What exactly is “sanctification”? This is the process whereby God works in our lives to change us and to transform us in many degrees so that we are like our elder brother, the Lord Jesus Christ. I know this on an intellectual level, but what does it mean in my life? I’ve known that this was a hard process, that sanctification can hurt. I also know that it is necessary. I thought I’d experienced the pain of this process. To be quite honest, I’d even glamorized this process somewhat, thinking that I was such a good Christian: “Look at me! I’m being sanctified… I’m suffering for Christ’s sake.” That was before this past week.
My previous experience has been more a gentle slope of ups and downs, a transformation by tiny degrees. I was walking along this path with God, but then He let me step off a cliff into an abyss of darkness for which I could see no bottom. I can relate with Job when he said, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” I thought I knew what it was to die to self, to live self-sacrificially and to put the needs of others before my own. The Lord has graciously opened my eyes and allowed me and my family to truly walk through these things.
This past week we’ve had the priviledge of caring for three dear, little children who were in need of short-term care. Our entire family pulled together to love on these children, sacrificing our time and comforts for their good. The degree of their need was not immediately apparent but was brought to light through the providence and sovereignty of God. I have seen the depths of folly and darkness of evil that this world has been subjected to through sin and disobedience. I have cried out in anger to God and demanded that He be faithful to His own Word, to care for the outcasts, the weak, the innocent and the downtrodden. In kindness, He showed me that He was doing just that. We have been waiting for over a year to adopt and have been sad and somewhat frustrated with God that we have not been matched with a baby yet. Now I see that it was His loving hand guiding us to care for these children, to bring light and a future hope into their little lives and to bring justice where it was needed.
God not only used me and my family to bless these children, but He used them to bless us. He has revealed to us what sort of compassion we are capable of and drawn us closer to Him and to one another. He used these children and their plight to crush my pride and reveal the idols of comfort and selfishness that I continually return to. He used them to draw me into a deeper dependence on prayer, the Word and walking by faith. I am reminded of the occasion when Mr. Tumnus tells Lucy Pevensie about Aslan, “He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.” God is love and He is good. That is true. But He is also holy and just and more awesome (and awful) than we can imagine. I want sanctification in little bits that only hurt a little. I want to maintain control over what areas are sanctified and by how much. Just as Aslan, the wild lion, tore and shredded the dragon skin from Eustace, He has torn and shredded me this week. When God changes us, sanctifies us, He can dig and shred and tear so much deeper and harder than we ever imagined that we could survive. This business of dying is not easy. I am broken, torn and bleeding, but I trust the one who did this all. He is a good surgeon and will not go too far as he makes us brand new and turns everything sad untrue.
O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.