Exodus 3:7 Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings
The soil under our feet is most vulnerable to damage when it is wet. Similarly, the soil of our souls is most vulnerable to damage when we are suffering.
When soil particles are wet, they are more susceptible to being crushed together and staying that way (compaction). And when soil particles are crushed together, there is destruction of the manner in which they naturally associate, which is also known as aggregation. When aggregation is destroyed, there is also the loss of naturally occurring air spaces (pores) between the particles. Soil pores are essential for water and air movement in the soil environment. If the pores are lost from soil through its being repeatedly walked on, driven over, or plowed when wet and thus vulnerable, then soil compaction occurs. And the resulting compacted soil is essentially a concrete driveway where plants struggle to germinate and grow, much less thrive.
Soil compaction is most easily seen in hardened flattened areas across the surface of a field or in hardpan layers usually 6-12” below the soil surface at the outer edge of plow penetration depth. These hardpan layers are essentially a horizontal layer of concrete in a soil profile (see pictures shown above). Hardpan layers can cause all kinds of problems for crop production such as: perching of water and flooding of fields; inhibition of root penetration into the soil; nutrient and water uptake by plant roots; and a host of other problems, including promoting weed growth and soil and plant disease outbreaks.
When agricultural soils are mismanaged, hardpan layer development is often one of the easiest and quickest problems to occur from the poor choices made. Hardpan layers are also one of the most expensive issues in soil management because of monies lost from crop productivity or monies required for their elimination of the hardpan layers.
Similarly, the soil of people’s souls is most fragile when wet with grief, tears and loss of suffering. When people are suffering, they are most vulnerable to further pain from careless words or actions of others, even if the words or actions are well-intended. For example, if I am careless with my actions or words with someone in suffering, I can easily trample the soil of her soul and leave a hardened path of selfishness or apathy right through the middle of her life. Worse yet, if I or others continue stomping through her life without love, tenderness, or concern for her grief and suffering, the pathways of rejection become broader, deeper, and more susceptible to becoming that hardened soil described in the parable of the seed, soils, and sower in Matthew 13.
If I don’t choose to tenderly care for the suffering person in front of me like Jesus does, I can destroy the soil of her soul through self-centered careless responses or reactions, instead of the proper response of mourning with her (see Romans 12:15). Damage to his soul can easily and quickly happen, even if that is not my intention. Mismanagement of my words, actions, responses, and timing with someone whose life is vulnerable and wet with pain can easily cause hardpan layers of anger or rejection to develop in her soul. These layers can then harden her soul against the God I claim to represent with a selfish, false, or disordered love (see Matthew 22:36-40).
Preventing compaction of the soil under our feet and in our souls is much more effective than trying to fix it. Thus, it is my opportunity to help my friend in her suffering by extending God’s tender mercies and compassion to her soul flooded by pain and loss (see Lamentations 3:22-23). I also have opportunity to extend patience, kindness, and grace in many ways to my hurting friend, including the choice of just being there with her without words, expectations, or agendas. All too often, my words aren’t helpful to my friend in her suffering, but my presence in prayer, simple works, and quiet can be very precious (see Job chapters 3-26 vs. Job 2:11-13).
Yet, thankfully, just as the compacted ground under our feet can be softened and returned to health with careful management, resource allocation, and time, God’s grace can return trampled souls to being good ground rich with life and hope in His perfect timing. This soil scientist is evidence that God can and God does restore good ground in a soul that seemed lost forever from being trampled into dust by my and others’ sins, self-absorption, and carelessness during times of suffering.
Dear Father God,
Thank You that You can and do restore damaged soils and souls. Thank You that nothing is stronger than Your love nor more persistent in grace and in healing. Please help me to always come to You for restoration and to bring others with me. Please help me to be kind and caring to all in my world, especially those suffering pain and loss.
In the strong Name of Jesus,
Psalm 23: 1-3 The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.