It’s nearly impossible to think about the Pacific Northwest without thinking of evergreen trees. Cedars, pines and firs dominate our wild landscape. We see evergreens whenever we look outside our windows. They are part of the backdrop of our lives.
To others, visiting is eye opening. I remember returning to Vancouver after several months of living through an Ontario winter, and I was literally awe-struck by the green around me. I had forgotten how prominent the evergreens were to this corner of the world!
In fact, BC is known as a temperate rainforest, thanks to the abundance of these ancient giants. Rainforests are typically rich with biodiversity, and BC is no exception. Three-quarters of Canada’s bird and mammal species live here. The beauty and mystery of the forests is astounding. Our temperate rainforest reminds me a lot of God’s nature: life-giving, full of beauty and mystery, eternal and unchanging.
I have found deep comfort knowing that God is always good and that His nature doesn’t depend on our circumstances. He is just as good in the hard times as He is in good seasons. This was a truth I discovered in a new way during a year when some unhealthy relationships led me to become very sick, emotionally and mentally.
At first I thought it was God’s will, or as I saw it, “His fault” that I was sick. But I was reminded in prayer that God is good, always.
Since I was unhappy and unable to see God’s goodness in my circumstances, then maybe my circumstances needed to change, not God. This realization led me to make some life altering decisions. I was only able to do this because I trusted that God wanted what was best for me, and that He would love me no matter what happened in the end. As I stepped forward in trust, knowing that His nature was unchanging, I was able to experience His peace and goodness again.
The character of God, which I came to know in a new way that year, can be tangibly grasped in the beauty and strength of the evergreens. Evergreens contain Christian rich symbolism, and it is easy to see why. In her song Evergreen, Audrey Assad writes, “Evergreen, evergreen, tree of life is ever green.” Assad, once a prominent Catholic singer-songwriter, has recently followed her spiritual search down other paths, and yet the God she sings about - the ‘tree of life’ - is, indeed, still the same year after year. While we may struggle with faith or to make sense of events in our lives, we can trust that one thing that is constant and unchanging: God himself. The Bible says that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Heb 13:8).
In a year that has been anything but constant or normal, it is helpful to remember that God remains the same; His goodness and love are evergreen. He is a generous Father and wants to give us exactly what we need.
Do you believe that even when our circumstances change, God is still good? Do you not only believe it but actually live it out? If I’m honest, this year has stretched me in this area.
When I decided to lean into God’s goodness and trust him, it meant that I also had to let go of significant parts of my life: relationships, a job, a place I called home. I also had to give God some of the ugly parts of my heart which needed to be healed, and admit that I couldn’t do it on my own.
Sometimes, in order to be truly open to God’s love, we have to let go of certain things that are blocking his light from getting in.
These may be inner habits or external situations. We may even need to let go of things which appear good, in order to make room for even greater things God wants to give us. Through grace, God has already redeemed many of the broken pieces of my story and I feel more alive than ever.
Evergreens in our temperate rainforest are also familiar with the cycle of death and new life. They live off decaying debris on the forest floor which feeds and strengthens them. This cycle is biblical. Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live.” (John 11:25) Through dying and rising again, Jesus gives us access to eternal life.
To accept this free gift, we must ask for his forgiveness and invite him to transform our lives. If we truly want to turn away from sin, then we must be honest about the change it may require. Letting go of things which do not draw us to God may be hard, but as I mentioned before, it is worth it, because living fully alive is not just a nice idea, but instead it’s something we can actually experience.
What habits or outward parts of your life might you need to prune in order to experience life more fully? Jesus wants more for you!
Eternal life is embodied by evergreens in another way: their incredible lifespan. Evergreens can seemingly live forever. Some which seem to have died may live on in their root systems, deep beneath the ground, for thousands of years. And, even in their old age, they maintain their beauty. The most ancient tree in the world, a Great Basin bristlecone pine in California, is just as green today as it was more than 5,000 years ago. It’s the reason they make perfect Christmas trees: even when they’re chopped down, evergreens stay green indoors for weeks.
It seems almost crazy that these trees can be so resilient. Through storms, floods, winds, animals, and people, they are rooted and immovable. When times are turbulent, we have to remember that God is faithful, strong enough to hold us up when everything is against us.
I personally love how evergreens remind me of God’s protection and safety. I enjoy going for a hike, but prefer trails which are sheltered by trees because I know I will be protected from sun or rain.
When we make God our shelter, He offers us faithful, permanent protection. No matter what we have been through, when we go to the Lord for safety, He will pour out His love on us.
We can be our authentic selves with God because he accepts us just as we are. We are never too far from the safety of His love.
This year, as you decorate your Christmas tree, hang cedar garlands or light candles that smell like Frasier firs, remember the One who is unchanging and in whom our salvation is always found. The love of Jesus is unending and trustworthy. He will never tire of showing us mercy. In Jesus, the tree of life, we can find confidence in eternal life. By continuing to keep our eyes fixed on Christ, we can grow ‘evergreen’ in our faith, even as the world unpredictably turns around us.
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)
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