Revelation 21: He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (NIV)
Sharp and prickly, they have no visually attractive qualities. A garden trowel and gloves are required to dig them out because they’re painful to touch and deeply rooted. But once they’re gone, the real plants and I can breathe again. What a relief.
Those doggone thistles!
A thistle is technically a herbacious plant of the daisy family, it’s also classified as a Noxious Weed in many states, meaning it’s harmful enough to warrant government-regulated control. The most common thistle species, Canadian or creeping thistle (Cirsium arvense), is a lawn weed found throughout the U.S. Especially in my backyard.
“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. (Genesis 3:17-18). These are the words spoken by God to Adam after they had eaten the forbidden fruit. Just when I think I’ve got them all out by the roots, they mysteriously pop out all over the place! Much like sin.
But the good news is that this is not the end. The thorns and the thistles and the other weeds won’t last forever. They will all disappear at the end of times.
In the parable of the weeds, found in Matthew 13:24-29, the field represents the world, and a farmer (Jesus) sows good seed (wheat) and then his enemy (Satan) sows weeds (evil) among the wheat. When the wheat sprouted, so did the weeds. The farmer’s servants then ask him if he wants the weeds yanked out half-way through the growing season. The farmer says, “Let both weeds and wheat grow together until harvest.” (verse 30).
Why doesn’t the farmer want the weeds out immediately? This question vexes me and has stayed rooted in my mind for weeks.
I’m glad I’m not alone in my confusion. The disciples have to take Jesus aside and ask point blank what on earth he is talking about. He responds with, “The Son of man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil,” (Matthew 13:41). Those of us who choose to take these teachings seriously should feel a good deal of comfort in that. The weeds won’t last forever. But for now, believers and unbelievers live side by side in this particular world.
The unsettling reality that we must accept is that today, churches contain true and false believers, so we need to be cautious in any judgements because only Jesus is qualified to make the final separation. If we start judging, we may damage some “good plants.” This parable serves as both a warning to the wicked and a comfort to the genuine, authentic followers of Christ.
Why does God wait to pull the weeds?
Remember who God is? Merciful and patient. Not like us. It’s a way in which He shows mercy and patience to the world. He gives time to those whom he has anointed to spread the Gospel message (which includes ALL believers, by the way) and reach those who have not yet heard, the time opportunity to change their ways and repent. The sorrow, evil and strife are only temporary. But time and patience will vanish for those who consistently choose evil on the day of judgement. The evil, the godless and the foolish will eventually be weeded out.
What if I don’t want to wait? What if I want all sorrow, pain and sin to end now?
Are we there yet God? No. Sorry. The end of times has not yet come. Not yet. Perhaps God needs to give me yet another reminder that He is sovereign. He controls all timing, and I don’t.
In his mercy and patience, he waits on me, because I am not an innately a “good” person. What’s my responsibility? To get down on my face before Him and confess my sin so he can pull me out the weeds of my own making, so that I receive forgiveness and repent. Then he wants to give those of us who may have withered in the fields a chance to lift up our heads and unfold our arms once again in worship. Revival. He knows my mind and heart intimately. And yours. He knows authenticity from imitation. He knows the wheat from the weeds.
Glory be hallelujah for that.
He sent his only son to suffer for you and me and that means we all must suffer, for a while, as we wait. Yup. We all gotta spend a little more time in the weeds.
Sarah Young puts it this way in Jesus Always. “Just as water is necessary for seeds to grow into plants, your tears help you grow into a stronger, more joyful Christian. Your willingness to share in the sorrow of this deeply fallen world give you depth and compassion to enjoy Me in good times and in tough times.” (June 29, 188)
Dear Father God
Help me grow and stretch beyond my sharp and prickly sinful self to be more rounded, and yielding to your glory. Smooth out my rough edges and soften me. Help me surrender all my tears to you and may they grow me into a beautiful blossom that better reflects you. Fill me with your love so that I may be a vessel for you in pouring out love to others. Thank you, LORD, that YOU are the ultimate example of love, mercy and justice. Amen.