As humans, we don’t like pain. We can be easily overwhelmed by persistent or unexpected pain. Our culture has developed all kinds of ways to substitute, medicate, replace and avoid pain. Yet what if pain was not something to steer clear of? What if pain had a greater purpose than causing agony and discomfort?
Driving through hillside of vineyards, this thought occurred to me. I had learned that the vines are severely pruned right down to the rootstock each fall. This enables the vine to begin growing new branches again each spring. These new branches will produce the large, lush bunches of grapes that will be harvested for wine, which will eventually be exported to many parts of the world.
If the branches from previous years were permitted to remain, the vine would produce fruit of decreasing quality until it was no longer useful for making wine. The only way the vines continue to produce the maximum fruit year after year is to endure the severe pruning.
I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branchthat bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit … I am the vine, you arethe branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit. John 15:1-2, 5
Knowing how a vine is pruned to produce maximum fruitfulness helps to explain Jesus’ statement in John 15. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. As branches of the vine, our purpose is to produce fruit for the kingdom of God. In order to produce the best fruit in the greatest abundance, we must do two things.
What does pruning mean in practical terms? God the Father, the vinedresser, cuts away parts of our lives so that our time, energy, and attention will go into producing the best fruit for the vine, Jesus.
What does pruning look like? God will always focus on removing sin from our lives. While activities such as taking drugs, drinking too much alcohol, sleeping around, cursing, and lying can be momentarily satisfying, even fun, they are not activities that lead to fruitful lives. As we grow in maturity in Jesus, we can expect these activities to be pruned away.
Sometimes what God chooses to prune seems much more innocuous. Perhaps He calls us to resign from a committee to which we have contributed. Or maybe the coveted promotion we have worked toward is given to someone else. And then there are times when the pruning just downright does not make sense: a cancer diagnosis, a child’s death, or deception on the part of an employer that results in financial ruin.
Let me be clear. God is a loving Father who wants the best for us. He is not a cruel Father who finds joy in watching us struggle under the burden of bad things. In Romans 8.28, Paul reminds us that when we trust in God, He has the ability to use whatever we experience – be it the consequence of our own sin, the consequences of someone else’s sin, or the things that come out of the world’s fallen nature – to bring about good and redeeming results.
When we live with the expectation that pruning is a part of life, we are less surprised when it occurs, less likely to fight against the loss and more accepting of the work God is doing in our lives through the pruning.
Learn to Abide
Jesus calls us to abide in Him. What exactly does that mean? Webster’s Dictionary defines abide as:
To stay; to continue in a place; to have one’s abode; to dwell; to sojourn.
To remain stable or fixed in some state or condition; to continue; to remain.
When we abide in Jesus, we stay fixed on Him no matter what is occurring around us. We live in the shadow of His presence when nothing makes sense. We don’t worry, give in to anxiety or fret about the future because we trust in the stable, unchanging presence of Jesus in our lives. Jesus is our home, our source of comfort and strength when we don’t have the energy to continue. (Ps. 5.11, 18.2, 23.4, 28.7, 37.40, 68.35).
Comfort, Peace and Joy
It is amazing to me that in the midst of the heartache, discomfort, and hardship of pruning there can be such comfort, peace and unbelievable joy when our faith and trust are in Jesus. There is no worldly explanation for the security and restfulness we find in abiding in Jesus. And perhaps this is the reason the world attempts to find peace in other places and things. But that does not change the incredible blessing we find when we confidently abide in Jesus.
God not only uses the pruning experiences to produce the fruit of peace and joy in our own lives, He uses them as strong and unshakable testimonies that serve as witness to a world that desperately needs to hear the truth. As we endure the discomfort and pain of pruning while remaining steadfast in Jesus, our confidence in His ability to see us through, as well as the blessings that come out of the pruning, steadily increases. The result is a testimony that is far stronger than it ever would or could have been without the pruning. We benefit. Our testimony serves as a powerful message to the world. God’s will and work are done. And we produce an abundance of sweet fruit.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 2 Corinthians 4:7-11
How has abiding in Jesus brought peace and joy to you during times of pruning in your life?