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Defined or conformed?

"Extraordinary afflictions are not always the punishment of extraordinary sins, but sometimes the trial of extraordinary graces." (Matthew Henry) When we really stop to think about it, there are indeed times we equate affliction with some form of punishment, totally disconnecting that these present moments of affliction are really the things that reveal the tremendous depth of God's grace. Were it not for the opportunity the afflictions produce, we might not see the faithfulness of God in quite the same way, or his power, love, or depth of unending grace.

The Lord saves those who are good. When they have troubles, he is their strength. The Lord helps good people and rescues them. They depend on him, so he rescues them from the wicked. (Psalm 37:39-40 ERV)


Trees grow strong, but it is more than soil that makes them strong. It is the winds that challenge their rooting and give them cause to grow deeper than ever before. The trunks of those trees grow broader, giving them substance and greater resistance to the winds that come. When a tree is not subjected to any kind of adverse weather, it becomes "lazy" - it has been protected too long and it no longer is driven to have deep roots. Although it is "pretty", it won't endure! God wants more than "pretty Christians" - he wants those who will be able to endure!

The strong winds of adversity are like those that buffet the tree. They actually remove some of the dead growth from the tree. Adversity often has a way of revealing dead growth in us - those things that are just "hanging on" that we really need to be rid of once and for all. When the dead is gone, the new is free to take its place! As long as we hold onto the dead, the only hope we face is for decay! Roots are solid when they are in good soil, but even good roots can get tangled up in things they had ought to stay away from!

The winds of adversity also have a way of forming the tree. If you have ever explored the forest for any length of time, you will notice the trees have a certain "direction" to their growth. In a place were winds tend to prevail from the same direction for a lot of the time, you will notice the branches of those trees seem to also point a little more in one direction than the other. The winds have "formed" the tree's "bent" in life. Adversity doesn't have to define us or conform us to its shape - it can actually turn us toward the direction which will give us the greatest stability in life.

Old growth removed, roots solid, and expansive trunk - all signs of a tree that will likely be around a long, long time. But...all it takes is one tiny fungus, or even a little beetle with a bite that sucks life from the tree, and the tree is open to destruction. This is why it is equally as important to have one who knows the trees observe the tree for signs of "infecting or parasitic growth". The less the tree is tended, the greater the chances are of it developing issues that can go undetected until much damage has occurred. We need God's constant focus on our lives, especially if we are to ever withstand the adversity of the strong winds! Just sayin!

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