THE BROAD-LEAFED CACTUS
Walking along a narrow path in the tropical forest we often visit for a Sunday walk, under the radiant early-morning African sun, I notice a magnificent cactus and stop to take a closer look. The dark-green rubbery leaves are fat and oval and interspersed with large pointed thorns. In contrast to the feisty exterior, tender blooms emerge from the tips of some leaves. Shades of yellow and an intricate design make these lovely flowers dazzle. How like Jesus’ presence after a thorny stretch of life’s journey. Just like a flower appearing in the most unexpected circumstances, He reassures me of His love and care. 1
Rounding the bend, we saw a flame tree stretching its leafy arms high above. Each branch is crowned with a flaming orange-red flower, and the backdrop of the sky’s cooling azure blue softens their flaming red. When the fierceness of danger, sickness, or strife shoots flaming arrows my way, God, like the eternal cool blue sky, calms each fear. Feelings of distress disappear as His presence shields me.
2 Then my favorite stretch of the trail passes under the shadow of regal bamboo plants. Their broad stalks reach far above, forming a green arch over the trail, which provides shelter from sun and rain. Jesus is my protector and shield, and when I find myself in a tunnel, He is the light at the end of it.
3 The winding path now leads down a slope toward a brook. Since there is no bridge, local farmers have placed two logs over the stream. As we balance along the trunks, I am reminded that Jesus has provided stepping stones in His Word.
A steep incline leads to the road. Breathless and sweaty, we reach the top. To help me over the last boulder, my friend reaches down, grabs hold of my hand, and pulls me up. Jesus is at the other end of each prayer and lends a helping hand through a friend, a spouse, or even a stranger.
At the top of the hill, a refreshing cool breeze fans our sweaty brows, which energizes us instantly. A breathtaking view unfolds in front of us, with a range of blue mountains in the distance. Jesus is a cool breeze that brings respite after each challenge, giving new hope and strength to carry on.
4 Jesus is my rock—strong, dependable, unmovable, unchangeable, and eternal. 5
Iris Richard is a counselor in Kenya, where she has been active in community and volunteer work since 1995.
1. See Psalm 46:1–2. 2. See Isaiah 43:1–2. 3. See Psalm 23. 4. See Isaiah 40:31. 5. See Psalm 18:2.