Tears rolled down my cheeks when I received the sad news. My stomach burned like I’d been kicked in the gut. The age-old question taunted me, “Why, Lord?
Even so, I took a deep breath and told myself, every circumstance is an opportunity for me to become more like Christ. But what does that mean? More patient? More compassionate? More … what?
Heartache colored everything grey. What was I supposed to learn from this sorrow? Was the lesson worth the cost?
And yet, if I believed God could use my sorrow to make me more like His Son, Jesus, then I had to unclench my fist. If nothing else, I could respond like Jesus on the night just before He was arrested.
“My heart is so full of sadness that I could die,” Jesus said. Then He fell on His face and prayed, “Father, not what I want, but what you want!” (Matthew 26:38,39)
Becoming like Jesus isn’t for sissies. Sometimes, the idea of being Christ-like seems downright impossible. Thankfully, the Spirit of God does the work of conforming people into Christ’s image.
The process begins when a person is born again. Jesus told Nicodemus “unless a person is born again from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”(John 3:3)
Like any birth, growth follows.
I wish I could take a daily hallelujah pill and have my thoughts, words, and actions be the same as Christ. But the Bible says I won’t fully be like Jesus until I see Him face to face. Meanwhile, some days I feel less like Jesus than the day I trusted Him to be my Lord and Savior. On a good day, I feel as though I’ve had a spiritual growth spurt and hope others see Christ in me.
But, how I “feel” has nothing to do with reality.
Romans 8:29 says God predestined His people to be conformed to His Son’s image. (Predestined means to determine in advance.) Only, nobody ever said the process would be painless.
When I was a kid, my long dirty-blond hair easily tangled at the nape of my neck. The fine hairs would bunch up into a tight-fisted ball until it resembled a rat’s nest. I’d go to my mom with a comb and try to sit still as she pried the hairs apart. However, it was impossible to straighten my hair without pulling at the tender roots. I’d complain and wiggle which only made the process worse.
I haven’t changed. When my rat-race of a life becomes a hairy mess, I run to God with my circumstances. Cry for help. Beg for relief. Only, I’m too busy wiggling and complaining.
“It hurts, Lord. Make it go away. I can’t deal with this!”
And yet, for every emotional tantrum, I’ve also had victorious moments. Last month, life hit me below the belt through no fault of my own, I felt the pinch, the pain. I agonized over my powerlessness to change things. Only this time, I sat still in God’s presence and allowed Him to dry my tears. God didn’t explain why He allowed the sorrow. He didn’t tell me how He’d use it for my good.
However, if my ultimate good is becoming more like Christ, then I can trust God to work everything together towards that end.
So, what’s a believer’s role in this process?
—Get to know Jesus. Study the Bible’s four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) that are in the New Testament. Who is Jesus? What does He say about Himself? What do His actions reveal about His character? What does Jesus expect from His followers?
—Pray for a transformed heart. Our human tendency is to avoid pain and want our own way. Jesus said, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” But we can pray that our heart’s desire would be a deeper relationship with Jesus, and the desire to become like Him. Willing to follow Him even if it means getting a taste of the Garden of Gethsemane.
—Change perspective. View every circumstance as an opportunity and the means to be like Christ. Having an eternal perspective affects our attitude towards hardship. It also enables us to respond like Christ and accept God’s will.
Even now, when my heartache lingers, I know God is good. His eternal purposes for my life includes making me more like Christ.
Who is this Jesus, the Christ? He’s the Alpha and the Omega. The Lion and the Lamb. Lord of Lords. King of Kings. And He made a promise just before He ascended to heaven: “And remember! I will be with you always.”
Jesus. Always with us.
Even in this … hard place.