We have a little bush in our front flower bed, a perennial that we planted probably 17 years ago. In fact, I can’t even remember the name of this little bush, so I just call it that – Little Bush. This hardy bush keeps its leaves on all year long, which is part of its charm. In the summer the leaves are green with some maroon mixed in, and in the fall and winter the leaves are mostly maroon. Small berries also grow among the leaves in the fall, so by Christmas it seems to be all decorated for the season. I really like my Little Bush!
Last year, though, probably starting in March, I noticed that Little Bush didn’t look so healthy. Its leaves that always stay were falling off, until finally only stark, naked branches were there.
This was quite unusual, and I was worried. Was I finally going to lose my long lasting little bush? Was there something that I could do to save it?
I kept looking at Little Bush, wondering what had happened. Then one day an article in the newspaper caught my attention. The headline said something about how certain trees and bushes in Wichita were losing their leaves. I read the information with interest because of my little bush. The writer explained that earlier in the winter we had experienced several nights when temperatures had dipped to -10 degrees or lower. These frigid temperatures had damaged some trees and bushes that normally held their leaves all winter.
There was my explanation, I thought. This cold snap had damaged Little Bush. Then the article went on to assure gardeners not to worry but to be patient…that most trees and bushes would begin to grow again in the warmth of spring because their roots were not damaged by the extreme cold.
So I waited and I observed. I checked my little bush routinely and sure enough one day I saw tiny new leaves emerging on the empty twigs.
As time went on and the days passed, the warm spring sun and the rains did their restorative work. Little Bush grew…
Until finally Little Bush was back, as pretty as ever!
I’ve had some cold snaps in my life, too…times and events that came unexpectedly and with little or no warning. Everyone has.
Cold snaps hurt. And they take many various forms.
An illness. A diagnosis. Sudden death. Lingering death. Rejection. Accusation. Betrayal. Job loss. Divorce. A prodigal. Regret. Guilt.
I remember my dad’s victory over lung cancer…how relieved and thankful we were when treatments were complete and he was in remission. But before the five-year mark came the blood work and the testing and the phone call…liver cancer…inoperable…four more years of chemo…hospice…
Cold snap. Recovery. Then another cold snap.
But through it all, our family verse brought us each the warmth and the hope that we needed: “God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)
Sometimes our hard times…our cold snaps…make us feel like David when he said, “My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day long – “Where is your God?” (Psalm 42:3)
Where is God in our pain? Oh, He hasn’t gone anywhere! He’s a very PRESENT help in our trouble, remember? He’s right here with us.
Right after David said his tears were his food, he said, “Why are you in despair, oh my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His PRESENCE.” (Psalm 42:5)
My little bush had hope because its roots were secure, and so do we who know and follow Christ. We have hope in our despair because we know that God is sovereign…He is in control…He has a plan…He is present…and He has a purpose for the cold snaps that rock our world.
“I called on Your name, O Lord, out of the lowest pit. You have heard my voice. Do not hide Your ear from my prayer for relief, from my cry for help. You drew near when I called on You. You said – “Do not fear!” (Lamentations 3:55-57)
God is near in our pain…near in our pondering…near in our praise that arises even out of hurt and unanswered questions.
I love these lyrics of Jeremy Camp’s song, He Knows:
All the bitter weary ways
Endless striving day by day
You barely have the strength to pray
In the valley low.
And how hard your fight has been
How deep the pain within
Wounds that no one else has seen
Hurts too much to show.
All the doubt you’re standing in between
And all the weight that brings you to your knees.
Every hurt and every sting
He has walked the suffering.
Let your burdens come undone
Lift your eyes up to the one