Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you. — Hosea 10:12
We had spent a sunny few days in Tel Aviv, a city on Israel’s Mediterranean coast.
“You all brought amazing weather. Normally around this time it’s nonstop rain,” a friend shared.
It was Christmas Eve, and we were due to head up north to the Sea of Galilee. We lingered for a few more hours than we had originally intended so that we could soak in the sun. As we packed everything into the rental car and set out for our drive, we felt an ache in our hearts.
We drove up Highway 6, one of the main interstate highways in Israel. The night felt cool, and if we’d had the chance to stop, we could have looked up and witnessed a kaleidoscope of stars. I glanced at the weather app on my phone and sighed. One-hundred percent chance of rain for the next week. That meant that all of the sites we wanted to see — Capernaum, where Jesus started His ministry; Bethsaida and Chorazin, cities once cursed by Jesus that now lay barren; and so many others — would now be visited in the pouring rain, during the week of Christmas no less.
I had waited for months to visit these sites again and had hoped that they would be just as beautiful as they were when I first visited. Now we would have to deal with low visibility, wet clothes, and soggy, muddy shoes. We would try to make the best of it, but it just wasn’t quite the experience that we were hoping for.
Rain has evolved into what some would consider a modern-day nuisance, where it once was the lifeblood of our communities. Before irrigation systems, watersheds, and other mechanisms used to store water, rain was essential to fuel crop growth.
No rain? No food. A famine could, in essence, wipe out an entire community. I considered the paradoxical nature of it all.
What farmers required, we dismissed. What they needed for growth, we avoided. When we shun the rain, we stunt our development. It’s essentially spiritual deferment.
Fallow ground refers to uncultivated, unsown, and inactive ground. It is often uncultivated for a few seasons to restore its fertility. If rain falls on fallow ground, nothing happens. When then ground hasn’t been tilled, there can be no harvest. Fallow ground needs to be broken up to prepare it for growth.
By now, we know that all growth comes from rain. But when we don’t surrender our outcomes to God, we get the unappealing substitute for growth instead of the real thing.
PHANTOM GROWTH VS. THE REAL THING
There is no substitute for real growth. With plants, sometimes a vine can grow and grow, appearing healthy, and not produce any blossoms or fruit. We can do all of the “right things” while still holding onto things that stunt our spiritual growth — like the romantic relationship that we hold onto even though we know that he is not God’s best for us; or the slightly toxic circle of friends who once helped us grow but now hold us back; or even the job that pays well but is in direct conflict with our purpose.
The real thing looks more like a temporary brokenness that comes with moving on from an empty relationship and the new fulfillment we find in connection with Christ. Real growth is found in the godly friends who don’t allow you to avoid the difficult spiritual lessons and who support us along the way. It’s found in a job that nurtures our God-given gifts and allows our testimony to reach and touch those around us.
We often want the Lord to bless what we haven’t submitted to Him. To truly understand the importance of spiritual rain in our lives, we need to understand the concept of breaking up fallow ground. Even though we all desire growth, we cheat ourselves by failing to prepare our hearts, minds, and other areas of our lives to be transformed.
There is no substitute for real growth.
A few years ago, while traveling through Cambodia by motorcycle, I noticed how important a single commodity was in the lives of all whom I came across: water.
Throughout the Bible water flows through the pages of Scripture. God’s Word is full of passages that link water to God’s creating, blessing, and saving work. While the Israelites wandered through the desert, they forgot their identity. They forgot that they were God’s chosen people.
God often brings us into desert seasons not to harm us but to prepare us.
He will reposition or remove the things that we turn to when we are tempted to fill a void. And He’ll use that season, while painful, to break, reassemble, and strengthen us. It’s His divine preparation.
There are lessons that we can learn only when we’re walking in a dry place.
When our friends have turned their backs on us. When our job lets us go. When that sickness makes its way back. When we feel like God isn’t listening. Moses told the people that not only was God about to release the fullness of the promise into their lives — the Promised Land full of milk and honey — but He had prepared their hearts to live large in the abundance of His provision. Imagine getting the very thing we wanted before the preparation. Would we not corrupt it?
We are always either walking toward a desert season, currently wandering through one, or walking out of the wilderness. As long as we follow God’s leading, we will never thirst. The longer we try to do things our way, the longer we will thirst after the things that can’t fully quench us.
People are taught that if they ever find themselves lost in the wild, they are to look for signs of life.
Life happens near water. Plants are born. Food grows. Goods are transported.
Before pipes carried water around the city, towns congregated near water. People would come and collect water and transport it back to their homes. Land along rivers was fertile. If the land was fertile, crops could grow. If crops could grow, then people could be fed. It was in the valley that people were able to get their most precious life-sustaining resource: water.
When I think about the times that I’ve been in a literal valley — unable to see the mountaintop — it’s what I did in the valley that gave me the strength to make it to the summit.
I filled up on flowing water. I gathered the food that grew close to the riverbank. I allowed myself to be nourished by the river, spending days there preparing for the journey ahead.
The Bible tells us in John 7:38 that those who believe in Jesus shall have rivers of living water flow from within them.
During some of the lowest points of my life, camping out at the river is what gave me strength for the climb. When I was weak, water replenished. When I was tired, water refreshed. When I was hot, water tempered.
What I’ve learned over the years is that God is the only One who can quench my inner thirst, the thirst of my soul.
When I thought people, success, money, or fame could satisfy, it was only through God that I was made full and He began to flow out of me. When I started studying His Word on my own, separating myself from this world and unto Him, the desires of the world fell out of focus.
I can get everything I need at the river.
I gather instruction. I can talk to the locals about the safest routes to the top. And because I’m so full on the nutrients and instruction that I gathered in the valley, I have the strength and wisdom to climb to the top of the mountain. I’m able to pour out unto any others that pass by as I make my way up. I can pour out what I’ve gathered in the valley.
During our lowest moments in the valley, we must stay close to the river. During the rise to the top, we must stay grounded and remember the wisdom we gathered in the valley. And when we finally come to the clearing at the top of the mountain, we’ll be able to see all that the Lord brought us from and the newness that He’s bringing us into.
It’s important to note that water can often come from unlikely sources. In Isaiah 48:21 we’re told that water flowed from a rock. A rock!
Now, I don’t know about you, but I didn’t grow up knowing there were reservoirs of water hidden inside of rocks. Since we know that water represents life and we can’t survive without it, this should come as no surprise: God keeps new life hidden in those hard places.
That boyfriend who dumped you. Those friends who left you. The job that let you go. All of the things that you think are going wrong — God will break it wide open so that His Truth can flow freely. That water will wash you, invigorate, and carry you.
As we approached the final stretch of our Cambodian motorcycle adventure, it began to rain. And not just any rain but a torrential downpour. It was one of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever witnessed. For me, it symbolized a purification. And it signified a lesson that I would later learn: purpose will come from the moment the rock splits.
I desperately wanted sun in Israel. A bit shallow for some, I’m sure, but it was important for me to experience the Sea of Galilee the way that Jesus had. However, I realized that maybe this was the way that He had also experienced it: cold and rainy some days, hot and dry on others.
Yielding my expectations for perfect weather was simply another example of giving up my desire to control aspects of my life that God desperately needed to change. It was always difficult for me to let go of circumstances, because I always had a perfect outcome in mind. But the only way for me to get the real thing was to break up the fallow ground of my own expectations to prepare for a season of harvest.
When I look back at the years where I experienced the most growth, I am in awe of God’s providence. I hadn’t gone through a good storm in years and — oh my — the downpour brought tremendous growth. In the thick of the storm, I cried often, feeling tormented and crushed in spirit. As difficult as it was, I again begged God to hold me there as long as He needed to use me. And again He honored that faithfulness.
While our wounds may not be our fault, our healing is our responsibility. We can stay down, or we can get up. It’s our choice. God will never waste pain. In fact, His plan is to grow beauty and purpose out of it. I had to remember that ministry was being birthed from my misery.
The Bible, which is complete, inerrant, living, and active, is God’s provision for us to know Him, serve Him, and grow in relationship with Him. It shows us where we lack. The Word of God proves us in need of a Savior. So long as our hearts are prepared and the fallow ground is broken up and ready for rain, God will provide the increase.
Zimism: I broke the fallow ground of what I listened to, and God released the rain. And when it rained, it poured.
Excerpted with permission from Dare to Bloom by Zim Flores, copyright Zimuzor Flores.
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Zim asks, “What are areas of your life that need to be surrendered back to God What are you afraid will happen if you completely surrender this area to God? In what ways has God brought beauty and growth out of a painful time in your life?” Come share with us! ~ Devotionals Daily