“Tough nut to crack” has long been a synonym for a difficult problem. The toughest nut, the standard by which nutcrackers are judged, is the black walnut. I have yet to meet the nutcracker that renders its contents easily accessible. Primitive tools are often the best – car tires, a one pound hammer, and a brick.
Many years ago, when we lived in Indiana, our property was loaded with black walnuts. I yearned for softer nuts to crack, like the paper shell pecans I remembered from Texas. One year I searched the nursery catalogs for a way to grow pecans in Indiana. I learned that it would be risky and would take 7 to 8 years to see the first pecans. Meanwhile, nature had bountifully supplied me with bushels of hard black walnuts that stained my fingers and taxed my patience. What to do?
I flailed away with a hammer with disappointing results. Then I learned I could spread them out in the driveway and drive over them for a couple of weeks to work on their attitude. Gradually, the hammer blows fell more precisely, and a few kernels began to escape the shells without first being reduced to pulp. My fingers were less perpetually stained because I learned to let them dry after the car tire hulling. And, I discovered that I like black walnuts better than any other nut. They’re always hard to find in the store and expensive because they are so hard to extract, and have a short shelf life. But, they are sweet and among the highest in unsaturated fats and so, very healthy, especially if you have to crack them yourself, and don’t mind cracking an occasional digit.
Often God gives different problems from the ones I want. Other people get those – like whether to go to Italy or France this year, or which luxury pick up truck to buy to drive around my Montana ranch. Does God give me the problems that are right for me to have? I don’t often know what He is up to, but I know that when I receive everything as from His hand for my good I grow more adept and sometimes tease out something tasty and nourishing.
The 107th Psalm rehearses “tough nuts” that Israel faced with the refrain: “then they called to the Lord in their trouble and He rescued them…” When their difficulty was relieved they found cause for rejoicing. “If you are wise, study these things and realize how God shows His love.” What’s lying around your yard? It could be black shelled manna.