Friday, July 6, 2012

How the Storms of Life Shape Us

“A bruised reed He will not break…” (Isaiah 42:3)

     We have amazing spring and summer storms in the mountains.  The winds pick up speed as they rush down the mountainsides.  Because we live on a ridge, the winds come up from the valley below and just pummel our house.  Recently, the winds hit the 60 miles per hour mark, and the rain had frozen into tiny glass-like shards that flew about like angry insects.  We had to lay down our rocking chairs on the ground so that they would not fly down our driveway, and our patio furniture had to be jammed up against the side of the house to prevent it likewise from blowing away. 
       The high winds test the resiliency of what is growing on the land.  I have a young Austrian pine, and while it stood at a slight angle after the high winds were gone, it was still standing.  The grasses on the hillside swayed with vigor as the winds blew; in the peaceful aftermath, there they were.  The wind and rain seemed merciless at times.  I had to run outside to secure some patio items, and the small bits of ice hurt my skin and the rushing wind almost took my breath away.
        What is astonishing after such an angry flurry of wind, rain and ice, is that the afternoon sun will appear under the clouds on the horizon and cast a rainbow on the far side of the valley.  These rainbows are intensely colorful and continue to dazzle as long as the sun has not yet gone down for the evening.
     The high winds of our lives test us—they bend us to the point where we fear we might break.   But what allowed my Austrian pine to endure?  It is green…not dried, not desiccated, not withered…it is green as spring itself.  

 So, if we are walking in Him, He reminds us: “ Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  (Lamentations 3: 22-23, NIV)  We serve a God who does not allow us to be broken when we are already bruised.  Why?  Because of His utterly boundless love for us.  But what about the branches that do break off of trees during a storm, or those trees that do fall over?  
     After this same storm, I walked along the river that runs through town, and the number of branches broken and strewn about was astonishing.  Some branches were enormous and many of the trees looked like they had gone to battle.  Then it struck me:  wind is the pruning instrument of God.  These are wild trees—no arborists come and regularly attend them.  So, older branches, perhaps invaded by bugs or deeply cracked by previous storms, are slowly stealing vitality from the tree.  There are few leaves on these branches as compared to the ones that are rich in blossoms and green leaves.  When they are removed, does this actually invigorate the tree, allowing it to put its energy into the healthier branches?
       If I stay green in God--by praying, reading His Word, staying in fellowship with other believers--I can endure the storms that will come.  I know I possess branches that are clearly without vitality in my life—unconfessed sin, judgmental attitudes towards others—and I need to trust His wind to do the pruning.  I cannot always tell which branches need to be removed—it’s not always obvious.  I left a job that I thought was going to be wonderful and turned out to be problematic; I needed to end a friendship or something I enjoyed for years is now over—those branches surprise me when they come down.  But again, He is seeking not just growth, but rich spring growth and a greenness of leaf that shows His life in me.  
     He then seals His faithfulness with that rainbow!
 Precious Lord:  the winds come and the rains rage, and down go some of my branches.  Help me to not consider such pruning punishment, but as a gift…to be green in You, vital and resilient in this life, those branches that crash to the ground will leave me stronger in You.  Storms fiercely come, but so too does Your love:  the rainbow is a witness to that!  Amen. 

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