God has a funny way of inserting important lessons into our lives in the most intriguing ways. I had such an experience recently when I ventured into the wild abyss that is my untamed garden. When we first moved in, our entire yard was a mess; but in my usual overly eager and optimistic attitude, I thought “Sure, I could get that all done in a day!”. After finishing cleaning up and pruning just one tree, a lot of time had passed; it was a hot sunny day, and I needed to rest. Well, my garden sure showed me!
But what was most interesting about my endeavour, was the actual pruning experience itself. The tree has been here a long time. The outer branches and twigs were relatively healthy, but had some dying parts attached to them which were also large. Cutting through them was extremely difficult; it was almost like there was a bit of fight in them. It reminded me of the ‘healthy’ sins in my life – the seemingly little things I sometimes do because it’s convenient, or faster, or serves some ulterior selfish motive.
As I moved on from the outer branches towards the deeper parts, I had quickly developed scratches and grazes on my arms and wrists (I was wearing gloves which covered my hands, thank God). The inner dead branches were small, and so of course I assumed they’d be easy targets for my tools given their long-time wear and tear and small size. But, yet again, I was proved wrong. The branches on the inner parts were very strong, and very hard to cut through. I had to clamp down, twist, pull and basically wrench at the tree to prune it; it was hard work, and my arms bore the marks of my labour.
As I came to the end of the heated struggle, I looked to the ground to see the treasure of my efforts; a huge pile of cut away dead branches and twigs, no longer serving the otherwise healthy tree which now stood more beautifully before me. I remember smiling as I realised this is probably similar to what it’s like for God when He prunes us. The surface, or spiritual issues and sins may not be strong, but we give a lot of fight to them. They’re our preferences which we’d rather justify and hide from God; but He gently and lovingly leads us toward holiness and goodness.
Then there are the sins and struggles which are deeply-rooted; the desires which cause us shame. The struggles with sins which linger from a previous life of ungodliness and debauchery. Set deep within our hearts, in Christ we hate these sins and we desperately need His grace and help to fight with and for us against them. Through obedience, repentance and drawing near to Him, in fulfillment to His own promise He draws near and fills us with peace, as we draw closer to Him in fullness of joy.
And the marks of His labour? Well, Jesus Christ Himself bore those marks for us when He died on the cross for our sins. His death represents for us both our initial forgiveness, and our ongoing rejuvenation into becoming more like Jesus.
I’m extremely thankful God chose to reveal this little lesson to me – it certainly puts a lot into perspective. I hope it encourages you to holiness and godliness as well, as Christ continues to transform you into His own likeness!
“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet
resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes everyone He accepts as a son.'”