Have you ever felt like your life was being chopped away at the roots by a dull axe? Yea me too. If we are honest, I think for many of us we have felt like that more this past year than ever before. Social unrest and social distancing, presidential and political upheaval, viruses and vaccines, fear and death ... lots and lots of death. And God knows ... masks.
No one likes pain. Well I guess a very few do, but they have a named disorder to call them by. For the rest of us, pain is unpleasant and generally to be avoided at all costs.
Unfortunately we can’t live for very long without being marred by pain. Be it physical, emotional, mental or what have you, pain comes in many shapes and sizes and is a part of this fallen life. Even with all the pills and pharmaceutical options that we have at our finger tips, we still can’t avoid pain all together, and usually we can only seem to find ways to simply manage it, or perhaps numb it.
For some of us on the journey with Christ, we find ourselves in a similar boat. But Christ never promised his followers a pain-free life, and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise — please watch your wallet carefully. I mean let’s face it, Jesus was murdered. People aren’t usually murdered for being a really nice guy.
Obviously there were some that were around Jesus who thought he didn’t make their lives any less painful, in fact quite the contrary. Jesus said the world hated him and they probably wouldn’t like his followers much either (John 15:18-25).
In the midst of this pandemic we have seen pain emerge in all our lives in some new ways, and in some old ones too. Fear, anxiety, laziness, and the very real threat of sickness and death have lurched upon us at every turn for the past year. Cancel culture has lead to discouragement and confusion, and sometimes downright anger.
I myself have gotten frustrated, and deeply saddened, on more than one occasion trying to explain to my five year old about “the sickness” and why he can’t go places and see his friends like he used to, why he has to wear a mask, and why businesses and parks are shut down, and some closing for good.
But in all of this I believe God is at work (Jn 5:17) and continually pruning his people (Jn 15:1-8). As more and more strife saturates our culture, as more and more Christian’s backbite and devour one another (Gal 5:15) on social media and destroy the witness of Christ by destroying the unity and love of his body (Jn 17; Eph 4; etc.), I believe that God is preparing his bride to be even more beautiful and fruitful. I have heard it said that addition by subtraction is sometimes most effective, and that is certainly the principle of pruning that we see Jesus teach in John 15.
So if you are experiencing pain and discomfort right now in your life and/or faith, I want to encourage you to lean into the pain, allow God to do his pruning work in you ... because he loves you (Heb 12:4-11).