There are moments in our lives that will make us seriously question whether or not we missed the mark with something.
Isn’t it funny how we find security in certain things that are more about culture than they are about our character?
We find safety in always having the same routine, the same rituals, the same way of putting on our socks in the morning and that’s if we sleep with our socks off – which some people feel don’t feel safe to even sleep with their socks off at night.
So many of us seek safety and that special formula to bring us into a deeper connection with God, or to enter into the “presence” of The Holy Spirit.
But there is no formula.
I could choose to believe the idea that homeschooling my children is the ultimate guarantee that they will grow up to be the most God-fearing humans beings that walked the face of the earth.
Truth be told, I do want my children to live their lives for Christ. But the older they get the more I realize that is their choice, not mine.
I know that my children love the Lord, I also know that this world can be a very tempting place for them, as it is for everyone.
But I also know the heart of my children, and I also know that growth & maturity is difficult. We stick to those routines, rituals, and habits because it’s comfortable and because growth hurts.
It hurts to learn how to forgive people, or how to respect someone you do not trust.
It hurts to leave churches, classrooms, or friendships that aren’t the best for you or the ones that you love.
It hurts to leave a career that offers you security in order to pursue a calling that you feel God has placed on your life.It hurts to step out in faith when nobody believes in you, and you have to believe in yourself.
All of these things cause doubt, and create a sting in our heart that can’t be explained. The growth is like a wound being split opened and being mended again, hopefully in the end everything will be that much stronger.
Here are three practical ways we can work through the pain of growing and maturing spiritually (this is not a formula, just advice):
1. Pray. Today, I remembered all the growth my family had been in over the past 18 years. My wedding anniversary is on Sunday, and my husband and I will be celebrating our 14 years of being married. That alone makes me remember what we’ve been through as a couple, and although nothing about our marriage is perfect, we are definitely not in the place that we used to be and for that I am thankful. I seriously can only attribute that growth to prayer.
Sometimes we need to remember the prayers that God has answered in order to trust that He hears our prayers right now. So many things will threaten to shake our faith in God, but if we are going to pray to Him then we need to believe in Him. Right now my prayers will consist of a a lot of repentance and asking of forgiveness. I am not sure we do this enough during our prayer time with God. Maybe if we did then we would feel less entitled and more strengthened.
2. Realize there is no formula, and a bad (or good) season is not a reflection of God’s love for you. How many times have we felt so defeated because we felt like God was disappointed in us? I mean truly, why is life so hard sometimes? It must mean that God doesn’t love us anymore, right?
I hope I am not the only who has sat down with my journal and poured out these very raw fears with God. I think if you’ve ever lost anything that meant a whole lot to you then you would understand where I am coming from here. So many of us are afraid that if we deviate away from the formula then we will lose something very near and dear to our heart, God’s love for us. I think this is a valid concern because God disciplines His children. Not to mention the book of Job puts that healthy fear right into our heart by default in chapter number 1! God’s love for us is truly based off of what He did for us through Jesus, and that will never change. We stick to the formulas because maybe deep down inside we feel this is what is pleasing to God.
But the more we dive into our relationship with God we will not only experience His discipline, which if you ask me has always lead me away from finding security in a formula and has always drawn me into a deeper relationship with Him and although it has been painful it has always been rewarding, but we will also experience His grace. A lot of times we want to control the situations in our lives so the formulas help us to control our relationship with God. It sets up this boundary that says: If anyone crosses this line then they are wrong and I am right. Which very well may be the case, but just because someone crosses that line doesn’t mean that God loves you more, or that they are inferior compared to you. The purpose of discipline and grace is this: to draw you closer to God, and to learn how to extend love to everyone, especially your enemies. This will make the pains of spiritual growth a little less overwhelming and a lot more life giving.
3. Expand your horizons and try new things. Today is ash Wednesday and I am actually thinking about going to a service tonight, and it will be a first for me. I am also seriously considering attending Bible College from a denomination that I am not affiliated with, but it is open to everyone who is a Christian. These things are truly me expanding my horizons and trying new things.
Spiritual pride is a real thing, and a lot of times our faith is rooted in what church we attend, which denomination is more like the church of acts — basically what we are wondering is who is going to make into the wedding feast, and who is going to get kicked out into eternal darkness because they were trying to trick God and they didn’t have the appropriate wedding clothes on. I get it, it’s a scary thing, we all want to please God.
I think that is a great start, wanting to please God.
The problem with pride, and even spiritual pride, is that we are blind to our flaws and our own sin. The scariest thing about pride is that we leave very little room for God to step in and to intervene because our spirits are not poor, but instead we think we have it all figured out.
I also know there needs to be spiritual accountability, not everyone or every teaching comes from the God’s heart and His word. Deepening our relationship with God, and maybe even breaking free from our pride will actually help to grow our discernment in this area. I do expand my horizons and try new things, but I do not avoid questions and testing everything against God’s Word.
My faith is not rooted in the denomination I am affiliated with, or if I do not have a denomination at all.
My faith is rooted in Jesus Christ, my savior.
My faith is tested, expanded, and multiplied by what I believe and how I live my life for Christ.
I see flaws and strengths in every area of the church. If we expand our horizons and try new things then maybe we will break that bit of pride that says we have it all figured out and thank goodness we “don’t sin like those people.” Instead we can approach the throne of grace and realize that we are sinners, just like everyone else, and we will have the humility to ask God to have mercy on us and to please SHOW US THE WAY!
I know this sure looks like a formula in order to get out of finding security in formulas. But the truth of the matter is this: it takes a lot of faith and trust in God in order to walk these three things out in our life. We often think our life of pride takes a lot of faith, but it doesn’t. We might think that our rituals and formulas takes faith, but truly in order for anything to work in our relationship with God then we will need to have faith and believe in Him.
Growing and maturing spiritually is difficult. It truly requires giving up so much control, and I will be completely honest with you, I am not one to give up control very easily. But I do have people to encourage me and to model for me what a life of giving up control looks like, and what it means to walk in faith. I am so very thankful for that.
Jesus is my favorite. I hope He is your favorite, too. He always walked in faith, prayed, and did so many things differently. It took a lot for Him to give up control when he GAVE His life, nobody took it from Him.
Here is a little secret about giving up control, it’s a choice we have to make. Nobody can take it from us. I guess if we look at it like this then we will realize we do have a choice, we do have control, and some of us choose to let it go.
Our faith begins with what we know and believe about God. Our faith will carry us how far we are willing to let it take us. Faith is a choice and we need to begin by choosing to believe in Jesus and His power to move mountains, heal the sick, and save us from all our sins through His sacrifice on the cross.