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My sister, Jodi, writes a monthly newsletter for women about overall well-being and making healthy choices.  Her words are always encouraging and helpful.  This month she shared a great illustration about a vine that keeps cropping up near their house, because although they’ve cut and pulled it away time and time again, there is evidently still a root in the ground somewhere and so it keeps coming back.  Jodi says that similarly, in our lives, if we don’t get to the root of a problem, we can cut and pull at symptoms that show on the outside but they’ll just keep recurring.  So true!

If a negative attitude or thought sits long enough inside our hearts, I believe it begins to take root and will be harder to get rid of than if we extract it as soon as we notice it there.  There are a few warnings about this in the Bible:  the love of money or “stuff” is the root you’ll often find behind all sorts of problems (I Timothy 6:10).  Bitterness can take root in someone’s heart and cause trouble to them and lots of others around them.  (Hebrews 12:15).  As The Message puts it, “Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent.  A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time.”

Weeds and flowers alike have roots, so not all roots are bad.  Every growing plant, tree, vegetable, vine and shrub is anchored and nourished by its roots.  Some roots can grow as deeply into the ground as the plant is tall above ground.  The roots pull in moisture and nourishment from the ground as well as store nutrients for later and signal to the plant how fast to grow.

We have roots, too.  If our roots don’t go deep enough, we won’t be able to withstand the rain of trials, disappointments, and temptations when it pours down.  (Mark 4:16-17)  “Since they don’t have deep roots,” Jesus said, “they don’t last long.  They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word.”

Several years ago, a dear friend of mine at work and her husband made the decision to accept God’s loving invitation to a relationship and trust in Jesus.  I couldn’t have been happier.  I’d prayed and prayed for her and tried to live out my faith in front of her.  She and her husband had been trying to have a child for a couple of years with no success.  Although they went into massive debt to try various procedures that were supposed to work, some painful and lengthy – no baby.  I watched in sadness as my new sis in Christ fell into despair and slid away from that excited and peaceful love she had when she first became a Christian.   I prayed for her, tried to encourage her, gave her scripture verses, and was the best friend I could be.  I didn’t feel like I was helping much.  What can you say or do in times like that?  I think the pain of discouragement and the confusion over why God wouldn’t help them become pregnant was too much for her young faith.  Her roots had begun to grow but got scorched and ruined by hurt.  I still think of her and pray for her, hoping she’ll remember how God loves her.

In Romans 11:16 it says that if the roots of a tree are holy, the branches will be, too.  In Ephesians, Paul says, “…Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.”  Then in Colossians 2:6-7 he says, “just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him.  Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”

If my beautiful friend could have kept trusting God even in the wake of her sadness and doubts, if she could have just kept taking a step each day with Jesus and toward Him, she could have become anchored to God.  As it was, she seemed spent, unable to expend the energy to keep hoping.

If there isn’t moisture in the top level of soil, a plants roots are forced to stretch deeper to find it in order to survive.  The hard times we face (and we will face hard times at all sorts of places along this path) can either convince us to quit, shrivel up and lose faith or press deeper and harder into the rich soil and mystery of God to find the nourishment we need to keep growing.  Sometimes we stretch and reach for such a long time we wonder if there’s any moisture or help there at all.  There is!  Don’t lose hope.  Don’t stop trying and trusting.  Don’t seek hope from any other source. Only Jesus has living water – water he promised would overflow and quench our thirst like nothing else can.  If we stay rooted in him, it will even become a spring that bubbles up in our own hearts – a constant source of life.  (John 4:13-14)

Then we’ll stand tall, vibrant and green, turned toward the sunlight, just like Jeremiah wrote,

“Blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit.”    Jeremiah 17:7-9  NLT