This fall—as the air grows crisper and the leaves begin to crunch beneath our steps—let’s learn a lesson from the trees. It happens each and every autumn, but the sight is still remarkable, maybe because so little else in our lives conforms to the seasons so clearly. In the coming weeks, we’ll watch the trees in both the city and in the mountains shed their leaves.

If we didn’t know that come springtime, the leaves would return, this phenomenon would be quite concerning. It would appear as if all of the trees were dying right before our eyes. Luckily we know that the trees—by losing the evidence of their health and growth—are making time to rest and creating space to grow something new. The loss of the leaves isn’t just a sign of the winter ahead, but the new growth following it. The trees teach us how to confidently let go of what’s old to make room for something new.

Out With the Old

The question God brings to us with the trees is, “What do I need to let go of so God can create something new?” We desire continuous seasons of growth and constant evidence of our development, but the trees remind us this isn’t the way of the seasons. Especially when it seems like God is taking something from us and leaving us barren and bewildered, it’s not so easy to trust this truth that God will bring new life from what appears to be death.

Peter, Jesus’ disciple, didn’t seem to accept this truth so readily either. Peter seemed to feel the same way when Jesus explained to his disciples that he would soon be killed, but would rise again. He actually rebuked Jesus, telling him “Never Lord! This shall never happen to you (Matthew 16:22).” Peter couldn’t see the bigger picture and he could not understanding what would be gained through Jesus’ death.

In With The New

Jesus goes on to explain to Peter and his other disciples this truth: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it (Matthew 16:24-25).” By relinquishing what God is asking of us or even taking from us, we aren’t losing; we’re gaining new life.

It doesn’t come naturally to us to see signs of death and gain hope, but by watching the trees and trusting that we serve a God who brings new life from death, we’ll learn to say with the prophet Habakkuk,

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines…yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”