This Dry and Arid Eden

A few days ago I listened to a great talk on mental health and the Gospel in which the speaker, a former minister at my college fellowship, drew attention to the fact that negative emotions like depression and anxiety often spring from a perception of the world as a place of scarcity. We are told that the world is rife with competition, that we must work to partake of the limited resources available, and if we work hard enough we will gain the accolades to get even more. Abundance is only for those who merit it. Or for the lucky. By this paradigm, when we find ourselves in positions where we cannot control success or luck to get what we think we need in this dog-eats-dog world, anxiety may erupt. 

Indeed, in most moments, I struggle to trust that there is enough in the world and that God will give well. I know in my head that “God provides” but when I’m confronted with need, the eyes of my heart dart nervously to the hoops left to jump through, the slim chances, the scarcity of options and I begin to doubt, often lowering my expectations to match what I see. I frequently catch myself thinking that if only God would give something that’s good enough I’d be fine — as if He has all the treasure of the world in His heavenly storehouses and He might reluctantly drop some crumbs if I convince Him. As if it’s in His way to give the bare minimum.

And yet God is not a stingy God, and the world He has made is not one of scarcity. In Scripture we are shown that God gives unbelievably, fantastically well — and that the world is a place of absolute abundance. There is enough here, in this existence that can sometimes feel like dry, arid wilderness; seeing so simply requires that we look to the heavens for daily bread and rocks for springs of water, not the infertile dust of our circumstances.

For in the end, trusting God’s provision is an issue of faith. I’m learning that deep faith starts with humility — the acknowledgement of one’s blindness and reliance on Christ to be one’s sight. Only when we realize that we cannot see with full clarity will we privilege what God (who sees all) tells us about the world’s abundance over all the screaming lies of scarcity. 

This admission of blindness leads to faith when it’s paired with knowledge of God’s love. When we hold to the realities that God sees, provides, and is absolutely good, then even seasons that seem dry can be understood as blessing. He will not allow us to lack anything we truly ought to have.

I think God occasionally holds back His outpouring of abundance because He sees our hearts and knows we are not ready to receive. God sees the pride, desires for attention, and tendencies towards idolatry embedded in deep places we are unaware of. And from this sight He withholds. For inasmuch as a gift may be very good, it also then bears potential to become defiled or to defile our hearts if received to soon. This knowledge can transform even our most barren places into landscapes of love. 

Indeed, there is love in the places of lack when our self-sufficient and wayward hearts are brought low, when we have no choice but to look to Jesus as our only hope. There is love in the depths, when we are taught to depend on God in new and extreme ways. For at the end of it all, what we need is not the gifts we are looking to God for but Christ Himself. And once we begin to cherish Him above all, then — and only then — are we able to receive the overwhelming abundance He longs to give us.

God desires our flourishing. He doesn’t drop us into a world of scarcity and competition so that we can spend our days anxious about what we will eat or wear. He doesn’t simply give “good enough,” or the bare minimum. He has placed us in a garden bursting with life and He asks us to trust His word over our evaluations of our circumstances. He asks us to wait for Him rather than taking and eating of fruit — which may itself be good but could lead to disaster if not received as He sees fit. Most of all, He asks us to simply draw near to Himself at every turn. 

Christ delights when we flourish, and ultimately, He is our flourishing. He is here in this dry and arid Eden. In Him is abundance, given freely and by grace through faith.

Lord we believe; help our unbelief.

Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you — you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. -Luke 12:27-31

Strengthen the feeble hands,
    steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
    “Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
    he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
    he will come to save you.”

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
    and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
    and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool,
    the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
    grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.
-Isaiah 35:3-7

Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
 Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.
-Isaiah 55:1-3a

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