“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.”
Ephesians 5:1-2 (The Message)
Suffering of any kind hurts. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. Sometimes I wish that I could say to God, “Okay, God, I’ve already walked down this road. It hurt. I learned my lesson. Next issue, please.”
However, that’s not how God works… and that’s not how life works. It’s true when they say life is like an onion. I think I have something mastered and I’m doing good and then wham! The same ugly feelings or emotions show up in a slightly different circumstance and while I may deal with the issue with a little more maturity, I still have to deal with the issue, until the next time it rears its ugly head – slightly changed yet again but still there.
I just finished dealing with that cycle a few weeks ago. I was dealing with an issue that I continually bring to God in prayer. You see, I never really thought I had a problem with this particular characteristic; however, I was always praying and asking God to weed even the tiniest form of it out of my life before it could take root and grow. I think He wanted to lovingly show me that, yes, it was present and it would take a little more than a tiny pull to get the roots this time… because it hurt quite a bit. However, once I said, “Okay, I see what You’re saying and let’s get this eradicated,” it actually came out quite easily and I feel much better. His peace is back and I’ve grown a little more spiritual maturity.
You would think those blessings would be enough… yet this time I found an extra benefit that I didn’t necessarily see before. I used to think that one of the privileges God gave out of trials we face was that when others around us were hurting, we could come alongside them and help them with empathy, having been there ourselves previously. People who haven’t experienced specific pain can’t fully relate and therefore usually can’t comfort because they just don’t understand that depth of emotion.
However, I’m learning there is one more benefit to the trials we face. Learning how to relate to people differently before they are hurt. After reaching the other side of my above growth journey, I noticed the way I related to people had changed. When I would reach out to others, I approached the situation, and them, with more compassion and kindness than previously. In the past I never intentionally meant to hurt anyone, but nevertheless I would be in a hurry and my interaction wouldn’t be as warm or friendly. A few changes of how I worded things made a lasting impression.
Not only does spiritual maturity benefit us, but I find that it benefits those around us. When I continue to desire to be more like Jesus, everyone in my life benefits. I become softer, kinder, more compassionate… more loving, just like Him. And that’s the best benefit of all.
© Cheri Swalwell 2016