“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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 15:1, 2 NIV)
Trimming a hedge is a fairly quick process. You get your hedge trimmers or shears and start cutting everything that is growing past a certain point. There is not a lot of thinking involved, if a branch is blocking the path or growing wild, it goes.
Vines will grow and produce fruit regardless of whether they are cut back or not. Except, I am told, they are their own worst enemy, because they will grow in a tangle and start growing fruit where the sun is not available to help them thrive. To produce quality fruit, the vines must be pruned. Every branch that is growing in the wrong direction must be cut back, to allow the better growth to reach its potential. To do this, the vine dresser is constantly having to be among his vines, thinking whilst he prunes. It is not, like the hedge trimmer, an arbitrary process. But once this is done, the vine will be in a far better position to develop quality grapes.
John uses this analogy about the people of God, individual and corporate. Parts will need to be pruned away, or helped in a different direction in order for the whole to thrive.
And although it always hurts, we must be ready for the Father’s pruning knife. God is glorified, and do will we be, by bearing good quality fruit, and lots of it. For that to happen there will be extra growth that needs cutting away. That, too, is an intimate process. the vine dresser is never closer to the vine, taking more thought over its long term health and productivity, than when he has his knife in his hands. (Tom Wright)
Are our times of struggle sometimes times of pruning, when actually God is very close taking the painful decisions about what to prune?