I used to think that God chose painful circumstances to transform me because it was the only language I understood. It turns out it’s not the only language I understand, it’s the only language I seem to acknowledge. Happiness doesn’t seem real, contentment seems fleeting, and hope fluctuates. But pain? That seems real. Almost tangible in the way it overwhelms my life at times. So it’s no wonder I comprehend it above anything else. Whether through death or disappointment I can count on it’s presence. In some form or another pain creeps into the air ducts of my life silently permeating the rooms of my heart with its toxic invisibility. Armor, spiritual or no, doesn’t feel like a very formidable defense against the gaseous pain leaking into my spirit. No matter what I do the effects of pain are present.
Pain is present because sin is present, and although Christ has liberated us from sin, it’s affects still linger. And I feel like although sin is defeated in my own life and it is no longer my master, it hangs in the air like poisonous gas in a chemical warfare zone. I wish the armor of God came with a gas mask. But unfortunately I breathe the same air as the rest of the world and I often enter the sanctuary of my bedroom covered in the residue of this sinful world. The residue that comes from mine, and others, judgement, anger, harshness, unforgiveness, criticism, pride, heartbreak, anxiety, depression, rejection, confusion, doubt, guilt, all make it hard for me to breathe and leave me feeling filthy.
Maybe this is another reason for Jesus’ reference to being living water. He’s not just for drinking, but also for bathing. What His armor doesn’t ward off, He washes off Himself. As I rest in Him, presenting my soul to Him through confession and transparency He gently and calmly washes away the dust and grime of the day. My time in prayer is becoming not just a battle field, but also my soul’s bath time. When I take off the armor of the Spirit and get really intimate with the Holy Spirit Himself. It is during these alone times I hear the Spirit best because when I strip everything away I see I was never going to be strong enough alone to handle the burdens of my day, let alone my entire life. For heaven sake I can’t even walk through the atmosphere of this world for one day without feeling it’s affects!
But, alone with the very Embodiment of Strength, I see myself correctly. Weak, needy, desperate for the help of a Savior. This acknowledgement of weakness can only come from struggle, hardship, desperation, and this is good news. Because it means our suffering has always been about our transformation. God, like always, took what the enemy meant for evil and made it a part of our salvation. Our good. Evil has now become a catalyst into deeper intimacy with the Creator of the universe. The sand transformed into pearl over time. The pressure that creates a diamond to be mined from the depths of our souls. The miracle that allows our once blind eyes to see again. The class room where we learn patience, understanding, humility, gratitude, and steadfast love. Only when we embrace the process can it truly work out the good God has planned.
I am convinced that I often reject the idea of need and discomfort in my life because I am convinced God must have better plans for my life. After all He is goodness, love, joy, abundance. So how could He ever allow me to walk through seasons of deep need, discouragement, seeming unfavorable conditions, anxiety, chronic illness, if He loved me? But this idea of God’s goodness is a misconception of Who God is and what His eternal purposes are for my life. His eternal good for my life is not to give me a thriving career, money in the bank, and a healthy body till I’m a hundred. He doesn’t care if I have a new car, a spouse, a house, a 401K, or even if I have a great ministry. What He cares about is the condition of the invisible soul that resides somewhere inside this sack of blood, muscle, and bone. And He is beyond zealous to see me transformed into my eternal self.
We are concerned with time and deadlines, but He isn’t worried about time and He isn’t impatient. God does not grow bored with returning again and again to get a portion of a painting just right. He doesn’t care if it takes forty-five coats of paint to get us just the right shade or texture. In fact He knew exactly how much “paint” it was going to take, the number of strokes, and He just keeps painting. WE are the ones who think that we should be finished after three coats, and we definitely hope there’s no preparation needed for the canvas. Some of us think we should be masterpieces by now. I know I do. But I often wonder if the last decade of my life has only been Him prepping the canvas. All the painting has only been the Lord applying a base coat. What if I could look at the canvas of my life and all I saw was a thick white coat and a pencil sketch that said, “To be filled in later”?
To be honest that’s exactly where I find myself right now. Staring at a huge portion of my life that says, “To be filled in later.” But I know that the Father hasn’t been idle. He has been meticulously mixing every color using every season of my life to get the hues just right. So when He begins to paint He will say, “Remember when you thought I was doing nothing? The seasons of waiting, loneliness, anxiety, sickness, doubt? I took all those circumstances and emotions and created the most beautiful colors to paint your life. And suffering is the activator to all these colors, without it these shades would be dull and flat. Painful seasons help you to look upon the picture of your life and see the hidden beauty untold.”
So, if you’re in a “mixing” season, just hold on. The colors you will see hereafter will take your breath away. You will find yourself looking on a palate full of colors you never dreamed existed. And when you see those colors, before they even hit the canvas, you will know whatever the Lord is about to paint, it’s going to be a masterpiece such as no eye has ever seen.