/ Jeffrey A Stivason

Grace Grows Best in Winter

In the fall I visited Lowe’s and spoke to the clerk about planting grass seed in a few places where my lawn is more dirt than turf.  His advice was simple; don’t waste your time or money. Planting in the cold season (or just before) is counterintuitive and counterproductive. Grass and plants don’t grow in the winter.  I left the store that day without seed but thinking to myself, there are some things that grow in winter. Several years ago, a friend sent me a book with Samuel Rutherford’s famous quip, “I see grace groweth best in winter.” Grace grows in winter, but what does that mean?

Life has ebbs and flows or seasons of summer and winter. Yes, there are transitions like spring and fall but they are just that, transitions. We are either moving into winter or out of it and into summer. These are the seasons of life. Some winters are hard. Some are harder than others. But God gives us winters in order that grace might grow. For that to happen we need to remain rooted during those months of bitter cold and biting snow. I like the tree analogy because we are prone to wander and seek the summer. A tree is rooted. Paul calls this withstanding and standing.[1] But standing or staying rooted is hard. It means facing the snow rather than turning from it. Not everyone is used to that sort of thing. But if you faint in the winter your strength is small.[2] And small strength needs a good winter.

That’s like what we say about summer crops.  Or we say, the grass needs a good rain. As rain soaks into the soil, it activates the microbes to release more nitrogen. Grass benefits from freshly fallen rain because the flush of water allows the roots to take up this "new" nitrogen in the soil as well as the nitrogen that the microbes have previously released.[3] There is an analogy here.  When winter comes those rooted in Christ draw down on His resources as they are enabled by His Spirit.

All of this reminds me of another passage.  In second Corinthians 4:17-18, Paul says, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” This text reminds us that winter and the hardship it brings will last but a moment. But God, through the winter, is working grace in us, though now we may not see it. In this way we might liken winter to night. It is ominous because it is lightless.  But if you’ve ever sat near a field on a hot summer night you can hear the corn growing. We are growing in the night.

But to grow we must stand. We must endure the night. We must face the blinding snow. And amid it we must look to Christ in whom we are rooted and grounded. We must, by His Spirit, draw down on the nutrients of His gifts and graces that will sustain us and cause us to flourish like the greenest grass after the summer rain.  Perhaps this article has made you long for spring or the first ray of dawn.  I understand.  But let me encourage you to stand in the winter and endure the night.  Because God is working in you an eternal weight of glory that you will not have in any other way.  Dear brother and sister, the night is almost over, and the day is near, look to Christ.  He has not wasted his time or resources in planting you just where you are.  And at the proper time, he will come for his harvest.


[1] Ephesians 6:13.

[2] Proverbs 24:10.

[3] https:The-Role-of-Nitrogen-in-Crop-Production-and-How-to-Protect-It

Jeffrey A Stivason

Jeffrey A Stivason

Jeffrey A Stivason (Ph.D. Westminster Theological Seminary) is a pastor (Grace RPC, graceingibsonia.org) and NT professor at RPTS in Pittsburgh, PA. He is also editor at placefortruth.com.

Read More