I am here in wintery Vermont, looking over an unbelievably beautiful landscape. The sun is just coming up, starting to make the snow twinkle as it does on the coldest of days. The snow is very deep, perfectly white and glistening smooth, completely covering the hilly terrain around our house. There are no tracks at all. The storm ended during the night, but no animals or people have yet to venture out.
It reminds me of a time years ago when our kids were heading to school. They used to walk through the woods for almost a quarter mile to get to the bus stop. (Yes, growing up in Vermont can, at times, be very idyllic.) On one particularly snowy morning I asked them if they’d be all right getting to the bus. My ten year-old said, “Of course we’ll be fine, we can still see where the path is.” The path through the woods was originally made by deer, who, for many decades had nibbled away the branches and packed the ground on their way to the stream that runs along the old dirt road where the school bus now picks up kids. It was true, even when fresh snow covered the ground, you could still tell where the path was.
This memory came to me as I was continuing my thankful thoughts regarding my mom and the many ways God has provided for her. Dad died suddenly, with no warning to us that anything had been wrong. But God had already put many things in place that Mom now needs.
I realize that some of what I am calling God-given provision could also be described as the fruit of wise living. And I’m aware that people who lean toward a human-centric worldview would claim that anyone living wisely could reap the financial stability, strong community, and supportive friendships that Mom now has, so why call it God-given? But I think I’m right in saying that our idea of what wise living consists of was taught in the Old and New Testaments. Our Judeo-Christian heritage may not currently be popular front page news, but it continues to be the back page story of how good lives are spent. It is entrenched in our culture so we may not recognize how the Scriptural tenets of hard work, honesty, frugality toward self, generosity toward others, responsible stewardship, respect toward authority, and neighborly love are what we consider a good life.
This “path” through the woods was cleared a long time ago, but it’s still the right path, and can still be found and followed in these wintery times. What I’m trying to say is that God’s provision for my mother began thousands of years ago when he provided these lessons in Scripture. With God’s help, my parents followed that path to the best of their ability, and now my mother is reaping the fine reward of wise, godly living.
Here’s what their life together looked like. My folks were faithfully involved in their church and in a number of ministries. Over the years this built a heavenly treasure house of relationships. And their faithfulness in the stewardship of their finances caused them to be both generous and wisely frugal. Mom is now blessed with more than she needs to live on. They also intentionally nurtured their faith, with habits of daily scripture reading and prayer. In each of these areas, my folks sought to live godly lives, and it was good for them. The process was good and now the product is good. God created the provision of Christian community, adequate finances, and strong living faith through their acts of obedience. My folks did not live perfectly, but for the most part, they stayed on the path.
And though living in obedience to God’s word doesn’t guarantee an easy or comfortable life, it is the passageway for his promises to be fulfilled and for faith to be built. Now that trouble has come to my family, the blessings of following God’s path and living the obedient life just keep jumping out at me. My mom truly has what she needs, both to live and to get through this difficult time.
This serves as a great reminder to me as I counsel. Though we are right to be focused on the hearts of the people to whom we minister, we must also remember that blessings can come from simply doing what the Word says to do. It’s true that the deepest blessings of obedience happen when it is done out of love, but any act of obedience can be instrumental in turning the heart, and can bring the positive outcomes that so many proverbs describe.
As I continue to process the death of my dad, these thoughts of wintery seasons and godly paths laid long ago are very helpful to me. The sense of time and continuing cycles is comforting. Many have lived before us, and many will come after. The eternal, almighty God is present and active in every generation—let him be praised!