Abiding Amidst Adversities
Although I cannot claim to have read all of The Bible, I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that there are very few verses from Genesis to Revelations with more importance than the 5th verse of John 15: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” In essence, Jesus is summing up the entirety of his teachings into two sentences and is offering the blueprint for how the disciples are to carry on once he is gone. It’s no wonder, then, that this teaching is one of the last ones given to the disciples.
Since I’m in a “venturing out onto a limb” mood, I’ll also say that there aren’t many verses that are tougher for us to swallow than verses 2 and 3 of James 1: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” In times of joy or contentment this verse might not seem so difficult. But step back into one of the dark times of your life and then think about finding pure joy there. Further still, step into that time of your life and consider what it means to remain with Christ throughout the depths so that joy and perseverance and fruitfulness can be obtained. Now we begin to see the depth of meaning behind, and difficult nature of, Jesus’ words.
But here’s where things get interesting. Jesus wasn’t telling us to remain in him as he remained in us from some distant mountaintop where everything is neat and clean all the time. Instead, his words came directly after washing his disciples’ feet, having Judas leave in order to betray him, after telling Peter that he would deny Jesus three times, and after attempting to explain to the disciples the crucifixion that awaited him. In essence, he spoke these words in the midst of his darkest hour, in the midst of his toughest trial, directly before this group of disciples that he was telling to remain in him would all abandon him. And yet his message to them was still to remain as he remained.
As we consider that point, the good news in these two passages starts to come into focus. See, it’s not that remaining is in any way easy. Neither is finding joy in the midst of trials. But if we are to remain as Jesus remains we must be willing to walk through the midst of our trials and dark times with the full knowledge of an omnipotent plan that leads to joy on the other side. In essence we must be willing to pray both sentences of Jesus prayer in Gethsemane: “If it is possible may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
At the point where we learn to lean into God’s plan for our lives, even in the darkest of times, our reward is to know what it means to be attached to the true vine that is the very source of pure joy. May God help us in our pursuit.