This is long, but it shows how God rescues from the absolute pit of despair. How do I know this? Because I have come from that place. I’ll give you a snippet of the absolute worst time of my life, where I had no hope…not even for my life.
That morning as I began my drive home on a cold windy early Wednesday morning I felt like my world caved in more, if even possible. What I had held dear to me for so long had rejected me, yet I cannot walk away from it. No matter how much I wanted to walk away I absolutely could not. God was keeping me there, and it was frustrating and made me angry. Why I still had to keep coming back to that is a question I can’t answer apart from Him. The pain of rejection but still having to care was insurmountable to anything else I’ve ever known in my heart. For me, a broken relationship of any sort drives me crazy. I’m an extremely relational person, and at the basic level I naturally hold a lot of value in any kind of relationship I have. The level that this one was for me was worth than anyone’s death, because at least their death was final. This didn’t even have the hope of that for me. Only tears can express how painful it is to me, and even those cannot do justice. Apart from Him, I had no hope, and even that seemed to be dwindling.
On top of that, I received a phone call the next morning from my mom telling my that my dog had died. On the same day my grandfather passed away exactly a year before. Our dog was a part of our family, and I had grown up with her since Africa. When my brothers were gone or no one was around she was my playmate. She was an awesome smart dog. I had just spent the majority of Christmas break caring for her as well all day every day because I couldn’t leave my house. We were snowed in and she was sick. I grew to love her more, and see how really a good dog that she was. She took my commands and trusted me on a leash…that she was never on much. She really impressed me. I had that taken away.
It was also the same day my grandfather died. Not only was it hard enough remembering him, but also a lot of memories from the previous year flooded my mind. None of that was there. Everything is gone. Everything that I once had that was so awesome has vanished through my fingers. I knew on my drive home I would need to be there for my mom and grandma, who both have faced the same loss I have, but also more because he was their father and husband. My dad was overseas and I was the only one around that could be there for my family. I was also going to have to dig a hole in my yard to bury my dog – sick. Yeah on top of everything I was sick as well. I was going to have to bury her in the snow, digging through solid ground and rocks. Our yard has a lot of rocks. It’s named Stony Creek for a reason. I also had the stresses of school and everything to deal with that that I had to miss because of this. The comforts of being at school and having distraction were taken away too. My support there was swept from my feet. I was stripped to every basic level imaginable in every area of my life at that point, and I didn’t have much left to begin with. Within a period of less than 24 hours, my already broken world was turned completely upside down.
I haven’t even made it to my journey yet. I still had to drive home. My drive started off windy, blowing me all over the road. That wasn’t too bad. I started seeing white stuff. I figured it must be pollen or something because it was sunny and there was a blue sky above. I had heard there might be snow, but it took a while for me to realize that it actually was snow. I started seeing it the first 15 minutes of my journey, and I realized what it was after about 30 minutes once I hit the stop lights outside of Clayton. As I got closer to the mountains I began realizing that it’s already snowing, and saw the gray clouds peeking round the mountains laden with snow. Normally if I see snow this early I turn back and go another time. I know it’s usually really bad at home if I already see snow just outside of Toccoa. Yet I still had to press on even realizing the danger of what I knew I would face. I knew full well how bad it really could get.
As I drove on, it started to really snow. At this point I came to my absolute breaking point. I had nothing going for me. I was driving into a really dangerous storm, and I knew very well I could end up wrecked, stuck, or dead somewhere driving over the mountains. Even if I did make it, I knew I was going to have to bury my dog in the cold being sick and comfort my mom and grandma somehow. Getting there wasn’t going to be fun for me either, on top of my journey and what had already happened.
This was my turning point. I was brought to absolutely nothing, but I heard God clearly telling me to FULLY trust Him and everything would be ok. I had no other choice it seemed. I didn’t even think I could make it home, but He asked me to trust that He would keep me safe. If He did that, surely He could rescue me from the rest. I felt really close to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. I was going into the fire whether I liked it or not. I knew God could deliver, but even if He didn’t I was going to go literally to my death on the side of a mountain following Him. So that’s when I knew I had to give everything I had to Him. I was already doing that I thought, but I had never been brought to the point of literal death to trust Him. I was facing the death of my heart on the inside, and a journey that screamed the possibility of death from without.
The rest of that week wasn’t easy. I needed to be there for my friend who was going through worse than I was. I literally wondered if he would be alive the next morning not because of the worry of suicide, but the utter pain that he was going through literally brought him to that point physically. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do if the man of God that God had brought along side me to share the same path ended up with the Father. I wasn’t sure how I could face the path alone, other than I knew that the same God that rescued me from my own death could rescue him from His.
The next section is what I wrote the week I was going through everything.
I come to you as a broken man, devoid of anything good. I come as a man who has seen too many things with his eyes. I come as a man who has endured many long and difficult days. I come as a man who has nothing else left other than a Father in heaven who faithfully provides all that I need. That is everything I need. My life has taught me through severely difficult circumstances to trust God with all that I am, because that’s everything I have left. When you strip me down of all that you see of me, you will find a broken man who has nothing else in his heart other than desperate love for his Savior. My heart echoes the song Clarity by Shawn McDonald – I’m tired and worn my clothes are kinda torn from this long hard road, my arms and legs are weak I continue to seek and leave behind this load.
I appear to be devoid of hope. I appear to have very little going for me. There have been many deep wounds that have pierced my heart. I have done nothing but do my best to care for people, and to show them how much I do. As a result, my care inflicts many wounds on my heart. I understand what Paul talks about when he says that he would give up his salvation for his brethren. I am in that place. My heart oozes with pain, deep pain at this point. I have many stresses, none of which I can blame anyone for. My world seems to be closing in on me, with a lot of that weight on my shoulders alone. As I reminisce, I have every reason to be in a depressive state in a psych ward.
Yet I still have hope. I have hope that no one can take away. I am where God wants me. I have sought to follow Him desperately for a while now, learning to forsake all that I want. In that, He has still led me to this place. This place is a place of extreme difficulty yes, but what better place to be than where my Father wants me? I have every reason humanly possible to say that God is not moving, that He is dead, and that I should walk away from my faith. There is no reason why I should be here. Yet, this simply cannot be true. I would not change a thing that I have gone through for what I have learned. In fact, I would go through this again (read Philippians 3 to understand where I am coming from). I count it all as loss for the sake of gaining Christ.
How do I know this? I know God is moving because He has placed me here to prepare me. For what, I can guess sure. But to what extent do I know what He is preparing me for? Hardly do I know any beyond the next step, and the ultimate goal. Most of what is in between hasn’t been revealed to me yet, and it doesn’t need to be. Right now my steps are trust and faith, trust and faith. I plod down this road knowing He is still leading me by the hand, even if at times I cannot feel His presence. I know He is there. He is living inside of me, His temple that He is refining into the place that He needs it to be. He is emptying me out, only to fill me with something that is so much better than I can ever ask or imagine. It’s taken this difficulty in my life to see that and for me to actually be open to the changes that He has needed to make. God’s words are a refining fire, and for me they have been extremely painful to hear and digest. He has been transforming me into the image of His Son. I want to be like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They had the faith to tell the king of the land that their God will deliver them from the fires, and even on the chance that He doesn’t they still will not bow down to inanimate images. That is the kind of faith I am learning, and what He is slowly instilling in me. And you know what? God rescued them from the fires. He can rescue me from mine too. But even if He doesn’t ever do that, I will still follow Him.
How else do I know this? I can see His fingerprints in the clay by which I am being molded. Sometimes they are hard to see, and even understand where they come from. Yet, despite how much it sometimes hurts I still perceive His hands as loving. I feel hope wrap around me as I trust His fingers to etch the designs in my heart as He wants. He is making me into the vessel He wants me to be. His fiery furnace of love hardens the glaze of faith, hope, and love that He has painted on me. And you know what? I want that. I don’t want to be something else other than what He wants. Why should I? Who am I to think that I know better than Him when I can’t even dig myself out of the holes that I’m in? When I do try, I only cause more dirt to fall in on me.
I am in a place to learn so that I can spread this knowledge to others. They do not need to come to the places I’ve been, it is not needed for them. I have treaded these waters and walked down these dusty paths so that they can learn to take the right Path. I have done enough of my own straying from what He wants. Now He has me on His path, narrow and straight. It is actually comforting to be on this path because the path is clear, with no ambiguity. It is clearcut and set before me. With all humility as His servant, He has put me into a place where I lead others onto this path where Jesus is my guide. Since Jesus is my guide, He will be theirs too. It has been necessary to go through all that I’ve gone through in my life to prepare me for this. All of it is not bad either, and there is much good I can speak about that has prepared me as well. All of what I have gone through He has used for my good. He is now using it for the good of others. I do not want anyone to make the same mistakes I have, to go through the pain I have, or to stray from His truths like I have. It pains me to have to see that happen. He has honored me with the opportunity to guide and encourage my brothers and sisters to keep following him. I am completely humbled with the chance to point others to our Savior. What better honor? I am completely undeserving. It fills me with joy that I may be even able to write these words to call all of us to the holiness that is in Christ. It’s not about me.
What does that holiness mean? True holiness is defined more than a part of Christianity, or as a response to our love for Him or even His love for us. Rather, holiness is central to that relationship with Him. It is that relationship with Him in a way as we build that relationship with Him it becomes more than just a byproduct of the relationship but it becomes who we really are. It doesn’t just characterize us but it becomes part of us, we literally become holy and exude His holiness by simply growing in our relationship with Him. We see to always view it separately as an aspect or a portion that has to be focused on along with focusing on Him, but it’s so much more than that. It’s who we become in Him, and the actions of holiness are just the overflow of that relationship. But for some, that defines the relationship with Him – instead of the relationship with Him defining our lives which is holiness (thank you to Blake for giving me these words).
I write to you having cried many tears, do not choose the path that I once chose. I chose to stab many daggers into my own heart, and He has had to help me pull them out one by one to heal me. What are those daggers? Every dagger is one that does not honor God. Some daggers have been easier to pull out and more noticeable. Others, they have been impossible for me to see other than God opening my eyes. Don’t even go near places where you can pick up those daggers. Flee from evil, and run to Him who is good and perfect. The end will be beautiful.
As I continue to follow Him and seek after Him, my battles become more intense. The battles I am talking about are not even necessarily within myself or flesh and blood, but “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12).” Believe me, those battles have been intense, and will continue to be so long as Jesus hasn’t come back. It doesn’t mean I have to give in, but rather I will have to keep the whole armor of God upon me so that I do not stumble when I am tempted. I will be tempted, you will be tempted, and even Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. Jesus did not give in and neither should we. “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:14-16).” We have that hope that is given in Christ that He understands in every respect what we are going through, and He can provide a way out of the temptation so that we can continue to serve Him unhindered by sin. We are without excuse, but also without reason to despair. We do not go this alone or without someone who can’t help us through to the end. Our Helper is eternal and always there, the best friend we can ask for.
Am I going to be in this place of difficulty forever? No. My God will deliver. I have that hope too. Where do I find that? Scripture promises that for those that love God, all things will work for their good (Romans 8:28). I know there are many besides myself with the same desire to love Him. Remember the hope that He has promised through His Son that good will come. Even if I do not see any worldly good here on earth, Scripture again tells us to store up for ourselves treasures in heaven. Those can again never be taken away, for when the fire comes they will remain. What better hope to have than that? No matter what comes, what happens, and what people do we know that our treasure lies in heaven with God. Not only that, to be in His presence is of more worth than any amount of treasures we could possibly think to store up. He has instilled in me so much hope, faith, and trust. Even in the worst of times, I come back eventually to knowing that everything will be ok. He is with me, and He cares for me. Knowing that, how can I not love Him? He is so good to me to give me a hope that no one can take away, and He keeps building that hope into something more and more. The cycle is continuous, He gives me reason to love Him, I love Him, and there is more reason to love Him. His words echo in the walls of my heart, “Trust Me.” He will bring me through more trials, and He will refine me more. What still has to keep on resounding throughout my heart and life is the trust that I have in Him that He knows what is best. I love that.
I see this through what happened that Wednesday. I had a very dangerous drive to undertake, sick and tired with not much sleep. Road conditions where horrible, and I surely thought I might not make it in every sense of that concept. Yet He asked me to trust Him and to follow Him. And you know what? I did, and I made it. I fishtailed up the last part of my journey, my own curvy road that leads to home. Even the last part of my journey so close to home wasn’t easy. The trip before had sunny parts and others where I could barely see in front of me. Everything around me told me I couldn’t make it home, even the very vehicle I was in reported trouble from the dash. It was treacherous from the beginning, with danger of a wreck with the least bit of lack of attention from me. Things may really be difficult, but you will make it home. Trust Him. If I can make it home traveling over snowy mountains in blizzard conditions in an old two wheel drive truck with sagging suspension, no power steering, a twitchy oil pressure gauge, no weight in the back, low visibility, and returned with not a scratch on me or the truck, then He can surely deliver you from what you’re facing. Trust Him.
You know what else is so great about where I am? I am still so incredibly blessed. I am blessed beyond what I can ask or imagine even right now. I still have a family, I still have my friends, I still have a place to live and to sleep, I am rich enough to be able to attend a private Christian college because of His provision, fingers that work to type this letter, the breath to live, and a sound mind to think about this. I could write pages and pages about His blessings in my life, and they are easy to forget when so much other stuff is going on. I need to recount how good He is to me, and remember that constantly. It brings my mind to the right place – focused on Him. When I focus on the good that He bestows on me, I see how unworthy I am of it all. Yet, He loves me enough and His grace and mercy flow like rivers. He immerses me even more in an ocean of His love. I’m drowning in it, and it’s great.
He has torn me, in order that He may mend me (Hosea 6:1-3). Mended I am becoming. The feeling of being healed and knowing that it comes from a love greater than I can imagine is beyond comprehension. He has made me this way. He has made me whole through His refining fire, the hope that He has given, and the love that He abundantly supplies to me even when I don’t look for it or make mistakes. I don’t have to be free from my circumstances to be made whole in Him, but rather He uses them while I’m IN them to make that happen. He has given me peace beyond my understanding (Phil 4:7). He has also given me joy and happiness through all of this beyond my imagination.
I finish this letter to you by telling you that I am a man that is made whole by the strength and power that is in Jesus Christ. His mercy and grace in my life are abundant, I am not worthy. I know that I wouldn’t be writing this apart from His grace and mercy on me. He has given me so much more than that! He has delivered me from physical death, spiritual death, and the death of my heart. On top of that He has heaped on the hope if His movement in all of our lives. He has overcome my moutain of doubt with the weight of the universe in hope for what He is going to do. He has given me so much I can’t express it in over 6 pages single spaced. That’s right…that’s how long this is. His story has has written in my heart is longer than many novels. To save space, I will point you to other earlier works I’ve written before this one. Those can’t express it all…I have tried so much for the past while and it hasn’t been enough. I pray these help people.
I step out on faith
You will guide the way
Confidence is within me
Who can be truly confident without You
You work things out for good
Of those that have understood
Loving You is the only way
To have peace that will stay
What have I to fear
You are more than near
You’re not by my side
In my heart You reside
So I can step out on faith
With a right heart I can say
Good is promised for those who love
You are more than enough
God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:15 & 16)