Peace can be uncomfortably paradoxical. I’ve found that a vast majority of the conversations I have during the week beat around the bush–and the lack of substance only perpetuates existing anxiety. Art has proved to be exceedingly helpful, in that it often points me to an inescapable truth: when feeling stuck, the worst possible thing to do is hide. But we want to hide. Nothing about displaying fears and insecurities seems the least bit freeing.

In their new album, The Carpenter, The Avett Brothers continue their wonderfully raw and beautiful articulation of real life.  Their song, “Winter in My Heart” does just that. Here are the lyrics:

 It must be winter in my heart
There’s nothing warm in there at all
I miss the summer and the spring
The floating yellow leaves of fall

A million colors fill my eyes
The roman candles and the stars
The calendar says July 4
But it’s still winter in my heart

They say flowers bloom in spring
Red and golden, blue and pink
They say seasons turn in time
Theirs are changing, why won’t mine?

It must be winter in my heart
There’s nothing warm in there at all
I miss the summer and spring
The floating yellow leaves of fall

The air in there is frigid cold
I don’t know what the reasons are
The calendar says August 1
But it’s still winter in my heart

They say flowers bloom in spring
Red and golden, blue and pink
They say seasons turn in time
Theirs are changing, why won’t mine?

Banjo player and lead vocalist, Scott Avett elaborates in this video on the simple, yet profound truths in the song:

 “Winter in my heart seems to be pretty self-explanatory. It’s about depression and any form it may come; anxiety, sadness, panic. Because, those feelings and thoughts that seem so abstract are so real and within they are as real as a season, like Winter. Or even the blistering heat of Summer. Something that’s real, like a season and easy to identify is what those pains are. It’s a song about that. Not quite being able to understand why it’s happening…just like the heaviness of a season.”

The song’s richness is found in it’s simplicity—and that, even in it’s simplicity, it’s an utterly accurate depiction of “anxiety, sadness, and panic.”

The idea of vulnerability is also worth attention—not much beating around the bush in this track.  There’s something to be said for the fact that experiences like depression “are as real as a season,” yet we’re absolutely terrified to talk about them in these terms.

As common as the everyday “’How are you?’… ‘Fine, how are you ?’” (ugh) tends to be, it’s just…well, simply not helpful.  We know, because of experience, that we’re everything but “fine”.  In fact, the majority of the time, this is the case.  We would never dare respond with, “I’m actually doing pretty terrible right now”—that’s too honest.  Maybe you would, but, most of the time, I’m not that brave.  There’s really nothing consoling about this song—precisely because honesty and discomfort go hand in hand.  There seems to be only two responses in listening to “Winter in My Heart”.  One is ignorantly avoiding the fact that the song is a glimpse into the complexities of our human predicament, or the painful contrary: admitting that the song has our number.

There’s much to learn from songs like “Winter in My Heart”, and the blues genre in general for that matter. Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane is much more like that of a blues song than hits on Christian radio. Perhaps being honest, in all its discomfort, is actually the pathway by which we catch a glimpse of peace. Maybe in admitting that we’re stuck we then meet the One who is with us in the midst of it all. I’ve found it most comforting when I engage in art that encompasses this notion. This stanza from Anne Steele’s hymn, “Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul” like “Winter in My Heart”, results in a freeing sigh of relief…”I’m not the only one!”

But oh! When gloomy doubts prevail,
I fear to call Thee mine
The springs of comfort seem to fail,
And all my hopes decline

Yet gracious God, where shall I flee?
Thou art my only trust
And still my soul would cleave to Thee
Though prostrate in the dust