I am always looking for ways to help people grow as disciples of Jesus. This quest has led me to conferences, books, and stacks of material to review. If there is a resource out there that will actually help people grow in their relationship with God, I want to use it. If someone has found a set of tools that work better than what I am using, then I want to know about it.
There are some ways in which this quest has been productive. I have learned about small groups and many of the dynamics needed to make them work. I have learned about studying and serving as means of growth. I have utilized numerous resources to help people, and other people have told me of material that has helped them.
Unfortunately, through the years I have noticed that many people grow through adverse conditions. There are ugly periods in our lives that might prove more valuable to us than any other tool we use.
1. Silence. Have you ever prayed and prayed only for seemingly no response? Daily you lay out your requests before God and nothing appears to change? Sometimes this lasts for a week and other times for a month and sometimes for a year or more. It is a difficult situation when your prayers do not see any immediate results. But I have watched people change through these silent seasons. They learn to trust when things are not working out the way they had hoped. Patience and endurance of faith are developed. Hope grows, and a more profound commitment forms in the heart of a person when God is silent.
2. Disappointment. There are times in life when things do not go the way we planned. You expected good things during this phase of your life, and the reality was less than excellent. The job didn’t work out as you planned. Your marriage is struggling, and your kids are not superstars in any way. You thought life would be so much more by now and it just is not. In seasons like these, I see people readjust their expectations. They find joy in the moment or in the little blessing God gives them. They look for lessons that God might be teaching them and then apply them to their life in new and exciting ways.
3. Pain. This can come in many forms. It can be physical or emotional pain. It can be something you are going through or something someone you love is experiencing. No matter what the situation these painful moments force us to rely on God. They remind us how little control we have in this world. Pain can underline our need for God and the hope we find in him. It can point us to things of eternal significance in a way we never expected. I have seen people grow through pain when nothing else seems to work.
Nobody wants these situations to help them grow. Nobody wants silence or disappointment or pain in their life. Honestly, we want growth to be easy and fun. We want smiles and joy all the way to Jesus. I hope you have those things, but when you find yourself in these difficult times of life, God is not abandoning you, I think he might be stretching your faith.
It is possible that moments in life like these can push you away from God. You can see the glass as half empty and God as mean for not giving you want you want. These can be seasons when you shrink instead of growing in faith.
There is a choice in every phase of life. The difficult thing you are experiencing right now, might not be as bad as you think. In fact, it might be the time that brings you closer to God. The choice is up to you.