Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Bent but Not Broken

One January, an ice storm descended on our state. As freezing rain fell, the coating of ice on trees in our yard grew thicker and thicker. We watched limbs grow heavy from the weight of the ice, droop, then break and fall to the ground.

The cherry tree just outside our window was really sad—and not just because of the cherry pies we’d miss if it were destroyed. The tree was pathetic looking. The double trunk parted in the middle. One half leaned east. The other leaned west. Limbs bent lower and lower.

I kept checking, expecting to see the whole tree crumpled in a heap. The branches finally touched the ground. But it didn’t break.

In contrast, strong and healthy trees over 50 feet tall were ruined. Because of the storm, we lost five trees. But our little cherry tree survived just fine. In fact, when the ice melted several days later, the limbs straightened up, reaching for the sky. The tree is intact and looking good.

As I cleaned up broken limbs, I realized what we can learn from the trees. The cherry tree looked mighty sad as it bent to the ground but didn’t lose a lot of limbs because it bent over. The pressure of the weight was relieved as it bowed down. Likewise, we weather storms of life much better when we are flexible and are willing to humble ourselves.

That's not new a new concept. Years ago, Jesus said,

"Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12 NASB)

But seeing the principle exhibited by the trees has made it more graphic.

There is another reason the limbs of the cherry tree didn’t break. They had help in carrying the load.  When they leaned over, they rested on the ground.

Likewise, when we humble ourselves and lean on the LORD, our Rock, His strength is made known in our weakness.

“He gives a greater grace. ...God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6 NASB) 

When we are humbled by things outside our control - like ice humbled the trees - we tend to blame it on circumstances or other people. However, our misfortune could be the hand of God against us. According to James, God humbles the proud. When we are proud, we not only carry the burden alone, we also struggle against the hand of God.

Isaiah used trees to describe God’s opposition to the proud:  

For the LORD of hosts will have a day of reckoning
Against everyone who is proud and lofty,
And against everyone who is lifted up, That he may be abased.
And it will be against all the cedars of Lebanon that are lofty and lifted up,
Against all the oaks of Bashan, …
The pride of man will be humbled
And the loftiness of men will be abased,
And the LORD alone will be exalted in that day." Isaiah 2:12-13, 17, NASB

Isaiah’s proclamation sounds harsh and certain. However, destruction is avoidable. We don’t have to be abased by God. If we are like the cherry tree - quick to bow and to seek God’s help - the Lord will lift us up when He is exalted.

I’m grateful for our little cherry tree, which bent but wasn’t broken. Through it, I discovered a key to God’s grace. And I need all the grace I can get.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.” 1 Peter 5:6, NASB

Copyright © Kay Camenisch, used with permission.

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