Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Growing Pains

When you were a child, did you ever experience growing pains?  I sure did, and to this day I can remember both the physical pain of the experience and the emotional comfort that I found in my mother when I ran to her for relief.  No matter what hour of the day or night, I knew that I could cry out to her in my time of need, and she would come to my side.  First, she would administer a hefty dose of grape Motrin, and then she would rub on enough Absorbine Junior to make the geriatrics unit of the hospital cringe. Finally, she would wrap my leg in a towel and sit with me in the darkness, wiping my tears and comforting me until the pain was gone.  Sometimes the discomfort would last for days, sometimes weeks, and sometimes it would linger for months. But eventually the pain would subside, and that’s when I knew it was time for a new mark on the growth chart located on the doorway inside the pantry.  No matter how long the pain persisted, I always knew that on the other side was measurable growth.

As an adult, I am learning that the same is true for spiritual growth.  Seasons of pain and discomfort in my life always yield a deeper level of spiritual maturity and a more intimate relationship with Christ.  Just has my mother comforted me as a child, my Heavenly Father stands ready to meet my needs and bring comfort to my weary soul.  He hears my sorrowful cries, and comes to me anytime I call on His name. He sits with me in the darkness, wiping my tears and easing my pain with the familiar comfort of His presence.  It’s in the quiet of those moments that I find myself falling more deeply in love with my Savior.  He becomes MY God, MY Shelter, MY Healer, MY Comforter, MY Ever Present Help In Trouble. He becomes the very breath that I breathe to sustain my failing strength. He is truly the Lover of my Soul.  This relationship with Christ becomes more than merely a religious practice.  It becomes who I am – it defines me. 

I have walked with the Lord for almost 25 years. I know that many people scoff at the idea of a six year old understanding the gospel, and I’m so grateful that my parents never let that deter then from teaching me His word and guiding me to walk in the truth.  25 years is a lot time to get to know someone, and it’s also a lot of time to let them down – so just know that I’ve failed my Savior many, many times, but He’s always there to pickup the pieces and overwhelm me with His grace. So, for 25 years that I have walked with Jesus, yet never before have I known the level of intimacy that I have had the joy of experiencing with Him this past year. "Joy" seems like such an unfitting word to use when describing a season of painful growth, but there’s no other way to describe it. For the first time in my life I am able to say, “Not my will, Lord, but yours be done.” Instead of simply accepting a difficult season, I am able to embrace it because I know that on the other side is a glory that I can’t even begin to comprehend. 

For the first time, I truly understand what Paul meant in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 when he wrote: "And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I no longer fear the kind of pain required to experience that level of faith.  I am learning that growth of any kind is always met with some level of discomfort and pain, but the God of Heaven and Earth is waiting for me to cry out to Him in the darkness so that He can come sit with me in the quiet until I find comfort and rest.

During the early stages of my pregnancies with both of my babies, I experienced a unique pain called round ligament stretching.  This is common in pregnancy, but the internal scars from living years with Endometriosis intensified the pain to an abnormal level.  In order for life to grow inside of me, I had to endure months of pain as my body stretched and grew to sustain the life of my unborn babies.  The scars from my past were never more evident as they were during those months, yet I greeted the pain with an unexplainable joy because I knew that on the other side of that suffering was life – the precious life of my baby and the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to me.

The same is true for the painful situations I face today.  They are growing and stretching me in preparation for new life.  It is a life that will be rich in spiritual maturity and deep intimacy with Christ.  A life that is a testament to His goodness, His faithfulness, and the indescribable peace that comes from sitting in His presence during the darkest moments of pain and suffering.

In Closing: My grandfather used to ask people two questions whenever he met them for the first time (or the 100th time once he got Alzheimers). First he asked where they were from because hometowns were really important to him.  Then he would ask if they knew Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. I always admired his boldness in sharing the gospel.  Just as his passion for Christ  has become a part of his legacy, I want to be known for my love of Jesus.  Consider this my humble attempt to imitate his example: If you want peace that truly surpasses all understanding, please know that only Jesus can satisfy that longing. If you don't have a personal relationship with Christ, I would love to talk with you and pray with you because when our strength fades, we need to know that there is protection from raging storm...and that person is Jesus. 

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