Christians love to tell seemingly instant stories of redemption. The alcoholic that gets saved and never goes back to the bar. The husband that after an affair, immediately comes to his senses and rebuilds a beautiful life-long union with his family. The woman with chronic pain that wakes up one morning healed.
These stories are inspiring and they fill us with the wonder of what God can do. We invite these stories into our worship services, and they go viral on social media. God can do these things, and He often does. And it ought to inspire worship.
But, they don’t tell the whole story of how God works in his church. And I think we do the body a disservice when we don’t celebrate slow sanctification.
How should a wife live in a difficult marriage when it seems like God isn’t answering her prayers?
How should the infertile couple think about God when we know that giving life is easy for Him?
What about the faithful single man that is waiting for a wife?
How do we respond when it feels like God doesn’t choose us for a miracle?
First, remember that He is good, and He sees us.
He is not indifferent to our pain. Scripture describes the heart of Christ as gentle and lowly. Your struggle is not a surprise to Him, and He has not left you.
Second, remind yourself of what God actually promises.
It can be tempting as a Christian to think that if you spend a certain amount of time obeying God, then He will reward you with a changed circumstance. This is an insidious lie, that can take root in even the most devout believer’s heart. Root out any whisper of this. It will turn to ash in your mouth, and harden you towards the good gifts that God does promise us.
He has the words of eternal life, where else would we go? His ultimate promise to us is eternity with Him. It is worth following Him no matter the outcome because He is Lord. (John 6:60-71)
Third, remember that scars shape us.
We talk about life being a vapor, which it is. But seasons also come and go. Don’t react out of fear or impatience. You don’t know what God holds in your future. There may never be the healing that you hope and pray for, but God will be faithful in his promise to sanctify you and bring you peace despite your circumstances. A way out of your particular circumstance may not come, but He will deliver a way through, day-by-day and hour-by-hour.
Lastly, create pathways to press in to the Lord in profound ways.
This should be true for every Christian, but this will be especially live-giving for those that feel they are bearing a disproportionately heavy burden.
Take practical steps to draw from the words of scripture and pray deeply. Make sacrifices to pay for Christian therapy. He won’t compete with the noise and business of life. Take care of the physical limitations on your body by going to bed early, and waking up before the stresses of the day consume you. Implement a sabbath day. Commit to getting in nature regularly. Get around other Christians that are walking out a long obedience in the same direction. Don’t be tempted to surround yourself with others that will commiserate with you.
Let God create a redemptive road map in your life. Be an example of long suffering to a future generation (maybe your own children!).
Even the above list of items can be a temptation to check off, and hold expectations for getting what you want. Continually check your motives.
It can be easy to assume stories of redemption were easy for others. The Instagram square and caption just looks so tidy. But don’t be fooled. Change isn’t magic. You will fail. And God will be faithful to complete the good work that He began in you (Philippians 1:6).