Jesus accepts you just as you are. Unconditionally! And if you let Him, He has promised to take you to where He wants you to be. Hallelujah! Now wouldn’t it be nice if we had a one-two-three step plan to get there?

But messy is always part of the process. You’ve seen the graphics that show, on one side, a relatively straight line from here to there. And the line on the other side, “How it really is”, is a spaghetti-like tangle of ups and downs, forward and back, definitely messy, before getting to there.

It’s the same in every area of life. A child learning to feed herself gets more food in her hair than in her mouth at the beginning. A developing basket-ball player misses many more baskets than he makes. A salesman or an author gets many more No’s than Yes’s.

And it’s the same in our emotional/spiritual growth. The Holy Spirit regularly puts His finger on something in your life and says, “Here, this needs to change. Let Me deal with you here.” “Zapping” you from here to there is something God occasionally does, but almost always He takes us through the process. And that’s messy.

That messy is valuable because of what it produces in you. Can you be OK with the messy?

Why the Messy?

People are messy. You are messy. Have you ever learned or grown in any significant way when things were easy? Can you explain how you feel about something or how you respond to someone with one simple sentence? Your favorite emoji should be “it’s complicated!”

Human experience is just that – complicated. We each have a history, a personality, a default way of doing things. Each of us is a mixture of strong and weak, skilled and incompetent, wise and clueless, caring and careless, devout and selfish. Thankfully God understands every detail of who you are.

But do you understand?

Changing and growing, or helping someone else change and grow, is messy because people are messy. People resist change for all kinds of reasons, consciously and unconsciously. While there are important ingredients we all need to support healthy change, it never happens quickly or without effort.

That’s the danger of a “three-step plan to a fulfilled life”, or a program promising to get you quick results in any area involving your own heart. Try to force any living thing to grow too quickly, and you risk killing it.

And yet growth is absolutely mandatory if you and I are to become who God has called us to be.

Hence the messy.

God Embraces Messy

Our messy is no surprise to God. While we often struggle to see or feel Him, God is present just as much in the middle of our messy process as He is at the wonderful beginning or glorious end. He knows every bit about where you came from and what has gone into you being the person you are now. “The Lord records as he registers the peoples, “This one was born there.”” (Psalm 87:6)

Jesus came right into the middle of a family, a nation, and a world that was terribly messy. He experienced every bit of the frustration you and I face. He had to learn just as you and I must; “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.” (Hebrews 5:8)

Every one of God’s friends in the Bible went through a messy process. Straight lines just don’t exist very often in our human experience, or in God’s economy. If God Himself, in the Person of Jesus, came into and went through a messy process, who are you or I to think we can get by without messy?

“For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:14)

Getting Through the Messy

Expecting to bypass the messy only sets you up for frustration.

But while messy is uncomfortable and can even be costly, there are some great ways to speed up getting through the messy in whatever area the Holy Spirit is dealing with you about.

  1. Accept God’s grace for yourself.

Perfectionism and legalism are not characteristics of our Father. He’s not watching for you to mess up; He’s looking for you to say Yes. Jesus personified the grace of God toward us. If there’s one message in the entire New Testament, it’s that God offers us “grace upon grace.” (John 1:16)

Some people find it difficult to accept God’s grace for themselves. If that’s you, let me ask; Do you really think you know better than God? If He extends you grace, wouldn’t it be wise to believe Him and embrace that yourself?

  1. Ask, “What’s going on here?”

When facing the messy, a great question to pray is, “Jesus, what’s going on here?” And then stick around long enough, with an open quiet heart, to hear anything He wants to say. That kind of perspective can change everything.

It might be the Holy Spirit is working to change some part of your character to be more like Jesus. Or perhaps there are some new skills you need to learn in the process of God preparing you for some greater responsibilities. It could be that messy is happening because of being in a messed-up world. And it’s possible you’re in the middle of some spiritual warfare.

  1. Say YES as quickly as you can.

Whatever is going on, learn to say YES as quickly as you can to the Holy Spirit. Bitter resistance, or refusal to address problems He is bringing up, only means you’ll be in the mess longer.

To whatever the Holy Spirit is wanting to do, just say Yes. That will usually come with some instructions from Him. That might be, “Forgive.” Or “Wait.” Or “Step up and do this hard thing.”

The biggest factor within your control that determines how long you stay in the mess is how quickly you say YES.

And if you do that, when you look back on this mess, you’ll be able to see how God was working through the middle of it all.

Your Turn: What mess are you in the middle of? Have you asked Jesus, “What’s going on here?” Have you said YES to anything He’s told you? Leave a comment below.

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  • Messy is always part of the process. God knows the process is messy. He accepts your messy! And He wants to help you get to the other side.  Tweet that.

Can’t Talk to Anyone?

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Get our free download When You Can’t Talk to Anyone (Even at Church). And you’ll get some follow-up suggested steps you can take next.