This morning, I was driving down our beautiful, wooded, mountain road with our two little girls. We began admiring the hues of the autumn leaves; the warm shades of orange, yellow, red, and green were even more brilliant as a sliver of bright morning sunshine burst through the fog and shimmered off of the dew-covered leaves. My four year old exclaimed, “Look, Mommy! The colors are so pretty!”
“Yes, they are!” I agreed. However, after a few more minutes of conversation, I realized that I had unintentionally dampened her enthusiasm about the beauty surrounding us. As I had been explaining what was happening to the leaves, she began realizing the harsh reality that the leaves are in the dying process and will soon be off the trees, decomposing on the cold muddy ground.
As the trees are preparing for the winter ahead of them, the chlorophyll starts disappearing from their leaves. The leaves eventually shrivel and die, falling to the ground. The signs of deterioration surround us. It takes this dying process for there to be a resurrection with new life and growth in the spring. As I explained this to Chantaya as simply as I could, I was struck with the comparison of these leaves to our lives as believers. We can enjoy the beauty of autumn because we know that spring will come again. Isn’t this the hope that we have as Christians, when a loved one passes away or we face an unknown future?
God has clearly communicated in His Word that we will face trials, pain, disappointments and the sting of death in this fallen world. He has also promised that His grace would be sufficient to face all of these things. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Cor. 12:9)
I wonder what would happen if we would accept the expressions of our “less than perfect” world. Why don’t we see handicaps, cancer, miscarriages, heart disease, and even premature death as normal while we live in a sin-cursed world? In the Garden of Eden, our expectations could be much different, but our current location is far from the Garden.
Although Paul was a servant of God, he faced many heart aches and difficulties. In Romans 8:22-23 he says, “For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.”
Why do we have the tendency to blame God when we experience pain or loss? Was it God’s fault that sin entered the world? No! It was the result of man’s choice. However, our loving and merciful God came up with a wonderful redemption plan so that someday we may experience the life that He created us for. There are many avoidable diseases and sicknesses today because of us not honoring God’s principles, thus hindering our physical healing. Nevertheless, I have to wonder why the apostle Paul, a spiritual giant, couldn’t get rid of his “thorn.” He had an incredible amount of faith in God, so why didn’t this faith work? God knew that He could receive more glory by allowing Paul’s thorn than if He removed it. We need God’s wisdom to discern what are the mere results of living in a sin-cursed world, and what are the results of our own choices. God is not the problem!
Our family is quickly approaching the two year mark of our only son and brother’s passing. We miss Austin with every breath that we breathe, and we cannot even BEGIN to describe the gaping hole that his absence has left in each of our hearts. However, just like many annual plants die and leave their seeds, we continue to experience the “seeds” of Austin’s sixteen years with our family. Some plants complete their life cycle and die when winter comes, but their seeds remain, ready to sprout again in the spring.
This is such a beautiful picture of what happens in our lives as believers, when we experience our
“home-going”, then exuberantly awaken to all the warmth and indescribable beauty of our eternal “spring!”