When we were in Italy recently, we saw a lot of beautiful grape vines growing in the Tuscan region. We viewed vines gracing the hills, standing tall in neat rows beside the road, and hanging beautifully overhead on trellises.

I was completely blown away with what we learned about Sangiovese grapes. Depending on the region where they grow, they make up either Chianti wines, Brunello Wines, and even a few other wines. We learned specifically that Brunello wines come from grapes grown on Tuscan hills in the small town of Montalcino in soil composed of rocks. Not only did they grow in rocks, but they cannot be artificially irrigated and are dependent on nature for their sustenance.

Brunello wines are made from grapes growing halfway up a hill in a soil of pebbles. The Reserve is made by grapes growing on the top of the hill in more solid shale rock which produce better grapes. Say what? These vines must suffer and struggle and dig their roots deeper to receive the nourishment they need and thus produce better grapes. These are used in the Reserve and then they are aged in barrels for five years. There seems nothing quick nor easy about becoming a Brunello Reserve wine.

Wow! I immediately wondered if the same is true for us. Is it our struggles and suffering in life that help produce more abundant fruit in our lives? Are we strengthened in our struggles? Do we dig our roots deeper into His Word and trust more in God’s strength to help us through our tough times, thus becoming stronger in Him?

I began wondering what would happen if we never had struggles? Would we not need God? Would we feel self-sufficient in our own abilities? Would we be able to produce anything on our own that could be used by God? To bless others? To draw other’s close to Jesus? I doubt it.

In one venue, we noticed vines growing on a trellis overhead. They made for nice decorations and the waiter told us those grapes were fine to eat but that they did not ferment well, so they weren’t used to make wine. Those poor grapes were destined to be mere decorations. I wondered if they grew in a fertile soil where they didn’t have to work so hard to produce grapes, so the grapes weren’t as good nor useful.

Now I’m not one to ask for hard times, to long for struggles, or hope to suffer. No thank you. Nor do I believe that is scriptural. But I truly believe God can use our struggles to shape us into the equivalent of better grapes. Jesus said that we would have troubles and that He would help us through them. He even referred to Himself as the Vine and invited us to cling to him. Isn’t that comforting?

We are the mere branches that cannot possibly produce fruit apart from the vine. We are to dig our roots deep down into the foundation of Christ for strength and nourishment to produce fruit that can be used by Him. When struggles come, and they will, we must cling to Him tighter, dig our roots deeper into scripture, and trust in Him more. Perhaps that is when fruit is being produced in us that can be used for His Kingdom, and not just for decoration. And perhaps it takes time for our fruit to ripen. Just like the Brunello wine ages for five years in a barrel, our fruit may be maturing within us before it can be used for God’s purposes and glory.

I don’t want to be a vine used simply for decoration in God’s kingdom. I don’t want to just take up space. I long to produce fruit that can be used for His glory, whatever that might be. How about you?

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

“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. John 15:5

Disclosure – This blog is not to encourage wine consumption nor promote wine in anyway. It was simply an example of growing to become the person God wants us to be.