Have you ever felt dry and barren … as though all the life has been poured out of you, and even though you want to give more, you have nothing left? Have you ever questioned whether God could possibly use you, since you have personal struggles ... you make mistakes ... you say the wrong thing ... you have physical challenges and/or sickness?
I want to encourage you today, that the heart of Jesus is "toward" you ... ready, willing and able to "do a new thing" in you ... to fill you up with His "living water" from the well of Himself, that will never run dry.
Let me tell you a little story that helped me see that more clearly.
I'd been feeling a little "depleted" myself. Getting ready to go to a small group Bible study/prayer meeting one morning, my friend who normally leads the group called to say she was sick and asked if I'd lead the morning's study in her absence. Well ... I had just barely begun the chapter that morning (better late than never!) ... Even though woefully unprepared, I agreed; and gradually looked over the chapter while simultaneously getting ready to go.
During that time (eating, grooming, straightening, etc.) I happened to see a large houseplant in the living room that suddenly looked like it had every ounce of liquid sucked out of it. Back when purchasing it, the salesperson had said that this particular plant would look wonderfully full of life until the soil dried out, then it would wilt dramatically and suddenly, signaling its need for a good "drink".
Well, it wilted alright. Looked pretty much like all was lost! So I dragged it out of its spot and gave it a soaking drink of water. Truth be told, it reminded me a little of myself. In recent days I had been feeling pretty "spent" and parched. After pouring out lots of "life" into the hearts of many friends in need, my own reservoir felt pretty much like a wasteland.
Planted by the Stream
Continuing on with getting ready to leave the house, the image of that plant kept coming to mind. It was necessary to walk by it several times while preparing to go, and increasingly the leaves seemed to come back to life, slowly but surely looking fuller and more vibrant.
During that time, a song began going through my mind almost unnoticed ... unsure whether this was before or after first noticing the plant. It's a chorus that we sing at Loving Grace events now and then, and it's not a song that would typically "pop into my head" to sing. It says: "I shall not, I shall not be moved.... Just like a tree, planted by the water, I shall not be moved." It seemed like it would be a nice chorus to sing with the small group before we began our discussion.
The Bible study preparation time was encouraging, as the topic at hand was "Is God trustworthy?" The scriptures were from the Psalms, and dealt with the futility of trusting in man, and the contrasting faithfulness of God. When it was almost time to go, the preparation concluded by reading a couple of scripture verses that were tacked on to the end of the chapter, for "further study" type purposes, almost as an afterthought.
One was from Isaiah, and the other was from Jeremiah. The last portion of these scriptures made my spirit "sit up and take notice", while reading the following words:
"This is what the LORD says: 'Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.
'But blessed is the man who trust in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. 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 17:5-8)
It made me pause and ponder, how often we rely on each other (often rightly so) to "fill each other up" and refresh each other. Yet a higher spiritual reality might be that God would desire to remove us from our "pots", and plant us firmly in the soil of His love, next to His streams of living water ... a source that will NEVER run dry.
What a blessing to "hear" that "word" of encouragement to my own heart, as well as to share it with the small group.
Rivers on the Barren Heights,
Streams in the Wasteland
Later that evening, I had been asked to "fill in" again by another friend to lead a brief worship time at the beginning of a different Bible study. Interestingly enough, the leader of THAT study ended up calling shortly before the scheduled start time to say that he suddenly wasn't feeling well and couldn't make it.
Long story not-quite-as-long :), due to his absence, there was another "moment" in which to share the events from that morning. In relating the story, I tried to remember the verse from above, but mistakenly began searching for it in Isaiah. Although the passage from that morning was nowhere to be found, "accidentally" a couple of other VERY beautiful similar passages seemed to "pop off the page", by God's grace.
"The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs."
"Forget the former thing; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise." (Isaiah 43:18-21)
It was a beautiful gift from the Spirit to be encouraged "in the moment" by the Word of God that way.
See, I Am Doing a New Thing!
And the blessing went on.... The next morning, upon getting in touch with the small group leader to let her know how things went at the prior morning's meeting, we shared a lot of the above. It wasn't until reviewing it all with her, that it became clear that I had been searching in the wrong book of the Bible the evening before, and yet the Holy Spirit had graciously led to such beautiful life-giving verses in spite of my mistake, and actually He USED my mistake to guide the way. God is so amazing.... As we spoke, she said how much it all ministered to her heart even at that moment; because she had been struggling with some things herself, and the passage from Isaiah 43 spoke directly to her issue.
As she read the passage aloud once again, it became doubly meaningful, in the light of what was going on in her life. She had been having trouble letting go of some struggles many of us had shared together in the recent past. Only the Spirit knew the deep relevance of the words "Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!" ... I had no clue, until she repeated the Scripture back once again.
See, here's the point. This word wouldn't have even been "spoken" without a bunch of "mishaps" (at least as WE would perceive them). I had been feeling spent and parched. I had neglected to prepare in advance for our small group. I had no time to prepare adequately to lead. My friend who leads the study got sick. My plant ran out of water. The other Bible study leader had to back out at the last minute. I forgot that the scripture reading was from Jeremiah, and mistakenly ended up searching in Isaiah.
So, this question begs to be asked again: "Have you ever questioned whether God could possibly use you, since you have personal struggles ... you make mistakes ... you say the wrong thing ... you have physical challenges and/or sickness?"
Do you feel like you have nothing to offer Jesus? If so, join the club. But see, that's the beauty of it all. It's not whether WE have something to offer Him, but that HE has something to offer US. He DID offer it ALL on the cross.
Streams of Living Water
And He can, will and does STILL offer us water to saturate our parched souls every day. When Jesus approached the "woman at the well", she thought that she had something to offer Him. However, it was truly HE that offered her real Water. He told her that "...whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:14)
Later in the book of John (7:37b-38) Jesus says: "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." (emphasis mine)
So, again … Jesus' heart is toward you. No matter how dry and barren you may feel, no matter how much of a failure, His gracious heart is ready, willing and able to "do a new thing" in you … to fill you up with His "living water" from the "well" of Himself, that will never run dry. I pray that you will allow Him to tenderly remove the "pot" that binds you and restricts you ... that allows you to be so easily "carried away". Let Him plant you right beside His "streams of living water" ... so that your "roots" can stretch out and sink deep into the fertile, abundant, rich and refreshing soil of His amazing love.