This is Day 26 of my 40 day Lenten Blog.
"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 15:2).
There is a saying on Parris Island: "Pain is weakness leaving the body." It takes 13 weeks of pain to make a worthless, disgusting, pile of nothing into a United States Marine. At the end of the 13 weeks you are not the same person you were when you started. You have been forged into something new. And you are disgusted by what you were before.
It takes suffering and loss to grow, to improve. People who never lose never get better. People who never fall down don't learn to stand up.
At my men's group today we discussed the above verse. When we bear fruit God prunes us so that we will bear more fruit. Pruning is painful, but necessary. We have to cut off the bad so that more good can blossom. God wants us to constantly improve. That takes suffering. Becoming a saint isn't easy.
I often pray that God will make me a saint, that He will make me a better man, a better husband, a better father, a better son, a better friend. But as soon as any suffering, even the slightest inconvenience, comes about I pray He will take it from me.
I am weak. I don't want the pain. I want the sanctity without the suffering. Just like I wanted to be a Marine without the pain. But that's impossible. Saint Paul tells us that we should not avoid suffering but glory in it, because "suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character; and character hope." (Rom. 5:3-4).
Hope is Christ. We cannot become like Christ unless we pick up our cross to suffer as He did. And as we grow in Him we will look back on our old selves, and just like the new Marine, be disgusted with what we used to be and grateful for the pain and suffering that forged us into the saints God always intended us to be.
R.C. VanLandingham is the author of the Peter Puckett series, a Christian children's fantasy that explores what it means to know and love Christ through exciting adventures. His books and blog can be found at rcvanlandingham.com.