sanctification (2)

Transitions...or Not?

I have a love-hate relationship with transitions. Whenever friends tell me they are going through “transitions” in their life, my heart goes out to them. I’ve been there and done that—and transitions are seldom fun or easy.

However, I also feel sorry for people who aren’t going through any transitions at all. Too often, such folks are dealing with a situation far worse than transitions. They’re stuck in place, locked in an unhealthy coffin of contentment and apathy.

If you’ve ever been through major transitions, you know they’re uncomfortable, and sometimes even terrifying. They typically feel akin to a whitewater rafting trip where you’ve lost your oars and have absolutely no control of where you’re going.

Yet again, the opposite is not so great either. If you aren’t experiencing any transitions at all, it feels like your raft is dead in the water. Just sitting there. No progress in any direction. What a dreadfully boring life…

Sometimes we have a choice to make in whether or not to allow a transition. One day Jesus challenged some fishermen: “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). He was giving these men a choice, and certainly not an easy choice at the time. It was a choice to engage in a lifetime of self-denial and constant transitions—but the world would ultimately be transformed as a result of their decision.

Another great story about transition involved four lepers who were sitting on the edge of a city on the brink of starvation because of being surrounded by an enemy army, the Syrians. Things were looking bleak, when finally one of the lepers pointed out an obvious fact: “Why are we sitting here until we die?” (2 Kings 7:3-9)

What a profound observation! Like these lepers, if we just sit in place, refusing to take bold steps of faith, we will surely die. In fact, I’ve met people who are already dead in some ways. Although they are still walking around, their hopes, dreams, and visions have died long before.

No, I don’t really like transitions. I would prefer to just find some comfortable oasis and camp out there until Jesus returns.

And one thing I especially dislike about transitions is the feeling of being “in-between.” It’s like being in limbo—knowing you’re not where you used to be, but not where you’re going to be either.

But I’ve discovered that I’m even more afraid of getting stuck than I’m afraid of transitions. Like every other believer, I know I’m called to be increasingly conformed to the image of Christ, and that process will be thwarted if I’m unwilling to grow and change.

So, whether you are going through a difficult transition or feel stuck in place, my heart goes out to you either way. Yet I’ve concluded that transitions are preferable after all. They are an indispensable part of God’s plan to take you from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18, Proverbs 4:18).

So if the white waters of transition are raging all around you, don’t panic. Hang on to the Lord and try to enjoy the ride. You’ll be better for it in the end.


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6 Benefits of Life's Irritants

God's Strange Process to Create Something Beautiful in You

Recently God gave me a stunning word picture while praying with a friend. Through no fault of his own, my friend had been going through a difficult and often bewildering trial.

In my mind’s eye, I saw a beautiful pearl being formed amid the darkness of an oyster shell.

Not knowing much about how pearls are formed, I later did some research at and found this intriguing description of the process:

The birth of a pearl is truly a miraculous event. Unlike gemstones or precious metals that must be mined from the earth, pearls are grown by live oysters far below the surface of the sea. Gemstones must be cut and polished to bring out their beauty. But pearls need no such treatment to reveal their loveliness. They are born from oysters complete—with a shimmering iridescence, lustre and soft inner glow unlike any other gem on earth.

A natural pearl begins its life as a foreign object, such as a parasite or piece of shell that accidentally lodges itself in an oyster’s soft inner body where it cannot be expelled. To ease this irritant, the oyster's body takes defensive action. The oyster begins to secrete a smooth, hard crystalline substance around the irritant in order to protect itself. This substance is called “nacre.” As long as the irritant remains within its body, the oyster will continue to secrete nacre around it, layer upon layer. Over time, the irritant will be completely encased by the silky crystalline coatings. And the result, ultimately, is the lovely and lustrous gem called a pearl.

How something so wondrous emerges from an oyster’s way of protecting itself is one of nature's loveliest surprises. For the nacre is not just a soothing substance. It is composed of microscopic crystals of calcium carbonate, aligned perfectly with one another, so that light passing along the axis of one crystal is reflected and refracted by another to produce a rainbow of light and color.

It’s not too hard to see the parallels between creation of a pearl and the difficult circumstances we all face in life from time to time:

  1. The pearl never would have formed without an “irritant”—some unwanted foreign object that intrudes into our peaceful world.
  2. The pearl, though ultimately beautiful and lustrous, is formed in utter darkness, in the “secret place” where no one can see.
  3. The larger the irritant, and the longer it remains, the larger and more lovely the pearl will become. It’s fascinating the Bible describes 12 pearls in the New Jerusalem as being so enormous that each pearl can form an entire city gate! (Revelation 21:21)
  4. The nacre that forms a pearl is actually made up of the same substance that created the outer shell. This is a great illustration of a life of integrity, consistent inside and out.
  5. Creation of a pearl is a slow process, usually requiring at least three to five years. In the same way, our maturation into Christlikeness is an ongoing process that requires time and patience.
  6. The painful, irritating process will be worth it in the end! Just as describes for pearls, the result for us will be “a rainbow of light and color.” As an interesting parallel, the trial experienced by Noah and his family was rewarded at the end by a rainbow, a sign of God’s covenant love and faithfulness (Genesis 9:13-16).

So why did Jesus speak in Matthew 13:45-46 of “one pearl of great price,” so valuable that a man “went and sold all that he had and bought it”? In a much greater way than my friend’s irritating, unfair trial, Jesus went through history’s ultimate agony when He suffered and died for us on the cross. The result was the gospel, a pearl so valuable that we should be willing to sell everything else in order to obtain it (Philippians 3:7-10).

If you are facing some difficult circumstances today, I encourage you to remember how pearls are made. You may not like the process, nor do I. But I’m pretty sure we’re going to love the outcome when the oyster shell opens and we marvel at what God has produced in us in the darkness. 

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