When was the last time you were struggling? How did you handle it? Did you question why? I can think of quite a few times in my life when “the struggle was really real”. I’m sure you can too.
Do you believe that during life’s struggles, God is still there and loves you just as much as the times when life seems much easier? Is that easier to believe when you’re not “going through it”? Sometimes I feel like the truth is easier to see when your standing further away from it.
The truth is STRUGGLE is good. STRUGGLE is temporary. STRUGGLE is necessary.
I don’t know if you know this, but . . . I really, really LOVE wine. (shocking, right?) I visit wineries to (cough, cough) learn more about the process involved in making wine. Okay, maybe not for the learning experience . . .
But seriously, I love going to a vineyard. I’m a city girl that dreamed of looking up and seeing nature, rather than the Septa bus, the parked cars, the row homes and all the cement I saw growing up. I really appreciate seeing nature and all its beauty. I also enjoy drinking wine . . .ergo, a vineyard is a little like heaven for me.
Now, “truthfully”, I don’t really go to learn anything. The last time my husband and I visited a vineyard – he wanted to go on the tour much more than I. So we went, and I half-listened to the tour guide who said a funny thing or two – but often lost interest and day- dreamed about this guy not talking anymore, and me getting to go inside for the tasting part of the day.
But one lesson I did learn, that I have not forgotten, is how a grapevine must STRUGGLE in order to produce the best fruit.
That fact hit me. It was a “wow” moment. I started to think about how much that rings true in our lives. How those people that struggle the most, and rise above their struggles, become the people we most look up to and aspire to be.
I started to think how my struggles, and how I handled them, really made me who I am. They made me stronger. Sure, at the time, I felt they were completely unnecessary. I know I told God that too.
But in those times, I faced many temptations, many choices, and many times I had to choose to do not what would make the pain or struggle go away sooner – but God’s will. Other times, I think I was so sunk in my own heartache, I did not choose God and His will. All the while, He was there. All the while, I longed to hear Him.
Before I started writing this post, I did a little research. I felt like, “I can’t just know one sentence – one little tiny fact – and write a whole post about it. Yes, the grapevine must struggle in order to produce the best fruit . . . but what else should I know”. I found this at WINEANORAK.COM, and I want to share it with you:
More modern methods of growing grapes, in close-spaced rows on wire trellising, take advantage of the fact that making the vines struggle generally results in better quality grapes. It’s a bit like people. Place someone in a near-perfect environment, giving them every comfort and all that they could ever want to satisfy their physical needs, and it could have rather disastrous consequences for their personality and physique. If you take a grapevine and make its physical requirements for water and nutrients easily accessible, then (somewhat counterintuitively) it will give you poor grapes.
Then I recalled being a runner.
I remember how hard I trained, how much the workouts hurt. How much I never wanted to go to practice.
I also remember getting my best time. I remember winning. I remember getting MVP and a championship title.
I remembered how once my mom said, “maybe sports just aren’t your bag”. But not giving up, and how not giving up allowed me to have self-esteem and an amazing feeling of worth.
I remember the shirts we had in high school, and how they stated, “Pain is short, pride is forever”.
And then I started to recall hearing those stories in the Bible where Jesus uses the vine and branches as a way to teach us about His relationship with God the Father and our relationship to Him.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit . Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me” (Jn 15.1-5).
I then found an article written by a Benedictine monk. This article, found at Catholic.org, provides a reflection on this Scripture passage.
The advice of the monk – and I would say of Our Lord – is to remain with God through all the struggles. The monk, Father Gregory Gresko, states:
The most difficult task indicated in this passage of Jesus as the True Vine may very well rest in a key verb mentioned throughout: Remain. It is not being a branch that is most challenging according to Jesus here; rather to remain proves for us most difficult such that living fruit might be borne from our faithful steadfastness in Him. Jesus clearly desires us to persevere in obedience to the Word of God, Who is Christ Himself (cf. Jn 1.1).
So, if you are struggling with anything now, and you are wondering “what does God want from me?”.
He wants you to “remain in Him”. He wants you to, in the words of F. Gregory Gresko, “persevere in obedience to the Word of God”.
This can be so difficult . . . but here’s the part that might just give you the hope you long for right now. Jesus goes on to say:
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
Stay close to Him. Our Lord knows what it’s like to struggle. He loves you. Your pain will not last forever . . . hold onto Him.
You are in my thoughts and prayers. I pray that although the struggle might be real, that it is coming to an end soon and that easier days are right around the corner.
God Bless YOU!