In the center of a farm field, not far from our own, stands an enormous, solitary bur oak tree. Broad branches spread up and out from a deeply grooved trunk several feet in diameter. It seems odd that such a huge tree would stand alone in the middle of a field.
Something draws me to this field, to this tree, particularly at dawn and dusk when soft drifts of peach-orange sky silhouette black bark. “Why do you stand alone?” I wonder. “Why do you stand at all?” I went searching for answers and found them.
Bur oaks, the largest and most resilient of all oaks, reach trunk diameters of ten feet and heights of one hundred. They typically grow in open savannahs, away from protection of the forest canopy. With the thickest bark of all, they are the most fire-resistant. Droughts don’t affect bur oaks because their extraordinarily long tap root connects them to invisible, life-sustaining waters far beneath the soil’s surface. Bur oaks can tolerate extreme cold and poor soil conditions causing them to endure when others do not. And, even though they grow very slowly, especially when stressed, they still grow.
Best word for bur oaks? Survivors. They survive what others do not. They stand.
Do we stand like the bur oak when life’s pressures mount and life’s storms pound? Do we continue to grow, though it’s painfully slow? Or do we wither because our tap root connects only to shallow sustenance sources we think will nourish and sustain only to find ourselves parched and starving?
I have weathered many life storms and come through them stronger, thanks to our never-ending source of comfort and sustenance who drew me to Himself through Jesus when I could not grow a tap root long enough to even touch Him. He wooed me and I responded. He took hold of me and has never let me go, though I’ve tested His patience too many times to count. I needed a life line as a child. Still do.
Life can be difficult. Emotional abuse, betrayal, abandonment, divorce, infertility, slander, lies, depression, anxiety, family suicides, murder of a loved one, chronic mental illness, theft, sudden loss of my mother on a Mother’s Day due to medical malpractice, loss of dreams, hopes unfulfilled. Just a few of this pilgrim’s storms.
What causes us to survive such stress? Some may say self-will. Maybe, but only to a point. I have found that Self has an end, and it’s a dead one. Self did not create its existence and Self cannot sustain its existence. Self must tap into something beyond, something greater, something eternal and sovereign over all life’s storms.
Let the truth be told—that “something” is not nebulous. That “something” is not impersonal. That “something” is the great I AM of Exodus, making Himself known to us from the first line of Genesis to the last line of Revelation. He never shifts, never changes, never fails to deliver those who depend on Him, be they individuals, couples, families, communities, or nations. He uses life’s inevitable storms for our good, if we let Him—to strengthen our connection with Him—to strengthen our endurance—to make us survivors—to help us thrive—to make us stand.
Bur oaks don’t have easy lives. Neither do we. But bur oaks have purposeful lives. So can we. The bur oak’s purpose is to stay connected to its life source, to grow, and to feed others. Same as ours.
Connection with the ultimate Nourisher, Life-Giver, Life-Sustainer, grows us up into mighty oaks made stronger in the face of adversity. Though the mighty oak I love looks alone in the field, it isn’t. It’s connected–strongly connected–to that which it needs to survive and thrive, though unseen. It’s tapped in—for good.
Connection with the one true God, through easy times and hard, is the greatest goal of our existence and the most essential. Staying tapped in feeds and waters our soul like nothing else. Staying tapped in causes good to come from pain because God uses the storms of our lives to soften our stony hearts and smooth our roughest edges. Staying tapped in cause us to know, without a doubt, that He cares—that He uses all challenges, whatever they may be, to raise us up into the most magnificent, mighty oaks ever seen.
Come what may, tapped into Him, we will stand.
What a hope we have in Jesus!
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’S favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 61:1-3
OAKS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. FOR THE DISPLAY OF HIS SPLENDOR.