“God, please help me be more ____.” I think it’s safe to say every Christian has prayed this at some point in the lives. If they haven’t, there might be an issue concerning lack of growth and that’s another blog post entirely. When we’re chasing God, we want to be more like him, which is a great thing! But sometimes it seems like the more we pray for growth in him, the harder our lives get. We ask to be used for the Kingdom and find ourselves bogged down in the mud. Given the world’s creed to “follow your bliss!” and “chase your dreams!” it’s hard not to feel like we must be failing somehow, but that’s genuinely not the case.
Any time spent perusing the lives of Bible characters will reveal a common theme: a lot of times their lives were absolutely miserable. There’s no way to sugar coat it. Sometimes their lives were just stuffed full of hardship. Paul spent more than a little time in prison, Hosea’s wife repeatedly left him, Job lost everything a man can lose on earth, and if you really want some cheerful reading look at what happened to the disciples later in life. We have no problem seeing the complete picture when we read these stories, but it’s another matter entirely when it happens to us. We don’t have the complete script for our own lives, so hardship is most often confusing and painful and we fear it’s only going to get worse.
I’m not saying every single one of us is going to be martyred, but we are going to face monumental hardship. It’s going to look different for each and every one of us, but it will be there. If suffering for what you believe in, being called outside your comfort zone, or being disliked because you are different are deal breakers, you probably shouldn’t consider Christianity. Jesus didn’t spare anyone’s feelings when he said: “The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.” (John 15:19)
There’s a key relationship in that verse: chosen. God chooses us and if we choose him back, there is going to be some hardship here on earth. Why? Simply put, there’s a war on, and you just picked a side. Make no mistake, we might not see it in the day to day, but there is a full-scale war raging back and forth over all those who are still lost. When we choose Christ and start serving others, we become foot soldiers in that war.
Which brings me back to prayer. You have to be careful what you pray for. If you pray for God to use you, he’s going to use you. You’ll get put into action, and that might not exactly look how you thought it might. War never does. It may not be glamorous in the slightest, and good luck finding an adoring crowd to whoop and cheer over your every move. War is grittier than that. You’re hopping in a trench, and you need to be aware.
If you’re going to pray “God make me more ___.” than you better prepare yourself for an opportunity to grow in that area. Growth is not a magic microwave where we wait for the “ding!” and pull out our new and improved self. Growth is forged out of opportunity and fight. Growth is a battle. If you pray “God make me stronger” you may just uncover an area in your life that hits you right where you’re weak. It’s not because God likes pulling the rug out from under our feet. He’s good and he loves us. The uncovering of our weakness gives us a chance to face it and change it. We can’t shy away from it if it’s going to be fixed.
And I get it, battles are hard. They hurt. I want to give up on my battles all the time in favor of something simpler, but if I’m going to have a prayer life that asks God to use me for his kingdom, I need to be getting ready for what that means. When we chose to live as a reflection of God’s love we may be asked to go to places that are uncomfortable, exhausting and even downright painful. It’s not a punishment, but an opportunity. I have to come back to that idea and recognize that all the time. I have to understand what I’m praying for on this one. It would be incredibly foolish of me to ask God to put me on the front lines and then get upset and confused when I get shot at.
If you’re not prepared to get mud and blood on your face, you’d better get out of the trenches.
If we pray for growth and expect “follow your bliss” results, we’re going to be let down and disappointed every time. Truthfully though, that let down is the best thing for us. Don’t come to a Heavenly Father expecting worldly results. Yes, we may struggle, and yes, we may hurt, but we will also be forged into something new and better. That war we picked a side on has a purpose and already has a victor, and there’s a lot to celebrate on the other side of that victory. I can spend a little more time in the trenches if that’s the end result.
Contrary to what the world would have you believe, hardship and challenges in your life are not symptoms of you failing to achieve your all-important goal. Rather, those things are refining you to do more than you ever could have imagined. Just know, if you pray for God to put you in the fight you’d better get ready because he takes our requests pretty seriously. Chase God, understand what you’re asking of him, and joyfully hop in the trenches. You never know where the words “God make me more ____.” will take you.
Let’s find some joy,