Have you ever put lots of effort into something, have high hopes for it, and then it not work out? This seems to be the tension and place that I’m sitting in and learning from lately, and definitely where God is showing me some issues rooted deep in my heart.
“So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” 1 Cor. 3:7
Late spring of this year, I planted my very first vegetable garden. From about the very moment we moved to our 6 acre property I imagined I would have a garden one day. But one of my sin struggles is laziness, so the idea of ACTUALLY working, planting, and tending a garden seemed too overwhelming. For 3 1/2 years my laziness won out, but somehow this year a couple of free packs of watermelon seeds and my daughter’s growing desire to have a garden (which I attribute to all of the Little House on the Prairie books she read!) were enough to convince me to at least try to plant something.
One afternoon just before a rain storm, I took a pack of the free watermelon seeds, very roughly and hastily dug up a tiny patch of ground, and dropped the seeds in. It was a “let’s just see what happens” move that carried no belief that these seeds would actually grow.
You can imagine my excitement when 4 or 5 adorable little green shoots started popping up out of the ground! I was amazed! I was in awe! I grew something! With just a tiny bit of effort a few seeds were growing, so I wondered what more effort could produce?
My kids, who were equally excited at the prospective garden, were all about helping me pick out veggies to grow. After scanning the garden section of Walmart, we settled on a few seed packs: cherry tomatoes, squash, zucchini, kale, cabbage, and broccoli. Surprisingly our cereal choices came with some free seeds as well! So, we added carrots and lettuce to our list. We mapped out where and how we would plant our veggies, and then momma took over planting the garden!
For several evenings I spent about 45 minutes to an hour preparing the ground for the garden. I dug out weeds, tilled up the earth, and moved wooden boards to mark the boundaries of the garden. My muscles ached from the repeated swinging motion of the hoe to the ground. It was hard work, but I believed my best efforts would equal my purpose being fulfilled. That hope and belief gave me joy and moved me to press on in midst of the present struggle.
I believed I would have a successful garden! After the seeds were planted, watered, and fertilized, I was so excited to see my little seeds starting to sprout! It was another moment of awe and amazement! These little seeds pushed their way through the dirt and were hopefully going to produce fruit! That’s what my thinking should have been, but here’s a clearer glimpse into my heart:
These little seeds (that I planted) pushed their way through the dirt (that I tilled and worked) and were hopefully going to produce fruit (that I deserved since I put in all that effort in the first place)!
Do you see that? Can you see the selfishness present? Well, let me give you an update on my sweet little garden…
- The watermelon, zucchini, and squash are growing like crazy! Big leaves, growing vines, and awesome flowers! They just may produce some fruit.
- The cherry tomatoes seeds popped out all over the place! There are a ton of them! But, they are little. They kind of seem like they stopped growing. There are no flowers at all, just a whole bunch of stems and leaves. Hmm…
- The kale seeds popped out, but they are tinier than the cherry tomatoes. Like itty-bitty little baby kale that don’t seem to want to grow any bigger.
- The carrots took a while, but there are a few itty-itty-itty-bitty stems and leaves out of the ground. Maybe 2 or 3. And who knows what’s going on under ground!
- The 3 cabbage plants were growing, and then 2 of them were dug up by my friend’s dog. It was a little heart-breaking (remember all that effort!!), but it’s really ok. One is still hanging in there, but it’s small.
- The lettuce plant is really small, but maybe growing? Hard to tell. It’s all up in one of the zucchini leave’s shadow.
- And the broccoli. The poor, poor broccoli. I was really looking forward to homegrown broccoli. What I once thought was growing has now kind of disappeared. I don’t think there is any of it growing in the garden.
I worked so hard on my garden, so.hard. But over half of what I planted is either barely growing or isn’t growing at all. God used this to point out something about myself. I saw a sinful tendency in my thinking that reaches much further in me than I even realized.
When I am faithful to do the work I expect God to bless it the way I think He should.
I worked hard on this garden Lord, it should grow!
I am working so hard homeschooling my kids Lord, they should be smart, well-rounded, respectful, wonderful kids.
My husband is working so hard Lord, you should bless his efforts and reward his work.
We are living faithfully to honor and glorify you Lord, so we should not have to struggle so much in this life.
Do you know what all these thoughts are? What they are all rooted in? It’s the prosperity gospel. A belief that is not only NOT biblical truth, it’s downright dangerous. This teaching that if we will give God our lives and follow His ways then He WILL bless us here on Earth and give us the desires of our heart can lead to a rocky, unstable foundation when trials, suffering, and hardship occur.
Much like my little garden, there are things just not working out, or not growing, in the life of my family. We have been walking through a season of difficulty as door, after door, after door has closed for us. Compared to so many others, ours is a light and momentary affliction, but still hard. I find myself thinking thoughts that have grown from this prosperity gospel root in my heart.
But we love you Lord. Our heart’s desire it to honor and glorify you! We are proclaimers of your truth! We trust that You are in control of all things! Why are you not allowing things to be easier for us???
I’ve always considered myself an optimist. The glass is always half-full, things always work out in the end, there is no reason to worry! God’s got it! But I’m learning that even that core characteristic of myself, absolutely who I have always been, is rooted in a false belief that things will work out for me in this life because I love God and follow Him.
But y’all, that’s just not true! Things don’t and won’t always work out for me or any believer simply because we love the Lord and do what we ought. Sometimes the garden doesn’t grow and sometimes the doors just keep closing. This truth has rocked me to the core. It has caused a shake up in my beliefs, but I am holding on and trusting. I believe God is doing a work and digging out all kinds of junk in my heart, and it is hard. It makes me ache. But I know it’s good because,
His alone is the hard work that will absolutely fulfill HIS purpose in my life. That hope and belief brings me joy and moves me to press on in midst of this present struggle.
Every soul that God tills up and plants His spirit in is sealed with that spirit. (Eph. 1:13)
Every seed that He plants in us WILL produce the good fruit that He intends. (Phil. 1:6)
Every bit of effort that God takes to prune us and make us more like Him IS worth it and proves that He loves us. (Heb. 12:7-11)
Every ache that comes from His work is always for His glory and our good. (Rom. 8:28)
He is good. He is good. He is good.
We live in a sinful, fallen world and things are not always going to work out like they “should.” Sometimes the garden won’t grow. Sometimes the husband or the child doesn’t get better. Sometimes your dreams and plans don’t come to fruition. Sometimes someone gets pulled over and gets shot. How we respond in these times shows us where our hearts truly are. Do you respond in faith, or do you respond in fear and grumbling*? Trials are the litmus test that God uses to show us how far or near we are to Him, but no matter where we fall on that scale He invites us to come to Him when we are weary. He is the one who gives us rest.
My heart wants to cease striving and trust that He is God. He is Lord over my life, but what’s more, I know He loves me. I often ask my kids this question, “How do you know you can trust mommy?” To which they respond, “Because I know you love me.”
So when the garden doesn’t grow and things don’t work out as they “should,” I hope you can respond in a similar way,
I know I can trust you Lord because I know that You love me.
* Because of our sinfulness we will never respond perfectly when trouble comes. However, there should be evidence of faith and clinging to Christ even in the tough stuff. I covet your prayers as we walk through tough stuff, and would love to pray for you as well. Feel free to comment and let me know how I can do so.