I love this time of year! The trees are filled with beautiful colors; yards are covered in leaves; the azalea and rose bushes are blooming…wait…what?? Yes, you read this correctly. My community is experiencing a strange phenomenon this fall. Not only are the leaves changing and falling off trees, but at the same time, the azalea and rose bushes are in full bloom. It’s mindboggling and beautiful all at once.
I’m thirty-four years old and have never seen anything like this. Living in the south, I can understand the rose bushes blooming if the weather is warm enough, but not azaleas. For those who don’t know, azaleas are a gorgeous flowering bush known for blooming in the spring. It’s actually the flower people associate with The Masters (Golf Tournament) every April. Unless it’s a specialty breed, it only blooms once a year…in the spring! Azalea bushes blooming in November while leaves are falling is unheard of and has many people puzzled.
So, what’s causing this rare second blooming? Believe it or not, it’s storms. My community has been hit hard with not one but two hurricanes less than six weeks apart. On top of that, we’ve had an unusually high precipitation rate from passing showers and storms. We’re dealing with flooding again this week because it’s rained four days in a row. It’s been a season of storms, some big and some small, but the sheer number of the storms combined have created a great deal of stress on the plants. In response to this, the plants have one of two choices. They can cave under the pressure the storms have placed on them and die, or they can bloom.
I don’t know about you, but I find this comforting. I too have been experiencing a personal storm this fall. Doctors have discovered that my body has held onto all sorts of bacteria and viruses over the years. My body doesn’t know how to let them go, so the germ just burrows down deep into my cells, making me sick and weak. I’ve been undergoing treatments to help rid my body of all the bacteria, and it is working. However, there’s a cost to the treatments; they make me sick. Many days I feel like there’s a tug of war inside my body as it releases what it’s held onto for years. It’s painful and exhausting. Just this week, I was told to stop all treatments for two weeks to allow my body time to recover because the treatments have caused severe inflammation in my body. Not only are my lungs and digestive organs inflamed, but my bones are as well. I didn’t even realize bones could become inflamed until it happened to me, and admittedly, it’s something I hope to never again experience. It’s excruciating. I usually try to downplay my pain, but this has been one time I can’t ignore it. I constantly feel like I have 100-pound weights resting on my legs and arms. There have been days where just walking to the bathroom has been a challenge. As I’ve gone through this crazy, unexpected storm, I’m reminded as I watch the azaleas and roses bloom that I have a choice. I can focus on the pain and frustration of being in another time of sickness and allow myself to become bitter, or can I look to God and be filled with hope.
For such a small word, hope isn’t easy to come by when going through difficulties. I used to think it meant ignoring what was happening and wearing rose-colored glasses, but that’s not hope at all! That’s denial. A wise mentor once told me, “Hope’s main objective is not to get rid of your pain but to reinterpret it.”[i] True hope is only found in God. In fact, the very definition of the word for hope in the New Testament is “expectation.”[ii] Even better than that, it’s expectation in God. Hope looks at a problem and says, “It doesn’t matter how big or how fierce this storm is, my God is bigger and stronger. I don’t know how, and I don’t know when, but I expect to see God. My hope is in Him!” And that, my friends, is when we bloom!
Psalm 42:11 says, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” If we’re hoping for a specific outcome to a situation, there’s a good chance we’re going to be disappointed, but if we put our hope, our expectation in God, we will see Him in ways we can’t begin to imagine.
When storms come, we have a choice, just like the azaleas. Will we let the storm destroy us, or will we place our hope in God and bloom no matter what?
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” ~ Lamentations 3:24
 Donna Thompson
 The Strongest NASB Exhaustive Concordance; page 1526.