One day my oldest daughter and I were eating lunch when she looked at the dead flowers sitting in a vase in the middle of the kitchen table. “Mommy, why do flowers die even when they’re in water?”, she asked. “Because they aren’t planted in the ground.” She then asked if the flowers knew they were dead. I didn’t have an answer for that. But it made me wonder if a spiritually-dead Christian knows when they are dead and how an individual might end up in such a state.
Wandering down this trail of thought eventually led me to Jeremiah 17.
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
And makes flesh his strength,
Whose heart departs from the Lord.
For he shall be like a shrub in the desert,
And shall not see when good comes,
But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness,
In a salt land which is not inhabited.” (Jer. 17:5-6)
Allow me to provide the Message translation:
“Cursed is the strong one
who depends on mere humans,
Who thinks he can make it on muscle alone
and sets God aside as dead weight.
He’s like a tumbleweed on the prairie,
out of touch with the good earth.
He lives rootless and aimless
in a land where nothing grows.”
The one who believes God to be an accessory rather than an absolute necessity is misguided in his thinking. What we see illustrated in this passage is a person whose hope and faith are misplaced. It is because of this that individuals like this lack solid footing and are easily blown away with every wind that rises up against them. As a result, they live lives in which they wander from here to there with no particular destination in mind, ultimately leading them to a place where nothing grows – not even them.
Flowers that sit in water-filled vases can continue to live but only for a time. For a few days the water will allow them to survive but that’s all it can do. After that, the flowers will slowly start to die. Because they aren’t connected to any source of life, there is no way they could ever revert back to a stage of growth. Flowers that are planted in the ground, on the other hand, will continue to live and can even begin to thrive so long as they remain in position to be tended to. And when we make the decision to remain in God’s care, placing our hope and faith in Him and not in our own strength or that of man, He will never cease to tend to us.
Jeremiah 17:7-8 reads as follows:
“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.”
The depth of our faith and trust in God determines the depth of our roots. It is an indicator of how we will fare when adversity comes. It determines what will become of us in the dry season when we don’t hear from God as often as we used to. When it seems that He’s gone silent for a period of time. Will we stand on the last thing He spoke to us or will we waver? Will we depend on our own ability to reason to help us draw conclusions that aren’t even close to being aligned with what He previously spoke to us from His own mouth?
The depth of our faith and roots also determine how nourished we will be and, in turn, determine how much we will grow. And deep roots aren’t developed by accident nor by chance. They are developed with intentionality and resolve. By being intentional about spending more time with Him and resolving to trust Him when we don’t seem to have any obvious reason to based on the looks of our present circumstances, forcing us to bring to our remembrance the things we’ve seen Him do in the past.
The thing about being rooted and grounded is that you are fixed in one place until God makes the decision to transfer you to another. As creatures that always have somewhere to get to, this may not sound appealing. A lack of mobility can cause to wonder what else is out there, beyond the riverbank. It can be tempting to get up and go explore without being given permission or instruction to do so but the moment we uproot ourselves to satisfy our curiosity is the moment we remove ourselves from God’s perfect will to His permissive will. And in the beginning, permissive will will seem to be everything we ever wanted but when our newfound freedom loses its appeal, what will start to unfold is all of the things God was trying to protect us from. It is in our best interest to stay where we’ve been planted, choosing long-term growth over short-term adventure, until He says it’s time to go elsewhere.
“Their leaves stay green and they never stop producing fruit”. Regardless of what happens, trees that are planted alongside the river will continue to bring forth fruit. They will continue to exist and they will continue to produce. Even unrelenting heat will fail in its attempt to dry them up. Because they are being nourished from the bottom up, the source of their life comes from a place that isn’t exposed to or effected by external forces. While our natural man is constantly tried and tested, our faith, being buried deep down within us, is safely tucked away and it is not easily shaken and in some circumstances, it remains completely unbothered. That is the value of deep roots and deep faith. When you’d think you would be blowing through the desert as tumbleweed or dried up like a flower that’s been dug up from its place, you find that you are instead grounded and flourishing.