I recently heard a pastor give a message on BECOMING. That to become who the Lord created and longs for you to be... that it is a process and not an event. (Boy oh boy!!! That in and of itself is an entire sermon isn't it?)
Anyway, I started to really think about that. How we need to ask the Lord what areas of our lives need to be changed and surrender those areas unto Him so that He can indeed change them.
Many of us know that we ought to do just that. We should seek God. We should ask Him where we need Him more and submit it to Him. We should remain obedient unto Him as He changes us. And we should realize fully that it is a journey not a destination. But how many of us actually think all of that? Actually believe it?
I think if I were being honest I would fess up that a large part of me believed that were I to actually ask God what areas of my life He wanted and submitted those areas to Him that I would EXPECT my road to get easier. After all... I'd be doing the right thing right? I mean- I'd be granting him access to my life and heart ...so I'd be doing what He wants of me... my path should get easier-right?
Not so much. I think once we ask God into those areas of our lives that need growth we can actually expect to see some struggles. Really. Have you ever prayed for patience? Aren't you usually faced with ornery children, touchy coworkers, slloooooooooooooooow Sunday drivers in front of you during rush hour soon after that prayer??? All opportunities to practice patience right? But in the moment- they're a struggle.
Truth be told- when I first experienced Lyme Symptoms... and they manifested neurologically- I found myself crying ALL the time. Scared that it was something more- I cried out to the Lord. Several times. With all that was in me. Beyond the traditional bargaining... something deep within me knew I needed the Lord. The kind of deep awakening that Paul expressed when he wrote in Romans 7, "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?"
I wanted God in a way that I'd never wanted Him before and I made it known. I yelled out to Him. I told Him. And then I waited... in expectation. I waited for all of this to be taken from me, because after all... I had done what He wanted. Clearly He'd just allowed this in my life and body so I would see my need for Him and since I knew... it would be taken from me right???
Poor theology I know. But I don't think I was alone in it. Unfortunately we are selfish. We look out for us first. And we tend to have issues with faith. Issues like, We have it when things are going well for us... and we don't have it when they're not. Hey- I'm not at all excluding myself from this... actually I think the process of enduring what I have has enabled me to see this clearly in my heart and life.
But it's sad. So sad. Because in thinking like this- looking out for number 1, lacking faith in uncertain times... we miss a large part of who God is and what He's doing in us.
A large part of the change that happens in us, in our hearts, is done when we are in the trenches. It's not on the mountaintops... we sense the emotion of the moments on the mountaintops but rarely does that emotion lead to change that produces fruit.
It's in the trenches, the times when we are stretched, exposed, vulnerable to our God in whom we can't live without... our God in whom we've realized we can't endure one more moment outside of His will... it's in the moments we lay ourselves down, choose Him above us, trust that what He is doing is for our good, and release our need to know and approve of our path that He's able to change us. To grow us. That we become.
The trenches. We can't grow without them... but isn't it true that we try often to pray them away? I know I sure did.
Paul said in 2 Corinthians 8, "Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”" Paul was in the trenches. He referred to it as "a thorn in his flesh.. sent to torment him." Well if most trenches couldn't be summed up as "torment" I don't know what could. But did you catch that Paul prayed three different times for it to be removed from him and each time God said, "My grace is all you need." He allowed it to remain. Because it was better for Paul that it remained and it allowed God to be glorified as only God's power would be evident. Paul was clearly too weak to overcome on his own.
Paul thrived in the Lord not despite his thorn... but because of it. And because He chose God over his circumstances. Because he didn't seek self first. Because He still knew and believed the person of God and served Him. He didn't miss the opportunity for God's power to shine in his weakness. He didn't claw his way out of the trenches. He didn't ignore them or turn his back to the Lord. He didn't reason them away.
I hope we, like Paul, realize that the trenches bring growth. And that if we've prayed to have our thorns removed and they still remain... that they are there for our own good. It's a hard one to understand... I'm not sure I always do- but it doesn't make it any less true.
Pray for growth- for change- for fruit. But don't be surprised if you find yourself in the trenches... and don't wish them away. Seize the opportunity for God's power to be visible in and through your weakness and for His name to be both praised and glorified.