Strength from the Storm

Grape growing is agriculture … and science shows that the highest-quality fruit comes from the sites of greatest struggle – steep, hillside vineyard blocks whose soil holds less nutrients and water than other fertile, or “comfortable,” sites. These sites put just enough stress on the vine to strain the fruit and, most often, yield grapes of physiological superiority and strength. The key ingredients?

1. Deep, sturdy roots that reach below the stripped topsoil into the life-giving earth below. A hungry and thirsty foundation that grasps desperately for sustenance when all around it is barren.

2. Pruning, or cutting back parts of the branches in order to eliminate weak fruit and excessive foliage that can block necessary sunlight.

This has been my experience through grief: rocky soil, desperate roots, and painfully pruning branches. This is also the picture of endurance that Jesus himself painted for us in John 15.

In seasons of depletion and brokenness, endurance comes not through what the branches can do for themselves, but through the solidly rooted vine to which the branches are grafted and careful branch pruning done by the vintner.

It’s hard to tell how sturdy roots are until a storm comes, until lightning strikes and winds howl and trunks that otherwise looked solid and secure start to bend. I know this because I grew up with pretty traditional, Christian roots. Sunday school, prayers at dinner and before bedtime, even a church camp now and then, which, if we’re honest, was more about the social than the spiritual. I spent kindergarten through twelfth grade – thirteen years – at a Christian school. Sounds like I had some awfully solid roots, right? Not as solid you may think.

I am nothing but thankful that my parents laid this foundation for me, and I would not be the woman I am today without them, my teachers, and my friends fostering in me a heart to love Jesus. But the baby roots that brought me to faith at twelve could never have withstood the storm that struck me at twenty-eight. Even though I grew up in Christian culture, it took experiencing real hardship for those weak, surface-level roots to reach deep and grow secure.

No matter how you were raised, how long you’ve been in the faith, or whether you’re still grappling with what you believe, God is ready and able to strengthen your roots. Like He did with me, He might start working on them before hardship comes your way, or He might meet you right in the middle of a storm you never saw coming and start building your faith from there. We serve a God who isn’t afraid to let us struggle or be stressed because He knows that’s how we grow into the richest version of ourselves. He knows that as our roots grow, we not only gain spiritual strength but also get to know Him, the Vinedresser, even more intimately.

I love how the apostle Peter put it: “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7 ESV).

Trials build deep roots. Trials test our faith. Trials strain us and refine us.

Excerpted from Lemons on Friday: Trusting God Through My Greatest Heartbreak ©2021 Mattie Jackson Selecman. Used by permission of W Publishing, Thomas Nelson.