All people are like grass
and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. (Isaiah 40: 6)
Did I mention that I love fall? I really do. The colors, the crisp air, even the pouty overcast days are wonderful in my opinion.
Last week, my husband and I were on our back porch watching the sunset. We do that almost every evening. There is a tree just behind our house, a sugar maple I think, whose leaves were bursting with versions of red. Crimson, scarlet, coral, and garnet—all on one tree. It was breathtaking.
The very next day we went out to watch the sunset again and every leaf on the tree was gone. Every. Leaf. Gone. Not even a remnant. Perhaps in the night there had been a wind that blew just right and it took with it my beautiful red leaves. I say that they are mine, but truly they are not. They belong to a tree that sits on property that we own, but I can hardly claim that tree. I didn’t even plant it. Someone who lived here before us had the forethought to put it on our land. However, I feel a sense of loss and betrayal with the leaves’ departure.
Isaiah, my favorite Old Testament prophet, knew just how to put things—metaphors, similes, personifications, and such—to make God’s words, through him, burst with relevance. In that passage, in the 40th chapter of Isaiah, he puts the nature of life in perspective.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
(Isaiah 40: 7)
The prophet uses metaphors—grass and flowers—to illustrate the fragility of humanity. We are here today and gone tomorrow—like the leaves on the tree. Notice, too, Who is in control of this: the Lord. His breath is all it takes to wipe us all out.
A few months ago, our phone rang late at night. It was our youngest son who, at the time, lived 250 miles away. Generally he doesn’t call unless there’s something new and exciting going on in his life: a new grandchild on the way, a new job opportunity, a new vista. But this time his news was devastating. In fact, it shook me to the core. His beautiful wife, 38 years old and the picture of health, had just been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. I couldn’t believe my ears. I kept trying to wrap my mind around what I’d just heard. Denial was my first response. Surely not. This is a mistake. Anger was my second. How could this happen to my precious daughter-in-law, the mother of my beloved grandchildren? I couldn’t even pray at that point.
As we drove into the wee hours of the morning to be with our family, this thought came to mind: how quickly things can change! One doctor’s report, one phone call, one errant step—makes dreams and confidence disappear like mist. This Isaiah 40 scripture came to mind.
The prophet, however, turns disconcerting news to hopes in verse 11.
[God] tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart…
The Good Shepherd heard our cry and scooped us all up into His arms, and He gave our Michelle a hopeful prognosis. A new drug that is useful in her particular form of cancer is available and it has begun to start fighting that horrible disease. We praise God for His mercy and for His provision, but we’re always reminded that one contrary wind can change normal into chaos.
Please continue to pray for Michelle. We do not know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future.
[We] will have no fear of bad news; [our] hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. (Psalm 112:7)