Winter is upon us in the Northern Hemisphere. The weather is decidedly cold. Daylight is short and the dark of night seems long. The bright colors of spring and summer have long since faded, and the bronze tones of harvest have been reduced to dull brown. The seasons we associate with new growth and productivity have given way to hibernation and inactivity.
In some regions of the world, the winter season has the highest rate of precipitation resulting in continuous days of rain or snow accumulation. Extreme weather conditions can paralyze transportation or present signiﬁcant danger to those who are overexposed to the elements. Imagine what it would be like to dwell in a region of permanent winter such as Antarctica!
The souls of men also experience seasons of winter. There are times when our path seems dim and darkness overwhelms. We are discouraged by life circumstances and experience desolation of spirit. The Lord allows a time of seeming inactivity in our service to Him. Opposition or illness forces us to stand still or go back. We cannot see or understand where God is leading, perhaps in the same way a traveler experiences lack of sight during a blizzard of blinding snow.
But unlike the birds who ﬂy south during winter in search of warmer temperatures, we should not ﬂee the God-ordained winter seasons of our souls. The Puritan preacher, John Bunyan, stated it this way:
“We also, before the temptation comes, think we can walk upon the sea, but when the winds blow, we feel ourselves begin to sink . . . And yet doth it yield good to us? We could not live without such turnings of the hand of God upon us. We should be overgrown with ﬂesh, if we had not our seasonable winters. It is said that in some countries trees will grow, but will bear no fruit, because there is no winter there.”1
We often think of surviving the winter, but according to Bunyan, we cannot survive without it. The difﬁcult times in our lives provide for a peeling away of our ﬂesh and further potential for spiritual growth.
My husband is a landscaper by profession and spends much of the winter pruning shrubs and trees to encourage the growth of new foliage in the spring. I also hear him explain to his customers how to care for their lawns during the winter season. Although the grass looks dead or brown or appears dormant, the cold season is actually the time when the roots grow and extend deeper into the soil. It is beneﬁcial to feed a lawn with fertilizer during the winter months in order to strengthen the growing roots. The fruit of this labor and time of unseen growth is revealed in the spring when the grass blades begin to grow tall and green again. Strong root growth during the winter helps the grass to withstand the stress of summer.
We also can be strengthened amidst the difﬁculty of our “seasonable winters.” First, we must rest in God’s sovereign control over the circumstances of our life. We can trust Him because He is completely trustworthy. If our winter season reveals the need to cut away overgrown ﬂesh, we must submit to the gentle, loving hand of the One who intimately knows our frame and is acquainted with all our ways (Psalm 139).
Secondly, we must stay connected to the Vine and feed on God’s Word, our necessary food (John 14:1-8; Job 23:12). As we abide in Christ and His words abide in us, we will be nourished and strengthened to continue to bear fruit as the winter passes. Resting and abiding – if that is all we can do, it is enough. We must be willing to be quiet, and we must be willing to wait. “For when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
1 John Bunyan, Seasonable Counsel, or Advice to Sufferers, in The Works of John Bunyan, vol. 2, George Offor, ed. (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1991), p. 694.
Written by Jonie Turner French. This article was published in the Winter 2008 edition of The Beautiful Spirit magazine. Jonie and her husband live in Lynnwood, Washington.