Have you ever wondered if plants feel pain? Some (People, not plants) say they do, some say they don't. One thing is for certain: Whether plants perceive pain or not, I know I do, and so do you.
Gardeners and arborists engage in what appears - to the uninitiated - a barbaric practice called pruning. They cut and trim shoots and branches that appear perfectly healthy and fruitful. Why would they do harm to a seemingly thriving plant? Because cutting back a good branch will make it sturdier and even double its output.
Jesus used this practice in nature to illustrate how God, the Master Gardener, cultivates us to be better Christians. In John 15, Jesus refers to himself as a vine, and we as the branches. The vinedresser's purpose in growing the vine is to maximize fruit production. Branches that bear no fruit are worthless, cut off, and burned. Branches that bear fruit are not left alone, but rather pruned in order to bear more fruit.
Jesus' point is, when we display the fruit of godly character, even if we think we're looking good, there is always room for growth, and the Master Gardener will prune us to make us better.
Pruning can be painful. The Father will take away things He knows will stunt our growth, even things we cherish. Pruning exposes attitudes and traits that are not good for us and need to be cleaned out. Surgery on a sensitive psyche smarts and can be dispiriting. We can get sick of it. But the bible says, "My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in" (Proverbs 3:11, 12). Difficulties in life are signs of God's fatherly love for His children. The gardener doesn't trim the roses because he hates them - it's because he loves roses and wants them to be more glorious, with more and better blooms. The vinedresser isn't taking his anger out on the grapevines - he's goading them into bearing more and better fruit.
Often, we focus so much on the pain of pruning, we forget that there is more the Gardener is doing. Working on the shoots alone won't produce the fruits - shoots and fruits are lost pursuits without roots.
While God snips away at our lives with sharp pruning shears, He simultaneously provides nourishment to our roots. One kind Hand shears off while the other shores up. I've noticed when a difficulty comes in life, when something is lost, something comparable - usually better - is found. Unexpected gifts and blessings come to strengthen one's faith. Also, times of drought should compel us, like trees, spread our roots out in search of water - in our case, the living and written Word.
To the woman at the well, "Jesus answered, 'Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life'" (John 4:13, 14). Paul wrote, "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness" (Colossians 2:6, 7). When we understand what God is doing and we stay close to the Lord, we can be thankful.
Therefore, when you feel the pinch of the shears, when money is tight, a relationship is shattered, "health" sounds like a foreign word, or any other pain enters your life, "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:11). Pruning is the Father's love sculpting you into the image of Christ, bearing the fruit of a glorious, godly life.
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