The point of this series is transformation. We want to give you the tools to experience personal transformation with God.
The first step in this process is experiencing the full weight of your emotions. Why? Because your emotions bring you into reality. Reality is what is really going on. If you are angry, there is a reason. If you feel depressed, there is a reason. Your emotions are real. To stuff your emotions or to ignore your emotions is to ignore reality.
Now think about this. Reality is where God is. If you ignore reality, it might be why you struggle to connect with God.
The second step is take an honest look in your past. Why? Because harmful and sinful habits of your family can go right into you without even knowing it. Does your extended family deal with divorce or addiction? Chances are you will too. Does your family raise you to believe the source of security is money and insurance? Chances are you will run to money faster than to God. Was your father abusive, was your mother very controlling or critical? These things shape and mold us. We can’t ignore them. To ignore them is to ignore reality.
Remember, reality is where God is. If you ignore reality, it might be why you struggle to connect with God.
Today, we will talk about the third step and you’re not going to like it. I don’t like it. I don’t want to talk about it but we can’t escape it. Again, it’s reality. To help understand what I am about to say, allow me to start with an analogy. When a baby is born, it’s all about the baby right? As the baby grows, it continues to be about the baby. They poop and we cheer. They draw something awful and we celebrate it on the refrigerator. They play soccer on the worst team and get a trophy. We send them to school and we so want them to feel valuable, we geek if they have face any adversity. It’s all about the baby. We serve the baby. We love the baby.
Then they hit Middle School and High School. They discover that there are other people in this world. They begin to learn that the other people can be mean, nasty and harsh. We don’t want our children to experience any pain but because we love them, the best thing for them, is to go to school and begin to grow up. They are learning that life isn’t all about them – hopefully. It’s about growing up. They are moving from, ‘life is all about me’ as a baby into, ‘I’m not the center of the universe’ as an adult.
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. NIV 1 Corinthians 13:11
Why do I say all this? What the child thinks is hard and difficult to face and overcome, is the very thing they must walk through to grow up. That’s the exactly how God treats us. He allows us to face what is hard because He loves us.
4 In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through – all that bloodshed! 5 So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children?
My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either. 6 It’s the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects.
7 God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children.
This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training,
Did you just read that? Are you in the middle of a struggle right now? Are you facing an awful time right now? What have you concluded about that? Scripture says that it’s not punishment. Actually, it’s training. Did you conclude that you were in a struggle because you did something wrong?
Now, if you walked in open sin, there are ramifications. But life’s struggle isn’t because you failed. It isn’t because you are bad and God is punishing you.
8 the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? 9 We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? 10 While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. 11 At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.
12 So don’t sit around on your hands! No more dragging your feet! 13 Clear the path for long-distance runners so no one will trip and fall, so no one will step in a hole and sprain an ankle. Help each other out. And run for it! MSG Hebrews 12:4-13
Did you make that connection? The trouble you are in isn’t punishment, it’s training you to be in a mature relationship with Christ.
Here is what you need to know is coming. There is a day coming when you will hit the wall. You will go splat. Everything that is normal will be flipped upside down. The wall normally comes in the form of a crisis. Divorce. Death. Health struggle. Feeling betrayed. And unfortunately, it probably won’t be a one-time event. We aren’t talking about a traffic jam, being late to work or spilling coffee on a new shirt. We are talking about a sudden awareness that you are wildly out of control.
Why does God allow us to hit the wall? He told us, He loves us and wants us grow up. By the way, it will rough. Scripture tells that it will feel like it’s going against the grain but it is for our good. It is the only way to become well trained and mature in our relationship with God. Just allow that to sink in. Doesn’t that just sound awful? “Something bad is going to happen – thanks Ken!” This isn’t a Sunday with Joel Olsteen who gives you 7 secrets to success. This is scripture. We share this with you so you know how to handle it when it comes.
Listen, I don’t want this to be true either. I would love to go kayaking all day watch reruns of Hogans Heros all night. That’s not real life. The wall is coming. For some of you, you have already walked through the wall a couple times. For the rest of you, you need to know you will hit the wall. If you don’t understand what is going on, will be dazed and confused and you might quit on God, the church and your friends.
This chapter explains that the wall is a part of your journey with God. You can experience God’s grace. You can give your life to Christ. You can grow and learn new things. You do all the right activities. But some day, because God loves you, you will hit the wall.
How do you know you hit the wall? Your world is flipped upside down and nothing makes sense. You question yourself, God and the church because your faith isn’t working. Your prayers aren’t working. Your bible reading isn’t working. You feel tired, defeated and empty. You have no clue where God is or what He is doing. You have more questions than answers. You live with an anxious awareness that something is incomplete, something is in suspense, you are out of control.
When the wall comes, it’s important to trust God in it and allow Him to do what He must. If you don’t, you can ignore the pain, get busy and plow through it but your heart will be unchanged. And when you are on the other side of the wall, you will be a little harder, a little more bitter and turn more inward. Have you seen this? People who walk through hard times unfazed. They push the pain down, smile and say, ‘God does everything for a reason.’ That’s not being a good mature disciple of Jesus. That’s just ignoring your feelings and what God is up to.
As we walk through the wall, trust God and allow Him to work, God is purging us of things He wants to get rid of and putting His character in is.
Couple ways you will know that you are being transformed.
First: You will be more broken. Have you ever met someone who was full of themselves and they said the most insensitive things? When they hit the wall, what happens? They aren’t so yammery and cocky anymore are they? They stop being so judgmental or flippant about life because they experienced pain and know their own need for God.
I remember when we walked through a miscarriage. Before that moment, I didn’t understand the pain couples walk through. When we met the doctor, he started talking and I couldn’t make sense of what he was saying. It was such a weird moment that day and for months after. On the other side of that wall, I was much more broken and can emotionally feel the pain when others walk through a miscarriage.
Another sign of being broken is that you aren’t so easily offended. People who are insecure and prideful get offended so quickly. They are so defensive. Are you doing life with a person like this? You always have to watch what you say, right? When you hit the wall, when you go splat, when you are broken, something breaks inside you. You need for power, position or prestige is less, all you want, is God. You don’t care about proving yourself or defending yourself.
On the other side of the wall, you are more broken, you aren’t judgemental or easily offended any more.
Second: You will have more faith. That means you realize you aren’t in control. Probably the greatest lesson we can learn when we hit the wall is that God is in control, we are not. Before the wall, we feel like we are in control and we view God like our genie. We go to church, say our prayers and expect God to give us the life of comfort and success. If something doesn’t go as planned, we go off the chain because God didn’t come through like you thought He would.
On the other side of the wall, that control is broken and we have faith to enter into life with no expectations. It’s easier to enter into the mysteries of God.
Third: You will have a deeper ability to wait on God. Going through the wall reminds you that you need God. You pray and pray and pray. You are so aware of your need of God. Before you hit the wall and go splat, you don’t have time to be with God. As you walk through the wall, you have all the time in the world to be with God. After the wall, you have a deeper ability to wait on God. That inner drive we have, that grasping for anything that works, that fear self-will is destroyed.
A couple years ago I got a call from a friend who was crying. His son had an awful accident skiing and he was life lined to Allentown. Everything stopped. The only thing to do was pray. The back of his head was crushed as he want off the ski trail and they didn’t think he would walk or talk properly again. Today, years later, he’s perfectly fine.
The wall teaches us that we need to wait on God and that’s okay.
Fourth: You won’t be as addicted to your bad habits and sin. We are less concerned about being happy all the time. That shallow way of living is just us grasping at anything for a temporary happy moment.
4 Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ. 5 And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God. MSG Colossians 3:4-5
St. John of the Cross who wrote ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ said there are seven things the wall frees us from.
Pride. It’s easy to judge others and be impatient with them.
Avarice. Discontent with the spirituality we have. Must always have more learning but never living out what God asked us to do.
Luxury. Pursuing success over a relationship with Christ.
Wrath. Easily irritated, have little patience to wait on God.
Spiritual gluttony. Refuses the cross and chooses pleasures like children do.
Spiritual Envy. Always comparing and upset if someone else has a spiritual breakthrough.
Sloth. Run from anything hard. They want spiritual sweetness and good feelings.
You need to know; the wall is coming because God loves you. Trust Him. Allow Him to do what He has to do. And it won’t be fun, it’s never fun to see the dark side of your soul. It is the only way for God to take the junk out and put God in you.
Let me share with you a prayer from the Day to Day booklet.
I asked God for strength that I might achieve, I was made weak that I might learn to obey.
I asked God for health that I might do great things, I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked God for riches that I might be happy, I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked God for power when I was young that I might have the praise of men, I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked God for all things that I might enjoy life, I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered. I am, among all people, most richly blessed. – Unknown Confederate Solder
The wall is coming. It’s real. Trust God. You will question your faith. You will walk with that anxious feeling like you are out of control. It’s okay, it’s not punishment. It is a time period where God is pulling things out of you and putting things into you.