On Being Pruned

It’s in weathering tough seasons of life that we come face to face with our ugliness and God’s redeeming love

Pruning is never fun.

I’m not discussing gardening activities but rather the spiritual season.

The funny thing is, I didn’t even recognise it for what it was. I just assumed I was being bombarded by trials and knew I was barely staying afloat, let alone swimming against the current. (I’ve got all my metaphors mixed up, but you get the picture!)

I displayed all the ranges of emotions—frustration, anger, pity (for myself of course!), and cynicism. I was angry with my children. I was angry with my husband. I was angry with the circumstances life was throwing at me. And I was angry with God. I felt cheated almost; a sense of betrayal at being let down, again and again. I even came to the point of wondering what the entire point of this Christian walk was if the promises I had received were never going to be fulfilled, if I lived in a land of limbo until I died, if trusting and believing in the Lord only produced heartache, disappointment, and unfulfilled expectations.

I went through the motions—because I am a creature of habit and dislike change. But my prayers felt hollow and I sensed deafening silence when I read the Bible.

Until this morning when this extremely familiar verse from John slapped me in the face and stopped me in my tracks:

Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2)

What an “aha” moment that was! I finally understood why I was experiencing all that I was. And as I mulled over it, several things clicked into place. First, I remembered some other extremely familiar verses from Hebrews:

My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives … Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12: 5, 6, 11)

I even came to the point of wondering what the entire point of this Christian walk was if the promises I had received were never going to be fulfilled…

I’m not saying that I immediately started jumping for joy. No. But, deep down in my soul, I felt a lightening of my spirit, a sense that finally things made sense, that I was not alone any more. It was almost a sense of relief that things were going to be OK.

And second, I remembered a snippet of a message I had heard on Instagram TV by John Bevere (there are some benefits of scrolling on IGTV after all!). I had shared it with my husband but suddenly, as I thought about it, I realised that it applied to my situation perfectly. I probably needed to hear it more than he did! Ha!

Anyway, I digress.

So, in the message, Bevere shared how he went through this season in his life when really awful things were happening to him and he clarified, very helpfully, that these weren’t terrible things like you-make-a-stupid-decision-and-have-to-deal-with-the-repercussions type of horrible things. These were out of his control and it was just one hit after another. During that period he was so angry all the time—angry at his wife, his kids, his colleagues, his pastor, everybody. Until finally one day, he was just angry at being angry and so he asked God where all this anger was coming from. He felt he had never been this angry before he became a Christian but since following Christ, he was like the worst version of himself.

And that was when God explained to him the process of purifying gold. How a lump of gold can seem all glittery and good but once it is in the fire, it melts and the impurities rise to the surface. It is only in the fire that one can see the impurities. Although they were always there in the lump of gold, it was only the fire that brought them to light. So God told him, he was being put through the fire not to break him but to build him, to cleanse him of sins he didn’t even know existed in his heart, to work on those areas of his life with God, until one day His likeness would be reflected in him.

How a lump of gold can seem all glittery and good but once it is in the fire, it melts and the impurities rise to the surface.

All this is to say that I finally realised that purifying and pruning are two sides of the same coin.

As a Christian, I can expect seasons when life is tough and incomprehensible. But those are the very times when I am being pruned—an attitude adjustment here, an anger-management session there. Yes, these seasons reveal the ugliness in me—to myself, my family, and the world, as humiliating as that is. It demonstrates how broken and selfish I really am, beneath all the layers of niceness. It teaches me to accept the depths of depravity in my soul and not flinch at the stark hideousness. But—and here is where this entire exercise begins to redeem itself—it reminds me again of the utterly jaw-dropping truth that my God loves me—the real, ugly, me—enough to take my place on the cross. It reminds me that He loves me enough to keep working on a hopeless case like myself until one day this tough, hardened, prideful person is chiselled into the likeness of His Son, Jesus. It reminds me that He isn’t giving up on me and He never will. It reminds me to remain humble and not allow pride to fill me with a sense of entitlement. It reminds me that His ways are definitely not my ways, and that’s the brilliance of it. It reminds me of how finite I am and how infinite He is. 

True, pruning is not fun. It is excruciatingly painful to be precise. Yet the thing to remember is that it is not the entire picture. It is not the end of the story.

There is hope. There is a future. There is redemption.

So stick it out!

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