How to Assess Yourself to See If You Are Mature
My son wanted to play on the family iPad. He loves the video games. I told him playing on the iPad was not an option at that time. This was a seemingly mundane, innocuous moment in his life.
But it was also more than a quick interchange between a father and a son that would be forgotten in five minutes. It was an opportunity for him to choose how he was going to respond to disappointment.
He did well. He simply said, “Okay” and then moved on to the next thing. My prayer for my son is he will be able to respond this way when he is an adult; when his desires, hopes, and dreams are significantly higher.
For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. — 2 Corinthians 12:10
If he learns this key to fruitful living, then only the LORD will limit his usefulness in life. Most of us are not limited by God, but limited by our own attitudes and thoughts, especially when we do not get what we want–even if our desires are good.
Think again about my son’s response to not being able to play on the iPad. He was content with my decision not to play. His contentment freed him from anger, frustration, disappointment, discouragement, demands, and a bad attitude.
He was free to move on and enjoy whatever the next thing life was going to offer him. Contrariwise, if he had succumbed to any of the sinful responses above, then he would not have been in position to move on in a mature and contented way.
He would have been held under the control of his unmet desire. This simple illustration is for our self-examination. How are we responding to the things that are not being provided for us?
Granted, life for us is more complicated than being turned down from an opportunity to play a game on an iPad. The things we would like to have are far more important.
- A wife wants a loving husband.
- A husband wants a loving wife.
- Parents want children who love them and God.
- A child wants her parents to love her and God.
- A single person wants to be married.
Though these things are far more important, the process for how to think through these things are no different from the interchange with my son. How we respond to a “No” in our lives will determine the kind of life we are going to experience.
Our lives cannot always be a “Yes” to everything we want. That would make no sense and it certainly is not in line with the Word of God because we know suffering is a promise from the LORD (Philippians 1:29; 1 Peter 2:21).
If you are a parent, you are well aware how always saying “yes” to your child would be detrimental to his maturity, as well as how he relates to others. The spoiled child is a manipulator–a “user” of people. Any loving parent would not provide everything a child wanted.
How much more does our heavenly Father love us? It is His profound love for us that restrains Him from giving us all the desires of our hearts (Luke 22:42). Living in this truth is the difference between being biblically mature and immature.
Are you a mature Christian?
When someone responds wrongly to a disappointment in life, then it will become harder and harder for them to respond correctly in the future. The Hebrew writer tells us about this process. We see how difficult it is to partake in God’s riches when our desires become self-focused.
About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.
But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. — Hebrews 5:11–14
At this point in their walk with the LORD they have not matured enough to receive the deeper and richer things from God. They are immature–at least some of them are. Imagine if my son was stuck on an iPad fixation for the next ten years.
Suppose he could not move forward from having to have his iPad desires met. Think about how it would dull his mind and cut him off from greater things that a more mature person would experience.
Though our unmet desires are more complicated than missing iPad time, our wrong response to disappointment is similar. The difference for us is if we persist in our disappointment over not getting what we desire–even if it is a good desire–our hearts will harden exponentially.
Suffering and disappointment are gifts for the mature, but stumbling blocks for the immature. If you want to know if you are mature, simply answer this question: how are you responding to the disappointments in your life?
Biblical maturity can be the possession of the young, the poor, or the illiterate while being elusive from the old, the rich, or the educated. There is only one data point required to assess a person’s maturity. It is how you regularly respond to your disappointments.
What you see is what you get
When you do not get what you want, what is it that you see or perceive in that moment? If all my son saw was an iPad, then that would be the thing that would control him. How about you? What controls your thoughts when you hear a no?
Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. — John 11:21
When Mary and Martha heard about their brother’s sickness that eventually turned into death, they had a hard time accepting God’s decision in the matter. They became chippy with the LORD, even accusing Him of not doing the right thing.
All they could see was the death of their brother. They could not perceive the greater work of God. Fortunately, the Savior was not controlled by Mary and Martha’s immaturity. Though they could not see the bigger picture, He could.
Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. — John 11:14–15
The thing you want most of all will control your thoughts. The thing that is most dominant in your thinking will have the most control over your life. Your mind and behavior will be controlled by the thing that exerts power over you.
- When you are in the middle of relational conflict, what captures your thoughts?
- When the pressures of life continue to mount, where does your mind go?
- When people are not meeting your expectations, how much does that disappointment control you?
- When you cannot get what you want, does the fear of losing what you want control your thinking?
The danger in these scenarios is the spiritual laziness that disables a person’s thinking. Honestly, it takes hard work to respond right to God in moments of disappointment. When disappointment comes, you must hold on to your faith (Hebrews 3:12, 4:11).
The spiritually mature person can do this because he works hard at discerning between good and evil. His training regimen enables him to make the right decision, which moves him closer to God rather than farther from God.
But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. — Hebrews 5:14
What does your suffering reveal about you?
These ongoing and daily choices give him a more intimate, secure, and stronger relationship with God. This kind of maturity can only come from choosing yes to God when you get a no to your desires.
The graphic illustrates this point. The more you say “yes” to the LORD, the easier things become and the higher you ascend with Him. (This graphic was also used in my piece called, How to help the little bit of narcissism that is in all of us.)
The strength you gain from this process will help you to stay focused and governed during times of trouble. It will stabilize you when the pressures of life seek to dominate your thinking. It will give you a God-centered perspective on personal disappointment.
If your focus moves away from the LORD and you are shaken by the trials the Father writes into your script, then you will be discouraged and tempted to quit. You should not be discouraged. Failure is not bad news. It is your opportunity to change your thinking and your direction.
Please do not miss this point: your trial is supposed to point you to God. It should not motivate you to continue to fixate on what you are not getting.
God does not waste pain and we should not waste it either. If you fixate on what you are not getting or on the person who is keeping you from getting what you desire, then you will not only waste your suffering, but you will suffer more because of the self-imposed bondage you placed on yourself.
The two most important things in your life at the point of your trials are (1) perceiving the true condition of your soul and (2) to adjust yourself as needed. The most important thing is not to become fixated on the trial, but what the trial is revealing to you about you.
Though overly focusing on the trial is normal, it is not wise or biblical. It is Christian immaturity that reveals spiritual slothfulness, fear, and anger. Over time spiritual atrophy will set in if you do not change and you will become hardened by the suffering that was designed to tender you.
How did we get here?
The question for us is, how does it all begin? Typically, the path to spiritual hardness begins with a mild disappointment. As innocuous as the disappointment may be, it can be the beginning of our drift from God.
Perhaps you have seen the extreme case of a person who has been overly fixated on what has happened to them and how they have suffered–particularly at the hands of another person.
You probably noticed how this kind of person is bitter, critical, cynical, resentful, revengeful, unforgiving, and not trusting. Their walk with God has grown cold. Wouldn’t you like to be able to help them to perceive how they have missed the point of their disappointments?
The key to a biblically mature life is when we can cherish God more than any other desire. This is the definition of biblical maturity. It is a totally surrendered not my will, but Your will be done attitude (Luke 22:42)–an attitude that comes by hard work and incomprehensible grace.
Call to action
- Do you have ongoing disappointment in your life because you have not been able to acquire something you desire, even if that desire is a good desire?
- How has that disappointment changed you–or is changing you?
- What do you think the LORD could be doing by withholding the thing you want?
- What does your ongoing disappointment say about you?
- How do you need to change? Will you write out a specific and practical plan that you can implement into your life today? Will you share your plan with a friend, asking them to carefully and consistently speak into your life?
Originally published at Rick Thomas.