Recently, I was weeding one of our flower beds that had become severely overgrown with stubborn plants that did not belong. I had ignored it for quite some time, but after awhile I couldn’t stand it anymore. I put on gloves and set to work, ready to clean it up, and looking forward to the moment when I could step back to admire the finished product. As I began to dig in and do the work though, I quickly realized that the job was going to be much more difficult and involved than I had planned for it to be. I tugged and pulled with all my might, but the roots had cozied up and made themselves right at home, as if they belonged. No, they did not belong, but they had been there long enough to grow strong roots that reached deep into the ground and tangled themselves among other roots nearby. It was a mess. And dealing with that mess? It was painful. I pulled a muscle (really) and nearly fell on top of a child walking behind me at one point (sorry, kid!).
During this whole ordeal (and believe me, it was quite an ordeal!), I was struck with a grave reminder. I couldn’t help but think of sin and the impact that it has when it is allowed to take root in our hearts. Sin is a weed that does not belong in the heart of a believer, but can quickly cozy up and make itself at home if allowed. James tells us that when we are tempted to sin, it is our own desire that lures and entices us (James 1:14 ESV). I think this is why it is often easier to not tend to our own sin when it first peeks through the soil of our hearts (though we are quick to notice our neighbor’s, am I right?). We are at the root of our sin problem. Generally speaking, our own desires are not born out of an intent to harm ourselves, but rather the intent to satisfy ourselves. Our sin is rooted in our own desires, and it’s easy to ignore the mess when we are getting what we want.
The problem comes in when our desires are not aligned with the Father’s. Psalm 37:4 (ESV) says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” This is not to say when we show up to church and check off our Bible reading each day that whatever we want is ours. The truth is that when we truly delight ourselves in the Father, our heart becomes like His and our desires in-turn, match His desires. In Psalm 139:23-24, David humbly invites God to search and know His heart! He asks the Lord to test him, to find out if there is any sin making its home where it does not belong. This is a bold prayer! What about you and me? Would we be so bold to ask God to take a magnifying glass to the most deeply rooted places in our hearts? This is what it looks like to begin to conform to the ways and desires of God.
The writer of Hebrews encourages believers to “lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares (12:1 HCSB).” The NIV says, “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” You see, when we do not maintain the discipline of laying our hearts bare before the Lord, the roots that don’t belong can begin to take hold and make our hearts their home. They become a tangled mess, rooting deeper than we thought possible, and making the removal all the more painful.
Had I been diligent in weed removal when I first noticed the out-of-place new growth, the roots would have been shallow, small, and much easier to pluck from the ground. For the believer, this looks like the practice of reading scripture, evaluating our hearts, and asking the Lord to bring any darkness to light. It is not an easy practice and you certainly may look like the odd man out when compared to the world around you. But it is worth it. If you feel the messy weight of already deeply rooted sin, run to the Father. The weeding process may be painful for a time, but it will be worth the struggle when you finally experience a heart that is healed and unhindered (Hebrews 12:3-12).
Hebrews 12:2 (HCSB) encourages us to fix our eyes on Jesus, who is “the source and perfecter of our faith.” We can be sure that Jesus, who proved His love for us on the cross, will be faithful when we look to Him and seek His ways. He cares for you. As Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica, “But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one (2 Thessalonians 3:3 ESV).” Ask the Lord to build a defense around your heart. Ask Him to be the caretaker. He can spot weeds better than any gardener you know. He says of Himself, “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds (Jeremiah 17:10 ESV).”
Where you trust Him, there is blessing (Jeremiah 17:7 ESV).
Will you trust Him with your heart?