I love trees. I don’t know why. I always have. Maybe it started when my family moved to Tennessee when I was five. I discovered a tree in our front yard that had five branches sprouting about half way up from its base that formed a type of seat. I could sit there for hours. When I was young, it was the “millennium falcon” from Star Wars. As I grew older, it was just a place to think.
When I was about 20 I went to Sequoia National Park. I was captivated. I didn’t know trees could grow so big. Sequoia trees can grow to be over 3000 years old – like before the time of Jesus old. They can reach over 300 feet in height – the tower of Babel would have looked like a shack compared to them. They can weigh 2.7 million pounds, their bark can be up to 31 inches thick, their branches up to eight feet in diameter, and their bases can be over 300 feet around. Are you getting the visual? They are big.
And because they live so long, they have lived through fire . . . lots of fire . . . more fire than we can possibly imagine.
The bark of these trees is resistant to fire. It helps them survive. But many of these trees have been through so many fires that a fire eventually wins.
When you hike through the trails in Sequoia, you see many burned out trees. Some are hollowed. Some are charred on the outside. Some of them even still have the smell of smoke. But many still live. You look at their bases and think, no way that bad boy is still kicking. Then you look up and see branches sprouting out from their tops, green leaves fluttering in the wind. Despite the fires of their life – they live.
Sometimes our life is a fire, but we can live through the flames. We have a shield called “God” on our side. Sometimes we can walk through the flames and not get burned like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego (Daniel 3). Other times we walk through the flames and get scorched like David: who ran from Saul for years of his life; who battled nations to establish the Jewish kingdom; who lost his son and had another son betray him. David lived amongst the flames and those flames sometimes burned him. God allowed those flames because God wanted David to remain “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22). Sometimes the flames touch us too, defining our lives and building us to become what God wants us to become.
In the words of Malachi God “is a refiner’s fire” (Malachi 3:2). And like a refiner’s fire, God knows the amount of fire you need in order to shine.
We have all felt the flames. We have all been through something: death, divorce, adultery, sickness, disease, betrayal, despair, hurt, unforgiveness. We have all been there. Sometimes we don’t know what fires God has put out before they could spark flame, but we intimately know the flames that have touched our lives. Like the Sequoia tree, we can still survive if we keep our eyes and hearts lifted up.
Do you know what kills a Sequoia? Not old age, not disease, and not fire. They die when they fall over.
So do we. When we give up, when we let go of God, we fall. Then we die. Maybe not physically, but emotionally. When we allow the world to get to us so much that we give up on God, we topple. When we allow the heat to take our hope, our outlook, our dreams, we fall over.
We topple because we are no longer reaching to the sky – and to the One that can keep our hopes alive.
Don’t give up. Never, never, never give up on what God is telling you, on what you are feeling, on what you are looking for, on what you are doing. Don’t give up. Life may take a turn, it may take a burn or two, but sooner or later, that branch will sprout. Hang in there. Look up. Trust the burns He is allowing in your life and know that when the smoke clears, you will see the sun.
A friend of mine recently sent me a Facebook message with an inspiration quote “from God” that said:
“I have turned the River of Pain into a River of Joy . . . the river of hurt Satan unleashed upon you was formulated to steal/wipe out the call of God on your life . . . it failed. I turned the river. I have made you the head and not the tail . . . Above only and not beneath . . . joy comes in the morning. It is morning. – love Father.”
See through the flames, Christian Soldiers, because morning is here. Trust that the smoke will clear. Wait for the light.