When spring springs cold and the ground lies chill and sodden it’s a risk to plant seeds.
The seed may rot in the ground before it can germinate, or be scavenged by a watchful crow.
The seed may sprout only to succumb to ‘damping off’ disease.
The seedling may emerge to beckon a voracious slug and become his lunch.
The plants may fail to thrive for want of a better soil, a better season, a better care-taker.
Mysterious maladies, competitive willow-tree roots, invisible predators may secretly sabotage the whole crop by day. Or by night a blundering bear or hungry deer may un-do a whole season of diligence.
So I hang onto my seeds–boxes and envelopes and recycled plastic containers of them… from last year’s harvest, and the year’s before and before that… My cupboard grows cluttered with them. The names and the pictures stir hopeful ideals. But the planting of them seems so treacherous an alternative, so risky. I fancy the harvests they could produce but cling impotent to their potential in the package, fearful of the sowing. Yet how will a seed have any hope of growing to flower and fruit if it stays in my hoard for ‘safe-keeping’? There is no hope where the seed is not planted. It may seem safe, but it will die inside its shell over time. Its potential can only be realized where risk is taken.
The promises of God are like that. Seeds, that must be planted in the ground of life-as-it-is, by faith. Seeds that must be watched over in undying hope. When the promises of God are planted like seed in ground that is hard, and circumstances that loom destructive, to hope in their fulfillment is a daunting thing.
A child may well be hopeful when he plants his first bean seed in a cup in a sunny window, just knowing a miracle will happen. But what happens when his experience has brought disappointment? Or frustration. Or discouragement. How do we keep hope alive and keep planting those seeds?
I read that tough times are good for us; they breed endurance (how many times have I been reminded that I need to develop perseverance?) But that’s not all; endurance produces ‘experience’(KJV), or in other words, ‘proven character’, which in turn is supposed to yield hope (Rom.5). What then has derailed in my process of learning hope? Why am I so prone to ‘casting away my confidence’? I stood out in the garden leaning on my shovel staring off into space the other day and just felt the whole enterprise was hopeless. Plagued with such insinuations, I struggled through an afternoon of weeding and turning earth and finally managed to transplant some vulnerable seedlings from their safe hothouse to the wide world of the garden. I even tucked some sunflower seeds in the ground in hopes of glory to come. But I must say, the process which is usually a therapeutic ‘fix’ of soil and sun, was a struggle to hope against hope, and keep going. It was oppressive, these almost audible messages of hopelessness that overlaid my every thought and move that afternoon in the garden.
Ha! Did I say I was wondering about the ‘fight of faith’? Is it a real fight? This was more than an afternoon with the plants. It was a ‘heads-up’ to shore up my weaknesses in the area of persevering in hope and learning to ‘take every thought captive’. If the garden be the battleplace, then so be it. I’ve got to get training somewhere! Abraham stands as my hero of faith: “Who against hope believed in hope” (Rom.4:18) His hope lay in the future, secure in God’s unchanging promises. The fruitfulness of my garden has no such guarantee, but the fruitfulness of my life must be pegged to God’s promise and faithfulness—I am heir to Abraham’s promise: ‘Surely I will bless you and multiply you’ and to the sure hope of the ‘glory of God’. The fact that God has vowed it and it’s impossible for Him to lie gives us a refuge to flee to and “strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us” (Heb. 6:18).
Truth is, I find I don’t have all the answers to responding when doubts fly. That day in the garden singing the old hymns was a start. Filling my mouth with thanks to God for every little thing I could see (and the things I can’t yet see that I’m trusting Him for) helped. By prayer, turning all my efforts over to Him for whatever results–only that His Kingdom come, His will be done on this piece of earth and in this heart and in the lives of those my prayers touch… these are the seeds I planted that afternoon while I plugged away at pulling weeds and turning soil and tucking little seedling into place in hopes of brighter days to come…
For every little prayer of faith is a seed planted. As it must be planted in hopes of what is not yet seen, that means I open myself to potential for disappointment–a big bad word in the book of my personality. But I’m called to confidently plant seeds anyway for the Kingdom’s sake. Will cold springs and damp rot, slugs, insidious roots and wild animals thwart my best efforts? Perhaps. My call is to be faith-filled, to persevere, and to plant the seeds God supplies. The rest is up to Him.
And seriously, I do have some beans to get planting, come what may, today!
‘Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food…
Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.’
‘Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,
and endurance produces character,
and character produces hope,
and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.’ Rom.5:2-5
‘Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.’ Ps.31:24
‘Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.’ Ja.5:7,8
‘For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.’ Heb.10:36
‘Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.’ II Cor.9:10,11
P.S. If you’ve read all the way down here to the very last morsel, may I bless you with some faith-building music I found this week? Laura Story has her own story of trusting God through real trials—her husband is facing a brain tumor. The songs of trust and praise that this has yielded are precious. A playlist of her songs is available on YouTube at:
Don’t miss “Blessings” and “Perfect Peace” (my favorites)!