Being startled awake is never a pleasant experience. I was reminded of that this past Sunday morning at 245AM. A storm came through our area with high winds, rain, thunder and lightning. I was in a dead sleep when something slammed against the side of the house, it just happened to be where our bedroom is located. It nearly scared the life out of me. Cheryl and I both got out of bed to see what was going on. It sounded like hail. As we looked out the window, the flagpole in front of our home was swaying back and forth. I just knew it wouldn’t make it. Just then the power started to flicker and go out. As quick as it had startled us, it was over. Just rain and the sound of distant thunder. We settled back into bed not realizing what had just happened.
At about 530AM, I got up and took a look out the front window to see what had happed to the flagpole. Thankfully it was still standing and standing straight. But what I saw around it gave me a sick feeling inside. I quickly dressed and went outside to look over our house and Nana’s house, Cheryl’s Mom, next door. Countless limbs were down, tops out of trees were laying on the ground. As I walked up to Nana’s there was a tree down in the field and the huge oak tree between our homes had three different sections ripped and hanging in the top of the tree. There were countless limbs down on her place and the top of a tree had fallen right next to the barn just behind her house. It blocked the door and one of the roll up doors.
Thankfully, there was no damage to any structure, just a small dent in the roof of the barn. Our homes were fine. We just had a huge mess to clean up. I made my way back to my house and got everybody up, letting them know we had a lot of work to do. As we began to get started and reached out to check on how everyone else faired through the storm, it was clear that it was isolated to a small area. It appeared no one was injured just a bunch of trees and limbs down. Some had more damage than we did but everyone was safe.
I am grateful for those who came and helped us cut and pile up all of the debris. We would not have been able to accomplish what we did without their help. We had so much help, that we were turning down additional help. We were able to finish and go check on someone else. I don’t know if it was straight line winds or a small tornado, but whatever it was, it was a reminder how our lives can be affected, literally and figuratively, by the storms of life.
As my brother-in-law, Scott was driving myself and my sons, Tyler and Noah, we noticed that a number of Bradford Pear trees were down in our area. Not that they were the only trees down but it seems like every time a big storm comes through it takes a toll on the Bradford Pear and any tree that has a weakness. That weakness could be caused by disease, insects or damage from past storms. Doesn’t that sound a lot like us?
The Bradford Pear is a pretty tree that blooms each year and has a nice, good looking shape. But there is a weakness inside this tree. It has very weak wood, and it can’t support the limbs in its canopy when faced with high winds. So it splits and breaks apart. Other trees become weakened by disease and insects which when faced with high winds do the same thing. They break and fall in the face of adversity and stress.
Then there are the trees that seem to withstand anything that comes at them. They bend and sway but do not break or fall apart. Sometimes they may lose a limb here and there but the main body has been protected from disease and insect so it is able to stand strong. If it does fall, it is after a long life and after enduring countless storms. It may not have its original shape and it may not be as pretty as it could have been but it stood the tests.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
– Ephesians 6:10-13 (NIV).
What type of tree describes us?
Do we have a weakness that we are unwilling to address? Do we have a structural weakness? Are we really a follower of Christ or did we just want to get a “Get Out of Hell Free Card”? Have we allowed sin to infest our lives and cause weakness in our character? Have we neglected to grow in our walk with Christ and not developed a good strong base?
Whether you are a weak tree or a strong tree, the storms of life are coming. Will you split or stand? Will you break in half or bend?
Even a strong tree can experience damage. Maybe it’s the death of a loved one. Or you are suffering through a disease like cancer. It could be the loss of a job or home. There are many types of storms that can leave scars. But if you have a solid foundation in Jesus, if you are walking with Him daily and seeking His strength and His will for your life, He will bring you through the storm.
Sure, there are some terrible storms that take both weak and strong trees. None of us know how many days we have, so we must be prepared today for what may come tomorrow. We don’t control the storms or the days we have but we do control who we will find our strength in. We choose to rely on ourselves (weak) or on Christ (strong). On which do you rely?
“Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”
– Matthew 7:17-19 (NIV).
It is also true that a group of trees can help protect each other. A single tree on its own has no protection other than itself. Are you out on your own doing your own thing? Or are you among others that can offer support? This is one of the purposes and blessings of a local group of believers. We need to be around others to grow in our walk with Christ, to help others grow in their walks and to protect each other when those storms come.
A Bradford Pear tree can’t choose to be an Oak tree but we do have a choice. We can choose to be weak in our own strength or we can choose to be strong in Christ. Choose today which one you will be.
Read-Act-Minister-Pray and run to the Cross!