Heather’s blog draws from verses in Jeremiah 17 and reminds us where our roots lie and how God’s spirit inside us will produce much fruit.
These are troubling times…more disrupted than most of us have every known in our lifetimes. Most of us, even children, will have felt a rise in our anxiety levels; adults will feel their thoughts are scattered and turbulent. I know mine are. They run a little bit like this – “Did everyone wash their hands before we left the house? Do we have enough craft supplies? Is my mum following the isolation guidelines properly? What if my daughter’s cold turns into a cough? How many meals can I make with chorizo? I should check in with this friend and that friend and that family member. How long ‘til the schools can open again?!! Dooooom!”
Thankfully, as Christians we don’t have to be tossed and turned at the mercy of our own train of thought! We have an inspired tool to find peace and insight and to understand God’s heart… yes that’s right I am talking about the Bible. No prizes for all the hands up in the Sunday school class. I was reading a little bit of my Lent study book yesterday morning (don’t feel inferior I am not up to date). Here are the verses God gave me for the day:
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is in the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8
What a promise from God! The first thing to notice is that it is a promise. It’s not a self help book. It’s not – “if you try really hard and pray really hard and imagine that your roots are really digging down into the earth, maybe you will reach a point when your leaves get a bit greener”. No – the man (or woman) who trusts in the Lord can access this promise in full. I don’t think it depends how much we’re trusting God at that particular moment either. If you are someone who has put the trust of their life and heart in God, then you are like that tree planted by the water, you don’t move closer to and further away from the water depending how strong your faith is feeling that day.
The second thing to notice for us in our current world situation is that here we are…the heat is on! The year of drought has come!! The Bible says that we will not fear and we won’t be anxious. For all of us in the UK in the time of coronavirus there are many reasons to be anxious; big, life changing reasons that we are not used to dealing with. We are being cut off from social support, human contact, the physical fellowship with our church family. We may lose our jobs, our home, our business. We or people close to us may get sick and die. We may fear not even having enough food to feed our family. How can God tell us that we will not fear?
Of course we probably will fear at some points during most days. But the promise is here for us to access. God has peace for us. The key is where we are planted. We are next to the water – our roots extend to it – we are in Christ and have access to the life giving Holy Spirit. Many times half the battle is just remembering that. Trees in a dry climate may not survive through drought and heat…but we are planted next to a body of water that does not dry up and our roots are in Him. We know that He is sovereign over everything happening throughout history. We know that we can lift up to Him our daily needs and our family and friends when we can do nothing to help or save them. We know that He holds us and our families in His hands and that even if we were to die from a deadly virus, that we have a promise that we will go to be with our Lord and best friend forever. Compared to those around us, who may be in very deep fear, our security and faith should be apparent. In a dry country you can tell the difference between a tree planted by water and a tree in dry ground.
What other promises are present in these verses? We have been promised that we will not fear. We are also promised that our leaves will be green and we will not cease to yield fruit in times of stress and danger. What does this mean when taken out of the metaphor?
Trees are not single objects, separate, living only for themselves. Trees support life on earth. They strengthen the soil and prevent it from being eroded and degraded. They give oxygen, shade and protection for humans, crops and many types of wildlife. They bear fruit that feeds others. And God is promising us that we will be like a tree, a healthy, photosynthesising, growing tree. The fruit that He brings forth from us will enrich the world. We are here to beautify, support and bless the world in whatever way He gives us to do.
In this time of crisis it may feel there is not much we can do. You may be at home isolated, unable to even provide your own food, relying on others to support you. But you can still bless the world. You can allow God to bring forth His fruit; the Holy Spirit can give you an increase in love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self control even as you rely more and more on Him and only Him. We can serve by loving the person/people we are shut up with, even when we are winding each other up by too much close contact and they are chewing their food really really loudly! We can find joy in the little things that God gives us, the voice of a friend on the phone, the cherry blossom about to appear on my neighbour’s tree. We can seek Him for peace, even when the promise feels really hard to come by and we fear for everyone we know. We can be kind and send a parcel to a friend via the internet or order food for foodbank even when we can’t leave the house. We can demonstrate God’s goodness to the world in the way we react to bad news, inconvenience and the plight of others. We can be faithful in the little things, keeping washing our hands even though it’s boring and annoying, to keep ourselves and others out of the hospital system. We can use all of our self control to get through the last hour before bedtime without yelling at our kids.
And even when we get it wrong and mess it all up, we can go back to our living waters, to the promise of life in all its fullness that God gives us and say “Here I am Lord. I am your tree. My roots are in You. Send Your life into me again. I cannot live without You.”