I’m just coming through a season I’d describe as “pruning”. I had been pursuing a particular objective — stretching my branches in a direction I assumed would be incredibly fruitful. But at the very moment I’d hoped this new growth might begin to bear fruit, it was cut off. Quickly. Painfully.
I wish I could say I immediately saw God’s purposes in all this. But the reality has been that I’ve needed both time to heal and the help of others to gain perspective.
During this season I’ve reflected on Jesus’ words, captured in the first part of John 15.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. … No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
Jesus’ words have reminded me of several truths:
- God is a gardener — so I shouldn’t be surprised when pruning happens!
- Every branch will be cut — either because it’s fruitless or because it should be more fruitful.
- I can’t produce fruit on my own — I must remain connected to Jesus.
The goal of my life is fruitfulness. I don’t want to be a dead branch. And I especially don’t want to be a leafy branch that looks healthy but doesn’t produce anything that’s truly life-giving.
That’s not just my goal — it’s Jesus’ purpose for my life as well. When you keep reading in John 15, Jesus states: “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
There are questions, however, I must wrestle with while the pruning is taking place:
- Can I trust Jesus to get me where I need to go?
- Do I really believe he has a better perspective on my life than I do?
- Will I stay connected to Jesus, even when his pruning blade is cutting in to my life plans?
- Is my faith secure in him, even when I’m in pain?
But if the “wounds of a friend” can be considered faithful, how much more the wounds that come from the ever-loving, nail-scarred hands of the Gardener? His job isn’t to coddle me — it’s to cut back everything that’s not producing fruit.
While it’s true that all pruning is painful, pain isn’t an indicator of God’s absence or his anger. It might just be a pointed reminder that he’s at work, shaping me for greater fruitfulness.
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NOTE: Not all pain is evidence of God’s work! Sometimes it’s a result of our own poor choices — and other times it’s a result of the sin of others spilling over onto us. But in his grace, God can redeem every situation, no matter the origin of the pain.