Scraggly. Scrawny. Sickly. Near death. Hopeless. No, these words aren’t describing me, though they easily could have a year or two ago. These words are descriptive of a plant my mom and I planted at my house. We surveyed the entire yard looking for the perfect place to plant a grouping of four plants that would grow and bloom into beautiful flowers.
At last we decided the perfect place for their new home was around a tree next to the driveway. I was looking forward to watching them grow and waited for the day I would pull into my driveway alongside their beautiful flowering faces.
Gardener that she is, my mom warned me that they would need extra water. The roots of the tree they were growing around would take most of the moisture. Every day it didn’t rain I watered them. I excitedly watched them grow. Well, most of them. There was that one that looked so sad, I didn’t think it would make it. In fact, I was pretty sure it was dead, or nearly dead. I would have put money on it, if I was a gambling type of gal.
I proudly snapped a photo of my first growing things.
Have you ever felt like my sickly plant? All around you are people who are thriving. They’re bright and strong and healthy. You’re hardly noticeable, quietly dying in the background. I get it. Trust me, I’ve been there. I’ve felt like that. I’ve thrown myself grand pity parties where I was the guest of honor.
Do you remember the story of Jonah? Jonah did his best to run away from God’s plan for his life. After being swallowed by a really big fish and vomited up a few days later, he grudgingly obeyed the Lord. When he was done, he “…prayed to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster (Jonah 4:2, ESV).’”
Grouchier than one of the seven dwarves, Jonah went out of the city and settled himself in a place where he could watch the wrath of the Lord descend upon the city. As he sat in the hot sun, God caused a plant to grow up and shade him. Jonah was very glad about that plant, but the next day, God caused a worm to come attack the plant and it withered. Jonah got so mad he wanted to die. Really, he was angry to the point of death. Talk about a pity party!
God questions Jonah in verses 10-11.
And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”
If that’s where you are today, I want to tell you there is hope! Our God is a God full of surprises. Keep walking in truth. Be faithful to God. In the midst of your pain, put an end to your pity party and submit your life to the loving hands of your Creator. I know this is extremely difficult to do, but when you do, you may be surprised at what happens.
Remember my poor, dead plant? I didn’t want to give up on it. I longed for it to live. There is too much death in this world; I couldn’t stand to see that die too. So I watered it. And I talked nice to it. And I willed it to grow.
One day I noticed that where death once reigned, new life was springing forth. A few weeks later, I was surprised by God. I went to water my plants around the tree. As I drew near I caught my breath and laughed with joy. My scraggly, scrawny, sickly, near death, hopeless plant was blooming! As I write this, I glance out my window and see it courageously standing tall, arrayed with a crown of beautiful flowers.
Be steadfast. Be faithful. Grow. Thrive. Be surprised by God!
“Look, we bless and honor the memory of those who persevered under hardship. Remember how Job endured and how the Lord orchestrated the triumph of his final circumstances as a grand display of His mercy and compassion.” –James 5:11 (Voice)