Exploring ‘Winter of the Soul…’

     I’ve always lived in locales with four distinct seasons. While growing up in Montana, my favorite season vacillated between spring and summer. For several years, autumn has been my preference.

     Winter has ALWAYS been my least favorite!

     What don’t I like about winter?

     Darkness. When nighttime hours eclipse daylight.

     Isolation. I miss friendly smiles and waves from neighbors, greetings and updates from the little boy next door. I miss impromptu chats while on evening walks.

     Storms. They’re inconvenient and make it difficult—at times unsafe—to get around. Storms wreak havoc on my carefully constructed agenda. I especially dislike storms!

     The writer of Psalms 104:19 implies seasons are God’s idea

     He made the moon to mark the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down.

     The words ‘season’ or ‘seasons’ are used some forty times in scripture.

     My journey as a Christ follower has transitioned through ‘seasons of the soul.’ Winter of the soul is my least favorite spiritual season! Despite my preference, I know life-changing work occurs in winter’s dark, isolating, stormy days.

     Take the tree for instance. During wintertime it appears barren and lifeless. In fact, though, vital unseen work is happening deep within the trunk of that tree.

     One’s soul during winter often struggles with melancholy, doubt and a feeling of uselessness. Mark Buchanan reflects:

     Winter is when your heart is so closed up you can’t imagine it ever opening again, your dreams so buried you can’t conceive of them resurrecting.[1]

     Jesus told his disciples:

     I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes. (John 15:1-2)

     Jesus was speaking to people who were more familiar with grapevines than trees, but I believe the same lesson applies to me who lives in a region plentiful with trees.

     I did a little research and learned for most trees, the optimum time for pruning is late winter. A skilled arborist knows which branches must be lopped off to ensure healthy growth, beauty and fruitfulness. The arborist cuts without apology. Branches whacked off ooze sap, but the tree expert isn’t worried because the one pruning realizes those cuts will survive and heal beautifully. A scar may result, but the wound won’t be fatal.

     So, it is with our souls. When God prunes off useless branches, it may feel harsh. The pruning may even result in tears. But, God, the infinitely wise Master Gardener, knows what needs to be cut off so we will produce good fruit—the fruit of the Spirit:

Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control[2]

Unlike a tree, the Master Gardener has given you and me the gift of free will. We can choose to cooperate in the pruning process. I’m a strong-willed woman, and this thought causes me to pause and reflect.

     Because I’ve heard some of your stories, I know there are those reading this post who are experiencing winter in their souls. I too have experienced a couple unpleasant spiritual storms this winter. For each of us I pray:

God of every season…
In this winter season, meet us in those dark, lonely moments.
Quiet our troubled thoughts.
With each breath, may your Spirit breathe joy into our sadness and loss.
Fill gaps of doubt with an assurance you are in control.

In the pruning process, fill us with hope, peace and anticipation of a new season.
Despite the season, let us never lose sight of your beauty!

In the name of the Father, Son and Spirit I pray…Amen

Blessings on your journey…

Sue Reeve

  1. Spiritual Rhythms, Mark Buchanan, Winter
  2. Galatians 5:22-23 NIV

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