You know that saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?” I give you one even better:
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, & endurance produces character, & character produces hope, & hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:5
After meditating on this verse for over a month, I finally came to see and appreciate the power and beauty of each step in this transformation.
First, you are broken, hurt and/ or desperate, but as God walks you through one single day at a time, endurance becomes a comfort.
You realize that every single book, word of advice or consolation, every single good deed that is not simply CHRIST will not help you. For God is your hope and salvation- not a self help book. Christ is the way, the truth and life- not your best friend or even the best intentioned spouse. If they are not pointing you over and over again back toward Christ, where you will have to fall, flat on your face in repentance or grief. Just lay there and know your need for Him, then allow him to lift you, with sweet whispers of peace and mercy, onto his wings of strength and love. Because he will always lift you and restore your soul.
“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.” Psalms 34: 18-19
For me, this experience has been both terrifying and all consuming, while one of the most beautiful manifestations of God’s presence in my everyday suffering. Here’s what I mean by this: My suffering has been an affliction of the heart. I have found myself suffering through a very real, unexpected broken heart and the slipping hope, overtaken by fear and anxiety that things would never change. Relationships can be challenging and up until this point in my life, I have often ripped the reins from God’s hands once things became insufferable. “How can I endure this?” I would ask. “God doesn’t want you to be unhappy.” and “You have to stand up for yourself.” Have been the familiar lies told to me. But while the TRUTH was there in the past, I never leaned into God’s word when I felt it was too much for ME. I forgot that true strength comes from the Lord, not my own weak heart or understanding.
“He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might he increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah: 40: 29-31
But this time, I reached for God and begged him for mercy. I asked him for wisdom, truth, peace and love. In times of chaos, exhaustion or confusion I know that God has to pull me out. I have no skills to disarm the enemy myself. (The enemy who leads with fear, lies and anger.) But with God as my stronghold, and by seeking his righteousness and walking in the path he lays out before me from day to day and hour to hour, I can rest in confidence.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
It’s through this revelation, this restoration of your soul, that you develop empathy, humility and a confidence in God which births “character”, the effect of Gods work on your heart.
This will look like waking up in the morning with a thirst for God’s presence, a minute-by-minute acknowledgement of your NEED for his wisdom, peace, mercy and holy spirit. It will look like conviction and practical changes to your schedule and lifestyle. It will look like finally joining that prayer group, or setting your alarm for 20 minutes earlier so that you can read His word and pray each morning. Because Christ will change your heart and call you to become more like Him each time He corrects you and draws you through the fire.
“Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” Mathew 7:20
“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
“If we say we have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” 1 John 1:6
Okay, so now here’s my favorite part of transformation: You receive this insanely beautiful gift called HOPE.
Now hope, I don’t know about you, is more often than not quite elusive to me. I am skeptical, practical & to be honest, all too often anxious about most things. But HOPE is more than a positive concept or state of optimism. It’s a grounded faith that things will be okay. It’s the foundation of inner, unshakable joy that only comes through transformation of our hearts & minds.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2
As I’ve been struggling through what felt like true despair in my own heart, I sought after God. I cried out to him as David did in the Psalms and as Paul did in the New Testament.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-9
Ahhhh! Isn’t that amazing? My own heart wanted to give up and seek relief, but God gave me endurance as I covered myself in scripture and prayer from day to day. Then God revealed HIS character to me. He took my crushed spirit and restored it tenfold, to this glorious vision of His own mercy and love.
I became like a warrior, armed with every good and perfect thought toward those who hurt me, so that my heart overflowed with love instead of anger, with mercy instead of judgment. God led and allowed me to walk in righteousness.
And I say this with a truly humble heart. Do you know how insane it is to serve and submit to someone who hurts you, leads with anger and shows little sign of change? But number one, I think God has a plan for us to become a reflection of him, which means that we will learn to love as God loves us. Maybe not perfectly, but working towards a good and perfect love that would even lay down one’s life for another. That’s the heart I strive toward, with the daily strength and mercy of God’s love. And secondly, hello, aren’t each of us just as evil if not externally then hidden within? Don’t each of us suffer from the chains of selfishness, anger, fear or idolizing things above our sweet and perfect, Lord?
Let me end with this: God is certainly doing a good work in you. Deep within those innermost vulnerable places, where nobody can see how truly dark, ugly and insecure we really are, God is working to transform YOU into a better reflection of Him and He does this through prayer- I mean- wow- actual conversations with God; as well as through his children- Christians here on earth who know and understand His merciful and gracious heart.
I could not have walked this path, (two steps right, four steps back, then flat on my face before landing on God’s wings) without the tenderhearted friends and family who led me back toward my bible or prayer each and every time I reached a dark hour. They surrounded me with words of worship, hope and gratefulness. They joined a dozen bible studies, sent texts and prayed furiously from day to day; They opened their homes, their hearts and schedules to pour out God’s love into my life. REFLECTIONS of HIM. Rippling echos of God’s voice to soothe my fears and gentle, healing hands to restore my soul. I am truly humbled and grateful for the love God extends to us through the hands and feet of Christ.
And that’s our ultimate calling- where this transformation leads. God prepares each of us, disciplines, strengthens and corrects us as well as comforts, restores and strengthens us in His good and perfect love, so that we may be easily identified and known as His.
“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” Romans 12: 4-8
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35