Editor’s note: This article series is about experiencing abundant life in Christ. If you want to experience spiritual growth by the power of the Holy Spirit, check out our study, Abundant: A Bible Study on the Fruit of the Spirit. Read the other articles in the series here:
- “Abide in the True Vine” by Sarah Valentour
- “A Guide to Good Fruit” by Maggie Combs
- “Abundant: A Bible Study on the Fruit of the Spirit”
Famine and Fruitfulness
A few summers ago, the sky withheld rain for what felt like an eternity. The grass, plants, and trees in my small Oklahoma town faded to brown. As the view from my kitchen window withered lifelessly, a mild drought etched its presence on the horizon and a pessimistic thought niggled in the background of my brain. Will the ground ever yield growth again? Thankfully, the rain did come. And eventually, the withered plants grew strong and bore fruit again.
Much like how the earthly seasons that bring rain or drought change the physical landscape around us, spiritual seasons mark the soil of our hearts and the terrain of our lives with growth and fruitfulness or lifeless withering. And though seasons of drought and famine on earth and in our spiritual lives are both inevitable, so are the seasons of fruitfulness. Rain always comes, bringing growth to renew, refill, and refresh the dry ground even after the longest droughts. Ultimately, it’s how we prepare during these fruitful seasons that sustains us through the droughts and famine to come.
Planning for Famine
In the Old Testament, God revealed an impending famine to Joseph through a dream. This gave the Egyptian kingdom time to prepare for the drought, storing up grain from a season of fruitfulness to sustain them when the ground became barren (see Gen. 41). In the same way, we should prepare for the spiritual seasons of drought in our lives that will surely come. In seasons of fruitfulness, we can make an effort to store up the treasures of God’s Word and cultivate the community of God’s people to prepare for the days we find ourselves spiritually dry and unable to bear much fruit. So when the seasons of famine come, we can rely upon our practiced spiritual disciplines, watering our souls with the Word of God and holding on to his lavish grace.
By recognizing the signs of fruitfulness and signs of drought in our spiritual lives, we can take intentional steps to glorify God in every season. However, much like the slow shift of seasons from spring to summer or fall to winter, the changes in our spiritual lives can be subtle at first. So how can we identify the signs of shifting seasons?
Signs of Fruitfulness
A season of fruitfulness is a season of spiritual abundance, when the soil of your soul soaks up living water and retains it, bearing a healthy spiritual life that overflows to those around you. These are the seasons when it’s crucial for us to practice the spiritual disciplines of Bible study, prayer, Scripture memory, meditation, fellowship, and confession so that these healthy habits keep us rooted when the dry seasons come. And while it’s typically much easier to recognize signs of fruitfulness than signs of drought, it’s just as easy to forget our responsibility in an abundant season, ignoring that another drought is on the horizon. So if you identify with these signs of fruitfulness, recognize this as your sign to begin your preparations.
1. You have a desire for God’s Word.
When we long for God’s Word, it’s easy to make time for Bible study even when life is busy. In these seasons when it feels like you just can’t get enough, soak it up and store it away! Every word you read and each verse you commit to memory will continue to be useful and worthwhile for seasons to come, refreshing your soul and watering your heart.
2. You have a stirred affection for God and compassion for the people of God.
The more we learn about God, the more our affection will grow for God himself and for his people. The more time we spend in his Word, the more we will bear the fruit of love and kindness toward his people. This kindness and compassion should move us to action! When we are living in a season of fruitfulness, we will go out of our way to care for those around us in the name of Jesus.
3. You are regularly bearing the fruit of the Spirit.
Living in a season of spiritual fruitfulness means bearing the fruit of the Spirit that we can’t bear on our own. When we are regularly bearing the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, we are living in the full power of the Holy Spirit and abiding in the true and abundant life offered to us through Jesus. Bearing the fruit of the Spirit means we are connected to the Vine (John 15:5), receiving living water that satisfies our souls. This fruit that comes from the Spirit is the ultimate sign that we’re living in a season of fruitfulness.
Signs of Famine
Some seasons of drought and famine are born from difficult circumstances, when suffering and heartache barge into our lives and leave the soil of our hearts cracked and dry. Others are brought on by perpetual busyness or even mere complacency in our spiritual lives. Regardless, seasons of drought are always marked by feeling distant from God. During these hard times, we’re rarely in a place to bear fruit, leading to spiritual famine. However, in these dry seasons, we can continue to practice spiritual disciplines, trusting that even when we feel distant from God, he is never distant from us. So if you identify with these signs, don’t lose hope—rain will come.
1. You have a decreased hunger for the things of God.
Physically, a drought comes from a lack of rain. Spiritually, a drought comes from a lack of living water. When we stop thirsting for the Word of God and no longer hunger for spiritual things, we will inevitably receive less and less as our souls begin to dry out. Growing up, my pastor often shared that he considered it a personal red flag in his spiritual life if he went more than three days without spending time in God’s Word. He knew that going more than three days without living water was when his decreased spiritual appetite became a pattern. He used this marker as a warning to be intentional about warding off seasons of drought.
2. You have an increased appetite for the things of the world.
Naturally, the more we long for the things of this world (even the good things), the less we long for the things of God. When worldly distractions gain our attention and affection over the eternal, we are quickly headed for a spiritual drought. When we spend more time scrolling social media, watching Netflix, or consumed with online shopping than we do spending time with God’s Word and prioritizing Christian fellowship and discipleship, we are forfeiting living water and filling our bellies with worldly candy that will only leave us feeling sick and unsatisfied.
3. You are easily angered, constantly overwhelmed, and have an overall lack of joy.
When I find myself easily angered with my family or constantly overwhelmed by the daily rhythms of my life and unable to cultivate joy, it usually means that I’m lacking the spiritual refreshment my soul needs from intimacy with Christ. The fruit of the Spirit is sparse and my fleshly nature rules supreme as I attempt to abide in my own strength rather than relying upon the Holy Spirit within me. While it may be difficult to quickly recognize this behavior in yourself, having a few Christian friends in your life who regularly hold you accountable is a good way to identify this sign of drought as it appears.
Ultimately, in every season—those of famine and of fruitfulness—we can glorify God by actively practicing spiritual rhythms regardless of how dry we may feel and by intentionally preparing and storing spiritual fruitfulness when life is abundant. When we recognize the signs of famine and of fruitfulness, we can recognize our purpose in each season and choose obedience, knowing that the seasons will always change, but our God never does.
Meet the Author
Taylor Cage is the Social Media Community Manager at Well-Watered Women. She’s a mom and wife currently living in Tennessee, where her husband serves as the student pastor at their local church. She’s passionate about Bible study and teaching God’s Word to women of all ages. You can usually find her with a good book and a Diet Coke in hand.