Grow: Undergo natural development by increasing in size and changing physically; progress to maturity. Develop, come into existence, increase, become gradually or increasingly.
We talked about planting – the painful but necessary process for growth. And we talked about flourishing, how just saying the word flourish sounds lovely and fun. There’s something beautiful about the idea of flourishing, because we can imagine or remember a season where things seemed easier, life wasn’t as busy, or we had more time to do the things we enjoyed. But growth can bring mixed emotions. Growth can be good – but growing pains are real.
Maybe you’re not in a season of planting or flourishing. Maybe you’re in the trenches, just trying to make it through the day, clinging to your cup of coffee and wishing for a nap. Maybe you’ve never really been in a season of flourishing and you’re skeptical that it’s even really possible for you in your adult life. But growth can be happening, even when you aren’t seeing it on the outside.
I’ll be honest – recently I went through a season so far from flourishing that every day felt a lot more like drowning, sinking or just barely surviving. Flourishing was not in my vocabulary, not on my calendar, and really not even on my mind. Because every day I woke up to another day of dark, sad, dreary mornings where just getting out of bed seemed impossible. Anxiety was around every corner, constantly weighing heavy on my heart. Depression was choking me out like it was determined to crush me. And I woke up day after day, praying constantly and wondering what I was missing – how come all these other women were out there “flourishing” while I was just trying to put one foot in front of the other? Looking back today, I can see that I was growing – but not in the way I would have hoped for.
That’s when the Lord started to prune, refine and uproot some false belief from my heart. The season of anxiety and depression had lasted far longer than I wanted, but the Lord was turning over a new leaf in my life and I was pretty desperate for the change.
Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. 2 Peter 3:17-18
Before it got better, it got worse. As in, I went through one of the most humbling and hard seasons of my life to date. The depression and anxiety were still there, but they had taken a back seat to a humbling journey of self-examination and a sort of numbness and indifference that the Lord had to pull me out of before I was in too deep.
This growing process looked like people pointing out, unasked, ways I’d let them down, things I’d done wrong, or faults in my actions and attitude that I was blind to. It hurt, bad. Close friends who knew me well were pointing out areas of pride, weakness, sin and unreliability. I felt small, humbled and saddened.
I found myself holding up my hands around the new year, surrendering, asking for a tidal wave of grace and praying, “Lord, teach me to build your kingdom instead of my own.” Talk about growing pains.
And friends, that’s when the true growth began. It didn’t happen overnight, and to an outsider it may not have even looked like anything was changing — but inside, the Lord was teaching me that growing and abiding in Him will not always align with the world’s standard or definition of success.
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. Ephesians 4:15
Growing in Christ looks like the fruit of the Spirit popping up in your heart and learning to walk in obedience rather than pridefully ignoring the sin that threatened to keep that fruit from growing.
So, I got small and quiet – taking time to really dig into Scripture and hold my life up to the Word, asking the Holy Spirit to build me up in His image instead of pushing ahead with my own version of success.
I started praying that the fruit of the Spirit would transform me from the inside out – that before I did anything for show, for someone to see – that the Lord would produce a fruit in my heart that I couldn’t come up with on my own.
And you know? He did. He started filling me with love and patience toward my husband that I’d never had before. He started teaching me what kindness and forgiveness toward friends who had hurt me and let me down could look like. He helped me stay grateful when my circumstances were hard. He gave me joy when I was going through a season of struggle. He taught me that filling up on the Word at the beginning and end of the day instead of scrolling on Instagram for hours actually made a huge difference.
Growth looked like setting my heart on Jesus and not taking my gaze off him. Instead of looking side to side for comparison, I prayed for a gospel vision that would direct my every decision, word or action. Then slowly, as my confidence was being rooted in grace, the fruit started to pop up in my life.
My husband was affirming the fruit by noticing a joy that was once anxiety. Friends were asking me what I’d been learning, and for once, I could answer with hope in my voice instead of tears in my eyes. The growth came as a result of a painful death and daily abiding for months before a single piece of fruit was evident on the outside. But praise the Lord that His work in us is far better than any change or growth we could conjure up on our own accord. His growth is one that lasts forever- because the fruit of the kingdom is eternal.
How is the Lord at work in your life, friend? Are you flourishing or floundering right now, and how can we encourage you? I pray that the Lord would open your eyes to areas where He is at work, growing and stretching you to look more like Him!