Ever find yourself caught in the doldrums? “I have no idea what you’re talking about. What are the doldrums?” you say?
The doldrums refer to a place in the ocean where north and south winds collide. As a result, there’s not wind there, and in the days of sailing ships, it was a terrible thing to be stuck there. Sailers could often be trapped there, without wind, for weeks. Technically it is the “Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone, (ITCZ, pronounced and sometimes referred to as the “itch”) – a belt around the Earth extending approximately five degrees north and south of the equator.” [Source]
Colloquially, being caught in the doldrums means you’re struggling emotionally. Lethargic, low spirits, and lacking energy is how the idiom is used.
Normally, when ocean metaphors are used, we think of storms. Stormy waters. Even in the New Testament, Jesus’ disciples are caught in storms on the Sea of Galilee, and we learn important lessons about Jesus’ presence during the storms of our lives.
But what do you do when the opposite is a reality. No storm. Just unyielding stillness. When your life’s wind is suddenly becalmed and you find yourself “stuck?” One day, two days, a week… or even more. The longer that you stay in such a place, the more that the inconvenience of a bad mood is replaced by despair and at worst, hopelessness.
I don’t have a sure-fire solution that is guaranteed to blow fresh wind in your sails. Life is more complicated than quick fixes. However, I can tell you that for me, my faith in Jesus ultimately provides me with refreshment, even when my seas are too calm for my liking. Both in the storms and in the stillness, Jesus’ has promised to be there.
One verse that has encouraged and shaped my approach to the doldrums (and even the storms) is Hebrews 12:28:
“Therefore LET US BE GRATEFUL for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.”
“Let us be grateful.”
That simple phrase, tucked away in the middle of a broader thought about God’s unshakable kingdom, has helped me immensely. Being grateful requires you to think of things outside of yourself. Ask yourself, “what can I be grateful for?” And a quick list will come to mind. And you’ll find yourself counting blessings instead of the counting the lack of blowing wind.
There’s an old hymn Count Your Blessings with this line:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done. [Source]
While it’s more in line with the “storms” motif, I love the last line of that stanza. I want to be surprised by what the Lord has done. Often when I’m zoned in on what’s NOT happening in my own life, I neglect what HAS happened. And when I stop in my stillness to consider “what the Lord has done,” I am stunned. God HAS been at work. He IS working. I may not be where I want to be. I may “feel” stuck, but there’s purpose in the pause.
Let us be grateful.