And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28, NKJV)
I grew up in the small town of Bakersville, North Carolina. I would call it Mayberry, but Mayberry looks bigger on television. Nationally speaking, Bakersville’s claim to fame is that it lies at the foot of the North Carolina side of Roan Mountain, a well known tourist site.
And what is it that makes tourists want to come see Roan Mountain? Rhododendrons. The mountain is home to the largest display of blooming rhododendrons in the world, and the display is 100% natural. All told, the plants cover over 600 acres of the mountain. We’re talking the world’s most exquisite rhododendron garden, marvelously nestled along a mountain ridge 6,300 feet high. It really is quite a site. The plants usually bloom sometime around mid June, and Bakersville holds an annual Rhododendron festival complete with a beauty pageant, street dance, 10K run, and car show. Can you say, “Small town Americana”?
Back in the 1800s people held to the general notion that high mountains offered mystical, healing powers. To cash in on this idea, mining tycoon John Wilder built the grand three-story Cloudland Hotel atop Roan Mountain. The hotel was completed in 1885 and was billed as a health resort. It featured beautiful carpets, fine furniture, copper bathtubs, steam heat, a bowling alley, a croquet course, and a small golf course. The hotel thrived for several years as a class of wealthy patrons ranging from American politicians to European royalty frequented it. Ultimately, however, the high cost of operating such a place on a mountaintop marked the end of the Cloudland. By 1910 the hotel was out of operation. A few years later, just before his death, Wilder sold it. Shortly afterward the new owner auctioned off the materials of the decaying building. By 1927 nothing but rubble was left. Now even the rubble is gone.
Here, though, is where the story of Roan Mountain’s rhododendrons takes an interesting turn. After the Cloudland’s closure, workers were hired to come in with machinery and dig up the mountain’s rhododendrons. The plants were then sold off to different places. Obviously, the conservationist movement hadn’t exactly taken hold yet! The removal of the plants left the once beautiful mountaintop looking barren and scarred, and the local people who lived on either side of the mountain were grieved and outraged. They thought the days of Roan Mountain being defined by its trademark rhododendrons were gone forever.
But something unexpected started happening a couple of springtimes later. The roots of the old plants, roots that had been down too deep for the workers to touch, started sprouting new growth. And the wonderful thing was that this new growth was even more beautiful than the previous growth had been. Whereas the previous growth had looked somewhat unkept and wild, the new growth actually looked cultured, even intelligently pruned. It wasn’t too long then before the mountaintop was once again a natural rhododendron garden, with this garden being even more breathtaking than the original one.
Now let’s be clear, the digging up of those original rhododendrons was certainly not a good thing. Today we look back on it and are appalled at such a ravaging of God’s creation. But God, in His infinite power and sovereignty, was able to take that “bad” and make it work for Roan Mountain’s “good.” And you can rest assured that if He was able to do that with a bunch of rhododendrons atop a mountain, He can do it with the “bad” of your life. Do you remember what Jesus said about another kind of flowers, the lilies? He said,
…Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (Matthew 6:28-30, NKJV)
The point is that God cares much more about you than He does flowers, even gorgeous lilies or stunning rhododendrons. This doesn’t mean that He will keep everything “bad” from happening to you. It does mean, though that if you know Jesus as your Savior, He will take even the “bad” in your life and use it to produce something “good.” He’ll bring a positive out of the negative. He’ll work with the ugly to create something of beauty. Claim this promise today, Christian, and if you need an object lesson from nature, go visit Roan Mountain along about the second week of June.