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Withstanding life’s storms

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On the night of Oct. 16, 1987, a great and terrible storm struck Britain. Like no other within living memory in England, near-hurricane velocity winds blew off roofs, toppled chimney stacks and destroyed or severely damaged buildings. Weather forecasters erroneously had suggested that there was no real danger; the nation was unprepared .

The greatest losses, however, were not man's constructions. The storm damaged or destroyed 1,000 trees at Kew Gardens, the Royal Botanic Gardens known primarily for a collection of 38,000 different species of living plants and located on the River Thames southwest of London. More than 15,000 trees were lost at nearby Wakehurst Place. Many of England's great and ancient trees, some of which had stood 300 or 400 years, were destroyed in minutes. The storm snapped thick branches and felled trees.

Trees that withstand storms rarely escape unscathed. They are too severely shaken. Not just the branches are tried, but also every leaf held by its slender stalk is twisted in the fierce wind. Some trees stand boldly on hillsides, constantly exposed to the winds. Although bent and deformed by years of struggle, they continue to stand stubbornly against the winds and against the odds.

Scripture tells us that those who transgress the covenants of the Lord "have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind." (Hoseah 8:7.) Rejection of God-like principles causes us to reap the whirlwind, as is evident in riots, warfare, criminality, drug abuse, drunkenness, immorality, broken homes, lawlessness and rebellion, to name a few of today's ills.

Even the faithful will be tried by the wind. We are told that "in the last days perilous times shall come" (2 Timothy 3:1), days "when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind" (Helaman 5:12). Like the trees, unless we are firmly and deeply rooted we are at risk of disaster when comes the day of storm. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but storms will blow. Not necessarily the tallest, or oldest, or most majestic will survive, but those who know that only "the Lord is a refuge from the storm" (Isaiah 25:4) and have firmly rooted themselves in the gospel. As with the root systems that anchor and give stability to trees, the growth and protection given us lie largely unseen.

We might lose a few leaves, as it were, or we might be bent by the effort in standing firm, but we will be stronger and better able to stand the storm of the devil's shafts in the whirlwind.

Our safety in the storm lies in heeding the still small voice in the whirlwind that swirls around us. An example of such heeding is found in the experience of President Wilford Woodruff who, while traveling in New England on assignment by Brigham Young, drove his carriage into the yard of a home. Orson Hyde drove a wagon by the side of his carriage. President Woodruff went to bed in the carriage, where also slept his wife and children. The Spirit spoke to him twice, first telling him to move the carriage and then to move his animals from under an oak tree. He did so.

"In thirty minutes a whirlwind came up and broke that oak tree off within two feet from the ground," President Woodruff recounted later. "It swept over three or four fences and fell square in that dooryard, near Brother Orson Hyde's wagon, and right where mine had stood. What would have been the consequences if I had not listened to that Spirit? Why, myself and wife and children doubtless would have been killed. That was the still, small voice to me — no earthquake, no thunder, no lightning — but the still, small voice of the Spirit of God. It saved my life. It was the spirit of revelation to me." (Millennial Star 53:642-43.)

We can all afford to develop a sensitivity to the promptings of the Spirit in all things pertaining to our physical as well as our spiritual well-being.