On August 30, 2017, intense lightning sparked the Kenow Fire near Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada, and soon moved into the park. Orders to evacuate the Waterton townsite arrived September 8, but control didn’t come until September 21, and the threat continued until the shorter days of October brought snow and colder temps.
By then, 38% of Waterton NP had burned, and when including fires in nearby Glacier NP, 65,000 acres were blackened, impacting 80% of the trails. This last April a good friend and delightful author, Murray Pura, who lives close to Waterton, posted this pic of a tree scorched in the fire. An interesting juxtaposition of death and life-giving snow with the Canadian Rockies in the background. Likely, the tree won’t recover, but some grass and greenery have returned. But the pic prompted quite a discussion about restoration, including his line, “New ones will have to grow tall from seed.” And some pine seeds only germinate in the high heat of a wild fire. Intriguing, isn’t it?
Let’s probe deeper. One finding states, “Fires form a crucial and healthy part of landscape ecosystems. They help showcase the incredible healing power of the natural world…positive effects usually outnumber negative ones” (Glacier Park Collection).
Wildfires give us a metaphor for spiritual regeneration--just as God designed restoration into the physical world, he also did for the spiritual one. Many problems “come to pass,” not to stay. But the response we choose determines if the positive effects outnumber the negative. Think of some of the problems and disasters you’ve experienced, especially along with three suggestions that will enable restoration.
First, recognize the reality of trouble. We’ll never experience growth until we acknowledge the problem and identify its causes, if we can. Let’s not live with just rosy-colored lenses that keep us from seeing truth. Jesus affirmed this in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble.” So don’t be surprised.
But we also need to rely on God’s power to work for restoration. He’s not helpless, according the 1 John 4:4, “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.” Disasters can be huge and can change the course of our lives, but never larger nor stronger than he is.
Third, partner with God in the restoration process. Exactly how we do that will change for every event, but we’ll fail if we try to do it all, or if we wait for God to do it all. “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13). We work. God works. And restoration works. We don’t have to in hard times.
Kick Starting the Application
Think of a disaster in your life, where you responded with a focus on the negative. How did that work? Could it have been done better? How much did you weave God into the recovery? Think of a current difficulty you may be facing, how can these three principles guide you through it to restoration?