Beauty in Hard Places

No one would argue that circumstances in life can be extremely difficult, if not impossible. What do you look for and where do you turn when everything that was comfortable and secure becomes hard and unknown? I often find myself looking at nature and listening to music to find the beauty around me and reassurance that God is in control.

The saguaro (/səˈwɑːroʊ/ ) cactus can grow to be over 12 meters (40 feet) tall. It is native to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, the Mexican state of Sonora, and the Whipple Mountains and Imperial County areas of California. The saguaro blossom is the state wildflower of Arizona.

Saguaros have a relatively long lifespan, often exceeding 150 years. Arms are developed to increase the plant’s reproductive capacity, as more apices lead to more flowers and fruit. A saguaro can absorb and store considerable amounts of rainwater, visibly expanding in the process, while slowly using the stored water as needed. This characteristic enables the saguaro to survive during periods of drought. Temperatures in the Sonoran dessert can reach 130 degrees in the shade and in winter 52 degrees at night.

Saguaros have been a source of food and shelter for humans for thousands of years despite the harsh conditions. Their sweet red fleshed fruits are turned into syrup by native peoples. Their ribs are used as building materials in the wood-poor deserts. (information from wikipedia)

The saguaros are only one example of God’s provision despite hard circumstances. The prophet Habakkuk was prophesying just before the Israelites were taken into Babylonian captivity as judgement for turning away from God. In this book we see a man who fully trusted God even though he was perplexed.

Habakkuk 3:17–19 (ESV)
17Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,
18yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
19GOD, the Lord, is my strength;

The book of Philippians written by the apostle Paul is a letter filled with faith, joy and peace. He is so full of confidence and encouragement that it would be easy for us to forget he was writting from a Roman prison. What was his secret?

Philippians 4:11–13 (ESV)
11Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
12I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

This petunia grew onto my patio this summer. I never watered it and despite three heat waves and drought it bloomed. A seed had found an unlikely place to plant itself and I left it alone while God did the rest. Beauty in a hard place. A reminder of God’s goodness and provision.

We always have a choice in how we respond to difficulties. We can have a pity party, lash out at others and even become angry and bitter. Or we can choose to seek God for comfort, strenghth and wisdom. It is easy to become discouraged when we can’t see how God is working. But we have many examples of growth and even thriving in hard places written in the Bible for us to learn from. We call them hereos of the faith but they were people just like us; Joseph, Moses, Ruth, David, Daniel and the early apostles are only a few. Take heart my friend and look for the good while holding on in confidence to the One Who knows you, hears your prayer and loves you with an everlasting love.

Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)
10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

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