Monday, December 1, 2008
Winter - a season of rest
Winter has traditionally been associated with death but actually it’s a time of dormancy, a time of rest and refreshing.
This is obvious in nature. Bears and other animals hibernate during the winter and wake up from their rest when spring arrives. Plants and trees also rest during the winter and once again begin to blossom and bloom when winter is over. This time of rest and renewing is critical for life to continue.
Our lives should also be characterized by times of rest and inactivity. However, we live in a society that pushes us to constant activity. Most of us live in a whirlwind of activity that is emotionally and physically exhausting.
Religious systems also tend to promote this treadmill of constant activity. Sundays are packed with Sunday School, morning services and then often followed by evening services. In addition, there are mid-week Bible studies, prayer groups and various other meetings. Life in these systems seem to center around constant activity.
I’ve heard many people who are now out of the system describe their time there as exhausting. I don’t believe this is the way Father intended us to live. Ecclesiastes says that “there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven.” Seasons come and go. There are seasons of growth and harvest but there are also seasons of rest when nothing seems to be happening. After a season of activity, it’s often difficult to adjust to our seasons of quiet.
Our first thought is that we’ve somehow displeased God and he’s turned away from us. We search our hearts to see if there’s any sin we’ve committed. We pray and we cry. We read our Bibles seeking a word from God. When none comes, we get desperate and we fast hoping for a breakthrough.
Often, during this time, it seems as though God has put us on a shelf as ministry opportunities dry up and stop. Our natural tendency is to try to make something happen. However, I believe that this isn’t a season for ministry and activity. It’s a season to sink our roots more deeply into Father’s love and to allow our relationship with him to be strengthened. I believe that if we yield to this time of inactivity, Father will work deeply in us as we rest in him.
In a vineyard, the vines are pruned during the winter when all growth has stopped and sap is no longer flowing. Pruning is necessary in order to remove damaged or unhealthy growth from the vine. During our times of rest, Father will heal and restore us to greater health and vitality by removing from our lives those desires and distractions that weaken us.
In a vineyard, however, healthy growth is also cut away in the pruning process. A healthy vine will each year produce many branches on which there will be many clusters of grapes. If not pruned, this excess growth will weaken the vine causing it to produce an inferior crop. Over time, the weakened vine becomes subject to disease and insect attacks.
In a similar fashion, Father will cause us to focus on fewer things. During a season of fruitfulness, opportunities are multiplied and we try to be involved as much as possible. However, Father is calling us to a life of fruitfulness without the busyness.
Wayne Jacobsen says, “No season of ministry is open-ended. God harvests in specific seasons through specific people. If we recognize this fact, we can allow specific harvest times to come to completion – and then we can celebrate and let go.”
To read and understand more about these seasons, I recommend Wayne Jacobsen’s book “In My Father’s Vineyard.” This is an excellent book which is now out of print but can still be purchased through Amazon.com.