Growing Pains

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I had a significant growth spurt when I was about 12 or 13. Specifically, I remember going through the growth spurt because I can remember a significant amount of pain from growing. When I would lay down at night, my legs would ache, but there was nothing I could do. It was downright awful, yet ultimately I grew much taller than my family. 

There are a lot of things in life that require us to go through pain while we grow.

Like athletics or exercise, for example. You work out. You get sore. You run. You get tired. Soreness and fatigue are necessary in order to improve. And no matter how much stretching, medicating, and replenishing you try, there will still be pain. 

But what happens when you need spiritual growth?

In my experience, I’ve needed great pain to grow spiritually as well. It’s been the biggest difference in my walk with God. In the Bible, Romans tells us suffering can produce in us the things that signify spiritual growth.

Romans 5:3-5 – Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope and 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.

 

Suffering—not just pain—suffering.

I’ve had my fair share of it over the last year. And the majority of it started with my own mistakes.

I’ve been alone. Nearly homeless. Unemployed. And did I mention alone?

I know now that it’s part of God’s design because without those hard times I would have continued of the path of doing the things that caused my trials.

Because I hit rock bottom – having no job, losing my wife, and having nowhere to live – I had very few options. To be honest, I could have chosen to continue a life of debauchery, I could give up, and I even thought of suicide for a long time. I faced dark times when all I wanted was to fall asleep and not wake up in the hell I was living in. Depression and anxiety were taking on whole new and personal meanings for me.

Instead, I held on to life. I found new faith in Christ. Admittedly, that didn’t fix everything, but somehow, I’m still standing. I’m still fighting and climbing out of valleys to get to the other side of my canyon. I learned that community with other Christians and vulnerability were not only beneficial, but for me they were life-changing and saving. My spiritual growth then, and even now, is taking me to places I had long ignored in my life.

My growing “pains” were very literal in nature. I was suffering. Undoubtedly. And all I could do was hope for something more, something better. And I grew into a Christian community that I wouldn’t change for anything. It’s a foundation that breathed life into the death I was walking in for many days.

If it weren’t for the hardest of times, I wouldn’t have been made aware of how much I need God. The people around me have blessed me and taught me that life is tough, but we serve a God who gives us all the tools to not only survive, but to thrive.

My hope now is to make it to other side of my canyon and use my growing to help others who are in need and who are suffering. I believe that was a call from God early on. The struggles that I was facing then and now are going to happen to someone else who needs Jesus just as much as I did – and still do.

God asks us to give up the things that keep us from the best for us.

Things that keep us from the best for us

In Luke 6:46 Jesus said, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and you do not do what I say?” In other words, to come to Jesus under the umbrella of His leadership, is to leave behind self leadership. To call Jesus Lord, which means boss, guide, leader, the one who has rightful authority of my life, it means sacrificing sex and other things as your savior. Whatever it is that we turn to, to answer the need of our heart and our pain is our practical savior. It may be a bottle, it may be another person, a website, but whatever it is you are turning to, to answer the need to provide for your life, is your practical savior. When we call Jesus Lord, it means that we pay the price for sacrificing every other illusion that might save us. Jesus expects you to pay a price, He expects you to call Him Lord! That declaration of Lordship means that sex is not your God; it is not your savior.

Jesus takes everything deeply to the heart; past religion, past our defenses, past appearances. This is where the heart comes into play. If we are going to follow Jesus as Lord, we have to make up our mind as to what it is that we really want and we have to be true to it. To follow Jesus means making a sacrifice and not buying lies and wrapping them up in secrecy on the internet and thinking nobody’s going to know what I’m looking at, or I can flirt with this person at work and no one will know, or I can have the affair and no body’s going to know and it won’t happen to me…BUT THEN IT DOES! And then what happens, is just more brokenness in your life and in the life of everyone around you. 

Whatever the cost, whatever it takes, you have to be willing, if you are going to be a follower of Jesus, to be true and to pursue Holiness and purity. If that means no internet for you, then guess what that means? No internet for you! I have heard of tales of people that survived for several thousand years without the internet! Wherever you lack internal boundaries or fences, you must build external boundaries and external fences. Whatever it takes, get rid of it!

I’m not going to deny it, sin is fun for a season; and that’s the key. Sin is not in the first look, it’s in the second. For some of you this means no contact with the person you are attracted to at work. That means that you stop finding reasons to go and be around that person and enjoying their presence more than you are enjoying the presence of your husband or your wife. If that means changing jobs then you change jobs! Some of you would say, “Well Pastor Drew you don’t understand I would lose money.” Can I just tell you how broke you're going to be divorced? This isn’t about income, this is about Jesus in your heart! Calling Jesus Lord means allowing our faith in Christ to cost us something that breaks us. God never asks us to give up anything that is good for us. He asks us to give up things that keeps us from the best for us! –Dr. Drew Shofner

If I have found grace in the eyes of God, how can I not see with grace my wife or husband?

Marriage Beatitudes

There is no way you can be married and walk this life together without it being hard sometimes. I realize that in marriage, there are a million different scenarios. I realize that everybody’s life is different, but I’m just telling you there is so much grace when we refuse to quit! Too often we hear the words of Jesus in some kind of black and white, ink on paper kind of way. We should hear the words of Jesus as if they were spoken to us eye to eye.

Imagine hearing the power in the Words of Jesus in Matthew 5:1-11 as Jesus would say to you:

Blessed are you when you are discouraged in your marriage; when you are poor in spirit, because in that moment yours is the Kingdom of Heaven. You are not alone, you are not abandoned, or without hope for the future.” 

Blessed are you when you mourn in your marriage, when you are hurting in your marriage, because I will be there to comfort you, I will never leave you, I will never forsake you.” 

Blessed are you when you are feeling week and meek in your marriage because you are trusting in me and you are going to inherit everything.” 

Blessed are you when you hunger and you thirst for righteousness, when you just want what is right in your marriage, because you will be filled. I will never leave anyone who comes to me hungry because I am the bread of life.” 

“Blessed are you when you show mercy in your marriage, when you pass on the chance to wound and to do harm to establish your power in the marriage. Blessed are you when you show mercy because I will show you more mercy than you can imagine and I will fill your heart with joy.” 

Blessed are you when you stay on the path of purity in your marriage when somebody else is looking better than your spouse. Blessed are you when you are seeking satisfaction in me and not in something or someone less than me. Blessed are you when you stay pure in heart because you are going to see me."

Blessed are you when you make peace in your marriage, when you work hard for wholeness through my holiness because I’m telling you, you are going to be called my sons and my daughters.”

Blessed are you when you are persecuted for doing the right thing in your marriage, when you live for me and when your spouse does not recognize it or makes your life harder because you are following Jesus. You are not alone, you are blessed because yours is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Do not buy into the lie of the world that you are going to write your own prescription and walk away from your marriage. You can choose to be “happy” or you can give it up and kick and scream and struggle, but never let go of Jesus. Never leave the power of His presence. Hold onto Him until you have endured and see His grace come. Let His glory and His image be revealed in you. Everything that Jesus has to say is big enough to lead you through a life that is beyond this temporary search for happiness and into a Holiness and wholeness that will echo forever; and it will be enough for you. 

The issue is not your spouse, the issue is Jesus and you and what your heart is going to do with Jesus. You cannot fix, control or save your spouse. The more you try to control the more you are going to mess things up. I’m here to tell you that God is able. 2 Corinthians 9:8 says, “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” Our God is big enough to work in the pain and in the challenge of your marriage; you just have to believe and never let go! –Dr. Drew Shofner

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