I do have a sunrise! 5 a.m. Still pitch black dark. Earthy smell of coffee in the chill air. I pushed the covers off, went to the bathroom, then downstairs. The dim glow from the streetlight outlined the dark rectangle of the couch and coffee table. I turned on the stove light, poured a cup of coffee and went back upstairs, to the old recliner in the corner, by the open window. Here, in the back bedroom of my small townhome, a grandfather oak spread wide branches across the window, shielding the view from anyone standing below. I seldom closed it.
I kicked back in the recliner, cuddling the hot mug in my hands as I took that first blissful sip. Aaah. . . “Thank You, Father, for a good sleep. And for that automatic coffee maker! Hmmm, I can barely see a bit of blue-black at the horizon. Thank You so much, Father, for the gap in the branches there, to the east. It is in just the right spot so I can watch You change the sky. You know, it never gets old, Lord. How do You make it different every single day? You know, Father, I . . . “
That was twenty years ago, when I lived in Florida. I am very grateful for the two rooms that constitute my current home although two of its three windows face walls ten feet away. For the two years I have lived here, I have tried not to complain about the view. This morning, in the quiet half dark, I opened the blinds on the east-facing window and saw wide bands of blue and wisps of salmon-colored clouds. The blinds on that window usually stay closed until midday when the sun has relocated. I smiled, opened the blinds and had my morning cup of coffee with the Lord and His beautiful sunrise.
Why had I not seen that sunrise before? A profusion of coral crepe myrtle flowers covers that window most of the year. However, the lacey filigree of winter-bare branches now provides a view, like that open spot in those oak branches twenty years ago. I just have to look closely. Winter has removed what once blocked what was always there.
God’s pruning process. Sometimes God removes the good so we can see another or better good. In the first two verses of John 15, Jesus tells us:
1. I AM the true Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser.
2. Any branch in Me that does not bear fruit – that stops bearing – He cuts away (trims off, takes away). And He cleanses and repeatedly prunes every branch that continues to bear fruit, to make it bear more and richer and more excellent fruit.”
The second sentence of verse 2 tells me that I may be doing something good (bearing fruit) but that something good or another something good may be taken away, or pruned. God removes good things for the purpose of making me bear “more and richer and more excellent fruit.” Joyce Meyer shares her experience with God pruning her out of a fruitful job at a church and into the ministry He had prepared for her. She was producing good fruit in her work for God at that church, but God had in mind for her to “bear more and richer and more excellent fruit.” Think what you and I would have missed if she had not submitted to God’s pruning process!
Notice also in verse 2 that He repeatedly prunes His branches. Perhaps God’s plan for you, over a long span of years, is to work at your local church as greeter, then elementary teacher, and finally to supervise all Christian education in your church. God will lead clearly each step of our way (James 1:5-6), but we must keep saying yes to Him and keep following where He leads us (Hebrews 12, especially 6-13; Proverbs 1:23-33).
Where am I looking? Although beauty and good are everywhere, focusing on one thing can block our view. Like a child who cannot withdraw the fist holding the cookie from the cookie jar, we sometimes want one thing so desperately that we miss another, more obvious good. I may despair that my preteen son will not sit and talk. But, if I look for the good in the situation, then I can enjoy his presence at mealtimes and while driving him to school. And I can do what I can about the situation, though it may cost me something, like watching a baseball game with him, or driving him and his friends to the field for extra batting practice.
John has a great job and a happy family but complains that his wife has changed after having three children. Sandra is retired, in good health and surrounded by loved ones but she sees only her small, though adequate, fixed income. You get the point.
If we focus on what we do not have, that thing grows. As we thank God for good things He has already given, gratitude grows and the good in our lives look larger.
Find God’s good in your life. Friend, I urge you: find the good God has put in your life and dwell on it, relish it, thank Him for it and talk about it with Him. It may not be the particular thing you long for, but He has blessed you abundantly. Thank Him and praise Him! “Bless – affectionately, gratefully – praise the Lord, O my soul and all that is [deepest] within me, bless His holy name! (Psalm 103:1, AMPC) Thank our merciful and gracious Father for what you have, and you will be given something beyond price: the peace of His presence. It will also strengthen your faith if God is doing some pruning in your life.
If I looked with the discouraged, negative eyes of depression I used to have, I would see a tiny two-room condo, bordered on one side by a street unsafe at night; a twelve-year-old computer sitting on an ancient card table; to my left, mismatched bookcases perched on a beaten up desk, serving as hutches; a one-wall kitchen behind me; and to my right a saggy, fraying couch from the thrift store, flanked by a file cabinet at one end and a toy box at the other, serving as end tables.
But what I, by grace, see is: a blessed home office where I meet God each day as I write for Him, a blessed kitchen where I bake canned biscuits, to the delight of my grandsons; a blessedly-big comfy couch on which we sit while I read and snuggle with them . . .
“Whatsoever things are true. . .” Friend, I urge you again: find the good God has put in your life! What you focus on grows. First, take delight, purposefully, in God Himself and then in all that God gives you each day. (Psalm 37:4) I used to focus on the negative. Now, by grace, I focus on and look for the good. God shows it to me everywhere.
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8, KJV)