“God, please show me how to live with this!”
Three years earlier, Jesus had captured my heart and I was excited about new opportunities he was giving me to serve him. But as my health deteriorated through the next year and a half, one thing after another was taken from my life. Now, laying bed-bound at home, sick, helpless, and grieving, I prayed for God to show me how to live with this chronic illness that wasn’t going away.
During Easter 2017, a friend shared with me Jeremiah 17:7-8.
“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.”
I realized that it’s not that trials never come to this tree, but when they come, it remains green and produces fruit because it draws life-giving water from the river. I began to pray, “Lord, make me like this tree.” I didn’t just want to “get through” or “survive” this trial, but to thrive in it.
COVID-19 is hard for everyone. Maybe you’re wondering, like I did, how to endure this season of isolation and loss.
May I share 3 truths God gave me?
1. Dig your Roots Deep into God
Colossians 2:6-7 says,”Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”
Suffering quickly reveals where our roots are. Shallow roots, or roots planted in things other than Jesus, won’t help you stand strong through the storms. You may find yourself uprooted. But Jesus is a rock unmovable by the fiercest storms, and when our roots are in him we can be unmovable too. These verses in Colossians tell us to be rooted and built up in Christ. But how?
Psalms 1:2-3 says of the righteous, “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”
In these verses, a righteous person is compared to a tree planted by rivers of water. His delight is in God’s word, and as he meditates on it day and night, he becomes rooted and fruitful like this tree.
I am learning how important it is to fill my mind and heart with God’s truth, especially when I am suffering. There are many voices within and without screaming for attention. Isolation is particularly dangerous because it separates us from the rest of the body, making us more vulnerable to Satan’s lies.
Here are some ways we can root our hearts and minds in God’s word:
-Read God’s Word or listen to an audio version
-Write verses on cards and put them around your room
-Study the Bible yourself
-Memorize and meditate on Scripture
-Ask a friend for accountability
-Spend time in prayer
Friend, get to know God’s heart. An intimate relationship with Jesus and deep understanding of what he has done for us in the gospel is so important—it’s our root system. I know it’s hard to hear, but suffering is in an invitation to know God more and go deeper in our faith.
2. Draw Life and Strength from Jesus
The tree represents believers and the river represents Jesus Christ, the Living Water, our Life and Strength. The tree knew it would be okay through the droughts and heat because it had a river.
I’m learning that the key to thriving in hard seasons is drawing life-giving grace and strength from Jesus each day by abiding in him like Jesus talked about in John 15. I cannot make it through hard seasons otherwise! I cannot remain fruitful otherwise! We cannot thrive in suffering apart from Christ.
Suffering is hard. It exposes reality. It drains our strength daily, leaving us weak and desperately needy. We see weakness and need as something to be avoided and got over. However, it can actually put us in a position to receive from the only One who can be strong in our weakness.
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26)
3. Reach Out
The tree planted by the river had an endless supply of water, and could naturally grow strong and spread out its branches and leaves. It produces life in the form of leaves, seeds, and fruit, and it spreads that life by germinating seeds.
I am learning that we need both roots and reach to be spiritually healthy.
Receive from God through your times with him, but don’t keep it to yourself! Your community needs to see the life of Jesus in you. The world needs to see Jesus in you. So reach out and share what you receive with those around you!We need both roots and reach to be spiritually healthy. Click To Tweet
Rebelutionaries dream of doing big things for God, maybe something world changing like being a missionary overseas. While we should dream big, and while God may call us to serve him in big ways, let’s not forget the primary way we can live for and serve Jesus is where we are right now in the small things he’s given us.
Though I was unable to serve him in the ways I’d hoped the years I was sick, I found other ways to serve him. I wrote devotional emails and letters to my Bright Lights girls. I started a blog encouraging other young women. I prayed for people I know. You may be shut in your homes right now. But what has God given you to do? What people has he placed in your life? Who can you reach out to and share Jesus with?
Many of you are hurting right now- COVID-19 is real and it hurts. Thriving doesn’t mean we don’t hurt, that we don’t have messy emotions and questions. But it means that we’re able to grow through them because of Jesus.
Your suffering does not define you. We were created for relationship with God and to bring him glory through our lives. In other words, we are here to know Jesus and to make him known. We can do this no matter our circumstances.
Focus on digging your roots deep, and the reach will be the natural outflow.
Chronic illness is hard. There were times when I was like the tree receiving from Jesus and remaining fruitful and green through my hard circumstances. There were also times when I was trying to make it on my own and ended up more like the withered branch disconnected from the vine. I don’t have this figured out.
But when our root system is in Christ and the gospel, we will remain strong through the storms and green through the droughts. We will continue to bear fruit for God. We will be able to thrive in our trials and point the world to Jesus.