Thursday, August 2, 2018

Notes on Faith and Fire from Sequoia National Park

by Emily Conrad

Our necks stiffened as we craned to see the sequoia branches and crowns high above us, but as peaceful and beautiful as the sequoia groves were, the trees bore signs of suffering.

The largest trees often had big, black triangles on their sides, scars left behind by fire.

With so much of forest fires in the news as of late, we know blazes endanger and kill when they burn too big and too hot. It's understandable that in the early days of Sequoia National Park, park administrators stopped fires from burning among the towering trees. Though their intentions were to protect the trees, eventually their error became apparent.

New sequoias weren't sprouting, and the build up of brush, plants, and low branches increased the likelihood of a fire roaring through that could kill even the mature sequoia trees by burning them not only around the trunk, but by burning them top-to-bottom.

Now, the park sets some controlled fires in order to promote health in the sequoia groves. (Learn more and see where I got this info from here and here.)

Mature sequoias can survive the heat, and the saplings depend on it to even get their start.

These, the largest trees in the world, rely on fire to survive.

We--or I, anyway--sometimes face the temptation to fireproof my life. I opt to play it safe with relationships, finances, health, etc. If something seems likely to cause pain and suffering, I stomp out the danger at my earliest opportunity.

By doing this, I can put myself in an even worse situation. Living in fear rather than by faith does this.

What if God has called me to what I estimate will be a difficult situation? If I douse the difficulty He called me to face, I can put myself in even worse circumstances down the line.

Besides, I can never prevent all trouble from igniting.

Not that we ought to practice risk unnecessarily, but as Christians, we shouldn't expect to avoid all trouble, and we needn't fear it when it comes.

Dear friends, do not be astonished that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in the degree that you have shared in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice and be glad. 1 Peter 4:12-13 NET

Living by faith means acknowledging that my idea of safety may not be the same as God's--and following Him anyway.

Living by faith means rejoicing despite the fiery trial, trusting that God loves me. Even when flames rise, He is good, and He does good. (see Psalm 119:68)

Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4 NET

Hope. That has to be one of my favorite words.

So it seems to me that Christians rely on fire at least as much as the sequoias do.

Trials can turn us again, more wholly, to Jesus. They can deepen our faith and fuse our hopes to heaven. They can show us who we are and who our God is.

They show us that whatever fire burns around us, we can have hope in Jesus.

Observations about #faith from hiking among the fire-dependent sequoias from @emilyrconrad #hope #encouragement


Kelly Goshorn said...

Emily, spot on again. I love your simple yet insightful way of looking at things. You probably don't know this about me but I've been losing a great deal of weight since I met you ACFW 2016. Almost 100 pounds! Scary to even admit that and I'm not done yet. the tie in is that I see the stretch marks and flabby skin that are the result of abusing my body so badly. BUT through this process I've learned to look at those "disfigurements" a little differently. My "scars" so-to-speak remind me of the journey God has taken me on and the healing is doing in my life that is finally enabling me to conquer the biggest struggle of my life.

Mary Felkins said...

If the largest trees in the world rely on fire to survive, well then I guess I can stand a little more heat to prosper, too. Great message!

Emily Conrad said...

No, I didn't know that. Congratulations! That is a huge battle, and you are a warrior--or should I say, more than a conqueror?--for following God into the fight. I love your perspective of seeing those scars as reminders of the journey and the healing God is working in your life. May He continue to encourage you!

Emily Conrad said...

Thanks, Mary! I knew fire helped forests to a point, but I didn't realize how dependent the trees were on it. When I learned, it really was striking.

Jerusha Agen said...

Terrific post, Emily. I didn't know this about Sequoias! Such a powerful truth that God does use the firey trials in our lives to refine us like gold. I'm like you, though, in that I try to stamp them out as soon as possible. I definitely need to let go of my fear of them so much and remember God will use that for something amazing. Thanks for the encouragement!

Emily Conrad said...

I'm not big on reading the educational signs at parks, but I'm glad I looked at some at Sequoia :) Thanks for reading! I'm glad it was encouraging!

Angie Arndt said...

What an encouraging post! Thank you, Emily!

Emily Conrad said...

Thanks for dropping by, Angie!