How to Bear Fruit From Our Pain
On a windblown day, in the middle of bean fields and October skies, we pick apples at a farm along a gravel path. The sun is warm and the trees loaded, their boughs weighed down by the countless orbs of red and green.
My daughter eats three apples straight from the tree.
Then I begin unloading the tree boughs, filling our plastic sacks until breaking. McIntosh, Granny Smith and Mutsu apple trees full of fruit, breaking our handles, filling our hands, our trunk.
I want a few pictures before I go, a visual document of God’s blessings. Even after our harvesting, the apple trees look untouched. They are heavy with fruit and I am reminded of Jesus’ instruction about our own fruitfulness:
“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.” John 15:2
The branches of these apple trees bear fruit because of the farmer’s preparation in spring. Before the eye even sees the promise of it, before the flower emerges forth in spring, the farmer trims and toils.
Branches fall. A burn pile set aflame. Wood turns to dust. Dust back to dirt–the circle of life to death.
Without this preparation, this pruning, the tree would lie dormant, much like the dead cherry tree. It stands as a skeletal example of how the Lord cuts off every branch that bears no fruit.
What we fail to hear, unless we dive deep into the Word, is the cost of that fruitfulness.
What we fail to understand is that the pruning always precedes the fruitfulness.
In other words, the preparation for bearing fruit is painful, but is the necessary step before we can be more effective.
The pruning in my own life has been deep. Though the pruning is more painful than I can bear most days, there is no fruit if there is no pruning.
There are no results if I don’t learn from my suffering.
There is no success if the things that keep me from being effective are not cut out. Pruning is the cost of fruitfulness.
Through our pain, we can learn to bear fruit.
But pruning means painful sacrifice. Much like the hardy vines and overgrown bushes hacked to the ground in spring, I can only be fruitful if I am reduced to nothing.
The pruning always precedes the harvest
I walk to a cherry tree, barren and leafless. If I avoid the pruning, if I turn away from the pain and refuse to learn from it, then I am just as dead as this cherry tree. Like every branch that bears no fruit, it will be cut down. It lies in stark contrast to the apple trees loaded with fruit.
As I snap pictures of the heavy tree limbs breaking from the weight of their fruit, I see glimpses of the pruning’s purpose.
The fruitfulness of this tree is how things were meant to be. It reveals glimpses of Eden, the perfection of what fruitfulness must be like in our lives. The perfection of what all creation must have been like before the Fall.
What’s amazing is this: He can take something broken in our lives and make it whole again, whole enough for something good to come out of the bad.
It’s a reflection of his power over the hopeless and the heartbroken, the broken-down and the despairing.
This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:8)
In the same way the apple tree’s bounty is a reflection of the farmer, our fruitfulness reflects God’s power and presence in our life to heal and to make whole, to redeem and to renew.
He will make something beautiful out of this small vine.
We get a glimpse of Eden, of what fruitfulness must have been like in the garden.
We dream dreams.
We savor each bite of fresh fruit.
We imagine our own lives past the pruning, abundant and fruitful once again.