The ominous crash shattered through the house. I looked over to see the flower pot that once belonged to my great grandmother, in pieces on the floor. Soil scattered about the Christmas cactus that was nestled inside. This was a treasured plant that grew from a clipping from my other great grandmother’s plant. As I examined the damage, I found branches broken off. Some of them were quite large and had been a part of the plant for quite sometime.
I shed some tears and re-potted the plant in a new vessel. I moved it to a different, safer location only to have the same incident repeat itself three months later. My plant appeared beat up and tired looking.
I see myself in this plant.
The last eighteen months have felt like a very long winter. Trial upon trial entered my life. At times I felt completely broken down and worn out. Withered and wilted.
Yet, I imagine my story is similar to your own experiences. For Jesus gives us a clear picture of this scenario in John 15. (You can read all of John 15:1-17 here)
I am the true vine and My Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. (John 15:1-2 HCSB)
Life is a cultivating process.
The funny thing is I didn’t see this clearly in much of what I was going through. Cultivating? All I could see was that I was experiencing an inconvenience or hardship caused purely by the actions of others. However, a closer look through the lens of scripture tells me that God allows me to be placed in these exact situations to change, refine, purify and/or strengthen me in some way.
So, we are stuck in the winter season, now what?
We need to cling to the vine – Christ. He needs to be our source of nourishment, wisdom, comfort, peace and direction. Without Him we are a branch straining to survive on our own. And. Just like that branch, we will lack the strength and vitality to survive the harshness of our winter seasons without our life source.
If we cling to Christ during hard times (and every other time) we will bear fruit. Meaning our lives will reflect what God is doing in them to others. We will grow in relationship with Christ and grow in love for others. Our trials have purpose.
But more than that, we will see changes within ourselves. In this most recent season, my faith was forced into a helpless depth from whence I could only look to God for change in my situation. My faith grew to a depth I had not even imagined until then. Complete reliance sounds good when reading about it in devotionals, but I hadn’t realized that I wasn’t quite there …until now. I was powerless to change the circumstances that were affecting me. I could not rely on the people who were causing the problems to change. Really, can we ever? My only solution was to bring it all to the Lord. When I turned it all over to Him, I found the peace and strength that sustained me through the rough spots.
So if your shoulders are still in a slump at this point, know this: if we abide in Him, God makes us a promise. I like how the Modern English Version explains this:
If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, you will ask whatever you desire and it shall be done for you. (John 15:7)
This means that if our eyes are fixed on Christ, He acts upon our prayers because the things we ask for when we abide in Him are in alignment with His will. What we desire and ask for actually changes in this process. Our prayers turn from what we want God to do to what God wants us to do. No. More. Wrestling.
Meanwhile, as the winter season recedes we can expect to look a lot like my plant does today -FULL of blossoms, more than it has ever produced. We can walk away with a deeper faith, a greater strength, a newfound peace and wisdom to share (more fruit) and an assurance of answered prayers. Sounds like a good plan to me.
What has God shown you through your severe seasons of cultivating? In what ways can you cling more closely to Him? I would love to hear from you!
Until next time,