“Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability–and that it may take a very long time . . . Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you. And accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.”— Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.— Philippians 1:6
I love that phrase, “the slow work of God.” Spiritual growth doesn’t happen overnight. This isn’t because of God’s inability to work faster. No, it’s because he’s working with some very difficult material! That would be us, by the way, in case you were wondering. And it’s also slow work because he’s patient with us.
Indeed, I’ve always felt like a slow learner. I’m nearly 48 years old (egads!) and even recently I’ve realized things about myself and my past that I hadn’t before. There are things from my upbringing and family of origin that I have only been prepared to deal with in recent years. There were experiences I had actually hidden from myself or remembered other than how they actually happened. Facing the truth of those things, when I realized them, was very difficult, but in both cases reinforced my need for God as Father. He knows when to bring stuff to our attention.
God’s work in us is also slow sometimes, because we are slow to realize that spiritual growth means dealing with our emotional and relational baggage. All this stuff–whether we’re suffering the aftermath of abuse, wrestling with feelings of rejection, contending with broken relationships, etc.–is part of our discipleship to Jesus. Because all of these experiences impact our relationship with God. Growing to trust God more means dealing with whatever prevents us from doing so.
I’ve also learned that God through his goodness works with who are and where we are. Because his purpose is to grow us, not to overwhelm us. His desire is to help us work through these obstacles to trusting him. So although this slow work of growing spiritually can also be painful, it’s my experience that we come to know his presence more deeply.
Ultimately, the slow work of God growing us is freeing, because we become more fully who were created to be in Christ. We can be freed of fear, of living up to the expectations of others, freed to offer forgiveness to those who have hurt us (whether they’re aware of it or sorry or not). For “if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.”