The roads all around where we live, are winding, busy for country roads, and most of them are incredibly narrow. The other day as I was driving home, I looked at the tall hedges and trees that grow along the sides of the roads. I noticed that many of these have grown into strange shapes, curving deeply inwards away from the road and then out again near the top, as though carved that way. As I thought about it, I realised that this growth pattern has been shaped by the constant flow of traffic.
You often see branches lying in the road, or little twigs snapped off by a passing car or lorry that has got a bit close to the hedgerows. These poor trees and hedges are under constant ‘assault’. But they’re incredibly resilient and have learned to grown through and around these assaults and be shaped by them. The seasons come and go. The rain provides the water they need and the sun waters the light, and they just grow where they are, hard as it may be.
They separate fields and farms lands from the busy roads. In the middle of those lush green fields grow copses of trees, free to get on with life undistubed by traffic. I wonder, if trees could think, would these roadside hedges and trees think “why did those ones get to be planted there, while I’m here where it’s so hard?”
As I thought about this I thought…
‘I could learn a thing or two from those hedges’
1 Peter 4:12 Tells us:
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”
and 2 Timothy 3:12 “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,”
Hard Times Produce Godly Character
We are clearly told to expect trials, yet when they come, most of us are caught off guard, aren’t we? I mean, who says “oh yay, a hard time, whoo hoo!”
But is that what the Bible, means by rejoicing in trials? James 1:2-4 tells us “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
And here it is again in Romans 5:3-4 “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,”
An Opportunity For God To Lovingly Shape Us
Our hard times are opportunities for God to move! That’s where the rejoicing part comes in. It’s an opportunity for the King of Kings to carefully, lovingly shape us. We can choose to yield to this shaping process or not.
Through this process, we can stand tall and strong because Jesus, our overcomer, dwells in us and we have everything we need. John 16:33 “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Paul said that we are “afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)
How was Paul able to say this in the face of everything he went through? Because, as we are told in the previous verse, “we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7
Like those trees, you can expect a “constant flow of traffic” – we have a spiritual enemy who will look for every opportunity to destroy our faith, using every offence, discouragement, fear, temptation, and secret sin to try to bring us down. But we have the Spirit of God living in us! God has promised that “no weapon forged against you will prevail,” (Isaiah 54:17)
Romans 8:31,35,37-39 declares that “If God is for us, who can be against us?” And that absolutely nothing nothing can separate from the love of Christ. “And because of this, “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.“
You may be facing tough times at the moment. Maybe, like those trees and hedgerows, you feel a bit battered or even broken by the constant assault of the lorries and busses hurtling by. But they aren’t broken, they are shaped by that constant ‘assault’.
It’s true that on our own, we are as fragile as clay and are easily broken. But if you belong to Jesus you are not easily broken! You have been given the supernatural ability in Christ to get back up again, no matter how many times you are knocked down.
As a child of God, you are an overcomer! 1 John 5:4-5
We are lovingly, tenderly shaped by God’s Grace with each hardship we face and overcome in Him, enabled by His Spirit who lives in us.