My Grandpa Schuller had many potent sayings, but one that’s had a great personal impact on my life was his admonition to “never cut down a tree in the winter.” Though it meant little to me as a kid from Southern California, when I moved to Oklahoma as a teenager, I finally understood the imagery that inspired this phrase. Since we lived in Broken Arrow, there was a huge forest behind our house that went on for as far as you could see. In the spring and summer, the trees were green and lush, but in the winter, they would lose all of their leaves. In fact, when covered with ice, they looked just like big twigs sticking out of the snowy ground. In that state, it was impossible to distinguish between those that were dead versus those that would ultimately thaw out and come back to life. However, months later, when the warmth of spring had melted the snow and new growth had emerged, it was clear which ones needed to be cut down. You see, the truth is that no tree bears fruit in the winter seasons of life; in fact, the goal in these times is simply to survive. Likewise, as we endure prolonged spiritual cold spells and are tempted to cut our losses and run, it’s vital that we resist the urge to give up. As people of Godly wisdom, we must come back to center before we make choices that will impact the remainder of our lives. For example, it’s interesting that the devil led Jesus into the wilderness before testing Him. After forty days and nights with no food or human contact, the deceiver knew that our Savior was in a vulnerable position, and he chose His moment of greatest weakness to tempt Him with pleasures that looked satisfying, but which, if accepted, had the potential to destroy His entire earthly ministry. Unfortunately, the same is true today — our adversary hasn’t changed his methods and he still uses the uncertainty of winter to get us to compromise our confidence in the Lord’s goodness.
My friend, don’t forfeit blessings in the midst of the wilderness or cut down a tree that is filled with God’s goodness just because it isn’t currently bearing fruit. Jesus is using this time of testing to strengthen your character and forge an iron-like resolve in your soul. Rather than running the other way when things get hard or even giving up all-together, determine to take one moment at a time and press on. Even if all you do is breathe, your faithful Father will not leave you; He will get you through the dark of winter and lead you again to the warmth of spring. As He completes the good work He’s begun in you, He will show you when and how to prune the dead things in your life, but until He speaks, stay planted in His faithfulness and trust Him to lead, guide, and protect you while the current storm passes by.