Finding Joy in Dormancy
It’s the middle of March, and I am pretty sure those of you in the northern parts of the world are really looking forward to spring. I live in Florida, so I am actually LOVING this time of year, with temperatures in the 60s and 70s and very little humidity. Don’t get jealous…we southerners are bracing ourselves for the upcoming season of huddling inside during the extreme summer months, hiding in indoor air conditioning so we don’t blister and burn!
Yet in the “official” winter months, we do have trees that lose their leaves and plants that slow their growth, just like the rest of the North. Things turn brown and even look dead.
This is called dormancy. However, though plants look dead on the outside, there is much going on in the inside. That’s because times of dormancy are when internal growth is happening. The brown grass and barren trees are working inside to prepare for warmer spring weather. At just the right time, there will be a green and multicolor explosion of sprouts, buds, and glorious blooms!
Well, that poetic picture also can describe how we can go through spiritually dormant seasons. Those “winters” in our lives can make us feel like God is being silent. We feel stagnant and can’t see any progress. Life feels dark, cloudy, and cold. In fact, from the outside, we might even feel that we appear spiritually dead.
I have been there. Particularly during the repetition of training and educating my children. It seems never-ending with continual laundry (Will I EVER see the bottom of those hampers?), repetitive meal prep, and perpetual diaper changes. I cannot tell you how many times I had to teach the same math lesson over and over again to a little one who just wasn’t getting it. And don’t forget the discipline. Spoiler alert: My kids aren’t perfect.
I really didn’t feel like God was there in those dormant days. I was pretty sure there was no progress, whether it was in academics, character building, or even in my spiritual life. Morning quiet time? I had to laugh, or I would cry. There were many times when I questioned how I could do this wife/parent/Christian thing with joy.
Yet I eventually realized that it was during those very times that God was working in me. You see, He is always upholding us and desires to transform us to make us more like Him.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
God works in ways we don’t expect, but when we look at His Creation and how it works, it often gives us clues to His character. Just like dormant trees, we need lots of internal and spiritual changes to be prepared for what He has for us in the future. That’s because He has a plan for us, both in the immediate and even in the eternal.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6
God focuses on building our inner character. So while I have served sick and dying parents, worked on building a marriage, and lived through financial challenges, sickness, and parenting — all of these required a level of spiritual strength that I didn’t initially have. I felt like I was walking through molasses…no progress, no joy. Just moving step by step, doing the next thing in front of me. Sometimes my heart felt empty. Dormant.
Can anyone else relate?
There was no joyful song in my heart, but I would just keep moving on, doing something because I knew I should do it. Kind of like when we tell our children to eat their veggies because it is good for their bodies. They might not feel the benefits right away, but it is a good habit and in the long run will be helpful.
So during my dormant times, I would read my Bible like it was spiritual broccoli. It really didn’t make me feel energized, but I knew it was good for me. It was there inside my heart, ready for upcoming challenges. And during difficult times, I had those verses to hang onto. They brought strength and even joy. They helped me walk through trials with a courage I didn’t know I had.
Well, God has great plans for you! So if you’re not seeing progress and feel spiritually dormant, continue to move forward on the inside. Fill your mind and heart with His word. Build yourself up during those dormant times as a preparation for the spring bloom God has planned for you.
During those times you are like a dormant tree, standing firm, even though it appears dead on the outside. It is churning on the inside, building up its proteins and holding its nutrients so that it is ready to blossom at just the right time.
This process involves being consistent. Day-by-day doing the things that are set before you: making breakfast, quizzing spelling words, mopping floors.
It may not look exciting and may even be boring. But remember, God wants you to be fulfilled in Him and have joy! And He is doing this by working to transform you into a beautiful creation.
So as you look outside at those barren tree branches, be encouraged that growth is happening inside. As God works in His world, He is working in you so that you can also blossom with joy!