Recognizing the Season of Pruning and Resisting the Temptation to Draw Back
by Allen Hood
Nothing derails a believer quicker than the loss of vision and a wrongly interpreted season.
Our fragile human psyches hate trouble and disdain the fiery trials that test the soul and cause us to lean into the arms of grace. Even in the context of 17 years of 24/7 prayer, I have rarely, if ever, heard someone ask God to send a season of pruning, but rather prayers for “the more” of the faith abound. Prayers for “the more” usually translate to more power, influence, wealth, honor, and insight, not more focus and perseverance.
Yet, the words of Hebrews remind us that even Jesus learned obedience through the suffering of His soul.
Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. (Hebrews 5:8)
Did you get that? Though He was a Son, part of Jesus’ sonship was to learn obedience through suffering. This is a vital part of the Father’s-heart message that few are willing to address. In fact, vital to our identity as sons and daughters of God is our ability to learn obedience and perseverance through suffering.
St. Alphonsus Ligouri, in his classic work The Practice of the Love of Jesus, sets forth the following quote from St. Augustine on the issue of suffering: “The same miseries send some to heaven and others to hell. The test of suffering separates the wheat from the chaff in the Church of God: those who in times of tribulation humble themselves to the will of God are wheat for paradise; those who grow haughty and enraged, and so forsake God, are chaff for hell.” (p. 49).
In John 15:1–8, Jesus was preparing the disciples for an intense three days of trial and disillusionment. Satan was coming, but he had no foothold in Jesus. The coming trouble, however, would reveal the fault lines and character issues deep in the disciples’ hearts. Jesus instructed the disciples of the necessity of abiding in Him during the shaking by giving an allegory of a vine and its branches.¹
Jesus is the vine, the Father is the vinedresser, and believers are the branches attached to the vine. And just as the life of the branch is contained in the vine, so, too, the life of the believer is found in Jesus Christ. He is our life source, and it is only by abiding in Him that a believer can be fruitful in his or her faith.
Jesus then introduced the disciples to an important aspect of abiding in Him—pruning. It is the action taken by a gardener to cut away or lop off any growth on a branch or tree that is undesirable in order to produce more long-term growth. In the following days, the disciples would be pruned. Many things would be cut away as they experienced great loss, fear, and disillusionment.
How do you recognize if you are in a season of pruning?
Have you ever wondered how to know if you are in a season of pruning? Many times in our various trials, we find ourselves confused whether our circumstances are the result of the devil’s rage, our own sin, the community’s compromise, or God’s sovereign orchestration. In the face of great trial, we often fail to know whether to rebuke the enemy, repent of sin, confront the community, surrender to God’s molding process, or all of the above. However, just as no one wonders whether or not a vine or tree has been pruned, seasons of pruning are easily discernible.
The primary indicator for a season of pruning is the suffering of loss. A season of pruning brings a loss of finances, possessions, impact, influence, position, stature, relationship, or opportunity. To be pruned is to lose the basis upon which everyone around you measures you as successful. Various trials diminish resources and make secondary and less important pursuits impossible.
The process of loss on multiple fronts produces weariness, fear, and despair. The temptation then comes for one to give up or draw back into seemingly safe, comfortable, or controlled environments. In the vulnerable moment of pruning, the tempter whispers to the saint to give up and draw back from the purpose of God. Can you imagine the words of the evil one to Peter after his denial of Christ? Peter, you’ve failed beyond repair. Your life had so much promise. Now you’ve wasted it all. Fisher of men? Ha! Go home, Peter. Go back to your old life. Go back to your old ways before the Master called you. At least you could succeed at that. After the resurrection, Peter resisted the tempter and gave an exhortation to the church about the testing of one’s faith that proves its genuineness. Did you catch that? The testing of our faith proves its genuineness, not its disingenuousness.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:6–9)
Paul also encourages us not to grow weary in doing good, and that through many tribulations the saints will receive the kingdom. James exhorts us to be patient in endurance and establish our hearts for the coming of the Lord. The Letter to the Hebrews warns us not to draw back in the day of trial.
Going back to the comfort of a risk-free life is not an option. Thus, the pruning season demands refocus without retreat.
Be very careful, Christian. The evil one comes in the weak state of the pruning process to confuse and derail us by having us reinterpret the previous season. In our season of loss the father of lies whispers in our ears:
Look what you’ve done. You’ve wasted your time. You’ve wasted your money. You should have listened to your family and friends back home. How could you have given yourself to this? You’ve never heard God anyway. You’ve failed again!
Nothing derails a believer quicker than the loss of vision and a wrongly interpreted season. The adversary comes to try to hinder your ability to perceive the fruit of the last season as well as the hope of bearing fruit in the next. Satan attempts to steal the right interpretation of your last season. He wants you to interpret your season of loss as the result of your failure and the Lord’s abandonment of you. Yet nothing is further from the truth. You are not being pruned because you failed, but because you are succeeding. Only the fruitful branches are pruned. The loss is not the result of your failure but of your success. The good news is that more fruit is just around the corner!
Question: How can the Lord help you refocus in this season?
Allen Hood will be a featured speaker at Onething, December 28–31, in Kansas City. Join him, Mike Bickle, Bill Johnson, Todd White, worship leaders Matt Maher, Audrey Assad, Jonathan David and Melissa Helser, and many others for four days of anointed teaching, passionate worship, and ministry in the Holy Spirit’s power.
Learn more about Onething »
Allen Hood (MDiv, Asbury Theological Seminary) served on the leadership team of the International House of Prayer for more than 15 years. He served as the president of International House of Prayer University from 2003 to 2016 and also served as the associate director of the IHOPKC Missions Base and as the executive pastor of Forerunner Church, IHOPKC’s church expression. Allen is an intercessory missionary called to partner in fulfilling the Great Commission by advancing 24/7 prayer with worship in every tribe and tongue and by proclaiming the beauty of Jesus and His glorious return. His highest joy is to see the Church manifesting the fullness of Christ’s life in the nations. Allen is married to Rachel, and they have three sons.