A Perfect Tree and Its Reminder to Be Thankful

This week when I was out walking, I saw a perfect tree. I paused to look up and appreciate the sway in the wind, its colors moving in and out of sunlight, its form and height. Under its outstretched arms I breathed a prayer of thanks.

I thanked God for the tree in all its majesty without consideration that it will be gone someday. I didn’t bother to agonize over the woodcutter’s blade or disease which might one day rob it of life. I thanked God for the tree in its today and its now.

My prayer life does not always reflect such trust of God and acceptance of His plan for the moment I’m living. Sometimes it has clauses beginning with “if, “and” or “but.” Sometimes my pleas are accompanied by doubt and uncertainty.

Prayer is a mystery to me. Life has taught me a lot about prayer. Ministry and kids added another dimension through the years until enough Red Seas parted, enough history walked through that I began to think I knew how to pray.
And then life pivoted.

It’s amazing what a mass on a brain stem can do. It’s unthinkable how it can take an active twenty-six-year-old and drain from her all ability to walk, talk or even move. It’s astounding the way the paralyzation of our daughter could paralyze a mom.

Therein lies the paradox. It is the uncomfortable niggle in my prayer life. He can but sometimes He won’t and He is just as much God when He does and when He does not.

How do I ask Him for the little things after the biggest prayer request of all my life has been denied? How do I trust Him in Covid days, when my prayers today are haunted by a ghost of dark days on my knees at the bedside of my daughter?
I know others have experienced things much worse than ours. So how do we ask for the trivial when the immense still is unanswered?

Even here, where what if’s and why’s crowd into my petitions, Jesus has been before.

“…and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,’ he said to them. ‘Stay here and keep watch.’ Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. ‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’” Mark 14: 33-36 (NIV)

Jesus’ deepest anguished request was denied by His Father. He pleaded in prayer for another answer at the pivotal crux for which He came, yet He prayed in submission.

My prayer hesitation, those reminders of how can I ask God for this when He refused that? Or how can I thank God for this answer when He might take that away tomorrow? The devastation of an experience that lingers in my heart reminds me in 2020 when so much seems turned upside down, to thank God without reservation. 

Out of a dark time comes the certainty that God is worthy of praise even when we still can’t see light. Thanksgiving silences whispers of discontent. It replaces the niggle of doubt with the calm of assurance.

Those petitions that remain at His throne as if unheard, are the ones that confirm His immense sovereignty and might. They are the prayers that He guards and holds near His heart because He is the God of the vast, bigger, greater and far wiser than I can fathom.

This is what I am reminded of standing at the base of a tree made by the hand of my Creator.

If there has ever been a time when we need to be intentional in our gratefulness, it is when it is most difficult. This year is our opportunity to lift our arms like branches in praise. No if’s, and’s or but’s.

31 Replies

  1. Ajitha Reply

    It’s uplifting and refreshing

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thank you Aji. I’m honored you found it uplifting and refreshing. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. Spring Reply

    Thank you. I’ve never thought of it like that before. About the unanswered biggest prayer request that was not granted. Jesus has one too. And God is still enough. Thank you for writing.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Spring, I always love hearing from your kindred heart! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. EMILY HUFFMAN Reply

    Wow, this hit this spot today in many ways. I loved, “I know others have experienced things much worse than ours. So how do we ask for the trivial when the immense still is unanswered?” I love trees for many reasons and have been contemplating a tree-focused blog myself!

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment. I’m so glad you did, and glad God used it to “hit the spot.” Also happy to hear you also find trees inspiring!

  4. Kim McDowall Reply

    Wow, Sylvia. This hit me personally, as well. How can God answer the trivial things when He has not answered the big things in my life? But God….He is still God, no matter what. The answers lie in the hope of eternity in heaven where there will be no more pain or sorrow or tears or fears. I think of one of our supporters who passed away just before Father’s day and the relief I felt–finally, he is free. About 13 years ago he suffered a stroke and his sweet wife has cared for him ever since. In recent years he suffered another stroke and then more recently, cancer on top of that. It’s been many long and difficult days for her and their family, caring for this Godly man–trapped in his own body…and now he is free and in the presence of our Lord & Savior. Thanks, Sylvia:)

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thank you Kim. I appreciate you sharing this with me. Free and in the presence of Jesus. It is a glorious promise of a glorious truth. What a blessing you are to me!

  5. Arlene Epp Reply

    Sylvia, thank you so much for your words. I have recently been challenged to deepen my prayer life. Your words brought me peace about several situations where I’m waiting for God’s answer. Thanks!

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Such a blessing to hear from you. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. Waiting is difficult. Always. I am glad you found the post an encouragement in your wait.

  6. Karla Reply

    Thank you Sylvia, for your blog today. I also enjoy trees. We are going through some VERY rough times in our church here in the US. I’m copying a small part of your story that begins, “Out of a dark time comes the certainty that God is worthy of praise even when we still can’t see light….” This was so good for me and I want to share it with two friends. Blessings on you.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Karla, I’m honored. Thank you so much for reading and sharing. Blessings to you as well!

  7. Roy Reply

    We still remember visiting Charity during those terrifying times and share the emotions (at least in a small part) of how this can serve the Lord’s purpose. We also remember our 68 day of uncertainty in the kidnapping. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thank you Roy. You indeed faced an incredible testing. I am thankful for your small part…which was huge of course as we needed the body of believers so deeply…so let me say it again. Thank you so much for taking the time and effort to reach out in those days.

  8. Maria Martens Reply

    Thank you Sylvia for reminding me of the Lord’s Sovereignty, “those petitions that remain at HIS Throne” this statement brings me much hope today:) thank you!

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thank you Maria. I really deeply appreciate you and am so grateful the post encouraged you today.

  9. RJ Thesman Reply

    Love this, “He can but sometimes He won’t and He is just as much God when He does and when He does not.”

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      R.J. Thanks so much. As always, your comments mean the world to me.

  10. J.D. Wininger Reply

    Amen! The mere fact that we can see the clouds reminds us that “The Light” is still there. God’s presence is a constant in our life! God’s blessings dear family.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      J.D. Thank you. You are so right. Looking upward can give a whole new perspective, can’t it?!

  11. Marilyn Nutter Reply

    Thank you for your post and transparency. Whether our prayers are answered as we would like or not, God remains unchanging in His faithfulness, goodness, and love. In the darkest time of my life, when I didn’t get my miracle I know that to be true. We need to express that more often as the tendency for Christians is to say “God is so good” when something good happens. His goodness is not determined by circumstances. So appreciated this post.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thank you so much Marilyn. His goodness is not determined by circumstances. I love that statement because it is not only true, but one that I need to sear into my heart!!

  12. Don Pahl Reply

    Thanks again, Sylvia, for this simply profound or profoundly simple reminder.

  13. Jeannie Waters Reply

    Sylvia, your post summarizes the faith-filled life—one of trust in every circumstance punctuated with gratitude. I needed your reminder about gratitude today. Your post contains powerful statements, such as: “If there has ever been a time when we need to be intentional in our gratefulness, it is when it is most difficult.”

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thank you Jeannie. I need the reminder myself to be intentional in my gratefulness!
      Appreciate your reading and commenting!

  14. Katherine Pasour Reply

    Sylvia, your post touched me deeply. For the past year I cared for my loved one with cancer. During his illness, there were so many prayers lifted that I thought God ignored. I’ve struggled with God’s plan not being my plan. Your compassionate message inspired me. Thank you.

  15. Debbie Wilson Reply

    Sylvia, it is hard to understand why God sometimes seems to ignore good, unselfish prayers . I take comfort from the story of Lazarus, that He has something better in mind. However, since He is eternal, it probably won’t be on my timetable. Thank you for this poignant piece.

  16. Tammy L Kennington Reply

    Sylvia, the heartache of a mother for her child runs deep. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and faith today. You’ve ministered to my own heart. Peace and grace, Tammy

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Tammy I appreciate your response so much! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I am so grateful it ministered to your heart.

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