I recently finished reading a book that made me increasingly uncomfortable with every page I turned. I highly recommend it. Seriously.
I've learned that part of this journey of stumbling toward maturity is learning to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It's not a natural response. We want the quick release Advil and the path of least resistance. I may conquer my desire for quick fixes and instant solutions for my discomfort.
The problem with that is that God, with His unyielding desire to make me more like Jesus, is not into band-aids and medicating wounds. He's in it for the long haul. He's into healing. The real kind. The kind of healing that leads you to wholeness.
"Unfortunately for most of us, nobody was there when we received our first wound. So we just carried it around with us, determined not to let it happen again. By adolescence, we all had wounded hearts. Between the little jabs from friends, our parents, our teachers, our coaches, and our adversaries at school, there was no way to avoid it."
(Andy Stanley, Enemies of the Heart)
Enter the book, "Enemies of the Heart." Mr. Stanley kindly addresses the ugly yet often well-hidden realities that lie in the closet of our wounded hearts. Closet not the backyard clothesline. We can forget they are even there until we get poked or knocked over causing what's deep down to start spilling out everywhere. He explores four destructive emotions that we tend to harbor that have the power to infiltrate our lives and wreak havoc on our closest relationships. Guilt, anger, greed and jealousy. My initial thoughts were (as maybe yours are too) maybe a couple of those apply to me. I didn't realize I was in for a real honest treat, a quadruple dose of one to be exact.
As I continued reading, God kept right on stirring my heart with his giant wooden spoon. This wasn't an overly pleasant experience. A lot of stuff was kicked up, most of which I didn't realize was there in the first place. There were a few weeks where my mind felt like it was overwhelmed on overdrive as I processed all the things I was realizing were in my heart; how they got there and how they'd already affected relationships. There was the night I was a complete emotional wreckage. Thank goodness for friends who listen to you even when you can't formulate a sentence. Stir, stir, stir. Not fun.
You might be thinking, and I'm supposed to want the same? There's good news too.
God was doing something. He was stirring up the guilt, anger, greed and jealousy because He wanted continue the process of ridding me of them. Without realizing it, those emotions were occupying space. Which meant they were taking up the space of something else that could be there instead.
Peace. Forgiveness. Freedom. Contentedness. Love. Joy. Gratitude.
One more thing to be aware of: We can be stirred, but never changed.
The fine print: Being stirred doesn't guarantee being changed.
God can take a book like this and stir up things in your life, not because He delights in making you uncomfortable, but because He delights in putting broken pieces back together. He delights in restoring relationships. He delights in seeing you realize the million dollar debt He's forgiven you of which enables you to turn around forgive the five dollar debt owed to you. He delights in seeing you become more like Him. He delights in continuing the completing work He began.
It's probably not fun for the coal to be under the intense pressure, but it is necessary if it's to become a diamond. Likewise, gold probably doesn't enjoy the heat of the refining fire, but that it what is needed to clear away all the impurities. There's pain in the process, but it's about the end result.
You can read this book (or any other book for that matter) but get too uncomfortable with the stirring (also known as refining) process, that you decide change is too hard. It's not the book that will change you (though it may help!). It's the posture of surrender towards a loving God that says, no matter how uncomfortable this gets, I'm going to let you have your way with me.
So, let's get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Ask Him to stir you, because that's often when God does some of His finest work.
And if you want some practice, read "Enemies of the Heart."