Gardening illustration that works for persistent problems in life

5 years ago a friend of mine asked if I wanted some purple cone flowers for my flower garden around my house.

Having admired them in other gardens, I said yes and promptly planted them in a spot next to some other flowers. Turns out they were Brown Eyed Susans, a relative of the intended flower. And, further, they spread terribly. I enjoyed them the first summer but began ripping them out the next year as they spread through the iris and choked out some other plantings.

Now, some five years later, I am still pulling these plants. They grow and spread quickly. I never let them flower but pull them as soon as I can make sure I get them and not another plan that might be right in the same spot. When I pull them I know that some little root fiber remains and so I’ll be back pulling again in a week or so.

The truth is I will never be free from these plantings. I do have some choices:

  • ignore them and let them take over the garden (BTW, they would be fine in an isolated spot surrounded by grass so they couldn’t take over another planted area)
  • be irritated that I can’t get rid of them and thus fail to see the beauty around them
  • stay vigilant but enjoy the garden
  • try shock and awe by killing everything in that spot.

I find this is much like our persistent life problems. Whether by naive choice or by something beyond our control, we develop persistent struggles with things like anxiety, depression, addictions, relational challenges, etc. While God sometimes provide miraculous removal of these struggles, we rarely find complete freedom from these kinds of struggles. We may not be in crisis mode forever, but total relaxation and assumption of no return of the problem is rare also.

So, we too have some choices:

  • be angry and bitter that the problem continues to have some place in our life
  • blame others for our problems
  • ruminate on why only we seem to have these problems
  • try shock and awe and so destroy lots of other things
  • accept the need to stay vigilant, going after the roots and shoots as soon as we notice them.

Does this illustration work for you?


Filed under addiction, Anxiety, christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, counseling, Depression

10 responses to “Gardening illustration that works for persistent problems in life

  1. Pingback: Gardening and life’s struggles « J. Scott Alexander

  2. Very timely, encouraging and helpful. Thank you.

  3. D. Stevenson

    You asked, “Does this illustration work for you?”


    And Timely

  4. Jeff McMullen

    Yep. Good stuff. Thanks. I needed to hear this illustration again today.

  5. This illustration absolutely works for me. In fact, I would like to expand upon it some and see if it works for others! The bible talks about Jesus being the vine, we are the branches and that the “fruits” of the Holy Spirit are to be manifested in our life as evidence of Him in us. Is it possible, that some of the “fruits” you mentioned, persistent depression, addictions, etc., might be evidence of demonic strongholds in our life? Hmmm….

    • D. Stevenson

      This is something I’ve never understood. What do you mean by demonic strongholds?

      What I hear when I read this is that something is needed in addition to daily diligence. I hear the implication that if we get rid of the strongholds then the daily diligence needs will drastically lesson, if not entirely disappear.

      What I hear implies to me that somehow, no matter how diligent, there is something I have not done. I have not “torn down the strongholds.” With this view, deep discouragement easily descends on me making it even harder to keep up the journey without laying down, curling up and crying.

      I think I need a thorough explanation of “demonic strongholds” so I can understand how it fits (or doesn’t?) with the rest of theology.

      As of now, daily weeding is the analogy that fits with deny self and take up my cross daily, and the first part of Hebrews chapter 12.

      For myself, if I look at strongholds I take my eyes off him. I am to fix my eyes on Him, to follow Him. Considering those words, it makes more sense to me that I am to do my daily duties of cleansing (weeding) and let Him deal with strongholds –This assumes that “demonic strongholds” jive with Scripture. I’m not sure they do. Hence, the need for explanation before I decide.)

      • I recognize that the proposition I propose does not necessarily jive with everyone’s theology which is why I posed it as an open question as simply food for thought. I understand and respect the fact that some will reject the notion of Christians needing deliverance. To put it simply, a demonic stronghold represents an area of a person’s soul in which they cannot get the victory through the traditional and important spiritual disciplines as you outlined. For those issues, I have seen that deliverance ministry can be helpful.

    • D. Stevenson

      Ah. Thank-you for your clarification. I understand better now what you mean.

      I don’t want to get into a theological discussion on this…, but do want to note that I have seen some rely on deliverance ministry (using that language, anyway), claim great things, and yet I see no change in the daily dirties of their lives. — I expect you have seen the same type of people. They want healing and they want it now, nothing too hard.

      I believe God works both ways. For some, (take alcoholism for example) they become a believer and God immediately removes their desires. For others, God leaves it as, perhaps their thorn.

      It can be disheartening to a thorn-bearer to hear of those with quick healing. It is easy to question why that is not their experience also. Does God not love me as much? Is there something I am doing wrong? Some sin I need to confess? Some doubt, lack of faith?

      For me, it seems God is taking me the slow route. I’ve asked those questions that I mention above. I’ve had deliverance minister types be Job’s counselors to me. Yes, there must be some sin.

      It is likely that no one in my life has directly said those things to me. Nevertheless is it a message that I heard. I think I am the kind of person who ‘hears’ things that the speaker themselves might not realize they said. — I am also certain I am not the only person like this. That is why I caution that we be careful with the words we speak and when we speak the words. — I am not at all chiding you! Actually, I’m beginning to preach to myself. πŸ™‚

  6. These are exactly the methods we use to attack our problems. It’s very hard for some to believe that they can rest and be vigilant at the same time. It’s the only way to enjoy the garden

  7. D. Stevenson

    Phil, I have coneflowers doing the same thing. Every summer I rip a good amount out. Want some? πŸ™‚

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