Ever have a sense that you are just a little out of whack, a bit off kilter, just a mite out of balance?
We were driving through the Great Smoky Mountains and I spotted this tree, that seems to epitomize that feeling.
I really have no idea how this happened, but it appears that the tree grew strong and tall, while a branch at ground level just moved to the right and then began growing alongside the tree. It is clearly alive and well, just a bit out of kilter.
Then there are the trees that have been traumatized by raging forest fires, but which still remain standing, even though scarred. Here is an example from Yosemite National Park showing the giant sequoia tree and its fire scar.
This fire scar has burned all the way through the tree so that you can walk through the tree without harming it. The tree itself is many stories tall!
Trees, that sustain rearrangement or injury, can grow and thrive even after their injury occurred. Indeed, great swaths of forest undergo fire damage on a routine basis and the result is that the forest regrows, healthier and stronger than it was before. In fact, some trees, like the giant sequoia trees, require heat from the fire to open their seed pods; the seeds then need cleared ground so they can germinate and grow, something that they would not have but for the forest fire!
My problem is that when I am undergoing something difficult, I tend to think that it is bad, that no one has ever had this type of injury, in other words I go through a pity party of no small stature. I might not express this outwardly, but inside I am drowning in in it.
As a Christian, however, this is not the way I am to respond to difficulty. We know that difficulty comes to everyone. If persecution attacked our Lord Jesus Christ throughout his ministry, we certainly should not be surprised when hard times come upon us.
Paul admonished Timothy to be aware of these things:
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. … But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:1-5, 14-17
How should I respond to difficult times? Not by holding a pity party! Rather, I should turn to the Scripture because this is the only Source that is profitable for:
Teaching – I will learn from the experience or difficulty
Reproof – Reproof can be said to be criticism for a fault. It is from reproof that I will learn what should be removed from my life.
Correction – The reproof rightly received will result in correction of the error of my ways, my thoughts, my motives, my desires, etc. The Holy Spirit will use the Word to correct that which He identifies as being in error.
Training in righteousness – Then, the Holy Spirit will be able to train my in the way of righteousness, because I have learned from the difficulties experienced.
What is the purpose of this teaching, reproof, correction, and training? Paul tells Timothy what the purpose is … that the man (woman) of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
You see, I may do a great many things that are good to do, but we need the Holy Spirit to prepare us to do good works for the Lord. If we do good things in our own strength, we are doing them ourselves and they have no heavenly significance. They may feather our cap in this world, but in the judgment, but earthly treasures are temporal, subject to destruction and theft. Not so with heavenly treasures!
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
When we do good works for God through the power of the Holy Spirit, rather than in my own power, they resound in Heaven to the glory of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
So, when I am upset by circumstances, by some hurtful word uttered against me, or by a slight that brings humiliation, my response should not be a pity-party. Rather, the response should be a turn to the Word and reliance on the Holy Spirit to teach, reprove, correct. and train me in righteousness.
Don’t be out of whack, a bit off kilter, or a mite out of balance. Don’t descend into the pit of self-pity. Rejoice because your Lord and Savior loves you, has forgiven your sins, has brought you into the family of God, and has given you eternal life. Everything else is, quite simply, irrelevant!
Praise the Lord that He has not left us alone but that He has given us His Word and His Spirit as our comfort, guide, and strength, even in difficult times like the COVID 19 pandemic!
Father, You are the Author and Creator of all things. You know the end from the beginning. You know all things, omniscience, You are all powerful, omnipotent, You are everywhere at all times, omnipresent. Such power is beyond my comprehension, especially when I remember that You sent Your Son to die for my sins. Such love is also beyond my comprehension. Forgive me when I drift into self-pity or fear of difficult times. Remind me to cast all my fears, apprehensions, concerns, problems, difficulties at the foot of the cross because You have borne them for me already. Then let me praise Your Holy Name and glorify You with my thanksgiving.