[by Dean Smith] Biosphere 2, located in Oracle, Arizona, is a 3.14 acre (1.3 hectare) controlled environment that researchers have used for various projects. The giant enclosed glass dome, constructed between 1987 to 1991, contains a variety of environments including rain forest, savannah, desert and even oceans.
For decades, it has been used for agricultural research and even for planning how domed environments could function on other planets.
As these different environments were created, the researchers made an interesting discovery. When they planted various types of trees, they found in this perfect environment the trees grew much quicker than they did in the wild. However, before the trees reached their full size, many toppled over or began to lean.
They wondered why this was happening?
After studying the trees and their root systems, they discovered that Biosphere trees were not producing enough stress wood.
Stress wood also known as Reaction wood or Compression wood is produced when wind blows against a tree causing it to bend back and forth. This stress compresses the wood, resulting in increased concentrations of cellulose and greater strength.
Stress wood is an important part of the growing process. It not only strengthens the tree, but helps position the plant so it receives the most benefit from the sun.
Since the trees in this perfect Biosphere environment didn’t have wind, they didn’t create enough stress wood and though they grew quicker as a result, in the end many weren’t strong enough to stand.
But it doesn’t just happen in Biospheres.
Have you ever walked in a forest and seen trees leaning over or even broken off. Trees in the middle of a forest are protected from the wind and don’t develop sufficient quantities of stress wood either. If they are crowded together, their entangled branches actually help the trees to stand upright.
However, if outlying trees are removed, the inner trees will topple over when the winds hit. And like in Biospheres, those in the interior will often lean under their own weight.
And this is exactly the point the Apostle James was trying to make in James 1. He tells us in verse 2 to count it all joy when we encounter trials.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. (James 1:2-3 NASV)
One of the results of those trials is described in verse 3 as endurance — enduring faith. Trials in one sense create stress-wood faith in our lives and without these trials, our faith would become anemic and we would eventually fall.
I have not reached the point where I count it all joy when trials hit, and I am not sure I ever will. And I know I will never do what a friend did years ago did. She prayed for trials. I remember her telling me one time that she was trying to book in a trial for the Wednesday of the following week. I just shook my head. But it may not have been as crazy as I thought it was at the time.
I think the point James is making is don’t fight trials. In moments of difficulty it is so easy to doubt God, even turn on God and literally shake your fist at the heavens.
To get the most benefit from the trials which test our faith, we need to purposefully choose to believe God in the midst of them. This will create the stress-wood faith we need to stand for God in troubled times.