The “Doldrums” is the name for the region of the earth between about 30° to 35° north and 30° to 35° south of the equator known as the trade winds or “horse latitudes.” The term harkens back to the age of sailing where tradition states that sailors gave this region of weak winds the name “horse latitudes” because ships relying on wind power stalled and sometimes got stuck there. Fearful of running out of food and water, sailors threw their horses and cattle overboard to lighten the ship’s load and to save their precious provisions. (Although why sailors wouldn’t have eaten the animals instead of throwing them overboard, is a mystery.) According to the Free, On-line Dictionary another definition for doldrums is: “A period of stagnation or slump.” It is often used to describe that grey feeling in February, before spring arrives and re-energizes all of nature.
In my life the “doldrums” is that sense of feeling adrift, not really sure where I’m going and feeling like the wind has been taken out of my sails. How did I get here? How do I catch the strong and steady breeze that will move me forward to be once again in the path of fruitfulness and productivity? What can I learn in this “in-between” place? Am I supposed to fight the doldrums or go with the flow, letting the gentle current underneath peacefully rock me back and forth like a lullaby, allowing me to rest before the next adventure? Or, is that gentle rocking motion lulling me into a hazardous state of stagnation? What is the excess baggage in my life that I need to cast “overboard” in order to lighten my load so I can move forward?
I don’t have the answer to any of these questions but I can choose to learn something in every season of life. Being in the doldrums isn’t a waste of time as long as I gain something from spending time bobbing there. It may be as simple as learning to: Be still and know that God is God Psalm 46:10, or getting some rest, recovering from what has occurred in the past or being fortified and equipped for the future. God may want to use this time in my life to help me identify and dump the baggage I’ve been carrying around that is hindering my forward progress. One other thing I am certain of: the doldrums isn’t the place to give in to the temptation of self-pity. It is a good place for self-examination as long as the examiner is God’s spirit, who desires to reveal to me the truth about myself in a manner that is not filled with self-condemnation. The perilous danger in the doldrums is to blame myself, another person, God, or some life situation for sending me here. It’s simply a part of the journey of life, not the final destination. No matter how I got here, I can learn something valuable and allow it to help shape who I am in the process of becoming. When I find that I’ve drifted into the doldrums it’s comforting to remember that I’m not alone. God is with me and it’s a good time to get to know Him better. He promises to be with me, always.
God has said, “I will never leave you or let you be alone.” Hebrews 13:5 NLV
I am never truly stuck in the doldrums even though it feels that way at times. I’m merely passing through, on my way to the future that God has planned for me.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me.” Jeremiah 29:11-13 NLT