Late this spring I purchased two beautiful hibiscus trees at Sam’s Club to replace the ones that had died in our greenhouse last winter. They were covered with bright reddish-orange flowers. But when I brought them home the weather was still too cold to put them outside permanently. My husband decided to slide them into the garage for protection until we could put them outside. I would peek in at them once in awhile to see how they were doing and one day I noticed the one tree drooping considerably. I gave it a good drink of water. It continued to droop and started to look like it was dying. And then one day I found it outside our garage. Eric had noticed the drooping tree, as well, and had investigated. What he figured out was a surprise to both of us! The roots of this poor tree had been eaten away by our resident mice. We knew they were there and had been working to be rid of them. But who knew that mice liked to eat hibiscus roots?
We considered the tree a goner. So little of the root system was left that it would topple over at just the slightest provocation. Ironically, the mice had not attacked the other plant and that one was doing just fine. We removed both of them to a safe place and we waited. And we watered. And we watched.
And then one day we saw the struggling tree push forth a bloom. And then another one. Until it rivaled its partner. The hibiscus tree had a spectacular recovery even when it was attacked at its very life system…its very core.
I have seen people like this, too. They have been terribly abused or devastated — hurt in the very core of their being. While others curl up and die inside, filling their lives with bad choices and even worse consequences, they are the resilient ones. The ones who refuse to let someone else destroy their life. And so they limp along trying to live life, bleeding and bruised, turning to the Lord in their grief and pain, until one day they send forth a bloom. And then another one. Until we can see that they have defied the odds and are living an amazing life that is truly blessed, because of one simple decision: they refused to give in to bitterness and fear.
When we submit ourselves to God and release our anger and unforgiving spirit, no matter what the situation – abuse, betrayal, death, disease — we give ourselves the opportunity to bloom again. If we hang on to it, we will stay closed up and dormant, eventually dying inside. I know a lady like this. It breaks my heart. She went through a terrible tragedy many years ago. All of these years later, she is still often in tears and bitter words spew from her mouth. She has chosen not to move on. I feel for her children. They live with a mom who lives in the past. Her world is still so incredibly dark. But I don’t judge her – who knows what I would do in her situation? There, but for the grace of God, go I. I just feel so sorry for her.
As I think of the two contrasts — those who move on and those who don’t — it isn’t hard to see that how we respond to difficulty can absolutely change the outcome of our lives. I don’t know what you’ve been through and you don’t know what I’ve been through. May we provide each other with much grace and Christian love as we all work through the tough stuff in life. But, most importantly, may we grab onto the grace and mercy of Jesus and let go of the bitterness and anger. Only then will we live a life that brings glory to God.