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Thriving in the midst of tribulation

The toll of human suffering right now is overwhelming. Wildfires continue to burn, taking with them whole communities. Hurricane Ida just swept through, taking lives and burying communities. The people of Haiti are trying to recover from decades of political corruption and a massive earthquake that leveled communities. Over 100,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan while countless others still try to get out. COVID-19 continues to spread throughout our local communities and has our hospital workers stretched to the breaking point, and I haven’t mentioned your personal trials and tribulations. We all struggle.

Jesus talks about the impact of tribulation and persecution in the parable of the sower. In Matthew 13:20-21 he says, “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.” Jesus says that we lose our faith and the accompanying fruit of the spirit (love, joy, hope, peace, etc.) because we don’t have roots that are deep enough to get us through tribulation and persecution. Our roots are not deep enough because our soil is rocky. In other words, we have lots of things preventing God’s word from taking root in our lives. Things that we prioritize over the word of God. Things like exercise, work, education, sports, hobbies and friends often get put before spending time in God’s word, and so our soil gets rocky and our roots shallow. Jesus explains what happens next in Matthew 13:6. “But when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away.”

But God, the master gardener, has the answer. God continues to generously sow His seed, His powerful word, everywhere — even on your rocky ground. God’s word shows us that we have sinned by trusting in things rather than the word of God. But then God’s word assures us that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) The master gardener uses the precious blood of Christ to cleanse our soil of its rocks so that our roots can grow deep and strong. So that in the midst of the heat our roots feed on invitations in God’s word like Matthew 11:28. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Then the joy we had in hearing the word endures.

If you’re feeling a little parched in the midst of the tribulation then let God sow some of His powerful seed in your rocky soil. Read your bible, join a bible study or go to church and watch as He makes it to produce abundant grain!

REV. MATTHEW SORENSON is the pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church. He can be reached at pastor@ stjohnsfarmville.org.