God Prunes Us With Love.
My in-laws live among fertile farmland in Northern California. Miles of thriving nut orchards surround a small vineyard that my Father-in-law planted so he could produce and bottle wine. It’s been a passion of his for years and he’s enjoyed learning how to carefully care for the vines. As he has learned, we’ve received a first-hand lesson on how God prunes us with love.
My husband and I love to visit as often as we’re able. Stepping into the vineyard is a cherished time to quiet our hearts and nourish our souls in the scenic farmland.
Their lush property is a stark contrast from our own arid acreage in Colorado where we find the opposite extreme. We consider our own property a small slice of paradise but—compared to the flourishing environment of our California home away from home—our fields look more like a desert.
We’ve learned a lot from my father-in-law—the vinedresser—who generously shares his wisdom. The ongoing practice of tending to the vineyard paints a beautiful illustration of Biblical truth.
Where Does the Bible Talk About Pruning?
John 15 provides a lovely portrait of gardening, growth, and how life can thrive. We’re led to envision the process of cultivating, nourishing, and pruning. But when I see the routines of a real-life vinedresser, it displays that the Father prunes far differently than what I once imagined.
I imagined pruning as violently hacking away at dead or overgrown foliage. I pictured the use of a machete, or huge shears requiring a large man to operate. I believed it was a brutal process that left behind a carnage of dead and dry leaves and branches in its wake.
But this isn’t a true picture. The type of ruthless shearing I imagined is actually what the Bible calls ‘removing.’ John 15:2 says, “Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes” (HCSB).
The Greek word, ‘airo’ used in this verse means taking away and destroying. It’s a process meant for branches that aren’t producing. They’ve lost their nourishing connection to the vine so they’re gathered and burned.
God Prunes Gently
Pruning is a different process entirely. According to the original Greek in John 15:2, pruning means to make clean, or cleanse. It’s fastidious work, performed with a small instrument that’s comfortably gripped within the palm and fingers of the vinedresser.
The illustration comes into clear focus in the vineyard. A vinedresser carefully removes what’s dead, enhancing what is already fruitful so that it can bear even more fruit. It’s a tedious craft that provides care for the vine and allows its branches to receive full nourishment.
The job of a vinedresser is to walk among the vines, learning them well. When he knows each branch intimately, he prunes only what needs to be cleansed. If the process is done too hastily or too prematurely, it can injure an entire vine.
God prunes us with extreme love. He carefully trims away anything that hinders growth so that we can receive full, spiritual nourishment.
By watching my father-in-law I can more easily relate to the words of Jesus and His teaching in John 15.
There are terms that echo in my mind and come to life with new meaning as I ponder the beauty in the Scripture. Words like remaining, staying, abiding, and waiting.
Jesus describes a process of growth that showcases careful cultivation, bearing healthy fruit, and yielding abundance through the harvest. And in life on the vineyard, this is exactly what I see.
Blessings that Come When God Prunes Us
In John 15:5, Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches.” He shares the illustration to show that our lives are a fruitful vineyard carefully tended with great love from the Vinedresser—our Heavenly Father.
God prunes us meticulously, bringing spiritual nourishment and healing, by allowing the power of the Holy Spirit to flow freely. Although it may be painful, knowing God’s purpose makes me want to engage with—rather than shy away from Him as He prunes.
Children of God are allowed active participation, to co-create with the God of the Universe. The Bible tells us to act—to do as He instructs with purpose and intention. He promises that we will bear fruit when we do.
In Joshua 1:7-8 (ESV), God instructs us to do all He commands. Then, the Bible teaches, we will enjoy good success. In verse 8, God emphasizes the role we play in bearing fruit, saying “then you will make your way prosperous.”
As His children, we’re afforded a unique opportunity to partner—or co-create—with God. When we obey with discipline and do as He commands, He enables us to bear good fruit.
Considering my own cooperation in His pruning, I realize that on a daily basis I engage with thoughts, activities, images, music, and other influences that fuel the unholiness in my human nature. I confront temptations that produce fear, anger, and disobedience. The enemy uses these means to steer my thoughts away from the truth of God and His Word. I can easily bear fruit that is wilted, brown, and undesirable for Kingdom life.
But God always provides for us. When we abide with Him, He helps us yield a life that bears good fruit. By reading and meditating on the Bible, we stay connected to God. Leaning in to His pruning work will clean every branch of our lives so that we can bear much fruit.
He will clip away shoots while they remain small and before we become too personally attached. This early pruning is far less painful and brings faster recovery from the excision.
Exposing New Shoots Through Pruning
Small, undesirable shoots are not always easy to see. Unruly habits can sneak up on us so gradually we don’t see them coming. For instance, when I believe a lie, I’m deceived but don’t recognize it. Fear is another shoot that blinds me from truth and makes me lose sight of God’s power. Exposing new, unwanted shoots is challenging, so it’s critical that I seek the Lord’s help.
Proverbs 20:27 (HCSB) says, “The Lord’s lamp sheds light on a person’s life, searching the innermost parts.” (HCSB).
Through prayer, we can ask God to show us problem areas, help us self examine and prune away diseased branches.
Through His power and help, I can develop a closer abiding relationship with the Father and step into the fullness of life He has for me. His love, care, and power flow through the Vine and directly into my life.
Leaning Into the Pruning Process
In my prayer life, I’ve learned to ask a series of reflective questions:
- Lord, will you reveal the sin in my life so I can repent?
- Father, will you show me any lies that I am believing about my situation, about myself or others, or about You?
- Please, will you help me forgive others, Lord, and show me who I need to forgive?
While they are simple questions, they help me lean toward God and His pruning. I’m often amazed at the way the Holy Spirit will bring answers through one or two words that come to mind.
He also uses perceptions, images, and sometimes memories to show me His heart and will. I know that if the prompts are truly from Him, they will align with His Word and resonate with my spirit as truth.
I will feel Him cleanse me through His gentle touch and can then remain fruitful, even through trying times.
- fear strikes, He brings discernment and helps me fight my fear with faith.
- anger arises, He shows me if I’m assuming I know more than I do about the situation and reveals truth.
- temptation comes, He uncovers a void I may be trying to fill with something other than Him.
- I face disappointment, He helps me release my expectations to Him so I can grab hold of His abundant blessings.
During this process of pruning, God shows me His point of view and helps me replace any lies I believe with the truth of the Scriptures. He will do the same for you. As God prunes us, He also reveals a bigger picture than what we can see with our natural eyes.
Savoring the Flow of His Nourishment
When we’re well pruned, we’re better equipped to receive the rich nourishment that flows through the vine. When we’re well nourished, we will bear vibrant, beautify, juicy fruit.
A follower of Jesus cannot live a fruitful life without an abiding connection to Him for He is our Vine—the Source of our nourishment.
Abiding in the Vine helps us receive all of the blessing and goodness that God has for us as His children.
But abiding requires that we endure the process of pruning and allow God—our Vinedresser—access to every aspect of our lives. Nothing can be considered off-limits to His loving care and correction.
By abiding, we remain in close fellowship with Jesus and allow His power to flow in and through us. We savor Him, resting in His abundant joy.
As daughters of the King, may we closely connect and abide with Christ and willingly submit ourselves to the process as God prunes us. We don’t want the dead, diseased, and unruly branches in our lives to deter us from receiving all He has for us.
Submitting to the pruning process allows the Vine’s nourishment to flow into and through our lives.
It equips us to bear the precious fruit of His Holy Spirit, bringing love and joy, peace and patience, kindness and goodness, faithfulness and gentleness, and even self-control that flows through us.
Then we have the power to influence and impact our families, churches, places of work, and the world in which we live. All for God’s glory.
Most of us struggle to hold onto joy when life gets hard. Cathy McIntosh is passionate about helping you nourish your spirit and pursue your calling so inner joy becomes unshakable, no matter what. Read more from Cathy at www.cathymcintosh.com.