In John 15, Jesus uses a vine and its branches to teach us about spiritual growth. Our spiritual fruit is the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In order to bear spiritual fruit, we have to be connected to the vine. Sometimes, even though it may cause suffering, we have to be pruned. God’s pruning process produces a bountiful harvest.
Pruning Is Not Punishment
I associate pruning with discipline, but it should not be confused with punishment. When we hear the word discipline, we shy away from it because we associate it with punishment or correction. But it actually has the opposite definition. Through discipline, the Lord creates an opportunity for molding and shaping character. Hebrews 12:11 says, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
When the Lord disciplines us, He intends to shape us to appear more like Him. He disciplines us because He loves us. The opposite of love is not hate, but rather apathy. Discipline from our heavenly Father implies that He is involved and hands on with us—not off in the distance. When we are disciplined, we can be sure God is still present. The Lord equips us in times of pruning, which refines and produces fruit in us. He also gives us an opportunity to serve others as we are being molded and pruned.
What Does Pruning Look Like?
How do you know if you are in a season of pruning? The primary indicator for a season of pruning is the suffering of loss. A season of pruning might include the end of a relationship, the loss of a pregnancy, financial challenges, the loss of a home, job, or opportunity. As someone who has walked through five miscarriages in three years, my husband and I have experienced the suffering of a loss over and over again.
I have often asked, “Why, Lord, did you take these babies so soon?” I will never know the answer to that question, and it is impossible to peer into God’s hidden majesty. But I do know now that the Lord has been refining me to be a more compassionate person to those walking a similar road of pregnancy loss; to be empathetic to those who have lost a loved one; to share our story with others so they feel less alone. I do not view our miscarriages as a punishment for a specific sin from the past. But through loss, the Lord has molded and shaped my character.
The Purpose of Pruning
God’s plan has never been to punish me. After all, God already punished Jesus for all our sins on the cross. But God allows me to suffer so He can prune, heal, and transform me. We have to separate the unloving discipline we often think of and remind ourselves that His discipline is solely for our good. Through it, we will experience spiritual fruit and fullness of joy that comes only through Jesus. Hebrews 12 is right—“all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant,” but the Lord has been molding and shaping my character to be more like Him, and He has provided opportunities of service along the way. Discipline forces us to rely on God more than ever.
Matthew 9:17 says, “Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” New wine comes from pressure and crushing of our old selves in the same way that the Lord refines us through fire.
A Season of Pruning
The best ministry in grief is fully realized in Jesus’ passion. Our Savior bore our sorrows and carried our griefs. As Christians, we are set apart by Jesus for a lifestyle of bearing fruit. The Lord uses seasons of pruning to show how dependent I am on Him for everything. God’s faithfulness to us gives us the peace we need during a season of suffering and a season of pruning, because He makes us whole. We do not suffer when Jesus is at the right hand of God interceding for us. Jesus has overcome all suffering.
If you are in a season of pruning, please know you’re not alone. Others are going through it now, and others have gone through it before. God is with you every step, and He will continue to guide you.
God plunges into our heartbreak and works transformation. He will always be your hope when your heart breaks.