A Sheltering Tree

Shortly before his death, Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote Youth and Age in which he reflected over his past and the strength of his earlier years.

To me, the most moving line in this quaint work is the statement: “Friendship is a sheltering tree. . . .”

How true . . . how terribly true! When the searing rays of adversity’s sun burn their way into our day, there’s nothing quite like a sheltering tree—a true friend—to give us relief in its cool shade. Its massive trunk of understanding gives security as its thick leaves of love wash our faces and wipe our brows. Beneath its branches have rested many a discouraged soul!

Let me name a few. Elijah was ready to quit. Depressed and threatened, he turned in his prophet’s badge and wrote out his resignation. God refused to accept either. He gave him rest, good food, and a “tree” named Elisha—who “ministered to him” (1 Kings 19:19-21). Using the analogy by Coleridge, Elijah rested in the shade of Elisha’s “sheltering tree.”

Paul had a similar experience. In fact, the trees in his life significantly sustained him. There was Barnabas who stood by him when everyone else ran from him (Acts 9:26-27; 11:25-26). There was Silas, his traveling companion over many an otherwise lonely mile (15:40-41). When you add Dr. Luke and Timothy and Onesiphorus and Epaphroditus and Aquila and Priscilla, you find a veritable forest of sheltering trees. Even Jesus enjoyed Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. Even He was refreshed beneath those sheltering branches from Bethany (John 11:5).

But of all the trees God placed beside His choice servants, one human redwood looms the largest, in my opinion. David was hunted and haunted by madman Saul. Between Saul and David, however, stood a sheltering tree named Jonathan. Loyal and dependable, Jonathan assured David, “Whatever you say, I will do for you” (1 Samuel 20:4). No limits. No conditions. No bargain. No reservations. Best of all, when things were at their worst, he “went to David . . . and encouraged him in God” (23:16). Why? Because he was committed to the basic principles of a friendship. Because he loved him as he loved himself (18:1). It was the kind of love that causes men to lay down their lives for their friends, as Jesus put it (John 15:13). No greater love exists on this globe.

Beneath whose branches are you refreshed, dear reader? Or, dare I ask, who rests beneath yours? Occasionally, I run across an independent soul who shuns the idea that he needs such a shelter, feeling that trees are for the immature, the spiritual babes, or those who haven’t learned to trust only in the Lord. It is that person I most pity, for his horizontal contacts are invariably superficial and shallow. Worst of all, his closing years on earth will be spent in the loneliest spot imaginable—a hot, treeless desert.

So, then, let’s be busy about the business of watering and pruning and cultivating our trees, shall we? Would I be more accurate if I added planting a few? Growing them takes time, you know . . . and you may really need a few when the heat rises and the winds begin to blow.

Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, “A Sheltering Tree,” Insights (May 1999): 1. Copyright © 1999, Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Accuracy, clarity, and practicality all describe the Bible-teaching ministry of Charles R. Swindoll. Chuck is the chairman of the board at Insight for Living and the chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary. Chuck also serves as the senior pastor of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, where he is able to do what he loves most—teach the Bible to willing hearts. His focus on practical Bible application has been heard on the Insight for Living radio broadcast since 1979.

ఖచ్చితత్వం, స్పష్టత మరియు ఆచరణాత్మకత అన్నీ చార్లెస్ ఆర్. స్విన్డాల్ యొక్క బైబిల్-బోధనా పరిచర్యను వివరిస్తాయి. చక్ ఇన్సైట్ ఫర్ లివింగ్ కు బోర్డు ఛైర్మన్ మరియు డల్లాస్ థియోలాజికల్ సెమినరీకి ఛాన్సలర్. చక్ టెక్సాస్‌లోని ఫ్రిస్కోలోని స్టోన్‌బ్రయర్ కమ్యూనిటీ చర్చ్ యొక్క సీనియర్ పాస్టర్‌గా కూడా పనిచేస్తున్నారు, అక్కడ ఆయన చాలా ఇష్టపడేదాన్ని చేయగలుగుతున్నాడు-ఇష్టపడే హృదయాలకు బైబిల్ నేర్పిస్తున్నారు. ఆచరణాత్మక బైబిల్ అనువర్తనంపై ఆయన దృష్టి 1979 నుండి ఇన్సైట్ ఫర్ లివింగ్ రేడియో ప్రసారంలో వినబడుచున్నది.