by John Fischer
Often, as a child, when I complained about some ache or pain that had no clear physical explanation, the simple parental diagnosis was: “It’s just growing pains.” I used to imagine my muscles and bones actually hurting while they stretched and grew. While I know nothing about the scientific nature of this evaluation, I do know it has a spiritual application that is entirely accurate. It hurts to grow.
It hurts to grow because we have to die to old ways in order to live anew, and old ways die hard. We place a high premium in life on dying peacefully, but in reality dying almost always is accompanied by pain. We have dependencies with coping mechanisms that have enslaved us. It’s hard letting go of our security blankets.
In a touching scene from the romantic comedy, Mr. Mom, Michael Keaton has to coax his toddler’s “whoopee” blanket away from him. Upon rendering it up, the little boy asks for a moment to himself to grieve the loss and we can almost touch his pain. We would like similar moments to grieve our little daily deaths, but we have to learn to move on, because the pain of losing is followed by the greater joy of finding God always meets us on the other side of our loss.
It hurts to grow because growing usually means facing into some fear or weakness that has limited us. Though God saves us through no effort of our own, He asks for our cooperation when it comes to our spiritual growth. Real spiritual growth only happens when our effort to act upon God’s word meets the provision of the Holy Spirit in us.
Or as Paul teaches, “Put into action God’s saving work in your lives, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey Him and the power to do what pleases Him” (Philippians 2:12-13 NLT).
This is always the spiritual principle of growth. We obey by stepping into our weakness or our fear, trusting in the fact that because it is something He asks of us, He will meet us somewhere along the way with the power to do it. This is almost always a painful proposition because it requires a step into the unknown. What if God doesn’t show up? I suppose we can ask that question, but we will never get the answer on this side of the risk. We have to take the step, believing that there is something there that we can’t see. And if that doesn’t hurt, it’s probably not faith.
Old ways die hard, but new life dances on the gravestones.
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