by Joanie Butman
People have often asked (as I’ve asked others) how God speaks to me. In lots of different ways, but one came up this week that taught me a valuable lesson. I’ve been struggling with something for the better part of a year and was whining to God the other day during my ‘prayer’ time about how hard it is and how angry I was that it wasn’t getting better. Prayer is in quotes because I’m sure plenty of you are questioning whether whining and complaining actually constitute prayer. I might too had I never read the psalms. Many of them begin as my ‘prayer,’ but in the process of pouring out their honest emotions to God, the authors’ hearts make an about-face and finish with gratitude, praise and worship. I can’t think of a better illustration of the power of prayer. I don’t pray to change God’s mind, I pray because it changes mine. It’s a Divine transaction whereby God takes whatever I offer Him and transforms it with His love. He’s bigger than my little tirades. He put up with the Israelites kvetching for 40 years; a temper tantrum now and then isn’t going to throw Him.
Anyway, my conversation went something like this, “I’m doing what you asked. Why isn’t it getting easier? I’m trying to be obedient here, but this stinks. I’m trusting you. What the heck?” I wasn’t anticipating an immediate answer. I’m not even sure I was expecting any answer. I was just kvetching. Regardless, an hour later I drove by a local church, and there was His response. The marquee read, “No one said it was easy!” I stopped for a photo and drove off smiling while I sent up an arrow prayer, “Show off!! Got it. Thanks.”
Of the 7,000 promises in the Bible, there are none promising that life (or obedience) will be easy. Quite the opposite. There are plenty guaranteeing it’s not. Growth never is. And what is life? One long growth opportunity after another. Believe me, growing pains aren’t confined to childhood. Just as some children suffer from this malaise as there bodies develop, the same holds true when the soul is being stretched to new heights. Why are we so eager to push our bodies till they hurt (and pay enormous sums of money for that privilege) in order to achieve physical fitness and beauty, but balk when the exercise is spiritual in nature? No one expects physical training to be easy or free. So where did I get the misconception that spiritual fitness was the ‘easy’ road with no cost involved? If it were, there’d be a lot more traffic on it.
A few days later at lunch my mom posed an interesting question: “When am I going to become the woman I want to be? I don’t have much time left.” Jokingly, I replied, “I don’t know, but you better hurry!” More seriously, I added, “Not until the day you meet Jesus will you be the woman He designed you to be. We are never complete this side of the grave.” Our time here is simply a gestation period where we slowly develop into the people Jesus intended, finally being born into Heaven completed only by being home in His Holy Presence. Trust that you are right where you are meant to be as long as you choose to be by His side.
I’ll leave you with a light-hearted visual to contemplate this week. Even though we may choose to do the right thing, it’s often uncomfortable and downright painful. Choose to hold onto His promises that He will carry (and sometimes drag us kicking and screaming) through it all.
If music is your thing, this is one of my favorites on the subject. Brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it. Just going on record here, I want it played at my funeral.