Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Rooted or Rotted?

The wind was howling outside to the point of shaking the windows for hours.  When the stormy winds passed, we assessed the damage outside and I was really surprised by how many trees in our back yard had fallen.  I'm so thankful none fell on our house, but also sad to see so many lying on the ground or stuck in the branches of stronger trees that did not fall.
I recalled the big tree that fell in my back yard several years ago.  Every time I would look outside for the first few months, my heart would sink as I would think about the life the tree had - the majesty of it but now it was a dried up piece of wood lying in my yard, helpless and alone. What happened to it that made it so weak that the stormy winds knocked it over?

The tree somehow lost it's nourishment.  It became weaker and weaker as the days would pass and even though I couldn't see what was happening inside the tree, it was drying up and dying, rotting from the inside out.  The outside looked normal initially, but then it slowly started producing green leaves and before too long, after a storm passed by, it was uprooted and fell helplessly to the ground.

I was reading in Jeremiah 17 this morning and saw some verses that really challenged me.  Look at this from verses 5-8:

This is what the Lord says:  "Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their heads away from the Lord.  They are like stunted shrubs in the desert with no hope for the future.  They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land.

But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.  They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water.  Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought.  Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit."

How often have we felt dried up and lifeless in life?  There are usually tell-tale signs, or symptoms that we may be rotting up.  First, we will begin to worry more and trust God less.  We may also notice that we feel a sort of "hollowness" in our spirit.  Like the tree, initially our outside will not show the signs of decay inside, but we know something is missing.  We may also notice our leaves and fruit production begin to halt.  The life drains from us slowly as we begin to trust in other people instead of God and spend less time in His word.

God's word is nourishment to our dried up spirits.  His words give life! Psalm 119:165 says "Those who love your instructions have great peace and do not stumble."  Great peace.  I want that, don't you?  I do pray that today we will tend to our roots, take an inventory of our lives and ask God to plant us by His living water.  Without nourishment, we will be doomed to rot from the inside out - a slow, painful and difficult process as we lean on our own understanding and the opinions of others for our nourishment - which will lead us to dry up and live in an "uninhabited salty land".

I heard a quote yesterday from Nancy Leigh DeMoss, "If praise elates you, then criticism will deflate you."  So true.  And so convicting.  I know this is a struggle I have faced my entire life, but I also know my strength comes from the Lord, and through Him I can be rooted and strengthened as I focus on His opinion of me, not other people.
The storms of life are not optional, they are a part of this fallen world.  These storms can either break us or help us grow stronger.  We do not need to fall in those storms, though!  We can stand tall, firmly planted and rooted in the truths of God's word when those storms come.

"As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in Your commands.  Your laws are always right; help me to understand them so I may live." Psalm 119:143-144

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