Both Mary Helen and I try to walk every day for exercise. I use a chain saw to clear dead trees from our property. But both of us have found our activities severely limited due to arthritic knees and, in my case, a right shoulder problem that seems untreatable. To be candid, frustration and discouragement cloud the horizon. Our to-do-lists remain long.
One glance outside, however, lightens the mood. The grass is greening. The yellow faces of the daffodils smile at the sun. Everything is on tiptoe, ready to burst into bloom. Tulips and hyacinth. Maple, beech, ash and aspen. What seemed to be bare patches of dirt a week ago, now boast tiny tendrils of perennials I’d forgotten—delphinium, aster, foxglove, coneflower, fiesta flower, and hosta.
How can one be gloomy in the spring? It’s really quite amazing what a profound effect our surroundings have on our moods. Looking back, I can understand why many suffer from seasonal affective disorder during the winter. Not only is daylight reduced but the fields and forests seem drab and dead. What must it be like to live in a prison surrounded by concrete with no view of lawns or woods? And I often wonder how people endure living in ramshackle slums or even in concrete and glass high-rise buildings.
Surely, humans created to live in the Garden of Eden and destined, through faith in Christ, to end up in a garden in paradise, need gardens and parks to feel at home in this world. Every city development needs adequate and attractive parkland. I seriously wonder whether prisoners would be more likely rehabilitated if they had more exposure to the gentle influence of grass and flowers.
Our daughter, Debbie, had struggled for months with the debilitating effects of a concussion. During this time she prayed for the Lord to lift her spirits in some way. He sent her several pairs of cardinals. Intrigued at their gorgeous red plumage, she began to put out bird seed attracting other birds. She, who had never been a bird watcher, felt herself uplifted.
Not all have the opportunity to choose their surroundings. As many of God’s imprisoned and tortured saints have testified, God Himself can draw near in the ugliest of environments. “Lo I am with you always.” “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, thou art with me.” The unalloyed presence of God is enough.
And yet God created us with five senses so we could experience a sensual world. He created a plethora of flowers and butterflies, birds and fish, sea-shells and pebbles, rainbows and cloud formations to be enjoyed. Embracing the varied beauty of our world enables us to rise above our immediate pains and problems to soar in our spirits on wings of hope.