I was talking with a friend back at the beginning of this year and he mentioned how he had been learning that only when our pain is greater than our fear will we be able to make positive changes in our lives. It was fascinating to hear him say that because I was wrestling at the time with a similar concept but from a different perspective.
I had been thinking about the concept of self-control and how to do the things that we want to do but somehow find so hard to do. (Romans 7 kind of stuff.) Just as an easy-to-understand example, let’s look at the ever-popular topics of eating health and exercise, especially popular this time of year! I think we all pretty much know that eating certain foods and staying away from others is how our bodies function best. We all know that finding ways to move more and get enough sleep helps us. We want to feel healthy … and yet we keep grabbing the sugar and skipping the exercise and cutting down the hours of sleep to pack more in our busy lives.
So how do we get to a point where change is possible and our resolutions don’t fall short on January 3. As the conversation with my friend suggested, sometimes pain is a great motivator. The diagnosis of a health condition, the threat of losing a job, the inability to play with kids… these are pains that sometime can force us into life change.
But I had been trying to figure out if there were other ways. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want pain to be the only way I can have positive change in life. Shaming ourselves (or others) doesn’t typically work and “just try harder” is possibly the worst advice anyone could ever give. But what DOES work? I was stuck… how do we embrace lives of self-control and discipline while still living in the freedom that actually leads to LIFE and not slavery to a system?
And suddenly I stumbled upon an idea, pieced together over a few days. Paul says it this way in Romans:
“But the people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded. Why not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law instead of by trusting him. …” (Romans 9:31-32 NLT)
It makes me wonder… when our TRUST in God is bigger than our fear perhaps that ALSO leads to freedom, change, and abundant life.
As this concept processed through my brain I was reminded of this quote from Jessica Honegger:
“Self-control is really about these moment-by-moment choice we have to believe God. Do we believe that God is who He says He is and that He is enough?”
I heard that quote in a livestream of an if:gathering conversation last February between her and other women including Ruth Chou Simons who followed it up with:
“Self control is a fruit of the Spirit. It’s God’s work; you can’t muster it up. Don’t keep trying to staple fruit onto your tree. Hide and abide yourself in Christ.”
Self-control is probably one of the least popular fruits of the Spirit. We all want things like peace and love and joy… but self-control… hmmm maybe I’ll pass.
As I process these quotes, I wonder if we actually trust and believe God IS enough for us, especially in these areas we struggle to gain control over. Is he enough for our faults and failures, enough to satisfy our deepest longing, enough to bring peace in this chaotic would.
Hide and abide in Christ.
That really does sound a lot like trust. It’s hard for us to comprend because we think that we need a “7 steps to a better you” plan. Hiding and abiding can’t possibly be the key.
While God isn’t beyond using pain to bring about change in our lives if necessary, His preferred method is trust. Eyes locked in on Christ at every move; seeking His Kingdom first and letting everything else be added in after. Our God is so trustworthy, whether our hearts can believe it in any given moment or not. I’m still here, months later, trying to figure out exactly how trust practically leads to positive change in my life, but I have learned this in the process: without trust I’ll never take the risks necessary to find out.