Growing in Christ entails ever greater depth. For one thing, it often reflects the complexity of life, including the challenges that enter our lives and push us to the edge of faith.
The apostle Paul writes of an experience that profoundly impacted the depth of his own personal life. He, too, faced incredible “storms” in his life, one after another. At one point, he and his partner, Silas, were severely beaten by authorities and thrown into jail, their feet clamped in stocks. Their crime was that they had ruined the business of local fortune-tellers by liberating a demon-possessed slave girl who told fortunes for people.
So there were Paul and Silas, bodies badly bruised and bleeding, feet painfully clamped in leg irons, thrown into a dark, damp, dirty dungeon. Talk about time for a pity party or despair and disillusionment or retreat and resignation!
The storm is blowing hurricane forces upon them. Here is the rest of the story: “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25, NKJV). Imagine that! What kind of a response to unjust pain and suffering is that?
This is the response of people who have true depth in their lives, whose soil is so cultivated and fertile that no external or internal forces can keep the seed of true life from growing. Paul and Silas had obviously paid deep attention to what’s below the surface of their lives. They’d learned how to lean on the resources that God alone can provide for them. And that empowered them to face the storms of life with confidence and fearlessness and fruitfulness.
Joan Chittester writes about a time when a great army invaded a country and created a path of destruction wherever it went. Its greatest wrath was reserved for the holy people they found, particularly the monks. When the invaders arrived in one village, the leader of the village reported to the commander, “All the monks, hearing of your approach, fled to the mountains.”
The commander smiled a broad, cold smile. He was proud of having a reputation for being fearsome. But then the leader added, “All, that is, but one.”
The commander became enraged. He marched to the monastery and kicked in the gate. There in the courtyard stood the one remaining monastic. The commander glowered at the figure. “Do you know who I am?” he roared. “I am he who can run you through with a sword without batting an eyelash!”
The monastic fixed the commander with a serene and patient look and replied, “And do you know who I am? I am one who can let you run me through with a sword without batting an eyelash.”1
It is in the disruptive moments of our lives when our true depth is revealed. Then we really discover what we’re made of. We truly see the quality of our lives.
Let’s allow God to lead us in the stormy moments, as well as in the calm.2