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Food for Thought - Musings

Not THAT Again!

As we grow in our Christian faith we come to a point where God can begin to work on the deeper issues of the heart, often the hidden issues of our heart. When this begins to happen it can actually feel disconcerting and discouraging. The thought is “I must be regressing in my faith. That which I am beginning to notice is something I thought I had dealt with, gotten a handle on, but now it seems that it not the case. I am at least back where I began, if not even further behind, in an area of my life I had previously worked on.”

What you are feeling is quite normal and yet entirely erroneous. The feelings that this awareness is evoking, though understandable, are not true to what is actually happening within you. Yes, God is having you revisit an issue—but not in the same way. God is inviting you into a deeper, more profound interaction with the deeper issues of this area of your life. The first few times you dealt with this issue was like removing the surface stains on a carpet – hard work was involved and the stains were removed, but they were destined to appear again and again and again, albeit in subtler ways because there was a deeper stain that had not been dealt with—for the time to deal with that stain had not yet come.

When the time comes to deal with these deeper stains, God begins to make us aware of their presence in lives in unmistakable ways. You are able to see these stains more clearly than ever before, and as stated above this can be disconcerting and discouraging, which can cause you to want to turn away from the challenge/invitation to partner with God in this deep stain removal. However, this does not need to be your response. Below are four truths about this time that, if internalized and embraced, can transform the feelings of being disheartened and hopeless into an internalized excitement and hopefulness.

Truths to know, internalize and embrace

1. This is about freedom, NOT condemnation. When God begins to help you become aware of these deeper issues of your heart it is because God is inviting you into a place to be more free to be and become who God has created you to be and become. It is likely that you will initially feel condemnation, second-guess the work you and God have done in your life, but the truth is that this is a sign that God is working in a deeper way. If you do feel condemnation praying a prayer that uses Romans 8:1 might be helpful. The verse reminds us that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. A simple prayer like, “God thank you that there is no condemnation for me for I am in Christ” may help you to keep those feelings of self-condemnation in check. It may be helpful to follow it up your no condemnation prayer with “I believe, help me in my unbelief.”

2. As I alluded to above, the second truth is that God is doing a deeper work in you. When you begin to be aware of the things you have previously dealt with arising within you, remember that this is not a indication of regression, but a signal that God is working within you in this particular area in a profoundly deeper and more pervasive way than ever before and that God is taking the lead. Your role is to partner with God as God does the heavy lifting. This partnering is often a willingness to be open to the process and a trusting of God and the process. It can be very helpful to have someone walk through this with you – a spiritual director, a spiritual friend wise in the ways and workings of God. This can be a very difficult time, but an exciting time, for God is doing something within you that only God can do.

3. You are ready for this. If what we are talking about is happening within you then it means you are ready. As you have walked with Jesus you have been able to get to a place where this deeper work can begin to take place. There can be a tendency to get discouraged by thoughts of “why couldn’t this have happened earlier, why did it take so long for this to happen”, but do not get mired down in that type of thinking. Instead embrace the glorious truth that you are ready now for this to take place. That is good news, something worthy of celebrating. For whatever the reason, and we will never know the reason, this is your time. You are ready, so embrace the adventure, embrace God and lean into what God is doing. If you do feel self-condemnation arising here, then once again use the no condemnation prayer spoken about in number 1, for the truth is that all this a wonderful indication of the fact you have been growing in your faith.

4. The final truth is that God will finish what God started. The results of this are not up for grabs, for in the words of the Apostle Paul, For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil 1:6) God will get this done. This is not a matter of you working harder to make it happen, but being willing and open to the process and to following as God leads and guides you. God will complete what God has begun.

My hope in writing this brief musing is that you will be able to welcome these movements of God in your life, and that instead of their evoking condemnation, you will be able to feel the excitement that comes from knowing that God is inviting you into new and deeper places of freedom to be, that God knows you are ready for such activity to take place within you and that God is working in you in ways that you are not able to do yourself, for God is working on those deep issues of the heart. These are exciting times yet they will also be difficult and even demanding times, but if you can keep the above truths firmly fixed in your heart and mind you will be able to partner with God, trusting God, trusting the process and walking with God through this dark valley of inner transformation for God is with you – leading, guiding, loving you into this moment and the next. Thus this is truly a time for joy and rejoicing, for it is a time that God believes you are ready to partner with God in this movement of the Spirit that will lead you into places of greater freedom to be you, greater freedom to love and be loved and serve out of that place of being. This is the work of God: rejoice and be glad in it.

This is a ministry of b. b is a nonprofit ministry that exists to assist pastors, church staffs, seminarians, professors and missionaries by offering contemplative retreats, spiritual direction, staff development and spiritual formation opportunities.

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