November 20, 2020

Seeing Past the Trees

Early in my career I met a coworker who had moved from California with her husband to work at the General Conference in Silver Spring, Maryland. She absolutely despised living here. She could not say one nice thing about living in this region. At the time I’d lived only in Maryland and had never seen California. I couldn’t understand why she would have such animosity toward living in my state. One day I asked.

Her response? Trees. Trees? Why would trees make you so unhappy?

She wasn’t against trees; she just thought there were too many of them. “In California you can see the entire horizon,” she explained. “I can turn to the right and see far into the distance. I can turn to the left and do the same. In Maryland you can’t see anything because of the trees.”

Later, my husband and I took a road trip to Iowa to see some friends. I saw states and countryside I had never seen before. I distinctly remember exclaiming to my husband one evening as the sun was setting, “Look!”

Sometimes faith makes us feel like champions. Other times, not so much.

As far as one could see to the left and the right, the entire horizon was visible. I don’t remember what state we were driving through, but I’ve never forgotten that view. No trees.

The Path Ahead

I thought of my friend and that drive when I turned in my Bible this morning to read a text especially popular at Christmas time. “Comfort ye . . .” (Isa. 40:1, KJV). If you’re like me, you can already hear the strains of Messiah in your head. “Comfort ye my people” (verse 1). But it wasn’t Christmas that struck me this morning. It was something else.

The text goes on to describe preparing the way for a King. The prophet calls to make straight the road, flatten the mountains, and raise the valleys. The historic background: when a king was out visiting his people, the city would send out its citizens to fix the road, fill in the gaps, and take out the hills to make the king’s entrance as easy as possible. But it wasn’t this explanation that struck me.

It was the trees. Or in the case of the text, the mountains, the valleys, and the road. This text aptly describes where I am today in light of all that has transpired in 2020, and what might also happen in 2021. You might be there too. Our journey is on a crooked road where we can’t see the next turn. Mountains loom large and we can’t see past them. Valleys are deep, and when we look up they seem insurmountable. But there is hope, hope in Isaiah’s words. There is a King, and He’s coming.

We don’t have to see around the next curve in the road. God sees it for us. We don’t have to worry about what might lie over the mountains. God is on this side and the other as well. We don’t have to worry about climbing out of a deep valley; He will lift us. It’s about faith. Sometimes faith makes us feel like champions—we can drive fast, we can hike higher, we can climb with agility. Other times, not so much.

It reminds me of a favorite quote by Ellen White: “I find that I have to fight the good fight of faith every day. I have to exercise all my faith, and not rely upon feeling; I have to act as though I knew the Lord heard me, and would answer me and bless me. Faith is not a happy flight of feeling; it is simply taking God at His word—believing that He will fulfill His promises because He said He would.”1

Those who know anything about Ellen White know that she had visions of heaven, saw Jesus, and felt angels walking the halls of her home. And she struggled with faith? If that’s the case, we’re in good company.

Continuing in Isaiah 40, we come to this: “Lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the [world], . . . ‘Here is your God!’” (verse 9, NIV).2

That’s what I'm attempting to do every day. Each morning when I wake up, and all through the day. God is here! God is powerful! God is in charge!

It’s OK if we see only mountains. It’s OK if we feel a bit down in a valley. It’s OK if the drive seems curvy. It’s OK if our faith is fragile. We are not alone!

Merle Poirier, a wife, mother, and grandmother, is operations manager for Adventist Review Ministries.

1 Ellen G. White, ”Our High Calling (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1961),  p. 119.

2 Texts credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright ã 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.