I’ve spent much of my Christian life feeling bad about myself. I mean, I wasn’t already fixed and had healed of all my issues, so I figured God must be disappointed. And I wanted everyone else to know God’s love, but in trying so hard to help other people, I forgot that God loved me, too.
Then God slowly began to teach me these four things—and they changed my life forever.
1. Sanctification is a slow process.
I am a retired perfectionist—well, I’m trying to retire, anyway. I’ve lived my whole life wanting to do things perfectly and therefore feeling like a failure much of the time. This was especially true when it came to sin in my heart. When God revealed sin to me, I felt it was my duty to fix it, and fix it immediately.
But I’ve learned there is no 10-step, overnight formula-fix for the issues in our hearts. Sanctification (i.e., becoming more like Christ) is a lifelong process. It takes time. It’s like peeling layers off an onion; God strips off one layer of sin and false identities, and we rejoice—only to discover there’s still another layer, and another. Maybe that’s why the apostle Paul told us to run the race with endurance (Hebrews 12:1-3), instead of preparing for a sprint.
I’ve always been a sprinter. I’ve always been in a rush. But God? He’s not in a rush. He’s not like, “Could you hurry up and get fixed already?” No, instead He takes His time, just as a craftsman would slowly and skillfully create a masterpiece. So my job is to surrender to Him, make the changes He gives me to make and then embrace the slow, beautiful journey toward sanctification.
2. The end goal is to come closer to God.
When I was struggling with an eating disorder, I couldn’t figure out why healing was taking so long in coming. I felt like I was standing at Point A on my journey, and begging God to get me to Point B (no longer struggling with disordered eating) as fast as possible. And yet it seemed like God was taking the longest route He could find! “Tiffany, come over here, way out of the way, and smell the flowers! Oh, let’s take a long detour today to see the sunrise!” I was like, “God, can you please just fix me already?!”
Soon enough I learned that my destination was different from God’s destination. The end goal I had in mind was healing and freedom from my eating disorder. But the end goal God had in mind was to bring me closer to Him. Healing and freedom came along the way, but they were merely byproducts—byproducts that came as I journeyed closer to Him.
Now don’t get me wrong—I do believe Jesus wants to bring healing and freedom in our lives, and sometimes it takes a lot of hard work to find that healing and freedom. That’s why counseling has been a very critical part of my own journey. But I think sometimes we get so caught up in finding healing that we start to drown in our struggle. It’s like I was so focused on recovering from an eating disorder that all I could think about was the eating disorder.
John 6:33 says to seek first the kingdom of God, and all these other things will be added to us. One of the things that means in my own life is that the main thing I’m seeking is a relationship with God, and everything else (like healing and freedom) is secondary.
That completely changed how I see struggles in life. Now when I see an area of my life that needs healing, instead of only setting my sights on healing and freedom, I start asking God to bring me closer to Himself through the struggle.
3. God hides gifts in dark places.
I like to think that all of life is an adventure with our Father-God, and that He hides gifts for us along the way. This perspective turns everyday life into an Easter egg hunt—keeping our eyes out for the gifts God has hidden on that day’s journey. Sometimes they’re little reminders of His love for us, sometimes they’re a new friendship we discover. There are so many gifts He’s hidden on my path. But sometimes the greatest gifts of all come during the darkest parts of the journey.
I once heard a speaker say that diamonds are displayed in black cases, because the dark background makes the diamond shine all the brighter. In the same way, she said, you’ll often find gems from God hidden in the darkest seasons of your life.
I’ve found that to be absolutely true in my own life.
Recently I was pregnant with my first baby, only to have a miscarriage. At first I thought I would never stop crying, never be able to sleep again because of the pain in my heart. But in that dark season, God hid extravagant gifts. He surrounded me with beauty, wrapping me up in it like a blanket. He held me in His arms, making me so aware of His presence all around me. He made me more human through the grief, too, giving me greater compassion and empathy. It was a beautiful dichotomy: the goodness, the gifts and the beauty that came hand-in-hand with the pain.
Isaiah 43 says that even when we walk through the hardest times, God will be with us. And that awareness of His closeness is truly the greatest gift of all.
4. I am the one Jesus loves.
It’s one thing to believe God loves other people; it’s another matter to believe He loves me.
That reminds me of the first time I read John 13:23, where John calls himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Let me tell you, I was horrified when I read that verse. Man, I thought, John had a real issue with pride!
But here’s what I’ve learned: John was the one Jesus loved. Of course we know all the other disciples were also “the one Jesus loved,” but it seems like John is the only one who grasped this identity—or at least the only one who wrote it in his gospel.
Slowly, I realized that message flows throughout all of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation: We each are the one that Jesus loves. Not that everyone else isn’t, but that we also are.
When I first started learning this, I couldn’t own it for myself. Saying, “I’m the one Jesus loves”? I just couldn’t do it. It felt wrong, and extremely arrogant.
I will never forget one night in Nashville when I was standing in the shower and praying for the women I’d be speaking with the next night. I was asking God to show them His love. And then I felt like He stopped me mid-prayer with this thought: “Tiffany, I love them…but I also love you.” Had I forgotten how much He loved me? I realized I cannot fully help others know how much God loves them unless I know how much He loves me. I have to give His love from a vessel that is filled with His love.
You and I—we are the ones Jesus loves. And when we make this our identity, when we live out of this reality, it changes everything.
Now it’s your turn! What is one thing God taught you that has totally changed the way you see Him?