The Gardener’s Hand, by Braddon R Brown (originally published in “Reflections of Trinity” a publication of Trinity Chapel Church, November 2004)
Since Creation, man has observed the changing of the seasons, as regular and dependable as God Himself. Charles Swindoll writes, “Just think how dull things would become if He didn’t paint nature’s scenes in different colors several times a year.” Personally, I really enjoy summer, times at the beach and swimming in the local pool. However, I don’t know that I would appreciate summer as much, if I hadn’t gone through the cold season of winter. Also, I would tire of the endlessly hot days of summer and long for the cool breezes passing through bright, autumn foliage.
Just as Creation shifts every three months, our lives also shift, depending on the season of life that God has us in at the moment. The purpose of the seasons of life is to deepen us and teach us about the ways and wisdom of Almighty God. We are not in control of these seasons, and they last for as long as God establishes. He has the master plan for our lives, and each season is meant for building and molding our character. As with the physical seasons, our spiritual seasons last for a set period of time and are out of our control. We can choose to enjoy and find the beauty of each season, or we can complain about its drawbacks, and constantly desire to be in the next season. Can I enjoy the beauty and opportunities that winter brings or will I whine that I wish summer were here? Can I appreciate apple cider in the fall, or will I bewail the passing of summer?
Some of the seasons of our lives involve circumstances, people, and places that are far from pleasant. If we believe that God is in absolute control of the universe, then he has placed each circumstance, person, and place in our paths for a divine reason. The same God that created the heavens and the earth is definitely in control of our lives. We may think that we are controlling things around us, but it is an illusion. We must abide in Him and trust that God’s plans are for the best. Will I believe that all things work together for my good, or will I become discouraged by circumstance?
John 15 paints a picture of a vine (Jesus), a gardener (the Father), and branches (you and I). “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” If a believer shows evidence of some fruit in their lives, this Scripture reveals to us that he or she will experience a season of pruning for the purpose of bearing even more fruit. Pruning is painful but purposeful.
I had five rosebushes in front of my house that finished their springtime blooming. The flowers were all wilted and dead and most of the leaves had been eaten away by bugs and disease. The rosebushes bloomed and were beautiful. They did everything they were supposed to do. However, bugs attacked them, disease ravaged them, and their blooms were only created to blossom for a certain period of time. Through no fault of their own, I was forced to prune off the dead blooms, branches, and leaves for the purpose of a late summer blossom. I want the bushes to once again flourish and produce even more beautiful roses.
In my life, I have experienced seasons of painful pruning. I wanted fruit. I wanted harvest. I did not want difficulty, fear, and pain. However, I do not control the seasons. God’s plan for coaxing a greater harvest out of His branches is to prune them. The pain of pruning results in greater harvest. I have heard it said that God doesn’t waste pain. I have to believe that there is a purpose and plan for my life far greater than I can understand. And just because I don’t understand it does not mean that it is not for the good.
During a period of pruning, it is easy to become discouraged, depressed, and afraid. After a season filled with hurt and disappointment, we may come to a place where we doubt the very goodness of God. We may not say it or even think it, but our actions, words, and doubts reflect it. God is good. Regardless of circumstances or the actions of others, God is still good. If we have misjudged God’s character or misunderstood his actions in our lives, then we must ask His forgiveness. Just as I am hurt when someone misinterprets my actions or character, God is also hurt when we do the same. God is good.
God prunes to make room for His fruit in our lives. He removes some pride, self-reliance, and fear so that some love, patience, and self-control can blossom. We must submit to the pruning process, for the quantity and quality of the future harvest is dependent on our submission to the gardener. As a branch, I must trust the gentle and experienced hands of the Gardener while I stay connected to His Son.
One time, as I was doing some random pruning in the yard, I accidentally removed the upper blooms from an azalea bush that was ready to bloom. This was not the season for pruning that particular bush, but my clumsy hands knew no better. I am thankful that God’s strong and careful hands know the proper time and season for pruning, and I trust in His goodness. A key element during the pruning season is trust. Do I trust that God is not randomly cutting branches and blooms? The ancients pictured the Fates as having a large ball of thread that they randomly cut at intervals representing the length of each person’s life. If they happened to cut a string short, that life would end early. On the contrary, God prunes with purpose, not by accident, and for our good, and out of love.
Luke 13:6-9 describes a fig tree that did not bear fruit for three years. The man who tended the tree became impatient and was ready to cut it down. Fig trees absorb great amounts of nourishment form the soil, so from a practical sense, the soil would better serve the surrounding plants and vines without the fig tree. In the parable, the man is instructed to continue to nourish the plant and give it another year to produce fruit.
From this parable we can see that it is possible to be in a situation for a period of time, and not see the fruit that is desired. The man tended the fig tree and did all the “right things.” However, there was no fruit after three years. God takes pleasure in our faithful service more than in the results. Also, the outcome of our labor is His responsibility, so we can rest in the gracious heart of the Gardener. During a pruning season, I am responsible to continue to garden and tend the soil, even if I see no fruit. Even when this season runs laboriously long.
I have been through seasons that seemed to bear little fruit. There were times that I was expecting bushels of fruit but instead saw handfuls. I felt like giving up and cutting down the fig tree. But God said to continue to sow. I am not responsible for how the message is received. God takes care of the results. God controls the seasons. God creates the fruit.
The good news is that no season lasts forever. Bruce Wilkinson describes the harvest season as such: “A season is coming, I promise, when you will know that you are no longer under God’s shears. Everywhere you look you’ll see amazing evidence of personal transformation and expanded ministry for God.” I have felt the pain of pruning, but I remember the promise of “even more fruit.” I have been chosen and appointed by God to bear fruit, and I must continue to sow diligently and submit to God’s pruning with a right attitude. I will appreciate each season as it comes, for I am not guaranteed a moment in this life.
Those who reverence the Lord are “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf dos not whither” (Psalm 1:3). Fruit comes in the proper season. I wouldn’t expect a fresh peach in December. It wouldn’t be proper nor would it be healthy for the peach tree. I would expect fresh figs from August through October because that is the proper season. It would be ridiculous to expect fresh figs out of the proper season. God controls the seasons, and once again, let us remember that He is good.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). During some seasons, all we can do is endure. Sometimes we feel like we are barely hanging on. Other times we are discouraged because our best efforts are in vain. Sometimes God seems far away, and the pruning hurts. Be encouraged that at the proper time we will see fruit. Continue to sow. Know that God is good. Trust His hands. The same hands that prune, also protect, heal, mend, and love