As a culture, we idolize goals, achievement, and personal development. We want to exercise more, eat better, organize our house Marie Kondo style, and tie up every other loose end of our life. I’ll be the first to admit that I am a perfectionist, and any way to “get my life together” usually grabs my attention. If I could just be more organized, disciplined, and one size smaller, then everything will fall into place, right? Unfortunately, no.
But Emma, isn’t growth a good thing?
Absolutely. But if we are to live our lives with Jesus as an example, we can’t ignore the fact that He prioritizes spiritual growth over everything else – even food and physical healing at times. Growth with God does not usually look like the “7 Ways to Instantly Make Your Life Better” articles that you see floating around. In fact, God’s growth often looks VERY different.
We see in the Bible that growth can be unorthodox, but it all boils down to the same thing – God wants close relationship and deep dependence from his people. So, here are some things to remember about the way God grows us spiritually:
It takes time
Waiting is one of our culture’s least favorite activities, but the Bible is saturated with moments – even decades – where people are called to wait. Maturity takes time, and God wants to strengthen and prepare us for the things that He calls us to.
Abraham was 100 years old when he finally had the son he and Sarah prayed for.
Moses lived as a shepherd for 40 years before God called him to go back to Egypt, and then spent another 40 years leading the Israelites to the promised land.
Joseph lived in Egypt for 22 years before seeing his brothers again.
Jesus waited 30 years before beginning his ministry.
It’s easy to want instant change, but don’t mistake the waiting periods for wasted time. They are beautiful opportunities to draw closer to our savior. It is in these waiting periods that God gives purpose, clarity, and direction to our future callings. Our daily decision to seek Him over and over again, even when things are quiet and seemingly dull, are what deepen our faith.
Your perspective might change, instead of your circumstances
This is a hard one for me to swallow, because there are circumstances in my life that still haven’t changed after three years. I’ve agonized and prayed, and still nothing. As much as I would love for these things to change, I realize that God’s answer of “not right now” is for a reason, and I struggle to remind myself of that every day. In fact, the thing that has been changing more than anything is my perspective of the situation, not the situation itself.
In Philippians, Paul writes:
For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content, I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Paul doesn’t mention anything about his circumstances changing. Instead, he focuses on the fact that God is with him and able to provide what he needs in each chapter of his life. His perspective, and therefore his need, has been drastically changed by Christ. This may not be the answer we always want to hear, but God’s priority is the posture of our hearts.
It’s not always about you
When imprisoned in Philippi, Paul and Silas’s chains were broken during a large earthquake. The doors opened. The guard was asleep. This could have been seen as an answer to prayer – God has freed them! What a miracle!
But Paul and Silas stayed. When the guard woke up and saw that the doors were opened, he was distraught. He was preparing to kill himself when Paul and Silas said, “Don’t! We’re all here!” Amazed, the guard went to them and said, “How can I be saved?”
Sometimes God chooses to strengthen our faith by working through us, but we have to be willing to let Him. Paul and Silas weren’t preaching the gospel at that moment, but they had been worshiping and spending time in communion with God. By the time the earthquake hit and their chains were broken, they knew that this wasn’t a rescue mission. They might not have known that God’s plan involved saving the guard and his whole family, but they did seem to understand that it wasn’t just for them.
As tempting as it is for me to want to make certain aspects of my life instantly better, I’ve been learning that God wants to grow us in his own way.
Sometimes that means waiting for an answer or a change.
Sometimes it means being willing to listen and respond to His quiet voice.
It doesn’t involve losing weight, having an organized house, or being perfect (instantly or otherwise).
It always involves being closer and more dependent on our Savior, who loves us unconditionally as we are.
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Emma recently completed her master's in psychology, where she researched the effects of exercise on body image. She has since become an advocate for the importance of balance between mental and physical health, and is delighted to be a part of a team that takes Biblical and spiritual approach to eating and exercise. Emma is currently working for a behavioral team that works with developmentally disabled adults.