Recently I spent a few days at Barren River State Park in Kentucky. One night I was walking after dark and the lighting was a little dim. Trying to be careful, I looked at the pavement in front of me which I perceived to be flat. Talk about literally tripping over truth; there was a curb in front of me! I fell; books and glasses went flying as I hit my wrist, hand, chin, face and knee. It happened so quickly and in slow motion at the same time. The swelling and bruising are mostly gone but I’m still a little sore from the experience.
The next day I was out for a walk (in the daylight) and I began to wonder why they named the place “Barren” River. The area is replete with trees, plants, deer, fish and birds of all kinds. Certainly nothing would indicate “land too poor to produce much or any vegetation.”
A little research turned up the fact that when settlers first came to the area it was grassland or prairie. They could see for miles. Legend has it someone on horseback could ride for days and see hardly a tree on the horizon. Explorers from the east were accustomed to heavily wooded areas and assumed this soil was too poor or too shallow to support trees. They called the grasslands “barrens”.
Actually the “barrenness” was caused by fire. Native Americans set fire to the land to keep it clear to support grazing buffalo and elk. When the livestock and the Native Americans moved on there was no burning and trees began to spring up.
So often we, like the settlers, are poor judges of what we see and experience. Something which seems barren may actually be rich down deep. We think something is bad but in hindsight, it was a good thing. We may be jumping up and down over good fortune only to realize later it was misfortune in disguise.
No one enjoys the burning away of spiritual undergrowth but still God sometimes sends a cleansing fire into our lives. Why? Not only for our own spiritual maturity, but also to support and comfort others. This is one of the themes of the Bible.
“He comforts us in all our trouble so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” II Corinthians 1:4 New Living Translation
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20
What was good about falling? I’m not sure yet. Others were a bit more careful from that point on and I am glad to have no broken bones, but good? I’m still waiting for that revelation. It may not come. I’m hoping on my next adventure God won’t have to literally trip me, but I know He can be trusted. Even when the fire is hot and the fall is painful. He can be trusted even when I can’t readily find all the answers. Even if I never find them. I love that He cares to show me His truth from time to time.