I struggle a lot with my temper, and it is hard for me to make friends. I want to be a better child of God and a better woman, who is worthy of a good man, but I do not see any progress. I have been praying and doing things to change and grow, but I do not see progress. (I do not want to change for him; he just made me realize my need.)
Someone told me that I need to surrender to God and let Him work through me, but I feel like I do not know how to do that. I feel like I have to do something. Could you give some advice?
Thank you for your question about how to become a better woman and child of God. What a gift to have received these insights. Praise the Lord for the circumstance — meeting this man — that led to your awareness of your need for growth. You’re right, though, that you should not want to change for this man. Such motivation is powerless to effect lasting change, and like a failed New Year’s resolution, will be short-lived. So where does the motivation and power for lasting change come from?
Paul prayed for the believers in Colossae, that they “…may be filled with the knowledge of [God’s] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:9-10).
Our ability to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” — to live day to day in obedience to His Word — comes from God. It is only possible to follow Christ as our example when we are trusting in Him as our Savior. This means knowing that we bring nothing to God, that we can do nothing to earn His favor, and that we are utterly dependent on His mercy for forgiveness and new life. He promised to send the Holy Spirit to those who believe in Him (Romans 8:11). And it is the Holy Spirit’s power at work in us that produces the fruit of spiritual maturity (Galatians 5:22, Ephesians 5:9). But also, it is the why of obedience that provides life-long motivation. If we try to obey in order to obtain something, or please someone, or even just to satisfy ourselves, our efforts will fizzle. Only when we are obeying for the glory of God can we hope to endure.
Your friend was right that you need God to work through you, but it is not enough to “surrender to God.” You have a role to play in growing in spiritual maturity and womanhood. Philippians 2:12-13 shows the cooperation that takes place in sanctification — in becoming like Christ:
<blockquote>”Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” [Emphasis added.]</blockquote>
Spiritual growth also depends on being an active member in a biblically faithful local church (Hebrews 10:24-25). It’s not about going to church every week in order to earn God’s favor, but the growth in grace that comes through the fellowship of other Christians. We need to worship together, to hear the Word faithfully preached, to pray together, and to be reminded through the Lord’s Supper of Christ’s death on our behalf and His resurrection from the dead. All of these are necessary for our growth.
It is in this context that you should ask God for wisdom (James 1:5), study the Scriptures (2 Timothy 2:15), seek help from older women (Titus 2:3-5), confess your sins (James 5:16), and serve others (1 Peter 4:10). All of these contribute to God’s work in you. But you will never be perfect in this life. Though you can live in ways that please Him, apart from Christ, you can never earn God’s favor. Instead, may we say with Paul, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). The only way we can stand in God’s presence is when we are covered with Christ’s righteousness.
There are spiritual disciplines and skills you should pursue to that will prepare you for the work of marriage. Do these worthy things not to get a “good husband” but to please the Lord and to glorify Him, trusting that if marriage is His will for you, He will bring it about. We have a role to play; a role that is defined and sustained by the Spirit of God at work in us. If we strive in our own strength, we will find we are too weak. But thanks be to God, we are not left to ourselves.
By Grace Alone,
Copyright Candice Watters 2016. All rights reserved.