In a corner of our pasture is a small garden, planted in memory of a beloved four-legged friend. And at the back of the garden, their golden faces stretched skyward, grow a pillar of sunflowers.
There’s something unique about sunflowers. Their bright, open faces make them seem so joyful. And the way those faces are always upturned, tilting toward the sun’s light, paints a beautiful picture of optimism, maybe even hope.
I’m sure we all wish we had such a persistently sunny outlook. Our own workaday lives can seem so cloudy, so stormy, that sometimes our souls almost wilt for want of light and warmth.
We need more than a smile on a sunny afternoon. We need a species of hopeful joy that can withstand darkness and wind and hail and wild beasts.
The good news? Such joy exists. And the secret to finding it is simple, though not always easy.
In fact, you could say that even the sunflowers know it, in their own way. Let’s see what we can learn from them.
Turning to the Light
Sunflowers are famous for a trait known as heliotropism – the shifting of young sunflower plants throughout the day so that they always face the sun. This shifting enables their leaves to catch as much sunlight as possible, so that they have the energy they need to grow.
Similarly, if we want our hearts and lives to be filled with light, we must turn to the Father of lights and Giver of all good things – our Creator, God Himself. We need to orient our lives around Him and open ourselves to His transforming love and presence.
This is more than positive thinking. It’s even more than counting our blessings. It isn’t just admiring good things; it’s looking through the goodness to its Source. And it’s committing to seeking that Source with our entire selves, all our lives, no matter what we go through.
As our Maker, only He can satisfy our every need and desire. Only He can renew and sustain our souls. Only He can give us that elusive thing called eternal life – a fulfilling, meaningful life here on earth and the promise of resurrection after.
And He’s reachable. In the confusion of world events, clashing ideologies, and personal dramas, He shines for all to see. Through His Word, through the beauty and awe of His creation, through the kindness of people, through the meeting of needs, through all the “little things” in our lives that trigger gratitude and healing. And most clearly through Jesus Christ – God the Son incarnate, the all-sustaining Light of the World, whose life, death, and resurrection made eternal life possible for everyone who trusts in Him.
Seeking in the Dark
But what about dark days, when we can’t seem to see the light, when God seems to hide Himself or stay silent in human affairs?
That’s where hope comes in. Not just wishful thinking, but eager expectation. Hope that knows what it’s looking for, and believes that what it looks for will appear. Hope that looks with faith – that blessed assurance of things not seen.
When night falls, growing sunflowers know where to turn for the next ray of sunshine. They don’t spend all night facing west. Instead, their growth patterns adjust to turn them east again. When the sun rises, they are ready to welcome the light.
Similarly, when we know what God is like and what He has said in His Word, we can know where to look for Him when we can’t see Him or His work. When we have no light to guide us, we can orient ourselves toward where we know He’s most likely to reveal Himself.
And we keep doing it. As long as it takes. Until the morning comes and His light dawns on our watching, waiting hearts.
The Everlasting Day
When sunflowers mature and bloom, their growth settles so that they are always facing east. With their growing days over and their radiant flowers open, this is the most productive position for them.
Similarly, even as we actively pursue God’s presence and goodness in our lives here and now, we are also fixed on one hope that is still on its way: the coming of heaven to earth with the return of Christ.
That coming will mark the end of our growing pains and our perfection in Christ. We won’t need to search for God anymore – because He Himself will dwell among us.
We’ll be able to see Him – and by Him – all the time. No more doubt or confusion or feelings of distance or abandonment. We’ll know Him as He is (though even then I doubt we’ll ever fully understand Him – but it won’t matter).
Evil will be gone. Sin will be gone. Sadness will be gone. Suffering will be gone. And the Light of the World will dwell among us.
As we seek to find God in our daily earthly lives, let’s not forget about that Day, coming soon in God’s time. It’s what we were saved for. The Bible urges us to look forward to it, and to live our lives accordingly, with joy, perseverance, mindfulness, and godliness.
So keep turning your face to the Son, letting His love and life renew your soul. Rejoice as you see His Day dawning, even if the world around you seems very dark. “Stand up and lift your heads, because your redemption is near.” (Luke 21:28b, CSB)
Be ready to welcome the light!
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.Romans 15:13 (NIV)