Stately Chilean Pines hide away in the Scottish Highlands not far from where we live. They are also called “Monkey Puzzle Trees.”
Monkey Puzzle Trees were brought to the UK as ornamental trees in 1850. Seeing one of the intriguing trees for the first time, a person purportedly said, “It would puzzle a monkey to climb that.”
With twisted, interlocking branches and broad, sharp needles, it might indeed prove difficult and puzzling to climb one of the trees.
Monkey Puzzle trees mainly serve as distinctive focal points for gardens. They have edible seeds, but it takes up to 40 years for the trees to produce seeds. While they are labeled “hardy,” Chilean pines can not tolerate exposure to pollution.
Monkey Trees share parallels with Christian life. Consider a popular cliché, “God works in mysterious ways.” When bad things happen in the world and when bad things happen to good people, even Christians are puzzled. We are often asked by a disbelieving world to elucidate the inexplicable. Jesus told his disciples, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God.” (Mark 4:11) That mystery, according to 1 Timothy 3:16, is “the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among unbelievers, Believed on in the world, Received up to glory.”
While we understand that Jesus left Heaven and lived on this earth as both man and God so He could die for our sins and be raised from the dead victorious over sin and death, it still puzzles us when bad things happen to good people. Perhaps the best answer is found in a poem written by an anonymous author:
Not until the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the pattern
And explain the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the Master’s skilled hand
As the gold and silver
In the pattern which He planned.
Without pain and sorrow, would we appreciate joy? Without hardship, would we enjoy comfort and success? Without the shadow of death casting itself over our lives, would we live each day to the fullest? Would a lack of opposites turn us into apathetical, ungrateful people? That’s a puzzle. God holds the connecting pieces.
Like Monkey Puzzle trees, Christians should produce seeds in our lives: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Just as it takes years for Monkey Puzzle trees to produce seeds, it takes time for believers to produce Christian fruit.
Like Monkey Puzzle trees, we should be hardy. We are instructed to “endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” (2 Timothy 2:3)
Finally, we should be as sensitive to soul pollution as a Monkey Puzzle Tree is to environmental pollution. We must guard what we see and hear. Philippians 4:7 instructs, “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.”
A Monkey Puzzle tree might puzzle a climbing monkey, but as Christians – we should not allow unforeseen and unexpected tragedies and trials to puzzle us. We may not be wise enough to know the answers to all lives puzzles, but we know Jesus. He holds the connecting pieces.