A friend of mine gifted me a coveted Fiddleleaf Fig tree before moving across the country. You know what they are—just open any interior design magazine or look up pretty home pictures on Pinterest and you’ll see one happily living in an adorable basket in a sunny corner by a perfect chair.
Despite my lifelong brown thumb, I have actually managed to not only keep my own two-year-old Fiddleleaf alive, but also watch it grow to more than seven feet tall. They’re super cool looking, but kind of pricey and usually only sold at specialty nurseries, so when she offered me hers for free I was happy to cart it home.
Except…in preparation for a massive moving sale, she had placed it outside where it sat for several days before I snagged it. So it isn’t happy. It is bent over like an L, broken and weary looking. Many of the leaves are partially brown and since I took ownership, a few of them have sadly fallen off. You can’t just douse one of these touchy trees with tons of water or stake it up; they are temperamental plants that must be babied back to life. I’ve had it over a week and it hasn’t changed one bit. I’ve even measured its height with my ribcage just to make sure.
My new Fiddleleaf is dry, like my spirit can get sometimes. Curled up, a position I desire when I’m pressed by pain. Limp, as I am when I’m mentally or physically exhausted. Secretive about what it needs to thrive, which is a place I find myself when I’m wounded.
I was staring at it the other day after misting the leaves and talking kindly to it (I’m not kidding) and started thinking about how Jesus cares for us when we’re withered, fried, bent over and sad. The same way I’m caring for my fig.
The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27
When I’m in a less-than-ideal place emotionally or spiritually, which in reality is most days because the world is generally scary and hard, the last way I treat myself is tenderly. Instead, I usually criticize my “mood” and lecture myself in hopes of motivating my weary or wounded soul to shape up, get it together and move forward.
But Jesus never treats me that way. He reminds me that He is taking care of the very thing that is making me droop, run or hide.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
He doesn’t tell me to shape up. He tells me He is bearing my burden.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29
He doesn’t tell me to stop feeling my sorrow or bitterness, self-pity or anger. He gently teaches me there is a better way to think.
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. 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 23:1-4
Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. John 16: 20, 22
And he reminds me that, wherever and however I find myself at any given time, I am never alone.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1-2
I have been thinking about how Jesus cares for us, and how we might care better for ourselves. I’ve heard it said that to truly get rid of a bad habit, you must replace it with a good one. I think the same can be true of bad “thinking”—that we can replace our harsh thoughts toward ourselves with the same tender ones Jesus has toward us. We need to trade in self-judgment for self-care that acknowledges our feelings rather than dismisses them, but also gently points us toward healing.
NOT: What’s wrong with me?
BUT: My feelings are valid. What is the root of this? How can I learn and heal?
NOT: There are so many people who are much worse off, so stop feeling sorry for yourself.
BUT: There are reasons I feel hurt/sad/broken. How can I care for myself in a way that is healthy and kind?
NOT: I should…
BUT: God will tell me when to…
NOT: I don’t…
BUT: I have…I am unique and I am loved. Today, I rest in the knowledge that I have all I need and God is with me.
The next time you’re in a rough place, or just an ordinarily not great place, think about what you would say to encourage your best friend were she in the same spot. Think about what Jesus would say to you. Say it to yourself. You’ll find that as you give grace and mercy to yourself, you’ll give it more freely to others. And that will make you stronger, through His strength rather than your might, for the next time you’re broken, bent over and weary.
You’ll also like When Bearing Their Burden Breaks You, When You’re Desperate to Know the Reason for Your Pain, How to Read Your Bible: For Beginners, You’re a Piece of Work, but There’s Grace for You, and Chutes and Ladders—Are You Trying To Work Your Way to God?