Perhaps the most reassuring truth in all of Scripture to me is God’s promise to keep His own forever. Our Creator God is the author, the perfecter, and the finisher of our faith. He tells us even our very faith is a gift from Him. When we wander off, He sets out to find His lost and brings us home and it is God Himself who works in us both to will and to act. Scripture clearly teaches God’s undeniable sovereignty in both our salvation and sanctification. He has made His claim and nothing or no one will thwart His plans.
Yet, even knowing these truths, I’ve spent many years frustrated and discouraged that my spiritual growth has so often seemed incredibly slow and inconsistent. One thing I’ve realized as I look back on my faith journey is that no matter how quickly I’d like to see “results,” God is not in a hurry. He is patient, thorough, and long-suffering. And though it’s difficult to express in words, “I know that I know that I know” that His hand has been upon me every day of my life: guiding, shaping, changing and growing me.
There was a major turning point in my life 5 years ago as my spiritual growth and emotional healing took place at an accelerated rate which I had never before experienced. And it all started in a pit. I’m pretty sure it starts in a pit for most everyone. A wise woman once told me that “we only change when the pain of NOT changing becomes greater than the pain of changing.” Maybe that’s why transformation usually begins in deep, dark pit. We are finally willing to surrender to Him because we realize He is our only way out.
In my mid-30’s, I found myself in an incredibly painful circumstantial pit from which I could not escape. I was weary and desperate, with no way to fix all that was broken in my life and in my heart. So I cried to God for help and He saved me. “O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit” (Psalm 30:2-3). This was the beginning of a journey of deep healing and tremendous growth in which I continue to walk.
As I look back over these recent years, it is undeniable that God Himself has been the one rescuing, redeeming and restoring me. I am confident there is no formula, no plan, no step-by-step for true transformation. It is God. Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, my efforts will only produce behavioral change, not heart change. Yet, as I reflect on this season of growth, I’ve realized that there have been some critical pieces that are the foundation of my spiritual/emotional healing and growth and have put me in a position for God to do some serious soul and heart work in my life.
It is so important to recognize that we are uniquely created by God and require different things to help us grow and change. John Ortberg says, “God never grows two people the exact same way. God is a hand-crafter, not a mass-producer.” I’ll be honest, in my life it’s been mostly PAIN that has been the catalyst for change. Trials have a way of opening hearts and softening wills in the lives of God’s children, especially in mine. But there are so many other things that help us grow, practices and disciplines which create space for God to move and can be actively pursued as we seek to mature as followers of Christ. Over the years, I’ve been able to recognize 4 key things that have been the most helpful in my own spiritual growth:
~Safe Spiritual Community~
Very few things bring me greater comfort and encouragement than walking alongside others in our pursuit of God. And very few things are as vital to my living my life with authenticity. Developing deep, honest, Christ-centered friendships has transformed my spiritual life. Within this safe community of believers, there are no secrets. We process all of life and faith out loud. We listen, question, teach, challenge and love one another, having no other goal than to help each other keep our eyes on Jesus. It is in the context of these transparent relationships that I am truly known and deeply loved, giving me an earthly picture of God’s unconditional love for me. Having a safe place to be weak, to fail, to struggle and still be accepted, valued and embraced is life-giving. What a scary, yet beautiful paradox, that by exposing my brokenness to others, I find healing.
While these relationships have looked different during different seasons of my life, finding mentors who are farther along in their spiritual walk has been a critical part of my growth. For several years, a wise and beloved Christian therapist helped me process through the areas of my deepest wounding. Through her counsel, I began to recognize how my past trauma was affecting my relationships, including, and most importantly, my relationship with God. The Lord used her as a bridge to lead me into a deeper, more trusting relationship with Him than I have ever experienced. Later, I received formal, one on one spiritual direction in which I learned to pay greater attention to where God is at work in my life and how He is inviting me to respond to Him. Other mentoring relationships have been less formal, where I’ve processed life and sought wisdom over coffee or through long distance phone calls. I have learned so much from these older, wiser believers, both from their words and from watching them live out their faith in real life.
~Daily Solitude with God~
There has been absolutely no substitute for carving out extended time every single day to meet with the One who saves, heals, comforts, redeems and restores my soul. Just like I need food daily to nourish my body, I need time with God daily to nourish my spirit. In over 3 decades as a believer, I have never experienced a time of great spiritual growth when I was not spending long periods of time in communion with the Lord through Bible reading/meditation, journaling, worship and prayer. It is, without exception, the single most important thing I do in life.
~In-Depth Bible Study~
Finally, intensive study of the Word of God has played a significant role in my spiritual growth. Not passively reading through endless chapters or bouncing around from verse to verse and book to book but studying Scripture in context and processing it with others. I felt like a whole new world opened up when I learned through Precept Bible Studies how to study the Word for myself and began meeting with other believers to dialogue about all the Lord revealed to us. These in-depth studies have usually taken place face to face, and during some seasons, through online communication. To truly know who God is, how He works in my heart and in the world, and what He desires for me, I must spend time digging, questioning, searching, cross-referencing, discussing, applying and wrestling through the Word of God with other believers. For all the time I have invested in deeply engaging the truth, I have been rewarded a hundredfold with heavenly wisdom and spiritual fruit. (*See below for an incredible new study of which I am thrilled to be a part!)
The ultimate truth is that it is God alone who works in and through us to produce transformation. There is no real change apart from Him, only behavior modification. But in obedience, we get to be an active participant in the process. We don’t have to, we GET to. And when we do, I truly believe growth is accelerated and God is honored. As we continue to seek Him, we will be “filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Colossians 1:9-10
Held by Him,
I’d love for you to consider joining me in my next Bible study titled, Beauty in Brokenness! Our Called For Such A Time team created this study for the purpose of going beneath the surface and examining the broken places of our hearts in the light of God’s Word. Through in-depth study of and meditation on Psalms 27, 30 and 51, we will process some of the most common struggles we all face including: freedom from fear and anxiety, healing from woundedness, and forgiveness/repentance from sin and be reminded that it is the Lord alone who brings healing. There will be several local group meetings in Columbia, SC and an interactive online group for those in other locations. The study starts June 22! You can find out more at http://www.beautyinbrokenness.com