We avoid pain because…
We’re enamored with quick fixes
Growing up, Thanksgiving dinner was absolutely my favorite meal of the year. I looked forward to it all year long. My parents would literally spend days preparing for it — shopping, chopping, marinating, and otherwise laboring over ancient family recipes I can’t seem to replicate no matter how hard I try. Then, when the moment finally came, we’d haul out the fine china and silver, set the table in linen tablecloths and napkins, and feast ourselves into food comas. There was ceremony to it as well. We prayed special prayers and circled around the table each sharing what we were thankful for. So between that, the quantity and variety of foods, and the anticipation involved in building up to it, this meal always took longer to actually eat as well. And cleanup was monstrous, but we whistled while we worked because, after that, the homemade pies appeared … and were enjoyed … and then, unconsciousness.
In sharp contrast, on the average day when Faith is working and I’m home with my son John, we typically want something fast and easy for dinner … something we can eat in front of the television on a single plate that we toss in the dishwasher afterwards. Or, if we go out for a treat, John invariably wants something ultra healthy like Taco Bell or White Castle. I’m typically okay with that, though, because it’s fast, easy and cheap.
What does any of this have to do with experiencing pain or difficult life circumstances?
It’s about how you view your life. When you picture your growth as a child of the Most High King, actively being transformed by the Spirit of God to be more like Jesus, do you picture yourself as a Thanksgiving feast or drive-thru fast food?
Your life before God is way more than fast food. HE sees you far more like a Thanksgiving feast than a TV dinner! You are God’s masterpiece! In you, God is preparing the best meal of the year. Jesus didn’t leave heaven, sacrifice Himself on an implement of Roman torture, and endure the unspeakable weight of the sin of all mankind so that you could have a cheap-tacos-in-front-of-the-TV kind of new life in Him. He’s after the full three-day, fine linen, real silver, grandma’s apple pie kind of experience for you.
And here’s the rub … that’s not fast, it’s not easy, and it’s not cheap. With all due respect to the production mindset of the industrial revolution, the fact is that you simply cannot microwave redemption. The redeemed, sanctified life of a child of God cannot be achieved with high-speed, quick-fix, patch-it-temporarily, better-life-by-next-Thursday kind of strategies. So, if God follows recipes you can’t replicate and does a bunch of work to cook the meal that you aren’t expecting or don’t understand, don’t run from it wishing for quick-fix, Taco Bell kinds of solutions. If you do, you’ll miss out on the best meal of the year.
And don’t forget, our goal isn’t next week, it’s heaven. It would be “easy” and far more microwave-friendly for God to hook you up with a new job or a new fancy toy or a new hair style or new relationship with someone you meet at youth group or whatever it would take to give you a little emotional high about your life by next week. That’s simple … and almost meaningless by comparison. Your Father isn’t after a better next Tuesday, He’s after life transformation … conformity into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29) … a life of real joy, real love, real goodness, real faithfulness (Galatians 5:22-23) … an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or even fade (1 Peter 1:3-4) … to make what is perishable and weak to be imperishable and glorious (1 Corinthians 15:42-43).
God is transforming you so that you will fit in and be at home in heaven!
Why are we willing to wait patiently literally for years as buildings are built or movies are produced or sales cycles are resolved, but think that being rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought over from death to life (Colossians 1:13) and being transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2), so that we may be presented before God as spotless and perfect (Ephesians 5:27), constitutes a reality that God should whip up in an afternoon or through a single sermon series or after reading a couple books or in a few months of small group meetings and half-hearted prayer? And how much more important are you than any building or sales cycle? How much more entangled is your sin problem than any engineering challenge man has ever faced? How much work is needed in your heart to make it like Jesus? Surely you see that it’d be much easier to build a new skyscraper!
If we’re going to see the goodness of God in the circumstances of our lives, we have to be willing to let God work at God’s pace. And God is not slow (2 Peter 3:9); He’s doing what is necessary. It’s fantasy to believe there’s a better way … not to mention the height of arrogance. We are not wiser than God. We do not understand the ancient recipes the way He does. Let Him cook. Maybe even set aside a few distractions to look over His shoulder and learn a thing or two about really good recipes while He does. But in any event, I promise you that what He’s making in you will be worth the wait.
Read more about the goodness of God.
Excellent! Love it! Thanks for the helpful, truthful perspective. Engagingly written too!
I like your writing. You do a good job with that end of things.
Yet, your tendency in this particular article to make it sound like it is all God’s job is misleading. Some things are all God, some are part Him and part me, and some are nearly all me. So far as all change being the result of long periods of growth, this implication is also misleading. We change in the blink of an eye, within days or weeks, and over years. Finally, you seem to imply there is no recipe we can follow. However, there are recipes in the Word for how to change, how to create the conditions for God to change us, and for how God works to change us.
That said, I like the spirit of your message, to be patient and malleable and humble. But I believe in proactive synergistic practical sanctification, because that is what the Word teaches. Indeed, your example of a situation “that God should whip up in an afternoon or through a single sermon series or after reading a couple books or in a few months of small group meetings and half-hearted prayer” is a straw man. It also, again, implies practical sanctification is monergistic.
You might not see your view as I have depicted it, but at least you know how one reader has understood your message.
Blessings to you, brother.
Thanks for your response. Great point.
I agree with you entirely that there is no such thing as arm chair sanctification … we don’t / can’t just wait around long enough and God will fix what’s wrong with us! I too read Scripture to explicitly describe sanctification as both the work of God (e.g. Rom 12:2) and our work (e.g. Phil 2:12). I typically refer to our part in this work as “training for godliness” (c.f. 1 Tim 4:6-10).
You’re also correct that this post is indeed one-sided, because I’m addressing the temptation so many in our culture face to believe that life-change should be a quick fix. (And what you don’t know is that I am publishing four reasons why people avoid pain in life, leading up to a claim that we would be less inclined to do so. So stay tuned for that.) No doubt, sometimes God strikes us with thunderbolts and leaps our maturity forward overnight, but in my experience this is rare. More often I’ve met people who struggle sullenly or shake their fists angrily at God because they want to change but feel that God isn’t “moving fast enough” for them. And even when God gives us the gift of one of these sudden bursts of speed, what He is truly after in our lives is always that which will result from a lifetime’s work, not a day’s or a week’s. But to your point, yes, absolutely, live in partnership with God in His work.
Thanks again. Really appreciate your taking the time to post, and your kind words.