A guest post by Jill Redling
We do a lot of waiting. We wait for plans to be fulfilled. We wait for relief. We wait for prayers to be answered and while we wait, we wonder.
We wonder if what we are waiting for will ever come about.
We rework numbers, we re-hash “bullet-proof” plans, we cross “t’s” and dot “i’s” and yet our plans remain stagnant, the pain constant, and the prayer unanswered.
After some waiting the plan may evaporate totally, sometimes life happens and the plan gets tucked up and rolled in a drawer, sometimes we fight and claw for our plan to come about, while every door shuts in our face and we lack the humility to give it up.
Sometimes our plan becomes gospel, and the gospel becomes a tool to cut and paste around our plan to assure its security.
Sometimes the pain becomes all there is, instead of a part of what actually is. Sometimes the pursuit of relief becomes a losing game of hide and seek, never resting in God’s goodness and sovereignty. Sometimes the pain becomes a lie that God isn’t for us, but against us. Sometimes we forget that Jesus endured the cross. Sometimes those unanswered prayers become bitterness. Sometimes they become hopelessness because we have made them our responsibility instead of God’s.
And then we look to God with eyebrows raised, assuming control, assuming wisdom, boasting in work, and demand that God do his part, since we’ve done ours.
And then God in his kindness dismisses our arrogant prayers, loves us perfectly and makes us wait.
I’ve been learning to garden for the past year and a half. Prior to this, everything I planted died. Even the “sure-fire, this plant can’t die” plant would eventually die. So I quit trying. Gardening just wasn’t for me. Then last year, my kids got sick, all five of them, for 4 months straight. One crazy virus after another, bacteria infections back to back, plus pink eye and MRSA to top it all off. I was going crazy and I had to leave the house, without actually leaving the house. So I went to my local nursery and pleaded for help. Tell me exactly what to do. You’re the gardener, I am not.
I bought a few plants and some manure, vitamins, fertilizer, water retention seed kit and prayed. I would put the youngest down for a nap, set the sick kids in front of a movie, open the window so I could see them and put all my stress and lack of control and prayers into the ground.
I prayed that my labor wouldn’t be in vain. I prayed that my money wouldn’t be wasted. I prayed for healing and strength. At times I gardened in this sweet misty rain that fell from heaven. God heard my prayers. And guys! My flowers are alive and in fact, they are multiplying!!! It has been a great encouragement to me, in fact, throughout this year, the Lord has used a thousand gardening analogies to rock my world, but lately, the one impacting my soul is the concept of prepping the soil.
Prepping the soil means digging up roots (of bitterness), uprooting thorns and thistles (sin), breaking through hardened soil (apathy), so the earth can receive the plant (life).
This process takes the most time. This process is hard and not fun. And depending on how bad the soil is, or what’s buried underneath, this prepping phase feels like forever.
We are that soil.
We think we are waiting, but really, we are changing.
The Lord is the true gardener, preparing the soil of our hearts; uprooting, digging out, painfully revealing that which has been hiding underneath, to prepare the very good he is planting.
This waiting and prepping is hard, but crucial to the process. Otherwise everything dies.
As Jesus tends to us, we learn to trust him, and by God’s grace we learn that although we wait, we live. Those plans may be uprooted along with the thorns and bulbs that don’t belong there. That relief may not come this side of heaven, but the Lord will gently tend to your heart, sowing seeds of comfort and assurance and love. And those prayers, although unanswered today, are in the capable, faithful hands of the God of the universe.
But sometimes, all that waiting, all the trials, all that sanctified tilling is the Lord faithfully working to take that plan, or relief or prayer and place it gently in soil that is NOW READY. Now this can grow. Maybe now, the plan can come to fruition. Now it will live. Maybe, now the Lord is bringing relief. Maybe now, it is time to answer that prayer! Now thorns (sin) won’t destroy it, now a hard heart won’t prevent the water of life from quenching it’s thirst. Maybe now the soil can receive it with thanksgiving.
…perhaps no other passage better captures our interplay between our plans and God’s control over them than Proverbs 16:9: “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps”. At first glance, the word “but” in this verse appears to signal a strict contrast between “our will” and “God’s will”. Instead of a contrast, though, this verse is better understood as an observation about increasing levels of sovereignty. The word “but” also carries the idea of “and”. There are actually two truths being communicated here: “The heart of man plans his way” and “the Lord establishes his steps”.
Sometimes our plans, prayers, and hopes of relief overlap with God’s plans. Sometimes they are the same! I think for a long time, I believed that my desires or thoughts of plans were there only because I hadn’t died to myself enough. But maybe these longings actually come from God himself! And I say maybe, because not always.
But no matter the outcome, the garden will grow. The old is gone and will be completely gone, and the new has come and will be completely new.
The Gardener is cultivating something beautiful, something humble and pure.
You may have planned for begonias, but the Lord brought forth azaleas.
You thought sunflowers were the relief you were looking for, but this milkweed has brought butterflies.
And sometimes you pray for gardenias and the Lord answers that prayer, and gardenias it is! Trust the Lord. Trust the timing. Trust his ways. Trust that he has the very best for you.
Trust the waiting is really his working.
Trust that you are a treasured possession, a dear chosen one in whom the Lord takes great delight, planting and tending, growing and multiplying and bringing life forevermore.
“…the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.”Isaiah 32:15-17