Whenever we examine our hearts and lives we inevitably wind up with a list of things we want to change. Reflecting on the past year can bring a laundry list of goals, dreams, sin that needs to be addressed, and the like. If you are like me, you can be simply overwhelmed by the enormity of the task before you. There is so much that needs to change, or that you want to change. You have so many goals for the next year that often feel so unattainable. You have so much guilt over your past failures. Where do you even begin? Here is something so simple, yet so profound, that has encouraged me this year as I have sought to grow as a believer and as a wife.
Work on one thing at a time.
There it is. It’s not a long list of goals or an elaborate plan. In fact, it’s just one simple task. Choose one area for change or one nugget of truth learned and apply it to your life right now. Don’t try and tackle everything at once. That tends to be too much and could actually cause us to go backwards or at least stat stagnant in our growth. Maybe this year growing as a wife means learning to trust in the finished work of Christ. There are a ton of great books out there that can help you in this pursuit (like here, here, and here). Maybe growing as a wife this year means greater discipline in personal holiness. You can start by reading a chapter of the Bible a day and praying for your husband for five minutes a day (maybe while doing the dishes, laundry, or fixing dinner). Maybe growing as a wife means learning to use your tongue for good towards your husband, rather than for evil. You can start by trying to think of one encouraging thing (that you mean) to say to your husband every day.
While these suggestions might seem small, they are steps forward. Even baby steps move us, albeit slowly, towards greater godliness. Focusing on one thing at a time allows us to really grow in that particular area, often fueling greater growth in other areas. It is hard to do things well when you are stretched in a variety of directions.
Few things have served me more than this simple concept. I learned it first from listening to Betsy Ricucci (and I can’t remember the exact message I was listening to). I can get overwhelmed by too many options and too many things to do, especially when it is related to my growth as a believer. But what I have learned in those moments, and my husband has so helpfully led me to see, is that God is concerned with faithfulness, not perfection. Sometimes faithfulness means just doing the next thing. Sometimes it means spending time reflecting and identifying areas of needed growth. Sometimes it means taking action in one specific area. But it usually does not include all three of those things at the same time! God knows I’m not perfect, that’s why he provided Jesus as my righteous substitute. Daily plugging along in the Christian life is faithful living and it will produce a harvest of fruit in the end.
And often we can get more focused on the evidence of fruit, can’t we? Yes, as Christians we should be growing and producing fruit, but it is our overemphasis on the abundance of fruit that often brings discouragement. This is why working on one thing at a time is so helpful. Instead of being overly preoccupied with the results, we are focused on the growth and the process it takes to get us there. But more importantly, focusing on one thing at a time should cause us to be drawn to the One who will produce a harvest of righteousness in our life—Jesus Christ. Only he can bring lasting change. Only he can produce genuine fruit in our lives.
As I look back on this year of marriage, and look forward to the coming year, there is a lot of sanctification I would like to see take place. If you are like me, and you struggle with wanting to see more results than are often evident, you can rest in the promise of Philippians 1:6, God will complete the work he began in you. And as you work and labor to grow in godliness, remember this: take it one day at a time.