Spring comes in full bloom every year with colors as bright as the sun which shines longer then. The birds and the beauty of that season sing of the fruit that is found. As summer warms the earth and lures us outside, we see fields of green and floral gardens showing off their best. When fall makes its appearance, we witness the changing colors of the leaves and the comforting breeze carrying them all over. But what about winter? Blankets of cold and ice cover signs of life and growth. Branches are bare and brown all around. It's hard to see winter as we do the other seasons. But God's creation speaks to us even through its seeming silence. Winter is the way it is because of its impact on the cycle of the seasons. We need winters to prepare the way again for what's to come.
Our lives exemplify the seasons in so many ways. We go through seasons when we see visible fruit from our labors, and we are encouraged and spurred on–seasons of new life, flourishing ministry, exciting relationships, and achievements. We go through seasons of celebration and joy, clearly seeing God's goodness to us. But we also go through seasons of loss and trial–seasons of loneliness, waiting, discouragement, and the like. Often, our seasons of suffering parallel the winter months. There seems to be no visible growth, no sun shining on us, and no end in sight. We might struggle to know how to use these months. So how can we be faithful and diligent in those seasons too? Wintery seasons of blister invite us in to look closely at our foundations. Where have we been planting ourselves? We read in Jeremiah 17:5-8:
This is what the Lord says: Cursed is the person who trusts in mankind. He makes human flesh his strength, and his heart turns from the Lord. He will be like a juniper in the Arabah; he cannot see when good comes but dwells in the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land where no one lives. The person who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence indeed is the Lord, is blessed. He will be like a tree planted by water: it sends its roots out toward a stream, it doesn't fear when heat comes, and its foliage remains green. It will not worry in a year of drought or cease producing fruit. (CSB)
The difference between the man who is cursed and the man who is blessed is where he plants his roots and from where he draws his strength. When we find ourselves weak, exhausted, and discouraged, we find evidence of looking to ourselves for strength and wisdom. There, we find dry and tangled roots, searching and searching for the thirst to be quenched. But when we are dependent, trusting, and faithful, we see evidence of looking to the Lord for our confidence. Then, we find roots filled with living water, carrying us through seasons of fruitlessness and drought. Look to your roots. From where are you drawing strength in this wintery season?
Samuel Rutherford, about our wintery seasons of trial, wrote, "I see grace growth best in winter." When we are left searching for life and bloom, we see the reality of our needs. We need God's grace to meet us where we are, lift us up, and sustain us. It is the only confidence we have in enduring these times. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness." When our greatest weaknesses are revealed, God brings light to His all-surpassing strength. We acknowledge our need most when we see our inability in and of ourselves to produce life and fruit. Therefore, the gift of grace grows best when we see our greatest need for it!
During seasons of winter, we see God's grace at work in us–redirecting our roots, leading us to our true source, and bringing us the hope of seasons to come. Additionally, Rutherford wrote, "Faith is a grace for winter, to give God leisure to bring summer in his own season." Faith is cultivated in us as we look to God to bring us through the long and bleak winter. By faith, we wait in patience for God's work in us to be complete. Though at times His work may seem slow and long, He is strengthening us in our faith and trust in Him. The Israelites were in exile for seventy years and in the wilderness for forty years. It likely felt like God was in no rush to deliver His people from their trial. But their faith became grace for their winter, and God delivered them.
No matter how long those wintery seasons might last, summer will come (Genesis 8:22). When we plant our roots deep in Him, we know that God's purposes are at work in us, even if we can't see them. He is preparing us for the coming summer, at a time that He chooses is right and good. We are not promised exemption from seasons of trials on earth, but we are promised a hope beyond this earth. So in our wintery months, let's be intentional to plant our roots deep in the Lord, through the study of His Word, prayer, and gathering together with His people. As we wait in grace and faith, may we look to the light and warmth presently given to us in Jesus Christ, no matter the season, and look expectantly toward His coming when there will be endless growth, the forever reigning Son, and eternal beauty in sight.