I’m taking a break to decompress from a day of packing and preparing for our house to go on the market. This is the house that we fell in love with 3 years ago and said we would never move again from, and yet here we are, having to make the hard choice to walk away from it all. Circumstances that we never could have seen coming have forced us to decide what we value most in life and make some hard choices. For years we worked, sacrificed, and saved to find a home like this and were thrilled when we settled into the home of our dreams. But God has a way of using these things to move us in directions we never would have chosen; and so is the case for our family.
I’ve been battling back and forth between sadness for what God’s allowing and yet anticipation for what He is doing. Through the suffering we have experienced over the last several years, we have been painfully learning what it means to surrender everything; our family, children, jobs, finances, and our health. But now, on top of everything else, God is asking us to let go of the house that we have come to call home.
Many of us are or have experienced times when God allows something to be taken away or withheld that seemed of great value and necessity in our eyes. For example; a promising athlete having their career cut short from a devastating injury, a broken relationship that leaves someone wondering if they will ever get married, a job opportunity that seemed like the perfect career path get’s slammed shut, or parents, excited to raise a family like the one they grew up in, now at a loss when their lives are turned upside down by the challenges of a special needs child.
How do we reconcile these things when we know the God of the universe holds all things under His control and could steer outcomes in whatever direction He chooses? Why would He withhold or take away something from our lives that seem to be a good thing.
Only God knows fully what His purposes are in the things He allows, but I have found some very helpful truth from John 15.
“I am the True Vine, and my Father is the Vinedresser. Every branch that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:1
It’s fascinating to me how Christ teaches us truth through something so practical as how a gardener prunes his own garden. Here are some reasons from Garden.com why pruning is beneficial for a plant. These same reasons can easily be connected to the value of Christ’s pruning work in our lives.
“1. Improve the plant’s over all health- Frequently removing older stems encourages a plant to put energy into new growth, thus keeping the plant young.” As a new creation in Christ, we are being sanctified to put off our old self and be renewed in our minds to put on the new self to reflect more of His image. Sometimes that means things being taken from our lives that we want or think we need in order to encourage new growth in areas we wouldn’t have sought out. I didn’t choose to have a child with special needs, but Christ did in His perfect will for me. While the journey has been so incredibly difficult at times, I can’t deny that it has also been the greatest source of sanctifying work in my life. It has changed a lot of what I valued in life and transformed many of my desires to reflect more of Christ than my own comforts and wants. “…Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Eph. 4:22-23 In what areas do you see growth in your life? Can you see God’s grace in areas that didn’t seem good at the time, but you now see growth that has come from it?
“2. Control or direct new growth- Each cut will stop the plants growth in one direction and redirect it in another, guiding the shape and size of the plant.” When I was in high school, I planned on using the gift of athleticism God had given me to get a scholarship and play sports in college. I worked hard to achieve that plan. But through pain, tears, and confusion, God took that from me and redirected me on a completely new path. That new path led me to the husband I married, the children I now have, and a heart that has increasingly learned the value of surrendering my will to His. God chose to cut away sports from my life so that he could redirect, guide, and shape me for something greater. “The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established…The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Prov.16:1-3,9 In what ways has God changed the path of your life or redirected your steps in a way you wouldn’t have chosen but now see Him working through? Do you need encouragement now to trust in a time that doesn’t make sense?
“3. Prevent the spread of disease- Removing dead or damaged branches will decrease the chance of disease entering through dead wood and spreading throughout the plant.” Christ’s pruning in our lives removes areas that are diseased, allowing healthier fruit to be produced in us. The good fruit produced in our lives reveals the glory of God to the world. “So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” Matt.7:17-20
“4. Increase the number and quality of fruit, flowers and foliage- Pruning at the right time and in the right places can increase the number of shoots produced by the plant thus increasing yield.” God uses His Word in our lives to convict, teach, train, lead, encourage, and grow us up in Christ. He speaks to us and through us to prune and increase the fruit produced in our lives. “But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the Word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” Mark 4:20 If we want good fruit to be produced in our lives, we must continually fill ourselves with the Word of God.
“5. Improve air circulation and allow light to reach inner and lower leaves- It is important to thin dense growth periodically to improve overall shape and health.” Sometimes we are so busy and burdened by the distractions of life that we can barely hear the Holy Spirit speaking to us. The hours we put in at work, the activities we must get our kids to, the many dreams we feel we must fulfill in order to be happy, the technology that is always at our fingertips; these things aren’t bad things, but they do suck time and energy from us. God’s pruning may be necessary in order to turn our attention to things of greater and eternal value. “The kindom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Matt. 13:44 Are there areas that we are not willing to give up? Do we truly find such joy in the kingdom of heaven that we are willing to give up anything competing with it? Christ’s pruning reveals those things that are competing for our joy in Him alone.
“6. Correct weak or narrow crotches in a tree- If a double leader develops, remove the weaker, less desirable limb to avoid damage to the tree in the future.” Christ knows our hearts and the weaknesses within us that will hinder us to do His will. The Holy Spirit is always working, even when we can’t see, interceding for us to transform our hearts and minds to reflect more of Christ. And we have a promise that it is all for our own good as well as His glory. “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:26-28
If plants had nerves, I’m sure that the pruning would be painful. And to an untrained eye, pruning may even seem harmful to a plant. But in God’s great wisdom, He knows that when we submit to His pruning it will be for our good and will produce eternal fruit thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and a hundredfold.
I don’t completely understand why God is asking us move and leave this home we love. And some days I battle with my emotions because this certainly was not what I planned. But I do know the question that I must answer. Do I find following Christ to be of greater value than anything my flesh may want or is my comfort in this world? This house is not truly my home. No home, job, relationship, status, or income will ever satisfy us completely. I see this as a season of pruning and I am choosing to walk by faith trusting God’s grace to help me hold loosely to the things of the world in order to hold more firmly to Him. In what ways is Christ asking you to submit to His pruning work in your life? Be encouraged, though it seems painful at the time, pruning is only for a season, and a great and fruitful harvest will be the result. He will be faithful.
Clinging to Christ,