(Part 9 of 10 from the article, “Through the Eyes of Heaven: Does ‘Talking It Through to Find Peace’ bring Shalom?”) By Jim Wilder and Ed Khouri
Followers of Jesus are in the process of being transformed into the image of Jesus. We are born into an entirely new identity from the moment we receive Him. He knows our old identity is hopelessly marred by the 4Ps and our self-created avatars. Instead of trying to fix that false identity, God gives us an entirely new identity rooted in His life and image. Moreover, God is faithful to help us grow into the image of Jesus, which is far greater than we can think, see, or imagine. He promises to work everything together to the end described in Romans 8:28-29. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (NKJV).
God is just not working all things together so that we’ll have desirable outcomes. His purpose is much more transcendent than that. He promises to work all things together to transform us into living images of Jesus! Consider the implications: God uses the problems, pain, suffering, and difficulties we face to grow us more fully into our God-given identity. Those very issues are what He is using to help grow us up into the image of His Son! Is finding relief from these problems our most significant need? According to these verses, “No!” Our greatest need is to discover God – and who we are amidst those trials.
Finding our true identity in Christ is a mysterious process. As John writes, “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2 NKJV). Who we are becoming is not yet clear – and the fullness of our identity won’t be until we see Jesus. In the same way, who others are becoming is also not yet clear. We are a mystery directed by God’s Spirit, as He conforms us to the image of Jesus. “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8 NKJV).
When we begin to see through God’s eyes and recognize the importance of identity transformation, the nature of the interactions we have with others shifts. We’re sympathetic to
pain and suffering but see those in the context of a much bigger picture: the process of being transformed into the image of God’s Son. Comfort in this context is not about pain relief. Instead, it’s helping people learn to see their situations, selves, and others from God’s perspective amid difficulty. With an understanding of identity firmly in mind, we practice Biblical instructions such as “comfort one another” or “uphold the weak” from a solid foundation. On a practical level, how do we move forward into transformation together?
Admittedly, not all small groups are the same. Some are designed for participants who have not learned to manage emotions in healthy, relational ways. Others may just be starting a journey into recovery from significant life trauma or addictions. Still more may be in an acute crisis. While it can be important for participants in such groups to talk about problems, we must structure and lead them with a focus on solutions – and not the endless recitation of crises and painful emotions.
It is also quite helpful to offer classes teaching Immanuel Prayer. In these classes, students learn to talk with God about the issues of everyday life. As they practice, their connection with Jesus grows stronger. Students then learn to interact with Him about increasingly difficult areas of life. They discover how to share intense pain and emotions with Him – and find peace in Him.
That is something we will explore in our next blog.
Our next blog is “Seeking Things Above” — the tenth excerpt from the article, “Through the Eyes of Heaven: Does ‘Talking It Through to Find Peace’ bring Shalom?” By Jim Wilder and Ed Khouri.