“The Lord your God will drive those nations out ahead of you little by little. You will not clear them away all at once” (Deuteronomy 7:22 NLT).
Although God could instantly transform us, He has chosen to develop us slowly. Jesus is deliberate in developing His disciples. Just as God allowed the Israelites to take over the Promised Land “little by little” so they wouldn’t be overwhelmed, He prefers to work in incremental steps in our lives.
Why does it take so long to change and grow up? There are several reasons.
We are slow learners. We often have to relearn a lesson forty or fifty times to really get it. The problems keep recurring, and we think, “Not again! I’ve already learned that!”—but God knows better. The history of Israel illustrates how quickly we forget the lessons God teaches us and how soon we revert to our old patterns of behavior. We need repeated exposure.
We have a lot to unlearn. Many people go to a counselor with a personal or relational problem that took years to develop and say, “I need you to fix me. I’ve got an hour.” They naïvely expect a quick solution to a long-standing, deep-rooted difficulty. Since most of our problems—and all of our bad habits—didn’t develop overnight, it’s unrealistic to expect them go away immediately.
There is no pill, prayer, or principle that will instantly undo the damage of many years. It requires the hard work of removal and replacement. The Bible calls it “taking off the old self” and “putting on the new self” (Romans 13:12; Ephesians 4:22-25; Colossians 3:7-10, 14).
Growth is often painful and scary. There is no growth without change; there is no change without fear or loss; and there is no loss without pain. We fear these losses, even if our old ways were self-defeating, because, like a worn out pair of shoes, they were at least comfortable and familiar.
Every change involves a loss of some kind: You must let go of old ways in order to experience the new.