During the hot dry summer months this year, the green pastures turned to straw and the landscape was painted in burnt umber, ochre and sunflower gold. Fires burned for days over tinder-dry moorland. Underlying peat seethed, smoked and re-kindled. Farmers fretted over failing crops and expensive cattle feed, whilst rivers receded and fish stocks had to be rescued. Midsummer Common, so renowned for its lush green expanses began to morph into the dry scrublands of perpetual sunshine.
When the rains finally came, nature seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief. Instinctively every surviving blade of grass stood upright and the geraniums, still vividly scarlet in contrast to the gossamer grey sky bobbed together, exulting in their hardy constitution. It was an illustration of Psalm 145. “You (God) open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.”
What was remarkable in the withering heat was the appearance of plants we call weeds, defying the drought and spreading green leaves against the griddled lawns. Whilst shallow rooted blooms shrivelled or died, depending as they do on favourable conditions, the weeds survived. How did they do it? Their secret lies in the long tap roots that inch down through the baked layers of soil to find sustaining moisture. You have to admire their stubborn resilience and will to live.
The Finnish language has a little word “sisu” which has no direct equivalent in English, but which describes an inner strength to persevere in adverse circumstances. It calls on personal or national dignity and the capacity to defy the odds by will and by courage. Sandwiched between the richer Sweden and the vast, more powerful Russia, the Finnish people have had to mobilize that inner and collective sisu to maintain independence and unique identity. Now Finland has been nominated as the happiest country on the globe, much to their amusement and gratification.
In times of great national hardship, the prophet Habakkuk tapped down into the grace and mercy of the Sovereign God in a beautiful oration that states his faith.
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
Though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
Though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will be joyful in God my Saviour.”
Although Habakkuk could not be joyful over the immediate prospects, by faith he envisioned future betterment. This was not blind faith stumbling in mists of fantasy. He was able to dig deep in anticipation of the engagement of God in the deliverance and preservation of his people.
In the book of Acts, we find an account of the struggling early church whose members were often regarded as no better than weeds to be rooted out. Yet they would not wither under the blazing heat of persecution. The Apostle Paul wrote with empathy to the believers in Rome,
“For your sake we face death all day long.
We are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
But even as they were plucked out of life by fire and sword, the deep roots of conviction merely snapped and flourished again. They had the assurance that whatever dangers and privations they endured, nothing in heaven or on earth could separate them from the love of God.
Right now, we are assailed daily by gloomy predictions about our national welfare in the near future. If we are to thrive and prosper we will need some Finnish sisu and an optimism that anchors deep into the resilience and enterprise of our talented nation. More than ever we will need to seek the guiding wisdom of the Sovereign God.
A good friend reminded me of a lovely blessing to pass on as we move forward together.
“May all your weeds be wild flowers,”