I visited a stump today. It was one of those visits that both the preacher and the visitee hate – one where I felt compelled to point out to my friend that I was worried about him. Not only is he not growing or producing anything, he seems to be crumbling around the edges.
In typical fashion, he felt compelled to offer an explanation. “It’s really hard for me,” he said. “Sometimes it rains for days and I’m out here unprotected, getting battered by the elements. Next thing you know, the sun pops out and I get baked. Some days it’s freezing; others it’s scorching. It just seems like everything is against me. I have to too much to cope with right now to even think about growing.”
It was a sad story, and I had to admit: his life seemed hard compared to mine. I couldn’t help feeling sorry for him.
About then, I heard an odd noise. If you think I’m crazy for talking to a stump, you’ll really wonder about me when I say that I’m quite sure the strange sound was a tall, proud pine tree clearing his throat (or whatever trees have).
“Not to appear to be looking down on my friend the stump,” said the tree. “But, may I offer a different perspective? He and I stand just a few feet apart. We endure exactly the same conditions. The rain and sun that he complains hold him back are the very things that make me grow. The stump’s rot is not the fault of the weather or the elements. The problem is, well, how do I say this kindly, he’s dead!”
Jesus said that the Father “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). All of us enjoy some good things in life, and all of us endure some bad things. How we respond to those circumstances is up to us. How we respond is what makes the difference between success and failure.
Consider God’s prescribed attitude toward difficulties: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:2-3).
Wouldn’t you rather be a living tree instead of a dead stump? Respond to the challenging elements of life with joyful determination instead of lifeless excuses.