The goal of Jesus for our lives is to take the unique us that he created, with our gifting and wiring and through our relationship with Jesus and the residence of the Holy Spirit in our lives create a better us – the kind of us that we would have been before creation became undone and sin entered the world.
This is the process of stripping our lives of those things that don’t reflect the image of God and putting on those things that do. “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24).
The process of putting off those things that are unhealthy and putting on those things that are like Jesus is not an easy process. The times where we see the most progress in this transformation are during tough times when the real us is exposed in all its reality (sometimes ugliness) and we are forced to press into Christ in a deeper, more authentic way because we have nowhere else to turn. That is why we call Life Undone an unlikely gift.
In the process, God forges the us that we were designed and created to be. The us that will have the impact on our world that God wants us to have. The us that is increasingly transformed into the image of Jesus – remember we were originally created in the image of God – so God through Jesus is recreating us in His image. It happens most powerfully in the hard times of life.
My first experience with life undone caused me to enter into a study of God’s grace that continues to this day. I moved from being performance oriented in my relationship with God to learning how to live in his gracious grace. That transformation changed my relationship both with God and with others.
I also learned that not all problems are solved this side of eternity and that God may choose not to answer my prayers the way I wanted Him to because He had greater purposes for what He wanted me to learn and places He wanted me to grow. I learned to trust Him in the face of injustice and pain that I could not solve. This was a painful lesson but one that has given me a deeper perspective on God’s purposes in our lives.
In my significant illnesses I learned firsthand that God can do the miraculous, and that I am the recipient of his undeserved grace by choosing to spare my life. That has changed the way I look at every day – as an undeserved gift to be used for Him. I live on borrowed time. In my Thailand experience, staring death in the face, being awake on the ventilator I learned that I can experience the peace of God and trust Him no matter what the outcome. He was all I had and He was enough.
These are deeply transforming experiences that only come from deep pain and hard times. These transformative experiences are not merely intellectual but they penetrate the deepest part of our lives which is why they change us. No sermon or book can match the power of transformative experiences forged in pain!
One of the byproducts of deep pain is that it brings to the surface other issues that are unresolved in our lives, lurking below the surface which we have been able to ignore, until our pain in another area brings it to the surface.
Early in my ministry, after experiencing great pain I went to see a counselor about issues that had no direction connection to the situation I faced but which the pain brought to the surface. It is always a blessing when unresolved areas of life come to our attention because it is as we deal with those that we become the me God wants us to be. Never ignore what pain reveals.
As I look back on times when life has come undone, times that were excruciatingly hard and painful in the process, I realize that all the major growth and transformative experiences of my life came in those times and their aftermath. Painful as they were how can I be anything but grateful to God for the opportunity to experience transformation that never would have happened without them? And in the process I have participated in the “fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10).
If you have experienced great pain in your life, as life is redone, as it comes back together for you, pay close attention to the transformation that has taken place in your life. Places where God has made Himself better known to you, lessons you have learned. Pay attention and think about them because these are precisely the transformative experiences he wants for you so that you becomes a better you as God’s character and purposes become a greater part of your life.
Whether or not you journal, I would encourage you to put down on paper the lessons you have learned and the places where you have experienced transformation. Remember, these are the most significant opportunities for you to experience the spiritual transformation God wants for each of us. So, the more you pay attention to what God is doing in your heart, and cooperate with that work He is doing, the more you gain from having been in the heat of His forge.