It is dangerous to do what we are not called to do, or to neglect our duty…We are judged for our own stewardship, and not that of another. God only requires faithfulness in our place. […] Man always prospers better in his own soil. (William Gurnall)
I love running in my neighborhood. I admire front doors, decor, and lawns. Truth is, some lawns are better kept than others. They are professionally manicured, watered, trimmed, treated, and organically fed regularly. This grass is no doubt greener and healthier than most.
Over the years, I found myself in seasons of life with no blooms, green grass, or beautiful colors. My Gardener thought it best for my lawn to be looking rather depleted, broken, chaotic, and painfully unkept at certain times. For most of us, our lives look nothing like we’d planned them, or hoped they’d be. We face challenges that break us and roadblocks that veer us in new directions. The green grass we once enjoyed, slowly withers away, and we find ourselves planning a funeral, searching for medical treatments, signing divorce papers, handing out house keys to the bank, asking for forgiveness, battling depression, fighting physical ailments, or coping with unfulfilled longings.
And that’s when we notice how the grass is greener on others’ lawns of life. How some get what we were not granted; they succeed at what we miserably failed; are victorious in what we lost; and walk in provisions we are still praying for. Has God changed towards us? Has He stopped working in us? Has He deserted us? Here are 3 simple truths about God gardening our plot:
1. When God gardens, he remains steadfast
I keep this quote in my Bible: “Being in Christ is the one great permanent circumstance of your life” (Milton Vincent). My daughtership to God is directly correlated with God’s character. And since Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, my inclusion in Jesus is eternal, also. I will always belong to God no matter how much he gives, or takes away from me.
While circumstances change in my life, God’s character remains the same at all times for all peoples. Which means, his character remains the same in my life, and in the life of all his children. His providence and sovereignty work for *the same gospel good* for the Christians whose life is nothing but lush and green, as well as for those believers with yellowing, weltering lawns. He can’t be lured or swayed into taking sides—no matter the condition of our situation.
I may not understand the current circumstances I’m facing, but the Bible invites me to trust his goodness for me (Ephesians 1:4-5). I may not agree with what I am going through, but I hold onto the promise that God knows what is best for me right now. (Psalm 139:16-17). I may suffer through the circumstances, but I will be comforted by his steadfast presence in me (Romans 8:38-39). I may never have an answered prayer, but his grace he makes sufficient in my breathing (2 Corinthians 12:9). I will be aware of how others receive the job I wanted, the children I’ve pleaded for, the marriage I hoped for, the healing I’ve cried for, the career I’ve planned for, the financial security I’ve worked for, the giftings I’ve trained for. And that’s when God’s gentle whisper will remind me that “no good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11).
In your changing circumstances, what is one constant trait of God that keeps you grounded in faith?
2. When God gardens, he works Jesus in me
While we work ourselves up and down during a trying situation, God is working Jesus in us. As we painfully cast our eyes onto the neighbor’s greener grass, God graciously brings himself nearer into our souls. The fading color of our lawns doesn’t mean the withdraw of the Living Water from within us. On the contrary, “according to the Lord, suffering is precisely the opposite of how we often interpret it; it is evidence that God, in his tender love, has saved us and is changing us, by his wise sovereignty, to be glorified with Christ” (Kristen Wetherell).
God’s purpose is not to make us prosperous city folks with perfectly manicured and lavished lawns on this side of heaven. Instead, his purpose is to make us look more and more like Jesus—green grass or not—from now unto eternity. God cares so much about his Son, that no circumstance can stop his process of conforming us into his image. But I can think of none more powerful than suffering—this yellowing, withering of our souls’ grass. C.S. Lewis writes that “suffering plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul.” Don’t fear suffering. Instead, fear the absence of truth within our walls. Welcome the flag of truth because of the gentle Hand who plants it within. God gives of himself in our suffering. More than answered prayers, God imparts of himself abundantly to those whose hearts abide in him by faith.
In what ways do you see God shaping you in the image of Christ through your trial?
3. When God gardens, he teaches me to worship him
We can easily lose sight of what truly matters when lawns have different degrees of green grass around us. Bigger than the condition of the lawn itself, my prayers being answered, or my neighbor’s prosperous living is the condition of my heart before God. He leads us often through suffering so we can learn to love better. To love God, and love people more ardently, more passionately, more intentionally.
Suffering is actually at the heart of the Christian story. The best people often have terrible lives. Job is one example, and Jesus — the ultimate ‘Job,’ the only truly, fully innocent sufferer — is another. (Tim Keller)
Christians’ lawns usually look imperfect, “under construction”, still blooming, not yet perfectly manicured. The best people in God’s kingdom usually have terrible lawns—loss, trials, persecutions, judgments, rejection, betrayal, broken dreams, unfulfilled plans. But we can sit in our lawns fellowshipping with God—because he never leaves our yards. Often we think of “worship” as the music hour during the Sunday church. But worship is more than musical notes in Sunday clothes. Worship is God fellowshipping with us on any given day, in any circumstance, through every season. Worship is experiencing God even when our souls break. That’s because “in the process of being worshiped… God communicates his presence to men” (C. S. Lewis).
I’m learning that my life situations are not just about me learning to suffer while others prosper. It’s about learning to worship God because of who he is rather than what I’m going through.
In what ways is suffering teaching you to worship God?
Greener, better lawns out there shouldn’t muzzle our worship because we feel that God has somehow forgotten us, or worse yet, that he is withholding any good from us. If anything, they are lampposts of God’s goodness, poured on humanity because he is that good, not because humans are that deserving of it. But greener, better kept lawns around us shouldn’t stop us from freely and joyfully living in our miserable yards either. As William Gurnall points out, “It is dangerous to do what we are not called to do, or to neglect our duty…We are judged for our own stewardship, and not that of another. God only requires faithfulness in our place. [M]an always prospers better in his own soil.” The best place to be as Christians is in God’s will for our own lot.
Never will the Lord cast us away from his presence because our lives aren’t perfectly kept or greener than anyone else’s. In fact, the greatest act of faithfulness we can ever reflect to our Savior, is holding on to the gospel in the soil God planted us, with the circumstances, talents, giftings, and season he’s blessed us. Run your race, admire the lawns you pass by, but by all means, keep your heart in Jesus—the perfect Gardener who knows best the kind of soil your soul prospers best in.
“…He never leaves our yards.” I will keep that in my heart. I am truly blessed by your blog. I’ve shared it with others. Thanks for sharing your gifts with the world. ❤❤❤
Thank you, Shauna!
Comments are closed.