Well Pleased in Pruning, Pleading, and Abiding
by Leslie Hall
I asked the Lord three times about this, that it would depart from me. But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:8-10, NET)
I keep asking God to just put an end to 2020. This year has been sacrifice upon sacrifice, disappointment upon disappointment, heartbreak upon heartbreak, and there’s still a few weeks left of this horrific year. I’ve been longing for the renewal of all things and the promise of eternity in new ways that I haven’t felt before: I’m now very keen to have an honest conversation with Paul about whether or not he kept on pleading for God to take away his thorn. Did you plead with God as much as I have been lately, Paul?
God has been highlighting the pruning of the vine in John 15 repeatedly through the last two years – it’s been a pruning season for me or, as the Counting Crows would say, “It’s been a long December.” I’ve known full well that this is a season of preparation that God is using for a bigger purpose. During all this pruning God’s been incredibly gracious – I’ve never been more captivated by God’s love.
And honestly, things still feel painful and I still don’t enjoy this pruning and I haven’t stopped telling God how much I don’t enjoy all this pruning.
And so far, through all my cries of “Oh God, please make this stop”, I’m reminded of Paul’s words about that old thorn of his and that he was actually content with that thorn; other translations would even go so far as to translate that adjective as “pleased.” And God reminded me that same adjective was the Father’s response to Jesus in His baptism: God was well-pleased.
I remember that the Father was pleased with Jesus in baptism; Jesus was bringing about the Kingdom of God and was walking with the Spirit, doing the Father’s will in an abiding relationship. So I wonder if Paul looked at his thorn and maybe saw something similar – this thing, though painful and certainly not ideal, was a catalyst to bring about God’s Kingdom and exists as he was abiding with God.
Abiding deeper with Jesus amid this pruning has been a catalyst for me to experience God’s love in ways that wouldn’t have been possible without being in the midst of this horrific year. I’m not finding contentment in the pain, but contentment trusting that all this pruning has a purpose, and the pain of pruning will give way to the abundant love, joy, and peace in Kingdom fruitfulness by God’s power, not my own. Love endures all things, even horrific years like 2020. Thanks be to God.
And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes on behalf of the saints according to God’s will. And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God. (Romans 8:27-28, NET)
- How can you cultivate more honesty in your conversations with God? Are you inviting God to only abide with you in the safe, tidy spaces of your life or are you inviting God into the mess of misunderstanding, disappointments, and painful places?
- Where is God working to bring about the Kingdom through disappointments in this season? How can you cultivate eyes to see God moving in your difficult circumstances
- How can you make space to mourn or grieve the pain of pruning? And how can you make space to rejoice that abiding with God is to abide in abundant love, joy, and peace?