"Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples." (John 15:8)
I used to deliver newspapers as a kid. One dark Winter morning, I made my way through my neighbors' yard to give them their paper and heard this ear-splitting crack. Right by me, this giant, snow-covered Douglas Fir lost one of its boughs to the weight. The rest of the night and the neighborhood was still and silent from the snow. The silence returned as the huge limb slumped to the ground.
"Every branch in me that beareth not fruit He taketh away..." (John 15:2a)
"He giveth snow like wool: He scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes. He casteth forth His ice like morsels: who can stand before His cold? He sendeth out His word, and melteth them: He causeth His wind to blow, and the waters flow." (Psalm 147:16-18)
Winter's about over. The weather's getting warmer and we now have an extra hour to enjoy it. Spring is almost here. You can already see the trees responding. That fresh shade of green that lasts for a couple weeks at most belies all the ice and snow and cold that came before. Like the trees (the deciduous ones anyways) are glowing from within. I love it. When Jesus says "every branch in me that beareth not fruit", at least the branch is in Him, right? As a kid, I really didn't know God. This had no bearing on the state of my spirit. When I "confess[ed] with my mouth the Lord Jesus" (Romans 10:9) at four years, even though I felt nothing, God made me one of His kids. I was "in Him". And while it takes years and years and all our life to attain a "measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13), the process was working below the surface even then. I met God in my late teens--really saw Him with my spirit. But guess what: He'd been drawing me closer to Him that whole time. Winter may last a short three months. But the Winter of my life lasted about fourteen years. Here's the thing. When Jesus says of the branches in Him "that beareth not fruit" and that His Father "taketh away", that word translated "taketh away" means to "lift up". To deal with in a more personal way. A more hope-filled wording, in my opinion.
"He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom..." (Isaiah 40:11)
"For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son (and daughter) whom He receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons." (Hebrews 12:6-8)
This lends itself to long seasons of cold and ice and hardship. God is supremely merciful. The psalmist says "who can stand before His cold?" But then he continues and says that "He sendeth out His word, and melteth them." God is in charge of our seasons of hardship. Of toil and strife and misery. Of that load of straws on which a single added will cause us to crack. But look at it in light of this. I believe any time we look at our life and realize that we may--may be being "chastised" by God, we must see it in light of this scripture from Jeremiah (31:3):
"The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee."
Whether through ice or fire, God is calling you. He's big enough to deal with your (and my) hangups and mistakes and foibles. The season in which you find yourself--should it be unpleasant--is not designed to last. I realized this, odd as it might sound, when one day, I met Jesus. I had never known Him and I'd never known that I didn't know Him. When I met God at around eighteen, I didn't yet know Jesus. Then--and this is how I word it--God handed me over to Him. And from that day on, I sensed Him. I saw Him. And I am seeking as the days and years progress to know Him ever better. Our seasons cycle around. The cold barrenness of Winter gives way to a bright and hopeful Spring. Summer is on the heels of that if you didn't already know. Everything therein lends itself to a forthcoming Harvest. And it's the stockpiling of that that gets us through our next inevitable Winter. As my dad once told me, "There will never be a time in your life, as you walk with the Lord, that you won't be in a position of needing to trust Him for something." This is true. And the more you let the words of God, the ones He speaks to the depth of your heart during the Winter months (figurative or literal), grow underground, the more abundant your harvest. To where your limbs will break off due to the high yield of your harvest (!).
"every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him (and her), the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." (John 15:2b-5)