There are times when we are out in the middle of the sea in the midst of a storm. There are times when we despair of life itself. There are times when the storm is so strong that all the faith and trust we think we have grown seems to disappear entirely. There are times when our hearts and our lives resonate the chaos of the storm rather than the peace of Christ. During those times, we despair of righteousness itself as we watch all the worst comes out of us, just when we thought we were doing better. During those times, we despair of love itself, "Don't you love us?" During those times, we remember that it was Christ, himself, who put us on this boat without him, and our hearts cry out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" During those times, as we look at our lives, resonating to the chaos rather than the peace, despair would tell us that He has forsaken us because we aren't good enough. How thin our single strand of faith seems in the midst of that furious storm!
It was during one of these times that I asked the Father a question. Paul tells us to continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Well, I was filled with fear and trembling as I asked God the question I couldn't restrain any longer. "Oh, God, if I hated sin, ... I know you hate sin. Please don't be angry with me. I'm not arguing with you. I just want to understand. ... If I hated sin (and I know you do), and I knew certain situations brought out the worst in my children, I wouldn't put them in those situations! But you do. You are wise. You must have a reason. Why, Father?"
Immediately, I heard a thought, "You are trying to mow. I want to remove the roots." But over the next month or so, a parable grew in my mind. In this story, a gardener had a visitor. Of course, he did what anyone who loves gardening wants to do – he took his visitor to see the garden. The visitor looked at the garden, and then he asked the gardener, "Why are there so many weeds?" The gardener explained, "It's been raining for two weeks, so I haven't been able to get out and weed. Now the sun has come out, but the ground is still too wet to weed. The rain and sun have caused the weeds to grow." At that point, I felt as though God leaned over and asked me a thought, "Didn't the carrots need the rain and the sun? The weeds did not grow because of the rain and sun. They grew because they are planted in the ground."
I do not believe God was saying the gardener planted the weeds. The Bible tells us that an enemy planted them. Still, if there weren't weed seeds and weed roots in the ground, weeds would not grow. The rain only showed us what was already in the ground. We couldn't see it before because it was hidden underground, but it was there nonetheless, and God wants to remove those hidden roots of sin. This still isn't a full answer. This still leaves us asking, "What does it mean? How do we get rid of the weeds?" However, as I think about this story, three comforts come from it.
First, the God who sees our hearts saw our sin before it grew out of our hearts into our actions and thus became visible to us and everyone around us. God saw it, because it was already there. He saw it, and He loved us. He loved us when we had this sin hiding in our hearts, and He does not forget that love when the sin grows into action. He isn't even surprised.
Second, there were carrots in the garden, not only weeds. Two things are at work in us. Sin is at work, yes, but the Spirit is at work, as well. The sin that is at work in us is not us. It is working against us. It is only distortion. It is not creation. The Spirit who is at work in us is us. The Spirit is working on our behalf. We are born of the Spirit. We are a new creation. We are being made one with God. We are of God's kind! Our us-ness is with God.
Third, God said, "I am trying to remove the roots." He is at work. He will accomplish His work. Someday, we will stand before Him spotless, without any hidden blemish. He has already credited righteousness to us. That righteousness will be ours, inside and outside! The sin which is at work will be completely removed, and what will remain is the righteousness born of the Spirit within us.