When my mother was very ill, I gave her a book entitled, “Grace Grows Best in Winter.” I was intrigued by the title and did a bit of research to find the original writing of those words. I discovered that in his letters, Samuel Rutherford expresses the thought, “I see that grace groweth best in winter.”
For some people, wintertime is symbolic of a time of slowing down, dormancy, a kind of human hibernation. Fields lie fallow, resting . . .waiting for the time of planting, growing, and harvest. Animals wait and look for signs of spring so that they can begin to build nests and new homes, and do all the things animals do in the spring. People stay indoors, trying to stay warm, and wait for warmer days.
Some people experience a kind of winter sadness which is very real, real enough to have been named Seasonal Affective Disorder. Other people describe periods of pain and suffering as the winter of life.
Grass and flowers and plants and trees do not grow much in winter. Many tender plants cannot grow at all in winter. There are flowers that would not even survive the cold of winter. And yet, according to Samuel Rutherford, grace grows best in winter.
Perhaps what he had in mind is the comforting thought that even in life’s wintertimes, one may find the gift of grace that can sustain until spring. It’s the kind of grace, I think, that God gives us when the days are long and dreary, when we think the sun might never shine again.
Every winter has birthed a spring, a season where we will see signs of life all around. The days will become longer and the sun will shine a bit warmer. The trees will come back to life and flowers will begin to bud and blossom. God’s spring promises will be evident in every corner of creation.
And yet, in my life or yours, it may feel as cold and gloomy as any winter could be. Certainly, there are life circumstances that make us feel that winter will never be over for us. In the corridors and waiting rooms and family rooms and patient rooms of our hospitals, there are signs everyday that winter won’t pass. Persons who have lost loved ones find themselves in a winter of life that may seem endless. Families experiencing violence often believe that the winter won’t pass. Children living in abusive homes begin to believe the words in The Chronicles of Narnia, “It’s always winter and never Christmas.
Victims of recent gun violence, racism and terrorism probably feel as if the harsh cold of winter will never pass. And certainly, we all feel the angst that is prevailing over us in these days. Every time a terrorist act is committed, every time an innocent child dies from gun violence, every time a mosque is burned, we know that we live in perilous times.
All around, there is pain and sorrow and disappointment and anxiety. But there are also tiny signs that grace really does grow best in winter . . . that God still comes to comfort and console us on the coldest winter days . . . that friends still give the grace-gifts of love and caring . . . that families still stick close together and offer the grace of being near when the days are cold and dark.
Grace probably does grow best in winter, because that’s when we need it the most.
There’s a tiny passage of scripture nestled in the pages of the Bible, almost hidden in the unusual writing of the Old Testament book called Song of Songs. It’s a wonderful promise that’s good to hang on to when winter seems endless.
See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come.
If today seems to you like a wintertime of life, if it seems that spring might never come again, if you definitely don’t feel like singing . . . may this promise become real for you and may your season of singing come again.