By Dolores Smyth, Crosswalk.com
Every year we make new—or recommit to old—resolutions.
We resolve to eat healthier, work out more, and stress less, vowing that “this is the year” we’re finally going to take control of our wellbeing. There’s no doubt that committing to a plan of healthier living is a worthy goal, but how often do we make improving our spiritual wellness a part of that plan?
You may already be dedicating time to nurturing your spiritual wellbeing and yet you feel a pull to do more. Or you may just be starting to prioritize your spiritual health and are unsure of what to do or how much you can fit into your already-packed schedule.
No matter the stage you’re at on your spiritual journey, know that any step you take toward spiritual growth is a step in the right direction.
Here are 5 signs of spiritual growth and, if you haven’t yet reached these particular markers, tips on how to keep striving toward spiritual maturity.
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1. You Make Time to Know God and His Word
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7
Do you remember growing up and fearing that you’d do something to disappoint your parents? Or perhaps you’re an adult who’s still conscious of not letting Mom and Dad down. Whichever the case, this “fear” is rooted in love for your parents and respect for the way they raised you to conduct yourself.
Likewise, if you’re someone who fears disappointing God, then you know the importance of making time to get to know Him and His expectations of you through the study of His Word. In fact, you’ve likely already witnessed in your own life how, when you spend time steeped in God’s Word, you feel more spiritually whole by knowing how to live a life that reflects love and respect for your Heavenly Father.
This knowledge comes from the time you take to know God and His teachings.
Spiritual growth tip for beginners: On the other hand, if you’re someone who keeps meaning to read the Bible but you haven’t found a way to schedule it in, consider this well-known time management tip: Stop prioritizing what’s on your schedule and, instead, schedule your priorities!
You can schedule time to know God and His message.
For example, you can use your commute to work as time to pray or, if you take public transportation, to read your Bible on your smartphone, tablet, or in physical print format. You can also set aside time to meditate on Scripture one passage (or one verse) at a time.
Reading through the Proverbs or Psalms offers much spiritual food for thought in digestible portions. Other ways to schedule your spiritual growth is to read a chapter nightly of a devotional or of another Biblically-based book, or sign up for a Bible study through your church or online.
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2. You Count Your Blessings
“Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all His wonderful acts.” Psalm 105:2
Depending on your circumstances, it can be hard to count your blessings. Stress from work or home obligations can occupy your thoughts, and worrying about other tribulations can seize your focus from the moment you wake up.
However, if you make it a point to routinely count your blessings despite life’s hardships, then you’ve got the spiritual maturity to see the forest for the trees in embracing gratitude for what you do have.
You know that your health and that of your loved ones is a blessing. You know that your spouse/partner, your children, your friends are all blessings. You know that your job—whether you enjoy or dread it—is a blessing. You acknowledge that so many other people are less fortunate than you in so many ways, and you thank God for the blessings He bestows upon you daily.
Spiritual growth tip for beginners: For those who can’t presently find much to be thankful for, consider that each new morning is a new opportunity to connect with others or quietly speak with God in prayer.
Creation itself is a miracle, and we need look only to the sky, the ocean, or a newborn baby to see the blessings that God has surrounded us with to care for on His behalf. Each day is also another chance to seek joy by making better choices and choosing better company.
When you reach the point where your thoughts are less about what you want and more about your appreciation for the gifts you already have, you’ve hit a spiritual growth milestone.
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3. You Are Content in Times of Praise or Criticism
“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:12
If there’s one thing we learn the older we get, it’s that praise from others can be fleeting or insincere, and that criticism can sting for a long time after the reproachful words have left the speaker’s lips. It’s tough not to feel inflated by praise and flattened by criticism, especially when the words come from someone we admire.
However, when we maintain a humble attitude, we live by the understanding that as long as we have a “right” relationship with God, the applause and arrows of this world have no real hold on us.
If you’re at the place spiritually where you can remain emotionally level despite the praise or criticism that comes your way, then you’ve reached a level of spiritual growth that most peace-seekers aspire to. Not that these things will never get to you, but you will remain steadfast throughout.
Spiritual growth tip for beginners: If, however, you do hinge your happiness on the approval of others or (worse) on the fickle internet audiences that visit your social media pages, take heart that there is hope!
Instead of falling prey to the capricious nature of our “like” and “follow” culture, choose to step away from social media periodically and focus on growing your fellowship with Jesus. This may help you espouse a more even-keeled demeanor which, in turn, may help you maintain your perspective when interacting with others.
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4. You Forgive More Easily and More Often
“And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Matthew 6:12
Is there anything more humbling (and potentially terrifying) than knowing that your sins will be judged by the standard you use to judge others?
If you’re someone who has the grace to forgive easily and often, then your spiritual awareness has already revealed to you that if your brother has a speck in his eye, you may very well have a log (Matthew 7:5).
Moreover, you’re also someone who knows that forgiving others benefits your emotional health. Specifically, when you let others off the hook for having wronged you, you let yourself off the hook from harboring ill will against that person and can release the emotional burden of holding onto a grudge.
Spiritual growth tip for beginners: Although we all know that we should forgive those who have hurt us, we also all know people who have done things that are especially difficult to forgive.
If you struggle to forgive others, Scripture teaches that a good time to find the strength to extend forgiveness is during prayer when our minds and hearts are united with God (Mark 11:25). In choosing to let go of a grudge against someone (whether or not they’ve apologized), you’re allowing yourself to step out of the role of victim and focus, instead, on overcoming your hurt.
It’s important to note that forgiveness is something we do for ourselves to improve our emotional and spiritual wellbeing, and does not require reassociating with the offender, especially if that person continues to engage in harmful behavior.
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5. You Pass Your Faith Down to Your Children
“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6
One of the best things we can do for our children aside from loving them unconditionally is to pass down our faith to them. In taking the time to hand down your faith, you’ve likely noticed how your dedication to guiding your kids has nourished their sense of security and belonging.
You also may have noticed that teaching your kids how to root their actions in love and fairness has made your children feel like their thoughts and words are important to you.
Raising your children in a faith-based home also bolsters their sense of purpose, especially during the years when children struggle to fit in with their peers. Importantly, a strong faith lets a child know that no matter life’s challenges, God’s plan is always to prosper them and give them hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).
Spiritual growth tip for beginners: If you haven’t started handing down your faith, there’s no time like the present to bring your children to Christ, no matter their age.
You can start by attending church with your children, or you can buy your children their own Bible and other faith-based books. You can also make saying grace at the dinner table a new (or renewed) tradition.
For little ones, you can set good TV-watching habits by introducing them to Christian cartoons such as Veggie Tales. For older kids who won’t part with apps like TikTok, there are young evangelists on TikTok who offer heartfelt inspiration while imparting Biblical wisdom.
For even older kids who resist discussing faith altogether, you can still positively influence their media consumption by introducing them to clean and entertaining shows to watch.
The road to spiritual maturity is a lifelong journey offering a bounty of benefits along the way. The strength you gain from spiritual maturity helps you overcome hardships by emboldening you to trust that God causes all things to work together for your good (Romans 8:28).
In addition, spiritual wellbeing leads to better, more peaceful living, as it inspires you to forgive others and focus on being right with God by doing unto others as you’d have done unto you.
No matter where you are on the road to spiritual maturity, know that what matters is that you keep taking steps toward spiritual growth and, by virtue of that, toward your Almighty Father.
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