This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health, but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.
On every road trip when I was little, I was the kid asking, “Are we there yet?” Thankfully for my parents and friends, I don’t ask that question on road trips anymore, but I’m still quite likely to ask the very same question of God about my life.
I’d be willing to bet that whatever your earthly destination, you’re not there yet. Whether you’re looking forward to graduation, a solid career, a family, marriage, a graduate degree, or healing from illness, you’re probably still on your way. I know I am. I have a lot of questions left unanswered: Where will I work after I graduate? If I get married, who will I marry? By this time next year, will I have the same friends, the same job, the same apartment?
I would like to be “there,” with the answers that God has planned for me. But as frustrated as I am that I can’t look into a crystal ball and see my future, I’m much more frustrated by my sins. I am so hungry to be free from them, completely and totally. I want to know: What about this sin that jumps on my back when I am unaware, the one that creeps into my head unprovoked? Will I ever be free, or will I fight this battle for the rest of my life? Can you please dear God take away this thorn in my side? I can see the destination, but I’m tired by the journey.
It’s a good thing to long for our heavenly future. Paul sums this up well in 2 Corinthians 5:2 (ESV) when he says, “For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling.” Jesus has promised to prepare a place for us, although we are not there yet (John 14:1-3).
But in the meantime, God has plans for our journey, too. He promised the future exiles of Jerusalem that He had plans to prosper them and not to harm them, even as they felt walled in by enemies (Jeremiah 29:11). He reminds us through James that trials produce perseverance (James 1:2). The things that we experience now -uncertainty and suffering as well as joy – are part of our becoming more like Him. We are justified, but we are also being sanctified.
While it is good to look ahead to where we are going, we should also be comforted by the knowledge that God’s timing is never wrong (see Ecclesiastes 3). If we are not there yet, it’s because we are not yet supposed to be.
There is danger in ignoring the process in our eagerness to arrive. The flip side of this is getting lost in the process, happy to walk in circles because it’s about the journey, anyway. When we are content with this, we end up shrugging our shoulders at the same old sins.
In these moments of complacency, we need to lift our eyes to our destination: the eternal life for which God is preparing us. We cannot earn it, but we can set our shoulders to the plow and walk with God. The Christian life is not easy. We have to get to know God, even if it means giving up the things we love more than Him in order to seek Him in spirit and truth – even if that means that our bank accounts look a little tighter because we’re taking giving seriously, or Sunday mornings aren’t for brunch anymore, or we have to take a good hard look at our relationships because some of them are not glorifying God. Just because we are not there yet doesn’t mean we never will be, and as we wait, our aim should be to please Him (2 Corinthians 5:9).
This life is about the journey and the destination. It is about who God is making us into, by His grace. It is about the setbacks and the trials and the refining into gold (Job 23:10), but it is also about who we will be in the end. His will is that we are sanctified (1 Thessalonians 4:3), that the work is finished eventually. So, while we are in the process of becoming, we must not take our eyes off of what we are going to be.