There are seasons we walk through in our lives that just stink. It could be the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, the demise of a dream, or the ending of a relationship, but sometimes life just seems to really stink. Challenges will come, and how we handle these things is even more important than what happens to us. It’s important to see what God is doing in the midst of these seasons. He uses times like these to grow us.
Godly discipline is hard. Nobody likes it. It doesn’t feel good. It causes us to honestly look at ourselves and our shortcomings. Nevertheless, if we allow it to, it will empower us to change and grow.
Sometimes correction comes in the form of disappointment and unmet expectations of God or other people. Sometimes correction comes in the form of confusing situations where things that appeared one way are actually another way. Whatever we encounter, we can trust God’s Word and God’s good will to keep us and help us.
We need to remember that we are disciplined by God because we are loved by God. Hebrews 12:7-9 makes this very clear when it states,
It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?
If we go through our lives without these moments of discomfort, clarity, and correction, according to Hebrews, we aren’t really sons of God. The Word tells us that we will experience trials and tribulations, but God is faithful to bring us through and work out all things for our good. He uses difficult seasons to grow us into models of Christ. Since this is true, we really have grounds during this season of correction to praise God that we are counted as His sons and we endure His correction! Hebrews goes on to say in verses 10-11,
For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
Take some time right now to meditate on those scriptures. He is drawing you to Himself for correction and growth for YOUR good, so that you may share in his Divine character of goodness and holiness. What is God revealing to you about misplaced faith or priorities? Is He showing you how your will for your life was different than His?
Our answers may all be different, but God’s correction for each of us shares the same goal. Let His work in you perfect you and bring you to a place of sorrow for your mistakes, so you can receive His perfect training and walk out of this season producing the peaceful fruit of righteousness!
Pruning is for Producers
It is natural for us to wonder what we have done wrong when we encounter hardships. Our first response tends to be, “Where have I sinned?” or “Why is this happening to me?” Those are valid questions, and when the Holy Spirit doesn’t convict us regarding anything specific, we have to move on to remembering what Jesus told us would happen to us in John 15:2.
Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.
We see here that the painful process of pruning is reserved for those that are actually bearing good fruit! God can see the specific areas in your life producing godliness and He can see what is keeping you from your full potential. He is wise enough to know how to take away the negative influences in your life to cause you to grow up into the fullness of Christ in every area.
He loves you. You can trust Him even in the midst of hard seasons to keep leading you and keeping you in the fullness of His good plans for you.
Understand that it is normal for fruitful Christians to endure challenges and tribulation and trial from time to time. These things build our faith and Godly character. Plants that are coddled can’t stand straight in the wind and the sun, but will fall over or dry up in times of drought. These challenges are, in many times, meant to strengthen us by requiring us to dig deeper into God’s Word and trust in His goodness. Our attitude toward God’s pruning will determine how long and how hard the process will be for us.
Our Response — Sanctification
There are things we can do to cooperate with what God is doing in our hearts and lives, and Hebrews 12:12 goes on to tell us EXACTLY what those things are:
Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.
As you are spending this time in early 2021 in sincere and thoughtful introspection and repentance, here are some suggestions to help keep your paths straight before you. God wants you to heal from the painful season you have just endured and to learn from the pruning process. There are things you can do to promote that healing and embrace your growth!
Stay away from things that trip you up:
- Social media
- Negative news
- Gossip over politicians
- Debate over politics
Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14
Focus on walking in peace and being the sanctified (special, “set-apart”) vessel God has created you to be. Don’t dirty yourself up in the mud through strife and opinion.
See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. Hebrews 12:15-16
Let forgiveness be your default setting. Stay away from those things that sow resentment and bitterness in your heart, or you will inadvertently sow the same into the hearts of those you love—your spouse, your children, your friends. God has called you to be children of light and to act and look just like your Father!
We need to rest in God’s good plan to grow us rather than in the confusing circumstances that surround us. We are still in the process of becoming who we are in Christ. The metamorphosis is still in the “ooey, gooey” stage as our cocoon hides the amazing transformation in the darkness of our quiet times with God. Disappointment comes when we expect to see God’s work done on our time table, according to our pattern. Just like we have been learning from the book of Job, sometimes we don’t get the answers to our minds’ questions. But God is always faithful to give us the wisdom, love, and goodness that are the true cry of our hearts.
If we will come to Him with empty hands and hearts, He will fill us with His love and peace, which is all we really wanted in the first place. His plans for us are for our good, for the fulfillment of our purpose on this earth in this time, but not necessarily for our comfort if that is contrary to our destiny. That discomfort can tempt us to lose heart when our faith has been in the wrong things, but we must never believe that the discomfort means God doesn’t love us or has forgotten about us. HE HAS NOT! On the contrary, He is working all things out after the counsel of His good and perfect will. As you focus your thoughts and attitudes on what God’s news (the Bible) says about you and your life, you will walk it out!
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2