In the Christian world today, much emphasis is given to the concept of a testimony. By testimony, people usually refer to some story of conversion, and the more dramatic the better. The goal of a testimony is to share a story of faith to encourage others.While testimonies are powerful stories, they are only half of the equation. Once you commit your life to Christ you aren’t done. Instead, you begin a long journey of becoming more conformed to the image of Christ which is referred to as the process of sanctification.
The missing piece of a testimony is the ongoing story of spiritual growth. It focuses solely on the processes of conversion and coming to faith, leaving out the process of becoming more and more like Jesus.
This is a long and difficult process, only made more difficult by a lack of understanding of how the process works. Many Christians know what it means to come to faith, but few know how to move beyond their initial conversion and into deep intimacy in their relationship with God.
The goal of this article is to discuss the importance of self-reflection in the process of spiritual development. This is only one aspect of spiritual development and by no means an exhaustive study of the topic, but it will introduce readers the role of self-reflection in your relationship with God, the biblical basis for his idea, and a simple practice to get you started.
What is Self Reflection?
Self-reflection is deliberate time set aside to slow down in the busyness of your life to look back on your day, month or year in an attempt to learn from your experiences, desires, and feelings. In life, it’s very easy to become driven by your schedule and commitments.
You are too busy trying to stay on top of everything to have any time to sit back and reflect on what you are doing or how you are feeling. Or maybe you don’t feel driven by your schedule but prefer to spend your downtime outsourcing your mental energy to something like TV or video games.
Both busyness and mind-numbing activities are ways to avoid self-reflection. Self-reflection runs against the grain of a busy culture. It requires us to set specific time aside to be quiet, still, and alone. From this place, you can begin to prayerfully enter the presence of God and begin processing what has been going on in your life.
You can ask questions like, “Am I satisfied with what I’m doing?” Sometimes life gets so busy that you can forget why you even got so busy, to begin with. Or you can ask God, “Is my life orchestrated in such a way to make my relationship with you a priority?”
Life can become filled with many good things that overcrowd your time and mental capacity. Asking God this question may prompt you to remove things that feel important in order to create more space and time for God.
Without creating the space to have this self-reflection and communication with God, you will likely operate on autopilot, being driven by values instilled by your culture, family of origin, and immediate community. Intentional self-reflection is aimed at creating space for you to sit with God and ask meaningful questions about life and your relationship with Him.
For those unaccustomed to self-reflection, it may be helpful for you to begin meeting with a Christian counselor. Christian counselors are trained to help you begin reflecting on your life and experiences. They can help lead you to a place of self-reflection and train you to enter this place on your own.
What Does the Bible Say about Self Reflection?
Some Christians have taken the position that self-reflection is too close to the concept of Eastern meditation but that is not necessarily the case. Eastern forms of meditation are designed to empty the mind, but Christian meditation and self-reflection intend to bring you into a quiet place with God where you can intimately converse with him about your experiences and emotions.
For those concerned about this topic, consider these two scriptures related to self-reflection and spiritual growth:
This verse clearly prescribes believers to self-reflect before taking part in communion. The reason Paul mentions this to the church is that there were many divisions and conflicts in the Corinthian community.
Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. – 1 Corinthians 11:28
However, rather than working them out, the believers were just continuing on with fellowship despite the unresolved conflict. Paul is calling them out and calling them to check their hearts because the community should not persist in unresolved conflict and sin while partaking of the Lord’s Table.
This is still true for believers today. You cannot simply move forward in our faith and lives while living in open, unrepentant sin. There will be seasons of conflict and struggles in the life of a believer, but if that begins to be the norm then there is a problem.
Christians need to regularly step back and reflect on their hearts and motivations to preserve their own health and the health of the community. If they don’t, then their sin can begin to interfere with their relationships with others and their relationship with God.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. – Psalm 139:23-24
In this passage, David comes before God to be searched. He knows not the depths of his own heart and sinfulness and needs God to plumb the depths. He requests the Lord to search out the deep things of his heart, so he can process it and grow.
This is true for Christians today. Because of sin, it is difficult to accurately see and assess the true motivations of the heart. To see yourself more clearly will require guidance from God, intentional self-reflection, and vulnerability in community.
As Christians intentionally seek God in silence and solitude, asking for him to search their heart and thoughtfully engaging self-reflection, the Lord will speak in his own unique to each person and bring things to mind.
As the Lord speaks, it is then the responsibility of the believer to take his words into account in order to seek to conform their life to the “way everlasting.” Sitting before God to be searched and searching yourself through self-reflection are key, biblical practices for spiritual growth.
Practicing Self Reflection to Achieve Spiritual GrowthSometimes in the busyness of life, it can feel impossible to practice self-reflection. What does it mean to reflect on your life? It often seems overwhelming and confusing which is why many people avoid it all together. But self-reflection need not be overcomplicated.
To begin, try a simple journaling discipline. Try spending 10 minutes journaling about what happened yesterday. These don’t have to be profound reflections or esoteric thoughts. Literally, just write what happened.
It might be as basic, “I got up and made breakfast. I went to work. I got cut off in traffic. I talked to Joe about our new client. I picked my kids up from school and got pizza for dinner. When the kids went to bed, my wife and I watched TV together.”
It doesn’t have to be complicated. After journaling about the day, ask yourself, “Was yesterday a good or a bad day? How do I feel about it?” If you feel like it was a good day, then write a few reasons why you thought it was good. If it felt like a bad day, write about why it felt bad.
If you feel conflicted about whether it was good or bad, then write about why you feel conflicted. Finally, with these reflections in mind, come before God in prayer. Consider what he is saying to you. Spend several minutes in silent reflection listening for God while you process what you felt from the previous day and consider what you have to learn.
This is a simple discipline that can be used in conjunction with other forms of prayer and Bible reading. It’s a great way to get you started on a deeper road of self-reflection.
Spiritual growth is a long process of learning to abide in the presence of God. When you meet Jesus, you aren’t done. Instead, you begin on a lifelong journey of learning to become more and more like him.
A necessary part of this process is taking an honest inventory of your life to see where you need to seek transformation through the power of the Spirit. Self-reflection is a powerful tool for you to grow and encounter God in the inner workings of your heart. It may not come naturally to those living in the modern world, but it is a spiritual practice that can powerfully deepen your relationship with God.
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