Are You Feeling Like a Barren Tree? Dormancy and Spirituality
It’s the end of February, and I’m sure many of you are counting the days until spring. Here in Florida, we don’t get cabin fever in the winter months…actually the weather is very lovely right now. But don’t hate me. We get our cooped-up feeling during the deep summer months, where we huddle inside our homes so we don’t completely melt away. It is only in the fall when we can finally open our windows and get outside again, after our summer-cabin-fever.
But we do get some of the same experiences as the rest of the North does. In the winter, plants slow their growth. Many of our trees lose their leaves. Things turn brown and appear dead.
Yet this dormant season is also a time of preparation. What I mean is, that although growth slows, things are still very active on the inside. You see, times of dormancy are when internal growth occurs.
Grasses, bushes, and trees are preparing inside for warmer spring weather, when they will sprout, bud, and bloom!
In the same way, we can go through SPIRITUALLY dormant “winters.” We can feel like God is being silent in our lives. There is no progress or future in sight. Life just doesn’t seem exciting, and from the outside we might feel that we appear spiritually dead. But that doesn’t mean nothing is going on. Remember, God is always upholding us and desires to transform us, making us more like Him.
You see, we need lots of internal, spiritual changes in order for us to be prepared for what God has for us in the future as he works to conform us to himself. He has an eternal plan for us, as well as a moment-by-moment plan. And part of that involves transforming us.
The transformation includes developing our inner character. During my life, I have experienced many challenges: serving sick and dying parents, building a relationship with my husband, financial challenges, illness, raising and training my children. All of these (and many more) required a level of spiritual strength that I did not have. But I always noticed that before times of struggle or difficulty, I had gone through kind of plateau. A time where I felt that not much was going on. A time when I had the spiritual blahs.
Yet, I kept plodding along, kind of like when we tell our kids to eat their veggies because they are good for them. One may not feel the benefit right away, but it is a good habit and good for the body.
Most of my dormant times involved reading my Bible like it was my “spinach” for the day. I didn’t really feel energized by it (Hey…I’m being truthful here…cut me some slack), but I knew it was good for me.
So when I was going through challenging times, I had those tools, those verses to hang onto. I felt closer to God, and I was able to walk through with a strength I didn’t know I had.
Several years ago, my father passed away. It was after a slow decline in his health over many years. But in those last months, he was in and out of the hospital. My days were filled with doctor visits, phone calls, moving him from an apartment to our house to an assisted living facility back to our house to the hospital, and of course, homeschooling. I had little time for amazing spiritual growth, and suffice it to say that my quiet times were sparse. My prayer time was often in the car. But I knew I needed it. I was in a dormant state. Seemingly existing. No buds or flowers growing here…
Now, nearly a year earlier, I had committed to speak at a large homeschool conference, and that date was rapidly coming closer. My father unexpectedly died two days before the conference. I was, of course, in shock. You really never are prepared for those things.
And I had this responsibility looming ahead. I had four workshops to give at a conference with an attendance of 13,000. The conference organizers were so gracious and were willing to cancel if I needed to, but for some reason, I felt a renewed strength. Me…an emotional mess when it comes to Hallmark card commercials. I just knew this was something God wanted me to do. And it was a blessed weekend. I had many women share with me how they were encouraged by some of the things I shared.
On the way home from the weekend, I broke down. That emotional mess finally came. And rightly so. But I completely credit the weekend’s control to God. For specific reasons, he gave me the ability to be strong when I needed it. And then I could begin grieving afterwards.
The point here is that I didn’t know what God’s timing was. I didn’t know what he had ahead of me. But I do know that strong character is critical to withstand trying times that come.
God has great plans for you, and if you’re not feeling like you are making progress, know that this is the time for preparation.
So what can you do? You can make a habit of being in God’s word daily. You can fill yourself with the nutrients you need in order to be ready for the “blooming” God has ahead. This takes discipline.
Discipline is like that dormant tree. It still stands firm, even though it appears dead. It churns inside, working its proteins and holding in its nutrients so that it is prepared to blossom when the time is right. Discipline involves consistency. Daily doing the next thing set before you.
It may not look exciting. It may even get boring. It might involve continuous diaper changing, meal preparation, disciplining that child for the seventh time on the SAME ISSUE.
But remember, God has amazing plans for your life. He desires you to be fulfilled in Him! He is working to transform you in to a beautiful creation. So though you may be feeling dormant, know that this is a time for internal growth. As the light shines, it will reveal that the beauty is still there.
If you’re feeling like life is stagnant, make sure you are standing in the LIGHT! God is indeed building and strengthening you inside!