Yancey Excerpt: Of Vines and Branches

By PaulT / December 19, 2017

Just another outtake that I loved reading …

If I find no self-evident reason for God’s silence in my checklist, I move on. I look on periods of blankness in prayer much as I look on suffering. It does little good, I have found, to spend much time dwelling on the “Why?” questions. The Bible istelf moves the emphasis from past to future: not “Why did this happen?” but, “Now that it has happened, what can I learn from it and how should I respond?” Thus the major New testamenet passages on suffering all focus on the productive value of suffering, the good that it can produce in us (perseverance, character, patience, hope, and so on).

In the same vein, I ask God to use the time of spiritual dryness to prepare me for future growth. Jesus hints at such a process in his analogy of the vine: “Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” As any vintner or rose-grower knows, the act of lopping off lush branches, which at first seems cruel and destructive, actually causes the pruned shoots to grow back more productive than ever. A vintner explained to me that he refuses to irrigate his vines becaue the stress caused by occassional drought produces the best, most tasty grapes. Seasons of dryness make the roots run deep, strengthening the vine for whatever the future holds.

In the words of Henry Blackaby, “You can respond to the silence of God in two ways. One response is for you to go into depression, a sense of guilt and self-condemnation. The other response is for you to have an expectation that God is about to bring you to a deeper knowledge of Himself. Thse responses are as different as night and day.”

I try to see the dry period as a time of waiting. Ater all, I gladly wait for loved ones when their planes are delayed, wait on hold for computer help lines, wait in line for a concert I want to attend. Waiting need not kill time; it uses tme, in anticipation of something to come.

I once heard a theologian remark that in the Gospels people approached Jesus with a question 183 times whereas he replied with a direct answer only three times. Instead, he responded with a different question, a story, or some other indirection. Evidently Jesus wants us to work out answers on our own, using the principles that he taught and lived. Prayer, I find, often operates the same way. In the difficult and sometimes frustrating act of pursuing God, changes occur in me that equip me to serve God,. Maybe what I sense as abandonment is actually a form of emporterment.

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