“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.” (John 12:24)
The popular saying, “bloom where you’re planted” calls for recognizing your current place in life as an opportunity and being effective and fruitful where you are.
Sometimes, however, we feel buried under life’s trials. Maybe we even feel as if we’re dying. But what if we changed the way we understood our circumstances. Perhaps I am being planted so that my death (trials and suffering) produces a harvest of life?
Sometimes I need to ask God to shift my mindset from buried to planted. This brings hope that reaches beyond my current sadness and self-pity.
In another place, Jesus told a parable about being fruitful where one is planted.
“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)
Although the primary application of this parable is to Israel, in principle, it reveals the ways of God with people. Unproductive plants (without fruit) were images of unfaithfulness and destruction of such plants was symbolic for judgment. The axe appeared to be already at the root of this tree (cf. Matt. 3:10; Luke 3:9).
In the parable, the gardener interceded for leniency toward an unproductive tree. The gardener asked for time to work with the plant – cultivating and fertilizing it. Give it another year. Although Jesus did not reveal the conclusion, it appears that the owner was merciful and allowed the time requested.
The ministry of Jesus happens between the realities of mercy and judgment. The kindness of God is meant to lead us to repentance. And repentance ought to involve a change in the way we understand time. Continual unfruitfulness is an invitation for judgment.
Can we picture our Lord interceding for us. God (in his great patience) allows time for our lives to be cultivated, pruned, and fertilized (perhaps through trials, hardships and suffering) so that we might be fruitful and pleasing to the owner of the garden.
This perspective is meant to challenge us in times when we feel unproductive or when we’ve been unfaithful.
Buried or planted?
As I struggle through hardships, I ask God to help me to recognize his pruning and cultivating work (even when it stinks like manure) and I ask for faith and hope — a productive future for His glory!
For further reflection
- “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. … God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:7-11).
- “We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen,since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (II Corinthians 4:16-18).
PS. An application of this distinction (Buried or Planted) could be made at the graveside of every believer in Christ.