Sanctification is a mysterious process. While I sometimes expect to grow in a linear fashion, progressing along a line and amassing the spiritual badges of lessons learned as I travel, I find my journey to be more seasonal, even circular at times, with lessons repeating as needed.
Consider my relationship status, for instance. In high school, I thought relationships were among the most important things in life. I read books about godly relationships. I envied friends who found girlfriends. My relationship status was a near-constant distraction. When I moved to college and began to grow in my faith, my relationship with God took priority over any other relationship. I thought I had outgrown my obsessive desire for a girlfriend, and I saw myself as a teacher of all who still struggled (foolish, I know). In reality, the roots of the desire remained, hidden deeper than I imagined, and the Holy Spirit soon returned to that topic to further purify my heart. In the years since, I’ve noticed similar seasons, times of weakness followed by times of strength followed by times of weakness followed by times of strength, and on and on I go.
Or consider my daily devotional time. My first year of college was a time of tremendous spiritual growth. I remember spending hours in Bible study. I served however I could in local churches and ministries. I developed a love for the Word of God and for teaching the Word to others. However, only a year or two later, I felt empty, dirty, and weak. My devotional times were not what they should have been, my intake of media was less than wholesome, and my discipline to do my work to the best of my ability had diminished. An outside observer might have thought that I’d forgotten my earlier lessons. So I readjusted. I kicked some bad habits and devoted the majority of my time to ministry-related things, surrounding myself with godly people in the process. Since then, I’ve worked to maintain consistency, but I still keep shifting between strong times and weak times with God.
Currently, I don’t really wrestle with feelings of singleness. Currently, I’m growing in my devotional times. Currently, I feel like I’m doing alright. I know, however, that this is only a season, that life may change at any moment and leave me struggling with one or both of these areas (or with another area that I feel is currently in line). Perspective helps me see this clearly, keeping me from foolish arrogance and keeping me trusting in the Lord.
I’m beginning to understand that this is a beautiful thing. Such seasonal sanctification reminds me that I am never finished growing. Rather, no matter the season, the Spirit convicts me in areas I’ve let weaken and encourages me in areas I’ve grown. Furthermore, such growth unites the body of Christ in the pursuit of holiness. Things I currently face have been faced before by those further along the road. I can learn how to grow in my season by those who have already been there. Things I am not currently facing, but have faced, are likely being faced by others. I can encourage those following me and can help them through what God has brought me through already. In all things, in every season, I can learn from others and I can help others. In all things, in every season, God is working for good (Romans 8:28). In all things, in every season, arrogance is foolish (1 Corinthians 10:12).
Let this make us humble, prayerful, and wise, and may we be a people who always keep a proper perspective on our sanctification.