We recently moved into a new house. One of the first things I did was plant a tree in our backyard. It is the only living thing out there. The rest is dry, lifeless dirt; any grass or flowers that were once there are now a casualty of the drought. But my tree is an outpost of green in a grey-brown backdrop.
I water my tree every three days. Small and fragile, it sometimes makes me nervous not to water it every day, especially when the temperatures reach 100 degrees with no rain in sight. But I know that I am actually doing the tree a favor. If I watered it every day, its roots would spread out just under the surface of the soil to absorb the water that trickled down to them every day. But if I water it only ocassionally, it will be forced to look for water elsewhere. It will dig its roots down deep, through the dry dust of drought-ridden topsoil and, eventually, into the moist soil that still lies several feet down.
I am quite attached to my tree, because I can relate to it.
Sometimes I go through a season of refreshing, where God is showing me something new every day and I feel I am growing by leaps and bounds, popping out new leaves all over the place if you will. God seems to pick a subject that he wants me to learn about (beauty, submission, His sovereignty, not judging others, being a child of God, etc) and everywhere I turn I’m seeing a new truth about that subject. God’s presence feels very near and accessible.
But without fail, after a month or so this “rainy season” comes to an end. God’s voice doesn’t become completely silent, just quieter, less noticeable. I have to listen harder, be more intentional about quieting myself to hear Him. And while I don’t (usually) feel abandoned in these “in-between” times, it can be discouraging to face drought again after a season of so much abundance.
But I’m beginning to see that this is necessary, that we are made to live seasonally, that we function, learn, and grow best when we do so in short stints with rests in between. Most plants grow best when they are watered only ocassionally, because they’re forced to push their roots down farther, searching for the deep water of the water table. We function the same way. We need seasons when God is raining His presence and blessing and insight and vision into our lives in abundance. But we also need seasons when His wisdom is not so forthcoming, when we have to seek more doggedly and push harder into Him.
I think there are (at least) two reasons for this:
One, the treasure we find after a difficult search is one we value that much more. The knowledge or wisdom we gain through days and weeks of prayer, studying God’s Word, and wrestling with Him is wisdom we will not quickly forget.
Second, it’s hard to know how much we really depend on God when everything comes easy. When God’s blessings are flowing in abundance in our lives, it’s easy to enjoy being His child. But when life is confusing, when we don’t get the answers we feel we need, that’s when we discover who or what we trust. When things are hard, do we throw ourselves on God, saying with Peter “Where else would we go? You alone have the words of eternal life”? (John 6:68) Or do we turn to our many back-up plans, trusting in them to secure our well-being and bring us peace? Do we work harder, or eat more, or spend less time alone, or watch more TV, or lose ourselves in our favorite hobby? Do we run from the questions that are grating at our souls? Or do we make ourselves rest in our often-inscrutable God, waiting on Him to reveal Himself in His way at the time He knows is best, even if that means waiting years or perhaps a lifetime?
The dry seasons can be blessings if we rest in God even when everything in us wants to move on, to search for wetter climes. Dig your roots deep. There is water to be found, and it’s draughts are life-giving and refreshing and they don’t dry up. “You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13)