According to NASA’s Earth Observatory, “The Intertropical Convergence Zone, or ITCZ, is the region that circles the Earth, near the equator, where the trade winds of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres come together” (via http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov). The ITCZ (“itch”) is a major weather player, affecting rainfall, storms, and wind currents across the world along the equator but also extending north and south as the position of the earth to the sun changes seasonally. Another feature of the ITCZ is the dead calm it can cause at sea, a weather event sailors long ago named “the doldrums.” A sailing ship that gets caught in that area of the world can be stuck there for days due to windless conditions. It is said to be from an Old English word that gives us the modern word “dull” (via online Etymology Dictionary, http://www.etymonline.com).
Have you ever heard someone say that they were stuck in the doldrums? They mean they feel a prolonged sense of sadness and depression. Sometimes, this can occur and the sufferer does not even know exactly why. Since we live in an imperfect world, times like these are inevitable. People disappoint us, discouragement paralyzes us, sadness overwhelms us, and anxiety overtakes us. What can be done if we find ourselves “stuck in the doldrums”?
Smile. A dose of determined joy and deliberate happiness may be necessary. Proverbs 15:13-15 says, “A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken. The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness. All the days of the afflicted are evil, but he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast.”
Serve. Distracting yourself from the doldrums may remedy them. There is no better way to accomplish this than by seeing someone in need and helping them. As Christians, we have been called to “through love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13).
Supplicate. No earthly power may be able to put wind in your sails, but the power of God in heaven never fails. We should ask, when in our doldrums, have I spoken to God about it? Paul says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6). Supplication is a noun meaning “to make known one’s particular need” (Zodhiates, δέησις).
Hang in there! The winds will resume and push you forward. Just be alert when they begin to blow so you can leave those doldrums behind you!