Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
The sun beat down of me as I jogged through the neighborhood. Sweat ran down my forehead and into my eyes. I wiped it away with my shirt and trudged on. Then I ran into the shade of a large oak tree. Immediately there was relief from the heat of the sun. It was almost as if I had stepped into air-conditioning.
During these hot, summer months, I have learned to appreciate the shade of a tree. On more than one occasion, the shade of a tree has been a life-saver. When we first began our summer mission trips to Ukraine, we ministered in a small village named Votilivka. The church was a typical Ukrainian building made of thick walls and windows sealed tightly shut. The temperature inside of the building was usually hotter than outside. The mud brick walls acted almost like an oven, capturing the heat and radiating it inside. Our salvation was a huge, spreading tree in the front yard.
We had gone to Ukraine to work with a local church by providing a day-camp experience for the children of the village. We quickly realized that the combination of the number of children and the confines of the church building were not going to make for a positive experience. So the shade of the huge tree became our meeting place. It remained that way every year that we ran the day-camp for that village.
I was reminded on my run the other day about what a gift trees are. Trees are God’s natural air-conditioners. They absorb the heat of the sun and shield us from its penetrating rays. If you have ever walked from an open field into a wood, you have experienced this amazing phenomenon. But trees area a gift in many other was as well.
Trees are God’s natural air-purifiers. They have the ability to absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen back into the air. By doing this, they help to purify the air that we breath. The more trees that are present, the better the air quality.
Trees are a renewable source of wood, which can be used for fuel or for building. Many a winter night I have basked in the warmth of a wood fire brightly burning in my fireplace. Who hasn’t been captivated by the allure of a campfire on a crisp night? As a woodworker, I have come to greatly appreciate the beauty and diversity of wood. The different species of trees offers the woodworker an amazing variety of raw materials with which to work. These raw materials, once shaped, sanded, and polished, can be used to create a wide array of beautiful objects, both functional and decorative.
Of course, trees also provide habitat for a variety of creatures. They provide food, shelter, and protection. A stand of trees is usually alive with activity. Many animals are dependent upon trees for their very survival.
From the Garden of Eden on, trees have been a symbol of God’s provision and protection. They symbolize stability and fruitfulness. Trees are one of the longest living organisms on earth. Therefore, trees are used as a symbol of faithfulness, both of God and of people.
Psalm 1 draws these ideas together in a composite picture.
Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.
Jeremiah tells us that the person who puts their trust in the Lord is like a well-established tree.
"But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit."
The book of Revelation uses the image of trees to represent the amazing reality of the new heaven and the new earth.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Revelation 22:1-2
Trees are one of God’s great gifts to us. They refresh us in so many ways. They are also a constant reminder of His faithfulness, love, and grace toward us. As we sink our roots deeply into God’s Word, as we draw closer and closer to God through Christ, we discover His sustaining power. Through our relationship with Christ, we become both fruitful and resilient.
So the next time you experience the amazing coolness offered by the shade of a tree, stop and thank God for His amazing gift.