THE NEXT TIME SOMETHING HURTS, IT MAY BE GOD 'PRUNING' YOU
Did you ever wonder if God is disciplining you, or just trying to tell you something? Do you wonder why you get rapped on the head?
It isn't always a test or a punishment. Often, it's what might be called "pruning": the Lord simply taking away some things or situations that are inhibiting you, that are preventing you from being more fruitful spiritually. This is what we do to a tree or vine: When the branches and leaves are too thick, they're pared back in order to get more fruit, and the more mature a plant, the more shearing it often necessitates.
We're borrowing this metaphor from author Bruce Wilkinson, who has written an inspiring little book called Secrets of the Vine. It's based strictly on Scripture, and it underscores the importance of detaching ourselves from the world as we head in the direction of Christ.
Sometimes this means weaning ourselves of unproductive friendships.
And sometimes it can hurt.
How many of us can cite relationships we dearly wanted to succeed but that God took away -- and that we now thank Him for ending?
Left alone, a vine will always favor new growth -- growth for the sake of growth -- over grape production. You'll see a full, leafy, beautiful plant, but few grapes. This is because all of the water and light and juice are going to the production of leaves instead of the fruit!
As we grow in our Christianity, Christ prunes that. "If necessary, He will risk your misunderstanding of His methods and motives," writes Wilkinson. "His purpose is for you to cut away immature commitments and lesser priorities to make room for even greater abundance for His glory." In pruning, how we respond makes all the difference. When we suffer, notes this author, we should offer it up to Jesus and respond with joy, comfort, and gratitude -- not complaint or rebellion or resentment.
Think about it: once you came to Jesus, did you notice how certain of your relationships changed, and how hanging out with certain friends began making you feel empty or out of place? Indeed, we start to gravitate to people who are on the devout side. They're the ones that now fulfill us.
This isn't to exclude people, and this isn't to encourage folks to ditch long friendships (and certainly not spouses!). It's to advise us that we must go with the flow of the Lord -- and recognize when God is weaning us.
He weans us from money, physical attachments, and bad habits. His first command is to seek first the Kingdom of God, and as Wilkinson points out, "this is why God will always prune those things that we slavishly seek first, love most, and begrudge giving up. Again, His goal isn't to plunder or harm, but to liberate us so that we can pursue our true desire -- His Kingdom."
If disciplining is about sinfulness, weaning is about ego. The Lord wants us to let go of things that inhibit us; He wants us to ditch what is unnecessary; He wants what's best for our ultimate good. It's how the Lord changes us from an empty basket to one full of fruit!
[And if you really want to bear fruit, try this little prayer each day: "Lord, let me make a difference for You that is utterly disproportionate to who I am."]
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