I stared up as the wind rustled through the pines that towered over the playground. Until that moment, I’d never noticed how much weight rested on the top of a tree. Branches sagged under heavy clusters of pinecones, as if they could barely bear the burden of their fruit.
These drooping branches reminded me that, though we typically think of growth and fruit in a positive light—something to enjoy and celebrate—in reality, bearing fruit can feel hard and heavy at times.
Meeting the many needs of my three kids (plus the dog), fostering an intimate connection with my weary husband when he walks in from a long day at work, and carving out time for our weekly church commitments crowds most of my days. These are all good, fruitful things, but oftentimes they feel like more than I can handle. Sometimes, I feel like an overloaded tree, bowing under the weight of all my responsibilities.
Maybe you too are feeling the weight, stretch, and discomfort of growth in your current season of life.
Does tending to the bodies and souls of the future generation feel like too much pressure on your brittle, thin limbs?
Does praying for your husband’s spiritual growth feel like a task that would be better suited for someone more steeped in Scripture?
Does showing up, again and again, to fight for a lasting biblical community feel like too much to ask of you in this cultural climate?
If so, here are four lessons I’ve gleaned from trees that help me persevere when growth feels hard and uncomfortable. I hope they help you too!
DIGGING DEEP FOR LIVING WATER
Many mornings, I’m tempted to immediately rush to meet everyone’s needs. However, when I hurry into the day without spending time in God’s Word. I have a much more difficult time responding graciously when my toddler decides to scream and stomp instead of putting on her clothes or when my husband informs me he won’t be home until after dinner for the next few nights because of work.
Just as a tree cannot flourish if it is not rooted near a water source, we offer nothing of eternal value to anyone if we are not saturated with the living water of God’s Word. Time spent reading the Bible grows our relationship with Christ so that we learn to respond, serve, and love others as He would. This is the only way we stay grounded in our purpose. We must be rooted and steeped in truth.
When our season feels heavy, we must not stay discouraged. Growth persists by using this time to grow deep, strong roots into Christ. We can recall His character instead, and learn to imitate it in our interactions. When we spend time with Him, His living water flows through us causing us to grow and bear fruit.
TOUGH BARK, TENDER CENTER
As we grow and bear fruit, there will be circumstances and disappointments that slam against us, like rain and wind from an unexpected storm. People may take advantage of us, like the worms that creep inside a tree, burrowing out our resolve and replacing it with weakness and doubt. Unforgiveness will threaten to make us bitter and hard-hearted. We have a real enemy who would love for us to become rigid and callus inside.
But just as the bark of a pine tree protects it from the external elements while allowing the inner core of the tree to remain tender, so we have been given spiritual armor. This armor serves as a kind of bark, protecting us from the elements and preventing internal rot.
If we want to effectively ward off the threat of infiltration, we must learn to daily dress in our armor, never allowing ourselves to be caught without it. We also must be quick to forgive, keeping our hearts soft and swept clean of any bitterness.
When life feels heavy, we’re prone to let our guard down. But to flourish and continue bearing fruit, we must stay vigilant to keep our exterior tough, not allowing the things of this world to weaken it; we must let that tough exterior protect the tender parts of our hearts. This is how strong, substantial, fruit-bearing growth is maintained.
GOOD THINGS TAKE TIME
Doubt exhausts me, causing me to question if the time I spend packing lunches, praying for my family, and meeting with other believers is even worth the effort. It can seem as though these tasks don’t make any difference, especially on difficult days when things seem to be falling apart at home and church.
Precisely as a tree trunk takes some time to grow upward before a branch extends from its side, we also have to give ourselves time. We may not immediately see the benefits of our dedication to growing in Christ and serving others. However, we can trust that the slow-growing parts are needed to support the future fruit, exactly, like the trunk is vital in bearing the load of the heavy branch-filled tree top.
We can’t give up when we don’t see immediate results from our work. We have to fight against discouragement when things take longer than expected with truth from the Word. God promises if we don’t give up, at the right time, we WILL reap the harvest of our good works (Galatians 6:9). In God’s timing, the branches and fruit from our perseverance will breakthrough.
RELEASING OUR FRUIT
One of the first things I noted about the pine trees on the playground was how scraggly the limbs appeared, as if they limped under the weight of the pine cones and needles. As if at any moment, a limb would snap and come toppling to the mulch-covered playground.
As I looked more closely, it struck me as strange that God chose the weakest part of the tree—the limbs—to bear the fruit of the tree.
It seems as if a more secure placement would be a substantial part of the tree, such as the trunk. Or maybe lower to the ground so it would still be possible for the fruit to stay connected to its life source if it became too heavy for the limb to hold. But the more I thought about it, I realized that maybe it’s not so strange that God chose the most unlikely place to put fruit on a tree.
Once we’ve done the work of growing to fruit-bearing maturity, we begin to recognize that we were never meant to keep the fruit. We must drop the fruit so we can move forward with multiplied growth.
In reality, our weaknesses aren’t hindrances but necessary motivators for us to share our fruit with others as well as to release our burdens to God.
It’s okay if we feel too weak to bear the weight of our current responsibilities. We’re meant to release our heavy loads to the Lord, trusting that He will carry our burdens and help us continue to flourish in every season.
After all, according to 2 Corinthians 12:9, it is our weakness that proves our power comes from Him, isn’t it?
Even though all this growing and bearing fruit business feels painfully impossible at times, it is eternally purposeful.
God desires us to grow and bear fruit, and His creation proclaims the possibility and gives us insight into the process. May we take note of His whispers to grow. Especially in those ordinary moments like on the park bench at the playground.
“He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit” Jeremiah 17:8 (ESV).