"Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit" (John 15:2).

As we walked through the garden one morning during our summer break from homeschooling, my daughter watched as I began to pinch off the tops of several tomato plants. With a shocked look on her face, she cried, "Mom, what are you doing? We've been trying to get these plants to grow for weeks, and now you're destroying them!"

"No," I gently responded. "These plants have grown tall enough. If I don't cut them back now, they'll only grow more vines instead of tomatoes. We need to break off the top, so the energy of the plant goes toward bearing fruit."

"OK," she replied hesitantly in disbelief, "but I sure hope you know what you're doing."

The process of pruning can also seem shocking in our spiritual lives. When God allows circumstances that outwardly appear to destroy our hopes and dreams, we may react like my young daughter in the garden. Not understanding the purpose behind the pain, we are tempted to believe that God doesn't know what He is doing or He doesn't love us. However, if we learn to come to the Lord in humility and total dependence during these trying times, He will carefully shape our character into the image of His Son. In the end, the fruit of righteousness that God desires in all His children will be produced from His careful and loving pruning.

Do you feel like your life is in the pruning process? If circumstances seem to be robbing you of joy and causing you to doubt God's love, don't let your pain cause you to run from the Lord. Instead, run into the arms of your loving Father and allow the Holy Spirit to comfort you as God continues to perfect the good work He has begun in you. "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing" (James 1:2-4).

Father God, my heart aches from the problems in my life, but I choose to reach out in faith and believe You are in control. Please, show me Your loving grace and help me to understand the work You're doing in my life. In Jesus' name, Amen.