Why Some Trees Fall

In the aftermath of several late season nor’easters, the Rhode Island road sides and woods are still littered with toppled trees.

The size of the trees, usually torn from the ground, roots and all, is a daily reminder to me of Proverbs 3:5-8: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.”

Prior to the winds and the storm, I would have never imagined those trees would fall. Even now, I can’t see from their trunks or their branches, any sign that their root systems were so shallow and ready to release their hold.

A lot of church people are like that. I once knew a man whose faith seemed so solid and so fierce, I couldn’t imagine a stronger Christian. His theology was tight. He had entire chapters of Romans committed to memory. And he loved nothing more than to guide young believers.

Years later, I learned he’d renounced his faith. Left his young family for a woman, not his wife, bereft spiritually and financially.

I think of him when I drive past those toppled trees.

It works the other way, too. Sometimes, I think people who don’t know Jesus are so far from knowing Him, it makes no sense for me to say anything about faith. Rather than heed God’s directive to speak up, I lean on my own understanding and let opportunities pass like moments I’ll never retrieve.

Once I taught a Bible study to a group of people who’d never studied the Bible. As we gathered for our first glimpse into the gospel of John, I mentioned that one of their friends, Sharona, had indicated she’d be joining us.

“Sharona! No way!” they exclaimed. “She’s not interested in God! Why, she’s a hardened feminist. She changes bed partners like she changes her shoes! She’s either atheist or Jewish or Ba’hai or something. No way she’s going to come, and if she does, all she’ll do is argue.”

Moments later, Sharona arrived. Three chapters into John, she was completely captivated by Jesus. She surrendered her life shortly thereafter and changed everything. Everything.  Some of the people who were sure she’d never be interested in Jesus made it through John and more without ever making that leap to faith in Christ.

One of the hardest lessons I’m learning about faith is not to lean on my own understanding. I think I can tell when someone is “ready” to receive Jesus, but the truth is, I haven’t a clue. And I think I can spot a solid believer from a hundred yards, but who knows which of those trees might topple in a sturdy gale?

God is ever reminding me that determining the state of someone’s soul is way above my pay grade, and truly, not my responsibility anyway. Every verse of scripture rings out with the motto of the New England Patriots – Just do your job!

It’s not my job to make a decision on souls. It is my job to speak truth in love, to be ready in season and out, to testify to what I’ve witnessed and what I know about Jesus, and to communicate the love of Christ to all with my actions, my inner being, and my words.

It’s the most freeing thing, to understand my “work” in furthering the kingdom is not to discern someone’s eternal state, but simply to be a Jesus-follower transparently and lovingly before their eyes.

God knows which trees are set to topple and which walls against faith are ready to fall. If I keep my eyes open and do my job, He’ll let me watch Him work. And that, loved ones, is the true adventure.

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6 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Karen Anderson says:

    Years later, the lady who led me to The LORD confessed that she really didn’t think I was saved for a long time, and, truthfully, I can understand why. It took almost thirty years before I faced what I consider the most pivotal moment of my relationship with Jesus, when it seemed that He was saying that I had to choose between Him and my own dreams. That’s when I knew that I love Him more than anyone or anything in this world, because, as devastating as my choice would be to my own plans for my life, I chose our King, and I’ve never regretted it. (Great blog, once again, dear Sister. Thank you!)

  2. Ruby Hillier says:

    So much here – so much our small group is learning about the same subjects. Thank you for your obedience to write what the Holy Spirit puts on your heart. I shared on facebook because it was so powerful and true and good. Blessings

  3. Doris says:

    AMEN!! Thank you for faithfully writing the messages God lays on your heart. Proverbs 3:5-7 are favorite verses along with our riches in Christ = Ephesians 1. O’ what a wonderful, loving, gracious, merciful, compassionate Lord we have. We are so blessed. So challenged by your blog, thank you.

  4. Charles and Heidi Strauss says:

    Lori,
    My husband and I have a list of our kids and nieces and nephews who we pray for almost everyday. This helps me put it in perspective. Thank you for this!

  5. Debra says:

    Hi Lori,

    We never know what God is up to….but I’ve found that I can trust He is always working in ways I can’t imagine. So often in my life I’d had to cling to this scripture in Proverbs 3:5-8. Especially when I feel like giving up …. God speaks to my heart and reminds me to trust Him and his timing. Your words speak truth! I love that. Thank you for being faithful!

    In Christ,
    Debra Johnson