I’m sure if we’re all being honest we can admit that our faith has not always stood the test of time. I wouldn’t be the first person to admit to feeling like God had left them at a very pivotal moment in their lives, or that I felt like I had to fight a particularly hard battle on my own. I would be wrong of course. I know my God has never left my side, but he has given me space to make my own choices, and again, if I’m being honest they haven’t all been the best of choices.
I’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs with my relationship with Christ. This isn’t unheard of, but for some reason (spoiler alert, it’s the enemy) we feel alone in these feelings.
Something I had to learn, and it’s probably one of the most important things about faith, is knowing that I’m never alone in anything I am facing. Not only is God always there for us but he also places people in our lives to help us along the way. This is why it’s so important to be transparent about yourself and the things you’re dealing with. That being said, it’s about to get a whole lot of transparent in here.
Last year was hard. I’m sure we can almost all agree on that. It was hard for a lot of reasons for many people, but for me it was hard because God and I were having a little bit of an on again off again relationship (and by God and I, I mean me).
Have you ever just gotten to the point where you’re just waiting for the bad news? That your heart has just become so bitter towards your bad circumstance that you just give up on trying to see the positives anymore? (hint, that’s the enemy again, but I’m jumping ahead).
Last year I was in that mindset. I had let my heart become bitter. It never seemed to be at rest from breaking. I was in a constant state of having to pull myself, my life, and the people around me back together. I was exhausted. Oh I was exhausted. I can’t even begin to tell you how exhausted I was, and worst of all, I had allowed myself to think that there was no place for joy. I had allowed my faith to sit idle while I tried to fix everything myself.
Now something you should know about me it that I am a firm believer in being transparent. I even lead a small group dedicated to being open and honest about our struggles, but I myself was keeping mine hush hushed. I was teaching people the importance of being open, while I was slowly falling for the enemies tricks myself.
Towards the end of last year, I really started to lose myself. I backslide harder than I probably ever had since becoming an “honest Christian”. I let myself fall back into the things God had already rescued me from, and if I’m being completely honest I did it for his attention. I wasn’t feeling Gods presence anymore, and it didn’t seem to matter how much I prayed or fell down on my knees in worship, I felt like he wasn’t listening to me anymore. So I fell. I allowed myself to fall, and in the process I got lost there for a while.
I was still leading small groups, and teaching about God’s grace and love, but I myself wasn’t believing what I was saying. I spoke words that I found so hard to say in the mindset I had allowed myself to drift into, and for a while there I didn’t know if I was going to come out of it.
I knew I needed help, but I didn’t know how to ask. The enemy had told me that I wasn’t able to ask for help because I was a leader, and therefore was supposed to be the one offering help to others. My mind was in a constant battle with itself. One side was telling me everything would work itself out, and the other side was telling me there wasn’t much left to hope for. It was a constant struggle, and it was a struggle I was forcing myself to battle alone.
In August I decided I would come clean about some of the things I had been falling back into. I told a couple of my closest friends, and the enemy tried again to use their reactions as a way to stay in my comfort zone of dishonesty. He made me feel like my best friend couldn’t be in the same room as me, like my friends looked at me like I was glass ready to shatter, and like I was just a walking disaster. I had come clean hoping that it would relieve some of the insecurities, and it just created new ones.
Then I realized something. I had been honest with my friends, and for the most part they were understanding. When my friends weren’t understanding they were apologetic, but my friends weren’t the ones I needed to confess to.
Yes. God sees me, and yes he knows the inner workings of my heart, but I hadn’t confessed my sins to him. I hadn’t brought it up to God and asked him to take the burden for me. To carry what had become so unbelievably uncomfortable for me to carry on my own.
By telling my friends what was going on I told myself it was for accountability, but really it was just another way to hide from God. I felt like if I told them what was going on I wouldn’t have to face the big guy upstairs, that they would be able to keep me on track and I would still be able to fix it all myself, but of course that’s not how that works.
So I continued to do the stupid things that were dragging me farther and farther away from God, just on a much quieter level, and I continued to rely on my own understanding. This didn’t work.
I got to the point where my negative mindset had now just allowed me to feel numb to everything around me. I had fallen back into the depression I had been saved from, and allowed myself to self-medicate and self-harm again, and the worse part was I honestly couldn’t care. I tried to, I really did. But I had allowed myself to become so numb that I just couldn’t anymore.
I was in the midst of a battle of the mind, and I wasn’t winning.
Flashing forward to The Voice Conference 2016, at this moment I was at the height of my bitter mindset and just coming off the edge of some very dangerous antics. The whole weekend felt like what I like to call a “Jesus slap,” which I so often feel. My stubbornness mixed with God’s grace came to a collision, and what was left was a broke down (in a kind of beautiful way only people at the end of their ropes can be broken down kind of way)me.
I love the Bible. I really do. It’s the book of life, and it holds the answer to everything, I don’t understand why people don’t utilize this tool more often, but I digress. One of the things I love most about the Bible is that you can read the same story over and over again, and get something new every single time. God is funny like that.
While sitting in service with this new “Jesus take the wheel” mindset, the speaker started talking about a story I have heard time and time again since I was a child; the story about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
In this story, *Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are about to be thrown into a blazing furnace and put to death for following their beliefs. With complete faith in their hearts they speak three words that are now forever tattooed on my forearm. “But even if”*
In that moment I realized that I was allowing bitterness to take over my mind, and the circumstances I was living in to define my faith. I was telling myself I had had enough and that faith wasn’t going to save me, and allowing myself to stay broken.
I listened to the message and the words “But even if” and I broke down in surrender. I cried out to God saying,“but even if saying this is all I ever get from this life. But even if this is the plan you have for me. But even if I never see the things I’ve been praying for. I WILL REMAIN FAITHFUL.”
I sat in those services that weekend, and I listened with a new mindset. A broken down, give it up to Jesus, your will be done, kind of mindset. I gave it all to God and told myself “It’s not mine to fix”.
I can’t always control what’s going on in my life, but I follow someone who is always in control, and while sometimes I’m uncomfortable and feel lost, God has a plan for me, and I will remain faithful to him. I let the fear of what others thought stop me from reaching out to God. I allowed my mindset to be warped into a weapon and forgot that I had the ultimate defender on my side. A battle was fought, and for a time I was on the losing side (my own), but today I stand firm in the arms of Jesus, at rest from a battle that was won in His victory.
*Daniel Chapter three