Walking through the arboretum in the Isle of Man I was struck by the beauty of this frozen tree being held captive by the icy conditions, and I decided to paint it.
I was so inspired that the painting flew out of my hands in only a couple of sessions. What impressed me most was the powerful warm light which seemed to break through the icy blue and speak of better things to come. Yes, the leaves would come and also blossom.
I think this tree is very much like us when we hit a dry season or worse a season of pain or dormancy.
The unsold painting
The thing is, nobody wants this painting! Yes, it remains unsold even after 8 years of trying. I have even offered it to my family for free! But no, the icy coldness holds them back.
So why is it we are reluctant to have times of trial?
Obviously nobody wants to experience pain or hardship, but if we are to grow in strength and character we must have such seasons. James 1 tells us…
‘Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.’ James 1:2-4
During a difficult time, a friend and I would would quote this verse with a large dose of sarcasm. We were in fact spurring each other on because we believed the truth in it. We knew there would be a harvest of much fruit in our lives if we persevered.
‘But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles, run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.’ Isaiah 40:1
This verse urges us to continue walking and not give up or faint then eventually we will soar again.
‘ And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.’ Galatians 6:9
For me though another important aspect of the season of captivity is to push into God. I always push Him for answers, I shamelessly ask ‘Why?’
During one of my difficult times I wrote a desperate poem. In it was a line – ‘and even if I see nothing I shall believe!’ I realised that when I wrote that line I was declaring a powerful truth, which was that I trusted God.
We are not to give up. We fight for freedom and breakthrough but at the same time learn to trust God and submit to Him.
The most fascinating thing about the cherry tree is that the blossom appears first even before the leaves. It is as though the tree cannot wait any longer to produce fruit! How glorious is that?
These trees are ornamental cherry trees. They bear no fruit – the main attraction is the blossom and people travel miles to see it. But what a shame.
It would be best to be fruit-bearing instead of being merely ornamental. Patience, perseverance, strength, increased faith, hope, long-suffering, love for others who suffer, peace and also that elusive joy. These would be good fruits to produce from the harsh season.