How to Transform Your Spiritual Life in 2019
by Shery Abdelmalek
Have you ever looked back on the most difficult times of your life and remembered how close God was without you even trying so hard? The struggles that you went through have passed now but the spiritual peak was one to remember. There will always be highs and lows but we need to make the most of them both. If we aim for higher highs then the lows won’t be as low as they used to be.
At our lowest of lows, we can sometimes hide behind a mask of “I’m okay.” We were not called to be “okay.” God did not look upon His creation and think, “yeah, it’s okay.” He looked upon His creation – He looked upon you and I – and breathed His own breath, He made man in His image and in His likeness (Gen 1:26). He loves us with an everlasting and unfailing Love (Jer 31:3). His love surpasses all knowledge, and all ability to comprehend His excellence.
By heavenly standards, we should boast in our infirmities, and not resort to shame, as the world may fool us to believe.
Sarah and Abraham had prayed for a child for years. They implored God for a child, yet heard nothing in return. That was until they had aged past the point of child bearing. Sarah had endured tears, pain, anguish for a child that she had prayed earnestly for in her youth, that surely could not come after she had aged. Yet a visit from the Lord revealed to Abraham otherwise. “Therefore, Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”” (Genesis 18:12).
Sarah laughs innocently; what had once caused her much pain was now something she was resigned to. In laughter, her insecurities remain hidden – no one needed to know the pain of being barren. Sarah hid her shame through laughter to cover up what she thought was the delivery of false hope, but with God, all is exposed so that His glory may be made manifest. God couldn’t allow Sarah’s prayers to finally be answered without recognition of the value of trusting in Him, the One that makes miracles out of the impossible.
For Sarah to see the full blessing that the Lord was about to bless her with, her moment of weakness when she laughed had to be exposed. “So the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son” (Genesis 18:13-14). If even Sarah could give birth, then surely nothing that causes us pain will go unnoticed by our God.
To reach new peaks this coming year, find your hidden insecurities and weaknesses, and give them over to God, the provider of strength. Find joy in your imperfect self so that His grace becomes sufficient. His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). We have assurance in trusting in the One that is perfect, without blemish, without change, and not we, ourselves.
Metropolitan Anthony Bloom of the Russian Orthodox Church says, “The spirit of slavery remains very close, and its standards are still there and very potent: a slave has somewhere to rest his head, a slave is assured of food, a slave has social standing, however low, he is secure because his master is responsible for him. So, to be a slave, however painful, humiliating and distressing the situation, is also a form of security, while to become a free person is a state of utter insecurity; we take our destiny into our own hands and it is only when our freedom is rooted in God that we become secure in a new way, and a very different one.”
Security in Christ is far greater than security in ourselves. For every humiliating, embarrassing detail of ourselves that we’d rather sweep under the rug, remember your Creator. Remember His promises, the One that promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, did not falter. “And not being weak in faith, he [Abraham] did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform” (Rom 4:19-21)
If Abraham, can hold faith in the seemingly impossible, surely, we can reveal our weaknesses and sins so that we may be edified in Him. Our weaknesses allow us to approach Christ with a broken and a contrite heart. A broken and a contrite heart is the one that receives blessing, that receives virtue, that receives wings to soar like eagles (Is 40:31).
King David says, “a broken and a contrite heart, these O’ God You will not despise.” God knows you’re weak. He knows your brokenness. He knows that you will fall. These are not self-depreciating facts. These are the pre-requisites that will make you “holy, blameless and unreprovable in His sight” (Col 1:22). We think that if people knew our weaknesses, we would be despised, but God has purpose behind it all.
Where is there to hide? You were not made to justify yourself, but to be a “vessel of honour, sanctified, and fit for the master’s use” (2 Tim 2:21). To hide behind shame in fear of what God may think of us is in no way plausible. Whatever causes a state of brokenness and contrition of heart will put you in greatest of spiritual states- if you allow their exposure.
God cannot fill what is already filled. He cannot mend what is not broken. The key to answered prayer, to attaining any kind of virtue is a broken and a contrite heart. There are no long prayers or services that compare. The state of brokenness and utter dependence on Christ is what changes a person.
“If only the sinner knew that all his trespasses, transgressions and infirmities were but the point of God’s compassion, pardon and forgiveness, and that however great and atrocious they might be, they could never repel God’s heart, extinguish His mercy, or fetter His love even for a single moment. If only the sinner knew this, he would never cling to his sin or seek isolation from God as a veil to cover his shame from seeing the face of Christ, who is trying to show love toward him and who is calling them!” — Fr. Matthew the Poor
In this coming year, may we remember to approach Christ with a broken and a contrite heart, so that we may attain virtue and knowledge that can only be granted through grace.