This is a generalization that isn’t true for every single person, but broadly speaking, the following statement is true:
Never in the history of humanity have people had it as easy as we have it in 21st century Northern Michigan.
If we want food, we can walk into a giant grocery store and purchase nearly anything we want at a reasonable price. If we want the temperature changed in a room, we can adjust the thermostat, and it cools or heats to our heart’s desire. If we want to fly across the country, it can happen in a few short hours. If we want to call a friend across the world, we can do at the press of button.
We enjoy an unprecedented level of ease—an “absence of difficulty or effort.”
And yet, despite all those advances, the work of personal transformation hasn’t got any easier. Unfortunately, all the technological advances in the world cannot change the human condition.
Therefore, until the Lord returns, spiritual formation will involve some of the experiences captured in this sculpture from Dean Allison: Struggle. Exertion. Strain. Inconvenience.
This is exactly why G.K. Chesterton wryly observed: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”
In an age of ease and convenience, this work can seem even more difficult because it feels so out of the ordinary.
And as we make our way through week five of these pruning devotions, I pray that you embrace “out of the ordinary.” I pray that when you’re tempted to skip over something God has for you, that you will instead, surrender to God’s will. I pray that you embrace the struggle because (a) it is a perfectly normal part of the process and (b) it is driven by a God that loves you to no end:
As God says in Revelation 3:19 — “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” And as God says through Provers 3:11-12 — “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”
In the hopes of experiencing all that God has for us, we need to ask God to prune us of our desire not to be pruned. We ask that God would prune us of our desire for ease so that we might willingly subject ourselves to inconvenience and struggle. May we not be stopped from putting in the work.
TODAY’s REFLECTION: As we’ve gone through this sermon series and this set of devotions, have you noticed yourself resisting the pruning shears of the Vine-grower? When have you dodged the day’s topic in favor of knit-picking my words and generating an excuse? In what ways have you carried an implicit expectation that the things of God should be easy? What if you asked God to remove your desire for ease? What if you trusted that some growth only comes through pruning, discipline, and rebuke?