At times we may feel alone, but how many of us have gone to a country where we know NO-ONE......? This is the true story of Alex who went to Sweden as part of his degree program. There may be parts of this story that you can reflect on, and resonate with in your daily life and the struggles that we all face, especially in the current pandemic.
There is a saying in Sweden that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. This typically Nordic piece of wisdom is certainly true. Nonetheless, no amount of warm attire will prepare you for the challenges of the Swedish winter.
Like many of us, I have experienced my fair share of British winters. Sometimes we experience snow, on other occasions, disappointingly, we face weeks of rain. However, when I experienced my first Swedish winter, on my Year Abroad in Uppsala during 2018, all other winters I had known paled in comparison.
First, there was the darkness. The sun rose at a lazy 10am and then set a few hours after lunch at 2pm. With only four hours of daylight, every second of sunshine became precious. Then, there were the clouds. I recall weeks and weeks of grey cloud with perhaps a ten-minute reprieve to remind us that blue skies did still exist. But, when the temperature plummeted to a chilly -25 degrees, we faced the coming of the snow.
This snow was incredible! It was the sort that settled and didn’t melt for months. After the first few weeks of snow, all the colour drained out of the world. Each morning, enormous lorries, with snow ploughs attached, would scrape the roads to keep them open. Every evening, workers would build towers of snow along the pavement, often nearly as tall as the surrounding buildings. In Stockholm, the sea froze, and people used the ice as a shortcut when walking to work. Yet, despite the beauty of my surroundings, faced with darkness, cold, endless snow and little sunshine, getting through the winter was a struggle.
This winter, we might not be quite facing Scandinavian blasts, but we are managing COVID-19. In Sweden, it was the help of my friends and family who inspired me and the knowledge that even if these circumstances were challenging, there was a need to keep on going. And, as something which might be strange, the chance to experience this winter was an opportunity in itself. An opportunity to test your personal resilience and to think of new creative ways to keep your spirits up.
So, if you’re struggling this winter, remember that you have already successfully weathered most of the storm that 2020 has brought. Keep going and have faith that He is by your side.
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