Refreshing Your Soul

Posted by Naomi Vacaro on

Practices that help us prepare for new growth.

By Whitney K. Pipkin

The crocuses have come and gone, the Lenten roses too. But after a hard winter, we long to see new growth taking root where we need it most, somewhere deep within. 

“For everything there is a season,” Ecc. 3:1 tells us. And this is as true of our spiritual lives as it is of the natural world. Fruitful summers fade into slower periods of resting and regrouping. Sometimes there are dark, long days of suffering, when the roots are forced to go deeper to get the nourishment they need. And often when we least expect it, spring comes again.

If only the seasons of our spiritual growth could be charted by the calendar. Instead, we do not know when one season will lead to the next, when a dry spell will give way to refreshment. And we wonder if we might be standing in our own way. (How long until I actually spring forward and stop snoozing through morning devotionals, by the way?)

Though we cannot trick spiritual springs into arriving, there are practices we can take up to foster the growth we long to see. We can prepare the soil and sit beneath the spigot of God’s word, even as we wait for him to supply the growth (1 Cor. 3:6). Here are a few practices that can encourage spiritual renewal after wintry, dry seasons.


Every year, I set a calendar reminder to trim back the fig tree growing outside our kitchen window. And most years, I breeze right through the reminder, telling myself the tree looks fine. And what if we get less fruit from cutting it back? 

Then comes late August, when I find that the fruit isn’t quite what it used to be. Too small in places. Too few in others. And the unreachable figs at the top of tree that we should have certainly cut back? They are quickly devoted to the horde of wasps that eventually take over the rest of the tree, rendering it unpickable. If only I had pruned.

The themes can be similar in our spiritual lives. What seems like unnecessary pain at the time — cutting out that commitment we really don’t have time for, having to set limits in a relationship — turns out to be what we truly needed to bear more fruit later on. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful,” Heb. 12:11 (NIV) tells us. “Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

When you want to grow in new ways, producing more of the fruit that matters, consider first: What needs to end? What is taking more energy than I can give to it? What needs to be carefully cut back to make space for fruitfulness?

And remember that you are not the only one with cutting shears in hand. The Lord is also at work in you to tenderly cut away all that prevents us from being and becoming what he intends.

“Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes…” Jesus told his disciples in John 15:2. And why does he say the abiding branch must pruned? “That it may bear more fruit.”


Sometimes dry spells strike for seemingly no reason. But often, if we’re honest, we can see the ways we have wandered that might be contributing. We stay up a little later than we should and slowly slide out of discipline and into self-indulgence (“But I’m so tired, I deserve this.”) We slump back into old patterns of thinking, speaking and believing and aren’t sure how to get back to where we want to be.

Let me encourage you with a phrase that has challenged and then encouraged me deeply in such seasons: Repentance is always a kind invitation.

Rather than trying to bootstrap your way out of the hole you’ve fallen into, what about starting with repentance this time? What about telling the Savior who climbed into that hole with you, “I do not do what I want to do, but the very thing I do not want to do, this I keep on doing.” Or, “I believe, Lord; help my unbelief” (Rom. 7:15; Mark 9:24).

Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out,Acts 3:19-20 says, “that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”

We often expect that condemnation will come when we confess the ways we’re falling short. We forget that, in Christ, there is no condemnation left (Rom. 8:1). It has all been exhausted, poured out at the cross. In its place is the invitation: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28 NIV).

“For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish” (Jer. 31:25).

Simply Come

Think of the last time you made a New Year’s resolution you didn’t keep. Was part of the pitfall the fact that it was maybe too much to tackle during an already hard time of year, when the days are long and dark and cold and the desire to do anything but what you’ve resolved to do is strong?

We do not want to prune and repent only to pile onto ourselves heavy burdens of performance that we were never meant to carry. There are no new Scripture journals, devotional books or fancy highlighters that will defibrillate your relationship with the Lord back to new life. 

To use the language of Ephesians 4, now that you’ve put off what does not serve your growth, tread wisely as you put on what does. Start simply and start small. A little momentum will build and grow into new habits over time.

You can also set the stage in little ways. Fill a basket with your Bible, journal, a pen and any other study materials so you don’t waste time and energy hunting them down. Keep the basket where you might otherwise reach for your phone while you’re waiting for coffee to brew. Have a plan and do some of it even on days when you can’t get to all of it. Kneel and pray before bed with the kids. Read a Psalm at the breakfast table. Sing along to it in the car. Actually go to the church Bible study. Ask someone to ask you how it’s all going.

The gestures don’t have to be grandiose. Regular deposits will build over time. They will not return void.

Remember as you work the soil and look for new growth, you have nothing to prove but everything to receive.

“Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit,” Jesus says in John 15:5, “for apart from me you can do nothing.”


Whitney K. Pipkin lives with her husband, three children and a dog named Honeybun in Northern Virginia, where she works as a journalist. After losing her mom to the cancer she wrestled with for 20 years, Whitney has written a book she prays will serve others walking similar roads. We Shall All Be Changed: How Facing Death with Loved Ones Transforms Us. You can find her on Instagram @whitneykpipkin and sign up for her newsletter at

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