Struggle and Rejoice
Blog Contributor Kara Haselton reflects on the often challenging process of being justified by faith in Jesus. And yet we can celebrate each step as it leads us to grow and mature in ways we wouldn't experience otherwise. The journey is hard, and yet the outcome is holy because it draws us ever-closer to God Himself.
What do you do when your life seems to be moving in slow motion?
Things are progressing, but not at the rate you want?
You’re growing, but it seems significantly harder this time?
You keep going because even though it’s hard, it’s good, important work. But you just wish it would hurry up and get to the end already. You want to see the light at the end of the tunnel; you want to see a noticeable improvement.
I’ve been feeling this way recently. I’ve spoken with friends who have been feeling this way.
Regardless of what it is—pursuing that career or a new skill, trying to break that bad habit or coping mechanism, entering a new community, and trying to build new connections—it’s slow work, hard work, good work, hard work.
Just after having a conversation about this with a dear friend, of course, my Spiritual Formation Group studied a passage that addressed the spirituality of this very same struggle.
We’ve been reading through Tim Keller’s "Romans 1-7 For You". Chapter 8 is on Romans 5:1-11. Check out verses 3-4:
The Hard Process of Justification
Justification. It’s a struggle. It’s a process. It’s hard.
But it is because of that suffering that we have endurance, that we have character, that we have hope… we cannot have hope without suffering.
I then look back to Romans:
Where does our peace come from? It comes from justification. We cannot have peace without justification.
And what is justification? Oh, it’s a process. We often forget it, but the word, “process," connotes that it takes time—a long time.
Justification is God's righteous act of removing the guilt and penalty of sin while, at the same time, declaring those who have sinned to be righteous, through faith in Christ's atoning sacrifice.
If you will, let me connect this to my own life.
I struggle with a lot of social anxiety. And ironically, talking to people is the thing that brings me the greatest joy as well as the greatest fear. Is that irony? Or does God just have a sense of humor? Or is this God’s way of reminding me I need to lean on him?
About four years ago, I explicitly remember admitting that I was terrified by the career I was pursuing. I joked that God was really going to have to give me experiences to help me grow a lot if I was really going to pursue this career.
Now, four years later, I look back and can clearly, vividly see experiences and opportunities that God put in my life that He might as well have labeled “stepping stones,” because that’s exactly what they were. I’m amazed when I see how much I’ve grown, and even more amazed when I realize what a slow but clear process it was.
Of course, it wasn’t clear to me at the moment. And it sure was not a huge leap all at once. It was a ton of little things, little opportunities, that were uncomfortable and difficult and a struggle; small steps up from where I was before.
"God knew I was ready. He knew I was ready because He helped me be ready."—Kara Haselton
I look back on the last four years and remember the feeling, the exhaustion, the heaviness in my chest because of the anxiety I felt. It sucked. It was suffering.
But this reflection has helped me realize now that when I experience those same feelings, I can rejoice because that means I am growing! That means God has put down another stepping stone in front of me to help me grow closer to the person He has created me to be!
This reflection helped me fully feel what Paul is writing in this chapter of Romans about justification. Justification is a process. It is hard. But it is so worth it because we grow closer to God as a result of it.
We Have Seen God in This Before
When the Bible tells us to rejoice in our suffering, that is not a call to ignore our feelings of pain and hurt and to simply smile through it anyway. It is a call to feel the pain and hurt while also rejoicing. Because we have experienced this before and seen how God brings us through it and closer to Himself. We can rejoice while recognizing the difficulty because the difficulty is why we can now rejoice.
Isn’t that amazing?
In what ways are you suffering and struggling, joyless, hopeless, seemingly endlessly? In what ways have you experienced a similar sensation and struggle before and have seen God work in your life? I encourage you to reflect and see what your growing process and your spiritual justification process has looked like.
In what ways might that be exactly what is happening to you now?
Struggle and rejoice.
We continue to navigate a world ravaged by a pandemic that physically separates us from one another. Digital Spiritual Formation Groups—Digital SFGs—are a practical way for people at theHeart to grow in their faith while committing to genuine connections of acceptance, accountability, care, and action.