Early last week, my husband said he thought the tree in the neighbor’s yard was budding. We’ve had unseasonably warm weather, and sure enough, a couple days later it was clear that the magnolia tree had put out buds in a mid-December burst of hopefulness.
That very day the weather changed, and overnight the temperature dropped and it snowed. And the next morning, the magnolia blossoms on the tree had turned black. Magnolias aren’t meant to bloom in December, especially in Iowa. And because I’ve been thinking so much about seasons and waiting, I couldn’t help but draw a connection between those ill-fated blossoms and our own lives.
Magnolia trees are beautiful, and the burst of loveliness every spring in our neighbor’s yard is one of my favorite things. I absolutely love flowering trees and am always sad that the blooms last for such a short time, but that’s the way they are supposed to be. The life cycle of a tree isn’t all flowers and beauty. And in December, that magnolia tree is meant to be dormant, bare and leafless and waiting for sunshine and returning warmth in the spring.
Friends, we are the same way. As much as we wish we could rush our own seasons of winter, the times when it feels like nothing is happening and we are failing to thrive and live fruitfully, those seasons are important to our growth. And when we try to rush the blossoming and the fruit, we end up with blackened, dead buds because the season is wrong. I don’t know much about trees, but I do know that there was a year when that same tree budded too early and then never blossomed in the spring because the buds all died. Fighting against the seasons that God has ordained doesn’t work in nature, and it doesn’t work in our lives. Fruit comes forth in God’s time.
Psalm 1 tells us that the person who delights in and meditates on God’s Word will be like a tree that brings forth its fruit in season. Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time for everything. And again and again Scripture reminds us of the importance of waiting. Waiting, even in seasons where everything seems dormant, is necessary for the growth of God’s people.
After Christ’s resurrection, Acts 1:4 tells us that He instructed His disciples to wait in Jerusalem. Can you imagine? They had just witnessed the most miraculous event ever, the eternal victory of life over death, the promises fulfilled, and Jesus told them to wait. They must have been bursting with the news, anxious to go out and tell everyone. This was life-altering, foundation-shaking good news.
And Jesus told them to wait.
On the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon them and empowered them to preach and teach and do miracles, it became clear why they had to wait. The season was close . . . but it wasn’t quite there yet. And once the Spirit came, nothing could stop them. The message went out with power to the ends of the earth. Their obedience is why I’m sitting here today. They waited for the right season, and then they burst forth with joy and power and bore fruit that is still seen 2000 years later.
Waiting is hard. We can be tempted to try to do things in our own time, our own power, to rush the work of God. We get impatient like Abraham and Sarah and make a mess of things. But if we can hold on, if we can trust that God knows exactly what He is doing and that He creates dormant, empty seasons of waiting for us just like He creates seasons of wild growth and vibrant fruit, we will always find that God is faithful. Faithful, good, wise, and always, always worth waiting for.
Lord, have we mentioned to You that waiting is hard? Because it is. And sometimes we fight against the seasons of waiting You bring into our lives. Help us to trust You and to learn to sit still in the waiting, that we may be all the more fruitful when the season comes.
Are you in a season that feels bare, dormant, and empty right now? What can you do to dig your roots down deeper into the promises of God?