I planted a tomato plant in a pot and set it on my patio. I watered it and the sun shone on it. I watched the plant grow. I shouted ‘Woohoo!’ when I saw the first little green tomato hanging from the plant. My mouth watered as I imagined slicing a red, ripe tomato and placing it on toast, lettuce, and bacon. But a couple weeks later, my tomato plant had lost about half it’s leaves and was leaning pathetically. As my mom & I looked closer at the plant, we noticed a disgusting, huge green caterpillar thing.
After a couple minutes, we had found and collected four of these nasty buggers.
Thanks to Google, I learned that these things are called tomato hornworms and they eat up your tomato plant until they’re fat & full. Then they drop to the ground and burrow into the dirt to wait through the winter. When spring comes, they come out as huge moths also known as ‘hummingbird moths’. Turns out, these caterpillars can attack other plants like eggplants, potatoes, and peppers.
I feel betrayed by nature. I try to be all ‘earth friendly’, and in return, I get a nasty bug decimating my plants. Surely, nothing good can come from these tomato hornworms.
Tomato hornworms remind me of a story in the Bible. It’s about a boy who is betrayed by his brothers. He ends up beaten, and sold into slavery. Betrayal. Suffering. Injustice. As the story continues, this boy grew to be a great leader of Egypt and save his family from a famine. This boy was able to see past all the bad stuff, and recognize God’s greater purpose. He said to his brothers, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”
These words suggest despite life’s struggles and sufferings, there is a greater good.
The tomato hornworms do not come close to comparing to life’s struggles and sufferings. In fact, there is no need to come up with analogies, because hardship, disappointment, injustice, abuse, betrayal, and evil is all around us. It leaves you, the tomato plant, half-eaten, drooping pathetically toward the ground. Can good come out of the evil?
Life from death, beauty from ashes, forgiveness from abuse…I have to believe in this.
I don’t know why tomato hornworms exist. But I have to believe that where the destroyer is, God shows up too. With a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. God has plans to not harm us. He takes that which is wrong and makes it right. He brings justice. He brings life. He brings healing. He brings peace. He brings forgiveness. It is God who rebuilds, restores, and redeems.
I am not able to prevent another hornworm from destroying my tomato plant. I am not able to prevent the abuse of every child. I am not able to free every enslaved young girl. I am not able to heal every broken relationship.
There’s bad stuff in this life.
But God can use it for good.
This I have to believe.