Cold Spots

Cold Spots

IMG_0005 2Last summer, my brilliant son, Nate, solved an age-old question. One beautiful blue-green day, my daughter and I were swimming across a bay of the French River. He was our lifeguard, staying slightly ahead of us in a motorboat.

The water felt wonderful except for the occasional cold spot. I told him I’d always wondered why there were warm and cold sections in the water. You’d think a river would have it all mixed up so you wouldn’t encounter such a stark change. Nate had studied the nature of fluids as a mechanical engineering student. He nonchalantly replied, “Oh that’s easy.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, swimming closer to the boat.

IMG_0241 2“The motor pulls colder water up from the bottom.” He said. “A powerboat essentially leaves a cold wake as it travels down the river. Swimming across the bay, you’re passing through the wakes, thinking they’re isolated cold spots.”

Then he gave me a wild look. “I’ll prove it to you!” All at once, he jetted big circles around us, bringing waves of freezing water up from the bottom.

2006 - 2007 226“You’ve lost your head!” I said.

But he wouldn’t relent.

“Okay, okay!” I shouted. “I believe you.”

2006 - 2007 227

Turns out he found his head.

Suddenly, it seemed so obvious, though I’d been puzzled about it for years.

Cold spots in the water are similar to hot spots—emotionally.

You’re going along, minding your own business, when something happens that triggers a huge emotional response. It comes on suddenly and is way out of proportion to the present circumstance.

HeadacheA flash of hot anger.

A surge of deep sorrow.

A paralyzing panic or fear.

sense and sensibility


It happened to me one night in 1995 while watching the movie, Sense and Sensibility.

I identified with Elinor, the older sister in the story. Following the death of her father, she tries to hold her family together in one crisis after another. She perseveres day after day with immense fortitude, though inside she is utterly brokenhearted. I felt her inner conflict and the weight of responsibility she carried. But I didn’t realize the extent of her struggle until the end, when the desire of her heart is finally fulfilled.

Unexpected happiness unbridles her hidden sorrow, and she sobs like a child.

The Holy Spirit came close. “That’s you,” He said, gently.

At that moment, deep sorrow surfaced like a plume from the bottom of my heart.

I enjoy a good cry over a moving film or a great book, but this was different. My tears flowed for hours. I laid on the floor of our family room, piling up tissues. Even after climbing into bed, I could not stop weeping.

How was it possible to conceal such intense sorrow and not know it? It took me by surprise.

But God, in His kindness, knows about these things. Like the cold spots created by a motorboat, He knows how to dredge the depths of our souls—not to torment or provoke, but to bring healing. He understands the pain, the offenses, and the trauma we hold inside. Left unexamined and unresolved, they are toxic for us.

The Holy Spirit is the Great Stirrer-Upper. Marriage, family relationships, and job situations provide ample fodder for His work, though He’s not limited in any way.

Storm warning flags on beach. Baga, Goa, IndiaWhenever you experience a huge emotional response that seems too strong for the matter at hand, God is waving a red flag to get your attention. He’s sending up flares and marking the crime scene with yellow tape. He’s saying to you, Investigation Word Yellow Crime Scene Police Tape“Something happened here!” Your current surge of emotion is an echo of something past, and God’s intent is to get to the bottom of it and find the tap root.

In my situation, God showed me through Elinor’s character that I was going along largely in my own strength. Day in and day out, I tried to be resilient for the sake of others but lived with a broken heart for years! TEN YEARS, to be exact. It takes an enormous amount of energy to live that way. Maybe you know.

God wanted me to release my sorrow daily—a healthier ebb and flow of grief. He asked me to seek Him for strength in the moment and stop toughing it out. Of course part of the problem centered on the fact that I was secretly mad at God. Still, He wasn’t going to leave it alone. If Elinor didn’t work, He’d find another way.

DandelionAnd often, destroying the root involves apologies and forgiveness. I apologized to God. Somehow I’d picked up the notion that being a Christian meant trying to be capable and strong without God’s help. I took some deep breaths and did some intentional forgiveness work toward those who’d hurt me. I started the process of forgiving God, though He’d done nothing wrong. And all those tears brought a healing release.

As a gardener, I know that weeds just return if you don’t get the root—sometimes with a vengeance! So now, when some random situation evokes a strong emotion, I pause and consider what God is showing me.

How about you? Can you share a story?


  1. I wish that would happen to me. I can only let pain out on the odd occasion, which sucks because I have been told so many times, there is LOADS of it. I hate that I just can’t find it when I need to or let it out. Once there was a time on the bus reading a book and I knew if I kept on people would be concerned but I pulled myself together. That was about 7 years or more ago. I know I disassociate but I can’t seem to stop, I don’t know how. Its depressing knowing it’s there, asking the Lord to help, but nothing much happens. WHY???

    • Nicola, do you know any people through church who do inner healing work or minister prophetically. That would be a place to start. Invite God to dig down deep into your heart, but it really helps if you have people skilled in getting down to the roots. Also, being of UK (Scottish) background, we were raised in a culture of reserve. It feels foreign to let feelings come out especially if it leads to sloppy, nose dripping crying jags. I don’t know where you live, but I know Holy Trinity Brompton in London may be a resource for you to find some ministry people. I set aside a whole week to go and do some deep forgiveness work and look at my original wounds. Hope that helps. Susan

  2. Suzanne Ferenczy :

    Oh my. What does it all mean? I have been holding things together, not for others as much as for myself. I knew I had a recent experience of intense proportions but couldn’t put my finger on it, couldn’t recall… but then there it was. My daughter left for California for a job on an organic farm. I was not expecting to sob for three days. This was way out of character for me. None of our kids has ever gone THAT far away. Being out of reach, physically, made her disappear in a sense. When I went to a prayer and healing ministry to find out “what was up with that?”, thinking I had a soul tie needing to be broken, we eventually landed on identity in Christ. First, we had prayed. Then they listened to me, then they listened to God …and looked at each other in agreement: identity. That is something I never really thought about. Knowing who I am in Christ seems easy: I am a Christian. But it is so much deeper and better even than that. I found a devotional called Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes, and have just begun to really dig in to it. Thank you Susan, I always love your teachings and God’s truth mixed together for a healthful and tasty swill.

    • Suzanne, so glad you asked the question, “What’s up with that?” That’s where the Holy Spirit loves to respond saying, “I’m so glad you asked!” He is all about healing and restoring. Thanks for sharing. Susan

  3. Susan,
    Maybe I have shared this with you before. For me it wasn’t a burst of emotion but a complete deficit. In my late teens, most likely my senior year, there was a period where I was dating regularly and pattern began to emerge that caught my attention. Everything would be going along fine for a few weeks when I would be struck with an intense sense of relationship claustrophobia. Any verbal expression of feelings would make me feel like a caged animal. I would get highly anxious and obsess over ways to break free, almost like a panic attack. I would end up breaking things off as quickly as possible for really no good reason at all. My friends began to marvel as one perfectly good guy after another was tossed out like he was on fire. Even though I knew it was likely too early for me to be in a seriously committed relationship, my lack of feeling towards each guy began to leave me wondering if I had the ability to care deeply and be in a loving relationship. I was beginning to feel like the ice queen. I don’t even remember if I uttered an audible prayer but as I was thinking about it one day, The Lord took me instantly back to a moment when I was alone in my closet. I was a little girl of eleven and my dad had just announced that he would be divorcing my mom and leaving our family. I was crying and angry at him for teaching us for all those years that divorce was wrong, then acting on it himself. I made an inner vow that I would never be so dependent on any man that he could leave me in such a destroyed state as my dad was now leaving my mom and our family. As I sat there remembering I could see how that inner vow had built a wall of protection against being hurt but also healthy feeling as well. Even now I marvel that God showed me this at the time that He did. I wasn’t in a place of needing to make a lifetime commitment, but He knew this was an unhealthy pattern for me and He showed me how my bitterness had poisoned my picture of relationships. Thank goodness.

    • YES! Thank goodness you got down to the bitterroot and vow, Moriah. They are toxic and what God showed you set you free! Amazing story. Thanks for being so candid.

  4. As usual, I loved your insights and extraordinary use of the English language! For example, “The Holy Spirit is the Great Stirrer-Upper,” and “He knows how to dredge the depths of our souls…” Wow, Susan, what a gifting you have! Hey…would you consider writing a blog about another aspect of forgiveness? That is, how followers of Christ are called to “forgive” an offender even when that offender doesn’t deserve it–yet that doesn’t necessarily mean we need to “trust” the offender again. It’s hard to explain, but with the Holy Spirit’s leading, you could do a fine job I’m sure! Many blessings to you!

    • Marilyn… I will give it some thought. I have made Forgiveness a life topic of study. It’s so central to the Kingdom of God. In the meantime, I would refer you to John Bevere’s teaching/talks called The Bait of Satan. The title is a little off-putting, but this is one of the BEST messages on forgiveness and not taking up offense easily that I have EVER heard. Here is the link (36 minutes on YouTube):