I remember sobbing, I mean snot-on-the-pillow-hiccuping-red-eyes-for-hours kind of crying. It wasn’t just one night or circumstance. But there was one season in particular where it seemed like everyone around me was thumbing their nose at God. Blatantly mocking Him, and often, me, for following Him. They were charting their own path and all I could see was destruction ahead.
But it didn’t happen. The people hurting me, whether they knew it or not they were doing so, seemed to prosper.
Instead, I was passionate for Christ and striving to be like Him. I wanted to be obedient.
And what did I get for it?
- A car accident while in a high risk pregnancy after a season of infertility.
- Job transition
- Financial stresses
- and more.
It took me a long time to understand and surrender my anger over what I thought I was seeing. I’m a “justice girl” and what I’d witnessed wasn’t fair. The people were getting promotions. Dream homes. Vacations. Life seemed to hand them an ez-pass for all their rebellion.
And I struggled.
But once I stopped crying long enough to listen, I studied His word, Bible studies, and got to know Him better where I asked the hard questions. He showed me the things I was frustrated about were just that, things. In my valley, I had experiences. What looked like a cruel mess was preparation. I came out of that season free from a lot of things that weren’t healthy. I transformed into a confident woman of God knowing who I was. My faith is fairly unshakable. I wouldn’t be any of those things without those hard times.
And for the people that I didn’t understand? What looked like prospering was actually withering. In the years that followed the creditors called. The dream homes needed work. When tragedies like 9/11 happened they were the ones calling me, full of fear. There was no peace in them. And I realized those were the consequences. I thought they’d receive holy lightning strikes for the things they’d done and said. But lack of peace and living in fear have to be the worst things to deal with.
I write all that to say in the last few years when I’ve seen people done wrong, I’ve faced rejection or mocking, I’ve been used or watched someone else, all the junk that used to tear me apart, a new phrase came up.
“You’ll know them by their fruit.”
I’ve been around long enough to see people wounded. It stinks. And when they come to me and ask me why does it look like the wounder got off scott-free, I remind them you’ll know them by their fruit. It might take awhile, but for those who aren’t rooted deeply in Christ, the fruit isn’t going to happen. If there’s any growth at all, it’s going to be shriveled and rotten. For those who talk about faith but aren’t walking it, their lack of roots is going to produce some small fruit, too. Trust me. How do I know?
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.” John 15:1-8, NLT
I’m not perfect, please don’t think I’m looking down on those who did me wrong. My hope is if you’re frustrated because you’re living for Christ and getting the shaft while everyone else seems to be doing just fine, think about the passage above. You’re a beautiful harvest in the making. You will walk in God-confidence and have peace that can’t be bought or manufactured. I wouldn’t trade that season for anything, as hard as it was. I have an intimacy with God that words can’t define. That’s a direct result of pruning and hardship. And I definitely don’t want to trade places with the people who seemed to have it all when they were gunning for me. My prayer is they find the Gardener and surrender themselves to His love and tender care.There will be a day we all have to answer for our choices and motives. How I want to bring forth a glorious harvest. How about you?
***Have you signed up for my newsletter? Throughout 2014 I’m sending subscribers my Finger Lakes contemporary romance, Match Made in Heaven. If you’d like to receive this gift and my writing updates, subscribe for free in the right sidebar of http://juliearduini.com and watch your inbox for activation.***