College was not the most easy-going experience for me. In fact, the first few years were downright horrible. I attended the University of Texas at San Antonio and lived at home. I also worked a part time job serving at a restaurant. It was tough to meet new friends because I wasn’t on campus very much and I didn’t have much spare time in my schedule. There was a glimmer of hope my sophomore year as the first campus Christian ministry I joined actually supplied plenty of community and friends. However, after learning about some definite flaws in thinking and teaching, I made the decision to leave that ministry and, as a result, they made the decision to distance themselves from me entirely. I had waited a year and a half to make a some friends and they were gone in a few short months.
Broken was an understatement. I love people and love investing in the lives of others. So for the life of me, I could not understand why God would give me that type of a personality yet hold back the beautiful gift of friendship. Every other person my age seemed to have been blessed with friendships. I did not handle the situation well. For several months I simply simmered in my own bitterness. I cried almost everyday and would sit in my room throwing pity parties bigger than the royal wedding.
My response to my season of loss and hurt is reflected in this verse:
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. ~Jeremiah 17:6
Like a bush in the wasteland – I was dried, withered, and desperate for hydration. I was blind to prosperity – ignoring what God was doing in my life to make more time for sulking in sadness. Dwelling in parched places – I refused to move, travel on, or seek a better path. This for me, and I believe for many others, is often how seasons of loss and hurt are handled.
But fast forward a few verses to Jeremiah 17:8 and the sweet prophecies of Jeremiah reveal a different type of response that is possible during these seasons of desperation and dryness.
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 17:8
A tree planted by the water – always alive and thriving as its source of life is near. It withstands heat – bearing intensity and fervor, never ceasing to exude vibrancy or vitality. It is able to bear fruit in the midst of drought – for neither heat nor dryness could remove its evidence of life.
These two verses, different examples of response to drought and dryness, stand in complete juxtaposition. How is it possible to get from one mindset to the other? How does someone in the middle of a wasteland, find their way to the water? How in times of loss and hurt do we overcome the dryness and bear fruit and life? The answers to these questions are found in the following words from Jeremiah.
Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord. ~Jeremiah 17:5
But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. ~Jeremiah 17:7
We are faced with a choice: trust in man or trust in the Lord. Most believers like to think of themselves as residing in verse 7. We like to think we trust in the Lord. And when seasons of hurt come, we repeat it to ourselves over and over again, “Trust in the Lord. Trust in the Lord, Trust in the Lord…” However knowing verse 7, saying verse 7, repeating over and over verse 7 does not guarantee us an experience like that of verse 8. In fact, despite our closeness and craving for verse 7, if we look at our hearts and our responses to pain, many of us have set up camp and reside in verse 5. Our responses to hurt and to pain resemble much more closely a verse 6 experience.
The honest truth, if we analyze our responses more than our thoughts, is that most of us do not trust in the Lord during times of dryness and drought. We simmer in sadness, ignore any blessing or working of God, feel dry, act dry, and we isolate ourselves in the desert where no one lives. And as Jeremiah assures us, this is not the response or the heart of someone trusting in the Lord, but rather one of a person choosing to trust in man.
In college, I trusted that friends would heal my hurt. I believed if I could just find a community, all would be well. I trusted in the power of friends – the power of man – to bring me out of drought and bring hydration to my dryness. By the grace of God, I began to learn in this season how to trust in the Lord. To not just say it, think it, or read a bunch of verses about it, but to completely and wholly trust during this time that God had me exactly in the place where He wanted me so He could teach me. That this, like any season of blessing or favor, was a gift from God where I could trust Him and rejoice in it.
Friends. We often read scripture like Jeremiah 17 and automatically want to identify with the godly, with the “this is what you should do” portion. But God lovingly painted two different pictures through the words of Jeremiah that shine light on what is true – a picture of dryness, wastelands, and deserts in contrast to a picture of rivers, life, and fruit. All too often we don’t take time to stop and actually reflect – not on how we think we should respond but on how we actually do respond. We need an honest snapshot to see the truth – where do our hearts lie?
Today, I challenge you to reflect. Not on what you should do, not on what you should think. But rather, how do you actually respond to times of drought? Is it a verse 6 or verse 8 experience? Because then, and only then, can your heart move from verse 5 to verse 7 – From trusting in man, To trusting in God.
Song for your time of reflection:
King of My Heart – https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=48&v=jaxEXZqpRcA