When the blooming seasons end, it's time to clip and trim our favorite florals down to their bare branches. The work of pruning is an essential gardening skill. To prune means to cut off or cut back parts for better shape or more fruitful growth. When we prune correctly, we can encourage healthy growth and flowering to its fullest potential. There are times when it is absolutely necessary to prune to encourage healthier growth and rejuvenated shrubs and plants. When pruning is neglected, plants become overgrown and dead branches interfere with the health of the whole. Though pruning can make the branches look bare, it is preparing the way for things to come.
Spiritual pruning is a similar work. A gardener, in wisdom and care, must prune and trim so plants can flourish and thrive. God, in wisdom and care, does the work of spiritual pruning in our hearts. John 15:1-2 says, "I am the true vine, and my father is the gardener. 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." As Christians, our lives are molded, shaped, and purposed for our good and God's glory. We are entrusted to God's gracious work and we depend on His sovereign care. We have access to God, in His perfect and continual love and concern, through the saving work of Jesus Christ. He is the True Vine. Apart from Him, we find no source, no life, no fruit. But in Him, we find purpose, direction, and blooming. In Christ, the fruit we bear is evidence of God's work in our hearts; it looks like growth in compassion and kindness towards others, hearts and minds renewed to love the things of God, the development of spiritual disciplines, maturity in the truth and wisdom found in God's Word, and lives that reflect and speak of Jesus.
In order that we continue to bear fruit in our lives, anything that hinders or entangles us must be clipped, trimmed, or completely uprooted. Pruning seasons often help us to see sinful areas of our hearts or expose harmful things in our lives. Pruning for us can take the form of suffering or hardship. It might look like difficulty in a relationship, trouble in your marriage or family, loss or grief, disappointment, hopelessness, being confronted by our own sin, or circumstances that just seem unfair. Yet, even amidst the most arduous circumstances, we can trust that God is at work. We can trust that God sees beyond our present reality to future growth and glory. He uses every opportunity to shape us into the likeness of Christ. Philippians 1:6 says, "I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." The promise of sanctification involves the necessity of pruning. At times, His work in our hearts feels hard and painful, even. Exposing sin is difficult and enduring hardship is no light endeavor, but God has promised perfect care for us. He has promised to make us like Christ. He refuses to let the weeds and thorns of sin in our lives take hold of what He has purposed for us, and He loves us enough to prune us.