Thursday, January 17, 2013

Storms and Oak Trees

"Some of the storms of life come suddenly:  a great sorrow, a bitter disappointment, a crushing defeat.  Some come slowly...Yet it is in the storm that God equips us for service.  When God wants an oak He plants it on the moor where the storms will shake it and the rains will beat down upon it, and it is in the midnight battle with elements that the oak wins its rugged fiber and becomes the king of the forest."  
      - Mrs.  Charles E. Cowman, Streams in the Desert

Funny thing about storms.  They can be disorienting.  During one Northern California storm I found myself driving along through some mountain roads back to Humboldt County.  It was pouring so hard I could barely see the road in front of me.  The sun began to set and it was getting dark.  The fears of "what if's" began to rise.  Having been in a few car accidents, and having the prior experience of vehicles breaking down on some out-of-the-way roadsides, those fears weren't based on unrealistic ideas of what could happen.  They were based on some indelible bad memories.  Storms can be like that.  They take in not only what is happening in the present, but they can bring along a carload of baggage from our past.  

Yet each storm has the capacity to bring with it elements designed to strengthen our fiber.  With each variety of storm there is a faith-test.  It seems it often comes when we think we are dangerously close to that line of what we think we cannot handle.  I've found that the line I think I can handle and the line of what God knows I can cope with are two different lines.  Interesting, how we think we are in charge of that line.  But it is often in those moments when we believe we are at our wits end that God either brings us a solution or supplies us adequate grace to take the next step.

In those moments the faith-test goes something like this:  God asks,
"Do you still trust Me?"  When you can't see in front of you, when the circumstances are the worst thing you can imagine, and when you believe you have no inner resources to endure this particular nightmare, can God be trusted? 

The Faith Giants of the New and Old Testaments often stood on that wobbily dividing line that life put in their path and they had to make a decision whether to step forward by sheer faith alone or step back. 

Hebrews 11:6 tells us, "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him."  That belief is not merely an intellectual nod but concrete actions of trust.  Stepping forward, staying the course, going on and doing the right thing even when there seems little hope.

One reward of repeated steps of faith is the strong rugged fiber of the heart that is developed during hard times.  It replaces the former faint-of-heart kind of belief that wilts under adversity.  One's insides are changed.  Without storms our faith would remain delicate.  But through the storms we are made ready for the Master's service.

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