Disintegration

Lilacs are one of my favorite things to smell in the spring. They can be overwhelming for some folks, but I love them! Especially since my sniffer is on the weak side. We’ve got a lilac bush growing behind our house that’s been trimmed to look more like a tree. I love the scent wafting in through the windows when it’s in bloom!

But no matter how much I love it, I had to do the unthinkable and cut part of it down this week. Zooming out, you can see that this stem was being held up by an old frame.

It was flowering in the spring and putting out new growth, but it was so weak it couldn’t even stand on its own! Closer inspection revealed the issue:

missing bark and cracked inner wood strewn with holes.

First of all, you shouldn’t be able to see the inside of the trunk at all! It should be solidly covered with bark. But the bark has been peeled away, and the inside eaten by bugs (which had in turn been hunted by woodpeckers).

Closer to the base was a section where I could easily pick the inner wood apart with my fingers once a bit more bark was peeled away. Disintegration had set in.

As sad as it made me, I knew the weakened stem had to go.

With just a quick glance, it would look like nothing was really wrong here. But getting up close and personal made everything clear! Something had to be done.

Life

If I had to choose one word to describe life these days, it would be “tumultuous.” I know you’ve seen and heard voices clamoring on just about every issue under the sun. Everyone has been affected by something, and everyone wants to be heard . . . but not too many folks are willing to listen anymore (unless what they hear is in line with the opinion they already hold, of course).

We’re stressed by events, stressed by circumstances, stressed by opposing views, stressed by politics, stressed by relationships . . . so many things are pulling on us that we are breaking down in areas where we thought we were strong. We may have had all the answers before and put on a good show, but what’s on the inside is becoming visible for the world to see.

We thought we trusted God, but it turns out we trusted in our ability to control situations. We trusted in our bank accounts. We trusted in our own intelligence. We trusted in our plans for the future. We trusted in the essential goodness of humankind.

And when all of those things have let us down, we feel that we can’t take anymore. We go on the offense in order to defend ourselves. The best defense is a great offense, right? So we go on the attack. We attack people’s ideals, ideas, and very character. We attack anything that might possibly bring additional strain on our lives, as well as on our emotional and mental faculties.

And our lack of trust in God is glaringly obvious to everyone watching.

Could it be that God is allowing these times of pressure to open our eyes to our need for Him? To strip us of our pride and reliance on things that won’t last forever? Perhaps it’s time to visit the Master Gardener for a bit of pruning.

We seem to think we were meant to be saved from the troubles of this life, and are shocked when they arrive. Is that what Jesus meant when He said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NLT)?

I don’t think so! But He did promise us his peace. Are we willing to take that peace as our own? We are far from world peace, my friend. There is only one True Source of lasting, inner peace. It’s not going to be found in our own strength, in our savings account, in our government officials, or anywhere else in this world and its systems. Our peace is found in Christ alone.

Trust

The first evidence of trust in God should be a peace that we carry with us no matter what we’re going through. Yes, there will be sad days, there will be mad days, there will be unexplainably puzzling days. But we can have a deep sense of God’s peace in each and every one of those days that carries us through, and that peace will be noticeable to others.

Hard times are nothing new. The Psalmist wrote, “This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him” (Psalm 91:2). Without the storms and battles of this life, would there be any need of a refuge? No. But since we experience both throughout our lives here on earth, wouldn’t it be a good idea to have the strongest refuge and fortress possible? Our God is the Creator of everything. He holds it all together. I think we can trust him to be strong enough for what are puny problems in comparison!

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding” (Psalm 3:5 NLT). Our own understanding can be pretty cloudy sometimes. Are we willing to trust God when things don’t match up with our expectations or perspective of what should be? What about when someone has a differing view of something we hold very near and dear? Are we able to give it to God and trust the outcome? What we see now is but a speck in time. Are we willing to trust that He has the end game in view, and has since the beginning?

And finally, “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). If we are filled completely with joy and peace as we overflow with confident hope, could it be possible that others might notice?

How have these times affected you, friend? Would you say that others can perceive joy, peace, and hope in your life? If not, maybe it’s time to have a heart-to-heart with your Heavenly Father. Ask him to show you where your trust is lacking, and determine be obedient to his leading in the days and weeks to come.

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