Better to be burned by the Word's searing statements than to dismember it in dangerous denial.

When You’re Sitting in the Winter Room

When life sends a hard turn in a direction I am not expecting, all the cracks and flaws in my theology show up.  The wheels come careening off my carefully constructed orthodoxy, leaving me in the ditch with all the prosperity gospel folks or the “Where was God?” finger pointers. When God does not “cooperate” with my vision of success or yield to my will for Him, I am slow to yield my own will to a rogue story arc that may eventually untangle itself in the passing of years . . .or not.

While I am familiar with Paul’s words about having been “afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down,” somehow it always comes as a surprise to me that believers are not exempt from the usual challenges and inconveniences of life. Peter devoted an entire letter to the topic of “fiery trials,” exhorting believers to take them in stride, and yet, my feet trip over the plain truth as my brain struggles to instruct my heart. Suddenly, it is my mission to relax all the tension in the gospel, to disconnect glory from suffering, and to drag the not-yet of redemption into the right-now.

When I insist upon picking and choosing inspired words as if some might be optional, I take a seat in the Winter Room alongside King Jehoiakim.  On the day he received the scroll containing Jeremiah’s scalding prophetic words, the content came highly recommended by his advisers. Unfortunately, the king was already nursing a grudge against Jeremiah . . . something about a prophecy in which Jeremiah predicted for King Jehoiakim a donkey’s funeral on the city’s garbage dump–a consequence of his slipshod spiritual leadership.

Therefore, instead of receiving the inspired Words of God with joy or in a spirit of repentance as his father King Josiah had done,  Jeohoiakim sliced them up with a knife, line by line, as they were read to him and then tossed them into a fire that was burning nearby to keep the Winter Room comfortable for his royal highness. Jehoiakim did not reckon with God’s commitment to preserve His Word, nor did he comprehend that, like Jeremiah, God the Holy Spirit values the good of the reader more than He values the reader’s good opinion of Him. The king’s  unwillingness to receive the truth diminished its urgency and its sway over his life not one iota.

The View from the Winter Room

The earth’s axis is slowly tilting toward the sun in these days of late winter, but here on the far reaches of the Northern Hemisphere it will be a while before I can feel the effects of this seasonal shift. Even so,  I will not sit with Jehoiakim in the Winter Room, filleting Truth for my own comfort and employing every available defense mechanism against the parts I’d rather not accept.

Sitting in the Winter Room, truth becomes less important than self-justification. The view from the Winter Room is small and limited, and suddenly the sovereignty of God is not a comfort but, rather, a threat to be managed as eyes dart frantically in every direction for a way around the revealed will of God.

Leaving my chair in the Winter Room, I have found two undeniable truths about God’s written Word:

Better to be burned by its searing statements about reality than to dismember it in dangerous denial;
Better to embrace the fiery words and reckon with their truth than to sit in the Winter Room, warming myself before a small fire kindled by my own willfulness.


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63 thoughts on “When You’re Sitting in the Winter Room”

  1. Oh, how I identify with King Jeohoiakim and his Winter Room. I often think MY plans are better than God’s. Thank you for the reminder that He is far wiser, wilder, and more complex than my feeble understanding allows. Also more loving. I loved this line: “leaving me in the ditch with all the prosperity gospel folks”. I had to smile at that one! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow is this poignant and powerful, Michele. I’m feeling convicted and challenged in the very best ways! I’m holding onto this one to come back to again and again! Your wisdom so richly blesses me week after week!

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  3. I feel like the more I have been clinging to my “near truth” the harsher the sting when I am confronted with the actual truth. It’s so easy to carry on as I like until one day I am face to face with the Word and can’t ignore my mistakes!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, Michelle.
    What a powerful metaphor I’m not
    Likely to forget. This line: “God the Holy Spirit values the good of the reader more than He values the reader’s good opinion of Him.” struck me. I have recently told my daughter when she was facing a very difficult physical challenge causing her to feel angry with God, to run to Him. He can handle your anger so pour it out on Him and let Him give you mercy and strength in your time of need. So often we hole up in the winter room of our minds inviting those who are like-minded to commiserate with us. The biggest downfall of Facebook imo. Instead you have lifted our eyes to see how we should respond with your brilliantly composed final paragraph.
    Thank you! You have encouraged me in my faith today.
    Blessings,
    Debi

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    1. I’ve so thankful to know that this post has been helpful to you. And you, like Jeremiah and like the Holy Spirit, have spoken words of truth into your daughter’s life, with greater concern for her GOOD than for her good opinion of you. Trusting along with you that she will run to Him.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. THIS may be the best thing you’ve ever written. I spent several seasons in the Winter Room and it is a place of self-destruction and fuel for discontentment. Beautiful words, MM. Beautiful.

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    1. Last year I read through Jeremiah very slowly, and this piece began wiggling around in my head when I read about King Jehoiakim. I wasn’t sure where to go with it until just recently when I caught myself carrying “scissors” in my Bible case.

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  6. We do this! All is going along well, and we’re trusting our theology, until something bumps against it. I’ve had the same thoughts. Where is the blessing for the righteous? Praying for more faith to trust him even in the questions.

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    1. Those questions can knock me right off my saddle sometimes, Traci, but we are encouraged in Scripture to bring our doubts and our challenges to Him, so thank you for your partnership in this process. Trusting for a faith that does not depend on everything going my way in order to be strong and winsome.

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  7. Thanks Michele. I was totally following every word with the incredible visuals added! Powerful punch indeed. Me small, God Huge!

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  8. Those are the scary scriptures for me as I envision myself having some of the tests that Paul or others went through, but alas some day it may come. The beginning of this year when the grandson’s dad was tragically killed, I was tilted (as you say) and sad and had to fight to continue trusting. My saving grace was that God had spared the grandson in that same tragic accident without so much as a scratch. I envision also that God held his dad in his arms and told him how to protect his son. I have been in the Winter Room for a bit, but remembering that helped me out. Always enjoy reading your posts. 🙂

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    1. You’ve already had quite a year, and I’m so sorry for the loss and the grief your family must still be experiencing.
      Thank you for the way in which you are trusting and already moving toward gratitude.

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  9. I love the way you have expressed your thoughts on this important issue. Thank you so much for sharing. It takes a disciplined mind and life to be able to keep on God’s path when it looks like He has left us, or even that He is working against us. And so often that discipline is nowhere to be found just when we need it the most. It’s easy to think we are doing well when everything around us is going well. But when something comes along to test our faith, to shake us up, what do we do with our faith? Often we ignore it in order to create our own faulty opinions of what is really happening. I don’t want to rest in that winter room. Like you, I don’t want to carry “scissors” in my Bible case either. Better to have the doubts, fears and wrong questions and opinions burned or cut out of our lives than to burn or cut out part of God’s word that will bring life and abundance in the end.

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  10. Our church has been reading Proverbs together the last few weeks, and I have been struck once again with the humility of wisdom – repeated observations about how a wise person seeks, hears, receives God’s Word, even in the form of a rebuke. Scoffers and scorners do the opposite – go their own way, refuse to listen, heed, or even seek for wisdom. I think I am firmly established with the wise crowd until something happens that doesn’t fit the way *I* think it should. What a rebuke and a revelation that I am not so wise as I thought. May I avoid the king’s winter room and his folly. Great post, Michele.

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    1. Thanks, Barbara!
      It’s kind of funny if I can get outside myself enough to laugh at it. We are so pro-God as believers, and rightly so, but wow–let Him step outside our boundaries and all of a sudden I’m off team God and cheering for team Michele!

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  11. It is tempting to only focus on scripture that goes along with my way of thinking. But, as you have written and I have found to be true, that is not what we should do. We may not always understand the ways of God or why He allows certain things to happen, but we can trust that all He does has a purpose. That last statement of mine can offend many, especially if they have experiences great pain. However, I have learned that God never wastes a hurt. The miracle is that He will always bring some good from every situation. And, we can look forward to the day when He wipes away all our tears…

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  12. If we sit in the winter room and not embrace the whole ‘fiery’ truth, we’d be missing out on the wholeness of God, wouldn’t we? It would be kind of like just reading only the ‘nice’ parts of a story , when the learning and what we connect with is within the conflict! Great post Michelle!

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  13. […] When You’re Sitting In The Winter Room – Michele writes this metaphor beautifully. While her words cut to the heart, the Truth is what will set us free from this deception we can all fall prey to. Please if you have time to read only one post–make it this one. It’s that good! […]

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  14. Very sobering post Michele!
    We do look at God & His processes for us & those we love through colored lenses, the color the lens depending on how we want to feel or justify our particular view or doctrine of Him for that situation.
    Blessings to you,
    Jennifer

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  15. Ah! The sovereignty of God: mentioned so little nowadays, but always the undercurrent of our lives. Thank you for this valuable lesson from the Winter Room!

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  16. First of all, Michele, you write so eloquently! I am amazed by your talent every time I visit! And secondly, this makes me want to familiarize myself with Jeremiah’s story. I’m not as familiar with it as I am with the other prophets. This book sounds like a great one too. I need to move toward the tilling of ground in my heart that the spring demands! I’ll be pinning, my friend!

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    1. Oh, thanks, Beth, for the kind words AND for the visit! I spent last year in Jeremiah, and I still find myself going back for refreshers. He was so faithful to a nearly impossible calling in a dark and discouraging time in Israel’s history. We get glimpses of his heart in between all the heavy statements of God’s displeasure with Israel’s serial unfaithfulness.

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  17. Michele, I don’t ever want to be in the Winter Room, only embracing parts of God’s word. I want, like you, to bear the scalding truth when it comes so that I can live fully in God’s goodness. I know God is for me, even when I wander from His truth. I need to remember this when I’m being chastened.

    Such a great post, friend.

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  18. Great post Michele. I like this, “When I insist upon picking and choosing inspired words as if some might be optional, I take a seat in the Winter Room alongside King Jehoiakim.” It’s so true! Thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements!

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  19. This is a powerful post, Michele! And it’s true, it’s easy to hold onto our own ideas of what we think God should do/ how things should turn out. It’s so important to submit to his truth, even the parts we find difficult.

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    1. Yes, our hope is based entirely on His character, and we get into trouble when we start hoping in His actions, what we THINK he will do for us. I do struggle with this, and when God does the unexpected, as I said in the post, it shows up all the cracks and flaws in my theology.
      Thanks so much for reading and responding, Lesley.

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  20. Wow, Michele. This is a POWERFUL piece of writing! You’ve challenged me and encouraged me with masterfully chosen words. This visual will not soon be forgotten. Thank you for accurately depicting a place I so often find myself in and for pointing me back to Christ. This is my favorite kind of thing to read.

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    1. Jana, it’s so humbling to find that my own situation–often the result of my own poor choices–can be used in the growth process of another believer. Thank you for encouragement and blessing today!

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  21. I love these thoughts about the winter room. I choose sitting here at times when walking out of this room seem too hard or I’ve found I’m comfortable in this place so why leave? But God is beyond those four walls and honestly that’s where I’d rather be.

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  22. Sometimes it is excruciatingly hard to understand why the plan is going the way it does, but that’s the time to dig deep down and trust it will work out the way it needs to. I love the message you shared! #GlobalBlogging

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