Sometimes I buy into the lie that because I have “issues” I am an immature believer. I start to think that my tendencies toward being self-centered and manipulative and foolish are because I don’t know God well enough. And, once I start believing that is true, it’s easy to buy into a bigger lie – the one that says if I work harder at my relationship with God, I won’t have so many issues. The lie that says I can work through my issues, one by one, and come out the other side a shiny, sparkling, perfect Christian. And, once I believe that, grace goes out the window. I start trying to earn my way onto the list of superstar Christians.
But all I’m really doing is exhausting myself.
I think, instead, that our “issues” are a symptom of our fallen nature. And, last time I checked, we will be fallen our entire lives. Even if we are Christians, we sin frequently, and, sometimes, we sin severely. Therefore, we will have a never-ending list of issues to work on, and, unfortunately, after we think we’ve mastered some of our issues, we’ll cross them off our list, only to find they’ve found their way back on the list as time goes on.
This realization may sound negative, but it’s actually freeing. The fact that we will always have issues to work on means that the definition of spiritual maturity isn’t issuelessness. A lot of people think that spiritual maturity is not having any issues to work on in the first place, but that cannot be. If that were the case, not one of us would be considered spiritually mature by another. (And if we considered ourselves to be spiritually mature by that definition, we’d have to add hubris to our list of issues to work on).
So, if issuelessness isn’t the definition of spiritual maturity, how do we define it? My opinion is that those who are correctly labeled “spiritually mature” recognize the things in their lives that aren’t pleasing to the Lord and then willingly go through the unpleasant process of changing those things. I think that willingness to press on is the mark of spiritual maturity. It shows a willingness, in the midst of our own ugliness, to trust that God is sovereign and good; that He can and will help us become better people for His sake and for our sakes.
As the Holy Spirit helps us see our issues for what they really are (sin), the mature Christian will face that gentle command to change head on, knowing full-well that the growth process will be painful, but knowing equally well that the resulting freedom will be worth it!