When adversity strikes in whatever form it comes at you , the real beliefs we have come to the surface. We can say things, we can think that we are okay, but we are truly tested under the fire of tragedy. If we are honest we know that when the rubber meets the road God wants to know how strong our faith really is, he doesn't care how many times we have been to church, he wants to ask of us, "Are you with me no matter what"?
We read about Job and often say, he was a much better man than me. He was hit hard from every side and he wasShaken, But Not Broken. Those around him admired and taunted him at the same time. They could not understand how such a good man could suffer so many setbacks, and they underestimated his faith in his God and in the process of life. He knew that no matter what, God had his back.
Recently, my faith was tested beyond what I thought I could bear, and I constantly thought of Job. I was floored, hit hard and hurt so bad that I thought surely this is where I go back to being the old Glenn. But I found something out about my own faith and beliefs in that process, I was truly Shaken, But Not Broken. I never blamed God, never questioned him much to my surprise. I understood that much worse could have happened, but in his sovereign way, God turned tragedy into a triumph of the goodness of mankind. And, in this past month I have learned just how much love there is in this life that I never saw before.
When a bad situation comes at you, and if you have had none, I promise at least one will come your way, you will see who you really are. And if there is just one thing you could do to get ready for that moment, it would be to make sure you really believe in the Lord. Not a church, not some eloquent preacher, not some doctrine, but really connect with you savior every day, so that when those tragic moments occur, you know beyond a shadow of a doubt he is by your side.
I know, he has carried me for the past month, he is the one who has seen all my tears, heard my pleas and he now knows that my faith has been shaken, but not broken.
Don't you just really enjoy the change of seasons? Great to see all the colors of fall, the snow covered fields of winter, the promise and flowers of spring and the sun & fun of summer. All of God's splendor on display as if the landscape is painted by a sovereign artist!
The seasons provide a cycle of change as does life. For most of us, we go through the same progression as the weather, only as prosperity, disparity, loneliness, fulfillment, joy and pain to just name a few. If we are fortunate, we never stay in the bad moments for too long, there is always a light ahead in the tunnel of darkness.
But sometimes we get stuck on one cycle as our washers and dryers often do when they wear out. We are hard pressed on every side as Paul was in his travels to spread the faith, only it seems like we can't get out of that every day cycle to make a difference. We feel abandoned by God and our closest family and friends. I certainly have not felt that way lately with all the love and support, but I remember when I did, and I remember that feeling that my life would never get better.
Truth is, if we believe, it won't it probably won't. The human mind is a powerful tool which can be used to change any cycle if we point to the faith we have that God will cycle things around. If we read countless passages in the Bible, we see nothing but hope, hope and more hope, so when we get down, when life doesn't seem fair, God has an answer. Problem is, we usually don't, so we must wait on his cycle change as a change of seasons, or we will miss the season.
Read Ecclesiastes, there is always a time for something else, a time for every purpose unto heaven, and surely a time to dance through the good times.
But, as always when dancing, it's good to have someone lead who doesn't step all over you!
I have learned some valuable things these past few weeks as my son, Paul was taken from us in a tragic accident. They are too numerous to mention, but any parent who experiences anything like this will know what some of them are. But one thing keeps haunting me and it is something most of us never think of until it is too late - that I took him being around for granted.
As children age, and as their lives are consumed with family, work and activities with those of their own age, we tend to drift farther apart as Moms and Dads to give them the space to grow their own lives. Paul and I maybe spoke two or three times a month, and, though we always had great conversations, I find myself thinking that I should have talked to him more often. Now I cling to the few remaining voice messages of his, the pictures and the words of his family and friends, but I will no longer be able to touch, hug and speak directly to him.
Sure, I speak to his spirit, but the fact is that I took his presence for granted, and as I mourn the loss of so many things we could have spoken about, and the things we could still have done as father and son, it hurts to understand this. So now I call all my other kids more often, will take more trips back to ATL and have a general feeling that my time will be more often spent with them and the grandkids because every day is so valuable, and we never know when it will end.
The fact is that as so called Christians this can happen just as easily in our relationship with the Lord. We can get busy with so many other things that we forget to spend as much time as we can with our Father, and he longs for this communication and relationship as much as our soul longs for Him. Then we wake up one day to realize that we have drifted off so far from what once was that, we may have taken God for granted.
God has so many wonderful qualities that we should not just learn about them from someone else, we should experience them ourselves to get the full impact of His presence and how it can change our lives.
Paul was a great son, but from his friends, the love and support of other folks whose lives he touched, I learned that he was much greater than I thought. That is something I wish I could have back, the full impact of how great a guy he was.
I think I now understand God a little better, he knows for sure how I am feeling right now.
Like an old western cowboy movie, there are times in our lives when we have to circle the wagons as protection against an imminent attack. We know from previous movie experience that the good guys usually win and find a way to avoid destruction, but can we do the same? We feel surrounded by the enemy, and there seems no way out. We are truly about to face or are in the middle of facing our worst fears, our biggest enemies.
This is real life folks, not a movie. People reading this blog are under various forms of attack whether it be spiritual, emotional or transitional from a state of chaos to a state of sobriety. No doubt the devil is constantly attempting to defeat us, using any method at his disposal to block us from succeeding. Call it what you want, it is a real every day challenge.
That's the bad news, now here is the good. While reading some Psalms the other day to comfort my spirit, I came upon these words in Psalm 118:
"All the nations surrounded me, but in the name of the Lord I cut them off.
They surrounded me on every side, but in the name of the Lord I cut them off.
They swarmed around me like bees, but they died out as quickly as burning thorns; in the name of the Lord I cut them off."
Of course I thought about this for a day or two but I think I get it now. We see his solution, he calls on the name of our Lord to save him, and truly that is the only way out of most desperate situations. But notice how many times he has to call on him before the attack subsides, and in the last one the devil sent a swarm after him, the biggest attack yet. But he kept calling out to the one who could save him until it was over.
The Psalmist added these words following those: "I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me."
Here's our problem, we surrender too easily. Things get too hard. We forget that God is a God of endurance, perseverance and a keeper of His word. Bees can sting the you know what out of you, but He has the salve to heal. How many of us have been just about ready to fall and then the Lord comes along to rescue us because we kept calling on Him?
We were surrounded we thought by the enemy, but in fact we were surrounded by his angels ready to lift us out of the wagon circle to place us on a solid rock. Next time this happens remember that in the name of the Lord you can cut anything off that comes against you!
But you might have to ask him more than once.
Glenn is an ex-Marine Viet Nam vet who is also a recovering alcoholic, clean and sober for 30 years. He has been involved in start up and ongoing recovery ministry at North Atlanta Church and Campus for the last two decades. He has a passion for outreach and to spread the message that the answer to lasting and fulfilling recovery from addiction is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He and the ATB team are available to assist in your questions or needs on an individual basis and will do so maintaining complete confidentiality. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.