Recently, I had the opportunity to spend some time in the Portland, Oregon area. While there, I took a day and traveled to the coast in order to do some hiking in the Ecola State Park. As I was hiking through the park, I came across a portion of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.
Evidently, the portion of this historic trail that I got to hike happened to be where some two hundred years ago Captain William Clark and a small exploration party traveled as they searched for a beached whale. Clark and his team were exhausted and in need of a meal, and after hearing of this beached whale, they hoped to return to their Fort Clatsop campsite with plenty of oil and whale blubber.
Clark and his team eventually found this “monstrous fish” that they heard about. Yet, Clark when describing the fish said it was nothing more than a “sceleton (old word for skeleton), of 105 feet long.” He was, however, able to barter some oil and blubber from the local villagers who had been extracting oil from the whale for some time.
As I was hiking along the trail in Ecola State Park, I came across an information board/marker titled, “The Constancy of Change” just bellow some amazing trees. On this information board, I read a quote from forest ecologist Dr. James Agee that said, “A multitude of disturbances has continually upset any trend towards equilibrium conditions in these forests. They are forests of change now; they were forests of change during the time of Lewis and Clark; and they were forests of change for millennia before Lewis and Clark.”
The information board goes on to state that the forests change because they are disturbed by windstorms, fire, landslides, ice, snow and earthquakes. As hard-hitting as some of these disturbances can be, ecologists tell us that over time they are vital to these forests. Fires and strong wind might topple or burn down some of the biggest trees, but when this happens, it creates sunny openings or fresh and fertile ground where seedlings can flourish. As the seedlings grow, they soon produce thick patches of young trees. Because disturbances come, forests face some hard times, but they also grow because of them.
As I read this amazing truth on my hike, I could not help but think about how many times we might face disturbances in our lives. These disturbances, hard times, are not fun. Sickness, loss of a job, even a death of a loved one are great hardships for us to face. And yet, these trials have the opportunity to produce some new growth in our lives and in the lives of those around us.
This reminds me of what James said in his book in the Bible: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).
When we face disturbances in our lives, as believers, we are called to “consider it all joy.” Notice James did not say that we were to be happy about our disturbances, but only for us to “consider it all joy.” James here is not glossing over the hard times in his passage, but he is calling for us, in light of eternity with God in heaven, to have a deep joy that cannot be shaken and to trust that God will ultimately bring about a “perfect result.”
Next time strong winds blow your direction or fires burn, know that on the other side of them growth happens.