In “Streams in the Desert”, I read of a beautiful flower that grows both up on an unprotected mountain top as well as in the valley. The version in the valley is pallid, without much shape or color. The version on the mountain top, however, is beautifully colored and shaped – magnificent.
It reminded me of how a tree that is planted and protected and watered by the gardener is always weak. It never thirsts and so it never has to grow its roots deep to find water. Then, when the storms come, the tree just falls over.
I know that in the midst of my worst depression, I did NOT want to go through storms. I just wanted to LAY LOW and stay under the radar where God “wouldn’t see me” (as if such a thing were possible), because I didn’t want to go through even more tough times than I already was (as if laying low would ward off more “crap”!). If going through trials would make me a better Christian, I was going to be content with being a not-so-better Christian. I would just get in by the skin of my teeth, and that was fine with me. I’m just being honest.
But I was sinking. I was dying. It got to the point where tiny gusts of wind seemed like hurricanes to me. I became wimpier and wimpier, afraid of more and more things, unable to cope with the slightest challenges.
You just CAN’T STAY IN ONE PLACE IN GOD. You either go backward or forward, but you don’t stay still. It’s like not using your muscles – they atrophy and you can’t function. So maybe, just maybe, God is allowing the situations around us to work our muscles and move us forward. Just a suggestion – I don’t want to scare you off – but think about it.
Psalm 119: 75-77 says:
75I know, O Lord, that your laws are righteous,
and in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
76May your unfailing love be my comfort,
according to your promise to your servant.
77Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
for your law is my delight.
The psalmist is recognizing his affliction, but also God’s faithfulness, all in one breath. He does what we do: he asks for unfailing love to comfort us, and compassion come to us so we can continue through the affliction.
Then he continues with this (does this sound like anything you have ever said to God?)
81My soul faints with longing for your salvation,
but I have put my hope in your word.
82My eyes fail, looking for your promise;
I say, “When will you comfort me?”
83Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke,
I do not forget your decrees.
84How long must your servant wait?
When will you punish my persecutors?
85The arrogant dig pitfalls for me,
contrary to your law.
86All your commands are trustworthy;
help me, for men persecute me without cause.
87They almost wiped me from the earth,
but I have not forsaken your precepts.
88Preserve my life according to your love,
and I will obey the statutes of your mouth.
We are not the first to go through this. Do you know that, even after David was anointed King, he had to spend something like 16 years living in caves, running for his life, pursued and persecuted? His life was sheer hell. He had so much to deal with. His wife’s betrayal, the death of his best friend, and so much more. And yet, he balanced his intimate knowledge of his pain with his intimate knowledge of his God. He recognized that God had allowed the affliction for a season, and he was still willing to trust Him.
So consider yourself that tree, or those flowers. Your roots are going deeper, you are drinking deeply from Him while the storm rages, you are becoming more and more beautiful to Him every day (even when you feel you aren’t attractive to Him at all by your actions or attitude). Every day you don’t give up and don’t give in completely to despair is a day of victory!
You get brownie points for keeping on keeping on. When Paul finished his life, he didn’t say anything other than he had FINISHED THE RACE. And that’s what we are here to help you do – finish the race you have begun so Jesus can finish the work He has begun in you. And He is faithful to complete that work – just hold on.