The Cost of Roots

"He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."
Jeremiah 17:8 (NIV)

A farmer planted two trees by a stream one beautiful spring day. The man envisioned a swing on the steady branch of one of the trees and could hear his unborn children laughing in delight as he pushed them high into the air. He smiled as he envisioned their squeals of delight, telling him:

"Higher, Daddy! Higher!"

As he carefully covered the roots of the first tree, he planned exactly where the second tree would be planted. It, too, would be planted by the stream, but slightly farther away from the edge of the water. The reason for this was because a treehouse would be planted in the lofty branches of the tree one day for the same children that would play on the swing in the other tree. The farmer knew that the tree nearest the stream would have an easier time of finding water in those years when the rain did not fall as plentifully as in others. But the two trees, both healthy and strong, were near enough to send out roots to the stream to find its refreshing waters.

Both trees grew very well the first year. Each season could be seen in the color of the leaves-fresh and green in springtime, lovely and robust in the summer, and gloriously breathtaking as the autumn winds began to blow. Although the winter's cold turned the leaves into a dull, dead-looking brown, the next spring assured the farmer that both trees were thriving.

This went on for several years. The tree nearest the stream grew noticeably larger than the one farther away from the water. The young farmer had found his bride and they were expecting the first of the laughing voices that spring. The farmer wondered at the significant difference in the size of the trees. The one farthest away from the stream showed some signs of stress in its branches, although its leaves were just as gloriously brilliant as the other tree.

And then came the first year of the drought. This is just an odd year, thought the farmer. The rain will start to fall again soon. It didn't. For three years, the farmer and his bride prayed for God to save their little farm by sending rain. The ground was cracked and dry. The crops were suffering horribly. God had given two children to play in the trees, but the farmer's thoughts were far away from setting up a swing or building a tree house.

One morning the farmer was startled awake by the fierceness of the sound of wind and rain on the window. It was still dark outside as the lightning split the sky. He sprang from his bed and ran to the window which faced the two trees and the stream. The darkness was inky black except for the electric charge of the lightning. He waited for the next bolt to see how his trees were faring. He could barely believe his eyes. The tree planted right next to the water was on its side, its roots waving sadly in the wind. Anxiously he looked at the other tree, the one farthest from the stream. The next bolt of lightning slashed the sky like a spotlight on the tree. The wind was blowing in its branches ferociously, but the farmer could see that the tree was mighty in its strength. The tree would win over the storm's threat.

As soon as he could, the farmer went to examine the two trees. What he saw shocked him. The tree closest to the stream had never sent out its roots. The rainfall during the good years had been the source of its sustenance. The roots were stunted and dwarfed. All the tree would have had to do was dig down a little to find the stream. It hadn't.

The tree farther away from the stream had no choice. It had to find more than the plentiful rainfall of the good years to live in case of a drought. The farmer realized something incredible. The growth of the second tree had happened underground, explaining the difference in the height between the two. At the cost of its outward attractiveness, the second tree had chosen the more difficult task of using its energy to find the stream. It had done just that. Its leaf had never withered during the drought. But it had shown stress in the form of a gnarled trunk. It had paid a great cost for its wisdom, but in the end, that wisdom had saved the life of the tree when the ferocious winds had attacked it. Those roots had given it majestic strength to endure.

My beloved sisters, have we depended on the days of pleasant rainfall and ease and have forgotten to send out our roots? Proverbs gives us a stunning challenge, one that does not make sense when life is full of the apparent goodness of God in material blessings:

"Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding."
Proverbs 4:7 (NIV)

What is the cost for roots that ground us firmly during the storm? All we have. When the drought comes, we can easily see how shallow those roots are. Girlfriend, did you know that this time of drought is really a gift? When we have to painfully send out those roots to find that Living Water we are so desperate for, it can make us feel like we surely will not survive. We may feel we have been given an unfair disadvantage because we have to work so hard for it. Sweet friend, our God is no person's debtor! He will repay a heart that cries out to Him for strength she does not have.

We don't know what the rainfall in the days ahead looks like right now. It doesn't matter. If we have made the Sovereign Lord our refuge, He has promised that we will not wither. Though it cost us all we have, let's joyfully pay whatever the price He may require of us for those roots that will sustain us no matter what happens.

Jesus, You are able to nourish us, even in a time of drought. Let me not be paralyzed by the drought. Let me use it to send out those roots through the hard ground of trial to find You, the Living Water who will never let me thirst as I drink from Your river which never runs dry.