Growing Pains

When my oldest daughter, Emma, started trying to walk, she fell all over the place, all the time. It was painful to watch. She was getting bruises and scrapes, she was crying, frustrated. Part of me wanted to just save her the heartache, to pick her up and take her where she wanted to go. But I didn’t. Why? Because the only way to learn how to walk is to keep at it, to get back up when you fall down. Though I felt cruel, letting her poor little bottom keep hitting the hard floor, I knew in the long run, it was for her good.

We get that. It makes sense. But we have a hard time getting that when it comes to our Christian walk. We fall down and yell at God for allowing it. We throw our hands up and say, “What good is being a Christian if God lets me get hurt? What kind of loving Father is He??” Some of us even turn away from Him, refusing to continue to follow a God that allows us to endure difficult situations.

James tells us to be joyful when we face trials because “the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:4) And Paul tells us that perseverance develops character and character develops hope. (Romans 5:4)

Those of you “regular” visitors, and those of you who know me well, know that one of the most difficult experiences of my life was when our family had to leave Spain. We thought we’d be serving as missionaries there for years and years, but God had us return after just ten months. I was angry, hurt, confused, embarrassed. I didn’t see why we had to leave, didn’t understand God’s purposes. It was a dark time for me. But, looking back, six years later, I see how that experience changed me for the better, how it shaped my character. I am far more compassionate now, far more humble. I’m not perfect, but God used that very difficult time to shape my character so that it better reflects Him. And reflecting Him – glorifying Him – is why I am here. God’s will isn’t a location, it is a state of the heart. I would not have learned that lesson had I not been through that experience.

Growth is painful. But it is necessary. Just like I love Emma too much to “save” her the pain of learning to walk, God loves us infinitely too much to let us remain babies. And while being “happy” during hard times may be impossible, we can be joyful.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

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