No matter where you live on the globe, winter brings with it a certain chill. For a time, this coolness can be calming and restful, inviting you to slow down, settle under a soft throw, and drink a toasty beverage. But as the months go on and the cold remains, the initial reaction to the reprieve of our hot months is often replaced by disdain and even some depression about the isolation and extra work the icy months can bring.
It is easy to let the cold on the outside leak into our own hearts, making us a bit grumpy or even bitter and closed off to the world around us.
Scripture Verses to Pray When You’re Cold
Whether you simply need a little spiritual pick-me-up or a major change of pace to help cope, I’ve always found it helpful to reflect on the way God revealed Himself to the world in Scripture. With God, everything is deliberate. It’s no coincidence throughout Salvation History, He consistently and constantly revealed His presence to His people as fire.
The Burning Bush
In Moses’ first encounter with God, he happens upon a burning bush, which though ablaze is not being consumed. God speaks, and in this moment reveals a truth to Moses about His own identity and value—something Moses probably struggled with having grown up as a Hebrew within the Egyptian courts where he was not fully accepted by either race. God tells Moses to whom he belongs, and He gives Moses the purpose and direction his life had been missing. What does this tell us? God’s fiery presence provides warmth, truth, and love to our hearts that have experienced the harsh and bitter coldness of others.
// And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and lo, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. -Exodus 3:2
//And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” -Exodus 3:6
// Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring forth my people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.” -Exodus 3:10
// He said, “But I will be with you….” -Exodus 3:12
Pillar of Fire
In the Pentateuch, God leads the Israelites out of Egypt and to the Promised Land with a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. Scripture tells us this pillar (which represents God’s very presence) never left His people. This pillar not only directs and guides them, it also provides protection from the threat of their enemies.
Often our own coldness can come from a lack of direction in our lives, or from the hatred and vitriol of others. No matter what darkness we may be experiencing, God’s presence remains with his faithful ones and protects them from their foes.
// In the daytime he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a fiery light. -Psalm 78:14
// And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night; the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people. -Exodus 13:21-22
// Then the angel of God who went before the host of Israel moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness; and the night passed without one coming near the other all night. -Exodus 14:19-20
Fire in God’s Dwelling Place
God also gifted His people with a visual of His presence dwelling among them even when they were settled. Whether it was within the Tabernacle or the Temple, God made sure His people knew He was physically present among them.
// On the day that the tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the testimony; and at evening it was over the tabernacle like the appearance of fire until morning. So it was continually; the cloud covered it by day and the appearance of fire by night. And whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tent, after that the people of Israel set out; and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the people of Israel encamped. At the command of the Lord the people of Israel set out, and at the command of the Lord they encamped; as long as the cloud rested over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. -Numbers 9:15-18
// When Solomon had ended his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house. When all the children of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the Lord upon the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the earth on the pavement, and worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures for ever.” -2 Chronicles 7:1-3
Elijah and Fire
God continued to reveal His presence as fire into the ages of division and Exile. When Elijah wanted to prove the reality and power of God to the pagans and idolizing Israelites, he entered a duel with the priests of Baal, prayed for a sign, and God sent down fire from Heaven to completely consume the sacrifice being offered.
In addition, when Elijah’s mission on earth had been completed, he was taken to Heaven in a flaming chariot, carried away by God’s presence after a long and grueling experience with the harsh, cold hearts of the Isrealites and her enemies.
// And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Eli′jah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that thou, O Lord, art God, and that thou hast turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt offering, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” -1 Kings 18:36-39
// And as they still went on and talked, behold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Eli′jah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Eli′sha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw him no more. -2 Kings 2: 11-12
Fire in the New Testament
When the Holy Spirit descends upon the Church at Pentecost, all Jesus’ followers are filled with His presence and tongues of fire appear above their heads. This is an indication of the new, living Temple in which God’s presence now dwells.
In light of our Baptism and Confirmation, our hearts and the hearts of all the faithful are now the dwelling places of God. And just as the Apostles were filled with courage and able to face unspeakable challenges and be understood by others, this same fire burns within each of our souls.
This fiery theme extends throughout the wholeness of the New Testament, all the way to Revelation, where Christ’s heavenly body is described as blazing.
// When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. -Acts 2:1-4
// John answered them all, “I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. -Luke 3:16
// Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden girdle round his breast; his head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters; in his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth issued a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. -Revelation 1:12-16
If You Need the Visual
Don’t be disheartened or disappointed in yourself if you’re struggling with coldness in your heart. Scripture warns against the cold, but it doesn’t outright condemn it. In fact, it is the lukewarm who are condemned (see Revelation 3:15-16). This is because the lukewarm are comfortable. When cold, this extreme discomfort results in receptivity of fire and warmth when it is encountered.
Whether it is your body or your soul which is feeling chilly, take the time to meditate upon these passages of Scripture about the warmth and light of God’s presence. Drive to Church and gaze upon the candle illuminated beside the Tabernacle. Light a candle at the devotional corner of your parish and ask God’s presence to overwhelm the coldness you feel consuming you. Even lighting a candle or a match at home could have this same effect, provided it is a moment of prayer when your heart is surged and present with God.
What Scripture verses do you turn to when feeling spiritually cold?