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In a forest one day, three young trees all agreed to pray that they would be used for some noble purpose rather than decay from old age.

The first tree wanted to become a manger where tired cattle could feed after a long day’s work. God rewarded the tree for having such modesty. It became a very special manger—the one in which the Son of God was laid.

The second tree prayed that it might become a boat. The prayer was answered, and soon its fine wood sheltered a very special passenger—the Son of God. It heard Jesus calm a fierce storm by saying, “Peace, be still.” The tree counted its life as worthwhile in order to witness such a scene.

The third tree, however, was made into a large cross to serve as an instrument of suffering. The tree was initially deeply disappointed in its fate. However, one day Jesus of Nazareth was nailed to its limbs. Strange, but the cross did not hear groaning and cursing as on other crosses. Instead it heard the Son of God offer words of love and divine forgiveness— words that opened paradise to a repentant thief.

The tree then understood that its part in the crucifixion of Jesus provided for the salvation of humankind.

In underground churches across eastern Europe, the parable of the three trees was often told as an encouragement to those suffering for their faith. These believers needed to see purpose in what they endured. They must have had such high hopes and aspirations when they originally said they wanted to be used by God for his glory. Yet, oppression seemed to have cut them off from God’s plans. How could unjust suffering play into such a plan? Like the tree that formed the cross, they realized they were also being shaped into God’s ultimate purpose for their lives. From this perspective, suffering is not seen as an interruption of God’s plans for your life, but an integral part of the process.

Story from our daily devotional book. For more info go to