The Word — Embracing the dormancy of winter

Published 10:50 am Saturday, January 28, 2023

Every day, I commute from Keysville to Farmville for work. Much of that drive is past farms and fields. In spring and summer, there is greenery and color and growing life. In the fall, the leaves are orange and red and the fields are busy with harvest. But now, in winter, the fields are empty and fallow, waiting for the coming of spring.

I’m no farmer, but I come from farmers and I know a few today. I know enough about farming to understand that the dormancy of winter may look dull and lifeless, but that it is essential to the beauty of the growing seasons and the bounty of harvest-time. Periods of rest allow for the restoration of nutrients and the renewal of the soil. Without such rest, the fields quickly become depleted and increasingly unable to sustain new growth.

Living in an agricultural world, Jesus understood this much more than I do. He also understood that the same is true of human life. From the beginning, the Scriptures teach that a rhythm of rest and work is essential for human flourishing, and the rhythm for humanity in Genesis is to work from rest, drawing on reserves of energy and creativity. Then, in John 15, Jesus tells his followers, “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)

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There can be no doubt that God created humans for a purpose, for various tasks loosely defined as stewarding the earth and bearing witness to the glory of God. Those tasks are work. In the same way, Jesus taught his followers to do more than sit around waiting for the arrival of heaven; he called them to be active, to do the same sort of work he did. Jesus expected his disciples to care for the sick, serve the poor, tend the prisoner, and advocate for the oppressed. Works do not provide our salvation, but the work we do is the evidence of God’s presence and nurturing in our lives.

That work, though, does not rule out rest. In fact, as Jesus tells us in John 15, it depends on it. Unless we abide in Christ, unless we rest in him, we can do nothing – for we will burn out, we will wither, we will become cut off from the source of life.

In the winter months, then, let us be reminded that God has much for us to do – but also that to accomplish it, we need our rest and recovery. Take time to lie dormant. Make time to simply abide.

Rev. Dr. J. Adam Tyler is the Senior Pastor for Farmville Baptist Church and he can be reached by email at