I recently had the opportunity to sit in on a lesson with beloved teacher and author Beth Moore as part of my friend Ainsley Earhardt’s Bible study. Beth centered her lesson on themes from her new book, “Chasing Vines,” which focuses on Jesus’ message of “The Vine and the Branches” in John 15.
While reading through the passage, Moore paused on the fifth verse, where Jesus states, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” She asked our group to stop and truly consider what Jesus was saying and pointed out that if we take His statement that “apart from Him we can do nothing” at face value, it doesn’t fully make sense. “After all,” she said, “there have been many people over the course of history who have achieved great things who were not believers, so how does this make sense?”
But, she highlighted, what Jesus is actually talking about here is whether or not someone can produce spiritual fruit. Unless someone has a relationship with Jesus and “abides” in Him, they have no chance of producing anything that God will see as truly good, no matter how talented they are or how hard they work.
I was deeply moved by Beth’s keen insight into this verse, but what struck me, even more, was her direction for us to actively pause and ask this question. As Christians, we are taught that the Bible is the living Word of God, meant to instruct us — but I think it can be tempting for many of us to skim over things in Scripture that don’t quite make sense to us initially.
I know I’ve done this before, and part of my hesitation to stop and question these things was guilt. I’d tell myself I was somehow questioning God’s authority if I didn’t fully understand or believe what I was reading. Beth’s lesson was a reassuring reminder of God’s character. He does not easily anger and actually encourages us to seek answers for the things that don’t make sense to us: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).
We are all being reminded in this season of confusion and anxiety brought on by the coronavirus that the Bible isn’t the only place where we might question God and His plans. It’s been devastating to see the lives taken, jobs upended and financial chaos caused by this virus. We want to find hope in this seemingly hopeless situation, but it’s hard to make sense of any of it.
In the midst of our confusion, let’s not be afraid to go to God and ask Him the questions burning on our hearts and keeping us awake at night. Rather than looking outward, seeking comfort or affirmation from the world and allowing our emotions to be driven by what we see and hear, let’s quietly pull our focus upward to the Creator.
It’s OK if you don’t feel hope. God would much rather you admit that to Him and seek His wisdom than ignore those feelings and miss out on an opportunity for Him to grow your faith. We can look to King David’s conversations with God in the Book of Psalms as an example of this type of prayer.
In Chapter 13, David asks God, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death” (Psalm 13:2-3). Though these lines show David clearly felt anxiety and confusion, just a few verses later he would go on to praise God, saying, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me” (Psalm 13:5-6).
David’s prayer is a perfect example of the freedom God gives us in our conversations with Him. God didn’t strike David down for expressing His frustration and fears. In fact, He actually comforted David in real-time, which we can see by David’s expressions of gratitude toward the end of his prayer. Let’s be encouraged to be as honest and real with God as we are with our friends and family. Despite what we may feel, He understands our needs more than anyone else.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).