Tag Archives: trust

Drought Resistance

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But blessed are those who trust in the LORD
and have made the LORD their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit.
(Jeremiah 17:7-8, New Living Translation)

What does it look like to “trust in the Lord”? What does it mean to make him your “hope and confidence”? I’ve been wrestling with those questions over the past couple days – ever since my Dad reminded me of Jeremiah’s words.

Part of the answer lies in the alternative: trusting in “mere humans” and relying on human strength. Do that, Jer’ says, and you’re cursed. Not necessarily damned, but certainly doomed. Like a “stunted shrub in the desert… in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land.” With “no hope for the future.” Dismal words. Dismal picture. Dismal life.

“But,” he says, it doesn’t have to be that way. You can be like a riverside tree, “with roots that reach deep into the water.”

Look at the picture above. The landscape looks pretty brown and barren. Lots of weeds, but no crops. But the tree is flourishing. Green, leafy, healthy. Why? Because down to the right of the trunk, below the canopy’s shade, is a river. Not much of a river here, but water, nonetheless. And the tree’s roots reach through the brown soil deep into the ground where the water sits.

This particular tree, a few miles west of Ethiopia’s capital city, is a prayer tree. Christians from nearby villages meet here to pray in its cooling shade. In the midst of a dry and weary land, they come together to put their trust in the Lord; to make him their hope and confidence. And they—like the tree—aren’t afraid of the drought, but stay green and fruitful.

I’ve been through some wilderness times. I feel like I’m in the wilderness now. But there’s something different this time. More than ever before, I know I can trust in God. I know he is worthy of my trust, hope, confidence. It’s not easy; I’d really like to be able to just move forward, to pop out one more resume and get the job I’ve been waiting for, to be done with the waiting and wondering and wandering.

But he’s faithful. And even when I can’t see it, he’s growing fruit in me…and maybe even through me. And I don’t have to fear the drought.

Walking With God

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220px-hannah_whitall_smithMy knowledge of God … advanced slowly through many stages, and with a vast amount of useless conflict and wrestling, to the place where I … discovered to my amazement and delight His utter unselfishness, and saw it was safe to trust in Him. –Hannah Whitall Smith (emphasis mine)

I opened a new (to me) devotional book this morning and read these words from 19th-century Quaker Hannah Whitall Smith. Though I know very little of Smith’s life or spiritual journey, her description of that journey jumped out at me. How often have I wrestled with God? How often have I felt conflict in my relationship with Him, convinced God wanted nothing more than to squelch my enjoyment, my desires, my dreams?

Of course, none of those feelings of mine are rooted in the truth of Scripture that I have so long read and studied. My accusations fly in the face of such promises as “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4) and “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11). Still, in the dark, discouraging days, it is too easy to blame God.

Learning that “it [is] safe to trust in Him” is a lifelong process. It is a journey of discovery that involves both pain and delight – just as we learn to love, know, and trust a husband or wife. Smith puts it this way:

“I simply mean becoming acquainted with Him as one becomes acquainted with a human friend; that is, finding out what is His nature, and His character, and coming to understand His ways.”

Learning to know and trust God can involve “useless conflict and wrestling” or it can begin by believing He is trustworthy, then proving it over the course of a journey taken with Him and “finding out His nature and His character, and coming to understand His ways.”

Whether Good or Bad…

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freely-10163“Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the LORD our God.” (Jeremiah 42:6)

How often have you made promises like that? Usually they come out in the hard times—illness, unemployment, battles. When God seems distant, silent, even uncaring, and we’re desperate for something—anything—to let us know He hasn’t abandoned us.

But the promise made in the desert is always harder to keep in the lush, green meadow. Especially when the message we hear back isn’t quite what we had in mind. When God says to the suddenly-unemployed businessman, “don’t send out anymore resumes.” When He says to the couple desperate for children, “don’t adopt.” When He says to the cancer patient, “don’t try another treatment.”

Not long after Nebuchadnezzar had ransacked Jerusalem and deported the best and the brightest, those who remained sought God’s voice. We’ll do whatever He says, they vowed. It wasn’t an easy promise for the people of Israel, especially in light of what God had usually said through his prophet. And the message that came back was no different than before: Don’t be afraid. Don’t fight. Don’t run away.

But with the Babylonian king still on their doorstep, they didn’t like that message. And they didn’t keep their promise. But God did.

If they had just listened and obeyed, all would have been well. “I will build you up and not pull you down;” God said, “I will plant you, and not pluck you up; for I relent of the disaster that I did to you.” Instead, they ran away to Egypt—and Nebuchadnezzar followed. To borrow a line from The Phantom of the Opera, “disaster beyond your wildest imagination will occur!”

When I was in Liberia several years ago, many of the Christians shared a litany:

In that West African nation ravaged by a 14-year civil war, it was as much a statement of faith as of experienced reality; it didn’t feel like God was good all the time. But sometimes, faith is all we can cling to.

Sometimes, what God says doesn’t make sense. Sometimes, it seems to work against the very thing we want. Those are the times that faith is tested. That’s when faith gets real. That’s when we need to cry out in desperation, faith, and hope: God is good—all the time!

Peace That Doesn’t Make Sense

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Recently a friend asked me a question that went something like this: In the midst of all the uncertainty you’re facing, how do you still have peace? To be honest, I have often wondered the same thing, because “peaceful” isn’t a word that I would typically use to describe myself. But for some reason I have experienced an uncharacteristic peace over these past months—what Paul described as “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) and what I like to call “a peace that doesn’t make sense.”

In just a few weeks, I’ll have…

  • a house but no job
  • expenses but no income
  • a calling but no call
  • a journey but no map
  • a destination but no direction.

Not exactly peace-giving circumstances!

But I will also have then what I already have now: a God who cares for me, and who has proven himself faithful; not only in the pages of Scripture—which, I confess, can seem a bit too easy at times—but also in my own life. Five-and-a-half years ago, a lamenting phone call to my parents introduced me to a stranger who became a pivotal contact for landing in the pastoral role I am in today. Six months later a desperate prayer spoken with too little faith was answered as clearly and explicitly as any I can recall.

God has not always answered my prayers quite so clearly or immediately. He has not spoken to me as plainly as he seemed to speak to people in the Bible. In fact, I am not entirely certain what to expect if God were to speak as plainly; after all, as I read through the Bible I see him speaking through burning bushes, talking donkeys, women and men; I hear him speaking in whispers and bellowing voice, at midnight and midday and midmorning; he speaks through angels and through dreams and visions. The only thing usual about how God has spoken in the past is that it is almost always unusual.

So how is it I can have peace in the midst of uncertainty? How can I trust in a God I can’t see and sometimes don’t hear? To be honest, I can’t. Not on my own, anyway. But God has given me a gift: the gift of peace that doesn’t make sense.