Growing Through the Trials

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4

About 12 years ago I decided to try my hand at gardening. Surprisingly, I found, while I wouldn’t say I’m particularly great at it, I really enjoy it. I’ve learned a little bit over the years about both vegetable and flower gardens . . . where certain plants grow best, and where they don’t grow well at all. How much water is too much water. How much sunlight is too much or too little. And because my family eats tomatoes by the dozens, I would venture that tomatoes are the most important plant in our vegetable garden each year. They also tend to need the most attention.

Yesterday, the temperatures in Texas topped out around 100 degrees. Standard for August? Yes. But also, still miserable. Tomatoes don’t like that level of heat. They stop producing. Some of the branches literally burn up in the blazing summer sun. But they are not dead. And how I care for them now will determine if they die or come back to life when “fall” ushers in “cooler” temps (quotations because if you live in Central Texas, you know “cool” is most definitely a relative term). They need water in just the right amount and at the right times, but they also need some pruning as well. Not the down to the ground type of pruning, but the kind where I go in and cut off the dead stuff along with the heavy vines that are pulling them down. The thing about this pruning is, it’s not pretty. Tomato plants, pruned even a little, just don’t look great, and I’m sure if they could talk (and had feelings), there might be a little “Ouch!” uttered here and there. But I know if I keep pulling away the dead and heavy stuff . . . if I keep nursing them through the heat . . . the results will be fruit in the coming months.

The object lesson here is never lost on me, and I’ll preface this by saying, I’m well aware that this parallel isn’t perfect, and I’m most certainly not equating myself to God. But I never prune back a plant, whether it be tomatoes or roses or any number of flowers and plants in our garden and beds, that I’m not reminded how so much of what we see in the natural is a picture of what happens in the spiritual. I don’t bring the heat. I don’t bring the suffocating (or freezing) temps, but I know that when they come I have to treat my plants in a certain way in order for them to not only survive but thrive.

And what’s true for plants is also true for us. I don’t believe that God brings the proverbial heat in this world. Yes, I do know He has the power to stop trials from coming, but sometimes He doesn’t . . . we are going to have to face trials as long as we are living in a fallen world . . . just take a look at the book of Job. God did not bring the calamity Job faced. It was straight from satan, but He did allow it. And He very well knew that Job would come through it better than he went in. I believe that when trials and tribulations come, God uses them. He uses them to grow us, and sometimes in order to help us grow, He must also prune us. He must remove the heavy stuff weighing us down. He must remove the dead stuff that is holding back the new growth and fruit. And while, He doesn’t bring the trials, those trials often help to highlight what needs pruning in our lives.

Have you ever cut a rose bush back to the ground? Or maybe I should ask, have you ever not cut your rose bushes back to the ground? If you fail to prune them each year, they grow long and spindly with fewer leaves and flowers and more disease. But cut them back each winter, and they come back beautifully in the spring.

These past few months have brought a lot of opportunity. They’ve brought to light the things in me that definitely need pruning. The impatience, the entitlement, the need to be constantly entertained . . . and they’ve brought the opportunity for growth and reflection. The other day, as I stood in my kitchen, I wondered when this all would end. And almost as soon as I wondered that, I felt God say, “You may not know, but I do, and I’m in control.” And for a self proclaimed, control freak, I felt an unusual sense of peace and hope in that. God is not surprised by any of this, and I realized in that moment that I can whine and bemoan the fact that this “stupid pandemic” (or whatever the Trial of the Day happens to be) has gone on far longer than any of us anticipated. Or I can trust that God is in control and let Him do the work in me that needs to be done.

Copyright 2020, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved 

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.

Just Jesus

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9

Isn’t it amazing how we as humans will latch onto all the bad news, the fear mongering, the conspiracy theories, the attacks on others, the arguing, the backbiting . . . and we don’t just read or watch it and go on . . . we dwell there . . . we feed on it . . . we dive deep into it . . . and we perpetuate it . . .

I’m as guilty as anyone, and I think we all have a tendency to justify dwelling on and sharing the “ugly” by saying we’re just being informed. But here’s the thing, I think it’s incredibly important to be informed, and I definitely think we are called to be truth and light. The bible tells us we are to “be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16) so, as I’ve said before, you’ll never find me buying into the a “denial of reality” theology. But I think it’s important to remember that reality isn’t always what we see (or watch or read) directly in front of our faces.

So in sharing, in speaking, in writing, and even more so in choosing where I’m going to dwell, where I’m going to live my life, I’m more and more convicted that I need to question myself and those giving the “information” before I decide to camp there.

  1. Is it true? Strong’s (227) actually has “true in fact” as one of the usages of this word. Yesterday, I was asked what a “false fact” is, and I explained that when I was teaching we called them “nonfacts” . . . information, presented as fact that in reality is false. Basically, a lie. And the world is full of people, from every walk of life, political persuasion, and even religion, presenting false facts, lies, as facts and truth because it is to their benefit (just turn on any . . . yes, I said “any” news station and you’ll see this). We have to be cautious in what we buy into and what we believe, and if I can’t verify it’s truth, then I need to be very careful in putting it out there and absolutely cannot let it become my dwelling place.
  2. Is it noble? Even if it’s true, is it noble? One of the words used for noble in Strong’s Concordance (4586) is “honorable”. Is what I’m saying and dwelling in honorable?
  3. Is it just? Strong’s (1342) says “righteous” and “correct”. Is what I’m saying, writing, sharing, and believing both “righteous” and “correct”?
  4. Is it pure, lovely, and of good report? Does it have virtue and is it praiseworthy? All pretty self explanatory. And honestly, not always easy.

So what if it’s not a “yes” to all of these things . . . starting with truth but building from there? Should I acknowledge it? I can and may have to. I acknowledge, that right now there is a very real pandemic that can be deadly and dangerous for many. I acknowledge that there are things we need to do to be cautious and considerate and to protect ourselves and others. But at the same time, I refuse to sit and dwell on the numbers, the news reports, and the statistics. And when the fear starts to creep in, and it does for me as it does for many others, I return to Psalm 91 over and over again. That is where I choose to dwell.

Unfortunately, we live in a fallen world where sin is rampant and “bad” is often the reality we see. But acknowledging that reality does not mean ruminating and dwelling on it, whether it be a news story, a conspiracy theory (which y’all stop with the conspiracy theories . . . please . . . they’re not healthy for you mentally, emotionally, and dare I say, spiritually . . .) whatever it’s source may be.

Jesus himself said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33) . . . the “world” where everything is not always going to go our way . . . where in the natural things are not always going to look “good” . . . where no matter what we face, come pandemics, economies crashing, natural disasters, or whomever is in office (seriously, stop making yourself sick over this because guess what? No matter who is in office Jesus is still King . . . we say it . . . now act like it) . . . Jesus is the ONE that has overcome it all, and that is where our focus must land, over and over, time and again.

These words from one of my favorite songs have been running through my head, on repeat these past couple of days, “Give me Jesus, Give me Jesus, You can have all this world, But give me Jesus . . .”*. Start to finish, whatever comes or doesn’t, through Him, we are more than conquerors, and I’ll set up camp with Him any day.

Copyright 2020, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved 

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.
*From the African American Spiritual, Give Me Jesus