“And you who are left in Judah, who have escaped the ravages of the siege, will put roots down in your own soil and grow up and flourish” (Isaiah 37:31 NLT).
God spoke to the people of Jerusalem through the prophet Isaiah letting them know that it was time to do more than survive. It was a time to thrive. They had endured the siege of their city by the Assyrians. They had heard the threats of King Sennacherib against them and their God. They had humbled themselves and prayed. Even their king, Hezekiah, had torn his clothes and put on burlap. He lay on the floor of the Temple, spreading out the threatening letter from the Assyrian king before God, crying out for rescue.
And God answered. He not only rescued them from the Assyrian army, He promised them a season of blessing and prosperity.
Unfortunately, siege survivors have trouble returning to normal life. They’ve been in maintenance mode so long that they don’t remember how to think ahead. They’re so beat up that they’re afraid to take a risk. Like a turtle in its shell, they’re afraid to ever stick their necks out again.
I think that’s why God gave them this encouraging word to go along with their rescue: “Put roots down, grow, and flourish!” People who have experienced starvation are afraid to even let go of the seed necessary to plant for new growth. Their fear paralyzes them, causing them to cling to the very seed that they need to release in order to live. They suffer from a kind of “survivor’s syndrome.”
According to the dictionary, Survivor’s Syndrome is “a characteristic group of symptoms, including recurrent images of death, depression, persistent anxiety, and emotional numbness, occuring in survivors of disaster.”
Psychologists have used this category to describe the symptoms of those in situations as varied as: holocaust survivors, veterans of war, cancer survivors and even those who have experienced downsizing and layoffs at their workplace. The thing they have in common seems to be that they thought they were going to die, but they didn’t. So, they wonder, “Now what do we do?”
Our church has experienced seasons of siege. There have been times when we lost family members to death, times when we took significant risks and failed, times when members became disgruntled and left, times when a trusted leader betrayed us, times when we just thought we weren’t going to make it.
I still remember a time not too long ago when we had to walk away from a failed building project. I called our remaining leaders together (Many leaders left us during this season).
I told them, “It looks like we’re not going to die. It looks like the bleeding is over. I think our church is going to survive. So, since it appears we’re going to live, let’s start over! We planted this church with fewer than we have here tonight, so let’s begin again!”
Those faithful few that gathered that evening stood and applauded. With smiles on their faces they looked back at me and shouted, “Yes! Let’s begin again.”
That was back in late 2006. Since then, we have sowed new seed and put down roots again. We have experienced amazing growth and God has blessed us with a new home. We are in a season of blessing now, but that old “survivor’s syndrome” still grabs at our throats once in a while. It tries to choke off our faith and cause us to hold back and not want to risk.
Let’s throw off thinking like survivors! We are more than that. We are victors in Christ! I believe God is telling us the same thing He told the Israelites.
Let’s do more than survive. It’s time to do more than survive at this house and at your house. It’s time to thrive!