There is a passage in the book of the prophet Jeremiah that once you’ve read or heard it, you never forget. It has that kind of imagery. It is an image of a tree that grows near enough to a river that its roots grow and stretch toward the life-giving waters, receiving all the sustenance it needs to weather any drought and bear fruit in any season. Jeremiah personifies the tree – it “does not fear” and “it is not anxious.”
The tree is a metaphor for those who trust God. Like the tree, they are well-placed. They need only “send out their roots” to reap the benefits of the waters, which flow unceasingly from the One who refreshes the soul. Reaching out for those waters – it stretches us – it is uncomfortable. We are tentative at first. But when we begin to feel the cooling effects of the river, we are soothed and encouraged. Our roots reach ever farther, deeper into the soil where there is always plenty of water in reserve, farther toward the river where waters flow freely.
This is the nature of trust. It is a slow growth which roots us deeply in the one we depend on. At first we are unsure, but when we discover that our reaching out never leaves us dry or parched, then, when the drought comes and the heat pelts us, we can stand tall and stoic, our roots soaking up the life-saving waters. We discover that we not only weather hostile conditions – but that in the end we may even flourish.
The Cross of Jesus was one of these well-placed trees. Here trust played out between a Father and Son, between human and divine, between a dying thing and the Author of all life. Faced with drought and ruin, roots reached deeply into fertile soil and drank abundantly from the river of God. And in the fertile conditions of trust, the dead wood of the Cross again sprouted green leaves, and bore the first-fruits of eternal life!
Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
and it does not cease to bear fruit (Jer. 17:7-8).