Have you noticed that environments that have the fewest storms and the most sunshine … are deserts? A few years ago someone told me about the scientific experiment called Biosphere 2, an artificially enclosed ecosystem in Oracle, Arizona. Scientific experiments were conducted in the early 1990s to study the effects of plants and animals in a perfect environment.
One of the lessons discovered — among other things — was that trees in the rain forest and savanna areas suffered from “etiolation and weakness caused by lack of stress wood” normally developed in response to wind. In other words, the absence of stress and hardship from wind resulted in the trees not developing properly and ultimately caused them to suffer, even in the “perfect” environment. It seems that hardship is necessary for proper growth!
The big takeaway for me from today’s Bible reading* is that God protects His people.
From God’s protection of Noah and his family to God’s promise to never again destroy the world’s population with water, God is true to His Word. David, in Psalm 12 echos this important reminder.
Does this mean that God’s people should never suffer? Does God always protect His people from all wrong? Does God always want His people to prosper, as the Prosperity Gospel proponents advocate?
It only takes a quick reading of the history of the church in the Book of Acts to see that God’s people often encounter hardship. It seems that every time that the church gets comfortable with their situation, God brings persecution and His people scatter, taking the Gospel Message with them!
In fact, instead of promising smooth seas for God’s people, Jesus Himself warns that “You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33 CSB) Note that Jesus doesn’t just promise hard times. He finishes the thought with a powerful encouragement. Paul echos this in Philippians 4:6-9: We can experience God’s peace and God’s presence when we trust Him instead of our circumstances.
This devotional was originally published on January 5, 2021.
* Chapters covered in today’s reading: