In his book It Is Toward Evening, Vance Havner tells the story of a group of cotton farmers in the deep South. Year after year these men grew cotton, put their profits back into it, and set all of their fields in it. Then tragedy struck in the form of the devastating boll weevil. All of the cotton was destroyed and it looked as if the farmers were headed for the poorhouse.
Being farmers, though, the men persevered. In the wake of their disaster with cotton, they shifted gears and planted peanuts. Amazingly, they ended up making more money with peanuts than they ever had with cotton. When the farmers realized that what had seemed to be a disaster had actually turned out to be a boon, they erected a large monument to the very thing they thought had ruined them: the boll weevil.
Havner concludes the story by saying:
Sometimes we settle into a humdrum routine as monotonous as growing cotton year after year. Then God sends the boll weevil; He jolts us out of our groove, and we must find new ways to live. Financial reverses, great bereavement, physical infirmity, loss of position – how many have been driven by trouble to be better husbandman and to bring forth finer fruit from their souls! The best thing that ever happened to some of us was the coming of our boll weevil.
When God either causes or allows you to go through a boll weevil experience, you might think it is the ruin of you. You might say, “I will never get over this. This is more than I can overcome. These wounds are too deep to ever heal.” But that is a wrong assessment of your situation. If you will turn things over to God and allow Him to help you, you won’t just get past the experience; you will come out the other end of it a better person who will, as Vance Havner said, “bring forth finer fruit.”
The book of Genesis gives us the record of Joseph’s boll weevil experience. He was sold into slavery by his brothers (Genesis 37:12-36) and taken from his homeland of Canaan and transported south to Egypt where he became the servant of Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard (Genesis 39:1-6). There, he was falsely accused of rape by Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:7-18) and thrown into Pharaoh’s prison where he remained for two years (Genesis 39:20-41:1). Talk about devastating times!
But God took that whole experience and used it to bring incredible fruit from Joseph. After interpreting two dreams for Pharaoh, Joseph was made second in command of all Egypt (Genesis 41:1-46), and because of Joseph’s foresight and administrative skill, Egypt prospered through a seven-year famine (Genesis 41:48-57). Ultimately, his position in Egypt allowed him to reunite with his family and bring them from famine-ravaged Canaan to Egypt, where they thrived (Genesis 42:1-47:27).
I can just hear Joseph saying when his brothers sold him into slavery, “Lord, don’t let this happen to me.” I can just hear him asking when Potiphar’s wife told her lie, “Lord, are you going to let her get away with this?” I can just hear him praying as he languished in Pharaoh’s prison for those two years, “Lord, it seems as if my life is over.” But then I can also hear him, as an old man, looking back over his life and admitting, “When I was going through that experience, I thought it was the end of me. But now I see that God used it to make me better than I was.”
Perhaps you are in a boll weevil experience right now. Something has happened that has absolutely devastated you. If that’s the case, don’t give up hope. Times may seem hard now, but God isn’t finished working the process. He’s been clearing the fields of your old crop of service so that He can make room for your new and more fruitful crop. So, don’t begrudge whatever it takes for Him to do away with your cotton because that cotton has to go to make room for your peanuts.
Is a boll weevil experience pleasant? Certainly not. Is it something you want to volunteer for? Not if you have any sense. But is it something that God can use to make you a better servant? Most definitely. He won’t expect you to follow those farmers’ example and erect a monument to your experience, but He will expect you to see the value in the experience. And there will be value in it. As a matter of fact, you will never produce a certain quality and quantity of fruit in your life until your boll weevil wipes you out and you are forced to rethink the way you live and serve.