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Choose Where You Will Live, Part II

DSC_3703_2Dear Comfort Cafe Friends,

We are studying Jeremiah 17:5-8. When outdoor temperatures rise, it somehow seems appropriate to study about deserts, wastelands, and wilderness. May your spiritual thirst be quenched as you put down fresh roots by streams of living water.

desertThis is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:5-8)

Blessed is the one who places his or her confidence completely in the Lord.

Confidence . . . ever really thought about this word? Some of us tend to have too little and some of us too much! Either way, a proper balance can be gained when we place our confidence in the Lord alone. If we tend to be too confident, humbly trusting the Lord will temper our pride. If we tend to be too timid, trusting the Lord will give us courage to overcome our fears.

Definition of Trust

By the way, to “trust the Lord” can best be described as a confident, assured reliance on the character, strength and truth of God. Let’s look more closely at this kind of trust:

Now the blessed [man or woman] will be like
a tree planted by the water that
sends out its roots by the stream.
Such a tree will not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.

A Well-Watered Tree

Note that the personified tree in this passage is confident because it is planted by water, a life-giving source. Stop and think for a moment: Where have you planted your life? By a stream or in the desert? Persistent patterns of unbelief, anger, bitterness, worry, self-pity, and unforgiveness etc. lead to a barren and isolated existence. However, persistent choices to trust God with life’s challenges connects us to living water, producing a fruitful, blessed life.

We need to understand that though this tree is planted in a good place, it goes through dry seasons. All Christians go through times of drought which are brought on by things over which they have no control. These times of drought are brought on by the ebb and flow of difficult life seasons. Trials are inevitable, but if we send our roots deeper during such times, we will survive and continue to be fruitful.

And then there are times our choices send us to the badlands . . .

A Desert Of My Own Making

I would say that worry takes me into the wilderness just about quicker than anything. Preparing for a study-abroad trip to Moldova several years ago, I began to realize how bad my worry problem had become. I worried about things at home and things abroad. My husband’s and my parents were old. What if someone died while I was overseas? I obsessed over preparation deadlines and packing efficiently. Most of all, I worried about potential disasters in Moldova. Health issues especially concerned me. This former Russian republic was not a place where you’d want to be hospitalized. What if my appendix ruptured? TB was common and car accidents occurred often.

We were told to obtain antibiotics from our doctor so that we could treat ourselves in case of food poisoning. To my active imagination, the idea of food poisoning led to all kinds of potentially unpleasant or, heaven forbid, embarrassing scenarios! Needless to say, all these worrisome thoughts discombobulated me into a stressed-out mess. As I worried, I began to realize what was really bothering me—my utter lack of control over life! Then in the weeks prior to the trip, three things happened that God used to speak to me.

Lessons in Trust

Several weeks before my departure, my father-in-law, who had been very ill, passed away. I had been so worried that we would lose one of our four parents while I was out of the country, and now it had happened while I was still in the country. Though we were grieving, I was so grateful that I was home with my husband during this difficult time. God seemed to say, “I have the timing of all things in my hands. Trust me.”

As I mentioned, I had also been very worried about the likelihood of a car accident in Moldova. Two weeks before my departure, I was rear-ended and pushed into the car ahead, leaving me with a case of whiplash and back sprain. God seemed to say, “See, a car accident can happen anywhere. You aren’t any safer here than in Moldova. Now consider: what you imagined was far worse than what occurred. Please note that not every set-back turns into a catastrophe.”

The health risks of travelling to Moldova probably concerned me most. A few days before leaving, I experienced sudden hearing loss in my right ear. The attack came on from one minute to the next. Suddenly my ear was buzzing, and it felt as if I were holding a pillow to my ear because the sounds came through so muffled. This sent me into panic because about 20 years ago, I lost significant hearing this way and then needed hearing aids. I couldn’t imagine dealing with an even more profound hearing loss. I cried out to God, “What are you doing, Lord? Do you not want me to go to Moldova? And more importantly, are you changing course on my life’s work altogether? How will I be able to work as a counselor if I can’t hear?” I did what I could with herbal support and asked my husband for prayer. We had to make a decision on going to the emergency room. With this kind of hearing loss, spasms cut off blood flow to the nerve center. I had about a 24-hour window to get prednisone, but even with medication, recovery was not guaranteed as I knew all too well. My other problem was that I do not tolerate prednisone at all, and I feared this medication as much as I feared going deaf. I decided I’d take advantage of the window of time to wait on God a few hours first before seeking medical attention. And . . . a miracle occurred. Yes, in about two hours, my hearing returned. Gradually, but unmistakeably, the buzzing subsided and sounds regained the former level of clarity.

A New Understanding

You can about imagine my relief, my gratitude, my overwhelming sense of amazement. And now God REALLY had my attention. That evening He seemed to say, “Ruth, you’ve been worrying about things over which you have absolutely no control. Look, in these three circumstances, was I not still in the midst of everything that happened? I can even do a miracle if need be! I am Lord of your life. You are in my hands. Trust me.” With this series of events, God built up my faith and quieted my fear about going to Moldova. I was reminded that it’s okay to not be in control. He’s got my back. Even though I had gotten lost in the desert of worry, God graciously brought me out.

Wrapping It Up

Anytime we rely on ourselves rather than on God, we are choosing desert wanderings. In Part I we looked at the difference between the fruits of the Spirit and the fruits of the flesh, the difference between trust and unbelief, the tragedy of barren, vision-distorting wilderness living. Now in Part II we’ve looked at the difference between enduring a drought while still connected to water and creating our own desert.

Challenge

Where do you see yourself right now? Are you living the blessed life, or are you in a desert? What fruit of the fleshmight be drying you up right now? Worry? Resentment? Anger? Self-pity? Or ______ (fill in the blank)? Bring all your wanderings to the Lord. When we get lost, we need to trust our Guide to show us the way out of the desert. Remember, “blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him” (Jeremiah 17:7, NIV). Such a one will be like a well-watered tree.

Prayer
Lord, according to Isaiah 61, we want to be “oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of Your splendor.” Thank you for being the Good Shepherd who provides for us in times of drought. Open our eyes to the deserts of our own making; redirect our roots to the river of life, and lead us beside quiet waters.

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