It was dead. Completely. Bit the dust. Arrivederci. Gave up the ghost. Sayonara Subaru! At least that’s how it appeared.
I’m referring to the tree pictured here. The town of Carol Stream planted it in our neighbors yard back in June to replace one that had fallen in a storm. Unfortunately, they did so at the outset of our summer drought. Because the house to which it belongs is currently under foreclosure and thus without residents, the poor tree went two months in the blistering heat with virtually no water. Our kids watered it a few times out of pity, but the demands of life otherwise left it in dry isolation.
This morning, while pacing my living room in plain sight of the tree, I was reading Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians about the “sentence of death.” Here is what he says:
“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”
I looked through the window at the tree after reading Paul’s words and noticed something completely unexpected. Life. Somehow, the tree now has green leaves. Even though it had the sentence of death, lo and behold, God is evidently not finished with it yet.
It takes faith to believe in the possibility of life when you feel the sentence of death. Such faith doesn’t obligate God to provide a particular outcome or resolution; rather, it says, “God, you can bring life out of death however you see fit.” Through natural eyes this appears entirely impossible, which is exactly the idea of the death sentence. God who raised Jesus from the dead is unrestricted by such sentences. In fact, it is God’s glory to lead us through such experiences precisely to show us that it’s not our perception that defines reality, it is the Lord’s redemptive power that is responsible for bringing life out of death.