Encouragement for Thursday

The picture above might not be a beautiful one. At first glance, it might not be an encouraging one. It is an image of what I saw on the forest floor a few days ago. The leaves signal the impending winter. I will be the first to admit that I do not enjoy winter. As I get older I become an even greater fan of warm, and even hot weather. The leaves that I saw above and all around me initially made me a bit sad. Considering them further made me appreciate God’s greatness and foresight for the Earth.

Why do leaves turn yellow or brown and fall off the trees? In our part of the world, they sense winter coming. Plants thrive on chlorophyll. When there is a lot of daylight, water, and warm weather, like in summer, trees are chlorophyll factories. They produce it to feed themselves, grow, and propagate. When the days get shorter and the temperatures colder, trees go into defense mode. In winter they lose a large amount of water because it turns to snow or ice, and is immediately unusable for their daily health. They don’t have long enough daylight or warmth to keep their chlorophyll factories running. The lack of chlorophyll, which produces the green color in their leaves, causes the other natural pigments to come out. Those are the reds, yellows, and tans we see in fall. As they lose more moisture they become brown. As the colors are changing, trees also create a layer of cells between the leaves and branches. At the point the trees can’t supply enough food or nutrients to support the leaves, the leaves drop off. Our trees remain in this state until the daylight grows longer and the temperatures rise in spring. More liquid moisture comes and trees begin to put out the buds that will become leaves. The cycle refreshes.

God had a considered purpose in designing the trees to operate according to their cycle of growth and temporary decay. Humans have been able to learn to understand this growth cycle. Unfortunately many either ignore or deny God’s role in designing the Earth and its systems. David wrote a poetic testament to God’s greatness in design and anticipation of our world’s needs in Psalm 104. He considered trees:

“The trees of the Lord are well watered,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
There the birds make their nests;
the stork has its home in the junipers.”

— Psalm 104:16-17

He planned for the lives and sustenance of the trees, which had distinct purposes. The cedars of Lebanon were used for building both buildings and boats for people. The cedars and juniper trees (and many others) are used by birds for nesting. Trees of all kinds are useful for both humans and animals.

“He made the moon to mark the seasons,
and the sun knows when to go down.
You bring darkness, it becomes night,
and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
The lions roar for their prey
and seek their food from God.
The sun rises, and they steal away;
they return and lie down in their dens.
Then people go out to their work,
to their labor until evening.”

— Psalm 104:19-23

Although David’s understanding of the specific “hows and whys” of how the world operates may be limited compared to what we have learned in the years since, he fully understands the source and cause of the world operating the way it does. He knows that God established the system in which our world operates– by day, night, and season. Each division or designation works to benefit a different part of His creation. Man generally works by day, while many animals hunt and live by night. The change of seasons brings balance to different parts of the world at the same time. The winter dormancy in our area coincides with the summer growth season in Australia. The moon affects our tides and the balance of the oceans on Earth. The path of Earth as it travels around the sun gives us a concrete measure for the year that is the basis for our measurement of time.

We can be thankful that God had us in mind when He created the Earth for us. The winter we endure here means that someone on the other side of the Earth from us is experiencing summer. The new green buds and leaves on the trees in the spring are reminders of His consideration and planning for us. So are the brown leaves on the ground and bare branches on the trees in autumn. God loves us!

Take heart and be encouraged!

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