They line up the streets as I enter my subdivision. A festival of white and pink bloom, cheerful reminders of warmer and brighter days to come. I utter a prayer of thanksgiving – spring has sprung! After a dreary winter, I can finally walk outside and breathe in the beauty of God’s colorful majesty. As I open the garage door, I gaze at the front yard, where our very own dogwood tree welcomes me home, its first blooms cheering my winter-struck flower bed.
Spring is my favorite time of the year. I love the fall, with its magnificent, colorful forests and crisp cool air after the scorching summer months, but there’s something about spring that makes my heart sing for joy. After a long, dreadful winter, when nature dies and rests in complacent abandon, the first blooms remind me that there’s an end for every sorrow… and there’s hope in every trial.
I find it important to create visual reminders of God’s grace in our lives. Symbols often anchor our hearts in truths which are usually shadowed by our troubles. As we go through the dreadful winters of death of a loved one, unemployment, loneliness or sickness, it is so very hard to keep our focus beyond our circumstances. The blooming of dogwood trees in spring has become one of those symbols to me: a reminder to keep my focus in check, each time I’m going through a shadowy valley. No pain lasts forever, the blooms remind me. God is always at work, birthing new joys when we think all hope is gone.
I can’t and won’t compare other people’s sufferings with my own, but I’ve certainly had my share of troubles. I’ve gone through many health problems, including cancer. I’ve lost a loved one in a tragic accident. We’ve lost a lot of money in a business venture. My husband was unemployment for eighteen months in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01. I’ve experienced the emptiness and loneliness that followed my separation from family and friends when I moved to America.
Life has certainly not always been a bed of thornless roses. But as I look past each trouble I’ve faced, this fact stands out, larger than anything I’ve ever endured: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” This truth, extracted from one of King David’s psalms, has been repeatedly tested and proven in my life. God has always provided me with the grace needed to endure each testing – if only I would choose to look up to him, instead of fixing my eyes on my fleeting circumstances.
I look at the picture we took almost nine years ago in front of our dogwood tree and I can’t help but smile. At the time we planted it, the tree was but a small, puny green shrub, dwarfed by the weight of our troubles. I was pregnant with our second daughter. We had just lost an unthinkable amount of money in a business venture. We had no idea how we would make it with a toddler and a baby. The dogwood tree peeks from behind us in the picture, and today it’s as if I hear it say: “keep your focus on God. This too shall pass. Just as you’ll watch me grow and bloom, one day you’ll realize it – God was pruning your character, strengthening and preparing you for a new chapter, in which the sorrows of the long and restless night are but a shadow compared to the beauty and strength that he’ll bring forth. If only you trust and obey him.”