It’s honesty time! My goal for this month is not to write just anything, but to write things that will administer grace to the reader. I’m afraid I can’t do that without sharing some of my recent experiences, all of which require some good old-fashioned gut-level honesty. So here we go.
I had lunch with a fabulous new friend recently, and God used her to answer a question that has been looming over me since March of this year. I was in a pretty rocky relationship for a while, and from very early on, I was unsure of where things were headed. When I would pray about it, though, the answer that I felt I was getting was: stay. Push through this. When I would seek godly counsel, it was the same: don’t run away. Dig in and do what love requires. At multiple points along the journey, I stood ready to walk away if that was what God intended, but instead I just heard: stay put. So I did. Until the very, very end. And it did end.
It’s no surprise that ever since then, I have questioned my ability to discern God’s will, to hear His voice. I’ve mostly tried not to dwell on it because I earnestly believe there are some answers we just won’t get this side of heaven. And I’m okay with that. I’m also okay with the fact the relationship ended. It desperately needed to end. Still, my confidence in my ability to discern took a bit of a blow. As a result, I’ve been somewhat timid in sharing what I think God is telling me in other areas of my life because I was obviously so mistaken before.
When I shared all of this with my new friend, I told her my worries about hearing God’s voice. I told her how I had thought all along that He was telling me to stay. How it made no sense in the end that I had stayed. Then she asked: “Would you be where you are today if you hadn’t stayed?” I didn’t even have to think about that one. I can’t imagine being who I am today without having gone through all of that first. God used those experiences to make me new. So I told her no, I didn’t think I would be where I am today if I had walked away from it all. “Then there you go,” she said. Simple as that.
Then this afternoon, I read this quote by John Eldredge:
God has something in mind. He is deeply and personally committed to restoring humanity. Restoring you. He had a specific man or woman in mind when He made you. By bringing you back to Himself through the work of Jesus Christ, He has established relationship with you. And now, what He is up to is restoring you. He does that by shaping your life “along the same lines as the life of His Son.” By shaping you into the image of Jesus. You can be confident of this. It’s a given. Whatever else might be going on in your life, God always has His eye on your transformation.
What a thought. So maybe I wasn’t mistaken. Maybe I heard exactly what I was intended to hear. And do. Maybe all those encouragements to persevere that I heard weren’t intended to affect the outcome of that relationship at all. Rather, they were all intended to be a part of my transformation. Maybe by sticking it out in the face of so much turmoil, I got to be a little more like Jesus.
I considered myself to be sharing in His sufferings, so I knew the promise meant I would also share in His glory. But I’ve always thought that verse meant we would share in His glory in heaven. It occurs to me now that we share in His glory here on Earth because sharing in His sufferings transforms us into His image. Because when, after we are rejected, scorned and despised, we have somehow managed to trust our Father and continue doing His will (even imperfectly), we end up looking more like Jesus than we did going in. Seeing that, how can I not agree with Paul when he said that our sufferings aren’t even worth comparing with the glory God longs to reveal in us? (Rom 8:18)
I know that’s particularly easy to say, this side of suffering. I also know that I’ve not yet seen my life’s share of suffering. For now, though, my prayer is that those of you who are in the midst of suffering will be encouraged and strengthened to run with perseverance the race marked out for you. That you can look in the mirror and see where He is changing you from glory to glory…
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.