Last summer, after finishing my least favorite chore—yard work—I cut a few roses. I’d snapped a photo while taking out the trash the night before and wanted to decorate my kitchen. Then I noticed poison ivy had wrapped itself around the branches. I had to yank it out, or it would kill my rosebush. The poison was invisible at night, though a closer look at the picture revealed it was there the whole time.
The Holy Spirit reminded me of John 15:1-2 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (NKJV)
My friend calls this God’s CRaP – Cutting, Refining, and Pruning. God uses these ways to transform us into His image. It’s painful, but otherwise we will be choked out. God’s love compels Him to change us, though it hurts temporarily. He knows the result is worth the pain.
God’s cutting eliminates sin in our lives. God hates sin. It has to go. When I rented my place, I warned my renters about the poison ivy. Instead of killing it, they potted the poison ivy and hung it on a trellis. It had purple flowers, but this was poison ivy. I spent an hour unwinding the ivy from each branch, then trashed that traitorous pot.
For my rosebush, I had to destroy the harmful poison ivy. For my life, that represented sinful thinking where I misunderstood God’s true character. These lies were replaced with Biblical truths about God’s faithfulness, loving kindness, and tender mercies. God showed me Isaiah 1:16 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil.” (NKJV) My thoughts were evil, and had to be put away so I could live life in right relationship with God.
God surfaces our sin patterns so He can remove them. The same way I got scratched fixing my plants, God suffers with us so we can flourish. God does not want to harm us. Many times when God works on me, it hurts. Deeply. I want Him to stop. Malachi 3:3 says “He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness.” (NKJV) The silver refiner stands over the flame, feeling the fire’s heat. He repeats the process until the impurities are gone and the silver reflects His face. God feels our pain, but loves us enough not to leave us full of sin. This is how God transforms us into His image.
God also refines our hearts to have space to replace our motives with His. Psalm 37:4 says “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” (NKJV) Previously, I thought this meant if I loved God, He would give me what I wanted. Instead, it means when I love God, He implants His desires in my heart. I noticed my requests changing. I went from – “God, help me feel better.” to – “God, be glorified in my life. May Your renown be my desire. May I help others know you better and point people deeper into Christ.”
I had to prune my rosebush. My shears hacked those dead branches off. Though they once bore fruit, they were now dead. Those branches had to be removed so new growth could arise. Otherwise, the old ones would suck up the nutrients the new branches needed.
Sometimes I over commit. A total extrovert, I despise being alone, and can run myself into the ground trying to do everything. I forget Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.” (NKJV) Even areas that once brought life need to be reexamined to see if they are still green. If not, they need to be pruned. My long-time church home changed, and it was time to move on. It was hard to leave, but sometimes letting go is the only way to open our hands wide enough to receive God’s best for us.
Last year God did a deep work in me. He had me surrender all of my dreams, and let go of friends and places. The process was excruciating. My verse was Hebrews 12:11 “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (NKJV) The pruning was painful, but I’m starting to see the peaceful fruits. Experiencing God’s CRaP is rough, but the roses are worth it.
Joanna Eccles has led Bible studies for over ten years and completed the year-long C. S. Lewis Fellows Program. She is passionate about discipleship and helping people know God better. Joanna enjoys coffee, traveling, and reading, and currently lives in northern Virginia.