Rev. Carolyn Stephens
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. For I am the Lord, your God.” Isaiah 43:2a
The imagery you will see accompanying the devotional throughout Lent is that of trees – in different stages, shapes, and forms. We intentionally chose trees, as they are great examples of living things that can endure hardship, yet thrive in spite of the adverse conditions in which they exist. Some trees even grow stronger because of their harsh environment.
In tropical countries, the trees that fare best during hurricanes are the ones whose roots go deep and wide. How deep down and far-out their roots go helps to anchor them into the ground. The depth and expanse of their reach eventually become an automatic reinforcement for them. And when the gale-force winds and the torrential rain of a hurricane beat fiercely against them and erode the topsoil, they will weather the storm because their roots are securely embedded in the foundation of the earth.
But these trees that weather the storm because their roots go deep and wide are the ones that are not usually close to an immediate source of water, such as a stream, a river, or a cascading waterfall. As such, they have to send their roots deep down and far out in search of water. It is a harsh and grueling process for the tender roots to burrow down and out in the dry, hard, and rocky soil. They suffer bruising from the earth and rocks they are trying to penetrate. But the process strengthens their roots, making them sturdier, and eventually making the tree stronger and more resilient.
Sometimes, above the ground, these trees do not look like they would be up to the task. Their trunks and their branches do not look as big as other trees. They do not look as sturdy or as towering as some of the great, big trees that are common in tropical climates. Yet they are the ones left standing after the storm has passed, while the seemingly mighty trees have fallen. The arduous process they had been through to find water, prepared them for the storms of life. They suffered, and grew strong in the end.
As we embark on this Lenten journey, may we be as these trees.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, you took our pain and bore our suffering. You were pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was upon you, and by your stripes we have been healed. You know the way of pain and suffering. You have walked the path of hardship and sorrow. You are the Suffering Servant.
When we are afraid of what lies ahead, hold our hands. When the path we must take is dark, be our light. When we are inclined to run away in fear instead of facing what we must, reassure us of your presence. Because with you we can go through whatever comes.
Go before us now, we pray. Amen!