Saturday, June 6, 2009

Growing Roots in a Drought

On Friday afternoon, our Annapolis neighborhood experienced a microburst during a heavy thunderstorm. The intense wind toppled a very large tree which previously stood about fifteen feet from the back of the house. When it went down, it took a large evergreen with it and missed our back porch roof by inches. This was no small tree. I couldn't even get my arms around half of its girth. My husband paced off its length and guesses it was about one hundred feet tall. When the tree toppled, the roots were torn right out of the ground.

It surprised us to see the relatively sparse root system that held this very large tree in place all those years. We were amazed the tree hadn't blown over long ago in view of its tenuous support system. Most trees have roots that go deep into the soil. They do this as a result of a tropism, which is a plant's ability to grow in response to its environment. You have probably observed plants leaning over toward the sunlight, which is phototropism. Hydrotropism is a tree's ability to grow its roots toward a source of water. When water is plentiful at the surface, as in during a rainy growing season, the roots will grow near the surface of the ground. However, during a drought, a tree's roots are forced to go deep in search of an alternate source of water. They will grow down toward the ground water flowing deep beneath the surface. So in an ironic way, a drought actually extends the life of a tree. The deep growth of roots will allow the tree to withstand the winds of many a storm.

The Bible is filled with stories of God allowing His people to go through extended periods of spiritual drought. Joseph spent thirteen years waiting for God to rescue him after being sold into slavery by his brothers. Job was allowed to suffer in grief and agonizing pain while his "friends" harassed him in his misery. Jacob had to live away from his family and inheritance for many years until the Lord finally called him back to Canaan. David spent years in the desert hiding from Saul and his army while waiting to be crowned king. There must have been days for each of these men when God seemed silent and aloof.

Why did God allow an extended period of drought in each of these men's lives? The drought was a tool, designed and used for their good. In order to fulfill God's purpose for their lives, these men needed a relationship with Him that could withstand the challenges they would someday encounter. God, in His wisdom, provided an opportunity to grow that kind of faith. Waiting on God, learning to trust Him on the basis of what we know to be true rather than how we might feel, drives our faith roots deep. We learn to listen harder for His voice, to trust more deeply in His goodness, and to have greater faith in His wisdom. Our forced dependence on Him reminds us once again of our inadequacy without Him. And in our weakened state, we are now in prime condition to be used by a God who prefers the weak to the strong.

A drought serves a purpose. We do not ache without result. Once the rains return, ending the dryness and barrenness, we emerge more ready to face what lies ahead. We have learned to focus our attention on Christ who is now more than ever the source of our strength. When the storms of life have at us, we will be able to stand firm. All thanks to the periods of drought.

"Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary." Isaiah 40:31

There are pictures of the tree that was on the previous post on this site. This post is the latest entry on my email newsletter, The Dogwood Digest. If you enjoyed this article, please use the link at the right of this page to sign up for my weekly devotional!

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