Do you ever wonder why it is easier for us to praise God when things are going good? I wonder this question constantly throughout my daily walk with God. When I made the important decision to follow God, I was only nine and much of my child-like faith was still embedded within me. And with that decision I was not prepared for the mountains and valleys I would soon face throughout my spiritual journey of growing closer to God; for all I could see was myself skipping from cloud to cloud and walking with my Best Friend through endless fields of roses. Was I ever in for a world-altering reality.
Growing up hurts. When you reach certain points in your life and experience new situations you start to grow and change. And most of the time, these experiences and changes are not very pleasant. In fact, these changes tend to pinch at your heart and twist the knob a little each time. Taking on responsibility and becoming your own person-or finding yourself-is, unfortunatley, not written out for anyone. You must find these life lessons out for yourself. This process involves making numerous mistakes, mostly the same ones repetitively, and then picking yourself up over and over and over again. And you may start to wonder if this vicious circle ever ends. No one can tell you the recipe to growing up; it is just something that happens to each person at a different time and through various means. When you start to change it almost always will involve heartache, loneliness and heaps of used Kleenexes piled on the floor; however, there is a positive outcome to growing up if you see it through. The long and somewhat painful process will often result in a significant about of learning or wisdom and a better understanding of yourself. You will start to realize and see the change that has been taking place within you, but this will only happen if you stick it out. Why all of these explanations of growing up you ask? Well just as we grow emotionally and physically in our lives, we also grow as Christians.
We all start out as little babies, not knowing much about Christianity and God but trusting with an innocent faith. And eventually, if we stick it out, we develop into mature believers. But, just like growing up, becoming a mature Christian hurts at times. In fact, growing spiritually tends to cause more pain. Becoming a follower of God demands everything out of us. God calls us to literally sacrifice everything, nothing excluded. And as selfish humans, we tend to cling on to certain things in our lives in which we think we must control. We hang on tightly to our money because we have the idea it will “buy us happiness.” We also clutch our futures and our dreams because we seem to think our way is correct. Even though everything we see and touch belongs to God and God alone we forget it again and again. Sacrifice often involves suffering. Suffering is often painful.
Then there are the highs and lows in our faith walk which seem to shake our world. It becomes easier to praise God in our moments where we are on top of the spiritual world than during the times of tug a war between ourselves and this world. Even though we should praise God during the good times and the bad, we give up during the rough times and abandon God. Mountains and valleys test our faith to say the least. At times it feels as if God has walked out on us and left us alone to finish. At the end of the day, following God leaves us on our knees, throwing our hands to the sky (more like shaking our fists at God) and shouting, “If following you is the right way, why must it be so hard and why must I suffer like this!” But isn’t that how things always seem to go- when you are trying to do the right thing, it is difficult but when you are doing the wrong thing, it is a piece of cake. How does that make any sense? Now you would think it would be the other way around; but, unfortunately it is not.
Just like growing up throughout our lives, growing in Christ has its rewards (although it seems to have none). As Christians, we are ensured many promises by God. The most comforting promise we remember is the ultimate truth that we do not walk the narrow road alone. We have the promise that Jesus is right beside us the whole entire journey. And do you know what is even more comforting? Jesus has already walked the same narrow road we walk now. And since he walked the road we are on, we are headed for a beautiful eternity instead of a never-ending eternity in hell. And do you know what else is a great pillow of assurance? Everything-everything-we are feeling—every tear, every heartache, every laugh, every stone thrown, every devastation, every disappointment, every let down, every abandonment, every moment of happiness, every dance for joy, every difficult experience, every moment of anger, everything- he has already felt it. He know exactly how we feel and how we will feel and to a greater extent. Ever wonder or think no one understands or gets you? Have you ever shouted at your mom or day, “You just don’t understand!” Well save your breath and look no further. Jesus knows exactly where you are.
Jesus knows exactly how you feel throughout the mountains and valleys. And Jesus will help you and carry you through whatever life may throw your way. Each tree that blocks our path, every pothole in the road and every person that mocks us- Jesus will defend us and clear the way for us to continue on. We were never meant to travel alone, for if we did, we would completely and utterly fail. On our own, we will never reach the destination God has perfectly prepared for us. But with Jesus as our travel guide, we are assured to reach our final destination; that is however if we let him guide us. Why would you want to walk the streets of this dark, hopeless, helpless world alone? Growing up is a challenge. It is an overwhelming obstacle, a series of never-ending hurdles. Growing up is hard, lonely and disappointing at times. Growing spiritually can be even harder if you walk alone. But we then have a choice. You don’t have to grow alone. But just like growing up, no one can tell you or make you do it; it must be your choice, your decision. Will you continue to stumble and fall, never continuing on and settling for less than what God has planned for you? Or will you dare yourself to grow in Him?
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