I was going to title this blog 2014: The War In Review. But I just finished reading the chapter on evil from Ravi Zacharias’ book Jesus Among Other Gods, and I’m thinking a little bit more of the big picture of my experiences over the past several years. One of the things I’ve been thinking about since I have emerged from the shadows (more on that in a moment) is something I’ve talked with friends about. That is, you can never really know why you are going through a trial or what you are supposed to learn from it until after you have come out of it. Six months later, I’m still wondering.
From the start, I should mention that bitterness is not a part of the equation anymore. Jesus has healed that wound in me, and it’s a large part of how I was able to emerge at all. Looking back, it was a gradual change in how I approached God on a day to day basis. I first rededicated myself to immersing myself in the Bible and the study of theology, two things that have helped me to grow as a person and stay focused on the things that matter. Second, I decided to live a life of gratitude, which meant thanking God each morning for the day, whether I was really feeling grateful for it or not. For me, that has become a way for me to throw a punch at evil before it has a chance to strike me.
The boxing metaphor might seem a little strange, but I can’t think of a single day in my life where I haven’t been challenged by something or someone. It could be something as small as someone cutting me off in traffic and my response to it or something bigger like having my pay cut by 25 percent and then having a job I held for eleven years suddenly ending. Peter calls Satan a lion prowling around looking for someone to devour. Look at your daily life, doesn’t it seem like something or someone is constantly trying to undercut your happiness, and by extension, your faith?
That is why I titled my blog Christianity Is A War, because evil, life, or whatever you want to call it, is trying to take our joy away from us. Because if it can do that, it can move on to taking away the joy we have in Christ and then it’s on to our very faith. This is serious stuff going on here. We are at war. We can choose to ignore evil but obviously it is not ignoring us.
Back to the shadows. August of 2014 was the breakthrough month for me. I was back in Kansas enjoying my time around my parents, my sister, her kids, and the friends I grew up with, while trying to figure out my next move. I was still struggling financially along with all the other issues I was dealing with, but I was home and moving back (in June) was one of the best decisions I have made in a long time. If you get the chance, go back and read my blog Going Home To Move Forward.
I emerged from the shadows, because I changed my
mindset, and that mindset first rewarded me with peace, the peace that Paul calls “the peace that passes all understanding.” At that point, I was still two months away from getting offered a good job, and I could not have pointed to any material thing that made me feel like I was emerging from what felt like a life with no hope of getting better. Yet, here I was feeling the peace of God and wondering where eight years of bitterness went.
All is not sunshine and roses, of course. I still have scars (material, physical, emotional, and to some extent spiritual) that are in the long process of healing. But the healing has begun, I believe, because I made the decision to pursue a closer relationship with Jesus and took the stubborn position of being grateful even though I didn’t feel like there was a reason to be grateful. One last thought, as the bitterness disappeared, I began to thank God for every good thing that happened to me, no matter how small a thing it might seem to be, and the peace I didn’t see coming has remained always near by.