When I was a late teenager and young adult, I had to move several times. Going to college about 3 hours from home (and living at home during the summers) meant moving at least a couple of times each year, plus travel. Then, when I graduated and got a job (in another state), I moved into an apartment. Upon getting married (later that year), I moved into another apartment. Since then, as my family has grown, we are now in our second house.
After a while in our current town, though, I started to feel more at home. I might recognize someone at the grocery store, and people I knew at church would greet me by name. The streets were no longer as foreign, and the local region became more comfortable to navigate. My family and I had started to put down roots, and grow where we were, rather than being uprooted on a regular basis.
Something else started to happen as I remained in one place for a while, though: As my wife and I grew closer to other people, we got to enjoy their friendship and spend fun times with them. At the same time, though, their challenges and sorrows also started to become our own. When they would experience trials and heartaches, we would share those with them, and perhaps – in some way – help to carry their burdens.
In a way, through the roots that we had developed in our community, we had become a part of it. When someone else was shaken, we felt it. When someone was in danger of falling under their burden, we tried to help strengthen them and keep them from yielding to the weight.
In a similar metaphor, Jesus made the following statements, in His explanation of the parable that we may call “the parable of the sower”.
The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word.
Matthew 13:20-21 NLT
When trying to understand how the world works – what real Truth is – it is far too easy to be pulled into one belief after another. There are so many worldviews fighting for our attention, that if we are not judicious in our evaluation of different points of view, we are like a plant that is pulled up by the roots and stuck somewhere else in the yard, every couple of weeks. Some plants (including those stubborn weeds from the garden) can probably survive this for a while, but it’s difficult for them to grow much when – just as soon as they start to regrow – their roots are torn apart again.
In the same way, if we don’t get settled into a growth-friendly environment – combining healthy truth with a community that encourages our walk with Jesus – we might survive, getting by from week to week with the “message of the month”. However, we’re not likely to thrive or grow in those circumstances. Instead, if we remain in the truth, remaining rooted through minor ups and downs, then the problems of life do not have to prevail upon us, uprooting us every few weeks to chase after something that looks better in the moment. God provides not only His own support and presence to help us through difficult times, but He also established a body of other followers (imperfect as we may be) to support each other, with both truth (not platitudes) and love (taking action on the truth that we have learned).
So, if you feel like the trials of life are getting the upper hand, take some time to invest in your roots. While the church – when functioning as Jesus designed it – is meant to provide roots that hold us through, you may also find support in family, community, or other groups. At the same time, since people are imperfect, our most robust roots are going to be found in our investment in a relationship with Jesus.
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.
John 15:4-5 NLT
Talk with Jesus, get to know him, and learn more about His will for you. Storms will still come, but if your roots are deep enough, your chances of holding your ground (even if you are battered a lot) are going to substantially increase.