The beauty of analogy is that it brings what is intangible into view. It helps us to make sense of the things we cannot see.
“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.” Jeremiah 17:7-8
This verse sparked an analogy for me. An analogy of the human condition and a framework from which to view our suffering - internally and externally - to get at the heart. I love using this analogy in counseling; to bring hope and healing to those in front of me. Let me unpack it for you.
Most of the time, when people come to counseling, it is because there is some fruit, or lack of, in their life that they desire to change. Fruit that they cannot rid themselves of or produce themselves. Oftentimes, the fruit they can no longer bear or rid themselves of is depression, anxiety and hopelessness found in the form of unwanted thoughts, feelings and actions. Fruit that is often desired, and yet beyond reach, are those of happiness, peace and connection (check out Galatians 5:14-26). The relationships between each person and their fruit varies widely but usually falls in the categories of
1. Cutting off or fastening on fruit.
2. Ignoring or obsession with fruit
Neither of these actions produces lasting change and leaves the person tired and hopeless. If we desire to change our fruit we must attack the root. We must become aware of the source of that fruit. What is causing this fruit to be produced? (check out John 15)
Roots are grown in the ground. The ground in which they grow is the atmosphere/environment that influences them. Their growth is influenced by so many factors. We, as humans, are also shaped by a multitude of factors. The main one being that we are born in sin through the sin of our father Adam. (Romans 3:23, 5:12). The roots represent our inner being (who we are) and they are shaped by our individual experiences, biology, personality, relationships, culture, and so on. These roots become our identity: what we value, find hope and worth in, what we build our lives on. This is where desire is birthed. We desire that which will feed our worth and identity. Since we are rooted in desire, these desires influence what we think, say, feel and do (our fruit).
“As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man”. Proverbs 27:19
We can usually categorize much of these desires into the categories of approval, control, comfort, power and safety/security.
Heat and Seasons
Our lives are filled with hard seasons. Seasons of drought, seasons of heat, seasons of cold, seasons of rain/snow. And these seasons are filled with all kinds of external factors: circumstances that hurt, suffering that is hard. Whether they arise from the sin of our own hearts, the sin of others or the sin of living in a broken world, we are all affected by them… and they affect our roots. They threaten our very being and identity. They challenge, pluck up, stifle, cut off, burn up our sources of hope and leave us unable to produce the fruit we desire; often producing fruit that is unwanted or no fruit at all (Ever read Ecclesiastes 3?).
Why does God allow evil? Suffering? Hurt? These are not easy questions to ask, or to answer but they are the plight of humanity - a result of the Fall (Romans 8:19-23). God knows us more deeply than we know ourselves. He knows what we desire; what we seek to find hope in.. and that our desires will lead to death (James 1:14-15). He knows our desire to be self sufficient, sovereign, omniscient…. and he wants us to see that we aren’t. He allows us to see our weakness in order to see His strength...
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
We need Him when we face suffering. When we face suffering we are forced to look at the difference between what we really believe with our heart and what we know with our head.
What do we do?
Do we just wait around until the season is over? Do we work harder to dig down to our roots? Do we just let the fruit grow even though we don’t like it? This is the hard part. This is where you need a community of others to help you in this process. The process is not easy. It requires hard work. The hard work of digging into our past, our present and our future. It requires looking at all the factors and choosing to ask questions, seek answers and make changes physically, emotionally, relationally, mentally and spiritually. There isn’t one prescriptive answer but there is an underlying hope. We must seek to find the hope that is unchanging amidst the ever changing seasons around us. We must seek to find the hope and sustenance that is more life giving and eternal than the worldly transient roots that keep failing us.
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
Seek growth today; ask someone to come alongside you as you begin to dig, uproot, replant. Take the first step of admitting your need for help and walk forward in faith to begin fighting for life and hope beyond what you can see (Find encouragement in Hebrews 11).