If you’re not a fan of snowboarding or skiing or ice fishing, chances are you are pretty much done with winter by now! The beauty of the first snow is gone, the charming lights of Christmas are past, and cabin fever with its “winter blues” is setting in! Winter is really here and it’s starting to feel like it – blustery, cold, and harsh. But even when it isn’t technically winter, all of us will end up going through “wintry seasons” in life. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t great benefits to it! James 1:2-4 put it this way:
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
When James talks about trials of various kinds, I think we can consider those wintry seasons – seasons that are cold, harsh, and on the surface appear to be fruitless. But ironically, there is a lot we can learn from winter and its effect on fruit trees. Just as the wintry trials of life produce a perfection and completeness in us, so winter is necessary for many varieties of fruit trees.
Every fall, a fruit tree loses its leaves and enters dormancy. What is interesting is that this is not just to protect them from the winter temperatures but is also necessary for some fruit tree varieties to bear fruit again. Many fruit trees actually won’t bear fruit until it has met the minimum “chilling requirement” followed by a certain amount of heat.
This means that without the seasons of summer and winter, many varieties wouldn’t bear fruit more than once! If you planted some trees in a very comfortable climate year-round, they wouldn’t bear fruit because they wouldn’t meet the chilling requirement to start producing new buds and bear fruit again. They need cycles of every season!
One tree nursery website wrote about this:
“If a fruit tree is grown where winter cold is insufficient to satisfy the variety’s chilling requirement, blooming and foliation will be delayed and erratic; fruit set and fruit quality will be poor.... A fruit variety’s chilling requirement is a key determinant of where it will consistently produce satisfactory crops of fruit."
I think you get the point by now – like the trees, seasons of winter are necessary for us to bear fruit. As a church with a vision of “deep roots. bearing fruit.” this is crucial to remember. There are no wasted seasons with God. The long, cold blasts of trials and the seemingly barren seasons are exactly what can lead us into seasons of fruitfulness if we respond appropriately. I bet you can personally attest that without the hardest, maybe even the most depressing times of life, you would not be who you are today and would not have the testimony of God’s grace that you do. Even though my teeth want to clinch a bit when I say this, I will personally go on record saying that the hardest seasons I have went through have become the greatest, most fruit-bearing graces in my life today. Strangely, they are the seasons we come to appreciate the most because they shaped us into who we today – men and women of character and persevering faith that glorify God in a world where many are tempted to quit on Him in the winter.
I happened upon this quote this week from Charles Spurgeon, who had a knack for saying things best. When like Job, we ask God, “Why do I face trials?” Spurgeon answered with this:
“Perhaps, weary soul, the Lord is doing this to develop your graces. There are some graces that would never be discovered if it were not for your trials. Do you not know that your faith never looks as good in summer as it does in winter?... For how can you know you have faith until your faith is exercised? Depend on it—God often sends us trials so that our graces may be discovered and that we may be convinced of their existence. Besides, it is not merely discovery; real growth in grace is the result of sanctified trials.”
When God sends or allows seasons of trial and difficulty to enter into our lives, remember that He has not forsaken or abandoned you but put His hand on you, to grow you and to see to it that you might bear much fruit. In this, you can rejoice – count it all joy – as James said. God can hardly use a man until that man has been through every season. No winters can mean no fruit.
So, God bless you, even in the winter,
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