Life is all about growth isn’t it? Personal growth. Spiritual growth. Growth in all areas of life.
I grew up in the fantastic 80s. The land of permed hair, thick hairspray, neon colors and funky music.
I remember being in 3rd grade and my mom perming our hair at home.
Not all of our hair. Just the front.
Permed sides and bangs.
Yes. There are pictures.
I remember sitting on a chair in the kitchen with curlers in my hair and the perm chemicals stinging my eyes. I remember my mom saying a phrase.
A phrase she said often as we were growing up.
Not just about perms and french braids and sleeping in curlers… all things quite painful…
but about life.
Many things in life are painful.
Her phrase was, “It takes pain to be beautiful.”
My sisters and I joke about the perms and the braids and the phrase. We look back and laugh at the pain and the crying, especially now that we all have girls of our own who sit and squirm as we painfully brush out their long, tangled curls.
It really does take pain to be beautiful.
Not just on the outside, but more importantly, on the inside as well.
Personal growth that comes from deep within us.
Spiritual growth that changes us at the core of who we are.
I read recently a similar phrase as the one my mom used to say. This phrase sounds a little more grown up but it shares the same message.
“The process of being conformed into the image of God is brutal… Beautification is agonizing.” – Dick Brogden, Live Dead Joy
Dick Brogden goes on to say, “God’s goal is to make us like Himself. And He will move heaven and earth toward that goal.”
His aim is our heart. He wants all of it. Every part.
He uses life circumstances, family situations, personal struggles, work issues, annoyances… He uses our kids, our marriage, our time with Him. He uses it all to scourge and clean what we claim is His: our heart.
And the personal growth process is painful. It is brutal and agonizing.
Learning lessons of faith and trust and complete surrender will drive us to our knees.
Submitting to His control exposes our sin and opens us to the scrutinizing eye of the Holy Spirit.
There is so much love in that scrutinizing eye… the love of a Father wanting to make us whole and new and holy.
So much love that He will teach us and mold us and make us into an image of Himself that will shine His light to the world.
As a result, we will be beautiful, fierce warriors for Him.
“Warriors are not made of soldiers in peace time. Warriors are made in war.” CH Spurgeon
And I’m learning that warriors in faith are not made in the safety of home, in the comfort zone.
They are made in war. In battle. In the midst of the fight.
Warriors in faith have prayed the night through, depended on God for their very survival. They have submitted to the agonizing process of becoming Christlike in all things.
Warriors understand that it takes pain to learn lessons of faith in the deepest places of their heart.
God is making us into His likeness, warriors in faith.
And to do that He must challenge us in ways we never dreamed, call us to things we never imagined and ask us to live a life of His choosing so that we might fulfill His divine purpose.
Why? Why must the personal growth process be painful?
Well, like the story of the hot iron being shaped and made in the fire on the anvil… we must remember the full picture of that story.
We must picture in our minds the warm, fiery sparks that fly through the air with every pounding of the anvil.
Warm, orange-red sparks that have the potential to shine light in the dark. Sparks that have the ability to soften hard, cold hearts. Sparks that mean important work is being accomplished.
Sparks that will change the lives of those around us as we are being transformed.
I have to say, that having been through a death in the family, sickness in my body, many transitions, financial struggles, moving overseas, sending my girls into the unknown every day…
I still feel like this prayer, this willingness, this submitting to the process takes every ounce of courage I have and a whole lot of Jesus in me.
Nothing in my human self says, “Yes! This sounds like so much fun!”
I must see the process with spiritual eyes, with an eternal focus.
The prayer of becoming spiritually beautiful, of becoming a warrior in the faith is scary beyond scary.
Not knowing what the process will hold… or how long it will take.
With tears streaming down my face, as God showed me each of these things through many days of personal time with Him, I can say that I’m willing.
Hesitant yet trusting His hand.
Because although the process is painful, it is rewarding and strengthening and amazing and life giving.
The process brings reward, new levels of worship and a new sense of His daily presence.
The spiritual and personal growth process brings freedom and joy. In the midst.
“But those who patiently endure at last come forth in the beauty of holiness.” – unknown
And another quote that encourages us to pray the prayer of willingness says, “Just what the hidden plan of my future is, so long as it is the will of Jesus, is no concern of mine. The veil that hides it is woven by the fingers of Mercy.” Daniel Steele
Fingers of mercy guide our lives.
He is making something beautiful in His time.
It takes pain but the beauty, the blessing, the reward in the end is above and beyond all value.
It is worth it. For our heart and for the hearts of those God chooses to reach through our willingness to be made warriors in His Kingdom.
Painful. Agonizing transformation. Brutal at times.
But eternal. lasting. part of a plan bigger than our pain.
What are you learning through the process of pain?