Winter of Our Discontent


As these winter months drag to a close, many of us have become familiar with, or been reminded of, the experience expressed in the title of the well-known John Steinbeck novel cited above. Literary buffs might know that the line is actually from William Shakespeare’s play, Richard III.

“Now is the winter of our discontent, Made glorious summer by this sun [or son] of York.”

It is true that winter can become a bit of a downer, especially right about this time of the season, when we begin to feel as though it has dragged on quite long enough, thank you.

But this experience of being discontented can happen to any of us, and, truthfully, at any time of the year. Maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s a health issue, or perhaps issues we are dealing with at work or school. There might be an uncomfortable challenge in the circle of our friends that is causing the winter blahs.

Maybe we are still mourning the loss of a friend or a loved one. We might even be struggling as we watch loved ones carrying more than their fair share of life’s burdens, and, unfortunately, we are not in a position to relieve them as we wish we could. Either way, it is not unusual for many of us, especially at this time of year, to find ourselves just not experiencing much in the way of consolation, comfort or contentment. So, if we do find ourselves in this situation, what exactly does Scripture suggest we do about it?

Scripture actually has some rather simple but direct advice on this topic: we are to trust in the Lord. Yup, that’s it, no sugarcoated sweetness about how all our troubles are going to go away tomorrow, no trivial consolation about how our prayers are going to blow all our struggles away like sand in the desert.

The truth is that prayer is designed to let us know God, Who He really is. And, if we are going to get to know Him, we are going to have to get clarity not only on Who He is, but also on how He operates. God is the One who is in charge of our lives and, from time to time, He will need to remind us of that by putting us into circumstances that are simply beyond our control, but always well within His control. All He asks us to do, during those seasons of discontent, is to exercise what has been called a “willing suspension of disbelief.”

This term, ironically, was coined by another literary figure, the poet Samuel Taylor Colderidge. Coleridge’s premise was that if a writer could infuse human interest, and at least a semblance of truth into a piece of literature, then the reader would be willing to suspend their judgement concerning the plausibility of the less believable elements of a story. In other words, if we wish to enjoy the eternal blessings we see promised in the story of salvation history, then we must also be willing to suspend our disbelief that our short-term and more immediate trials somehow spell the end of all the wonderful truths we have read about and been promised.

Trust in the Midst of Trouble (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

17 Though the fig tree does not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
19 God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like hinds’ feet,
he makes me tread upon my high places.

The only way to maintain this “willing suspension of disbelief,” is for us to remain in constant contact with the author of all creation, the One who actually made the promises to begin with.

You see, our trials, and the discontentedness they inevitably bring with them, are the very means by which Our Lord will seek to transform us into the people He wants us to be – a people who will turn to Him in every event in our lives. And, by learning to turn to Him consistently, and by coming to depend on Him totally, we will eventually be transformed by His Love and Grace.

Dear Lord, during this trial,
I offer up to you my confusion
Give me clarity
I offer up to you my despair
Give me hope
I offer up to you my weakness
Give me strength
I offer up to you my pettiness
Give me generosity of spirit.
I offer up to you all my
Negative thoughts from Satan
So that when he asks “Where is Your God now?”
I may respond “Right here with me, loving me, giving me His grace
As a Heavenly beam of light penetrating your darkness!”


Please take some time this week to pray that we all might be able to willingly suspend our disbelief and put aside The Winter of our Discontent. And that we might all find the courage to rely totally on God, receive His Love and Grace, and ultimately be transformed into the people He intended us to be.


Copyright © 2019 by Mark Danis


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About the Author

Mark Danis

Mark Danis, OCDS, is co-host of the weekly radio program, Carmelite Conversations, which aired internationally for six years on the Radio Maria network. The program focuses on the method and blessings of contemplative prayer practiced in the in our busy day to day lives. Episodes can be streamed at http://www.carmeliteconversations.com.

Mark's primary ministry is providing teaching and spiritual direction in contemplative prayer and removing the obstacles to prayer. He is grounded primarily in the teachings of the Carmelites, most especially St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross.

Mark is a popular speaker and often gives large-group presentations and retreats on Prayer and Carmelite spirituality. He also writes a weekly reflection on prayer for a large nation-wide prayer community, and he leads a weekly prayer group focused on the Teresian Method of Prayer. Mark's most recent appearance was at the 2018 OCDS Congress where he delivered a powerful message to more than 400 Secular Carmelites.

Mark attended St. Michael’s college in Winooski, Vermont, where he received his undergraduate degree in English Literature. He later received a masters degree in theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut.

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