The Joy of Painful Growth

This article is by my dad, Chuck Swindoll.

In our backyard in California, Cynthia and I had a couple of fruit trees that supplied our table with luscious, homegrown grapefruits and oranges. Some years, the trees bore more fruit than others.

Fruit Tree
(Image from Pixabay)

And every year, the growth of those trees reminded me about what it means to become more like Christ.

The secret to growing Christlike is found in the tiny word abide. Like branches that cling to the tree for life, we attach ourselves to Him when we abide. When we are attached to Him, we grow whatever He grows.

I would guess that you already know what that fruit looks like. Galatians 5:22–23 gives us a wonderful list:

  • Love
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Patience
  • Kindness
  • Goodness
  • Faithfulness
  • Gentleness
  • Self-control

Oh, there are no better traits! But don’t try to produce these traits on your own. The only thing you can do as a child of God is depend upon the Lord to produce them in you.

As I looked more carefully at those trees in our backyard, I discovered an unmistakable pattern: Our trees bore the most fruit when they had been pruned the previous season.

When we, with care and tough love, cut back the twigs, dead branches, and extra foliage that took energy away from the fruit-bearing branches, the tree received more sunlight and gained more room for growth.

That’s also the way it is with the Father. The secret of the fruitful vine, as Jesus revealed in John 15, is in the pruning. Some of you are being pruned right now.

God is cutting away everything that keeps you from growth. It’s painful, isn’t it? But an unkempt vine can never produce good fruit, so your branch must be kept clean.


(Image from Pixabay)

That means dealing with those areas where we fail, those parts of our personalities that are not pleasing to God and, in some cases, tend toward sin.

How might God be pruning you for growth today? If you see an area that needs cleaning, acknowledge it. Got any sin that needs to be confessed? Any area of your life from which you’re excluding Him?

If so, repent of it and claim His forgiveness. While you probably don’t see the fruit right now, it will come. In fact, the fruit comes only through God’s careful pruning.

But growing fruit means more than just pruning. It also has to do with depending daily—moment by moment, day by day, month by month—on the Lord Himself. Make it your determined purpose to stay close to the Vine this year, and get ready for Him to grow the fruit of His life in you.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Copyright © 2001, 2014 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.

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9 thoughts on “The Joy of Painful Growth

  1. Colleen, Hello! It was wonderful to read your note. Hearing from you gave my afternoon a sparkle of joyt! I am so happy also to connect. I was just thinking of you this afternoon while driving in my car, and longed to know when we would be connecting. Thank you!
    This posting of the Joy of Painful Growth, pruning and the scripture wonderful to read. It has actually been one of my prayers this summer, what came after I did feel so pruned, that my fruit was ready to ripen. So I found myself doing just this, prayer for Jesus to so ripen my fruits that I can offer.
    So much is happening. I love your topic and writing with the scripture especially that of John 15.
    I have found this is so true that the pruning does not end, even though I had transformed and was so pruned, my awareness continues to grow and peak, and grow more, learning it is a continuous journey of being pruned, maybe more delicate than other plants or seasons where needed hardest of pruning,for more painful growths.
    through an old Christian friend and an exchange we had, I realized that sometimes there is lack of others self reflection being that issues can overshadow and infer our Lord’s word. It is an area I am not clear, although I did feel that there were some things I have understood differently than she expressed and saying she was a disciple yet it was that which came from jealousy and pain on her part toward me, it complicated, but I saw this happen twice. She suddenly lectured me from a place I realized was envy. Each time I was very excited about a positive door opening in my new life,and she had not been encouraging or supportive .She has a narcisitic tendancy that puts down all my resources but claims she is the only resource that understands our Lord’s word. It merely she has not grown in maturity somehow I discovered. I was surprised as she had begun to say that she is a Christian longer than me, and she is more knowledgeable of God’s word, yet she was showing me her own personal issues surfacing that are not as aware of self as I am, and have grown in such huge ways this way, and through how “she” inferred His word, more because of this lack of growth, and I found her distortion were not healthy and valid of our Lord’s truth of His word and image, nor of my learning. What I saw her believing is not what I have learned of His truth at all. yet she was lecturing to me. and would not hear me. There was also what I saw as very little understanding of who I am and where I have had trials by her not being sensitive to what she offered as a lecture of I could not receive true joy as she compared me to Joel Olsten who I do not believe as she says that he is “not glorying God”.. yes we are all sinners, but also we are not to compare but to encourage each other beyond these issues to the “very truth of Christ”, and to imitate him through His word, yet her timing of how she insisted that this is a world of suffering not the joy of where my life was opening that God did provide me and to my belief for His will for His glory . My first reaction was to encourage her,to see it was her pain speaking, and jealousy, but she resisted my approach. I continue pray for her, but I had to also make a choice to step forward into my new life. God will make good of this or He wont and I have learned as you stated there are many non Christians that will not accept the new me, and what I am finding there are a lot of people referring to themselves as Christians and perhaps have not been truly saved as they believe or perhaps it is a different season like for this old friend ,a process of renewed pruning? I am uncertain?
    My new Church Pastor sermon spoke of being redeemed, and what that looks like, and honestly for the first time I was so validated that which I have gone through over the past 4-5 years was all about submitting fully to our Lord Christ Jesus and ,seeing,knowing, receiving HIm and accepting Him, looking back how I did put my whole self at His feet to redeem myself. tears painful awarenesses,truths and His word, being obedient and forgiveness etc and I know I am not perfect and continue prune, as I learn scripture myself, and what He wants of me, but to know thy self so fully and openly for me was only way to do this, be saved. and by what my Pastor described is exactly how I have believed in my own journey. If someone has not fully submitted his faults,weaknesses and still resists these truths fully outward of him/her self, not of self reflection and willingly lay all out to God ,as He already knows by His design and then to be forgiven then, is he/she saved? I am not to be the judge, I simply continue pray for wisdom and if God wanted to use me I was not yet clear, although sometimes when we step back from these situations or others, it is God working while we are apart even if permanent distance because of lack of self awareness on ones part conflicting with God’s truth. and ultimately distortion not healthful or willing to be open to change
    My new Church seems to mimic my learning through your sharing with me over years now, through your blog, wisdom of scripture and encouragement, and taking with me a foundation of my own understanding of scripture into my new life in a local Church. I am finding I fit into my Church and this Church family like a glove that finally fits. My new Pastor even telephoned me today personally and left voicemail he would like to connect to learn more about me and go over my interests noted on a visitor to become new member form, and answer any questions about the Church I may have. I was delighted. Those I have connected with in my community outside of this Church as if we were similar people of compassion and good hearted people like the woman who invited me to visit, this being her Church for many years, well the others I had connected outside this Church in similar way I see are members! lol. It is all God’s work to bring me where I am so comfortable and know that others of this new Church family are of this sensitive and caring aspect . I am very pleased.
    I have continued to say prayer for your healing from surgery, and whatever surgery that there was a miracle for you and have all healed to bring you peace. I continue send Blessings and prayer each day.
    I have so much more share. gosh. The attorney sent his contracter who I will hire, another very sensitive kind and most thorough and honest individual this contracter is, and he came out to take photos of improper flashing as the roofer is the one case that will go to court and a jury. When he took some shingles up, unfortunately the old caulking came off so my roof leaked so bad this weekend in terribly heavy downpours, so kindly this contracter did show up today to re caulk and caulk as much and heavily more so it not leak until he does the repair of roof, which will be soon, yeaa! With this rain penetration, I had just relieved my house of the terrible mold odor, not sure how but it was not strong in house for a few months now. With this new penetration of water I have hardest time that the mold odor may become toxic again. So I am praying and I ask for prayer God miraculously relieve me of the odor of toxic mold and that the repair come of God will to remedy this longended problem.
    The other cases one of Termite Co settled, but there is a release that I am uncomfortable signing so I have not signed check that is not a large amount money although I am grateful for any money toward this bad bathroom floor. I need be sure that this release document is in my favor for the repairs not made and no knowing if termites or any other molds or damages until torn out, so I am awaiting attorney on this.The temite co insurance co wanted me to sign release of any further action or liability of this issue.
    In meantime I have another attorney that accepted to help me with a negotiation with seller attorney . I had filed on my own a complaint toward seller and I did not intend have an attorney and the attorney I did have did not really want that case, so the attorney who had done personal document for me in past is negotiating for me so this case will not go to court either but settle. Again it is a small amount of money I will have but I am grateful because if go to court , costs of bringing in witnesses etc, there is more money put out that I do not have and essentially in end with these costs of going to court even accruing it may end up the same smaller amount in end after all deducted. So after attorney charge for only this seller complaint I may be looking at 2000.00 toward the damages. I have to be grateful. Overall adding all up eventually when settled it will probably be 11,000- plus whatever court jury and judge decide in roofer case, can go up to 7500.00 additional monies toward all repairs. and this I am grateful for it will repair all that was not disclosed upon sale. It does not cover professional mold removal but I am hearing various claims this may not be necessary as mold experts that do testing and provide remedy are not honest in that charge lots money and may not be necessary, so I am in process doing my homework as I do not have the 12,000 additional beyond repairs for mold remediation quoted me.
    If I was used to not let someone get away with anything, if God chose me to be the honest individual I am and to pursue as I believe He did, then I have done His work to say no this was not okay what condition of house you sold me and knowingly so, then in end I am at peace within knowing this was for God’s glory over all.
    I have two programs I mentioned to you that are going well. opening new doors for me of awareness and development to serve as goal. I know this note already so long, and I will share more at a later time for easier for your reading .
    It iswonderful to connect with you also and I am so happy this worked out because I truly missed our friendship.
    Take good care while I know you must be healing still from recent surgery, I will continue keep you in my prayers, a warm blanket of love may you feel around your shoulders of Christ arms delivering a great big hug like that soft blanket wrapped around your shoulders that you always shared for me, of His love and comfort and peace and rest.
    WIth love and care

    • Lee,
      What a fabulous update.
      For starters, I believe your assessment of this other ‘Christian’ woman is very good. There are many ‘toxic’ people in and out of churches; some who choose to grow and those who believe they need no growth which is crazy because we know we are all sinners. Your choice to remove yourself from her influence is very wise. Toxic people spread toxicity just as mold spreads through the house. What we put into our minds and who we allow into our hearts must be devoted to Christ first; their behaviors often are the most telling piece. I’m not saying we remove ourselves from society; I am saying we choose to allow those who are on the path of growth in Christ much closer than those who are not. Praying for wisdom here is so important. You clearly understand this and do this practice with huge devotion.
      The house stuff….I don’t know the rules and laws of your state or county, but I encourage you to look them up. Reason being, a valid complaint made to the attorney general or to the Ombudsman (sp) gov. organization will often include paid attorneys in a person’s defense. Again, you are so wise in not signing until you have FULL disclosure about what you receive; I will pray you are given direction in where to find help for this. I’m so sorry about the rain and more mold. You are EXACTLY right…we were told the same about the cost of mold companies. There are essentially three or four very toxic molds; but they often charge an enormous amount of money saying they have to test for all molds. Well, if they were all toxic, I understand. But they aren’t so your caution is wise. I’m very thankful you had someone come to the house and help repair or at least reduce the amount of water into the house. I have to say, your patience and endurance in it all is astounding. You have endured so much-if you write it down, you will see how much you have grown. Living in such discomfort, the passing of your father, reunification with family members, new church, new friends, neighbors, and pastor….OH MY GOSH…God has led you through some of life’s darkest, deepest valley’s and been faithful to keep you protected. Not always comfortable; but we are not promised physical comfort on this side of heaven. We are promised God’s comfort when we are uncomfortable and hurting; we often forget most in scripture lived in extremely uncomfortable physical circumstances. I will pray these things are resolved honestly. Keep in mind, our judicial system is also extremely flawed so it may not be a just settlement here on earth; God will bring all to justice as He sees fit. So, in due time, you will be honored by our God for your patience, endurance, and character growth.
      It is an honor to know you and call you my friend…thanks for the update. Stay at it girl, GREAT days are ahead. Colleen

      • Thank you so much for your kind thoughts! always encouraging and inspiring to read through and often more than once I come back to read. Thank you for supporting me in so many areas all at once! I am grateful. Reading your thoughts are always filled with His love to strengthen me. I have not yet learned of an option for the release document that I had not signed. I heard from another attorney that it is standard when settlement out of court to sign a release of any further liability . I just am not comfortable and cannot be forced to sign something I am this uncomfortable .esp the bathroom floor into kitchen as old termite track there is no knowing if it active or inactive? so I have many legitimate concerns in signing with not having had the repairs completed , even for potential other toxic molds and extent of damages not known yet without repairs made. I will let you know when I learn more .
        I have another note to my attorney who has this complaint to see what other options, if he is able to negotiate some of these clauses of release document for me?
        and yes not always comfortable through this journey, pretty incredible, most would not know what to do with some of what I have experienced and endured, I guess that true for most of us and what we have endured being so personal and all different circumstances yet same need for Hope ,encouragement and inspiration through our Lord’s insight and wisdom coming through others that have been through the darkness and understand what and is the only way to get through, focus on our Lord. It was you that has been always consistent in this clear message and learning for me and how remarkably valuable it truly is to have someone show this light of HOPE.
        Thank you for the beautiful and meaningful insightful thoughts from the heart that truly nurture my soul.
        With loving care,

      • Colleen you are so treasured, I had time to come back and read again.Thank YOU again for your caring and kind thoughts. It is an enormous appreciation and I am going to do that, write all down in a journal. Thank you for the prayers too with my house/physical space. Interesting with that said that most of scripture did not have the comfort of living circumstances. isn’t it amazing how all scripture tells us everything like a road map that never changes with God and living documented so long ago, good reason clearly know and follow.
        This is from my introduction to my new Church speaking to my Pastor; the Great Commandment and the Great Commission are emphasized of being the Church peoples purpose, To experience life together by loving God, loving others and serving the world through fulfilling the Great Commandment and the Great Commission (Northside purpose)and I found this definition below as I grow, and similar to how the Pastor has spoken throughout sermons and Bible study, etc., 365 days a year. Christ first.
        ( Loving God is an all-in deal giving my heart (emotions), my soul (spiritual), my mind (intellect) and my strength (body). What’s my motivation? (Lamb: The Greatest Commandment and the Great Commission)
        This is so much of how I have been growing to live every moment of my life, as you have shared this journey with me, and now new awareness and understanding as I explore the meaning through scripture of The Greatest Commandment and The Greatest Commission ; that which validates another way where I have come to this point of growth, and as I learn and will grow more from here.
        I share too because so much what we have spoken of with regard to those we allow into our hearts being Christ first.
        So much to be grateful for ,and thankful to have connected with you of so much today.
        With loving care,

        • Lee,
          I see you have sent a couple notes so I won’t be long here but I did want to say how excited I am that you have found a church that is filling your soul. You will thoroughly thrive; they will be blessed to have you! Can’t wait to see what God has in store for you! Much love and warmth, Colleen

  2. I came back with an urge from God to check back as if I heard to take a look again, finding of your Dad being the author of this article, so great is clearly how father is like his daughter/ daughter is like her father with biblical insight and wisdom and expression as teacher and writer. Thanking your Dad!

      • Colleen, I am glad that I shared my thoughts. and yes that is pretty great! I am honored if even a slight fraction of HIs work comes through me, completely grateful this thought and how God is shaping me such ways to touch others lives too is a great gift .
        I love your quote this morning, “God shapes each person uniquely for a purpose we cannot see in the dark” Colleen Swindoll Thompson 7/20/2017, and becoming a light of HOPE to impact another life in change and inspiration and fulfillment.
        I so want to be Hope for a sister in recent way, my middle sister that always has been dear to me and her husband just had death of his mom. His dad died a year ago. I had visited his mom in hospice when I was visiting family, and now so many hours away I had strong sense that our Lord has chosen me to be this Hope, this light in the dark for my sister and for her husband also who have had great hardship around these deaths. I sensed that I see they need our Lord’s messenger of HOPE, for so many other reasons, one being that this is the sister that was shunned by some other siblings because she did not visit a brother in law who was dying who was a predator to us. They all went on a vacation and did not invite them, abusive emotionally. and other mean ways . One youngest brother has invited them on a trip separately with his family,and this younger brother and I have now a new relationship too that healthful and loving. I wish I knew him so much earlier in life, we are 10 years apart and so many years just not connected. And at a time he was more connected to the oldest sister negative energy, unfortunately a time it was against my not following the dysfunctional “rules” not God like rules. It is heartbreaking to see my one middle brother that I always believed supported me with this same issue happening to me, but he like your saying ” Toxic people spread toxicity just as mold spreads through the house”Colleen Swindoll 7/19/2017. the toxins of those that we need stay far away from, he with his personal anger and grieving my father death has fell into that trap of other sibling who has always carried negativity and deep denial and anger, and like mold spreads. I know this is a terrible dynamic. This is similar issue to previous discussion we have shared, my brother not Christian, where the other issue was a “Christian woman friend” .In truth as you have stated it is experienced whether Christian or non Christian, these experiences I am becoming more and more aware. It still takes me by surprise and yes I continue pray for wisdom and for our Lord surround me with those of His Love and genuine care and concern of me. I believe He has answered with my new Church. And miraculously my new Pastor spoke of a lot of this last evening, how we need stay away from sin and Satan luring us like a cat with mouse or prey, he plays with you but ultimately know the cat will take you, unless we stay away and call upon our Lord .
        I am delighted about becoming a member this next Sunday at Church service, and I have agreed what better direction than to accept a baptism next step after this Sunday. I received such Love last nite from other members at Prayer and Bible Study group led by my Pastor . He speaks of a theme of “Deadly sins, and I was not a visitor yet for one and two but I can acquire cd’s to go back and listen. Anger, jealousy are part of these deadly sins. He reads through outlined scripture as we look up throughout BIble different verses that are connected and how Satan looks for our weaknesses and rely only on our Lord for His power is far greater than our own. I am still learning so much and I have been beginning hear answers with a smoother ebb and flow, and incredibly clear about all my callings in prayer to God and wisdom, He answers in His timing and I can hear clearly when Him more often.
        With regard to my thought of visiting my sister and her husband for a service for death of his mom, God has not answered how to make this trip so close to my just being there many miles away, so I need trust that He wants me to remain still, and I spoke to my Pastor last evening about this and he agreed and commended me for patience for our Lord’s answer in this trip is stillness. He suggested sending flowers and so many ways I can inspire HOPE to them from where I am living and where God seems to want me stay still here. My Pastor spoke of Jonah and how he went somewhere other than where God truly intended but his intention was in right place to do go by God,he just traveled to wrong place.When I do make this trip again my sister and I expressed our getting together for some peaceful time around reflection of my sister’s mother in law. I did visit her mother in law in hospice and they know I was there for them at that time means so much .
        I will keep you posted on house. Thank you for your genuine care and concern . I found it so interesting that you have had the same learning of professional mold companies and this truth we now know . I learned from a mold testing co that does not do remediation, he said yes one of these molds that are toxic I do have. it is called chaetomium? I am still seeking advice as this is in kitchen and bathroom both where old moisture and water damage so I have not yet had all information what to do ? I had written to Attorney General/government and I was written reply that they cannot provide any assistance. that was when I could not find an attorney to help me. Maybe if I only write about mold? or call and discuss? I appreciate your thoughts with this.
        It is always a great pleasure, a true joy to connect with you.
        Have a truly refreshing weekend, and if still recovering from surgery and healing, I have kept in prayers and I am sending well wishes of His Love your way
        In friendship and loving care,

        • Lee,
          It is so wonderful and wise of you to say you are ‘waiting on God for an answer’ re: your sister…how mature and another revelation of your growth. Waiting for any amount of time to hear from God is cultivated discipline. You obviously have been through so much that He has developed the patience, trust, and knowledge in you so that waiting isn’t as difficult as it is for most people.
          Re: the mold…I would call and talk to someone. Get their name, position, and take notes about the call. Typically, you will be given contacts but if it can save money and help end this horrid ordeal then it’s worth it. I wouldn’t use electronic mail because that is too difficult to track. As you have done, having a paper trail with notes reveals you have done your homework and what is legally supposed to happen should be done. It may be a good idea to write your city council, the mayor, and your state representative. I learned in writing activist letter’s for Jonathan’s education, they always advised us to write directly to the top…and cc each person so everyone knows you are serious and are following up. Sign, date, and send in a certified envelop so you can track it. That way, you also know it was received. I would look up some state laws on home damage as well. When you construct the letter, it is important to know what the state is supposed to do for those in your situation. There are a ton of Government codes, laws, ordinances online; look up the codes and by-laws then state them in the letter. That way, someone knows they are accountable and you know what you are talking about. For some things, there is a time limit in which agencies are required to reply. I would state you are aware that a reply is due in _____ days and will awaiting their response. Then, if you don’t hear back, you send another letter and so on. This is a paper trail that can’t be disputed if all your documents are dated and signed, mailed certified. I hope that helps give you some direction.
          Have a splendid day and week, my friend. As always, it’s wonderful to hear from you! Colleen