Devotional: Pruning and Trusting
This coming Saturday is the first day of my favorite season: SPRING! And with the warmer temperatures we experienced last week, I am ready to say goodbye to winter and hello to warm sunshine, fresh air, and of course all those beautiful flowers that will be blooming soon! Last year as Josh and I prepared what was then his home to be ours after our marriage, we used this time to do some landscaping in our yard and plant lots of flowers. We planted some bulbs and saw a few daffodils and tulips pop up in late March. We went to an Amish market and bought hydrangea’s, cat’s pajamas, lupine, petunias, foxglove, and hosta, just to name a few! As the season progressed, we bought more plants, and our garden grew, as did my knowledge of how to care for plants. One of the things that I thought was most counterintuitive was the concept of “cutting things back”. Several times during the summer, Josh insisted that we cut some plants back by chopping off the leafy or budding growth to stimulate further growth… This didn’t make sense to me. Why would I cut back my beautiful flowers? Or the herbs that were growing in our kitchen garden? How was that going to make them grow more? Wouldn’t that just hurt them?
Josh explained it to me by saying this: it’s important to cut things back to ensure that the plant is able to focus more on the roots and bearing flowers and fruit. Most of you who know a thing or two about gardening probably already know this, but I thought it was an interesting concept. What was more interesting were the results I saw when we did cut things back. Some of my favorite flowers are snapdragons and we had several planted in a barrel on our porch. They bloomed earlier on in the year and then started to look a little weary. Josh said that we needed to cut them back to give them a chance to bloom again. I was afraid that they would die and doubted whether we would see any more flowers that summer, but sure enough, a few weeks after being cut they bloomed again with even more brilliance and strength.
Is it possible that sometimes, when God is pruning us, our reaction is similar to mine with the flowers in the garden? Do we refuse to let God in because we are afraid of what he might do? In Mark 11:18 after Jesus has driven the people who are selling and buying out of the temple, it says “And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching.” (ESV) How often do we, like the priests and the scribes, seek to destroy the work that Jesus is doing in our lives because we are afraid of letting go of the things that hold our identity instead of entrusting our identity to Christ? Is it possible that, like me with the flowers in the garden, we are refusing to allow God to work in us because of doubt and unbelief?
Thankfully, the chapter does not end there. The next day in Mark 11:20-21, Jesus and the disciples walk past the fig tree that Jesus cursed the day before. Peter (in all of his relatability) says “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” His reaction, similar to my surprise upon seeing the new blooms on our flowers, garners this response from Jesus: “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.” (22-23, ESV). Jesus does not scold Peter for his lack of faith or unbelief; He gently reminds him that he has no reason to doubt and every reason to trust because God is faithful to those who believe in Him.
Trusting God and believing His promises is not always easy, especially when it feels like He is “cutting back” pieces of our life. But when we remember the character and nature of Jesus, we find comfort in the fact that He does not hold this against us. Instead, He invites us into a loving and trusting relationship with our Heavenly Father so that we may experience the growth and fruit that can only come from being carefully pruned by one who loves and cares. The next time you are struggling with something my friends, take heart that the Lord is with you. He is not using this struggle to hurt you, but to call you to something greater than you thought possible. Like our snapdragons, you too will bloom more brilliantly when you trust that God is preparing you for a holy purpose and let your identity rest in Him.