In the Dark: Processing Doubt With Faith

BEAUTIFIED PAIN

Resting under the dark grayish blue hues of makeup that is the dawn of the sky’s face on a Sunday morning, I listened to the placating voice of Leslie Mills in Yanni’s “Before the Night Ends” while my stoic, broken gaze was raptured by the song’s emotion. Truthfully, my faith is hurting; I have been feeling distant from God, yet His gift to me through this perfectly beautified pain resonates in way I cannot avoid or deny. 

There are moments, stints in Christianity alike the inevitably “natural” cycle of life—where intermittent adversity strikes spontaneously and painfully. A time arrives when faith seems like the wrong choice, when Christ Himself seems like a lost fictional character in a fairy tale reserved strictly for the absent-minded folk looking for an escape rather than a solution. How long does this phase last? More importantly, is this just a phase, or a reality within the life of faith? I would like to explore these thoughts here.

ABJECT DOUBT AND MINDLESS RESISTANCE

What strikes me is this specific facet of hardship in Christianity; namely, the facet of doubt becoming so abject as to seem more real than belief itself. Not so much regarding the level or scale of faith required of the believer to retain spiritual composure in the face of adversity, but rather the weight-filled capacity one is required to open/free up in sacrificing the “old self” in order to fully embrace the “new self” and “pick up our cross to follow Him.” In other words, what I’m facing is the violent, mindless resistance of my old self desiring its place back in my life. But my eyes have been opened: I cannot “un-see” my faith. I have been embraced by His essence and enraptured by His truth—I cannot un-know what I now know anymore than I cannot take off my humanity and become a centipede. 

THE MIRAGE THAT IS LIFE

Within this thought is the honest truth and opinion that Christianity is not “easy,” depending on the perspective of the believer. But, I would sternly argue how faith in Jesus as Lord is not an invitation to an easier life; this is as naive as believing dessert is healthy because it looks and sounds delicious. Christianity can look shiny and clean at times, and that is not a facade—but that is not the full picture: It is but one angle from a single mind within a multifarious crowd of individuals, each at different intervals of the same adventure led by the same leader. “Cleanness” is but an attribute of orderliness and fair-play, one which would profess Christianity does not shed blood nor experience pain, and this is as fallacious as life itself acting as a mere biological mirage in the form of keratinocytes/epidermis (or skin), electrical wiring, hormones, and thought patterns. This is, after all, the surface value human experience as we know it; one we can deny or believe, resist or accept, but which exists nonetheless as our mental skeleton of life, positioning us between existence and what comes afterwards. 

After almost 10 years of investigating faith and Jesus, a stark truth stands out: Faith generally appeals to the hearts of those who see nothing else to turn to in our cosmically darkened labyrinth of existence, and also to those who realize they have altogether seen too much and fear turning in any other direction other than the grace of God through Jesus Christ.

A JEALOUS GOD, AND A NEW ‘SKIN’

Listening to “Before the Night Ends” brought me to a calm and stolid state of mind. I slowed down enough to realize my position in my faith and my thoughts of Christianity at this point in time: In the air, vacillating between the desire to scream at the sky (as if God is there and not inside me through the Holy Spirit) and my incessant need (and inability to admit otherwise) for His love and presence—despite my rebellion to pursue Him more adamantly. I make God jealous by desiring anything other than Him before desiring Him. The adversity of the Christian (the psychological portion of the “Christian ‘mess,'” if you will) is the level of aversive doubt we must face and fight with faith. Our faith, of course, is only as strong as the amount of ourselves we’re willing to “let die” in order to gain the “new epidermis”; namely the new spiritual skin of faith—armor from above in the form of a belief more pertinacious than any tangible iron we could strap over our chest. 

THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM

As I listened, the words and flow of the song reminded me of a stark image of the Christian faith: Christianity has moments when we are called to either fight or rest (among other, smaller roles within these two); the fight could be evangelism, prayer, or simply obedience in the face of rebellion. Rest could be meditation, surrender of thought or concern, singing praises, or even physical rejuvenation. At some point, however, there will always come the opposite (fight or rest), and this striking point hit me like a wrecking ball while in my car. This song, having pulled me into the trance of relaxation, had me realize I was resting in the posture of gaining back some strength—but for what? To fight again. We are not called to permanently rest on this earth.

Those who claim they will rest when they’re dead do not understand the balance of work and play, nor the purpose and importance of human relationships/community/family. Those who do not understand there is a time for ‘fast’ and a time for ‘slow’ are unwise and “like a leaf in the wind,” trapped between indulgence and desire. When Christ said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” (Matthew 11:28) He was inviting us not to get carried away with the exhaustion of constantly living in action (“fight” mode). His invitation was not only Him saying, “I have the power to give you the rest you seek,” it was actually initiating the thought that we need to seek rest from our adversities/battles. There is a time to fight and a time to rest; a time to suffer and a time to heal—Jesus knew this. There is a calm before the storm, and Jesus saw the storms coming.

AN IMPERSONAL GOD – ‘FATE INCARNATE’

Another point which jarred me off balance recently during a visit with family (unbelievers) is how easy it is to live life believing we are here on earth to just get along, cooperate, make a living, and one day die peacefully. This seemed easy to believe while I was with them, but this notion strikes me as not only naive, but completely God-less. We don’t need belief in God to believe life should be more fair, more cooperative, more complacent, or more peaceful. We don’t need belief in God (nor even acknowledgement of Him) in order to bite into the food in our hands because we can still do that without realizing it’s by His love and grace that we have the ability to move at all. But if we impersonalize God and turn Him into a “force” without morality or emotion, He becomes Karma or Fate Incarnate, moving only as a manifestation of Nature (Pantheism); a character in the book of humanity written by humanity from the opinion and limited observation of humans. The emphasis here is to be placed between that which humans make of God when we are inspired by God, and what humans make of a ‘force’ when they are only inspired by thought and perception

DIGESTING THE EXTREMES

For unbelievers, the God of the Bible is too fantastical and histrionic; dramatized with fire pillars, red seas, and a resurrection. But forbid the idea that God could become personal or intimate, lest He become someone we realize we actually have the choice to deny or receive. How can God become so personal as to have a relationship with a human being, and how could He be “born” through a virgin? These questions pass through us, first burning through our brains and down to our hearts where we subconsciously hold hostage the seemingly preposterous idea that we would rather have a personal God—if only the ideology behind such a belief made more sense than the way it is described/presented in a 2,000 year-old book of parables, metaphors, and far-fetched ideas (dragons in an unforeseen world ((Revelations)), a talking snake ((Genesis)), Heaven/Hell).

We then push this notion down from our hearts to our stomachs where we hope we will digest the confusion and forget we were ever bothered by such a conundrum. But eventually, because of Who created our minds and hearts to begin with, these thoughts will return and we will be invited once more to explicate who we are and why we are here. We can either live in the loop of a downwards spiral trajectory (digesting and giving away all hope of a purposeful life), or we can take the time to understand what appears to be a mystery, in turn, finding our Creator in the process and allowing Him to speak over the chaos that is our hearts in this world.

A MESS WITHIN THE STORM OF FAITH

We are given only two options, and this makes us frustrated and resentful. If there is such a God, why doesn’t He just make it all simpler? we ask. We have two choices, not ten thousand or ten million. The choice is between yes and no; it could not get simpler than this unless He literally told us what to say. The truth is, we know what He would love for us to choose, but we still need to make that decision. This decision, of course, will only begin with our yes or no—the rest of our lives will be a ripple effect of that answer, living by faith instead of self-dependency, boldness instead of fear; hope instead of mystery. Jesus Christ is the “Good News,” and even though Christianity is a big mess, it’s a mess because we’re in a storm. 

Looking at this from the big picture, we might say that life itself is the “big picture” form of the ‘fight,’ and that when we die we will be at ‘rest.’ In this sense, the storm is messy, but even in the storm, Jesus does give us rest; we get time to do a little clean-up to feel rejuvenated and energized, and that’s when we’re called back into the storm. This is all Christianity—the good and the not-so-comfortable. We weren’t called to just live in the backseat while Jesus drives the car: He will stop, intermittently, call for us to fight a battle by His side, and He will help us win—even if we are injured. He knows the injuries are only testimonies to His goodness and sovereignty in that He will not only heal us, He will make us new.

WE ARE NEVER WITHOUT JESUS

If you’re like me, and you find yourself doubting your faith or questioning Jesus at times, recall the truth that we’re in a storm, and that this storm was given to us because it will bring us closer to God when we are obedient in pursuing His presence even while it appears to be distant. Jesus is never far, He is closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). He will not forsake us or abandon us (Deuteronomy 31:6). If you feel like He’s forgotten you, I encourage you to share that with Him openly and anticipate His response. I would encourage you to pray with a believer who will agree with you in prayer. God will send you an answer, and He will not leave you to fall into disbelief; He will lead you to remember that only He is God, and that you are deeply loved. Be lifted high, readers. In Jesus name!

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If you felt you resonated with this article and would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this with anyone. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Please feel free to leave your thoughts or any questions you may have in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you. You can also reach me on my Contact Page, it would be a blessing to read your thoughts! God bless you, readers!

The Battle Of Keeping the Faith

A friend of mine recently asked me if there is anything that could cause me to walk away from God. As a growing Christian, I realized how important and relevant this question was. In this article, what I’d like to do is bring to the surface some of the ways in which the Christian faith is challenged by a world of skepticism, doubt, and resistance. In doing so, I hope to bring encouragement to believers as well as clarification for those who are weary or questioning the idea of faith, so that we may all be well-informed with the ways in which a Christian not only can be motivated to love boldly and to live confidently in Christ, but to hold true to our faith in the face of our darkest adversities.

IS GOD GOOD?

When my friend first asked me what could cause me to walk away from God, the first thought that came to mind was, “If God wasn’t good, then I would question the existence of any such God altogether.” Why do you think that is? Would you believe in a God if you didn’t believe He was good? Why does goodness matter? For me, I can’t imagine life as relationally driven as it is to have been birthed to life by any force that wasn’t intrinsically loving. The reason why is because, through the human experience, we derive our sense of self from our awareness of and attention to (expectation of) love. We anticipate love, whether subconsciously or consciously. See, we cannot address ourselves with hatred and still retain some fathomable desire to continue living. If we were to be made with hatred, our lives and purpose would be centered on hatred—and hatred, if we were to hypothetically consider it as the core of any relationship—would bring our focus down to that of narcissism, bitterness, resentment, and regret. Hatred cannot breed a healthy relationship, only love can. Therefore, since human beings are obviously relational in that we need people to thrive with and connect to, it is ridiculous and irrational to believe we were made for hate. Considering this, I have the hardest time fathoming the idea that a hateful God created us to hate each other. God, if we can acknowledge one, must be that of love in order for us to experience an intrinsic need for love in order to live prosperously; fulfilled, satisfied, and complete. Therefore, if God created us out of love, then He must be good

THE IMPACT OF PAIN

The amount of pain we experience in this human life is another source of skepticism to dig into for a reason to believe in a good, loving God. When we lose a loved one, or experience the slow, torturous process of watching a loved one battle with cancer or other malign disease, we question where God’s love and goodness is. We can’t fathom how such a loving Creator who placed us in the universe on the one planet which can sustain life would allow cancer and disease to destroy us slowly from the inside. A lot of what we don’t think to consider while in emotional state during this type of situation is what tends to obscure our ability to see God’s loving action at work. While watching a family member or close friend suffer from cancer or a malady is excruciatingly painful, sometimes we overlook the role we play in their lives, and the importance of that role in the long run. In the bigger picture, what is more important: That we understand why God allows such horrible malignants to spread chaos and agony on Earth, or that we are His example of love, compassion, concern, and selflessness during that process? Think about this for a moment. The next section continues to address this issue.

THE IMPORTANT ROLE LOVE PLAYS IN PAIN

When we watch others suffer while we live life without that kind of pain, sometimes we forget the importance of loving those people, and being the light that they themselves may not be able to see while in their experience. Loving on people who are suffering is more important than questioning why they are suffering. Loving people when they are suffering does not make God evil or bad, but rather, loving others shows that God is indeed at work in others’ situations, whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual. Perhaps their body cannot be saved from cancer, but their spirit cannot be touched by anything other than their choice, and we play a vital role in that choice by the way we love others in their pain; be it mental, physical, or spiritual. When we refuse to love others but instead emanate resentment, bitterness, or hatred towards the reality of their suffering, we miss out on loving them with everything we are.

This is God’s gift to us in the most intrinsic form; not that we would complain about why He allows what He does, but that we would shine through the darkness of pain and suffering with the everlasting glow of His love; that we would display patience and appreciation for the mere presence of those we are supporting—especially those in our lives who are hurting. It is in these situations where it is essential that we express thanks for the remaining moments we have left to share with our loved ones. Rather than blaming God for pain, we can show others that, because of the love of Jesus, pain does not get the last say; that love, hope, a listening ear, a gentle hand, a warm hug, a sincere smile—a hearty laugh, and a compassionate spirit overcome through Jesus in the light what Satan can only attempt in the dark.

SKEPTICISM AND DOUBT

Skepticism is a good thing when implemented with intention and precision. What that means is that asking questions and thinking deep are useful tools when it comes to new things that may or may not make much sense right away. Anything from a product a salesman is trying to sell us to a belief system that someone is trying to help us understand—it is more important to ask the hardest questions so we can be absolutely sure of what we are buying and why we need it, or what we are believing and pursuing with our spirit and soul, and why. What impassions us doesn’t always impassion others. Why? Not everyone is in the same place, or they aren’t on the same path at the same time. And that’s okay! What’s amazing about a good, loving God is that He meets us wherever we are on our journey and builds us up from there. What is the guide in which He uses to do this? His word (Bible), community (church friends who support other church friends), and time intimately spent with Him in prayer and devotion/intention. He meets us in our skepticism and doubt and speaks clarity into our situation by revealing one truth at a time so that we can process in chunks what may feel so new to our spirits. 

I can tell you that coming to know Christ more personally after 21 years of rejecting Him was not easy for me. I spent years not taking the faith very seriously. The biggest reason for that was because the newfound way of looking at faith was like living in a dark room for 21 years, then opening the door and walking outside into the 1pm sunlight on a bright Saturday afternoon: It was beautiful, but quite blinding on impact. 

LEAVING NO ROOM FOR UNCERTAINTY

To ensure this message is taken properly, I want to reiterate how important asking questions is when we’re unsure of what we’re believing or buying into. If we don’t know how a product really works, then what we’re really buying is the salesman’s smile and tactics more than what’s in his hands. Likewise, if we believe something without asking solid questions and breaking the ice, we might end up believing something we don’t agree with and then not know how to live when life is hard and we aren’t sure how such a belief system affects our lives on that deeper level. With Christianity, questions like these are always redirected back to community. If we are experiencing hardship, “Do you want to talk about it? May I pray for you? Do you have a support team who is encouraging you and reaching out to you?” (Maybe not back-to-back like this, but these will be the commonly asked questions by a supportive Christian friend) Someone may even offer their number to us so they themselves can be the friend they’re asking about.

THE CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO ADVERSITY IS COMMUNITY

In Christ, we believe the body (the church) of Christ is a supportive network of people working, acting, and living with the authority of Jesus given to us by His blood on the cross, and consequent resurrection from the dead. Our faith in Him enables that power, and for others who do not yet believe, we use the power of prayer to express that it is not from ourselves from which we derive our answers or our esteem—that it is through Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection that instills pure hope and joy on the deepest level; that because of Him, this new lifestyle and new life-changing perspective is what re-establishes and redefines friendship, support, and healing for all those who believe.

Before Christ, we had just as much reason to depend on ourselves for support as we did any other response to pain, suffering, bitterness. But in Christ, knowing His power and love for us as His creation, we know He does not leave us to figure ourselves out; He does not leave us to heal ourselves while He just watches from the throne. Jesus gives us the power we need by living within us and being next to us in our most vulnerable moments. He wouldn’t miss anything. Jesus calls us as a church of believers to join in with that same support with His authority to dispel evil and repudiate doubt in His name with the encouragement of a supportive community. We are never asked to run on this adventure alone, Christ goes with us wherever we go.

QUESTIONS?

There is so much to talk about on this one subject, but I’d like to hear it from you—where are you when it comes to battling faith? What is the hardest question for you to answer for yourself, and what question do you need to ask that would help ease any doubts you have in pursuing faith in God through Jesus? What are you facing right now that is causing you to believe that if there is a God, that He is good? Do you have a community of people who support you in these times? If you don’t, would you be willing to find a church where people can encourage you in your pain? 

I would really like to hear from you, readers. Please write any questions in the comments section below, and I will do my best to respond promptly. I’m happy to meet you where you are and encourage you in your doubt, pain, and struggles. We all have them, but not all of us have Christ. Not yet. That is why this blog exists, so that you may have Christ brought you where you may not have Christ being brought to you elsewhere. 

CONNECT WITH ME

If you resonated with what you read in this article and would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this with anyone. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. May God bless you as you process these thoughts and come to the table with thoughts or questions of your own. May He meet you where you are and affirm you in ways you never imagined. In Jesus name!

Doubt

How Faith In God Makes Sense Of Our Pain

When I lost all hope following my parents divorce, my scarce understanding of God miscommunicated my need for Him. In turn, I put my hope in all the wrong places; where pleasure I received was tangible but not eternal; where love was lusted but not grounded; where joy wasn’t joy, but instead was the duplicitous mirage of permanent Earthly bliss.

UNAVOIDABLE CRISIS 

I longed for connection, but the very picture of connection had been convoluted and misshapen by the brokenness of my family’s divorce. Relationship lost its identity and I was redefining it for myself amidst an internal trauma that was as punitive as it was inevitable. The trauma incurred an internal crisis at 11-12 years old which subconsciously renegotiated the first 10 years of my life as I tried to make sense of the sudden thrust of painful change and coercive emotional agony. My thoughts were looking back instead of forward, hoping to aid my past in keeping my present from completely dilapidating. But the longer the present continued pulling me forward, the more narrow my hope became that my past had a chance of surviving the excruciating present. When my motivation to retain the past was exhausted, I couldn’t handle the pressure of such a threat, and that is when my picture of intimacy, closeness, security, and safety was crushed into despair. There was no place in the back of my mind where I felt I could hide my hope because I understood there was no going back to what was, and understanding that merely procured more hopelessness. 

FALSE IDENTITY IN HINDSIGHT

Looking back as a 29-year-old man, I understand my parents’ divorce does not define my life. What I can admit however, in honesty, is that my parents’ divorce was a turning point for me as a human being. What I mean by that is that as a boy becoming a man—and as a boy interpreting the emotional incursions of divorce into the reality that is life—I came to understand that what defines a person is what material we’re made out of. After moving to college, I came to unavoidably experience internally and what I was not made out of. I was not made of internal strength, will power, any kind of belief system, or some image the world made of me. My mind had realized that my exterior had all along been a concoction of external influence, peer pressure, and the desire to people-please. But that was all a facade, not my identity. During my two-year stint in Florida, I learned so much about what I had been holding up in front of me for so many years, and I came to understand more clearly how heavy it was to hold up something that had never been me to begin with. You see, in my mind, my identity had begun with my parents’ divorce because my mind had overwritten the first ten years and redefined who I was based on the newfound pain. That was my premature response to dealing with trauma when I was doing everything I could to refuse the reality taking shape. Moving to California after that helped discover the next piece of the puzzle in finding myself. 

THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD

Realizing who we aren’t is no one’s epilogue; it is merely a cliff note alluding to the cantankerous reality that is human life in a corrupted world. Realizing who we are, on the other hand, is the body of our story on Earth. This is what I came to understand after I left Florida and found myself in California. 

Jesus Christ is my Lord and my best friend. But I didn’t know that until I moved to California and felt His presence come alive in me. If you’re wondering what that feels like, I can’t promise you that what it felt like then and what it feels like for me today is what it would feel like for you. God’s presence is like so many things. For me, it’s like wiping the dust and dirt off of my glasses and my eyes and peering into the world without distraction or filter. His presence feels like clarity, the way it feels to look out a window into a brutal rainstorm to witness what the beauty of danger looks like without being harmed. His presence brings satisfaction to the soul even if it doesn’t bring complacency to the body. God’s presence reveals the beauty behind everything, even disaster, and it opens my eyes to witness the majesty that is behind His creation: His fingerprint, His signature; His love. 

OUR PAST IS A VEIL TO THE PURPOSE OF OUR LIVES

The reason why it’s important to keep the past in mind is to understand as a witness the way God works through pain, suffering, challenge, trauma, adversity, confusion, and doubt. But the past isn’t the dictionary of our soul; our past is the veil in which, when removed, reveals the true beauty in believing there is more to this life and its agonies than merely leaving the veil draped, mystifying the purpose for why we’re here. We’re not here to hold up facades or to be defined by our pain; we are here to learn, understand and receive how God works, speaks, and lives in our hearts—that even in every moment of Earthly pain—with Jesus, we hold a higher purpose through our pain. 

Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone’s past plays a significant role in the way we choose to move forward. The problem is, we cannot move forward if we choose to live in the past. This is why hindsight is a blessing: We’re able to look into the past to remember why our present is so important. The past isn’t meant for dwelling, but rather it is meant to be a reference point for improvement. Our pain is a way of reminding us why we wouldn’t want to make the same mistakes again. Even doubt rather than belief is significant in pointing out to ourselves why we are skeptical about one thing but more open or receptive to another. The veil of disbelief, for example, covers over not only our lack of belief, but over our ability to witness meaning in life beyond the value we place on our jobs, marriages, or families. When we live for these things, we depend on them for our happiness. But these things will always disappoint, sooner or later, causing us pain. This is the veil of skepticism at its worst. When we must objectify the meaning of our life to circumstance, we have forgotten purpose altogether, disparaging our present by declaring that our every breath is as meaningless as the pointless suffering we must battle stoically without belief that our suffering happens for a reason. In other words, if we depend on circumstance rather than hope and purpose in something beyond this life and this moment, then we set ourselves up for disappointment, constantly pleading for our present to live up to an expectation that it could never achieve.

THERE IS ONLY HOPE, THERE IS ONLY NOW

This is life when our past controls us, when we refuse to learn from the pain of our past rather than use the pain to clarify our present and cling to a reality that no longer exists. This is disbelief in the face of a world that contends a purposeful life—where God uses our greatest hopes to help us reap the benefits of growing through the pain in what we experience—above a life where circumstance will never live up to our hopes or fantasies. Here, we let go of the acrimony of the past and cling to the hope that God instills through strengthening us in His love. Here, we experience His presence and come to know Him not only through Scripture, but through personal testimony, prayer, community, nature, and the actual sensations in our heart and spirit reminding us that not only are we not alone, but that our pain is but a means of growing closer to God by seeking intimacy in the presence of His grace, love, mercy, and compassion.

I am not my parents’ divorce, one of the most painful experiences of my existence. You, too, are not your worst pain. Through Christ, we are made stronger because of our pain and through our pain, and our Lord God promises we will never be alone, nor will we ever be forsaken (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Be encouraged with this truth, and remade with this promise, in Jesus name.

LET’S CONNECT

If you enjoyed reading this article and would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this with anyone. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. If you have any questions or thoughts, please share them with me in the comments below. May God bless you today

Conquer

How God Uses the Damaged To Change the World

Almost 9 years ago, I let Jesus into my life in a way that I had denied Him for the previous 21. Letting Him into my life was one step; desperately calling Him into my heart was another. 

HINDSIGHT AND ITS TREASURES

Nine years of asking questions, of challenging the skepticism/doubt of my atheistic years, and coming to understand the difference between knowing about God and knowing God personally has brought me a long ways from where I first began when I moved away from Michigan in search for who I was. Without God, I was without an identity; I had defined myself with the rage in my heart for all the aching of my adolescence: The heartbreaks, my parents’ divorce; the confusion, the pain, and the idea of a loving God amidst the struggle to even consider living another day—these themes smeared my identity like tattoos. I wasn’t bound to religion, I was bound to what the secular mentality taught me was the way life must be lived when faith in something higher than me didn’t make sense. 

THE REMNANTS OF A DEAD WORLD AFTER CONVERSION

My heart has been aching again lately. Christianity is not a cure-all pill that makes the world perfect when you accept Jesus. Depression is still depression, moods still vacillate; pain still hurts, loss still burdens—and therefore, most importantly—hope is still imperative. Faith in Jesus doesn’t erase divorce, struggle, cancer, breakups, or poverty from existence, but it does give us hope that these forms of worldly suffering are not the conclusion to our story. When I think of my relationship with Jesus today, what hits me as I seek Him more often is how seeking Him has needed to become a lifestyle rather than a bullet-point reference on a “To-Do” list. Seeking Jesus is either who I am, or it’s who I’m avoiding to be. 

THE SUNNY-FACED CHRISTIAN FALLACY

One of the distortions I came about believing over the course of affirming myself as an atheist and later converting to Christianity was the fallacy that people need to see Christians smiley and sunny-faced. To me, not smiling and lacking the sunny face meant Jesus mustn’t be as good as people said He was—but that’s just not true. What I had to learn over time is that feelings are feelings no matter what our beliefs are. A Christian can still feel depressed just like an unbeliever can. An unbeliever can feel happiness and express joy the way a Christian can; the main difference is that the joy of a Christian is not based on circumstance, but rather on the joy of the Good News that Jesus Christ has saved us, and that in Him, we have a reason to be selfless and to look forward to the future, making the present moment that much more significantly meaningful and purposeful. That has nothing to do with emotion or feeling, but with the faith in our heart. They are separate concepts, and combining the two as one is a mistake that perhaps many believers out there do not yet understand. To understand that difference, and to explain it in more delicate detail, is the purpose of this article.

THE FEELINGS-BASED FAITH MYTH

There is no such thing as “feeling like a Christian.” Christianity isn’t an emotion like being happy or angry is. Faith in Christ is exactly that: A walk of faith. What is “the walk” part? The journey of trusting in God above intuition, ratiocination, or our knowledge base, and the way our trust in Him transforms the way we live into a matured, dependent lifestyle based on asking God first before every significant move; whether we “go here or there,” or “say this or that.” The source of a person’s trust is a huge difference between a secularist and a Christian. A believer in Christ will pray to a personal God that he or she fully believes is listening, where a secularist might either pray to “the universe” (which is actually tantamount to Pantheism), which may embody (to the perspective of the secularist) the appearance of chance, luck, fortune, or something like that of fate (the belief in the development of events beyond a person’s control, regarded as determined by a supernatural power, but not “God”)—or—they may not pray at all. Feeling like a believer is a redundant, weightless phrase; there is no such thing. There no amount of feeling to define someone’s walk of faith. The measurement (if you want to call it that) occurs in the heart: How much do we trust in God to be our only answer to every question?

FAITH DOES NOT EQUAL HAPPINESS

Some unbelievers have the idea that believers consider themselves happier because of their faith. This is not true. Some Christians also have the idea that all atheists and unbelievers are unhappy, and this is also untrue. Faith, or a lack thereof, does not so much affect a person’s emotional status, but rather—faith impacts the mentality of the person, which is another way of saying that it gives them the hope and joy of a life beyond this world that comes in believing that Jesus’s death and resurrection is reason to believe there is a Heaven, and that being transformed in Christ takes us to where He is when we die physically on Earth. While on Earth, however, the transformation does not bring about happiness in the way some people believe. The fallacy that believing in God fixes our Earthly problems may be a distortion of the idea that faith in a loving God automatically brings us a sense of hope in our daily adversities. And while God does bring us hope (hope in Christ), our belief in Him and His son does not change that we still experience struggle on Earth.

Jesus even warned us of this:

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

TWO DIFFERENCES THAT DEFINE HOW WE LIVE

We are not to be fooled into believing everything will be idyllic once we believe. The difference between belief and disbelief is not merely emotional—the difference is noticed existentially in how we live our lives based on who we trust (God, or the world), and from where we derive our sense of hope (transient situational pleasures, or the hope of a transcendent, permanently blissful, perfect life without pain or death by believing in Christ as Lord). These two differences change the way we live our lives, noticeably enough to impact the people who witness us living out these choices in our actions. And make no mistake, people seeing us live this way does not influence mere happiness, since what is being emanated by Christian rebirth is not happiness. What do I mean? Let me explain.

SHORT-LIVED HAPPINESS AND ALL-ENCOMPASSING JOY

You may be asking, “What do you mean, you’re not happier?! You believe in Jesus!” I am no happier as a Christian now than I was an atheist almost 9 years ago. Why? My soul has been renewed in Christ in that my reason for everything (for example, why I think the way I do, or the reason for my actions and decisions) is now based on my faith in Christ, but the way I feel is still influenced by my current experiences. For example, I am joyful in Christ even when I have a horrible day and want to scream. My joy is locked in the Truth I believe in that states one day I will no longer experience the hardships and pain that I do now. I am happy when I eat chocolate, or when I am given a genuine, sincere hug from someone who truly cares about me. I am happy when I get to go to the movie theater, or when I’m reading a great book.

These moments never last, however, and that is the difference between joy and happiness: Joy is my all-encompassing reality, like the bird’s-eye view of my own heart, whereas happiness is the situational, hormonal reaction to what occurs in my day-today, hour-to-hour experiences. I can’t stay in the movie theater forever because I’d never see anyone, do anything, or be able to pay my bills; I can’t eat chocolate all day and night because eventually I’d get sick; I can’t read a great book forever because when I finish, I won’t need to reread it immediately 100 times over—I’ll want to read something new and challenging. This is what happiness looks like in this life. We experience happiness in spurts in the same way we put on a warm coat in the winter while taking it off in the summer; but we experience joy the way we live inside of the same body our entire lives. Our choice not to experience joy is the consequence of not receiving the hope and joy in something beyond that of ourselves and the ephemeralness of this world. Joy is provided in knowing Christ’s promises are set in stone—He not only fulfilled over 300 prophesies, He literally rose from the dead and was witnessed by over 500 people! Because of this, joy takes a new definition, and happiness becomes a reminder that what happiness we experience in this life is but a glimpse of what it will be in the future Kingdom to come.

THE REASON WHY WE DO “THE RIGHT THING”

Again, my soul has been renewed in Christ in that my reason for everything is now based on my faith in Christ, whereas before my reasons for being who I was capped off at explaining “I just wanted to do the right thing.” That is a secular response when it is the conclusion of our thoughts. When a Christian says, “I wanted to do the right thing,” they can and will further state that they wanted to do what Christ asked of them, or inspired them to do. A secular mind will stop at “the right thing” and be stumped when questioned further because they have no answer to offer in order to explain what makes the “right” choice the right one in their perspective. There is no scale or means of judging the right from the wrong because the secular mind allows morality to fall subjectively and arbitrarily per situation, and not every one of the more than 8 billion humans minds on this Earth would explain right from wrong, or good from bad the same way. In effect, doing the right thing is a weightless answer when it cannot be explained beyond the self. The difference then for the Christian is that our reason is not limited to the self, but rather, it begins with Christ and is then emanated through our actions to encourage others towards an exemplar far beyond the quarrels of human contradiction. 

LIVE IN JESUS’S NAME

When I finally understood that sunny faces weren’t necessary and that the best expression of Christ is allowing Him to work through us in every state or phase we’re in, I finally grasped that I can still worship Jesus even on a bad day. Many days, I just feel an indelible frown on my face and I don’t have a care in the world to turn it around. But what helps me is when I put Jesus first and help someone in need by doing so in His name. No matter how I feel (transient emotion), I can always live for Christ. When I am angry, I believe in bringing the reality of my rage to the Lord and being honest, surrendering the core reason for the rage and letting go by asking Jesus to take it away. How does that work? Trusting that His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9), calling a Christian friend who supports the belief in surrendering all anxiety to the Lord (1 Peter 5:7), and praying with a contrite heart. A contrite heart can be birthed from humbling ourselves with honesty. When we’re honest with ourselves, the truth usually reveals an intention or motive that we can either surrender to God in repentance, or one that we can accept His grace for in recognizing there is no reason to hang onto the hurt which led us to feel the anger. In these ways, casting our worries, fears, aggressions, and disappointments to Him can be rectified in His grace, mercy, love, fellowship, community, Scripture, and trust. Everything done in His holy name.

THOUGHTS?

What I would like for you to take away from this article is that if you’re a recently converted Christian and you think you have to wear a certain face to show Jesus to the world, just relax. Jesus can’t work through a facade. He can work through every authentic heart, however. When we are real, Jesus works through us the most. When we are angry, He wants us to come to Him. He asks us to come to Him as we are, not after we’ve figured ourselves out (which we hardly ever do anyways). If this is you, breathe, close your eyes, pray, and release your troubles to Him who saves. No cliché here. Let it go. No need to hang onto excess baggage. God can and will handle it—just allow Him to work through the real you. The disappointments, the rage, the bad days, everything. Let Him shine through you no matter where you are in your faith. Try to do it your way and others will not see Him, but instead the will see you trying to be someone you aren’t. Live the way He calls us to live—authentically and in faith—and He will work wonders through us. 

If you enjoyed reading this article and would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this with anyone. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. If you have any questions or thoughts, please share them with me in the comments below. May God bless you today

Controversy

The Significance Of Pain

The shock of trauma is the deadliest lie about pain, influencing the idea that pain is to be associated with fear. Where setting the surface of our skin on fire feels atrociously unpleasant, it teaches us not to do what led our skin to be caught on fire ever again. In this one sense, the existence and experience of pain is made purposeful, though excruciating. Likewise, the modern fallacy that pain is bad is exhaustively misguided by the preemptive decision to connote the message of threat to the experience of pain, marking it as meaningless and morbid. If pain is truly without purpose and therefore unnecessary, then what is to be explained of people’s opportunistic chances to learn from their most painful experiences?

Why write about this? If we continue to view pain as an obstacle to overcome rather than a tool to utilize, we will forever resist what was meant to help us develop into stronger, pertinacious individuals; remaining cantankerous in the face of challenge and childish in the absence of maturity. In this article, I will reiterate an approach to pain that I hope you will find helpful and indicative of a healthier response to our multifarious circumstances.

THE ROOT OF HEARTBREAK

Heartbreak is a form of pain, and it is also an opportunity to leave an otherwise potentially noxious relationship. Sometimes separation happens when we least expect it, whereas other times it doesn’t happen soon enough. The excruciation of heartbreak operates in the same way as catching on fire; instead of standing still and burning, we move and extinguish the flames before permanent damage is incurred. In this way, heartbreak tends to project the notion that we were meant to live alone, that we aren’t worth loving, or perhaps that the love we project is dangerous for someone else—leading us to believe we are incapable of loving others properly and convinced our perception of love is so convoluted as to be warped with no hope of redirection. These are the emotional “flames” of heartbreak. How does one extinguish these flames?

Well, first off, we need to acknowledge those thoughts written above are all fallacies, of course, rooted in the fear birthed from a lack of feeling like we belong anywhere. Since the fear of being unlovable or of being incapable of loving others occurs in our first relationships, we know our fear is rooted in family. 

FAMILIAL EMANCIPATION AND THE MEANING OF “HOME-LESSNESS”

For the first ten years of my life, my family introduced me to movie nights or TV show-marathons on Fridays, outdoor fun on Saturdays, Catholic church on Sunday mornings, and playing ball outside on weekday nights; it was either the American Dream, or it was my idyllic fantasy of a perfect life before I was aware of such a phrase. As many of you know, my parents divorced when I was 11. That familial schism caused such a traumatic ripple effect that it literally sent all of my three siblings (I am the youngest of four) to three different states, each at their own time. While I’m sure personal endeavors at least partially inspired my siblings to their distant locations (college was among those inspirations for the oldest two), what is more telling is how they didn’t came back for more than holiday visits.

They say home is where the heart is, and while many young adults do in fact move out of their parents house when they are old enough and can afford an independent living—not every grown-up child intentionally moves out-of-state, far away from their parents and maintains that geographical distance long-term. That is the story of my family however, and indeed, that is also a big picture view of the effects of divorce. 

Needless to say, the experience of that trauma led me to believe that there was something wrong about me, or about life as a whole, that it would include the agony that I came to experience so soon after the divorce. What happened to me emotionally after the divorce is nothing shy of what happens to every boy when he loses the confidence in his parents’ love for him: He looks for it elsewhere, all the while sure that he is unworthy of it because his own parents couldn’t extend it in a way more palpable than separation and the ambiguities of “what it all means” when everything is finalized.

Divorce “breaks the rules” of a healthy home life, debilitating the image of a stabilized family regimen and disparaging the emotional security of what it means for a home to be home. Having two homes is not better than one when you must acclimate on an exhausting weekly basis to actively participate as a sentient constituent of two households, two very different and distinct ways of living, and two very opposite family dynamics. All of my teen years were spent trying to be the right kind of son to two very different parents in very different home lives. And that is why home, for me, post-divorce, completely lost its definition altogether. What happened to me next propelled me to understand what it means to need to know why we as humans are alive.

ELONGATED SUFFERING

The pain of my parents’ divorce led me to attempt suicide multiple times, which stirred tension namely for my mom. I discovered creative ways to employ pain on myself; I felt I deserved to bleed if I deserved to experience such excruciating pain such as divorce, so I would cut myself and watch the blood trickle out. Those experiences left scars that remind me of a time when I truly experienced the reality of self-loathing and the most extreme convolutions of detachment. My view was that if there was a loving God, He wouldn’t allow such pain to come to exist. That, still even today, is among the most prominent of arguments for atheists who disbelieve in an all-loving God as described in the Bible. I can speak with extraordinary empathy for each and every atheist for that matter because I used to be one. And the reason I am no longer an atheist is because of what I discovered through experience, time, insistence, intention, and the unstoppable urge to find answers to intrinsic questions that left me threatening myself once again with suicide if I couldn’t find the answers. 

THE UNSTOPPABLE URGE TO DISCOVER MEANING

Years of inner torment would lead anyone to desire extreme outcomes. For me, those outcomes were as simple as they were extreme and possibly even morbid. Either I would discover a purpose beyond myself that provided a viable reason for me to want to live, or I would end my life with the confirmed and inarguable truth that there was nothing worth living for, breathing for, or even remotely trying for. When I was 20, I discovered I wanted to attend college to become a filmmaker since I loved movies so much. I thought the idea of becoming a filmmaker sounded cool and impressive, and it fed my ego. So I worked for one more year at the grocery store I’d worked at for four years prior to save up some money for that trip. When I finally got to move, I drove myself with my mom (who flew back to Michigan after helping get me there) down to Florida, but it wasn’t just a move to study film; it was a move away from the traumatic memories of my parents sitting me down to tell me they were getting a divorce; it was a move away from the many heartbreaks in school that ripped my heart to pieces and made me feel even more worthless inside. And most intrinsically, it was a move towards finding myself and my purpose in a place not encompassed in the atmosphere of familial agony and self-abhorrence. 

WHEN MY SOUL DISCOVERED ITSELF

After moving to Florida and far away from everything familiar, several factors hit me in the face like a cement wall:

  1. I had no idea who I was, and I was shell-shocked at how little about me I actually knew.
  2. Faith in Christ is less about knowledge, and more about empirical experience; obedience, faith, and slowing down enough to examine how God’s love works through our every-day circumstances, others in our lives, and the small blessings (i.e. the taste of food, the sound of music) as well as the bigger and possibly more obvious blessings (i.e. affording rent, having a family to come home to, etc.)–and worshipping Him for providing these blessings!
  3. My self-worth had been pulled back from my family’s influence and handed over to women for many years. In other words, I came to realize through faith in Christ how I had been associating my worth with how much women wanted me in their lives romantically (which wasn’t much, which made me all the more desperate).

I later learned after I’d moved away from Michigan how number 3 is common, and that for boys without a strong bond with their parents, basically, we take a lot of perspective of ourselves from how our parents view us and treat us, and we project that perception from our parents onto others, further ingesting others’ perception of us in the same manner we would our parents, thus associating the weight of our worth based on others’ opinions of us. When I realized this of course, I had to learn to retract my old habits to allow Jesus to help me structure in new habits; healthier perspectives that would allow me to see myself without outside influence.

All of these realizations culminated in me understanding something I never had before: When I die, I’m going to be somewhere—and where I will be will depend on the belief in my heart, and concordantly the way I live based on that belief. This meant that I had something inside me that was constantly being influenced and challenged; something deeper than character and personality, more eternal than thought and more intrinsic than emotion—in short, a soul.

WHAT IT MEANS TO DESERVE PAIN

Every time I hear the argument of pain and human suffering being a curse in life, I think of the times I cut myself because I believed I deserved it. I believed I did not deserve anything good and so cutting myself was my “rational” response to executing justice. How do I see it now? I understand where my thoughts were at the time, and I obviously disagree now, but what I see most differently is not what you might expect. I actually believe even more now that I deserve pain, but I believe that Jesus took that away when He was crucified. In dying for me, I believe He stood in the place of what I deserve for my selfish ambitions, for my lust, and for my pride. Through Him, I now believe He has taken justice for my actions into His own hands (literally nailed into them), and now I no longer have that price on my head. It was given to Jesus 100%. I have Him to be eternally grateful for every day; a reason to experience joy in every moment through faith in His life and resurrection.

THE VALUE OF PAIN

Considering this, what is the value of pain? We claim God would never allow harm to come to us if He was so loving, but how can we justify that? What kind of life would we allow our children to have if we never allowed them to walk by themselves without holding their hand to absolutely ensure they would never fall? Not only would they never reach independence, they would never truly live. What kind of life would we allow our children to live if we gave them everything they ever wanted every waking moment of their entire life? Not only would they be spoiled and feel no need to try at anything, set goals, nor put their mind and heart into a passion or hobby—they would expect the world to act the same way, and obviously that is not realistic as the world operates whether you acclimate or not. If we allow our children to fall, do they learn to get up? Of course! How else do they learn to go from crawling to walking, and from walking to running? Through repetition; trial and error. Likewise, when God allows us to experience pain, not only has He given us the freedom to know what to avoid and why to avoid it, He also opened our eyes to see what we could do instead. Pain is not a threat or a curse, it is a lesson. When we learn, we improve. How would we improve if we were never given the chance to try learning in the first place? If God always held our hand and never let us roam independently—while of course keeping His eyes on us to ensure nothing fatal would occur—we would never learn the ropes of the world, never grow adventurous or curious, and certainly we would not develop creativity or excitement for something new. When we experience pain, we learn something invaluable.

LEARNING FROM TRAUMA

In the moment, pain can be excruciating, as was my parents’ divorce for me. But since I learned about Jesus, I have come to understand things I never had before. I now understand that He was holding out His hand every time I fell down—whenever I wanted to cut myself, kill myself, write angry poetry, lust after women instead of Him, or live selfishly instead of seeking something meaningful in life to pursue (like loving others through Jesus)—and it was me who never reached back out and grabbed His out-stretched hand. 

The most important thing I’ve learned that applies to me about my parents’ divorce is that their marriage ending doesn’t define my present or my future, and so it doesn’t define me. My response to what happens to me defines me, and even more so, my faith defines me. Jesus defines me. Everything I’ve experienced and learned from has led me here, to this blog. Here, writing gives me one a way (of many) to use my pain to help others like you.

See, I experienced pain I would never want others to experience, but I believe pain is not a curse, but a blessing; a tool, if you will. If I had never experienced the pain that I did, why would I want to help anyone based on what I learned from it? How would Jesus have shown Himself to me if everything was always as idyllic as it had been?

I write this article to encourage you to look at pain and recognize it with a different perspective. We never “defeat pain,” we merely recognize it’s there and apply ourselves to what must be taken away from our experience. Through Christ, all things are made new. If my parents’ debilitating divorce didn’t ruin me, then the trauma you have experienced can help you to help others through Christ also. We can come to see how God works through suffering by understanding the purpose of pain is not to hinder us or to destroy us, but to develop our sense of reality and to teach us to live more boldly, confidently, and with a more sincere, genuine intent to help others who are suffering in their lives. 

THERE IS HOPE

I hope that in reading this, you can understand that pain is not something you need to hide from, but something to embrace:

(John 16:33 MSG) “I’ve told you all of this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

If you resonated with this article and would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this with anyone. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. If you have any questions or thoughts, please share them with me in the comments below. May God bless you today!

Finding Miracles At Our Breaking Point

We all need someone to look up to; a role model, an inspiration, someone to emulate and challenge us to be better versions of ourselves. While I was very little, my role models were characters from movies from TV shows. At around 5-7 years old, I was drawn to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; their vigilance in fighting crime and standing up for the innocent, especially in their turtle-form, was appealing and entertaining. Later, my role model became none other than Superman himself. He continued to be my hero for many years because he represented the desire of humanity for peace, justice, and the American way; fighting injustice without killing. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with admiring characters like this—characters with larger-than-life stories. As humans, we want to connect with something beyond ourselves because we need that inspiration to do what we believe transcends human nature; to live into a higher calling. Why else do we consider these characters “larger than life”?

After I discovered the person of Jesus in my life (in the form of the Holy Spirit in my heart), He became my role model. I had a perspective shift in what it means to live “larger than life”. To me, the best way to summarize what larger than life looks like to me now is through the lens of humility, healing, and surrender. Let me draw you a picture.

Before I accepted Christ, life for me was all about lusting after women, idolizing music and movies, and writing poems in the middle of the night when my dad and step-siblings were asleep. I didn’t feel any sort of purpose in life, and the things inspiring me to live were the songs of bands like Korn, Linkin Park, and Marilyn Manson. They validated my anger towards the pain of my parents’ divorce, and towards the confusion and hurt behind experiencing my parents’ response to their divorce—and not understanding either of their responses at that time. I was exposed to depression from multiple family members suffering from it, without even knowing that’s what I was being exposed to; the malady of which took me into the bathroom tub full of water and the temptation to stop breathing underneath. My purpose in life was defined by music telling me that my anger was legitimate and empowering, that my hurt was deep, and that both were real. Those were the messages I didn’t feel coming from people around me during those times when everything I’d come to know and feel safe with dissipated overnight. God allowed trauma to grab me from behind, but He allowed it knowing what the aftermath would become.

See, I witnessed my parents experiencing their own divorce. My dad grew quiet and uninvolved with me, I didn’t know what to make of it then; I was hurting too, and perplexed. Looking back, I can only imagine the pain he was going through after so many years of marriage. I witnessed my dad experience a pain I’d never seen him feel before, not to mention the death of his parents only weeks before Christmas the same year of the divorce. Mom was experiencing her own depression, and everything happening around us took a toll on our relationship. Our family seemed to be crawling through Hell, and I couldn’t make sense of a loving God inside of that devastating mess. Atheism wasn’t a vague, foreign idea to me after all of that. These thoughts covered me with water in that tub, more than once, when I tried to convince myself not to be afraid to stop breathing when the water pressure was too high. I was afraid because I was alone. Not only in the bathroom, but in my life. I didn’t feel like I had anyone who saw me, and I was desperate for an answer to save me from my self-deprecation and hate.

Years later, after exhaustive amounts of time spent in this deteriorating mentality, I was not only desperate for a reason to be alive, but for the reason why I was desperate. I found it intriguing in such a morbid way that I wouldn’t kill myself and yet I kept asking myself what life was really for.

What was all the darkness trying to tell me? Why were Korn’s songs so important to me—so validating? Why did trying to drown make me feel like something was being balanced in the world—as if trading my presumed worthless existence for the more worthy existence of everyone else—and why did I, even to the slightest of a degree, want a reason to believe that that might not be true…. as the air in my lungs was collapsing, and I had to choose to come up for air or choke on gallons of water imploding on me.

Was Jesus speaking through to me even though I wasn’t listening yet? Did the silence in my heart have anything to do with the hope that kept me alive, even though I rejected His goodness as a fallacy for so many years? Did the fact that I stayed alive despite multiple attempts to die have anything to do with the miraculous power that He had over my surroundings; encouraging me, even at bare minimum, that there was something worth living for? How can I, looking back, not acknowledge Jesus at work in a life not believing, surrendering, loving, or reaching out for the Lord who was trying to show me He was really there all along? How can I not say that wasn’t the intervention of a LOVING Supreme Being who knows me better than I know myself? See, Jesus knows I enjoy water, and He knows I enjoy the quiet because I find it peaceful. When I found myself trying to drown myself in both, He met me, even though I couldn’t feel Him or hear Him at the time—and He took me from death by feeding me even the slightest reason to keep going, even if it was just the music and vindication I received from listening to rock songs and writing poems.

I understand everyone has their own story of adversity, struggle, trauma, crisis, and pain. We all do. I have mine, and I’ve shared a chunk of my story so that you can understand that I don’t speak of anything I haven’t experienced myself. I experienced the desire to die as the main focus of my life for several agonizing years. I’ve also experienced choosing narcissism over Christ, trying to get what I want just for me—and hedonism was a disappointment through that as well. Self-satisfaction is no reason to live at all. All that living for pleasure ever did was tire me out and make me want to die. You may think that perhaps I didn’t find the right kind of pleasure. I disagree. For instance, the argument for sex is invalid. For about 15 years of my life, I’ve heard from countless people about meaningless, promiscuous sex, about how much fun it is, but how unsatisfying, and therefore unfulfilling it is. They admit how having sex with someone you love is much more satisfying, but wisdom will tell you that it’s nothing to live for.

For another instance, those who would concede to the argument of the pleasure of drugs as a good reason to live—the high from drugs has the same effect; if anything, people lose brain cells from drugs, as well as concentration, time, and the ability to prioritize. Drug addicts continuing their lifestyle without any desire to change ignore the truth that their addiction only obscures their reason for doing drugs: To hide from pain. Sure, some do it for fun because they feel they have nothing better to do. That’s my point: There IS something better to do! There is so much… and I was drowning myself in a tub because I couldn’t see it, either. 

To give you a more recent picture of my life, today I see women as treasures of the living God, and relationships as complements of what God allows into our lives when we treat them as gifts from Him, and not invitations of the devil to throw our souls away. Though my history distorts relationships because of my traumas, I seek the Lord and pursue the way He views women, fighting my past with faith in Jesus as my guide to healthy boundaries. I still deeply appreciate music, but I intentionally incorporate worship music to balance out my propensity for rock music, and the rock music I enjoy does not glorify the devil, nor degrade or convolute the concept of God. My writing continues on and off this blog; I write songs once in a while, but I enjoy writing these articles in hopes of inspiring others like you to look beyond disbelief and darkness, seeking answers to your life’s purpose, ranging deeper than you could imagine.

Truly, I understand atheism and disbelief like the back of my hand. But I’d rather adhere to knowing Jesus as the center of my heart. Now that I know why He came, what He was, is, and will always be about—He worthy of all of my time, all of my thoughts, desires, and hopes. If you haven’t gotten to that point of your life, I empathize with your dissension; there is no judgment here. I spent the majority of my life being spoiled and not giving any glory or credit to Jesus: I’m one of the people who don’t want to spend another day without surrender and humbleness. I want you to know I didn’t find Jesus in the tub that day, but it was because I hadn’t chosen to see Him yet; not because He wasn’t there. I don’t believe that. What I believe, because of what I experienced—is that the second Jesus knew I was ready with a softened heart, He flooded Himself into my life; and I’ve been different ever since. There was a lot of learning and growth to do, and there still is, but compared to the days of my crisis and family trauma, I’m light-years away. I write this to you so you’ll know you’re not alone in your pain. You’re not alone in your situation. God sees you and wants to help you, but He won’t come into a closed heart. He won’t because that’s your choice to let Him in or keep Him out. 

My prayer is that you would find peace, even in your pain. That you would find forgiveness for those who have hurt you, and peace even inside of all the trouble you’re facing. When I say Jesus really is the light of the world, I don’t mean for that to sound cliché. He is the “light in the darkness” because He is the hope in a world crumbling at the feet of sin and corruption. He is the reason I keep going, and I pray He will be yours. When you can’t feel His closeness, I pray you would seek Him by name; the name above all other names. There is no one like Him, the One who saves us from ourselves each and every day. I believe in His love, even when I’m too rigid in my shame to receive it from Him. May you find it in yourself to seek Him at all costs, above all the rest of your priorities in life; may you find Him in your heart, and once you do, may you never look away—may you never move back. I pray you would let Him transform you from the broken soul you have now to one of restoration, peace, completion, humility, and strength from above.

As an atheist for most of my life, I never found any satisfaction in anything of this world. Often I reminisce just to look over the differences in my life since I accepted Christ, and every time I do, I realize how blind I was when I was closed off from Jesus. I understand it all happened in its own timing according to God’s will. He knew how long I’d need to accept Him, but He didn’t push harder than He knew He should. I chose Him when I was done trying to find pleasure in narcissism. After I exhausted myself of trying to find meaning in this world, I realized there was nothing to find, and what I did find was never, ever enough.

Jesus’s love, and the hope which comes from His resurrection, brings me more satisfaction than anything this world has to offer. When people talk about parties, alcohol, sex jokes, vacations, or time to just “to do nothing”, I pity for them; despite understanding their desire for a break (Jesus Himself commands us to heed the Sabbath for rest), I always find myself quiet so as not to offend people who brag about worldly pleasures. If people ask me my opinion, I honestly tell them I’d rather read or watch a movie than to go partying. I already know there is nothing meaningful in this world besides faith in Christ. 

My rigidity to faith in Christ was not at all different from unbelievers’ rigidity to Jesus today, but some people hang onto theirs for longer. One of the differences between me and other unbelievers is that I got tired more quickly. I hope you won’t wait long before you let Him in to give you a more satisfying purpose. He is always waiting, always ready to give us all we need. We only need turn ourselves to Him with humility and surrender, and He is ready to embrace us. He was never gone, we just weren’t looking. 

Let us “look” today, let us try to strive in a world more and more confused by its own contradictions with the hope of Christ expressed through our words and actions. May God bless you as you choose to search for Him and may you recognize His goodness, even in your pain. He loves you, and He desperately wants you to choose Him, as He is a jealous God. But He won’t make you. You have a choice. 

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Gone