Ever feel like you’re being forced to grow in an area you would be just fine to not grow in? It’s one thing to see an area of my life that I want to grow in. It’s a totally different thing when it feel involuntary.
I don’t like being forced into anything, let alone something as intensive as character growth. And “I don’t like it” might be an understatement.
Looking back over 2014 it became clear to everyone around me that I needed to grow in my joy. It came as a bit of a surprise to me. “Wah? Me not joyful? Really?”
It took me a while to accept it. I was tempted to just put on the smile and talk about how wonderful life is, but there’s a reason I never pursued a career in acting or poker. I’m not good at faking.
Now, no one was “forcing” me to grow in my joy, but it became clear to me that it was an area that was holding me back spiritually. And, let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to live a happy, joyful life?
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. — Ga 5:22-23
Over the past year I have read many books about the subject. Some were better than others; some were even counterproductive. I read very practical books that gave tips on how to change my daily life to reflect my goal. Those were fine but it wasn’t the “meat” I was hoping for. I didn’t need to be convinced that I should grow in this area or to take a self-improvement course. I wanted something more substantial.
I finally came to the realization that lacking joy was a symptom of two things I was lacking in my life:
1. I wasn’t enjoying my walk with God.
2. I wasn’t really giving God my burdens through prayer. I was praying but was still burdened.
In some later posts, I will share what helped me get through these two areas but I want to leave you with a revelation I had that has been really helpful for me.
God is more concerned that I’m close to Him and worship Him. More so than any area of growth that I need to overcome.
It was a complete paradigm shift; I tend to get that exactly backwards. I find myself worshiping character growth in hopes to get closer to God. But if I’m close to God, I will grow in my character as a by-product. I love all the by-products that come with a close relationship with God but most importantly, I love being close to God.
God’s ultimate goal is for us to make it to heaven (a nearly infinite list of scriptural references is available upon request). I find comfort in the following scripture when I think of areas that He is working on my life. Sometimes he just has to “stir up my nest”.
“He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the LORD alone guided him, no foreign god was with him. — Dt 32:10-12
In God’s pursuit of us, he is protecting us. He might have to stir things up a bit to get our attention, but he’s always there to guide us. Being forced to grow doesn’t have to be all bad. I just need to remember to not look down.