It's obvious we live in a world at war.
Things are not as they should be, things are not as we desire or as we so deeply long for them to be - and some days, this brutal truth gets downright wearisome. Bone weary, soul aching, heart breaking heavy.
Yet the Bible makes it clear what we are to do. Galatians 6:9 reads Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
But what do we do when we do lose heart?
When we are exhausted, when we don't want to go on, when the fight is just too much?
When our spirits cry "I'm only human! That's enough! I can't fight anymore!"
When our hearts mutter those soul dark confessions we rarely whisper verbal out of guilt or shame or good-church-girl training gone belly up. Is this even real? Is this even worth it?
Our God is a God of order and of wonder. He works in mysterious ways, and I believe He's provided an answer for me here through a very unlikely source. So my advice to you--and myself--is on the days when we DO lose heart...
We should turn to the Aspens.
Let me explain.
On the darkest night of my soul, in the first few weeks after my husband's abandonment of a nine year marriage, I attended a women's retreat in Colorado through Ransomed Heart ministries -- and fell in love with the aspen tree. God used those little snow-dusted trees to speak courage into my heart. I was entranced by their beauty and color against a white mountaintop. I was simply enthralled at their presence.
He spoke that courage into me again the following October when I returned to the same spot for an advanced version of the retreat, exploding the mountainside into a fiery crimson and coral and golden melody of color through those little brave aspens.
And He still speaking that courage into me today.
Here are some facts about the tree known as the Quaking Aspen.
1. The long, flat stems make the leaves shake in the slightest of breezes, which is why it is called quaking aspen. These trees shiver too. They understand. How much do our spirits quake, do our hearts shake when under duress? Yet consider the other side of that coin - how do our spirits quake and our hearts shake at the whisper of the Lord? The voice of the Holy Spirit filtering through our barren, dry recesses, blowing life anew? When you find yourself quaking from fear, from disappointment, from hurt, from heartache - remember to let your heart quake out of fear of the Lord. Reverence. Be still and feel that gentle whisper of a wind. He comes for you.
2. A long time ago, aspen branches were boiled to create a cleanser for guns, traps, and buckskins, according to the British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. When the aspen is boiled, when it's heated and placed under extreme pressure and duress, when it's at it's absolute hottest, it's turned into a cleansing agent. A means of purifying. When we feel like we are at our boiling point, we have the potential to become an agent of cleanliness in a dirty world. We are refined--and ready to be used to make things right and new.
3. The light, soft, low-strength wood of an aspen tree is now used to make plywood, particleboard, pallets, crates, excelsior, matches and pulp for paper. The wood does not splinter, so it also is good for sauna benches and playground equipment. The wood of the aspen is pliable. It's not super strong and tough and unbreakable, but rather, it's soft, mold-able, able to be formed and bent and used for good works.
When we lose heart, we remember the aspens. We remember their best usefulness comes out of extreme duress. We remember they are never afraid to whisper rustles of praise to the Lord, regardless of the weather. We remember that being pliable and soft creates the greatest success.
4. And we remember that to thrive, aspens need the following:
- Water. A lot of water is required for aspens to grow. Their roots will even seek out water sources if it gets thirsty.When we feel like our spirits are parched and our hearts are thirsty, we seek out the Living Water Himself, Jesus Christ, through His Word and through prayer and through community with other believers.
- Aspens need to be fertilized each year in the Spring. When our season of Spring arrives, it's important to fertilize the soil of our hearts with everything we need to be sustained through winter.
- Their branches need to be pruned in the winter. When our season of Winter comes, when we are pruned back and stripped bare and left to nearly nothing, we remember that Spring is coming. We will be fed and filled again and this part of the process to beauty.
Aspens might quake and tremble. But to me, those rustles are little leafy limbs of praise whispering back to their Creator. In Luke 19, Jesus said, “I tell you, if these (disciples) become silent, the stones will cry out!”
If we don't proclaim Jesus, the rocks will.
And I just happen to think the aspens already are.
Betsy St. Amant has a heart for three things - chocolate, new shoes and sharing the amazing news of God's grace through her novels. She lives in Louisiana with her adorable story-telling young daughter, a collection of Austen novels, and an impressive stash of Pickle Pringles. A freelance journalist and fiction author, Betsy is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and is multi-published in Contemporary Romance. Her ninth Love Inspired novel will release January 2014, while her first YA novel, ADDISON BLAKELY, CONFESSIONS OF A PK, released 2012 through Barbour Books. When she’s not reading, writing, or singing along to the Tangled soundtrack with her daughter, Betsy enjoys inspirational speaking and teaching on the craft of writing and can usually be found somewhere in the vicinity of a white-chocolate mocha. You can read more from Betsy at www.betsystamant.com and www.writergetsreal.blogspot.com.