As the ground thaws and tree branches send out buds, an earthy aroma hovers over the land. This scent, called “petrichor,” is what you inhale when walking outside after a spring rain or when hard soil turns soft and aromatic after winter. It signals to us that the land is preparing to grow good things. Soon, the first eager shoots will poke curiously up from the dirt. Tree buds will burst into color and welcome back birds and insects. Spring fills our spirits with hope. Yet just as the land needs proper conditions to bring forth bounty, God wants to cultivate the soil of our souls so we can enjoy His abundance and produce great things for His kingdom.
God created the earth to be cultivated; we see this theme throughout Scripture. The Bible carries a narrative of people who worked the land. In their labors, we perceive the importance of careful cultivation. In Genesis 2:15, we find the first instance of humankind working the soil when “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” The Hebrew word for “work” can also be translated as “serve.” The work of Eden was not mere physical work but also spiritual. Adam was to serve the land by helping it produce well. We see a similar picture of Jesus serving in Matthew 20:28, where we read that He “did not come to be served, but to serve.” We share God’s heart and participate in His work when we care for and cultivate the growth of good things.
In Genesis 2:15, we see Adam being responsible for working the ground and keeping it. The Hebrew word for “keep” extends this idea of serving and can mean “preserve” and “guard.” Similarly, God faithfully tends to our souls, protecting and nurturing us so we can bring forth goodness and beauty.
The gardening theme continues in Genesis 4:2 as Abel shepherds sheep, and Cain raises crops. In Genesis nine, Noah is a vine dresser, and we see Isaac as a farmer in Genesis 26:12. Jesus carries the gardening narrative in the New Testament by using mustard seeds, soil, and vines to impart important lessons to His followers. Clearly, from the beginning, God intended us to have a connection with creation. And from our experiences digging into the soil and observing new life emerge each spring, we gain a picture of the work God endeavors toward in our souls.
Those who work in agriculture understand the fragility of soil. What may look like a handful of ordinary dirt to a passerby is actually full of living organisms — or should be. Healthy soil has a proper balance of nutrients and minerals to grow strong plants and fungi and bacteria to help those plants fight disease. It also has a healthy capacity to hold and drain water. So while we’re often eager come spring to put seeds or saplings in the ground, our efforts can be stunted if we don’t first consider the soil we’re working in.
Similarly, God first manages the soil of our hearts to bear good and lasting fruit in our lives. Before He calls us to work, He works in our minds, hearts, and spirits. Proverbs 4:23 teaches, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Just as nutrient-empty soil cannot produce a good crop, an exhausted and impoverished heart cannot produce a strong harvest. If the soil of your soul feels depleted after a difficult season, take heart, knowing God is the ultimate gardener. Find encouragement in His Words in Isaiah 43:19, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
When we invite God to cultivate the soil of our souls, the process is not always easy. But we can confidently embrace the weeding and tilling, knowing He is sowing goodness and love as we see in Hosea 10:12: “Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the LORD, that He may come and shower righteousness upon you.”
God cares about the health of our souls and the quality of what our lives produce. He doesn’t want us to produce short-lived fruit grown in shallow soil that only has its effect here on earth. Instead, He nourishes our spirits so we can bring forth fruit for eternity. When our faith is pressed, and we’re enduring the difficult process of Spiritual maturation, we can be assured that God is at work in the soil of our souls. We can embrace what is difficult as He helps us form new habits and thought patterns that align with His Word and will. We can work confidently, knowing God is enriching us so we can live abundant and purposeful lives. Ephesians 3:16-20 offers this encouragement:
“I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.”
Like a vine connected to roots, Jesus is our direct connection to God. He clarifies that because He is in the Father, good things will grow as we abide in Him. He explained in John 14:11, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me,” and then in John 15:4, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”
Depleted soil is far removed from its original state and cannot produce according to its original purpose. We were also designed to produce good things — but only when we’re rightly positioned near God. As we abide in Christ by returning to His Word and resting in His presence, God’s Spirit works in our hearts and minds. He cultivates our souls’ soil, readying it for a bountiful harvest.