I’ve been thinking about this series for the last month, wondering what I was going to write about, wondering what I would say, wondering if I had anything to say that was even worth reading, let alone writing. But July has come and here I am, jumping in before feeling the water first. I think it’s going to be ok.
I consulted my old friend, Webster’s, to find out what the definition of struggle is. This is what I found:
“to try very hard to do, achieve, or deal with something that is difficult or that causes problems
: to move with difficulty or with great effort
: to try to move yourself, an object, etc., by making a lot of effort”
That’s interesting to me. I take several things away from this definition: That struggle is hard. That it is difficult. That it takes great effort. That in the middle of it is pain.
I don’t know anyone who hasn’t struggled. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t grown from it either.
Like pruning a fruit tree, when you prune out all the branches until the tree is nothing but stumps, struggle is a way that prunes our lives. It brings us down to the very core of us. It reminds us what we are made of, what we value, who we are.
The times of struggle prune us down to stumps. The branches are cut off and we’re left standing there, waiting for something to grow. We pray for growth but for the time, right after the pruning, we wait fruitless and branch-less, just wondering if anything worthwhile will grow back. It will. Guaranteed. It just takes awhile for the new growth to happen.
When I was a little girl, I used to watch my dad prune the plum trees every late fall/early winter in our backyard. I can still remember standing out in our backyard in late November, in a warm winter coat, watching my dad prune those trees. I’d get a little teary-eyed watching those great big beautiful trees, whose leaves covered our backyard every Summer with beautiful shade, get their branches cut off. Those big trees would look like sad stumps when my dad was through pruning. Inside my stomach churned seeing it happen because I didn’t understand why the pruning had to happen. As my dad explained to me once that you have to prune fruit trees in order for them to keep producing fruit. The pruning makes them more fruitful and more beautiful. It makes them stronger, too, so when the winds and storms kick up, those trees can withstand those blustery storms.
Kind of like us.
The pruning, the struggle, is what makes us stronger. We need it to survive. We need it to grow more fruitful. We need it to withstand the storms that roll in.
As much as we hate it, the struggle is what refines us.
God, refine me through this season of struggle.