I think most of the nation has had a milder than usual winter. Here in Kansas, we really haven’t had a winter to speak of. Trees were budding, bushes were bearing leaves, and perennials were poking out of the ground in February!
I shouldn’t have been surprised…..but I was surprised……to walk past my front flower bed one day in February and look down to see that my Salvia had made an appearance. There were fresh little green leaves sticking up through the ground, unaware that the month was only February. Salvia don’t look at calendars. They only respond to the warmth of the sun and the mildness of the nights.
Something occurs deep underground, in their roots, that awakens them and urges them to respond. It’s God’s miracle of growth, not tied to the month of the year but to the environment around them. And even though that environment can at times be harsh still at this time of year……at any time of year, really……their roots stir under the right conditions and so they grow.
I was tempted on that February day to lean over and clear off all the dead leaves that looked like a hindrance to the Salvia’s growth. But I left the leaves for insulation against the cold nights, and the snow that I knew could still come.
I’ve watched the progress of my Salvia over the past few weeks. The picture from this morning shows how much growth has occurred. The dead leaves, old mulch, and other clutter hasn’t prohibited my Salvia’s growth at all. The perennial nature of this flower is alive and well as those new leaves push through all the mess around them. It just faithfully grows and grows, quietly but strongly flourishing.
This morning in my quiet time with the Lord I read some verses that are very familiar to many of us. They are words spoken by God to the nation of Israel, recorded by the prophet Jeremiah.
“For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13
These are verses of such encouragement and hope for all believers, not just for the nation of Israel during the time of Jeremiah. But do you know where Israel was when God spoke these words to them? They were being held captive in Babylon. They were not in their home country, living freely, but were held as captive slaves in a harsh land far from all they knew and loved.
In the ten verses preceding these verses above, God had given some instructions to His chosen people through a letter written by Jeremiah and delivered to the exiles in Babylon. God told the people to settle in to their new life in Babylon. He told them to build houses and live in them; to plant gardens and eat their produce; to take wives and bear children; to increase and not decrease; and even to seek the welfare of their new city, praying to the Lord on its behalf.
You know how long God told them to be faithful in their captivity? Seventy years. SEVENTY years.
So when God then said that He knew the plans that He had for them……plans to give them a future and a hope……He also knew that this promise wasn’t coming to pass tomorrow. He laid it out there for them. He told them to live as He commanded and to be obedient to Him, even in their dire situation, for seventy long years.
God’s promise was given to them in the middle of less than ideal circumstances. It wasn’t to be fulfilled immediately. But while they waited, God wanted them to live their lives fully and faithfully to Him.
In fact, many of those Israelites would never see the promise come to pass. They would die in Babylon. Yet God still commanded them to be obedient and live the way He wanted.
How about us? How does God want us to live every day?
He wants us to follow the example that He continually sets out there in His Word for us to see. He wants us to be faithful to Him, to obey Him, and to grow no matter what is going on in our lives.
We may be going through awful times so full of grief and stress that we wonder how we can get out of bed every day. God knows. He understands. He loves us. He provides what we need. He promises us a future and a hope.
But relief may not come today. It may not come tomorrow. Or the next day, or the next. But like He told His people in Babylon, He says to you and to me today. “Call upon Me. Pray to Me, and I will listen. For you will seek Me and you will find Me when you search for me with all your heart.”
It’s simple, really, but so difficult to do sometimes when our surroundings are bitter and hard and scary. Call upon Him. Pray. Seek Him with all your heart.
Read His Word with an open heart to hear what He has to say to you. Ask Him to lead your steps. Obey what you know He tells you to do in His Word.
God will speak to you. He will lead you to Himself.
And in the middle of your pain and your stress, you will grow. Just like my Salvia in the middle of deadness all around it and the coldness of some nights…..still pushing through and growing, as God intended.
God loves you. He truly does have a future and a hope for you as you follow Him, but not always…..in fact, seldom……without the suffering and sadness of this life.
But what a beautiful work He is doing in you and in me as we faithfully respond to His love and to His word in our lives!
So grow! Grow where God has put you!