During these colder winter months, I find it restorative to peruse seed catalogues and check out gardening sites and books. For me it is a time of hope as I envision the seeds being planted and growing into fruitful produce. Later, in spring, the budding fruit trees signal the hope of delectable fruit to come. Gardening is a hopeful endeavour, trusting that there will be fruit at the end of the journey.
In God’s Word, growing plants are used often to help describe the Christian life. From the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in Genesis to the Tree of Life in Revelation, Scripture directs our paths with words of how to flourish in the faith with examples from the natural world.
In Jeremiah 17 are these words:
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (vs. 7-8 NIV)
At this particular point in history, the people of Judah had put their trust in earthly things – thinking they could do things themselves and amass enough military might to succeed against their enemies. They had lost sight of all that God had done for them in the past and needed a reminder of where their true hope lay. Basically, they were trying to fix things themselves, forgetting Almighty God.
It’s easy to get in that position. We look for earthly cures for viruses and afflictions. Our countries gather military power to try to keep us safe. We look for the next new thing that supposedly will bring about better health and life and satisfaction.
I don’t know about you, but I find little satisfaction in what the world has to offer. Every year, for example, there is a new diet craze that supposedly will be THE way to keep the pounds off forever. Others say, if you just follow their steps to wellness that you will be living a life of freedom and success. Multiple media items promote new ways to make your life better. But all of these focus on ourselves.
What Jeremiah is saying, in the passage above, defies those kinds of thoughts. We cannot draw sufficient strength from other humans in order to survive the trials of life. Hope placed in anyone but God will eventually lead to dissatisfaction and even disaster.
His example of a tree by a stream is fitting. Such a tree has deep roots that survive even the toughest of drought challenges. How deep are your roots? Do you place them in the stream of the living God or have you placed them in places where the challenges of this world are going to uproot you and have you swaying in the wind like a palm tree in a hurricane?
I am certainly not perfect in this regard but I can attest to the fact that being deeply rooted in God’s Word and trusting in Him no matter what happens has immensely helped me in times of deep distress and upset. I have lived through some extremely challenging circumstances in my life. I never could have weathered them alone. I continually have to draw on God for strength.
There is hope when I don’t feel like I am totally relying on my own wits to succeed. Our all sufficient God remains forever faithful – something no worldly person or philosophy can truly claim.
I find immense peace and security when my hope is centered on God alone. I know He will give me all that I truly need – both for my physical needs and for my emotional/spiritual ones. Does that mean I understand God’s ways and timing? Absolutely not. I get impatient waiting for answers. I get stubborn and willful and try to do things on my own at times. I sometimes miss out on the true satisfaction that comes from God working in my life when I release my cares and worries to Him.
Thankfully, God reminds me over and over to rely on Him. He invites us all to live in His grace and draw our strength from Him as a tree draws its needs from the stream of water.
It is challenging to find things/people in today’s world that truly inspire my confidence. God is the only one who stays constant – ever nurturing and looking out for my every need.
Jeremiah ends this passage by saying that a tree that is rooted by the stream never ceases to bear fruit. So, it is with us. When we draw our strength from the living God we will not only have abundant strength for ourselves, but we will be able to share this living hope with others as well.
It is difficult to bear fruit and share the Gospel message when we are not filled up ourselves. An empty vessel cannot pour out life sustaining liquids. It comes back to where our center of life is.
Draw your hope and strength from our gracious Heavenly Father. Your trust is well placed when you rely on Him for all you need, both in this life and the next.