Once upon a time, in one of the islands of the Philippines, there was a young tree. It was the only tree in that island. This lovely tree had long branches with leaves too many to count. It was a happy tree. It liked looking at the green plains below and the blue sea surrounding the island.
But one day, the tree noticed that one of its leaves was turning brown. What was going on? This was the first time it happened. It never experienced it before. The tree began to panic. Soon, more leaves became brown.
And then the impossible happened: One brown leaf snapped off its twig and fell to the ground. The horrors!
Soon, more leaves fell. He counted them. Gasp! He couldn’t believe it. In one day, 6 leaves fell off from his branches. The next day, another 9 fell. The day after that, 12 more fell. On and on they kept falling.
He was losing so many leaves each day, he blurted out, “I’m dying!”
Everyday, with great anxiety, he stared on the growing mound of brown leaves gathering around His roots. He began to lose hope and wanted to end his life.
That was when a bird flew by…
Three Messages From The Bird
The feathered creature perched onto one of the tree’s branches. The bird asked, “What’s wrong? Why are you so sad?”
The tree said, “I’m dying.”
“Why do you say that?” the bird asked.
“I’m losing all my leaves! I’ve lost 94 already…”
The bird was taken aback. “You don’t know do you?” He looked around and realized why. “You haven’t seen another tree in your life. You’re all alone here. My dear friend, what you’re experiencing is something that every other tree in the world experiences.”
The bird smiled and said, “I want to give you three messages today.”
“I’m listening,” the tree answered.
1) More Blessings Than Problems
“First, you say you’ve already lost 94 leaves. You count the number of leaves that you’ve lost. Count now the number of leaves that are still on your branches…”
The tree went about counting. “1, 2, 3, 4….” When he reached 300, he said, “I can’t count them. I have too many leaves!” The tree wasn’t crying anymore.
“Then you’re learning a very important truth. Remember that you’ll always have more blessings than problems. Problems seem more because you count them, you measure them, and you analyze them everyday. But when you count your blessings, you’ll realize that your blessings will outnumber your problems. Always!”
May I interrupt this story by another story?
I was reading about Roger Crawford. When he was born, he had a genetic defect. He was born without two hands and without a left leg. But despite his disability, he became a professional Tennis player in America.
He became a champion? How could he play Tennis without two hands and a left leg? I don’t know. But he did.
You see, Roger never complained, “Lord, why don’t I have hands and a left leg?” Instead, he said, “Lord, thank you for what I have. I have arms and I have one leg. What will you do with what I have?”
Roger didn’t bother counting the leaves that fell off his branches. He celebrated the many leaves that remained in his branches.
Let’s go back to my story…
2) More Space For New Blessings
The bird said, “Here’s my second message. I want you to look at your branches. Specifically, at the empty space where your leaves fell from. Do you see them?”
“Are they really empty.”
“Yes, they’re empty. A leaf was there b efore…”
“Look closer,” said the bird, “because it’s not really empty…”
That was when the tree said, “Well, I see tiny leaves sprouting in the same place where my old leaves fell from.”
The bird nodded, “If your old leaves didn’t fall, there wouldn’t have been space for new leaves to sprout in your branches. If you want better things to happen in your life, some older things will have to go first.”
“I now understand,” the tree smiled.
Let me interrupt this story again and tell you that this is how life works.
Thank God for empty spaces in your life.
Perhaps a relationship ended this year. Perhaps a boyfriend left you. Thank God and believe that someone new, someone better, will be walking into your life.
Perhaps you lost your job this year. Perhaps your company folded up. Perhaps you were retrenched. Thank God and believe that you’ll get a better job and company very soon!
I remember two women whose husbands left them. Both of their husbands found another woman and walked out of their lives. Both were devastated.
But both had a very different attitude. One followed the grumbling path and the other followed the grateful path.
One woman cried, “My husband left me. My life is now over.”
But the other woman said, “My husband left me. My life is just beginning…”
Like this woman, don’t ever give up. Don’t say, “My life is over.” Say instead, “My life is about to begin.” Because new growth happens only if there are empty spaces in your life.
3) More Nourishment From Your Growth
The bird chirped, “And now for my last message. Do you notice what happens to your brown leaves?” the bird asked.
“They rot,” the tree shrugged, looking at the mound of brown leaves around its roots.
“Yes they do, but for a purpose,” said the bird, “because in due time, these rotting leaves will become part of the soil. These leaves will enrich you. Your roots will drink their nourishment. Causing you to grow and sprout more leaves…”
You Need Trouble To Grow
“Bo, I can’t be grateful for 2012. This was the year my husband left me.”
Or “This was the year our house burned down.”
Or “This was the year I learned I had cancer.”
Or “This was the year my father died.”
I understand. But the Bible says, Give thanks in all circumstances. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Yesterday, I was looking back at the year that passed. I realized something very important. I realized that I grew the most not during the times when everything was smooth. Or the times when everything was going my way. I realized that I grew the most during the times when there was intense trouble. Intense pain. I grew the most when I was attacked from all directions and I couldn’t breathe anymore.
That’s when God stretched me.
I have one word for you about trouble: Get used to it. Because trouble is the birthplace for your greatest growth.
Be grateful for the blessings behind your trials