When Your Way Isn't Working
I want to highlight one verse—John 15:5—as we begin our journey of discovering what to do when your way isn’t working. We will walk through the context of John 15:5 in later chapters, but for now we’ll let it stand on its own:
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.
The phrase can do nothing captures the exasperation of your way that isn’t working. You feel like you’ve put in the work but you’re not getting the results. Despite your good intentions and maybe even your disciplined routines, you’re not seeing the gains. There are other ways to translate “can do nothing.” You might say, “Nothing seems to be working” or “I can’t catch a break” or “The deck’s stacked against me” or “What’s the point?” or “I’ve tried everything.”
When nothing you do is working, Jesus gives a metaphor to help you know what to focus on, and it all comes down to one word: connection. Jesus says he is the vine and we are the branches, and as long as we stay connected with him, we will bear much fruit, but apart from him nothing works the way it should.
The word that keeps showing up as Jesus unpacks this metaphor is remain. The English Standard Version translates the Greek word meno here as “abide.” It shows up eleven times in John 15:1–15. In his final moments, Jesus tells his followers again and again to stay connected with him. No matter what happens in the future, no matter how discouraged you become, no matter how disappointed you are, no matter how frustrating the situation is, no matter how tired you feel, no matter what trouble you experience, here’s the one thing you must never forget to do: stay connected.
When your way isn’t working, check your connection with the Vine. You are the branch, and the branch’s most important job is to stay connected with the Vine.
Idleman, Kyle. 2023. When Your Way Isn’t Working: Finding Purpose and Contentment through Deep Connection with Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.