As sturdy as trees are, they sometimes cannot withstand the pressure of a winter storm. We found that out this week, when two oak trees toppled over our driveway.
It was our first time as a family experiencing the fun of snow. Moments before the trees came down, our kids were playing outside, catching snowflakes in their mouths and throwing snowballs at each other, blissfully giggling under the night-time snowfall. It was pure enjoyment. As our kids' bedtime approached, we went back inside our home, and a few minutes later we heard a thundering crack. We all looked at each other in confusion, wondering what the loud sound was. Then, through the windows, we saw some of our neighbors walking toward our home with flashlights. That was the moment it hit me. "Oh no," I thought to myself, "Where did it land?"
I quickly put on my coat, grabbed a flashlight, and stepped outside. There, on our driveway, next to our detached carport, lay two big oak trees. Apparently, as one tree fell, it took another tree down with it. Minimal damage was done to a corner of our carport, but our vehicles were fine, and so was the rest of the carport. The only real annoyance was that our vehicles were trapped—there was no way to drive around those downed trees if we needed to leave the house.
After the adrenaline wore down, we all went back to bed. At that moment, there wasn't anything we could do. But God was already working. The next morning, as word spread, a few of the men from our church came over with their chainsaws. With these gracious, helping hands, we were able to clear our driveway by that same afternoon. My wife and I were amazed, and we were reminded of at least two important things:
The Lord's Goodness
Although there was minor structural damage, the trees fell in such a way that nothing major happened. On one side of the downed trees, our vehicles remained untouched under our carport. On the other side, our outdoor light post was also untouched. If the trees had fallen a few inches to either side, we could have been dealing with either our vehicles being totaled or electrical danger from the light post. But in God's goodness, the trees fell on the one spot where nothing major could happen. Furthermore, the trees fell after we had all gone back inside. Moments prior, our kids were playing on that same driveway, gleefully throwing snowballs at each other. The Lord truly spared us from a potentially tragic outcome. And we are so grateful for his goodness.
It reminds me of the time someone once robbed Matthew Henry, the famous English commentator on the Bible. Reflecting on the incident, he said, "1.) I am thankful that he never robbed me before. 2), I am thankful that although he took my wallet, he did not take my life. 3) Although he took all I had, it was not much. And 4), I am glad that it was I who was robbed, not I who did the robbing."
When storms hit us in this life (and when trees fall under their pressure), usually there is much we can still be thankful for, starting with God's goodness. It's something we've noticed in our current series through the book of Esther, too. Esther, a young Jewish girl, was taken from her home to satisfy the depraved appetites of a pagan king (Esther 2:8). But, although she was taken, God—in his goodness—protected her from a life of desolate confinement in the king's harem (Esther 2:14). He gave her favor with everyone around her, and, ultimately, she was crowned queen (Esther 2:17).
In this life, trees will sometimes crash down on our driveways. But if we see past the fallen trees, we can see the greatness of God's goodness. Often, he spares us from worse things. When we realize this, we become equipped to praise him with grateful and trusting hearts. "But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love;" writes David, who experienced afflicting storms in his own life, "for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely" (Psalm 59:16-17). Oh, may we see his goodness in the midst of our own storms, and, as we do, may we praise him, thank him, and rely on him wholly.
The Church's Love
As my wife and I think back on this week's events (With sore bodies, since these city folk are still adjusting to country living), we can't help but to thank God for our church family, too. Many of you have helped us settle into our new home and our new lives here in northern California. Many of you have reached out to my wife when she's been sick. Many of you have shown us beautiful hospitality. Many of you have wished our kids a happy birthday. Many of you continually pray for us without our knowing. There has been no shortage of love from you, and this week was no exception.
We are still amazed at how the Lord rounded up gracious hands to help us clear those fallen oak trees. I even learned how to use a chainsaw! Truth be told, if it were not for the help we received, we'd still be stuck at home, waiting on an insurance adjustor to assess damage before any help is approved.
In all this, God has given us a second great reminder: The importance of the family of God in our lives. As imperfect as we are, the church is where we experience life under the love of God (Hebrews 10:24). So, just as I can't imaging going through life without Christ, I also can't imagine going through life without his people. And I hope you can't imagine a church-less life, either. More than that, I hope you can appreciate the importance of the family of Christ in your life, too.
Certainly, the Lord is always with us, even through the storms we each endure (Joshua 1:9). But, for the most part, the way we tangibly experience his loving presence is through his people, our community of faith. Especially here at New Life, we've been so blessed with an overwhelming sense of brotherly love for one another. And I can tell you that Sandra and I are immensely grateful to the Lord for bringing us to you. Even our kids have expressed to us how thankful they are to be a part of New Life. We can relate to Paul when he wrote to the church in Colossae: "We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people" (Colossians 1:3-4). In our case, however, we haven't just heard of your love, we've experienced it for ourselves, and we've been so blessed as a result.
I know we're not the only ones to have experienced New Life's love. As you've been reading through this, you've probably remembered the times you've experienced the love of New Life for yourself. A benevolent meal dropped off at your home. A heart-warming card in the mail. A phone call when you've needed some encouragement. A visit when you've needed a comforting presence. Perhaps even some helping hands when you've been overwhelmed by a fallen tree. As you remember how the Lord has used his people in your own life, my hope is that you'd feel deep gratitude within your heart. You might even feel led to thank God right now for your family-in-Christ. Go ahead, praise him for his goodness!
With love for you in Christ,