“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 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 : 1 - 2 (NKJV)
I have been pondering two themes today, both connected to nature. They both centre around a difficult truth, but one we have all encountered this year - Life is hard.
Yes, life is hard. It is full of challenges, unforeseen obstacles and heartache.
Life is painful. It can be overwhelming. It can tear us apart.
Why are we always surprised when things get difficult? Why do we expect it to be easy? Who promised us a rose garden?
I can't help but wonder why we see pain as wrong or as some sort of personal punishment? And also what makes some of us more resilient than others, better equipped at handling these uncertain times and navigating an often scary world?
In Buddhism it is believed that life is suffering and that most of this suffering is caused by desire. To create the cessation of suffering one must practice non-attachment. From a Christian perspective, time and time again in the Bible it is mentioned that life is hard and turbulent, but we are also comforted that we need not be anxious or afraid if we put our faith in God. Again, our focus must not be on the material world, but rather upon spirit. Our strength does not need to come from within, but from the Lord. We need not have all the answers, just faith. We may feel alone and that the hardships have won, but we are reassured by Jesus to have faith and turn to him. In one of my favourite verses, John 16:33, he says, “...In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
Perhaps we are better equipped to handle difficulties, when we are prepared for them but have also put our faith in something higher than ourselves, especially when our one true God has promised he has our back. Perhaps we grow stronger when we know we cannot do this alone, but also that we need not have to. We wear the armour of Christ. We build a righteous spirit. Obstacles come and go. Difficulties happen, but aren't personal, it is just life. With God on our side, we can move through it all.
In keeping with the nature theme, I was reflecting this morning on the beautiful John 15 passage about the true vine and God as the vine dresser. It was quoted in a bible plan I am doing but as I read the passage I thought of something else. It made me think about how we need only look at nature, to understand how life works.
Workmen have been pruning the trees that line the road outside where I am living. Now only bare stumps remain. I find it difficult to prune beautiful plants, to trim back the glorious leaves and blossoming flowers that make the plant so attractive. But many bushes and trees, need pruning if they are to bloom again next Spring. Within what looks like a lifeless stump, lies hidden potential for growth. If it were not pruned, it would not thrive. This is life, and an important lesson from nature. So God prunes our life, so that we can bear more fruit. The periods or seasons of stagnation are necessary, for the periods of fruition. It is a cycle of life. It also reminds me of that beautiful quote by Albert Camus, "In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer."
So perhaps we are actually being blessed by the hardships we face.
Think about the difficulties in your life right now.
Look at them differently and consider that perhaps you are becoming more resilient as a result of them.
Or perhaps the lesson is patience. That now is not yet the time to bloom. Instead of seeing the situation as a negative, be grateful for this time of stagnation and possible rest or reflection.
Have faith, nurture the potential within and when the time is right, trust that you will blossom and thrive. That’s what I’m doing now.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
And whose hope is the Lord.
For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit.”
- Jeremiah 17 : 7 - 8 (NKJV)