The Pain of Growth

Growth is painful.

Growth isn’t always painful, of course.. Sometimes growth is good for us and in line with ways that we’re finding success, but more often than not, growth is painful. That’s because God is using growth as a way of identifying parts of our lives that we hold on to that he desires for us to let go of so that we can find growth in him.

I don’t like to admit it (this is a growth point for me), but for many years, I was immature as a minister and I needed to grow. I didn’t realize that I needed to become a better servant in order to be a better minister. I spent most of my time focusing on how to be a better preacher and how to be a better leader.

Yet, that clashed many times with leaderships that I was serving with, because they wanted me to be less overt about my desire to lead people and the church and more understanding of what being a pastor was about. And it was about service. There were times where I really struggled with this, and there were times where I know now, in hindsight, that church elders were very patient with me as I learned how to navigate the role of ministry.

I needed to grow as I got older. And I do think a lot of this comes with age. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that ministry is about service. To become a better minister means to become a better servant–and the more we serve, the more we minister to others.

When I write about the connection between ministry and service, I’m not only writing about the professional minister, and his or her capacity to be a servant; I’m also writing about each of us in ministry, learning how to serve. This can be difficult, and this is why growth is difficult. Because many times we find that we’re focused on what we want, and what we expect to get out of something. Whether this is in the church, in our families, at work, or among our friends, we know what it is that we want, and we know how it is that we want others to treat us or what it is that we want them to do for us. And these are the things that we focus on, and try to get them to do and try to be.

But God desires to point out to us the ways that we need to grow. And this is why I am writing about growth being painful. Because when we think about what growth means and when we think about what growing in service means we have to think about the words of John the Baptist, who said, “I need to become less so he can become more” (John 3:30, paraphrased).

Growth is difficult because growth is about us becoming less so that Jesus can become more. If we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about Jesus, then we probably don’t feel like we have much growing to do. But if we do spend time thinking about Jesus, reading about him in the gospels, praying about how to think more like him, practicing how to live according to his values and priorities, then we’ll find that God is revealing to us numerous pathways of growth.

If we’re paying attention to Jesus, and listening to what he’s calling us into, most of us will find that we have some growing to do. It’s that growth that is painful because it involves becoming less, giving up our own attitudes, our own pride, our own ego, our own agendas, and letting go of those things so that we can let more of Jesus be known. Growth is painful. But growth can also yield for us a lot of happiness and joy.

This is because there is no greater joy in our lives than to live for Jesus and to find our complete and true and full happiness in him. And that comes when we make ourselves less so that he can become more.

So, while growth is painful, growth shouldn’t be shied away from or avoided. We should embrace the pain that comes with growth because God is the one guiding and directing us. He is doing this so that the fullness of Christ can be achieved within us, so that one day we can say, “I have become less so that he can become more.” When we can say this, we will find that we are experiencing the fullness of growth, and that is the life of Jesus within us.

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