In order to grow, one of the most important lessons that we can invest time in learning is how to sit calmly and wait in our discomfort. This is a temporary task, but not an easy one. We are not in control of the timeframe. But God is.
The most fertile ground for growth in our life, spiritually and emotionally, is during our times of uncertainty. The moment of perfect certainty for any decision or choice we are faced with, NEVER comes. But, hindsight is 20/20.
When we are in school as children, we received our lessons and then we were given the test. That's not so much the way it works in our adult worlds. We typically are faced with the test, and then we get the lesson.
God, not principles, doctrines, habits or routines is our greatest Source of Life and Love. His plan is for true connection and deep relationships. The determining factors of true connectedness are genuine, healthy relatedness, the ability to be vulnerable and having close relationships where we are not ashamed of being who we truly are. To grow we need to be in relationship with God and with safe people we can trust, whose character we know to be reliable.
Many of our struggles can stem from trying to control things outside of our control. When we focus on this effort, we often lose control of ourselves. God is in control of the big picture … we are to maintain self-control of our own lives and what He has given to us.
Praying the Serenity Prayer helps us regain control of our lives. "God grant me the Serenity to accept what I cannot change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference".
The Fall reversed God's order of things, leaving us looking to become independent from God, our Source:
~A desire to be like God.
~A desire to gain life outside of relationship with God.
~An assumption that wisdom and knowledge could be gained apart from God, the True Source.
~A step away from the role of dependence on God.
In addition to becoming independent of God, Adam & Eve lost their relationship with Him and with each other. Death meant separation from Him, who is Life! They entered a state of becoming enemies of God and lost their intimacy and vulnerability with each other … naked & ashamed.
The impact on us personally is that love became much harder to find and even harder to sustain.
Thankfully, God, in Christ, offers reconciliation for all things. This happens in every one who applies it to their life. The process of growth itself is the returning of everything to it’s rightful and righteous place before God. Solving life’s problems and growing spiritually are one and the same thing! In redemption, we come back to God as the Source of Life.
We seek Him first. He is the One who adds life. We come back to full dependence on God alone. He is the Source of healing and growth. Redemption helps us get to the end or our attempt to provide for ourselves, and turn our full focus to God for strength, truth, healing, care, correction, etc.
To return to the created order means to get back into relationship with God and with each other. Everything in life depends on loving God and loving others. Redemption reconciles us into right relationship with God by faith and forgiveness, and re-establishes connection. Secondly, redemption reverses our alienation and isolation from each other and get us rightly connected. It is a surrender to God as Lord in every area of our life.
As we grow spiritually by deepening our intimacy with God and being in true connection to others who are safe for us, we cease making destructive choices, and begin to do things that lead to a better life. We give up control, initiate self-control and allow others to be who they were meant to be.
In essence, we stop making up our own rules and live the life God has designed us to live.
Our expectations can cause us to hold rigid standards in how we judge others, as opposed to offering them the grace that we all receive by surrendering our will to God. When we focus on the faults of others and not on their hearts, we lose out on learning their fears, vulnerabilities and the things they are passionate about.
When we hold space for others, we provide a safe place where’s there’s enough grace to open up and bring things into the light where they can be healed. When we act in a way that displeases God, He doesn’t condemn, He connects with our heart, and offers us grace.
As we discover and acknowlege that God is for us and not against us, we can grow because we are able to shift from a natural human view of God to a real, Biblical view of God. We shift from seeing a God of Law to a God of Grace. We are then able to see Him as One who loves us and not someone we need to avoid when we fail.
Once our view of God shifts, we can learn to love as He has loved us. We are able to offer grace as well as lovingly confront when needed. We can accept responsibility for our lives and choices and allow others to do the same. We practice self-control and not other-control. This enables us to become safe people who have a strong connection to God as well as healthy boundaries to receive what is good and to eliminate what is bad in our lives.
We demonstrate that we are a safe person for others by respecting their boundaries, as well as allowing them to bear the consequences of their choices. Most of the process involves learning to become aware, responsive and dependent on Jesus on a daily basis… thus being built up in the faith.
One way to bear the necessary pain of growth is to be humble. We then become willing to allow something uncomfortable to happen to us, if it’s the right thing to do. To be comforted, understood and strengthened, we need God and others in our life. Jesus modeled dependence on God and on His inner circle. When Jesus was hurt by others, he didn’t focus on the injurer, giving control of His life to them. He didn’t allow His hurts to alter His direction or values in life.
If we deny our emotional hurts, we remain injured. In painful times, the temptation comes to get our needs met in ways other than what is God’s best for us.
Our desire to grow or change is initiated by God. Growth begins in a secure relationship and in alignment with God. The Holy Spirit will always be with us and will search our hearts and show us what we need to change. He will give us the ability to do the things we need to do.
The power of the Holy Spirit often draws us toward His truth, when we are facing an issue. He will often allow this 'concern' to stay with us, simply camped out in our minds, waiting for us to deal with it. This usually means doing the 'next basic right thing'. This is a time to commit to pray until we sense His gentle press in how we should move or respond. Prayer changes things, either instantly or over time.
Our most basic need in life is for relationship. Acceptance builds trust and relationship. We cannot grow unless we are sure that we are known and loved. Relationships where we receive warmth and the permission to be ourselves, allow us to become more vulnerable and bring parts of ourselves to light, that need to be connected. The connection to relationship itself fuels growth in us, because we have the support that we need.
Support enables each of us to go through our times of grief, trials, growth and a whole host of other challenges. To support others during their difficult times, we offer acceptance and grace and patiently wait as God uses us to encourage them in their walk. As we learn to trust each other, we are open to share vulnerabilities and weaknesses. We feel less empty and isolated. Confession opens the soul to being loved by others. Eventually our wings will heal and we will, once again, soar as God intended!
We all have coping mechanisms to cover pain, help us deal with fear, manage relational inabilities, and help us hold it all together. Trials and suffering push those mechanisms past the breaking point so we can find where we need to grow. Then true spiritual growth begins at deeper levels and we are healed.
Once we are moving on a path toward healing, righteousness and character take the place of coping, and the prize we win is character. We stretch to grow by pushing through fear, vulnerability and pain. We gain strength when we ask God the question, “What can I learn from this?” When we look to God for wisdom and the steps to maturity, and complete the steps we don't have to repeat the lesson.
Pain that prohibits us from healing, comes from ruminating, recounting and repeating old patterns of attempting to avoid the suffering it would take to change them. We can suffer greatly because of personal character faults. We have to avoid the enemy’s temptation to medicate the pain and continue to repeat the mistakes. While pain is inevitable, suffering is optional!
Self-medication methods such as performance, perfectionism, materialism, busyness, control, etc., deceive us into believing we can avoid suffering. However, these vices cannot carry the weight of the problems they try to mask.
Often, the underlying reasons why people demonstrate defensive character patterns such as detaching when things get heated and / or withdrawing when things get uncomfortable are because of fear or hurt. The best way to feel powerful in a relationship is to stand there and be honest.
To reach higher levels of emotional health and maturity, we have to give back better than we receive, regardless of how we are treated. We are able to choose to overcome evil with good. This is how we are saved from other people’s problems and their outcomes.
We are only as healthy as our ability to relate as God relates; He is honest, loving, forgiving, communicates well and is able to be vulnerable, real and transparent. He confronts hurtful behavior in loving ways when necessary, and allows for consequences so lasting change can occur.
Grief is God’s cure for what is not right and it is the toughest pain we have to deal with. Grief does not 'happen' to us, we must enter into it. It is the one type of pain that heals all the others. Grief is our lament (prayer expressing sorrow, pain or confusion), for what we have lost and it allows us to mourn so we can be restored and comforted when things have gone wrong.
Grief is God’s way of us getting finished with the bad stuff of life. It is the process by which we get over it, and are able to let it go. The soul is freed from painful experiences and released for new and better experiences.
Allow yourself to cry it out and it will get out and be over! And, consider journaling your thoughts... at least, the ones that open you up to hope, heal and trust that God has a plan and it is never to harm us!
The life we want is found in doing things God’s way. We learn to do life on God’s terms by relinquishing our old, flawed way of doing things and look to Him for guidance and insight into what is His best for us. He wants to teach us some critical skills that will change everything.
He wants us to understand that honesty is not only a virtue; it is the only way to enjoy intimacy. Confession and owning our faults is the only way to grow and reach our life goals. Listening to feedback and correction is a gift that brings life. Forgiving others is our path to healing, freedom and reconciliation.
Remember, getting aligned with God and getting healthy are one and the same thing!
When you build a life and stand on what Jesus taught, regardless of what happens you will make it through.
Until next time....
Points to Ponder:
What is God saying to you through what you have just read? Connect with me and share your thoughts.
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