Resting in Jesus feels wild; almost unsafe, especially when we feel like things are being stripped away. But relinquishing control to the One who lovingly prunes us to produce even more growth is the only true safety we will ever know.
It was 8 to 10 years in the future. I was visiting my daughters who had moved back to our hometown. They shared a quaint little house in Old Louisville. The yard boasted a beautiful flower garden, ornate grape vines and a handful of dogwood and pear trees. When I arrived, we took a trip to pick up the spoils of their CSA shares, then we returned to their home and started fixing dinner. I looked outside at the sunset—a wild array of slate and cerulean blues hovering over a peachy inferno. I mused aloud how I had missed Kentucky sunsets.
While I looked on, white lightning spilt the sky, striking the heart of the sunset. Void of rain, the lightning continued to make contact with the earth, igniting a blaze that headed straight for the house. I told the girls we had to evacuate; they hurried to grab a few belongings. But as I glanced back out the window, the roaring wildfire had not only gone around the house, but the yard as well. The trees, the grass, the flowers in their garden…nothing was singed.
Back to reality…
When I awoke I played back the dream in my mind. Then a familiar verse from childhood sprung from memory:
A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not approach you.
Psalm 91:7, NASB
What a sweet assurance! I immediately began praising God for His guarantee to guard and guide His children. Even more, I can rejoice and wholly trust in the One who raises the dead to protect and secure the children God has entrusted to me while here on earth.
Ironically, the morning after my dream the fire alarm tripped near the close of our church service. There was no fire, thankfully, and everyone evacuated the building safely. The Lord even held the rain that had been relentless for the previous 24 hours. As we stood waiting for the fire squad to clear the building, someone mentioned the cause being the enemy trying to mess things up. I thought, perhaps—but after seeing what God has done in my daughter Anna’s life, I am not as quick to witness negativity or even tragedy and say Oh; that’s the devil. Spiritual warfare? Maybe, but so much more I view things through the lens of God pruning to bear even more fruit as opposed to the devil dolling out body blocks.
God is always working…
Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
John 15:2, ESV
I cannot tell you how many times I have heard and read John 15:2. But it wasn’t until I wrote it out last week that I caught the wording. I have been reading it incorrectly for years! My brain deceived me. You see, I thought it said: every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that does not bear fruit He prunes. It sounded repetitive, but hey, maybe Jesus just wanted to drive it home. However, I added a “not” in my brain. The second part of that verse says: “and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” Pruning is not punishment. Its purpose is to bring about even more blessing, more glory, greater victory.
Let’s go back to the supposition that the devil is lurking around every corner to ambush us. The bible clearly says to be on the alert.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8, ESV
The devil is always looking for someone to trap and deceive for all eternity. And if he’s lost the eternal battle, at the very least he wants to obliterate our faith in God and render us useless for the kingdom. The devil seeks to shake us up to the point of forsaking our reliance on Christ. However, Satan has no power over followers of Jesus Christ. And Romans tells us to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.
We grant authority to whomever we trust. The devil has no authority over any Christian, except the authority we grant him by believing him.
Abiding in the Vine…
I have about two dozen house plants. They all have names and I may or may not talk to them. (Okay; I do.) My first encounter with pruning came about a few years ago. My friend Katy gifted me a beautiful succulent with bright yellow flowers one Sunday morning. Months later, after all the blooms had withered, the plant (whom I’d named after it’s giver) failed to thrive. I tried giving her more water, then less water, but her growth was halted and she began to look feeble. After researching I found the answer. Cut the plant down to its base, set it in a dark room and leave it alone for a month with no water. WHAT?! That sounded wildly barbaric! But what choice did I have? She was dying anyway. So, I followed the instructions and left her cut down and dry in the dark for 30 days.
When I went to retrieve Katy on the 31st day I was surprised and delighted to find vibrant green leaves shooting up! To this day she is double in size and still thriving. Now, when I read John 15, I am reminded of my sweet little plant and how we as the branches are completely dependent on the true Vine. For that purpose, we are invited to remain joined to Jesus. And as we are pruned and receive nourishment from Him, we grow stronger and more vibrant and God is glorified.
I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.
John 15:5-8, MSG
The next time something wild happens, I will look to see how God is working through the madness. And I pray I remember He is ever seeking to bring about true joy in children and full glory to Himself.