Several years ago at church camp, I had the opportunity to climb several mountains. While hiking and climbing through the land surrounding these mountains, it was easy to observe the process by which the forest renews itself. When a mighty oak or maple tree is blown down or destroyed by lightning, an open place is left in the dense woods. Suddenly, sunlight is able to flood down on the spot once occupied for a century or more by the fallen tree. Lichens and bushes begin to flourish where none could grow before, and some of the tiny tree seedlings that had been struggling to survive suddenly begin to grow and become taller and stronger. Before too many years have passed, the vacant spot is filled in, and the forest is full again.
It has seemed to me that our life imitates the forest in remarkable ways. It sometimes happens that we come upon a similar empty spot in our lives. Has something that you cherished been taken from you? If so, your heart aches and it seems that nothing will ever fill the void. It may be that you have recently lost a loved one. Or perhaps you were forced to let go of some things you held dear: a home you had grown to love or a summer cottage filled with happy memories. You may have had to sell a business you built from scratch because of advancing years or failing health.
At times like these in our lives, we have a choice. We can become bitter and rebellious, always obsessed with thoughts of how it used to be or might have been, or we can accept this "open space" in our lives as some thing that God can fill with good things. The Prophet Hosea wrote in a difficult time, "His branches shall spread; his beauty shall be like an olive tree." (14:6). We can allow the prophet's words to encourage our heart, and as the sunshine of God's love warms that empty spot, our "branches" will grow and spread. God is enriching our lives with space to grow, new interests to pursue and different choices for service. Where we see loss, God offers opportunity.