And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He did foreknow, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:28-29, N.K.J.V.)
In the yard that lies adjacent to mine stands an apple tree. The former owner of that property was faithful to keep that tree trimmed as needed and the result was an annual harvest of delicious apples. Unfortunately, lightning hit that tree and split it at the top just prior to that neighbor selling the property, and the new neighbor has never trimmed and reshaped the damaged tree. Consequently, the apples the tree now produces are not even close to the previous quality.
I know a little bit about this subject because I saw the same thing happen to an apple tree that used to sit on my grandmother’s property. That tree produced the most plump and delicious Golden Delicious apples that I’ve ever tasted until lightning hit it and ruined it. The tree managed to hang on for a few years producing apples that weren’t remotely comparable to its previous ones, but eventually it was cut down. At that point the cutting down was pretty much a mercy kill.
Just as literal lightning struck those two apple trees, figurative lightning can strike us without warning. The unexpected death of a loved one. A fire. An automobile accident. A lost job. A pleasant circumstance that inexplicably turns horribly wrong. These are just a few examples of the destructive streaks of “lightning” that can decimate our lives.
Christian, perhaps your life has been struck by one of these “lightning” bolts and the blast not only damaged you but crippled you in terms of fruit production. Is there any way for you to recover? Yes, but it’s not something that you can do yourself. What I mean is, God is going to have to personally do some pruning on you. In the wake of your lightning strike, you need Him to reshape you, cut away the damaged parts of you, and get you back to a healthy spiritual state wherein you can once again produce sweet-tasting fruit.
The encouraging thing is that your post-lightning state doesn’t have to be inferior to your pre-lightning one. Remember our text passage. It teaches that ALL things work together for GOOD for the Christian. That promise includes not only the good things that happen to us but also the bad things. But be sure to notice just how it is that all things work together for the Christian’s good. They do so because they help accomplish God’s ultimate, eternal goal for the Christian. And what is that goal? It is the Christian being conformed to the image of God’s Son, Jesus.
As we study the gospels we learn that Jesus’ earthly life was struck by “lightning” on many different occasions. For the most part, His own nation of Israel rejected His claim of Messiahship. Even His own family, with the exception of His mother, rejected that claim. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes constantly hounded Him. Peter denied Him. Judas Iscariot betrayed Him. The Romans crucified Him. Do we honestly believe that these events (as well as others that could be named) didn’t adversely affect Jesus? If they didn’t, He wouldn’t have been human at all.
By keeping Jesus’ earthly troubles in mind we can understand that the “lightning” strikes in our lives become events that make us what Peter described as partakers of Christ’s sufferings (1 Peter 4:13). You see, if we truly want to understand Jesus and align ourselves with Him, we must suffer in this same old world that once made Him suffer. By doing this we will be able to experience gladness and joy in that day when Christ’s glory is fully revealed (1 Peter 4:13). That day will be the day of His Second Coming, the day when He will visibly return to the earth and establish His thousand-year reign upon it (Matthew 25:31). We Christians will have the great privilege of ruling and reigning with Him during that reign (Revelation 5:8-10).
Of course, we will be in our glorified bodies by then, and receiving those bodies will be the final, completing stage in us becoming conformed to the image of Jesus. Even before we receive those bodies, though, God goes ahead and begins the process of conforming us to that image. And, again, before we can become like Jesus we must experience some of the pain and heartache this world can produce. So, Christian, even as you ask God to prune you and reshape you after some kind of destructive “lightning” has struck you, don’t forget to see the value in what has happened to you. Because of that “lightning” strike you are a little more conformed to Christ’s image, and that is a good thing even though you surely didn’t like how it came to pass.