Looking up, I was amazed. Even with my neck craned back I could scarcely see the top, leaving me to marvel at the immensity of it. If you’ve ever seen a Sequoia tree you know what I’m talking about. They are huge!
My family loved them so much that we camped in Sequoia National Park on four separate occasions. Over time I learned some pretty interesting facts about them.
For instance, the Sequoia’s bark contains a natural fire-retardant called tannin. It gives the two-foot thick bark its unique reddish color and renders the tree resistant to brush fires, disease, and insect invasion. It’s also why you can find them darkened with burns where lightning or fire has hit, leaving it scarred and hollowed but still growing.
Often growing over 300 feet tall and weighing more than 2.7 million pounds, these giants need incredible amounts of water to thrive. The root system extends out to a distance equal to the height of the tree. Every drop of rain that falls gets snatched up and utilized.
With its many environmental adaptations this tree has the capacity to live a long time. Some of them are among the oldest living things on earth, guesstimated to be close to 4,000 years old.
My first impressions of the trees were always about how big, imposing, and enduring they seem. That is why when on a short hike, we were shocked to see some of them lying upended and dead. The root system appeared intact--what on earth could have happened to uproot such an enormous tree?
I stopped a park ranger to ask that question. The answer was simple. He said, “The root system is only about three feet deep. As big as these trees are, a strong wind can blow them over.”
Shallow roots—that’s all it takes to fell these giants. In spite of all the other survival traits that God gave them, in spite of the fact that the trees appeared healthy, there was a fundamental problem. The roots simply did not go deep enough to sustain them, and in the end all it took was a strong wind to topple and destroy them.
In the same way, we’ve seen those we would call “spiritual giants” toppled from their pedestal. They are leaders. They are Christians, and it shocks us. While appearing to be strong and healthy and growing, none of them were impervious. Humans are just that—human—and prone to weakness and failure. For some reason, the faith roots of these men—and women—did not go deep enough to sustain them in the face of the doubt, pride, or temptation in their lives.
We grieve for them, for all that they lost, and for their families. We are saddened by the harm it does to the cause of Christ, giving unbelievers another chance to dismiss our faith.
I’m no different. In the busyness of life I sometimes find myself so on-the-go doing things for Jesus that I neglect to just be with Him. It becomes easier to opt for form over substance, image over transparency, and shallowness over depth. It leaves me susceptible to the strong winds that will inevitably come.
Deep roots of faith are essential. The only way to grow them is to look to Jesus, who waters my faith so I can soak up the truths, the challenges, and the encouragement in His word. He refreshes my soul in the times my spirit feels dry. The disciplines of prayer, surrender, and stillness sustain me and cause me to hear His still, small voice saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)
These deep roots enable each of us to stand firm and hold fast to the truth of His word. (2 Thessalonians 2:15) They cause us to cling to His promise that His grace is sufficient in the midst of our weakness. Above all, they make it possible for us to endure and overcome the challenges we are sure to face.
When the strong winds come may we be counted among those of whom this is said:
The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, ‘The Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him (Psalm 92:12-15)
- How do you think your root system is doing these days?
- What are you doing to make sure the roots of your faith grow deeper?
Father, thank You that even creation bears out the principles of Your word. You are the author and perfecter of my faith and only as I come to You is my faith deepened. Help me to trust You, even when the winds of doubt or temptation blow. Apart from You I can do nothing, but with You all things are possible.