Last week I talked with a friend who struggled with a sense that she was not making the progress she should be in her faith journey. Something happened at work that triggered an old familiar response in her emotions – one she felt she should not be having any more.
I encouraged her that it’s not the emotion that’s important because feelings will come, and condemning thoughts may follow. Emotions are just part of being human. It’s what we choose to do with or despite the emotions that counts.
I asked, “was your response different, and did the emotion pass more quickly than in the past?” Yes to both. “OK, then, you’re just a normal human who has made great progress!” Thank God our progress is not measured by how we feel past vs. present, but by how our choices have changed.
Fast forward a mere 2 days. I had a few difficult meetings and conversations at work. As with my friend, the old familiar emotions rose up from within. A barrage of thoughts followed…lies about what the emotions meant.
I tried to choke back the emotions. For a few hours, I succeeded. Then a few encouraging words broke the dam and the tears flowed. What happened hurt. Words spoken hurt my feelings and my pride.
Frustration. Condemnation. Tears.
Shouldn’t I be able to immediately rise above that hurt? I mean, I've been a Christian for a long time, and I have the Holy Spirit. I confessed, I forgave, I chose to do the right things. Why did I still feel the hurt?
Then I remembered my counsel to my friend, and had to laugh. A short time ago, what happened yesterday would have put me “under” for days. Yesterday it was only a few hours. By the end of the day I was able to move on.
On top of that, some of the words were corrective. Previously I would have justified, reasoned, explained, tried to prove I was right (which I wasn’t), and felt like a total failure. Yesterday, I knew I was wrong, admitted it, and told them I’d work on doing better.
As I write this, I am so humbled by what the Lord has done in me. There is no greater miracle than the transformation and healing of a broken, wounded, and angry heart. And there is no other miracle worker except Jesus.
I am a walking, breathing miracle of what the grace of God can do in a life that is surrendered to Jesus.
As we are changed from the inside out, the way we handle situations changes. Not only do we more quickly rise above our feelings to choose the right thing, we start to reflexively choose the right thing from our hearts. We may feel hurt or fearful, but no longer drown in panic, fear, or shame. In the midst of all the feelings, hope and resolve to press on flood our minds and hearts…His resolve in us.
Now that’s progress.
His progress in us.
I am convinced and confident of this very thing,
that He who has begun a good work in you
will [continue to] perfect and complete it
until the day of Christ Jesus [the time of His return].
(Philippians 1:6, AMP)