Feed on


When God starts chopping away at the branches of my life, I can’t say that I am full of joyful surrender. I typically resist the spiritual machete that starts swinging in my direction. I don’t want it. “God, you can keep your machete to yourself. I’ll happily live with overgrown branches and dead limbs.” But the reality is that life in the Spirit – life in sync with Christ – requires a life surrendered to the pruning seasons.

There is a natural ebb and flow to the life of a Christ-follower: Pruning and Fruit-bearing.

When there are too many dead branches or the limbs are hanging low, they will no longer produce fruit, or, the fruit will not be as sweet. A good farmer knows about pruning.

We had rose bushes galore in our garden in Malawi. They were absolutely breathtaking. The family that lived in the house before us had planted this rose garden. As I poured my morning cup of coffee, I would look out of the kitchen window and gaze on the rich and colorful roses…

…Until the fully blossomed roses dried up and fell to the ground…one petal at time. Eventually, as the weeks progressed, the thorny branches of the rose bushes started growing in all kinds of directions. And they rarely produced any roses.

I’m not a gardener. I, honestly, have no idea how to keep any type of plant alive. As was confirmed in the case of our roses, I was clueless to the fact that the branches needed to be pruned in order for the roses to come back to life. I thought “the bigger the better”, but apparently that is not true…not true at all.

Our day guard came to me one day and asked me if I would mind if he cut the branches down. Kindly, he explained that the reason the roses were not blooming was because they needed to be pruned. No fruit could be produced until pruning had taken place. I gave him the go ahead to do whatever needed to be done to bring the roses back to life. After cutting them back, to what looked like baby bushes, and after some rain and cultivating of the soil, the rose bushes blossomed in full once again.

Pruning is a gift in the wilderness season of transition.

The empty nothingness of the in-between is often the perfect time for God to get into our lives and start pruning out the old and dead branches. This pruning is deep and, often, painful work.

“I feel like I got shot out of a cannon and straight into a plate glass window. I’m still pulling out shards of glass. I’m not sure how long it is going to take to heal.”

Joel shared this with me during one of our weekly breakfast dates. Still reeling from the pain and hurt he experienced in Malawi, it seemed like the process of healing was taking its sweet time. God wasn’t/isn’t done with the pruning.

When we are looking out upon the wilderness of transition it is not merely a vast nothingness that doesn’t make sense, but it is purposeful in the shedding of the old identity and claiming the new one. Part of the shedding process is pruning the old away so that the new can grow. It is imperative for this to happen. And so, we feel pain in the in-between, but that pain is a gift from God.

In John chapter 15 Jesus is challenging us to surrender to the pruning process. He is comforting us, even though it is painful, with the profound truth that in order to grow, in order to produce lasting and rich fruit, we must give ourselves completely to the pruning process:

“I am the vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit…”

John 15:1

There are branches in our lives that are not fruit bearing branches. It is God’s grace that offers to cut them out so that we are no longer enslaved to the superfluous materials and waste that clutter up our hearts, minds, focus and purposes. He cuts off every branch – every distraction and hidden issue – that does not bear fruit. What an incredible gift.

The in-between season in transition is probably the most vulnerable of stages in the process. Everything is laid bare. We can’t hide our dead and fruitless branches from anyone. While we may have been able to block out those hidden things behind our old identities and our old successes, when we step out of that place of comfort every single part of our souls become exposed.

And God graciously uses this time to cut off the dead branches.

“…while every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

John 15:1

Guess what…not every branch and every limb needs to be chopped. This is good news! In spite of ourselves, if we are walking with Christ and abiding in Christ, we will produce fruit. This is encouraging to me. However, like my rose bushes in Malawi, in order for the plant to continue to grow and become even more fruitful, it had to be pruned.

In his book, “Building a Discipling Culture”, Mike Breen discusses the natural rhythms of life in our spiritual journey. Like a pendulum that moves from one side to the other in a focused rhythm and steady speed, so our lives move from pruning to growing. Both seasons are necessary for ongoing growth and fruitfulness. He also likens this process to the balance of rest and work. These seasons of pruning – that we surmise as punishment or discipline or something painful to be avoided – are actually seasons of rest.

The pruning season allows us to rest in submission to the purposeful work God is longing to do in us spiritually. He prunes back the fruitful branches. Yes, we had experienced a great season of fruitfulness in our previous ministry and identities. We can point to specific victories that bolster our faith and give us the confidence to move forward. But to move forward and into an increased season of fruit bearing, even those past victories must be pruned. And the best way to walk through this process is to surrender to it and rest in it.


Take a Sabbath rest.

Inventory the areas that God is pruning, and let them go. Allow him access to every single fruit bearing branch.

Because, the next season to come is growth.

How do we do this? How do we allow this pruning process to take over?


“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (emphasis mine).”

John 15:5

The first gift we receive from the wilderness of transition is pruning. The way to allow God full access to work out this process is by abiding and remaining in him. The fruit we bore in the past, and the fruit we will bear in the future, are not harvests we can manufacture on our own. This fruit is from God. Apart from him we bear nothing but dried up dead branches.

I don’t want leftover fruit. I want fresh fruit to grow out of my life and the only way to accomplish that is to remain steadfast in Christ. He is the vine…he is the source and the resource…apart from him I can do nothing.

Recognizing this and embracing this process will set you up to move into your new identity and your new beginning with humility and grace.

The wilderness is not a final destination, and neither is the pruning season. We were not meant to live in either of these stages forever. There will be many more in-between seasons to navigate throughout our lives, just as there will be regular seasons of pruning. Walk slowly and rest in the gift of the pruning zone.  Allow God’s work to be accomplished, and keep your eyes focused on Jesus.

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One Response to “wilderness seasons are pruning seasons – transition #5”

  1. Judy Hayburn says:

    You are so right on, Amy! Dad and I can identify with everything you are saying as we are also in a transition and pruning season of our lives. It is so encouraging to be reminded that these seasons are actually a gift from God for His purpose so that we can continue to bring forth fruit. I am so thankful He is never finished with us. Over the past 50 years of loving and serving the Lord, I have learned the secret to Paul’s declaration in Philippians 4:11-13, “…I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I am… I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

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