About half way through this summer I came to the end of a “dry season.” This dry season was brutal. Seriously, in the five years since I became a christian I have never experienced anything like this. In the beginning of my faith, I experienced an extreme amount of growth. Every sermon I heard or verse I read was a huge revelation for me. I was excited about everything and wanted to share all that I was learning with every person I came in contact with (s/o to the people in my high school who put up with me trying to convert everyone to Christianity lol). While this wasn’t a bad thing, I couldn’t understand how some people weren’t getting excited when I told them what I was learning. I would get so frustrated with people who were supposed to be christians and were raised in church, but seemingly could care less about what I was saying. Little did I know, a few years later I would experience a time of not only doubt, but also an extreme amount of apathy in my faith. This all stemmed from me feeling like God, the one I had become so accustomed to hearing, fell silent.
Most christians refer to these times of silence from God as “dry seasons.” While this isn’t an inappropriate name for this time, I just really feel like the term has no hope in it. I literally feel like Hilary Duff in Cinderella Story “waiting for you is like waiting for rain in this drought— useless and disappointing.” Droughts just suck. Plants, animals, and people die in the midst of them. All people can do in a drought is wait for rain. Droughts don’t really bring about anything good, they just make you appreciate the same amount of water you had before the drought. Don’t get me wrong, I think God totally puts us through droughts, but to remind us how good something is when we take it for granted.
There’s another type of season though— a pruning season. This season is defined in John 15. Let’s dissect each verse to get the full understanding of who and what a pruning season is.
The Vine and the Branches
Verse 1: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper.” From this verse we see two truths, the first is that Jesus (he’s speaking) is the true vine. He says true vine because he’s referring back to Old Testament Israel when Joseph was called a fruitful vine in Genesis 49:22. This is the last of seven “I AM” statements Jesus makes in the gospel of John. The second truth is that God, Jesus’s Father, is the vineyard keeper. This portion reminds us of Isaiah’s first vineyard song in Isiah 5:1-7 when God is depicted tending to his vineyard only to be rewarded with sour grapes. It’s important to understand that Jesus is the plant who God tends to and who God reaps fruit from.
Verse 2: “Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit.”
In verse two we learn that branches grow off of the vine. The vine itself does not directly grow fruit, but provides nourishment from the fertile soil to the branches. The vine is a “middle man” of sorts between the soil and the branches.
God is in the business of fruit production. He has a strong and powerful vine planted in fertile soil. He knows that if a branch is not producing fruit, it’s not due to a problem with the vine and He will remove them. These selfish branches distract from the others that are producing fruit. They take what they need, but don’t produce anything in return. When branches that aren’t producing fruit are trimmed away, the others produce MORE FRUIT! The second half of the verse speaks of a second type of branch that He, God the vineyard keeper, prunes. No joke, I pulled this from an article from Brooklyn Botanical Garden’s website titled How to Prune Your Vines and Other Climbing Plants.
“Once vines have developed adequate roots, most just keep on growing above ground. To keep a vigorous climber healthy, you must do the following:
Remove any dead, damaged, diseased, or unproductive stems [branches].
Remove overly tangled stems [branches].
Remove errant stems [branches], especially those growing away from the support.
Direct its growth.
Limit its growth.
Reducing a vine’s mass not only ensures that your fence won’t collapse, it also allows light and air to reach the plant’s interior. Don’t forget, though, that pruning doesn’t just reduce mass: It can increase it. Heading back stems [branches] encourages new growth.”
Seriously, how amazing is that. This botanical garden website just explained my whole faith journey to me and they didn’t even know it.
Pruning customarily happens during the above occasions, but also at the end of a fruit producing season. It’s done at this time to prepare the plant for the next season of growth and production. It takes some time for the branch to get back to the fruit production stage, but it doesn’t mean nothing is happening.
Verse 3- 5: “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.“
In these verses, Jesus turns what He is teaching about the grape vine and turns it into a lesson about our relationship with Him. “Remain in me, and I in you” speaks of an exchange that happens between the the vine and the branches— a relationship that forms. He tells us that alone, we cannot produce fruit. To be clear, this doesn’t mean we can’t succeed without Jesus, people do that day in and day out, but we cannot produce fruit. What is the fruit? It’s the fruit of the spirit outlined in Galatians 5:22 as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self control.
Verse 6: “If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned.”
This is where Jesus takes the metaphor of the first type of branch, the one that doesn’t produce fruit, and reveals it’s human counterpart. Trust me, you don’t want to be the branch that’s not producing any fruit.
Verse 7-8: “If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.“
I look back and can hear myself asking God to show me more of Him, to help me produce more fruit, to use me in ways I can’t even imagine. What I didn’t realize at that time was that I was literally asking God to prune me. When He did, I was confused and didn’t understand why my faith was changing. I am now experiencing the harvest that resulted from the pruning season and it’s so much better than the previous. Here, Jesus shows us that God is glorified when we produce fruit, proving to be His disciples— in other words, proving that we are a branch growing from the vine of Jesus.
So if you’re having a hard time and feeling like you’re not seeing any fruit right now, know that you are not alone, everyone who is producing fruit will go through a pruning season. Ask yourself a question: was I previously “producing fruit”?
If no, then it’s time to completely surrender your life to Christ and ask for Him to make you into a branch that produces fruit! If yes, then you’re probably going through a pruning season. I KNOW how difficult these seasons can be, seriously I’ve been there, but I can tell you that there is HOPE because God would not be pruning you if He didn’t see the potential you have, get ready for a good and bountiful harvest friend. This season you will produce more fruit than the last because you have been pruned.