May 2024 Pastor’s Corner — The Unexpected

Blessed is the man… 

whose 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 

that yields its fruit in its season, 

and its leaf does not wither. 

In all that he does, he prospers.

— Psalm 1:1-4

This is Fred the Tree.  Fred is growing in the most unexpected and unlikely of places — right in the middle of the historic Old Seven Mile Bridge in Key West.  Against all odds (and all the odds are against it), Fred not only sprouted but has thrived in a most inhospitable location.  Fred provides a beautiful example of how, when we trust in the Lord, our faith can grow and flourish in the most unexpected places and ways.

Trusting in the Lord, and growing ever deeper in that trust, is everything that is meant by “faith,” particularly faith in Jesus Christ.  In Galatians 5:6, Paul summarizes everything he believes about the Gospel when he writes, “For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith [trust] expressed in love.” (Gal. 5:6 MESSAGE)  But “trusting in God” is a somewhat strange and abstract concept.  It’s very easy to say we “Trust in the LORD with all our heart, and do not lean on our own understanding” (Prov. 3:5 ESV), but how do we know if we actually are trusting in the Lord as much as we think we are?

As March drew to a close, I came down with an unexpected stomach illness.  The next day, we made an unexpected visit to the ER, which resulted in an unexpected hospital stay that included unexpected surgery to address a congenital issue that I learned about, unexpectedly, four years ago.  When I fell ill, even when I was admitted to the hospital and learned I was going to have surgery, I never imagined I would end up being out of the pulpit for 4 weeks and facing a recovery process that will end up being a total of 6 weeks or more.  Every step of the process, as my circumstances continued to become more concerning and severe than I first thought, could have been fraught with anxiety and worry.  I’m not saying I didn’t have my moments, but in general (and other than feeling terribly sick), I felt a deep sense of peace and calm through it all.  I knew, without a doubt, that everything was going to be fine, no matter what happened.

I have had, and continue to have, seasons of wrestling with the Lord.  There have been many times when I have argued with God and struggled to understand the whats and the whys of what He has allowed me to go through, and sometimes things He has purposefully brought my way.  I don’t like a lot of those things, and in many respects I still wish going through those seasons wasn’t necessary.  And yet, in each and every case, the Lord has proved himself trustworthy and true.  Through it all, even though I still don’t understand most of it, I have learned to trust Him a little bit more than I did before.  It is because of those times that when this very unexpected, and frankly quite severe, situation occurred, I found that I wasn’t worried or afraid.  The Lord had proven himself faithful in the big things and the small in the past, how could I expect anything other this time around?

It is in the unexpected moments and circumstances of life that we both learn to trust Him more and find out how much we already trust in Him.  The “soil” that allows our faith to grow and mature is trusting in the Lord and His Word.  When we trust in Him and learn to trust Him more each day, our faith is able to grow and even thrive in the midst of the most unexpected or even hostile circumstances.  Place your trust in the Lord today, and continue to do so each and every day, so that when the times of trial and struggle, when the unexpected comes along, you will be able to hold fast and stand firm, to face whatever may come with peace and assurance, knowing in your heart of hearts that the Lord will once again be faithful and true.

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.” (Matt. 7:24-25)


Rev. David Garrison