Suffering Matures Us

In my reading lately, I have run across a common theme time and again. Difficulties in our lives are viewed differently when we claim Christ as our Lord. They are not something to be feared and avoided. They should be seen as a time to draw closer to God.

“Consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

Suffering and difficulties are the means by which we mature.

A child who is given everything, but is never required to work or wait for what they receive, will undoubtedly become spoiled. Their character will be selfish, greedy and demanding. The same is true of us adults. When life is always easy and we get all we think we want, we begin to falsely believe that we are deserving and entitled. We think we are powerful, brilliant, successful. And then our spiritual life becomes shallow – or non-existent. When we truly desire a relationship with God, then He begins to shape our character. He brings physical difficulties to whittle away our pride and our self. Yes, it hurts when He uses that sharp knife to shape us. Yet, if we persevere, maturity comes. Our dependence on God grows and the spoiled child within us changes into a loving, giving, grateful child of God.

“Perseverance must finish its work.” James 1:4 — Let it do its work in you.

“If only we would believe that we’re in-process and underway and willingly consent to be made. If only we would submit fully to our Maker’s hands as the clay submits to the potter.” David Roper, Growing Slowly Wise

“It is quite useless knocking at the door of heaven for earthly comfort. It’s not the sort of comfort they supply there.” C. S. Lewis

Brennan Manning Blessing:

May all your expectations be frustrated;

May all your plans be thwarted;

May all your desires be withered into nothingness…

That you may experience the powerlessness and poverty of a child and sing and dance in the compassion of God who is Father, Son, and Spirit.


Christian Simplicity

There are a number of Christian disciplines that have been practiced for centuries such as Prayer and Fasting, Meditation, Simplicity, and Confession.

Richard Foster in his book entitled Celebration of Discipline, The Path to Spiritual Growth, addresses these disciplines and more. It is a book that I have read, and reread, for many years. It is written in an easy-to-read conversational tone that encourages the reader in their walk with the Lord and opens their eyes to daily living habits that will help them to grow and mature.

This year, in my spiritual life, I would like to focus on Simplicity.

The word minimalist is a new word that is floating around these days. It is a deep and rich concept—but it is not new. The discipline of Simplicity has been taught and practiced for thousands of years.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,

but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2

It is so easy to become bound and gagged to this world. We are lured into buying more and more with snappy advertisements and entrancing commercials.

Our brains slowly adjust to the environment around us till we no longer notice that it is taking us where we do not want to go.

As Richard Foster says in Celebration of Discipline, “Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”

Living a life of buying more, spending more and looking for more leads to an increase in greed and self-centeredness. When we turn and begin to move into deeper and more meaningful lives, our eyes become opened to the needs of others around us.

Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats highlights the necessity of helping others.  “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Matt 6:19-21 also points us to Simplicity. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Minimalism helps us to create living space in our homes and cars. This is always a good thing. But Christian simplicity turns our hearts from desiring those things in the first place to desiring a closer walk with God. Jesus made it clear that people are not able to love money (possessions) and God at the same time. We simply can not do it. Our heart will follow where our treasure is stored. We must be intentional about where we put our treasure. Daily, we must make this decision.

I have been going through all the things in my home. Some I will keep for the feeling they give me of family connections. However, many things that I have picked up at one store or another add no spiritual value to my life. Out they go. The local thrift shop is happy to have them.

Richard Foster says, “The materialistic base of our age has become so pervasive that it has given people grave doubts about their ability to reach beyond the physical world.” Isn’t that just what Satan wants?

Simplicity means more than having fewer things. It is also how we spend our time. I am aiming to give my time to fewer people who need it, rather than trying to invest in every single person I come across during the entire year.

What are some other ways of simplifying our lives to further God’s kingdom?