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Surviving Seasons Of Suffering – How To Remain In The Shadow Of The Gardener

It sat on our dining room table in a beautiful blue ceramic pot. All 4 inches stooped lifeless and withering. As I picked up the pot to empty out the contents, I wondered how I had let another plant die, especially one with a “guarantee to grow.” Headed toward the trash, I couldn’t help but consider how in so many ways this small shriveled up plant represented the current season of my life. A season filled with pain and uncertainty left questioning how beauty could ever come from the ashes I held in my hands.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar season? A rocky marriage that’s left you stranded on the shore of a stony heart. Perhaps the little laughs you long to fill your house have left this dry season joyless. Or, maybe you’ve been stripped down to nothing by shattered dreams. Whatever you’re facing, hold tight to the threads of His garment. Every season of life is preparing you for the next.

in the shadow of the Good Gardener, Jesus, John 15, pruning of God, storms of life, dry barren seasons, strength when going through hard seasons, remaining connected to the vine, bible study on painful seasons, dealing with loss, becoming deeply rooted

Stormy Season

Like so many, maybe your life is one storm after another. Your leaves have been pounded by the hail, limbs ripped by the wind, and soil washed away by the rushing water. You sense God there but wonder why He has allowed such misery and pain to storm the field of your life. You may feel agonizing pain, abandoned and alone. The enemy would love nothing more for you to think there is no one else who understands, no one who cares, and surely, no one who can help. During these painful seasons, when we’re vulnerable, we have to take those invading thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). Any and every thought that stands opposed to the goodness and faithfulness of God, must fall. It’s easy to grow weary while in this season. Seek shelter in the only One able to hush the waves and still the storm to a whisper. Focus on scripture that reminds you of His unfailing love. Trust in His ability to give you peace in the midst of the storm.

  • Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed, ” says the Lord, who has compassion on you. Isaiah 54:10
  • God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1
  • The righteous call to the Lord, and he listens; he rescues them from all their troubles. Psalm 34:17
  • He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”   Psalm 91:1-2

Dry Barren Season

Perhaps, you’re experiencing a season of drought right now where you don’t feel His nearness or see His hand tilling the soil of your life. Press in, my friend. During these dry times, continue to seek His face and drench yourself in His Word. It is our fleshes natural response (and Satan’s greatest desire) for us to retreat, pull back, and turn aside but, in doing so, you cut off the very One who nourishes your soul. In Jeremiah 17, he says those who depend on flesh for strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord will be like a bush in the wasteland, BUT those who trust in the Lord will not worry when drought comes. They, who have confidence in the Lord, will always be green and bear fruit. The barren winter ground you’re standing on, covered with dead leaves, is actually preparing you for the new beginnings of spring. As Psalm 1 declares, meditate on His law day and night and you will be like a tree planted by streams of water, yielding fruit IN ITS SEASON. Your season will come!

  • I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into springs. Isaiah 41:18
  • But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit. Jeremiah 17:5-8
  • For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. 2 Chronicles 16:9
  • Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:3

Scripture for three seasons of suffering as a Believer, in the shadow of the Good Gardener, Jesus, John 15, pruning of God, storms of life, dry barren seasons, strength when going through hard seasons, remaining connected to the vine, bible study on painful seasons, dealing with loss, becoming deeply rooted

Pruning Season

Sandwiched between the pressure of God’s shears, you might feel like God has pruned you too much, leveling you with the ground. This season is a hard season marked by loss, pressure, and the temptation to run. During this time, stand firm. Pruning is essential for the spiritual development and growth of all believers. God’s shears of love trim away dead thoughts, diseased relationships, and hazardous actions leaving a healthy vibrant planting of the Lord on display for His glory. In John 15:2, Jesus said the Good Gardener, “… prunes every branch that bears fruit so that it will be even more fruitful.” If you’re in a pruning season, that means two things: you were already producing fruit AND the season ahead has far greater fruit for you to bear. Guard your heart, rely on Him to strengthen you, and resist the urge to run away from the shearing hands of the Gardner. He has chosen you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will last (John 15:16).

  • My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves … Hebrews 12:5-6
  • 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 12:11
  • Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23
  • My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26

Unlike my inability to grow plants, we serve One who makes all things flourish in its time. As branches of His Vine, we have an expert Gardener as our Father despite the season of life we find ourselves in. An experienced Gardener who, not only guarantees we grow but that we live abundantly. We must be deeply rooted and nourished – built up – in Him alone (Colossians 2:7) to withstand seasons of deep drought, turbulent storms of life, and pruning times. The best fertilizer for your soul is to remain in the shadow of the Gardener.

Do you know someone struggling with a tough season? Be sure to share this post with them and lift them up in prayer. Your prayer is powerful and effective!

Back to Top - November 20, 2017 - 1:49 pm

Thank you so much, Mary!! Thank you for hosting!

Mary Hill - November 19, 2017 - 2:53 pm

I enjoyed your poetic writing about seasons of life. This line especially blessed me: Every season of life is preparing you for the next.

Thanks for linking up with us at the #LMMLinkup last week. I can’t wait to read more of your wonderful posts each week. - November 14, 2017 - 12:11 pm

Me too, Lois! I wish I could say that the seasons get easier the second time around but they don’t. I can attest to God’s ability to carry me through every time in a way that displays His character in a completely new way. The severe cutbacks produce the best fruit. When you see the fruit, you understand the need for the cutback – as painful as it may have been! Blessings, Lois!! - November 14, 2017 - 12:07 pm

Thank you so much for sharing, Sarah! I have a black thumb, but I am so appreciative of those who can grow! I get to enjoy the beauty of others abilities! 😉

Lois Flowers - November 9, 2017 - 11:14 pm

I love gardening analogies, Esther, and I can also attest to having gone through each of the seasons you’ve described (some more than once)! This line really resonated with me today: “If you’re in a pruning season, that means two things: you were already producing fruit AND the season ahead has far greater fruit for you to bear.” It’s easy to look at pruning as discipline, and sometimes it is. But often it’s just because there’s a different kind of growth ahead that will never happen unless we’re cut back (sometimes severely) now. Great post!

Sarah Geringer - November 9, 2017 - 12:07 pm

Esther, this is a masterful post! Even though I have a green thumb, I can relate to the powerful truths you speak here. Sharing this on FB and Twitter. Blessings to you!


At some point you’ve probably heard Newton’s law of motion: an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

While this applies to the physical world, it also has a deep spiritual application. When we’re running from God, headed in the wrong direction spiritually, sometimes it takes a robust God-balanced force to stop us in our tracks.

Jonah knew all too well about this spiritual law of motion because God sent a violent storm to stop his action of running. His story is often related to disobedience, and it most certainly is, but perhaps the most significant story told here is the story of redemption. Restoration for the heartless prophet, salvation for the helpless sailors, redemption for the sinful city, and resolution for you and me.


God Provides A Way Out

But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah. Jonah 1:17

While God sent the storm that threatened the lives of Jonah and the sailors, we see in Jonah 1:17 that He also provided a way out. Two things had to happen first though. In verse 12 Jonah said, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea and it will be calm. I know this is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” Jonah immediately knew why the storm raged on and how to change it. As soon as he confessed his sin and accepted the consequences, “the Lord provided” the way out. We serve a faithful God who not only forgives us but purifies us when we confess our sins. God’s ultimate purpose for sending the storm wasn’t to destroy Jonah but to restore him.

  • If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
  • I acknowledged my sin to You, my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”; You forgave the guilt of my sin. Psalm 32:5

God Of Second Chances

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time. Jonah 3:1

Have you ever wondered why it took sinking to the bottom of a great fish for Jonah to cry out to God? While I’d like to believe I would have immediately cried out instead of saying “throw me overboard,” there have been times I’ve looked consequences right in the face and continued in motion at the same speed, in the same direction. I’ve sat on the throne trying to control it, superficially creating my own second chance. Rather than confessing to God we often try to make our way out, leading us further from God and deeper into consequences. Once Jonah asked for forgiveness, grace flooded the fish’s belly and washed away the gap between God and Jonah. By seeking forgiveness and surrendering our plan to Him, we bridge the gap sin creates between God and us. We’re aligned with the Father’s heart and in a receiving position for our second chance.

  • Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. Acts 3:19


God Uses Our Failures

At this, the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him. Jonah 1:16

With God, not a moment of life is wasted. He knows that we’ve all fallen short of His glory and yet He continues to choose us. Even when we disobey and fall flat on our face, God can use it to reach others. Jonah’s failure as a running prophet led to the salvation of the terrified sailors. They looked to Jonah for answers to the storm, but they ended up finding the Savior who silences the storms. For Jonah, what started off as a failed attempt to run ended up being the greatest ministry route. Trust that the Divine Author is writing and perfecting your faith, even rewriting your failure into fruit. God’s purpose for your future is far bigger than your failure.

  • The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?” Jonah 1:11
  • Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21

God delights in a truly repentant heart. With a contrite heart, He can take your failure and make it flourish. He can use it to restore you to a greater understanding of who He is and how much the Father loves you so He can use you in ways you never thought were possible; ways that bring restoration to your soul and a story of redemption for others.

Pressing In

  1. In looking back, do you see a time when God sent a strong unbalanced force to intercept your path? What was the outcome?
  2. Do you currently need a “But the Lord provided”?
  3. Is there an area you’re trying to create a way out rather than relying on Him for the way out?
  4. Are you searching for answers to the storm rather than the One who silences the storms?
  5. Have you watched God transform your mess into a message? Share with someone who might need the assurance.

Back to Top - November 3, 2017 - 4:28 pm

Awe, thank you, Lois! I love how physics (and all of creation) points to God’s beautiful story of redemption. Thank you for visiting!!

Lois Flowers - October 31, 2017 - 8:28 pm

Esther, it’s always fun to read a blog post that starts with a physics reference! I love how you point out the redemptive aspects of Jonah’s story and how God can use even our biggest failures to draw others to Himself. 🙂

Jeannine - October 30, 2017 - 6:30 pm

I am so proud of what God is doing in your life!Keep up the good work.

Hide And Seek – When You’d Rather Run And Hide Than Obey

“What is she doing?!” I thought, stomping on the brake.

By any driving standard, she appeared to be avoiding bright orange cones on an obstacle course.  In a last-ditch effort to turn left rather than right, she darted across three lanes of traffic. Distance between her car and mine became top priority!

As I approached the red light, I couldn’t help but notice two kids and a mound of stuff piled in her out of state SUV. What I perceived as a drunk or distracted driver turned out to be a lost woman looking for a gas station.

Unlike this woman, Jonah knew exactly where he needed to go but chose to drive the opposite direction. Fueled by his hatred and driven by expectations, the distance between him and his calling became the only priority on his list. Jonah piled his mound of preferences into the boat and darted across the sea.

But have you ever wondered why God sent Jonah? Why would He send Jonah (dove), son of Amittai (truth) when he wanted nothing to do with truth descending on this large city?

Oftentimes, God sends us on assignments to peel back the layers of our calloused heart.

For Jonah, that meant God was sending him to the heart of a wicked Assyrian empire while calling out the wickedness in Jonah’s own heart – pride and hatred.

hiding from God, going the opposite direction of God, Jonah running from God, hide and seek with God, choosing to obey, God sends storms, following God when it

Idols Of Preference

God’s deep desire was to lead the Ninevites with cords of love and kindness. To lift the yoke of sin from their neck and bend down to feed them with His nourishment (Hosea 11:4).

And that’s why Jonah chose to run to Tarshish. Not because he was afraid but because he knew that God was compassionate and gracious, abounding in love (Jonah 4:2). Jonah understood that if God was sending him, He was redeeming them. Preferring God’s fierce anger over compassion, he wanted this great enemy of Israelite finished off – once and for all. His deep preference for judgment became a worthless idol he clung to.

Elevating his preferences above God’s desire, Jonah allowed the view of his assignment to taint the higher perspective.

And if we’re honest, most of us can pinpoint a time when we’ve run from the task God called us to, preferring to sit on the sidelines where fear, rejection, motives, and desires remain unchecked. We fall victim to expectancy, blinded by our comfort zone, status quo, ambitions or goals. But in doing so, we forfeit – give up, surrender, sacrifice – the grace, favor, and generosity that could be ours (Jonah 2:8).

Storms of Interception

I suppose Jonah had a short memory blip when he climbed into the boat with his fleeting heart. As a Prophet, he’d read David’s Psalm 139:7-10 many times, “Where can I flee from your presence?” Or, what about Jeremiah 23:23-24 declaring there are no secret places that He cannot see. Jonah couldn’t hide in the middle of the sea under a boat deck, and we can’t hide under the deck of our hearts.

God knows all. He sees everything. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m glad. I’m glad God seeks us out in our hiding.

And so, God sent a violent storm and allowed it to rage on until Jonah came out of his “hide and seek” spot (Jonah 1:4).

This storm set the platform for God to intercept Jonah and encounter the sailors. It intercepted Jonah’s deep slumbering mission and encountered the sailors’ dormant souls.

Sometimes, God sends a storm to change our direction, but we snooze through the winds shouting for us to “WAKE UP!” and waves attempting to crash our plans.

But the more we run, the more lost we become and the louder the storm rages (Jonah 1:11). Will we obey and receive the blessing or disobey and live with regret?

Unfortunately, storms are not limited to times of disobedience. If you’re currently treading deep waters, rest assured, whether or not disobedience causes your storm, He is with you in the midst of it (Isaiah 43:2).

hiding from God, going the opposite direction of God, Jonah running from God, hide and seek with God, choosing to obey, God sends storms, following God when it

Swallowed By Consequences

Disobedience rarely affects us alone and blinds us to the possibility of consequence. Running from God is like a hole in a ship. Though it may start slow, it’s only a matter of time before you sink. Because, ultimately, the rebellion of man is the rejection of God. Ravi Zacharias said, “Sin (aka disobedience) will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay. 

AFFECTS OTHERS – Jonah’s decision to run placed the sailors in harm’s way, with a ripple effect extending to their family and future generations. Not only was their boat being ripped apart, but they threw their cargo into the sea to lighten the load (Jonah 1:5). His storm became theirs.

STEALS YOUR TIME – For Jonah, he lost at least three days in the belly of a fish (Jonah 1:17). Grumbling Israelites lost 40 years in the desert (Numbers 32:13). And, David suffered a lifetime with his son (2 Samuel 12:14). Don’t spin your wills trying to fix it yourself, cry out to God.

LOST OPPORTUNITY – Countless stories of missed opportunities pen the pages of Scripture, but the one of Moses and Aaron stand heads above the rest. After facing Pharoh, parting the Red Sea, and marching across the desert, they missed the blessing of entering the Promised Land as a result of disobedience (Numbers 20:12). One of life’s greatest regrets is missing a life-changing opportunity because it was covered by the wrong one.

Every day we are faced with the junction of following or running the other way. Whatever assignment God is leading you to, He will guide you through. Like Jonah, it might smell a little fishy, and you can refuse the job, but it won’t change your calling.

Join me next week as we discuss God’s redeeming work when we return to the right course – His course.

Press In

  1. Has God given you a divine assignment that makes you cringe with disgust or shrivel up in fear?
  2. Are you headed to Tarshish right now – the opposite way of God’s leading?
  3. Do you find yourself distracted by expectations or preferences? If so, is there an underlying heart issue?
  4. Is there a time you tried to “hide” from God? In reading Psalm 139:7-10 and Jeremiah 23:23-24, is that even possible?
  5. Are you currently facing a storm? Commit Isaiah 43:2 to memory.
  6. Have you experienced swallowing consequences? Looking back, could your surrender have lessened them?
Back to Top - November 3, 2017 - 4:26 pm

Amen, Aimee! And I’ve regretted everytime I have run! Thank you so much for your encouragement and stopping by!

Aimee Imbeau - November 2, 2017 - 8:53 pm

How many times have I run from God instead of running to Him. If I had only understood that He longs for us to run to Him. I absolutely love your reflection questions. Great way to get readers thinking about where they are in their faith walk. Thanks for linking up with Grace and Truth.

[…] this applies to the physical world, it also has a deep spiritual application. When we’re running from God, headed in the wrong direction spiritually, sometimes it takes a robust God-balanced force to stop […]

Ruth @ plantedbylivingwater - October 30, 2017 - 12:47 am

Great post!
Your observation that Jonah was idolizing his own preferences is quite eye-opening! Don’t we do the same sometimes, though, maybe not for the same reasons, but we still disrespect God in the process. And how sad that in our waywardness, we forfeit so many blessings that God would have willingly showered on us!
Fortunately, God gives us second chances. Praise God for that!

rachel - October 26, 2017 - 3:39 pm

Esther, such wonderful insight here!
I’ve often been perplexed by Jonah’s outright disobedience to God. But the truth is, there’s a little Jonah in each of us!

I’m so glad that God seeks us out when we’re in hiding too!

Thanks for sharing!

-Rachel (Chasing Community link up) 😉