“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. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:1-4
When I read this passage, it sounds like Jesus is describing a lose-lose situation. If I don’t produce fruit in my life, then I’m cut off from the vine. If I do produce fruit, then I get pruned. Neither one of those options sounds very fun to me. And it seems a little harsh coming from a loving, forgiving God. I try my best to produce fruit in my life, but there are definitely times when I don’t feel like remaining in God. Let me explain a little bit of my story. At any given time in my life, you would usually find me doing all the “right” things: reading my Bible every day, praying, leading Bible studies on my college campus, going to church… But this past year was different.
It was the hardest year I’ve ever gone through, for lots of reasons. I struggled with my mental health and self-esteem. I had issues going on at home in my family. I was about to graduate college but lost my dream job opportunity. And all the while, it seemed like God was nowhere to be found. I was angry about that, so I stepped away from all the “right” things that I usually do. I stepped away from God. And now that I’ve had a chance to look back on the year, I realize that God was pruning me. I had been so accustomed to doing the “right” things that I’m not sure if I was really relying on God, or on myself. So God tested my faith.And I’m not gonna lie– it stung, a lot.
So why should we remain in Him if He’s just going to prune us? Well, let’s look back at the passage. I looked up the definition of “prune” online and found six reasons a gardener might want to prune a tree or a plant. They’re pretty accurate metaphors for my spiritual life, and maybe they are for yours too. So here’s what pruning is good for:
If there’s anything I’ve learned from the past year, it’s that God prunes his children so that we can handle hard things. If you’re going through something hard right now, you might be tempted to give up sometimes. You might be tempted to quit on God. But I encourage you to remain in Him, even when it’s hard. Do that by investing in your church communities, spending quiet times with the Lord, and being mindful of the influences you surround yourself with.
When God prunes you (and He will), I pray you’ll remember that you will come out stronger. Your faith will be strengthened and when you come out the other side, you’ll see the ways Jesus transformed you.