Cutting out the dead and dying parts of our lives makes room for holiness

Written by Jayda Hooge

I love plants! I relish going to greenhouses and selecting a new addition to my houseplant army. I enjoy lovingly taking care of each one. My boyfriend recently told me, “I didn’t realize plants could be a hobby.”

Plants need to be watered, get the right amount of sunlight, and be repotted once they’ve grown. Some plants also need to be pruned, which seems counterintuitive to me. If I want my plant to grow big and strong, the first thing I think of to help it isn’t cutting off its branches.

Why would I want to get rid of parts of the plant if my goal is to help it grow? However, pruning cuts off certain branches so that the plant can use its limited resources to make other branches stronger.

For example, if a fruit tree isn’t pruned, there can be too many branches using up the tree’s resources. This often results in small, low-quality fruit. Not pruning can also lead to dying branches or overgrowth that limits access to sunlight.

In John 15, Jesus uses a plant metaphor (woo!) to illustrate our relationship with Him. Jesus says, “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).

If we are following God, He will prune areas of our life that keep us from the life of wholeness He intends for us. Just as a fruit tree needs to be pruned to produce good fruit, so do we.

As I look back on past years, I can see how God has pruned unhealthy branches from my life. Things like comparing myself to others, jealousy, and negative self-talk. When left to grow, these things were poisoning my heart and mind.

I used to have an almost constant narrative running in my head that I wasn’t good enough. I believed I was a failure, and I couldn’t do anything right. These thoughts grew over time and became what I believed about myself deep in my heart.

Believing these lies about myself affected every aspect of my life. Anytime I made a mistake, I believed it was because I was a failure. I became defensive and self-punishing if I didn’t meet others’ expectations, regardless of whether they were reasonable. It was a miserable, exhausting way to live.

After a few years with these lies running rampant in my head, I started to learn the truth about who God says I am. He slowly, tenderly started to prune out the lies I had believed about myself. His truth began to grow in their place.

In faith, I had to believe God delighted in me and chose me, instead of believing I was a failure. Writing this out now, it sounds so simple, but at the time it didn’t feel easy.

Deeply-rooted lies can be hard to let go of. Even though they’re harmful, they’re also so familiar. This means it can be unnerving and scary to accept that God’s truth applies to us.

Pruning can be painful, but it’s always for our benefit. The pain is often all we can perceive at first. It takes time before we can see that the branches cut off were unhealthy.

Sometimes what’s removed was a lesser good to make room for a greater good. We can be sure God is at work when the loss allows us to become more and more like Jesus, more like the whole versions of ourselves that God intended.

God continues to refine us by cutting out the dying parts and less good parts of our lives to make room for new growth and holiness. We’re left with more resources to put towards the good fruit such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

These are great metaphors, but practically, what does this look like? It starts with asking God to show us where in our hearts or lives He wants to do some pruning.

Recently, a friend was offered a job I had wanted. I smiled on the outside and congratulated her, but on the inside, I was upset she’d gotten the job and I hadn’t.

When God brought this to mind, I knew my response should be to repent and ask for forgiveness. Knowing what needs to be cleansed isn’t going to help me if I’m not willing to do anything about it.

1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Lastly, I find it helpful to exchange untruth for truth. In my jealousy, I believed I wasn’t good enough and that I wouldn’t be provided for. So, I exchanged those lies for the truth that God loves me (John 3:16) and will provide everything I need (Matthew 6:28-34).

Allowing God to make us more like Jesus takes one small step of obedience and repentance. Then another. There’s no glamorous cure-all pill, just steady steps, walking by faith in God’s grace for us. Pruning and abiding in Jesus remains an ongoing process.