Rough and harsh; dry and arid. Such is the season of the drought.
And drought comes to everyone. We will all endure difficult “heat of life” circumstances. These are indeterminate of who we are or where we’re planted.
We get flat tires. Our computers break. We struggle with the effects of aging. We experience infertility. We get cancer. We are single, and we don’t want to be.
Maybe we have a wayward child. Maybe our husband or wife doesn’t know the Lord. Friends abandon us. Spouses abandon us. We encounter financial difficulty. We lose our jobs. We experience abuse.
The truth is this: Regardless of where we are planted, we will all experience “the drought”. The difference lies in how we respond to these unfavorable seasons of life that can unexpectedly come upon us.
According to Jeremiah 17:5-8, there are two ways to do so.
Response Number One: Trust in Man
The first way a person might respond to seasons of dryness is to trust in man. Here is this person’s profile from Jeremiah 17:
Thus says the Lord:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the Lord.
He is like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land…”
He makes flesh his strength (v. 5). Our bodies are amazing aren’t they? And not only our bodies, but our minds are equally impressive, as they create great works and solve complex problems. But our bodies and minds are finite and temporal. They were never intended to be an end in and of themselves. When we make our flesh our strength we are asserting our self-reliance and independence apart from God.
His heart turns away from The Lord (v. 5). What does it mean to turn away from the Lord? It means that we turn toward ourselves for our own purposes, our own provisions, and our own wisdom. In times of drought, we make our own thinking and feelings our final authority. Of course there is freedom found in Christ to make decisions and act, but when my will butts up against God’s will as revealed in his Word, where do I turn? The one who trusts in man turns his heart away from the Lord and often to himself.
If we make our flesh our strength and turn our hearts from the Lord, when the heat comes we will be cursed and withered, just like a shrub in the desert. The truth is, all of us have been like the shrub. We turned from Him, and we relied on our own strength. This is called sin. If left in our sin, we will not see any good come and we, ultimately will have no hope.
But, while we were under the curse of sin, God did something amazing. He, through the person of Jesus Christ, died for rebellious, cursed sinners – just like you, just like me. When we trust in the Lord and turn to Him in faith, we move from being the cursed man to being the blessed man. We take on the very righteousness of Christ, and we find ourselves responding in trust.
Response Number Two: Trust in the Lord
“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.”
Jeremiah 17 says something about the man who trusts in the Lord. He is blessed (v. 7)! What are these blessings?
The Lord is near (v. 8). As the tree is close to water, so the man who trusts in the Lord is close to the Lord. In Psalm 34:18 we read, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” In times of difficultly, he knows the Lord is not far off. If you are one of his, if you trust him, if you’ve received him as Lord and Savior, then you are planted right next to him. You can know with unfailing certainty that the Lord is near.
The Lord provides abundantly (v. 8). The water is described as a “stream”. A stream continually provides water, day after day. When I read about this trustworthy God who provides so generously like a stream, I can’t help but think about Jesus who said, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). The Lord, who provides eternal life, is the same Lord who abundantly provides for you in times of difficultly and drought.
The Lord is continually available (v. 8). We read that the tree “sends out its roots by the stream.” Why? He knows that the Lord is faithfully and continually there for him, day after day. He trusts that that stream is not going to run dry. In Psalm 46 we read, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” God is not aloof or too busy to help you in times of drought. He is available. He is accessible. What a blessing!
The Lord will cast out fear and provide confidence (v. 8). Notice what happens when a person trusts in the Lord: “He does not fear when the heat comes.” If you are trusting in the Lord, you know that He is near. You know that He will provide abundantly for you. You know that He is continually available to you. Now, the reality is that we do sometimes have fears and worries. Let me encourage you: In your temptation towards fear and worry, if you are coming to the Lord, then you are coming to the right stream. You will find that as you respond in faith to the trustworthy stream that is the Lord, you will naturally be filled with less fear and more trust, with less worry and more confidence in the Lord.
The Lord will give life and growth (v. 8). Take note that the tree in our passage isn’t just surviving, it is thriving! “Its leaves remain green.” Likewise, you can thrive. Yes, even in drought-like conditions you can be green, verdant, and healthy. The person who trusts in God doesn’t just “get by,” she experiences life and growth. Why? Her very life comes from the Lord. This is something that will naturally happen as you trust in the Lord. You will experience life and growth, even in times of drought.
The Lord will bear fruit through him (v. 8). The tree is not just thriving, it is bearing fruit. And not only does it bear fruit, but it bears fruit continually! “It does not cease to bear fruit!” God says, “You have heat-filled, drought-like circumstances? I’ll not only enable you to thrive, but you will bear fruit continually. You will be filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Jesus says, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Those who trust in the Lord will bear much fruit.
In Whom Will You Trust?
Which man or woman will you be? Will you trust in man? Or will you trust in the Lord, sending out your roots toward the stream? Picture it with me: Such difficult, hot, searing, wearying circumstances are pressing in on you, but you stretch out toward your Savior, your God. You do this by seeking God through His Word and prayer, reaping the blessings that only the Lord can give.
If you send your roots out toward the stream, toward the Lord, you are responding to the drought in faith. And when you do, just like a tree is a beautiful expression of its creator, you will be a beautiful expression of your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.