own beauty. The moonlight striking a snow-covered hillside, or a cleansing rain, reminds the soul of life’s rhythms and cycles. The desert cactus points to a creative force that adapts to the harshest conditions. Those living with chronic illness need not run from winter, but rather wait for God to reveal His amazing power in the midst of even the greatest storms.
December: Questions Upon Questions (Psalm 13)
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
In a winter of the soul the psalmist asks the Lord in despair, “Will you forget me forever?” Questions stirred from this winter season range from “why me?” to “how long?” He feels the depth of his pain even though his God is close by listening to his lament. His troubled thoughts remain from the time he wakes to the last sight of his eyes before he sleeps. God does not provide the answers the psalmist seeks in the time he feels he needs them. Instead, he feels like death is around the corner.
I can think of a couple of periods in my life where I sat in the silence and despair of winter like the author of Psalm 13. One time, during my second year at the University of California, Davis, old treatments failed. New treatments meant liver biopsies and debilitating gastrointestinal distress. Another time, in the mid-2000s, I experienced a massive flare-up of symptoms where psoriasis covered over 95% of my body. The top layer of skin on the soles of my feet and palms of my hands painfully peeled—a side effect of psoriasis medications. Those were times when I felt overwhelmed with ongoing anxiety and insomnia. I once again asked God those questions I first posed as a teenager.
God can handle any questions that come His way from a sincere heart saddled with anguish. Indeed, Jesus Himself cried out on the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Being honest and open about those questions begins the healing process.
Share one way you, or someone you know, has endured something unpleasant or painful over an extended period of time. What questions, if any, were raised in that situation?
- What is your reaction to the CDC’s statistic that six in ten adults in the US live with chronic disease?
- Do you typically hear about others’ chronic conditions? What might make it easier or harder for people to share about them?
For Further Thought
While Psalm 13 is an individual’s lament, the author intended for it to be sung by the community of God’s people as a song of worship.
- How would you characterize the psalmist’s mood and state of mind in Psalm 13:1-4?
- What aspects of the psalmist’s experience can you relate to? What aspects do you find difficult to relate to?
- What are possible responses to difficult questions such as “why?” or “how long?” asked in the midst of a struggle?
- Brainstorm ways Christians can care for individuals and families undergoing a crisis or experiencing long-term trials. What are some effective ways to pray for them?
Psalm 13 finishes with a turn toward God in faith:
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
Close in Prayer
Meditate on Psalm 13:5-6. Pray that God would reveal Himself in the midst of the challenges or questions that arise in the longstanding struggles of life.