One does not magically become like Jesus – which is a transformation all Christians are undergoing. It’s a process to become patient, gain the ability to have joy in difficult situations or have the power to remain sexually pure until marriage. You have to be developed by God and that’s where pruning comes in.
What is Pruning?
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. John 15:1-2 NIV
In nature, pruning is a process done to fruit-bearing plants to facilitate healthy growth. As believers, Jesus compares our spiritual growth to that of a vine plant. Like a gardener tends to plants, God is overseeing your growth so that you will mature in Christ and live the life He created you for.
As I studied this topic I found four reasons for pruning. If you are in a pruning season right now or aren’t sure, take a look at this list. God prunes us for our good so that we can be spiritually healthy and fulfill the purpose He has for our life.
Why Does God Prune Us?
1) To Remove What’s Dead or Dying
As you mature in Christ, there will always be things that you lose the desire for as your desire for God increases There may also be things that you try to hold on to that God wants you to let go of. In both cases, God will remove those things from your life, sometimes by isolating you and placing you in new surroundings. Or He may give you insight and revelation about someone’s true intentions toward you so you can take the necessary steps to cut ties with that person. It’s crucial to remove dead things so that there is space for new things to grow.
2) To Remove What’s Infected or Diseased
An area that is sick will never be able to grow to its full potential. Until it’s healed, it will always be bound and restricted in some way. God will reveal the roots of your vices, insecurities, and fears to you, and instruct you on how to walk in freedom. It may mean forgiving that person who abused you, finding love and acceptance in Christ instead of romantic relationships, or seeking counseling to learn how to stop believing the lie that you’re not good enough or will never be enough. This type of pruning can be especially painful because it’s like surgery. God has to open a wound to heal it.
3) To Remove Things That are Hindering You
God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 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 12:10-11 NIV
Pruning isn’t solely for removing things that are overtly bad for you. Sometimes God has to remove good things that aren’t good for you in the current season. For example, you may be praying to God for a better paying job so you can be financially stable, but God’s saying, “No, not yet”. This may seem like God doesn’t have your best interest at heart, but trust me He does.
Maybe you’ve been unfaithful with stewarding the income you have (not tithing, racking up credit card debt, etc…) and He knows you’re not ready to responsibly handle more. He doesn’t want to give you more money because He knows you’ll just dig yourself in a deeper hole. You may think if you had more you’d manage it better but more money doesn’t equal more discipline. God’s using this to improve your discipline and self-control. Often, the things that hold us back aren’t people or places, but habits and characteristics.
4) To Keep You Focused & on the Right Track
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV
Without pruning, a tree’s branches grow in any and every direction. There is no focus. For a season, those branches grow leaves and bear fruit, but eventually, the weight of all of those branches takes a toll on the tree and becomes more of a burden than a blessing.
We have to allow God to lead us so that we don’t become burdened and overwhelmed with things He never told us to take on; things that will distract us from His will. For a while, it may look like you have it all together, but in the end, your faith will suffocate and you’ll crumble from the pressure. Allow God to set your priorities and focus. Don’t burden yourself trying to keep up with society’s expectations. Surrender to Christ and take on His yoke. After all, His burden is easy and light (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV).
Don’t Resist It
Pruning isn’t comfortable but it’s a natural and necessary part of following Christ. Sometimes it will be easier to endure and other times it may be excruciating, but it’s for your good. The pain has a purpose. Stay focused on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith (Hebrews 12:2). In Him, you can do all things (Philippians 4:13).
We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, So that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God… Colossians 1:9-10 NIV