I’ve been thinking about the first fall leaves for a bit, and the timing happened to coincides with our youth group study of James. Most of us experience some suffering of some kind; some experience a lot of suffering of many kinds throughout life. James (and Peter) describe how suffering has purpose:
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
James 1: 2-4 from The Message
One of the joys of the Northwest is the beauty of fall. As lovely as the summer sun and warm evenings are, there’s a comfort in the gentle change (this year!) toward cooler temps, colorful trees, and hot beverages of fall. The tree are one of my favorite parts, and I have been noticing the increasing number of red leaves lately.
The cooler temperatures of fall bring out the true colors of leaves. Suffering in our lives seems to reveal what is truly there or what God intends to be there. The red in a leaf, I learned in school, is there all through the spring and summer. From the time the leaf is formed, the potential to be red (or yellow, or orange) is there. It just takes cold weather to force it into sight.
I guess the good news is that suffering doesn’t always lead to death for us as individuals, though fall means death for the leaves we see changing. The challenge remains: In any sort of suffering, do I try to get out of it prematurely? (Most often, yes!) What does it look like practically to consider every test and challenge a gift?
I’m still asking those questions…and still on the journey.