“Why do leaves change color in the fall?” A simple question from a young grandchild motivated this grandma to do some research. 

The not-so-simple scientific explanation that I shared:

Plants appear green because of a substance called chlorophyll which is in abundance in the spring and summer. The green masks the colors of other molecules (called pigments) which are yellow, orange, and red. It takes a lot of energy – which comes from the sun – for a plant to make chlorophyll. When the days grow shorter in the fall, less chlorophyll is produced, letting the colors of the other pigments begin to show through. They have been there all along but only become visible to us as the plants become stressed by less light and lower temperatures. So the leaves aren’t really “changing” color; they are showing colors that are always within them that we just never have seen before.

As I thought more about the life lesson God has placed in His creation of seasons, fall in this case, I realized several practical applications to our lives.

  1. Fall is a stressful time for plants. Life becomes more difficult with the diminished sunlight and temperatures. But they “cope” by displaying a beautiful color change. When we are experiencing particularly stressful or difficult times in our lives, what “colors” show up? Do we “fall back” into beauty and reveal the character of God that has been hidden deep within our hearts? Qualities and habits which we have been nurturing during the easier times? If a plant has endured drought conditions, low nutrients, or polluted soil, its color changes are muted or may even go directly from green to brown. Likewise, if we haven’t nurtured our spirit with God’s Word during the simpler times, our reflection of the Holy Spirit will also be diminished.
  2. Trees release their dead leaves throughout the autumn season. What do we need to let go or relinquish control of? Perhaps it is some burdens we’ve been carrying for a long time. Possibly it is trying to control our adult children’s choices. Maybe it is fear or anxiety over the future, our finances, or other family members’ paths. Isaiah 43:18-19 reminds us to “forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I [God] am doing a new thing.” So let go of the dead things and focus on the Creator of Life and new things.
  3. Seasons come and go. Not too long ago (or so it seems) I was a young mom with little ones totally dependent on my care. Soon they began to crawl, walk, run, and then even to drive. The season of full time child-rearing is long past, replaced by an empty nest and grandparenting. My own energy levels, physical strength, and good memory have also undergone changes. But one thing has NEVER changed: the Lord God. “I the Lord do not change” (Malachi 3:6). “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). As grandparents, the summer of our lives may be drawing to a close and we can’t bring it back. But we can allow the beautiful variety of colors of our autumn season – which may have been hidden during the busier summer seasons – to blaze brilliantly now. As we remain focused on the unchanging God, we can count His blessings of family, church, freedom to study His Word, provisions of food and clothing, finances, opportunities to minister to others, and many more.

Prayer: Thank You, Jesus, that You never change. We count on this truth as we go through many changes and different seasons of life. May You develop beautiful colors within us by Your Spirit that will show up when we are undergoing difficult or stressful times. We want You and Your brilliance to show through us as we surrender the seasons of our lives to You.

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