The January Effect

What? You mean it’s only the 19th of January? We still have two weeks left of a month that is famously long, drawn-out and dull? Two more weeks of dry, cracked, bleeding skin that has put holes in all the heels of your socks. Two more weeks of bundling up the kids in scarves and poofy winter coats for the below freezing morning, only to have them sweating in 60 degree weather when it is time to pick them up from school. Two more weeks of coughing, sniffling, and praying to God that we won’t get the flu. After a holiday season full of excitement and joy, we go back to our daily lives. Kids all over the country are back at school instead of looking for the elf on the shelf. Parents are sifting through the Christmas bills, dreading tax season. The radio is blasting Monday, Monday instead of Jingle Bell Rock. I have seen the January blues everywhere. I experienced it when I took down my Christmas tree. The end of a fun and happy season made my heart heavy every time I carefully wrapped an ornament and placed it back in it’s box. All of the excitement and happiness drained from my body and spirit with every sweep of pine needles into the dust pan. The cold, gray January skies matched my inner thoughts. Anyone else experience this?

Thinking about the effect this month has, I wondered about the Last Supper. This was a celebration followed by a very sad day. Did the smell of the Passover feast still hang in the air as Jesus’ followers mourned him. The Bible says the sky grew dark as Jesus was crucified. Did it stay that way? Did it reflect how others were feeling? Was there a horrible shadow replacing their custom that celebrated deliverance and hope? The disciples were in denial about Jesus’ betrayal and shocked over his washing their feet, so I wonder if they inwardly criticized him and felt he was “putting a downer on the party.”Is this why the disciples still couldn’t grasp what Jesus was about to do for all humanity?

Jesus said: You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.
John 14:28‭-‬29 ESV.

Jesus warned the disciples ahead of time and told them they should be rejoicing even in the wake of his death. But they were in the world, much like we are. They let their fears drive them into hiding. When sorrow is abundant, we yearn for a breath of fresh air and look for happiness in all of the wrong places. Of course the weeping and dark days did not last very long. Three days later, Jesus rose from the grave, and there was a new reason to rejoice and celebrate.

There are two houses on either side of my street, still clinging to Christmas cheer by refusing to turn off their lights. It makes me smile. I believe in hanging onto the magic. I believe in keeping the Spirit of Christmas all year round, but this world does not make it easy. It can be difficult to get back into the routine. It is easy to put all of our energy into a big celebration and crash immediately afterward. Especially when we fail to see the good in every-day life. I don’t know everyone’s story. Perhaps you didn’t even put much energy into the past few months because you had a difficult year. Perhaps the gloom of January only emphasizes your hurting heart. God never promised that life wouldn’t be hard, but he did promise that those who call on Him are never alone.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
John 14:27 ESV

You heard my plea, ‘Do not close your ear to my cry for help!’ You came near when I called on you; you said, ‘Do not fear!’
Lamentations 3:55-57 ESV

Jesus speaks to us even now, to tell us that we should rejoice. His word is filled with messages to not give into the doom and gloom. January may be long, but if God is forever and God is love and joy, then gladness and peace can be for us all.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalms 73:26 ESV

Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, take pleasure in Him]; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit [your graciousness, unselfishness, mercy, tolerance, and patience] be known to all people. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].
Philippians 4:4‭-‬7 AMP