So, I’m newly thirty-nine, and I thought I was okay. I was okay, until I wasn’t. I recently sat in my car and sobbed for a while. I was overcome with hopelessness and grief. I had just come from a sweet friend’s concert. She did an amazing job. She loves Jesus and is super talented. Her journey to where she is in her life and career has not been without struggle or challenge, and yet still, comparison struck me hard. She is more than ten years younger than I am, and she has seemingly arrived.
Do you have those people in your life? They appear in every way to just be better than you are — smarter, prettier, thinner, more talented with more opportunities. Life just seems to come easier for them. That is, on the surface anyway. I know and you know that no one’s life is as simple and carefree as it appears. In our social media-saturated society, we are inundated with everyone’s highlight reels. Sometimes, in our everyday real lives, we see that as well.
The Sunday following the concert, my pastor gave an altar call for people who believed God had given them a promise that had yet to come to pass. That was me. That is what I had been feeling. Twenty years ago, the Lord called me to ministry in the full-time sense of the word. But in the past twenty years, I have done ministry full-time on the side of my day job. This has many times been a source of discouragement in my life. In many ways, I thought I’d be further along.
I have learned a great deal in the daily and the mundane. I have tried to be grateful for my current season, but my heart has always ached for more. Believe me, I don’t have a glamorized idea of ministry. It is a hard, beautiful work and not for the faint of heart. It requires deep intimacy with God that leads to an overflow. It requires a steadfast trust in Him alone.
I started thinking of all of the people in the Bible who had a God-given dream and purpose and calling in their lives. None of them arrived at their destination in their timing or according to their plan.
Abraham set out in old age to unknown destinations destined to be the father of many nations he would never see.
Joseph was kidnapped at age seventeen by his brothers because of their jealousy. He endured trial after trial, only to become the prime minister of Egypt at age thirty.
Esther, an orphan probably around age fourteen began the twelve-month process to become eligible to even come before the king. She became queen and saved the Jewish people.
David, a cute little shepherd boy and the youngest of eight sons, was chosen and anointed to be King by Samuel. He spent years loving God and growing in His relationship with Him. With God’s help and power, he also conquered many an adversary. He didn’t officially become king until age thirty, around fifteen years later.
I could go on and on. There are countless people in the Bible who didn’t walk a linear road with God. There are countless people who went through immense suffering on their journeys with him. I needed this reminder. Maybe you do as well.
God is more interested in who we are becoming than where we are headed.
I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:6 (CSB)
In Philippians 1, Paul was encouraging the church to stay pure and blameless with eyes fixed on Jesus. That call holds true today for us. God began a good work in each of us in our mother’s wombs. He created us uniquely and wonderfully. He gave us skills and gifts and talents designed only for us. No two of His created are exacly alike. We each possess a calling that only we can fulfill. He created us on purpose and for a purpose. He is beyond faithful to never stop this work in us in order to accomplish His work through us.
You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him; though not seeing him now, you believe in him, and you rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:6-9 (CSB)
Often, when I go through trials and hardship, it becomes so easy for me to compare myself to others and imagine they never have it as hard as I do. It becomes easy for me to wonder why God allows me to experience pain. I know that God is good and that what He does is good. We live in a fallen and broken world. Tribulation comes, but Christ has overcome.
These verses in 1 Peter remind us that there is always purpose that comes out of everything we go through. God doesn’t send it, but He sure does work it for our good and for His glory. Our pain and processes are not meant to sidetrack us from our callings; they are meant to further equip us for the long haul.
It has always been God’s desire to bring us from glory to glory in our aim to be conformed to His image. He uses our hardships and roundabout journeys to do so. If we fully yield to His ways, He will bring us into deep places of intimacy with Him. We’ll develop a solid faith foundation. We’ll give Him praise and honor despite our circumstances, and we will live a life of thanks and of rejoicing in our many trials.
The character He is refining within us is meant to withstand the fire around us. God will always value our character more than our outcome, and there is purpose in it all — the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Is there pain or a process in your life that you are having a hard time seeing purpose in?
I’d love to pray for you!
The character He is refining within us is meant to withstand the fire around us. God will always value our character more than our outcome. -@karina268: Click To Tweet