“For there is hope for a tree if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease. Though its root grows old in the earth, and its stump dies in the ground, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth branches like a young plant.” (Job 14:7-9)
The young wind-beaten Ash tree planted in our front lawn lay on its side after it was pushed over and uprooted by hurricane force winds in the early 70’s. I saw it and could only imagine all the work it would take to cut the tree into manageable pieces so that we could either burn it or haul it off and dispose of it in the city dump. Dad, however, saw possibility in the overturned tree. The next day, he called for a caterpillar tractor to help pull and reset the tree back into place. We sawed off the splintered branches and several snapped roots. We filled the cavity left by the uprooted tree with water, set the tree back in its place, and covered the base of the tree with fresh soil. For the first couple of weeks, the bruised and broken tree struggled to survive. The trauma of the violent uprooting and the sawing of branches and roots caused the tree to go into shock and shed its leaves. At one point, we thought it wouldn’t survive, but we just kept watering it. Eventually, the roots found new life and strength in the soil because of the nourishment of the water. Then new branches and leaves started to sprout from the cutoff stumps. The ash tree grandly stands today. It is over 60 years old and its canopy provides a cool shade over mom and dad’s lawn and home during the 100-degree plus South Texas summer weather.
Job had experienced severe trauma and setbacks in his life. He lost his children, his possessions, his health, and his social dignity. He is the depths of despair. Now he struggles with the inevitability of his own mortality. He reflects on how traumatized trees can come back to life at the scent of water. “But,” he resigns himself to the fact that, “mortals die, and are laid low, humans expire, they lie down and do not rise again, the will not awake or be roused out of their sleep.” (Job 14:10, 12) Job’s mind and spirit, as William Cowper wrote, is “buried above ground, encompassed with a thousand dangers, weary, faint, trembling with a thousand terrors.”
Still, the life of God in him draws him to the scent of life, Jesus Christ, his living water and redeemer. He has a budding intuitive assurance that there must be life, even in the grimmest of human circumstances, and that death will not have the final word over his life. He has the emerging assurance that his life will be redeemed by Christ his Redeemer. He later says, “For I know that my Redeemer lives and after my skin has been destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:25-27)
Sometimes our lives are overturned by overwhelming and unexpected conditions and events. We can easily fall into despair as we count the losses and remember and long for how things used to be. Moments like these will try our faith and our hope in a better future. But, we are a people that by the Holy Spirit in us can scent hope in new life and possibility in Christ our living water. Our scent for new life and possibility is grounded in the assurance that God knows our situation, God hears us when we speak, and that God will ultimately answer, redeem, and restore us.
A Prayer for Hope
Heavenly father, I am your humble servant, I come before you today in need of hope. There are times when I feel helpless, there are times when I feel weak. I pray for hope.
I need hope for a better future. I need hope for a better life. I need hope for love and kindness. Some say that the sky is at it is darkest just before the light.
I pray that this is true, for all seems dark. I need your light, Lord, in every way.
I pray to be filled with your light from head to toe. To bask in your glory.
To know that all is right in the world, as you have planned, and as you want
it to be. Help me to walk in your light and live my life in faith and glory.
In your name, I pray, Amen.