Though the chill of winter may still have a grip on your area – it’s been unseasonably cold here in Texas the last few days – it’s evident that trees everywhere are ready to burst forth with the promise of life, the visual delight of each new spring. We trust the cycle of nature, including the occasional disruption of seasonal storms and other unexpected weather events. Yet in grief our trust in the order and predictability of life is shaken when everything we know and hold dear is suddenly un-rooted, the rhythm of our daily life unalterably uprooted by the death of one we love.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust in the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8 RSV).
When we grieve, subliminally we constantly assess the parameters of our trust. Who can we trust with the pain of our heart? How can we trust in life when often death seems so random and unfair? What is the source and substance of our trust? If our life is rooted in faith, we have the spiritual resources and reserves to withstand our loss and heartache because we trust in God's infinite love and care. If the root system of our life is more entangled with secular than spiritual values, over time grief may direct our heart to search far below the surface for that which is deeply rooted in all that's lasting, eternal and trustworthy.
In the scripture we’re compared to a tree planted by water. I cherish a photo of Leighton on the banks of a stream lined with willow trees - green, lush, rustling in the soft breeze of an early summer’s day. It’s a memory of a special place “beside still waters” (Psalm 23:2 RSV). And like a tree, if our life is firmly planted in trust, we survive our grief, we grow and thrive because we're nourished by the stream of God’s living water.
For most of us, a very real part of grief is fear - fear before the death of our loved one, fear when we find ourselves alone. Fear and worry try to choke the root system of our faith in the heat of our grief. Yet we’re assured that when the roots of our tree – our life - run toward the life-giving water of the stream, we will again flourish, our leaves will remain green.
With death comes an unexpected emotional and physical drought. Anxiety is our fear of the unknown magnified by all the “what ifs” of life without our loved one. Yet through our faith, we are not anxious. We continue to bear fruit despite the drought of our loss and deprivation. Through God’s infinite grace we’re nourished by the life-giving waters of the stream. Luscious fruit, green leaves.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
Psalm 1:3 RSV
Keep me this day, O God, in the rhythm of your grace.