Friday, April 27, 2007

Masked Blessings

"Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it" (Isaiah 5:5-6).

The things God says He will withhold as punishment in v. 5-6 are things we might resent having initially: We don't want hedges and walls as boundaries; we want freedom. We don't want to be pruned and cut; we want to be pain-free. We praise God for sunshine and groan when it rains. Yet when these blessings in disguise are taken away, we realize why God gives us what's best and not what we want: Without boundaries to protect, we will be trampled and destroyed. Without careful pruning, we will be a wasteland, overgrown with even more painful thorns and briers. Without rain, we will shrivel up and die.

Father, I praise You that You are the Creator of beauty and all good things, the Sustainer of Life. You are the True Vine, and though we rebel against You, still it brings you delight to plant us and provide every good thing we need to grow. You care so tenderly for your own, blessing us abundantly--in Your wisdom not always giving us what we foolishly desire, but always giving us what we truly need.

I confess that I often crave what's not good for me; I resent the ways that You say no, refusing to see how You are protecting me and cultivating me so that I will grow stronger and bear more fruit. I crave the easy, comfortable life, and I grow resentful and bitter when others get what I think I need or prefer. Thank You for continuing to protect and provide for me, for pruning and cultivating me even when I bear bitter fruit, for not giving up on me. Thank You that it's not up to me to produce good fruit, but that by abiding in Christ, good fruit is produced through the Holy Spirit working in me. Thank You that I am saved not on the basis of the good fruit I can muster, but by grace, through Jesus.

Please cause that grace to sweeten my bitter fruit, to heal the roots underneath my sin and enable me to flourish for Your glory. Give me strength and patience when pruning comes; teach me to appreciate, not resent, boundaries. Change my perspective so that I am grateful for the rain as well as for the sun. Increase my trust in You as the Giver of all good things, as the Provider of all my needs.

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