Winds of Adversity
This tree showed up on a snowshoe trek one sunny winter afternoon. It looked so impossibly out of place. All the other trees around it standing tall, and here’s this one bent over in this awkward arch.The roots are completely intact. There is no evidence of trauma or breakage to the tree. It has just grown this way and continues to live this way. What caused this? Was it one particular blow in a powerful storm that sent it on a trajectory to grow this way? Or was it a thousand little pushes over its life that bent it into submission? And why would it only affect this particular tree? All the other trees around it are standing tall. No matter what it’s story is, God used it for great encouragement this day.
At times, a walk of faith can feel like this tree looks. In recent days our family has endured significant blows to our adoption journey. We have been on this journey for 2 years. It has not been a journey of sunshine and rainbows for certain, nor has it been a journey of complete despair either. There have been times of great hope and joy as well. We’ve never doubted that God asked us to be on this journey. He has always come near at each turn. However, the current state of the journey is rough to say the least. For reasons we cannot know, we have to completely start the process over. All the paperwork, all the waiting, all the ups and downs. Recent events have brought to light the realization that just because he has us on this journey, doesn’t actually mean we will end up with a child to love in our home in the end. That could be the joyful end to this journey, but it might not be. Even if we were to desire a biological child, that is not in our control either. The purpose of the journey may be something else entirely. There are plenty of people that date but never marry. Start school but never finish. Start in one career and end up in another. Not because they weren’t following God’s direction or seeking him during each step, simply because that is the path God used to bring them closer to him. God is our ultimate source of hope, love and acceptance.
~Whatever path we are on,
his number one desire is to be with us,
and for us to be with him.
He will use anything and everything
to bring us closer to him.~
This was an impossibly humbling realization for me. I realized how much hope I had placed in the eventual day that I would bring home my new child. The line between, ‘This is my calling’ and ‘This is who I am’ has gotten blurry. In reality, my hope is intended to be placed in the experience of God bringing his child home into his arms, me. And you. All the effort I put forth into the calling he has given me, actually has no bearing on how he feels about me. That is just the work to be done. I love the work. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. I wouldn’t trade this path for anything less painful, because there is nothing more satisfying than being in the middle of God’s will for our lives. In the end though, it’s not the point of it all. God is. He’s the point. He’s the reason. He’s the one doing it all, just to love us and focus our hearts on him alone. The pain of the journey is not to be dealt with and shut out. It is to be endured; for his glory and for our good.
Looking at this tree, I get it. Bent over backwards from the weight of the world. Blow after blow. Push after push. How easy is it to look around at the others and say ‘why me?’ Every other tree gets to stand tall and beautiful. Every other believer gets an easier path. (This is not actually true, but when we’re whining to God it’s not usually true, it’s just how we feel in the moment.) How much easier would it be for this tree to just give out, fall over, and take a couple of those tall standing beauties down with it? So much easier, but it doesn’t. It grows, and bends, and grows and bends. Just because it’s story is hard, doesn’t mean it wasn’t supposed to be a tree. God still created it to live as a tree and fulfill that purpose. Just because our stories can be hard, doesn’t mean we weren’t meant to be in it. Living it. Enduring it.
In the early 90s the University of Arizona embarked on a remarkable journey to create a closed, ecologically perfect, environment for all living things. As perfect as they could understand the needs of nature at least. They set up systems of ideal air quality, nutrients, water, bacterial balances, cohesive species, ect. Even humans lived and worked within the biodome. The trees in the biodome seemed to flourish at first, showing all signs of thriving in a seemingly perfect environment. Eventually though, they realized that the trees thrived to a certain height, and then they would just topple over and die. In the original plan for the perfect atmosphere, they didn’t account for the effect of wind on a growing tree. The force from the winds day after day, increase the strength of the root systems for a tree. They discovered that trees need the adversity of the wind in order to develop the strength necessary to hold themselves upright, let alone to grow to the giant mature trees we find in nature.
I have yet to encounter a person of inspiring faith that did not endure some form of hardship to get there. When the winds in our life blow, no matter how hard, our roots grow deeper and deeper into our source of life-Christ. In order to simply exist in a fallen world we need to be connected to the true source of our living water, love and hope. Without it we will surely topple over, just as the trees did, even in what we thought was a perfect growing environment.
~Adversity is necessary to grow deeper in root to God.~
Now, that is not to say that in order to be a Christian we must be constantly suffering. I completely reject that theology. All the good things in life that God has for us are to be enjoyed and lavished in. However, simply because we are Christians, I believe that we will automatically endure a level of pain and adversity. As we become more and more like Christ, as each passing day our eyes are opened to how God sees us and our world, we will hurt. We will hurt because God hurts. What Christ weeps over, we will weep over. What God says is wrong, we will begin to see as wrong. The more and more we walk this life of faith the more and more we will desire the right and perfect relationship with God when there is no more pain and no more suffering for anyone. In a fallen world, the winds will blow. Sometimes lightly, sometimes ferociously. We need to be flexible enough not to break, and allow those winds to work in our lives. To deepen our relationship with the Lord so he can flourish in our lives more than he ever did before.
In over half of the healing stories from Christ’s time on earth, the author notes how he felt about the person before healing them. He is moved by great pain and compassion for the person before he heals and brings them to himself. If that is where you are today, I want to encourage you that we all endure this time together. Christ has great compassion on where we are at, right now. No matter what it is, or where we are at in the thick of it, he is there, suffering with us. Always bringing us closer and closer to him.
Consider the Word
John 11:1-44 Luke has long been my favorite written gospel, but John is my favorite apostle. He writes the relationship right into the story. I love his account of Christ raising Lazarus from the dead. It is shows just how deeply God cares for us while we endure the pains of this world.
Verse 3: We learn just how deeply Christ cared for this family. He was close to them personally. He loved Lazarus and his sisters deeply.
Verse4: As hard as it must have been for the family to hear this at the time, the truth became evident by the end of the story. We can never know what the end of this world’s suffering will come to, but we do know it will be for his glory and for our good.
Verse 14: Here Christ lays out plainly the purpose of his waiting. The purpose is for every person, not just those in suffering, to see the power and love of Christ, and to know him more fully.
Verses 33-38 This shows the deep compassion Christ had for everyone involved. He did not come to earth to be separate from all of our suffering and just fix the relationship we have with God, he came to be in it with us. He heals just as much with compassion as he does with healing power.
Questions and Reflections
What is God healing in your life? How is he healing it? Can you feel and accept the compassion he has for you in your walk of faith?
How can you be deepening your roots in Christ as the winds blow? Where can he strengthen your assurance in him?
Life is but a Weaving
My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.
Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned
He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.”
Published by Corrie ten Boom
This poem was published in a book by Corrie ten Boom with a image of beautifully embroidered tapestry hanging next to it, turned around. It showed all of the mess, the criss-crossing of all the threads, the knots, and the precision. An incredible reminder that we are the ones in the mess, but God is the one weaving a beautiful tapestry of creation in his master hand. He is the only one that knows the full story, the only one that sees the beauty in the end.
Can you trust him with your story as much as you trust him with your salvation?