A person who struggles with depression struggles to find joy in life. It is as though life is seen through gray fog. Even events intended to be celebratory barely register happiness with them. One of the most important things for a person living with feelings of sorrow to remember is that joy doesn’t come from our circumstances. Our greatest joy is found in Christ alone. This is the secret to happiness in life. Jesus wanted to help the disciples understand this before he went to the cross, and like everything else in the Bible, it is meant to encourage us too.
In John 15, Jesus is speaking to His disciples. He gives them a beautiful message of comfort, love, hope, and assurance. This passage follows John 14, where he has just told them that He is going away (which they don’t understand) and that He will send the Holy Spirit to guide them in truth. Jesus assures them that they will continue to grow and change in the absence of His physical presence. He uses the illustration of the vine and the branches.
“He cuts oﬀ every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the ﬁre and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:1-13 (NIV)
The correct understanding of this passage requires a little teaching, for on the surface, it can appear confusing. Once understood, this passage brings tremendous hope! Bear with me as I explain.
Jesus is the true vine, and the Father is the gardener in this passage. Two types of branches are described—branches that bear fruit and those that do not. The branches that do not bear fruit represent people who profess to believe, but their lack of fruit reveals that genuine salvation has not taken place, because there is no life in the branch. The dead branches will be gathered up by the gardener and thrown into the ﬁre (indicating future judgment) to make way for the living branches to be clearly revealed.
The gardener prunes the living branches to enable them to bear greater fruit. The pruning process is a cutting away of things that would cause the branch to bear small, poor-quality fruit. (We could personalize the pruned branches as the sin issues that have been discussed throughout this book.) This time of discouragement and depression in your life is a pruning season. The purpose for the pruning is that God intends to produce more and better fruit in you.
We are then told, “Remain in me and I will remain in you.” The word abide is used in some translations and means to remain. The remaining is evidence of genuine salvation.
The life of the branch is hidden in the attachment to the vine, and fruit is produced as a direct result. Only the branches attached to the vine will bear fruit.
Here is the application: You are the branch and you will always be attached to the vine. Your life in Christ is secure and your salvation is secure. You cannot be detached from the vine for that would mean that you could by an act of your will undo what Christ has done for you in the act of saving you. Because you are eternally attached to the vine you will produce good fruit. The Lord Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit will reveal His life in you by the fruit you produce. The good news is that the work of fruit production is God’s. It is not gained by your straining and striving.
We cannot produce genuine fruit apart from the working of the Holy Spirit. The fruit produced by human eﬀort, while resembling the fruit of the Spirit, is counterfeit.
The fruit of the Spirit in the life of a depressed person can become peace, endurance, hope, joy, love, humility and meekness, and more!