“Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure.” –Luke 13:8
When life is hard – when everything seems to be going wrong – how can we think about our circumstances in a way that protects us from being gripped by anxiety, bitterness, or hopeless despair? Consider the following fictional scenario:
Kate’s sweet and thoughtful daughter Akira has been invaded by the body snatchers. Or maybe just a wicked case of teenage hormones from the fiery nether regions. Akira’s constant put downs and outright contempt drag Kate into the pit of despair. Every night, she tosses and turns, wracked with anxiety over the state of the relationship. Every morning, she kicks herself, knowing today will not be the day she has enough energy to sign up for the volunteer project she’s been avoiding.
Is there anything Kate could be doing differently? For months now, she’s been begging God to change Akira’s heart, to no avail. “Could it be, Lord, she prayed, that You are using Akira to change something in me??”
One day, in her quiet time, she came across a parable that confirmed her suspicions.
And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’
And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” – Luke 13:6-9
Immediately Kate felt a prick in her conscience – first about the volunteer work she’d been avoiding, but also about how complacent she’d been in ‘seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness’. In the margins of her Bible she wrote, “The vinedresser was caring, patient and wise! He knew exactly what conditions were necessary to produce fruit. So, he put on manure. He put on manure!”
As if with a new set of eyes, Kate thought about Akira’s hostility. Before, all she could see was piles and piles of manure. But now she saw God’s hand in it – his merciful hand, patiently working to help her grow and experience the joy of bearing fruit! “God made me to be fruitful,” Kate wrote in her prayer journal. “But my fruit won’t mature if I let it be choked by ‘life’s worries, riches and pleasures.’ Lord, please help me persevere and ‘produce a good crop’”
What good fruit would grow in a garden without some high-quality fertilizer? What good fruit will God produce in us when we recognize His hand in stinky circumstances?
“Lord, please open my eyes to see your good purposes in hard times.”