My son recently asked me a question. He said: “Mom, why do you like cactus so much?” I thought about if for a moment and realized that I had become slightly obsessed with cacti (that is the plural form of the word “cactus” by the way, in case you were wondering. I checked online). I have cactus drawings decorating our living room wall and cactus pillows on our couches. I even got some cactus stickers for the wall (I may have a problem at this point). I am not sure at what point I started to really like these prickly plants, but I know that they have grown on me over time.
Last year, I went to a conference for work in Scottsdale, Arizona. It was very brown, and the air was very dry. The hotel that we stayed at had a garden full of different types of cacti and I loved it! One of them was as tall as a two-story building! This specific type of cactus is the saguaro cactus and it is native to the Sonoran Desert. Why are these plants so interesting to me? Well, one reason is that I married a Mexican and now I eat Nopales; they are delicious by the way. Another reason is that they can thrive in some very harsh conditions.
When we consider gardens and flowers and plants, we think about lush green grass and fresh blossoms that need lots of water. A cactus plant however grows in the opposite of the ideal conditions. Who wants to live in a desert? It is dry and hot and not the place you immediately think about when thinking about plants. However, this is what makes the cactus plant so amazing. It is not only able to survive in these harsh conditions; it is able to thrive and blossom!
During this week as I have spent more time thinking about my living room décor (quarantine life), I have also spent more time thinking about the phases in our lives. There are times where we as believers walk through the gardens, here I think about Psalm 23:1-3 (NIV):
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
This right here is the lush garden. There are moments in our lives when we are able to “lie down in green pastures” and the Lord leads us “beside quiet waters.” These are moments where we are refreshed.
However, the Christian walk is constantly in motion. We are constantly moving or “running the race” as the Apostle Paul stated. As such, we are not always in the lush green hills or near the calm stream. There are moments when we find ourselves in the middle of a storm like the disciples on the boat with Jesus. We may also find ourselves in the middle of a dry desert. These moments are the valleys that we walk through. The best part is that the Lord continues to shepherd us whether in the green pastures or in the valleys:
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4, NIV)
I love this imagery. Even when I am going through the valley, the Lord continues to be my shepherd. He is with me and comforts me. There are moments when we go through the desert. These are moments of difficulty and struggle. Moments of trials and tests. Most flowers and plants would not be able to handle this change in environment. They would wilt, whither, and die. Cacti on the other hand, hold water in and withstand. They take in as much sun as they can, and they not only survive but they blossom. They bloom and then bear fruit (it makes tasty candy by the way).
In your own life, you may feel like this time is a valley or a desert. This is a time of difficulty and a time of suffering for many. How can we think about blossoming or even bearing fruit in this place in our lives right now? Most of us are thinking about surviving until we walk out of the valley and enter back into the lush green hills. However, it is possible for us to not just survive and get through this time but actually blossom and bear fruit. That is the work that God does in our lives. It is in these moments that God works to perfect us as James explains in his epistle. A cactus plant soaks up as much water as it can whenever the rain falls, and it holds it in. The saguaro cactus can hold up to 200 gallons of water! What a great example for us as believers. As we go through the desert season in our lives, we need to soak up as much water as possible and hold it in, of course the water for us is the Word of God. The Word hydrates us and sustains us. The Word also works to transform us and when we are well hydrated, we are able to blossom and then produce fruit.
Take some time to hydrate yourself with the Word of God. Read your Bible, start a devotional and listen to the church sermons that are being posted online. While you are going through the valley right now, the Lord is still your shepherd and He is with you and He is growing you. Even with the negative news and not being able to have church in person for right now, soak up as much of the Word as you can and then allow God to work in your life as you apply the Word. This is where the blossoming happens and eventually this is how you grow fruit in the desert.