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Jesus will destabilize you to grow you

Estie, my middle daughter, returns from Zambia this morning. She’s been there for three months practicing nursing skills. It’s been a difficult journey – not one that most of us would take or even consider. Many of us have an in-built need for stability that can run amok. If we hang aro…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
Estie, my middle daughter, returns from Zambia this morning. She’s been there for three months practicing nursing skills. It’s been a difficult journey – not one that most of us would take or even consider.
Many of us have an in-built need for stability that can run amok. If we hang around a place or a situation long enough, it becomes drably predictable. It’s easy to just go through the motions. I guess this is why the Bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please him.”

Jesus combated this tendency in his disciples by destabilizing them. He didn’t grow his disciples in classrooms, but in the hard-knocks realm of real life. He regularly switched up the things that made their lives predictable, moving them from place to place.  Thrown into the deep end, they had to rely on God, sometimes going to him with feelings of desperation. And in so doing, they learned to begin thinking first as kingdom citizens. The process took three solid years and for most modern Jesus-followers, it needs to take longer.

So how does this work for us? I asked Karen about it and she said, “I don’t know, I just grabbed on to you coat tails and just hung on!” And maybe that’s what happens to a lot of us, whether through choice – through the adventures we have – or often, through pain. I tend to look at pain as a kind of curse, a sign that I’ve have fallen out of favor with God. But he tells us, “If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God…” (1 Peter 4:16)
Jesus asked his followers to leave everything for a season so they might learn to see with spiritual eyes. They went on a destabilizing journey that forced them to depend on God. Most of you have been on a journey like that of one sort or another. For example, you go off to college with a couple of suitcases. Or, leaving home on your own, you get your first job. Your apartment is empty, so you go shopping for furniture at garage sales. Your bank account may be stuck near zero, yet you’re unencumbered.
But there are other kinds of journeys that throw our lives out of balance and send us in God’s direction. The journey of divorce, the journey of unemployment, the journey of an extended illness. None are welcome, but God can use all of them to force us to depend on him.

I aspire to the kind of vision Paul describes in the first chapter of Ephesians: “your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what he is calling you to do…” But most of the time, I prefer the hazy vision that comes with a comfortable lifestyle. Most of us are comfort-seekers. We need something really important to pry us out of our recliners.

Knowing this can perhaps help us to change our perspective, so that we make peace with the sometimes painful life changes that God uses to drive us into his arms. And when our journey takes us far from our comfort zones, those of us who aspire to follow Jesus in a radical way can perhaps consider things that earlier in our lives might have seemed crazy. 
No, he doesn’t necessarily want you to go to Zambia, but don’t be surprised if he doesn’t send you on some other wild journey that is no less predictable.

Comments (9)

  • St. mark of the Cross

    I truly understand the idea that pain means you have fallen out of favor with God…church teachings that still haunt my mind. I also really thought by time I was 55 years old…that my journey would be somewhat of “rest.” Never enticipating that I would be thrown for the biggest challenge of my life. I have been saying for years…what will I be when I grow up? (Debbie wishes I would hurray up) So I kep seeking “more”,should have stopped asking, maybe this would have been over with 20 years ago… Anyway, here I am in my “Zambian” experience in my home..without any way of resolving my crisis unless there is divine intervention. Right now I am holding on to this “Our limitations, are God’s invitation into our situation.”

  • St. mark of the Cross

    Sorry! I meant to say: “Our limitations, are an invitation for God’s participation in our situation.”

  • Change has a way of bringing to the surface all of the things you haven’t actually overcome yet.

    It’s funny how routine works. As long as things are familiar and predictable you can begin to feel strong. A little change of direction, however, will reveal the tiny cracks in your foundation that create instability.

    For everything I think I’ve learned or overcome, I find more hidden fissures under the surface that can’t hold under the pressure of change.

    It’s an exhausting process, but it forces me to put off another piece of my flesh and cry out for mercy.

    My hope is in the promise that one day the revelation of the cross will become so real to me that nothing else will matter.

    For now, it’s four steps forward, two steps back; but at least I’m moving forward.

  • The interesting thing about dislocating change is that it forces us to confront what we really believe.

    I can remember seasons in life where I was essentially communicating to the Living God, “Hey don’t worry. If you have a bad day I got you covered God”.

    Rain is not “rain” until it is “raining”. Faith is not “faith” until we are “faithing”.

    A half century, most continents and a few degrees later I am still learning–more than ever.

    I am either trusting Him or I am trusting me.

    It is that painfully simple.

  • I think the analogy of how we are in “God’s school” is such a cool one.

    God has things he wants us to learn and puts us in trials so we have the opportunity to learn them. When we become bitter and “kick against the pricks” the trial just keeps on going.

    In my experience it takes lots of TIME before my attitudes truly change. But when they do, and when I truly hit the end of my rope, and have learned the lesson I was supposed to, then God intervenes and everything changes.

    This pattern has repeated itself several times in just the last several years.

    I then find I get moved up to the next level of trial which is just a bit harder than the one before. Like in an arcade game or something!

  • Yes, God. Whatever You want for me, my answer is Yes.

    Only I hope it doesn’t hurt…but when it does I know You are the Great Physician.

    I hope it doesn’t require unbearable suffering…but I know You led the way.

    I hope it proves fruitful…and I know it will because You said so.

    Here we go. It’s raining but I see a rainbow in the mist.


    count on it

  • Another one to love – you’re on a roll, Seth! 🙂 (meant to post this yesterday, but got busy) … Hard to embrace the pain and destabilization – but we might as well. The path to growth is a lot shorter – and it usually stops hurting a lot quicker too.

    I remember just a few months ago absolutely HATING the wild journey God seemed to have put me on… that of not only recognizing a childhood sex abuse trauma but beginning to see all the many aftereffects it had had in my life – especially in relationships with men. Wow, at 44 with a divorce and lots of ugly sexual stuff already in my past, wasn’t I over this lesson yet? Apparently not – it was just time to get to the root!

    I’m sure there is more to come, and more ways God will “take me out of control” to grow me up – but your perspective in helping me see a way God could bring good out of it all has been so beautiful and helpful. I am ever so thankful! Good stuff, keep it up …

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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