As a friend and I drove along a meandering road in the Thai countryside, we passed a sign advertising a fig tree farm. We were headed out of town to spend time in fellowship and encouragement. Over the next couple of days, figs were to become a recurring theme.
During our afternoon outing, I let it spill—my battle with anxiety and worry, health and medical setbacks, struggles with singleness, and how I often tired of waiting for the Lord to answer. I admitted it’s difficult understanding the ‘why’ of my health issues—what his purpose is in them.
It’s difficult to know the Lord can heal, but that it might not be his will to do so. His answer might be: wait.
It’s hard watching the days, months, years fly by, knowing I’m not getting any younger and knowing my biological clock is ticking.
Waiting is hard. Waiting for the Lord to fulfill his promises is a test of faith and endurance.
Faith in the fig tree
I chatted with my mom over the weekend and she mentioned they studied Luke 13 in church that week. After our call, I spent time praying and journaling over the passage and the Lord revealed parallels between the parable and my current struggles.
“And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” (Luke 13:6-9, ESV)
Growth is slow. Our expectation is impatient. When growth doesn’t meet the speed anticipated by our expectations, we are tempted to abandon our belief in the potential for growth.
It made me wonder, as believers, do we give up on investments too soon? What if we were like the vinedresser and chose to wait a year longer for the growth to appear? Now, ‘one year’ isn’t a formula, it’s more of the concept of watching and waiting for what the Lord will do.
Maybe we’re tempted to give up on a friend we’ve been sharing the gospel with because the gospel doesn’t seem to be taking root in their lives. In Thailand, it often takes a long time of steadily sharing the gospel for it to produce fruit. It takes hours of building the relationship and patience that fruit may still be forthcoming. Though there are times when the Lord leads us to move on to developing other friendships, it’s important to seek his will and whether we need to wait and continue in faithfully sharing.
Watch, wait, and learn
What do we or can we learn in our time of waiting? Do we wait with expectation or with impatience?
God is not a candy machine. If we were to see him as someone to be in relationship with, we’d find a treasure of depth and beauty. We miss out on the beauty of walking with him in the waiting when we focus on getting the fig tree to bloom, when we focus on the solution and resolution.
My church congregation recently sang “Take Courage,” by Kristen DiMarco. The stanza, “he’s in the waiting,” caused my voice to crack and tears to well in my eyes as I sang. I bowed my head—he’s in the waiting. God is not just in the fruit of the fig trees of our lives—not just in the results—the provision of a husband, or only in the healing of my maladies.
I miss glorious times of communion with my Creator and Healer in my time of waiting when I’ve simply been looking for his answer.
I realized in my imploring of the Lord for healing and a husband, I’ve missed chances to walk through these times of being single and being unwell and truly lean on him instead of leaning on my anxiety and the hope of future healing.
Pruning the fig tree
Trees grow with care and attention. Here some practical ways I want to pursue pruning of the fig trees in my life.
- Dig in deep and dirty
The vinedresser committed to care for the tree. He promised to clear the dirt from around the tree and apply fertilizer. Am I willing to give the ‘fig trees’ of my life the care and attention they need to produce fruit?
Am I willing to get my hands dirty with manure and tire my muscles with the digging, clearing, and pruning that makes me more like our Father? Or do I hope the trees of my life will flourish when I’ve neglected them?
- Pray for his will to be done
As I grapple with the problems and issues in my life, I’m committing to go to God in prayer, not just asking him to answer me in the way I think he should, but according to his divine will. His ways aren’t our ways, and he may not answer in the way I think he should, but his plans are infinitely better than my own.
- Become an ardent student of the Word
In my years of waiting, what can I learn? I want to use my times of waiting to dive deeper into his Word. My era of waiting is an opportunity to grow closer to my Creator.
- Seize the day
As a single serving overseas, I’ve spent many a morning and evening wondering and worrying whether my future includes a spouse. However, I’ve realized how much I’ve learned in these years of ‘waiting,’ and how the Lord has used this season of singleness.
When our expectation is centered on the journey and not just on the results, the delight isn’t simply in the juicy fig—the resolution of our issue—it’s in the minutia of the minutes, hours, and days spent working and caring for the trees in our lives. It’s in the moments spent in God’s presence—walking with Jesus through both the ho-hum and the grandiose details in our lives.
Wait with me one more year for our figs to flourish. I don’t want to sit idly and angrily like Jonah did, when he left Ninevah and waited for its demise. I’m going to wait with joyful anticipation with the heavenly gardener, sitting beside him on the park benches of my life.
Yes, there is joy in the fig, but there’s also joy in the seasons preceding the blooming of the fig.