Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Like a Green Tree


You know when you read a scripture passage and it hits you with such force that you wonder, “How have I never seen that before??” That’s what’s happened to me a few years ago with a passage in Jeremiah chapter 17. I’d breezed by it several times over the years so it wasn’t unfamiliar, but it never really sunk in the way it needed to. Maybe that’s because I never took the time to understand what the words were actually saying. Once I finally came to see these verses with a new set of eyes, it changed my entire perspective. I want this passage to be true of me more than anything else in the whole world. Here it is - four simple little verses:

"Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.
   For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.
   Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit" (Jeremiah 17:5-8).

The issue in this passage is who we choose to trust. Jeremiah paints a beautiful picture of what our lives should look like if we really have placed our trust in the Lord. First of course is the woman who doesn’t trust or rely on her Savior’s atoning power. It says she’s like a heath (or a shrub) in the desert that is parched and dry and barren and blind. Seems logical enough. But the picture that truly slays me is the one of the woman whose heart does trust in her beloved Savior. Jeremiah describes her as a lush, green tree growing on the banks of a rushing stream with her roots growing deep into the overflowing waters. But the most amazing part about the verse is this: because this particular tree has access to all the nourishment she could possibly need, she’s completely unaffected by any stressful circumstances that come her way. If heat overtakes her, the verse says she does not “see” (which according to the footnote means “fear”). If drought threatens the surrounding land, we’re told that she’s not “careful,” which in the Greek means “not worried or anxious” (Strong’s Concordance of the Bible). That’s a totally mind-blowing prospect if you ask me. Can you even imagine living your life without any fear? Can you imagine facing trials and tribulations without any trace of anxiety or stress? It almost seems too good to be true. But it's all right there in black and white.

Here's what finally hit me. For most of my life, I definitely would’ve told you that I believed and trusted and loved my Savior Jesus Christ with all my heart. But in reality, much of my life was spent just like that scrubby heath. Too often my emotional state was parched and dry and barren and miserable (which of course lead to binging on chocolate and losing myself in a chick flick or whatever would lift me out of the barrenness for a little while). Ultimately, I had to face the fact that maybe I didn’t trust Him like I thought I did. That there was more I needed to learn about drawing strength and joy from those living waters rather than turning to food and media and other coping strategies or escapes. I’ll admit it sparked a hunger in me to learn how to live like that fruitful green tree. To learn how to trust so deeply and completely in Christ that all manner of adversity could come my way and I’d simply be content. Filled with His peace and His joy. Like the verse says, my leaf would be green and I would never cease from yielding fruit. It’s been quite a journey—one that has lead me through a great deal of self-honesty and repentance.  But I truly can say for myself now that I understand what Jeremiah was talking about. As Christ Himself has said, "I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst" (John 6:35). In other words, we don't have to live even one minute like that barren little heath. 


(For more examples of this idea in the scriptures, see the people of Alma in Mosiah 24 or the Stripling Warriors or Joseph who was sold into Egypt. All these people faced incredible hardship, but were able to face it with positivity and patience (Mosiah 24:15) through the life-changing grace of the Lord. I love it!)

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