The clocks go back this week, signalling the end of the summer and the beginning of what has been an already turbulent Autumn. The energy that people had gained from their summer holidays already seems to be draining away and the anxiety of Christmas expense is a pending concern.
Winter blues are not restricted to a few sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder, but something that has an impact upon the majority of the population. If you suffer from depression or are emotionally sensitive these changes may have a more pronounced effect upon you. I sense that the combination of darkening evenings and the dismal national financial situation are having a particularly harsh impact this year.
Often perceived threats lead people to employ coping strategies that will help them to neutralise the threat. These might be a level of hyperactivity and busyness in which we run with the cultural adrenalin to get through, or we might adopt a level of inactivity and try to sit things out. We may even indulge in various ways of comforting ourselves until the season passes. The fact is that we are not immune to the impact of the season in which we find ourselves.
The danger of all these coping strategies is their ability to leave our real fears in the sub-conscious, whilst allowing us to carry on in the fast lane. They may temporarily keep the threats at bay but our coping strategies may also be wearing us out or wearing us down, or even damaging our bodies or relationships. I was driving to a church conference in Norfolk recently and half way there I was flagged down by another car. They pointed out that my break lights had completely fused. I tried to repair them in a service station but to no avail. I had no option but to drive further on a busy motorway to get to a garage.
Before I knew my lights were broken I had brazenly driven in the fast lane, tightly squeezed between huge trucks. However, now I felt aware of these unseen threats. I slowed down and kept my distance from the danger knowing that I had no way of affecting their speed with my signalling. I think my driving was far better when I did not rely so heavily on my break lights, broken or not.
Break lights are a safety mechanism that try to keep threats at bay. However, the power for appropriate safety measures are really in the hands of the driver. I could choose to slow down, keep a better distance and ever get help in a garage. We all need to take time to actually think about how we feel and be real about the pressures we face. Quick fixes, avoidance and safety behavious often only delay or even build up deep emotional distress. As the pressure or anxiety mounts we need to be ready to act early, not wait for things to get really challenging. This is an idiom for our season, there are real threats out there, but no amount of light flashing will change them. We have to take action, slow down and seek support. Jesus promises to never leave us or forsake us, regardless of the size of the trucks on the dark roads this Autumn.