On Sunday, our ladies Sunday school class was discussing our motivation for mentoring others in the Lord. The author of Mentor Like Jesus suggested the underlying motive is gratitude for what God has done for us.

One of the ladies asked about doing things for God with wrong or impure motives, which sparked an illustration by a young mom about motives. She shared a story of her serving as a youth group leader and how the reason she went into youth ministry was her crush on one of the other guys in leadership. He now happens to be happily married to someone else, as is she.

She mused, “I am so grateful as I look back and she how God used even that situation, with my impure motive, to birth inside me a passion for youth work.”

God saw the big picture, had a purpose for her life, and even though she “couldn’t see the forest for the trees,” God accomplished His will just the same.

That saying, “can’t see the forest for the trees” kept bouncing around in my heart as I pondered how near sighted we tend to be. So yesterday, when we took our Monday off and drove around Mt. Rainier, the visual scenery of the dense forest around the mountain really drove the point home.

I thought of the many times I’ve walked through a forest, navigating through the brush, trees of all sizes, fallen and decaying tree trunks, tree roots poking up through the pathway—resulting in my own unsure footing—puddles surrounded by thick, wet, deep mud, seeping into my shoes as I failed to avoid stepping into it, squishing around inside my shoes as I continued forward. So many elements in the forest capture my attention and engage my senses to the point of my focusing on them, oblivious to the forest as a whole, the bigger picture if you will.

How easily I am distracted by what’s in front of me—the obstacle in my way that shifts my sure footing, the difficult situation that annoys me and incites grumbling in my heart, a financial lack that begins to stir up fear and a lack of trusting God.

If I could zoom out, and see the forest from afar, the big picture, at times like these, it seems like my ability to be grateful would be so much easier, as would my ability to trust God.

But as my husband preached again this last Sunday, are we really a grateful people if we have to understand the difficult situation and agree with the way God is allowing it to go before we can feel the gratefulness well up from within?

Ummmmm.

No, not really.

Our gratefulness is proven in those times when God doesn’t do what we want Him to do with that fallen tree in our path, or crisis that doesn’t end well.

This is where we are taught—reminded once again—that He is God and we’re not. That His ways are right, and what He chooses to allow in our lives to refine and mold us into the image of Christ is good. It is these times when we can’t see that fact because we’re in the middle of our personal dark forest surrounded by obstacles and challenges. And most often, if God doesn’t fix it to our satisfaction, we whine, and complain, and grumble.

I’m ashamed to admit that I still struggle with this response in my heart, even after all the dramatic ways God has used the most traumatic things in my life to instruct, correct, and yes, even reward me.

So while it would be easier to trust when we see and understand the big picture, we only get to see the small glimpses, the trouble that’s up close and personal. It seems to be that it is in the difficult circumstances He teaches, shapes and molds us. It is here we learn to trust and surrender to His will, which produces the grateful hearts that we so desperately need.

So, what’s God doing in your life that you don’t like and wish He would do differently?

What’s He not doing that you think He should?

Is He worthy of your trust, even when you can’t see the forest for the trees?

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