A Tale of Two Trees

A Tale of Two Trees

We want life to make sense. Sometimes it doesn’t. Let me tell you a tale of two trees.

There was a tree growing by the side of the bucolic Merritt Parkway in CT. The trunk suddenly cracked, causing the tree to fall across the road, crushing a car and killing the parents of two young children who were sitting in the back seat. In an instant, lives were ended and a family was destroyed.

There was a tree by a lake. My sister-in-law and her best friend sat in the lovely shade, enjoying the breeze, looking out at the water, and sharing conversation. They got up and went inside the house. Fifteen minutes later an enormous limb plummeted to the ground, destroying the now unoccupied chairs. Had they still been there, they certainly would have been killed.

Why do things like that happen?  Why was there one tragedy and one miraculous escape? It is very human to yearn for some reasonable explanation. The guardians of the suddenly orphaned boys sued the state of CT, declaring that the transportation department should have anticipated the tragedy and protected the travelers on that beautiful tree-lined highway.

That’s what we crave – some sort of guarantee that someone will be watching out for us and always keeping us safe. We want this formula to work – if we do everything just right, follow the rules, and mind our own business, our lives will follow a neat, predictable path.

The problem is – life isn’t that neat and tidy. Bad things happen in our imperfect world, often without any good reason. As much as I love my sister-in-law, I don’t believe she is a better person or somehow more deserving than the parents of these young children.  Sometimes people are in the wrong place at the wrong time through no fault of their own.  Just ask families mourning in Belgium, Afghanistan or India.

Sometimes people cause bad things to happen. Sometimes bad things just happen.   God does not guarantee a safe passage through life. Instead, God promises presence – the assurance that in green pastures as well as in dark valleys, God will offer strength, guidance, and compassion.

Life can be frightening. We can make it better by reminding people we don’t have to go through it alone.

Two trees 3




6 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Trees

  1. Suzanne

    Sue ~ I often think about things like this. When good things happen to people, such as a successful surgery or not being hurt in an accident, I see posts on Facebook about “God is good.” And yet I never see that post when something bad happens. As Christians, aren’t we supposed to believe that God is good all the time? And aren’t we supposed to give thanks in all things? I read an article recently that used the example of a plane crash in which there is only one survivor. People will say, “God must have a purpose for you.” The article then asked if God did not have a purpose for the other people? If they weren’t as important.

    I know I’m not making a lot of sense here, but I very much liked what you wrote. People need to be reminded that bad things happen… sometimes to good people, sometimes to bad. But God does not necessarily cause these bad things (or good things) to happen. It is just part of life.


    1. fosteringyourfaith

      Suzanne, I completely agree – I think this is a life-long struggle. One of the UCC calls to worship is “God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.” While I know it is true (I do believe God is always good), I always wonder how that must sound to someone who is going through a particularly difficult time or feels alienated or is really struggling.
      I’ve never liked the expression (sometimes heard after an accident or tragedy) “there but for the grace of God go I” – because, as you say, there were other beloved children of God who were hurt or killed that day.
      It is a mystery – one that I can’t make sense of. All I can do is try to trust in the moment that God will provide the grace needed.


  2. Amy Kinney

    Love this!

    “God does not guarantee a safe passage through life. Instead, God promises presence – the assurance that in green pastures as well as in dark valleys, God will offer strength, guidance, and compassion.”

    This couldn’t be more perfectly said. Thank you!

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. Gary Osbrey

    Great essay, Sue, and a frequent topic of bible studies everywhere. I am fond of Romans 12:12. “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”


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