Being sifted stinks, let’s just be honest. Spiritual growth, in many ways, is like the growing pains of our youth. As the bones grow, the muscles and tendons get stretched and it’s uncomfortable, and sometimes actually painful. And yet, we have to grow. In our spiritual growth, sometimes God allows Satan access to us and while that may seem very unfair and unkind, there is an amazing purpose. It’s important to remember that no matter what the enemy may throw at you, you are never outside the reach and hands of God. In John 10:28, Jesus tells us that nothing ever gets close enough to actually remove us from His protection.
Let’s have a little lesson on wheat. No, I’m not a farmer, but I did do a little research on wheat sifting because I needed to understand why on earth it is important enough for God to allow it in my life. Wheat has two parts: chaff and grain or edible wheat. The chaff is what protects the edible wheat as it is growing so that it can actually develop into something edible. The chaff is basically a necessary evil in that, it will be removed later but for a time it is critical to the growth of the grain. Sifting wheat involves a two-step process: threshing and winnowing. In threshing, you basically beat the chaff loose from the grain. In winnowing, you remove the chaff from the grain and you now have an edible product.
So, now that we understand sifting wheat a little better, let me tell you how Strong’s Exhaustive concordance defines sifting: “prove by trials; by inward agitation to try one’s faith to the verge of overthrow”. Yikes, right? Sounds like a horrible process that I would personally like to opt out of except, in the end I know I need the sifting in order to fulfill the purpose and plan God has for me. Of course, as with all things related to our relationship with God, we could actually opt out and say no because God is all about free will. I don’t have to grow, and neither do you. I can stay in my nice, neat little box and never grow and never have much impact. If I truly believe God could never love me more or less based on my actions, I can choose to not be sifted. However, that means I won’t be used and I won’t be living the very best life I have available and personally, I don’t want to live like that so I move forward with the season of sifting.
It’s a season, not a forever. Sifting is about God, with the help of our enemy, removing the walls we have built in order to survive so that we can become the grain that God can actually use. Sifting is seasonal in wheat and in our lives. It’s also repetitive so you can just bank on it that you won’t be sifted only once in your life, God will bring it as often as He sees there is value for your development. For me, I used anxiety to build up walls that kept me safe as a child, but those walls needed to be torn down as an adult. My childhood wasn’t safe for me so, I used anxiety and fear as protection. When my step-dad would fly into an alcohol-induced rage, anxiety and fear kept me quiet and cowering in a corner so that I wouldn’t get hurt. When my mom’s friend sexually assaulted me when I was 17 years old, anxiety and fear kept me from telling anyone so that I wouldn’t get blamed. Do you see a pattern? My chaff, fear and anxiety, helped protect me but it also lied to me. My chaff kept me silent, withdrawn and ineffective. What I thought was keeping me safe, did help protect me in the moment, but it also built a wall around me. I had to go through sifting to get that false protection off of me so that I could really grow in God and find my voice.
My sifting began last fall with an invitation to apply to be a student through International Project and learn how to reach people across cultural lines. The application process is challenging because it is long and you write about yourself, get interviewed and have friends who know you be interviewed about you. Fun! The process exposes things you really don’t want to talk about and, thus begins the threshing. As I progressed through each round, my fear and anxiety got stronger and the voice of “shut up and sit down” louder. When I got invited to go out to New York City for a site visit and round of in-person interviews, I nearly said no. My fear and anxiety had me convinced that I wasn’t able to go because I couldn’t afford the trip and I didn’t like to fly. For about a week, I was in a nearly constant state of anxiety. Instead of backing away, I said yes to going and yes to God. I couldn’t afford it and I didn’t want to fly but, I knew this was something I had to do so I prayed for provision and strength. You can probably already guess what happened…God provided and strengthened. He didn’t do either right away, but as I stayed in faith and faced my fears, He slowly started the winnowing process and removed the chaff I no longer needed. Through my obedience to the process of sifting, God has freed me to fly, take elevators, take subways and now, relocate to New York! The old habits of resorting to fear and silence are still there, but they are ghost pains. They are no longer real, they just linger.
Here’s the deal, you have to allow yourself to be sifted or you will never fully realize all that God has for you. In Luke, Jesus tells Peter that Satan is wanting to sift him like wheat and He acknowledges and Peter may fail. He also goes on to say, “And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers”. Jesus believed in Peter and guess what, He believes in you. Jesus is sending me today to tell you to hang on, be encouraged and allow yourself to be sifted. When the process is over for this season, you will encourage the people coming behind you and, you will live a more full life. You will be sifted to be a blessing. (Ps…that’s a tattoo a friend of mine has on her arm!!)
If you are struggling with the sifting right now, post a reply and I’ll pray for you. Don’t go through the process in silence and alone. Just as a farmer doesn’t sift one kernel of wheat at a time alone, you don’t need to go through the sifting process alone. Remember, just as Jesus prayed for Peter, He is praying for you. He’s never going to leave you are forsake you so allow Him full access to your life.