I stared at the young sapling in front of me with a quizzical expression, trying to figure out exactly how to take the information I gleaned from the internet and translate it into working knowledge. You see, I had purchased two young cherry trees, they were planted in the backyard, and now came the baffling task of pruning them. My head buzzed as I tried to translate what the simple drawings online illustrated into what I saw before me. It had seemed so clear in the pictures!
Though I was baffled by the arrangement of twigs and branches in front of me, researching the tree pruning process led to a greater understanding of the spiritual side of pruning. Allow me to share two things I learned.
1. Pruning hurts! But it also promotes growth.
Because of the fact that the inside of a tree is exposed to the elements after it is cut, there is a greater possibility for disease and bugs to get into the “wound.” The pruned part of the tree is raw and open to the world for awhile until the bark properly forms around it again. A wise husbandman will prune when the chances of disease are at its smallest, usually during the dormant stage of winter. Now, if I was a branch being pruned in the winter I could think, “Hey now! Ouch! What are you doing? I need that branch, it’s part of who I am!” I might think it was kind of harsh of the husbandman to allow part of me to be stripped away like that and wonder why he'd allow me to be exposed to the cold. I might be tempted to fret throughout the following months that I wouldn’t have what is needed to bear enough fruit when the harvest season comes. However, when autumn comes, a tree with a wisely-made prune will actually bear more fruit than a tree without any pruning.
2. Pruning strengthens the tree.
Pruning a tree doesn’t just make it more fruitful, it also makes it stronger and more beneficial to the orchard as a whole. It allows for the proper branches to get more nutrients so that they are stronger over time and thus able to bear even more fruit. As I am walking through a trial, it can still be challenging to view difficulties with the proper lens. However, when I look back over past trials, the Lord’s goodness shines brightly. I can see how the lessons He taught me during the “pruning seasons” were instrumental in building my faith, thus giving me greater trust in the trials I am walking through now.
Thinking back to my little cherry trees, though I lacked the knowledge to properly prune them (and one isn't in the best condition now), I am so grateful that God is never perplexed by the mess of “branches” in my life. As the expert Husbandman, He properly prunes my branches in such a way to bring forth “much fruit” (see John 15:2). In every season, He continues to wisely do what is needed.
Are there areas in your life where God is pruning you? If so, I encourage you to look afresh at John 15 and joyfully yield those "branches" to Him.
"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 (Emphasis added)
“By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” John 15:8