Last Tuesday, my husband and I decided to do some yard work. Our front and back yards were a mess from the winter, and the warmer spring air was making weeds sprout up everywhere. He took the front yard, and I decided to take the backyard and get to work pulling up all the weeds. I thought it would take me about 30 minutes…in reality, it took me 2 whole hours! And I thought I would only need one trash bag, but when I finished I had filled up 3 trash bags. I had clearly way underestimated just how weed-infested the backyard had become. The time, effort, and energy it took to clean it up was significantly more than I had planned. It seems that every time I pull up weeds (which I have to admit is extremely gratifying to me!) God teaches and reminds me of lessons involving my heart and soul. This latest weed-pulling session was no different. Here are the things that God taught and reminded me this past Tuesday:
You must get the root.
The number one rule of pulling weeds is…you have to pull up the root. You can’t just pull up what you see on the surface. If you do, that weed you thought you had gotten will spring right back up in a matter of days. Now you have double the work to do because you failed to get to the root the first time. The same is true of trying to get rid of a recurrent sin in our life. If we just deal with the surface-level and don’t get to the root of our sin, we will not be successful at dealing with our sin in a lasting way.
In my discipleship group, we are discussing sanctification and how one of the obstacles of becoming more like Christ is by doing exactly this-not dealing with the root of our sin. It’s easier to deal with the surface-level stuff. An example from my own life that I am currently working through is trying to not get so angry at my son when he disrespects or disobeys me. I pray about it every morning and ask for self-control and wisdom in my responses and that I would respond in love. But what the Lord has been showing me lately is that I need to be asking myself, “But why am I so angry? Where is this anger coming from? What is hiding deep down in my heart that’s resulting in all this anger spilling out?” That’s getting to the root. That’s going past the surface-level. And only in praying and thinking through those heart-level questions can I fully work through my sin of being easily angered.
Some weeds are really hard to pull up.
There were some monstrous weeds on Tuesday that I was trying to pull up. Like 3 foot tall weeds. Embarrassing, but it’s true. Sometimes I had to use a nifty device called a weed popper to get up a particularly difficult weed. There are sins in our lives that are just as difficult to uproot. Whether they are easy or hard to eradicate, we need the help of the Holy Spirit. He searches our heart to help us discover the weeds we need to get out. He helps us as we confess, pray, and resist temptation. He’s the best weed popper around. And God has given us His Word, the Bible, to also guide and help us. So if you’re struggling to pull up the weeds of your heart, quit turning to self-help books or sheer will-power. Enlist the power of the Holy Spirit and rely on Him.
Weeds spread like wildfire when left untreated.
Have you noticed that if you leave one weed, the next day or two there will be another, then another, and then another. Soon, your whole yard is covered in weeds in a matter of weeks. Truthfully, the weeds in our yard grow faster and stronger than our grass. It’s really frustrating! There was one weed in our yard last week that I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten until I started pulling it up. It had almost completely taken over one side of our yard by our porch. Hardly any grass had grown in that area because the weed had infiltrated most of the soil. The weeds of our heart are no different. When we let sin run free in our lives, we can’t be surprised when it has made our life a mess. Whether it spreads because we ignore it or justify it, the sin grows and overtime it will consume us. We must seek God in prayer so He can help us identify our sin and then seek His help to eradicate it. We cannot afford to let it grow and remain untreated.
Pulling up all the weeds is not someone else’s responsibility.
I could have blamed my husband for letting the yard get so bad, or I could have been so frustrated about the mess that I decided it was too big of a job and given up before I even started, leaving all the work to him. Instead, I knew the work needed to get done, and I agreed to help him do it. Please hear me on this. Your sin is not someone else’s fault or responsibility. We cannot choose all the ways that people sin against us, but we can choose how we respond. Do we respond in a sinful way or in a God-honoring way? For instance, when I’m disrespected by my son, I can’t control his words or actions toward me. But I can control my response to him. I can’t blame him if I lose my temper. Sure he might be pressing all my triggers, but I’m responsible for how I respond to him. My reactions are on me. My response can be anger-filled and resentful or full of grace and love. What comes out of my mouth in that moment reveals the state of my heart, and only the Lord can help me get the weeds out of it.
Finally, something will always grow in the space left by the pulled-up weed.
Have you ever pulled up weeds only to find that within a week or two, new weeds have replaced the former ones? Once you get the weeds up, grass can grow in the spaces once occupied by weeds, but unfortunately grass isn’t the only thing ready to take over that space. If the grass doesn’t fill that space quickly enough, more weeds will come in and try to fill it. Our heart works the same way. When we get rid of weeds in our heart, something else will inevitably fill that space. It could be another sin, the same sin re-emerging again, or a helpful habit. For example, if you normally spend your evenings getting drunk, once you are no longer doing that, how will you spend that time? You could do something God-honoring in that time or you could take up another bad habit in place of the drinking. It’s not enough to pull up the weeds in our hearts. We must also replace those old sinful habits with things that are glorifying to the Lord, or we may find that sin habits reappear and our heart is full of weeds again.
I encourage you this week to ask God to search your heart and help you identify sin areas in your life. If you already know where your struggles are, I pray that you would confess those to God and repent. Pull those weeds out, root and all. Rely on God to help you. Don’t ignore or justify your sin. Take responsibility for your sin. And replace old sin habits with habits that honor God. It’s not easy, but the cost of not pulling up those weeds is far too high and costly.
Pressing on in faith, Jennifer