How is God Working in Your Life?
If you’ve been around long enough in church, you’ve probably had someone ask you the following question:
“How is God working in your life?”
The first time I remember being asked that question (or something like it) was by Mac Lynch. He and his wife Beth were doing a sacred concert at our church and we were taking them to Sight and Sound as a part of the weekend. Mac and Beth are so genuine and relational, so I didn’t take it as prying in any way. But honestly, I would have preferred him asking me another question. Maybe like “How are your kids?” or “What are you doing for your Christmas programs?” It’s not that I don’t think it’s a good question, and it’s not that I didn’t believe God was working in my life. I just didn’t know how to answer. I don’t remember what I said.
As we have started Community Groups at Bethel, we have needed to get more comfortable with answering these kinds of questions—questions about the condition of our souls, our walk with God, etc. Why are those questions so hard to answer? (Maybe there are those who are not uncomfortable with the question, but I think probably a lot of us are.)
Life can seem quite ordinary much of the time. I haven’t killed any giants or called down fire from heaven. I haven’t had God appear to me at a burning bush. I haven’t been asked to sacrifice my one and only son, only to have God stop me at the last second and provide another substitute. If those things happened to me, well then, ask away and I’ll tell you how God is working in my life!
But when life is mostly ordinary, what do we say? I don’t think we should take the position that we shouldn’t be asking or answering these kinds of questions—that this kind of thing is private. If my walk with God is private then what do I do with some of the one another commands of the NT.
“…exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb. 3:13)
“…encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” (1 Thes. 5:11)
What is the metric for answering “the question”?
How do we measure “How is God working in your life?” Do we use a yardstick or a ruler? A scale or a measuring cup? How can we answer this extraordinary question when we live ordinary lives of eating, drinking, working, playing, paying bills, going shopping—being a mom, dad, grandparent, child, spouse, or friend? Like the main character in What About Bob, I need baby steps. (If you’ve never seen the movie, feel free to ignore the reference. The rest of you can chuckle with me.)
“Dr. Marvin,” says Bob, “I need baby steps!!! Please, Dr. Marvin!!”
Here are some baby steps that have helped me think about “the question.” (I’m suggesting reinterpreting the question.) When someone says “How is God working in your life?” I can take these baby steps–which in fact are Biblical metrics. (Each baby step is actually some kind of Godward orientation in lieu of my life’s ordinary circumstances.)
Baby step #1: “What habits am I pursuing that demonstrate that I know I need God’s grace?”
To which I may answer that I have been starting my day with the Word and some prayer, but easily lose a God-ward focus during the day. So, I’ve been attempting to pause for a few minutes before lunch to read a short passage, express my need to God, and give thanks. Or that I am really tempted to pull away from the fellowship of the church community, even though I know I need church (and the church needs me) (1 Cor. 12).
Baby step #2: “What am I thankful for?” (Psalm 50:23)
I may answer with a verse of Scripture I read recently that was an encouragement, an answer to prayer, or simply that God found me, and that I’m still pressing on the in Christian life, even in the face of difficult things. (Where would I be if I wasn’t in church with God’s people, pursuing God?)
Baby step #3: “What sins am I struggling with and confessing?” (Js. 5:16)
To which I might say that I regularly need to confess being anxious or worried about “x,” even though I know Jesus exhorted me not to worry about that. Or it could be a hundred other things.
Baby step #4: “How are my relationships?” (James 3:17-18)
To which I might say that I’m thankful for a certain relationship that is encouraging or where there has been growth. Or perhaps I would talk about a relationship (without naming it specifically) in which there some kind of struggle in communication, selfishness, kindness, or lack of wisdom. (By the way, I’m not pulling this out of my head. James connects life’s wisdom with relationships that are characterized by purity, peace, gentleness, being open to reason, merciful, fruitful, impartial, and sincere. It’s worth considering as a metric.)
Baby step #5: “How is my emotional life?” (Psalm 42-43)
If you are a joyful person, this may be an easy one to answer. Give thanks for it. But you might also share that you struggle with feeling down or discouraged by “x.” Or that you are tempted towards being angry, frustrated or impatient over “y.” When we read through the Psalms, we find that indeed God is “working” in and through how we feel about and process life’s circumstances.
Aren’t these the ordinary things of life that we face every day? If giving glory to God extends such simple things as eating and drinking (1 Cor. 10:31), then don’t you think we can be content to answer this question in ordinary ways, without feeling compelled to give some grand testimony? Can we not take these kinds of baby steps as we seek to encourage each other?
Prayer: Ask God to help you measure or notice His work in your life in ways that are ordinary, yet meaningful and encouraging.