Each of us will encounter difficult seasons in our lives. If we allow them, they can refine us and help us to push on, trust more and allow our roots to go deeper into Christ. “Hardship, in whatever form it takes, is … an opportunity to grow, but only if we allow God to use it that way… Every adversity, every disappointment, every setback, every affront is an opportunity to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ” (Buchanan, 2010, 168)*. Difficult seasons in our lives help shape our character and our character helps determine how we will face these seasons. These moments, that no one wants to walk through, can be the very crucibles where we are molded more into Christ’s image.
Back in the fall when I was walking through a difficult season, I remember driving to numerous engagements and stopping to admire the color and beauty of the scenery that was placed before me. I reflected on the leaves that were changing color; they were magnificent. But I realized that this beauty was the result of death. The death of the leaves brought color and a wonderful picture for all to see. As I watched the leaves change over the course of the month, and slowly fading, I realized that God was using my difficult times to change me, to allow more “death to self” to occur so I could become something so much more, and hopefully reflect more of His beauty. I realized that in dying to myself, laying down the things God was asking me to lay down, I would be making room for new growth to occur in my life.
Many of us know that in order to become more like Christ we need to continue to die to ourselves. Often we say “yes I need to die to myself” but then turn around and continue to do what is best for ourselves rather than lay down our own desires for the sake of others, or for the sake of the Kingdom. The difficult seasons in our lives often stop us from continuing on in the same way as before. When we are through on the other side of them, we are not the same.
As I have watched other believers walk through intense difficult seasons, I realize that God can also use us to impact those around us and in our community. The very way in which we respond to these times that come our way can be used to point others to Christ. Our very attitudes and how we walk through these seasons not only shape us, but can shape others.
Reflection – Individuals:
The act of dying to ourselves is a hard process but:
– Are we willing to go through this process in order that we might impact this world for God’s Kingdom?
– Are we willing to walk through times of loneliness because we have made the decision to be different then the world around us?
– Are we willing to let go of our own selfishness, the way we want things to be done, in order that God’s Kingdom might be moved forward?
– Are we willing to step outside of our comfort zone in order that the lonely, the hurting, the hungry, and those in prison might experience God’s love?
– Are we willing to take off the masks we wear and hide behind in order that we can be genuine to the world around us and experience real community?
– Are we willing to lay down our deepest desires and longings and allow Christ to truly be first in our lives?
What would the church’s witness be like if each of us, as Christ followers, began to truly take the call to die to ourselves seriously? Perhaps our communities would be transformed and we could begin to make an impact on the world.
Reflection – Church:
In a similar way God can also use difficult seasons in the life of the church to help His bride become more radiant. What are some of the things or issues that need to die in our churches so something new can rise up?
– Perhaps it is saying good-bye to longstanding ministries that have grown out of their effectiveness?
– Perhaps it is learning to work with individuals that you have not thought of working with before?
– Perhaps it is laying aside our own interests or desires in order to allow a solution to be implemented, rather than stall ministry in the community?
– Maybe it is stepping aside to make room for the next generation to be part of leading?
– Maybe it is saying good-bye to buildings, people or the status quo?
Death is not easy. No one desires to walk through saying painful good-byes, or the journey of grief, but it is through these exact circumstances where we are shaped both as individuals and as the church. What death needs to happen in ourselves and in our churches so something new can be birthed? What topics of conflict do we need to lay aside in order to allow the Kingdom to advance even further?Church, are we ready to let go of familiarity and comfort in order to embrace the journey of dying so God can do something new?
*Buchanan, Mark (2010). Spiritual Rhythm: Being with Jesus Every Season of Your Soul. Grand Rapids, Michigan : Zondervan.