I wrote this poem in response to a sermon I heard on John 15. As Pastor Herron was preaching, Christina Rossetti’s poem “Long Barren” came to mind. I used the last line of her poem as the first line of mine and then reversed her stanza form to create mine. I also extended her ideas of emptiness and feebleness to those of bearing some fruit, pleading for more fruit, and the pruning process that God uses in our lives so we can bear much fruit.
Feed Thou my feeble shoots,
Bearing no grapes.
O Flourishing Vine, Thy firm, stable roots
My dying branch. Thy strength produces fruit.
Trim Thou dead, sickly leaves
O Patient Vinedresser, my weakness needs
Thy tender care.
Lift up my limp branches. “More fruit!” I plead.
Tend Thou my thriving branch
O Faithful Harvester, Thy constant touch
Nurtures and reaps.
My branches—grafted, pruned and purged—bear much.
by Natalie Cary copyright 2009
The Bible also uses the image of testing and refining metals (I Peter 1:6-7, Isaiah 48:10, Zechariah 13:9) to describe how God purifies us through trials. The sanctification process certainly isn’t easy or painless, but I was comforted today to remember that God is with me through the process.
Often times, sermons on trials emphasize the pain and difficulty of the trial, but I don’t find that very helpful–I already know trials are hard! And constant reflection on the pain doesn’t bring help or hope.
In some countries (rarely, in America), believers are persecuted for their beliefs, and that kind of testing and trial is unique to believers. But really, many of the trials believers face are not much different from the ones unbelievers go through. Trials have the common purpose–for believers and unbelievers–of magnifying God and displaying Jesus Christ to the world, and drawing us to Him.
When going through trials, believers have distinct advantages over unbelievers because of the tremendous wealth of spiritual blessings we have in Jesus Christ. I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like for an unbeliever to receive news of a loved one’s death or a cancer diagnosis or face a move or job change or harsh criticism. Without Christ and God’s perspective on trials, there would be fear, hurt, loss, sadness, and pain without the hope, comfort, peace, love, and grace that Christ gives.
In one of the most familiar passages on trials (I Peter 1), notice how often we’re reminded of God’s presence and purposes and see the blessings of being in Christ.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
God has mercifully given us hope and new life in Jesus Christ. When I’m going through a trial, I am encouraged to know that I am alive in Christ. God did this work of saving my soul and he promises eternal life in heaven. This helps me to remember that if God could meet my greatest need–salvation–He can meet my daily needs. And the promise of heaven brings hope that the trials will one day end. I won’t have to face the temptations of sin and the trials of life ever again, when I am experiencing that eternal life with Christ in heaven!
5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
God is guarding me and keeping me, while I endure the afflictions of life now. I don’t have to worry about falling away from God, because He is preserving me.
6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,
The trials that come into my life are necessary. God wouldn’t allow trials that have no point. He doesn’t send us through senseless, meaningless pain. That would be sadistic. I can rejoice in trials because God has a purpose in them.
7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
When I go through a trial and my faith is proved to be genuine, Jesus Christ receives praise and glory. The One who gave me the faith in the first place, who sustains me in the trial and gives me more faith, is praised for that real and precious faith.
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
And this is what faith is–not seeing, yet believing and loving God. And the end result of that faith is my salvation. May Jesus Christ be praised!
All that to say, in my little poem, I wanted to emphasize God’s patient and tender care during the very hard tests and trials that believers go through. He is with me during every step of the process, and He has wise and good purposes for those trials.