November 11th marked the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
The world mourned the loss of approximately 20 million military personnel and civilians during The Great War. Many began wearing red poppies to commemorate the fallen.
Why did they choose this flower as their symbol of mourning those lost?
Canadian doctor John McCrae penned a famous poem In Flanders Fields during the conflict in which he wrote, “In Flanders fields the poppies blow between the crosses, row on row. …”
Many soldiers realized during the war that where combat had been the worst, poppies filled the fields.
Poppy seeds have the ability to remain dormant for many years. A poppy flower can generate 60,000 seeds that remain dormant for up to 100 years, according to some botanists.
After the brutal battles of Ypres in France and Belgium in 1914 and 1915, trenching and bombing had destroyed most of the vegetation and churned up the soil.
Poppies thrive in an environment where other vegetation has been eliminated, and after the fighting and loss of thousands upon thousands of lives, the poppies came out of dormancy, grew and thrived, creating the beautiful natural phenomenon in the midst of one of humanity’s worst nightmares.
McCrae, thinking of lost friends and the ongoing fight, finished his poem by writing:
“Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
the torch; be yours to hold it high.
If you break faith with us who die,
we shall not sleep, though poppies grow
in Flanders fields.”
McCrae joined the list of war casualties when he died from sickness in 1918, but the poppies lived on.
What a picture of the Lord’s work during times of great personal tragedy and loss!
In Sutherland Springs, Texas, 26 people were murdered just over a year ago in the deadliest church shooting in U.S. history. Baptist Press reported that though many are still working through the grieving process, the Lord is working in the life of the community.
The church used to have about 40 attendees, but now attendance averages 200. Some of those are people who became Christians because of the love of Jesus that evidenced itself in the lives of Christians enduring personal tragedy.
Throughout scripture, we can see the poppy principle at work.
When Abraham consented to sacrifice his only son, he learned that God provides.
When Jacob wrestled with God, God blessed him.
When Moses abandoned his calling, God met him at the burning bush.
When Gideon was hiding in a wine press to thresh grain, the angel came with God’s plan of deliverance.
When David stood against Goliath, God delivered him.
When Elijah felt defeated and alone, God sustained him.
In times of tragedy, loss and despair, the Lord has repeatedly proven that He sustains us, grows us and multiplies us. In fact, times of adversity prove to be the times He often chooses to create the most spiritual growth in our lives.
Poppies bloomed in Flanders fields, God’s reminder that beauty does rise from the ashes when we trust His goodness in bad times.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sarah Dixon Young, facebook.com/SarahDixonYoung, is the author of God on a Shelf. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)