As Christians, it is guaranteed that we will face difficult seasons of life. James 1:2 (ESV) says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you face trials of various kinds… (emphasis added).” James is telling us that we are to count it all joy when we go through hard times, and that command is almost offensive. How are we supposed to have joy when it seems like our lives are being uprooted?
When I was going into my freshman year of high school, my foundation was completely shaken, and my life was completely uprooted. My parents divorced and my life changed drastically from having to split time with them, going to court-appointed counseling, and so many other things, all while trying to grow into myself and figuring out what I wanted to do with my life as a new high school student. Little did I know that the Lord would use my circumstances to teach me and grow me.
“When we delight in God and in His word, it is in that place that there will be growth. God’s Word is true, it is a firm foundation for our lives to be built upon.”
It was not an instant change, not in the slightest. Over the next few years in high school, I wrestled with anger and bitterness towards my parents, and even towards God. I could not understand why God would allow the two people I expected to stay together forever to separate which would then create a dysfunctional home. I felt helpless. I had grown up being taught that God was good, that He cared for the ones who trusted in Him, and it did not feel like those things were true.
As I got older, I learned (and even now I am still learning) that my expectations and my security were being placed in the wrong thing. As hard as it was to watch my parents’ marriage fall apart, I began to realize that my identity and my hope could not be rooted in anything in this world. It is why I struggled so much with anger and bitterness in the beginning stages of the divorce. It is when I forget this, even now, that I become anxious and despondent when life gets hard or does not play out exactly how I expect it to. So, what does it look like to respond rightly when life does not happen the way we think it should?
Recently, there was a lot of change that happened in my life. My mom got remarried, the pandemic was creating a new sense of distance between people in my church, me and my friends, my boyfriend, and even some of my family members. My sister was planning to go to college, my brother moved in with my mom and my new stepdad, and I felt as if my entire world was splitting apart...again. New fear reared its ugly head, along with old, familiar fear that crept its way back into my heart. I was left grasping for some sort of consistency, hope, and unity. I did not know what to do, and the expectations I had placed on the people in my life and circumstances I had hoped would happen left me disappointed. I could feel the depression settling in my mind, and soon began to feel numb. I knew God had pulled me through before, but would He do it again? I do not know the answers to these thoughts. To this day, I am still fighting against fear and insecurity, but I do know that when we are rooted in Christ we will not be shaken. There are so many passages that speak on what the Christian life will look like when it is established in the person of Christ, but I am just going to touch on a few.
The first verses are, I am sure, familiar to most people. Psalm 1:2-3 (ESV) says, “but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” When we delight in God and in His word, it is in that place that there will be growth. God’s Word is true, it is a firm foundation for our lives to be built upon.
Another passage that is like this is Jeremiah 17:7-8 (ESV), and it says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” I think that Jeremiah takes the psalmist’s verses to a deeper level in these verses. Not only will a person bear fruit when they are planted in the Word of God, but even more so when they are trusting in it and in the person of Christ. Jeremiah says that when we trust in the Lord, not only will we be bearing fruit in our lives, but we will also not be anxious when the dry seasons come.
Every one of us goes through dry seasons in our faith. We do not want to read our Bible because it feels like we are eating cardboard, and we do not want to pray because it feels like our words are evaporating into the air around us and reaching no one. But in these verses, we are offered hope and are given a reason why we should not fear the dry seasons of our walk. We can have hope because, even in these seasons of drought, God is still working.
“He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also put eternity in their hearts, but no one can discover the work God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 (CSB)
When things are uncertain, some of us frantically try to figure out answers for ourselves. I love this illustration by Maggie Meadows Cooper with her daughter:
“When bedtime rolls around each night, my littlest lady chooses a story and climbs up in bed beside me excitedly. She examines the pictures and listens intently as the story begins… for about two or three pages. But then, when the words are too many, she yanks the page from my hand and turns it before it’s time. She’s so excited to see what happens next, that she fails to listen to how the story unfolds. She misses the important details that got her to the next page and when she’s confused by the pictures, she decides she would rather make up her own story. But that’s not what the author intended. He wrote each word carefully, with purpose, to share a story that only he could write. Isn’t it the same way with the Lord?”
Many of us can be like that impatient child. We want to know how a situation turns out, what the next step is in our lives, so much so that we try to grab the pages from the story God has written for our lives to skip ahead to the answer. The truth is, God is working in our waiting. We are not all knowing, that’s how God created us to be. Not knowing the end from the beginning is what forces us to rely solely on God’s good plan for each of our lives.
When we are anxious about our next president, when we are worried about whether new restrictions will be placed on our communities because of COVID, we have to rest in the One who already knows the answer. How relieving it is that we have a God who has already perfectly planned a story for each of our lives. For all the things happening in our country and in our world. He has a plan and a part for everything. Each president, each stage of life, each circumstance—they all have their seasons. Seasons that are not a surprise to God. We have hope, because even in the hardest, driest seasons of our lives, God is still working. Hope in the Lord in every season, and trust that He is an all-knowing, gracious God. Pray we would be rooted in Him, that He would be our trust, not anything in this world.
Colossians 2:6-7 - “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”