Missing the Forest for the Trees

"Of all that glorious forest, only a few trees will survive—so few that a child could count them!"  Isaiah 10:19

I love the forest.

Growing up for a time in the thick pine forest of East Texas, I grew to love the peace and tranquility of walking in the quiet thicket and listening to the sounds in God's creation all around me.  At night, wandering in the solitude of the woods at Camp Cullen, I would hear God's still, small voice speaking to my heart . . . bringing peace, comfort, direction . . . and, teaching me to trust Him.

My heart still longs and reaches for that whispering voice.

One particular night when I was relatively new to the area, I became lost in the forest as I headed back to the camp after moving canoes down by Lake Livingston.  The path I started on looked familiar, but very quickly the way seemed different than before.  I came across an outcropping of a very few burned trees that I knew were not along my original path.  They were ugly, and with the sun beginning to set, a hint of panic took root.  

The sounds, so beautiful a moment before, were now ominous and frightening.  My imagination got the better of me, and suddenly those burned trees had become a den of snakes, wolves and lions.  Paralyzed, I could go no further.  My heart raced and the tears came.  I was a hot, tired, and hungry twelve-year-old imagining my fate at the hands of four unfamiliar burned trees in the dead of night.

It was at that moment that the familiar still, small voice whispered to my heart, "You are missing the forest for the trees."  When I raised my head to look beyond the burned trees, I saw a familiar bridge that I had crossed on my way to the lake.  I wasn't far off course, and knew that I would be able to find my way back to the dining hall from there.  

As I hiked up the trail, recognizing familiar brush and trees, the beauty and tranquility of the place returned, too.  The sounds became melodious again, rather than ominous, and I even made it back to the dining hall before nightfall and ahead of schedule.

In life, I can miss the forest for the trees, too.  Just like in the woods of Camp Cullen when I was twelve, I sometimes focus on the few ugly, burned trees right in front of me and fail to see God's majesty and glory all around me.  When I get off track, I forget how close He really is.  

Do you ever do that?  Do you ever miss the forest for the trees?

Acts 17:27 says,“His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us."

May we feel our way past the burned trees in life to recognize God’s glorious forest all around us.


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