I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. ~John 15:1-2
When I'm experiencing hardship (big or small), I don't typically tend to think of it as a learning or pruning experience. I usually think of it as an annoying experience. It's so hard to remember this! All of life's difficult experiences I can learn from and grow in if I let God work in them. Little nagging annoyances such as traffic, a long wait in the grocery line, running late for a meeting, and so many much larger ones - can all be ways that God can prune me and make areas of my life more fruitful or positive.
Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. ~James 1:2-4
Rarely do I feel joyful while going through something I don't like. This verse sometimes makes me laugh to think how frustratingly painful it is to think of joy when you are in pain. When I bruise my shin on the dishwasher door, am I happy? No. Do I want to scream and shout? Yes. But if I let God work in that, He can refine my character and how I react to many other circumstances in letting him control my anger in this small little one. It's so convicting for me to read this verse in James and think how often I don't let a trial or testing develop my perseverance. It also makes me think how many opportunities I've wasted and had to re-live because I didn't learn it the first time.
Now I also know I can't do this on my own. Considering joy in the midst of a storm is practically impossible for me. But with God all things are possible. This reality helps me to remember I don't have to do it on my own and I'm not expected to. Being connected to God and letting Him work in my life will allow everything to become fruitful because He is pruning me. Yes just like a plant. I am being pruned.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. ~John 15:5