If I were to ask you what it means to be living a "flourishing" life, you might gravitate toward a life filled with companions, things which bring you happiness, and sufficient resources to live pretty close to "ease". Yet, if you really read what scripture has to say about a flourishing life, it is the opposite of a dead thing which once produced life! We often associate flourishing with success - not so much the growth experience, but the "benefits" of growth. God looks at the experience - the benefits are the outcome of the growth. Without the growth, the tree has no purpose.
A life devoted to things is a dead life, a stump; a God-shaped life is a flourishing tree. (Proverbs 11:28 MSG)
If God focuses on the growth, we probably would do well to focus on the same. A flourishing tree has evidence of the vigorous growth which is occurring "inside" which produces the evidence of growth on the "outside". Leaves are an indication of active growth on the inside. Right now, I have several small trees in my backyard I have grown from seed. We had a particularly rough winter here in Arizona - awful frost and even snow in the Valley of the Sun! I have been watching these little trees because I was concerned they might not have survived the extreme weather conditions. The one I thought would be okay because it was the largest of the three is the one to actually still be without leaves! The other two are beginning to show evidence of their "internal" growth - leaves bursting out everywhere. I continue to watch this one tree with eager anticipation it will bud soon. If not, you know what will happen - I will have to spend some time digging it up and starting over again.
God spends a lot of time watching for the evidence of growth in our lives. He looks upon us in our seasons of "dormancy" - those "winter" seasons when we don't show much evidence of growth "outwardly". As the "thaw" begins to occur, he anticipates the "buds" of growth which will soon give evidence of what has been occurring throughout the former season of "winter" dormancy. All growth goes through cycles of change, intermixed with what appears to be times of dormancy. What we don't realize is the intense growth of the "spring" and "summer" prepare us for the dormancy of the "winter" season. As we set down roots and spring forth new growth in these seasons, we are actually prepared for the "cooler" seasons of life.
Since God spends all this time looking for evidence of growth, does that mean he is just idly waiting? Not really. In fact, I have had to tend these little saplings throughout the hot summer, as well as the frigid winter. There was water provided, fertilizing, etc. In these watchful preparations, the intended result is the exposure of what has been stored up throughout these times of care and provision. I have five "stumps" in my side yard - evidence of unwanted growth. These other wee trees are "purposefully" planted by me. They were my "choice" for my yard. I even tended them from their wee infancy to the place they are today - in anticipation of the enjoyment of their full branches at some point in the future. It may be a few more years before I can say I will enjoy their broad branches, but for now, they delight me just the way they are.
God is delighted with us just the way we are right now. He knows growth is a process. He knows there will be seasons of dormancy in us, as well. These are not seasons of "no growth", but of delayed "evidence" of the growth which is occurring on the inside. I don't want any of us to forget this when we don't see the immediate evidence of growth from our lives. You see, I could pluck that lonely little tree up by the roots in my backyard, but I believe it has the potential to bud forth soon - so I will wait. I don't believe what has been purposefully planted will become a thing of wasted effort! God feels the same way about each of us - none of us is a wasted effort! Some growth may take a little longer to manifest - but in his patient tending, it SHALL appear! Just sayin!