I read the email a second time, just to make sure I understood. There it was, plain as day: We could not recover the files. My heart sank into my stomach.
Last October I had about one third of my book completed and then my computer crashed. We replaced the faulty drive and tried to restore my manuscript from the cloud-based backup. Nothing. Clearly I had made an error when setting up the backup files.
The next hope was sending the damaged drive to a data-recovery company. Sometime in December, I heard the final conclusion that my book was gone. It could not be retrieved off the damaged drive. All of the hard work I’d put into it could not be recovered.
When the final news came, I sat down at my desk and cried. I opened my Bible to the next chapter on my reading plan and this is what I found: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. (John 14:1, ESV)”. Of course, I cried even harder. It felt like God was reaching down from His throne on high and personally tending to my heart.
In the next chapter, God encouraged me again, “Every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. (John 15:2, ESV)” It gave me hope that the loss had purpose…that God was in it somehow.
In John 14, 15 and 16, mingled in with messages about abiding in the Vine and the Holy Spirit being our Helper, Jesus instructed His disciples to ask for whatever they wanted. Four times you read things like “ask me anything” and “ask whatever you wish.” It felt like God was nudging me to increase my faith, be bold and ask for what I wanted.
I began to pray and ask that what I wrote would draw people to God. I asked for help in re-writing the book and that the book would change people’s lives. Truth be told, I also asked for a miracle—that the files would be returned somehow—and that did not happen. But in the months that followed, God was with me. I found a rhythm and a consistent schedule to write. Between January and June I wrote the entire first draft of the book. Nearly one year after losing everything I will hold the finished product in my hands.
Pruning should not surprise us. It is a way of God. Even when I look in my yard I can see how God works.
We bought an old, neglected home several years ago and are still battling to get the yard under control. The shrubs close to the house tower over me. Bit by bit we are pruning drastically. I’m sure there is a more correct way to go about it, but when we prune, we go for it. We hack those bushes down to bare skeletons. They look like we killed them. Yet, in a couple weeks, if you look closely you can see new growth sprouting out from surprising places on the branches. In a few months, the shrubs fill out nicely. And a year later, they are already growing too tall again. In fact, science tells us that pruning makes plants healthier by building stronger root systems among other benefits.
If God wove this concept into His creation, and then He tells us about it in the Gospel of John, we can bet that He will prune in our lives as well. When God trims back our lives in some way, it should encourage us that He is paying attention; He sees the fruit in our lives and is partnering with us to bring about an increase of fruit in the future.
Wherever you are in the pruning process, I hope that you will “Let not your heart be troubled.” The surest way to ruin a good pruning is to languor in anger and hopelessness at the loss. Instead, “Believe in God.” He is good and He is at work on your behalf. If you can have faith in the middle of pruning pain and trust Jesus—abiding with Him and leaning into Him, your new growth will be evident soon. In time, there will be even more fruit than there was before.