A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. (Isa. 42:3)
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Ps. 34:18)
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, . . . to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve . . . (Isa 61:1-2)
The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. (Ps. 145:14)
The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow. (Ps. 146:9)
I was in the early months of widowhood, dealing with the raw grief of my children along with my own, and holding on to Jesus with both hands to do it.
It was an icy winter. After one freezing rainstorm, the two slim birches in our back yard were thickly coated with ice. The weight of it bent them over so far the top of one of them actually touched the ground and froze there.
As I looked out of my kitchen window, I related to that tree. My world had turned upside down, and I felt frozen in that unnatural position. I wondered if the tree, or I, could return to our anything resembling our previous states.
As the days and weeks passed, the ice melted and the birch began to lift off the ground. By spring, it was still bent over in an arc, but it was alive and sprouting leaves. For me, it was a daily reminder that though the storm had bent it severely, it hadn’t broken it. The tree was gradually being raised up, and was able to produce new growth.
That summer, two men from my church came to help me with some yard work. One of them wanted to cut the birch down because it was still bent over in the middle. He was probably surprised at my swift and vehement reaction, which was, “Don’t you dare touch that tree!” To me, it would have been like suggesting I should pack it in because I was still dealing with the weight of grief.
God provided so much for me during that time of special need, but the tree was especially significant because it was a constant and visible reminder that though I was seriously bruised, He would not allow me to break. Day by day and week by week, He was gently working to strengthen me to rise a bit higher. It would take time, but He would be with me every step of the way back up. In the process He would bring new growth that only this experience could generate. He would continue to nourish and care for me. My children would still be able to sit under my branches, and be helped in their own healing.
Eventually, my birch tree came close to resuming its normal height. It still had some bend to it — a reminder of its greatest test — but it thrived for many more years as my children grew and then left the nest. And like the tree, I too was lifted, sustained, comforted and encouraged by the loving presence of my God, upheld by His hand that will never let me go.
The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. (Ps. 126:3)
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isa 41:10)