While washing dishes a few days ago, I noticed a few leaves emerging from the ground in a flowerbed just beyond the kitchen window. Strange to see something out there this early in the year. Later, when I inspected, I found the leaves were primroses I’d planted last year.
I’m prone to putting any houseplant in the ground just to see what happens. It’s how I found out the amaryllis I force into bloom at Christmas would bloom again later in the year when planted outside.
Excited and surprised the primroses were making another appearance, I noticed an article about them in the February Southern Living. I read that primroses are annuals here in the South acting only as perennials on the highest slopes of the Appalachian Mountains. But I live in the Piedmont, nearly eighty miles from those elevations. Yet, there they were, primroses peaking out through the Georgia red clay in my backyard as if that’s what they always did.
I did a little research and found that most varieties of primroses need cold temperatures to make an encore appearance. Our unusually cold weather this year with night after night of temperatures in the teens or single digits provided the environment for the flowers to thrive.
“You’d think the cold weather would have the opposite effect,” Jerry said when I told him about my discoveries.
You would. You’d think the bitter cold wind blowing against that bed on the North side of the house, and the ground staying frozen for weeks would serve to kill rather than enliven.
But this principle is something the apostle James understood. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything.”
It’s a truth Paul also wrote about in Romans. “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
On those cold winter nights, when I sat on the sofa wearing three layers, cocooned in a blanket listening to the windows rattle in the cold wind, I couldn’t imagine that outside in the garden dirt, something miraculous and wonderful was going on. Likewise, when the sufferer is suffering, it’s hard to imagine God could shape anything good out of the heartache. But He can and He does.
Now, I’m not a fan of suffering. If God had put me in charge, I would’ve tried to find some way around it. But this I know, suffering makes me run straight to God. I realize my need for Him in ways I don’t when everything’s going my way.
The Psalmist wrote, “Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me” (Psalm 86:17). The appearance of the primrose in my garden feels like a sign of God’s goodness, a reminder of His love despite a bunch of stuff not going the way I’d hoped.
So if life is going sideways for you, look for the primroses, both the actual, and the metaphorical. It may feel like you’re in the cold dirt, but have hope; God is at work to bring beauty.