As I was praying for a friend who is going through a really tough time, the Lord reminded me of a story I heard a while ago. It came out of the Great Storm of 1987, which felled fifteen million trees across the South of England in just one hour. Included in that number were over seven hundred rare and beautiful specimens, uprooted from the ground where they had stood majestically for hundreds of years at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew (near London).
The day after the storm, the tree surgeons there headed straight to one of their most prized trees, the ‘Turner Oak’, which had been looking a little unwell before the storm. You can imagine their devastation as they found it lying horizontal, with its huge root-plate upright in the air, completely lifted out of the ground. Unable to face chopping up and disposing of this precious tree, they determined to leave it until the very end. They pushed the roots back into the ground, with props to hold it in place, while they set about the sad work of dealing with the remains of all the other enormous, felled trees.
Three years later, with heavy hearts, they finally approached the Turner Oak, only to be stunned to discover it was now flourishing - a picture of health! The realisation eventually came that, prior to the storm, the roots had become compacted, and when the powerful wind lifted them, it shook them free of compaction. The wind also loosened the soil, making it more porous, so that more oxygen and water could get back down to the roots.
What had threatened to destroy the tree had, in fact, saved it, and taught the staff at Kew a valuable lesson. It has resulted in tools being developed to inject air into soil to maintain healthy trees, not just at Kew, but all around the world today.
As I reflected on this amazing story, I thought about Joseph and the devastation he suffered through being hated by his own brothers, being betrayed, and then imprisoned. Yet his story ends in Genesis 50:20 with: ‘You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.’
I had begun seeking the Lord for how to pray for my friend, and it might be that you or someone you are praying for is also going through a painful, difficult, perhaps even devastating, time. How heartened we can be, through these wonderful reminders from God’s creation and from His Word, that our God is so much bigger than the enemy.
As we put our trust firmly in Him and His promises, He is able to turn into good what the enemy intended for harm. This is not just for us, or for the loved ones we are praying for. God wants to teach us lessons through which He will touch the lives of many.
Let’s be comforted and encouraged in our prayers today as we are reminded that, even in circumstances we find really hard to understand, our God’s heart is to give beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and a garment of praise for a spirit of despair.
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