I’m a mess. There, I said it, the secret is out. It’s hard to imagine but it took a car wreck + near death experience + losing my wife and a child to move me to a place where I was even open to really admit that. I don’t mean admit it in passing or even about thinking I may have a problem but not really doing much about it, I mean admitting it to the very core of who I am: I am a mess.
Over the past several years I have been meeting with a Christian grief councilor named Ric. Slowly over the past few years, painful session after painful session, I have seen layers of pain, shame, guilt, fear, and struggle exposed that I always knew were there but did my best to hide. Have you ever heard the old adage: “putting lipstick on a pig”? I dressed it up, sprayed it down with some nice smelling cologne, and did my best to hide it, but the mess was (and is) still there.
This month marks 9 years since I surrendered my life to Jesus in one of the most desperate, hopeless moments of my life. Since what seems like a lifetime ago, I have been slowly walking towards this moment. Towards a confrontation with the giants that have held me in bondage my entire life. As a evangelist and an under-shepherd in my local church and here in the My Emanuel ministry, I’m supposed to have it “all together”, here is another secret: I don’t. Worse, leaders around me have in one way or another encouraged me to keep my struggles silent, hidden, out of sight as if the honest truth somehow damages my testimony or what God is doing in and through me.
One thing that Ric has challenged me to do over and over again is to read books that help speak into my life in different ways. Recently Ric recommended a book that has spoken into my life in a very real, raw way and the honesty of the author Carlos Whittaker has been refreshing. The book, Kill the Spider, is a powerful lesson on getting to the heart of what is causing pain and destruction in your life. The biggest lesson this book has taught me so far is: I am a mess.
It’s taken four paragraphs to get here, but I want to ask you a question: is your life a mess? Have you done such a great job hiding the pain and destruction that everyone believes you? They think you have it all together but really you are falling apart inside… do you know what I mean? If not, take whatever God gives you from this blog post and have a blessed day. If you are though, I wonder… how far does the rabbit hole go?
We can lie to our spouse and our children. We can lie to our family and friends. We can lie to our therapist and our pastor. We can create that perfect facade, say all the right words, look the part, smell the part, smile and nod, and yet there is a war raging inside us that will eventually leave us bruised, battered, and broken. Surely I’m only talking to those who haven’t surrendered their life to Jesus… no, I’m talking to the faithful, devoted, passionate men and women of faith who want to follow Jesus with their whole heart, only they can’t because a big part of them is caught up in the pain.
I haven’t figured it all out yet and I become more confident each day that I won’t until I’m standing in the presence of Jesus. But while I wait for His return or for Him to call me home, I want to be whole again. I want to uncover the broken, messy, ugly parts of my life fully before Him and ask Him to do what only He can.
One Scripture that has constantly reassured me that although I’m not who I want to be, I am becoming who God is making me is Philippians 1:6: I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
Did you see it?? Read Philippians 1:6 again… God began the good work… He will continue the good work until it is finally finished! God did what I was powerless to do when He saved me through the person of Jesus. Although there is a way more theologically sound way to explain this, God became man, the Creator stepped into His creation in the person of Jesus and Jesus (fully human and fully God) did what I was powerless to do (keep God’s Law, never sin). Then, this perfect Jesus who never sinned, died for me, in my place, for my sin, so that through His sacrifice my sins would be paid for. It is when I confess Jesus as Lord and believe in my heart that God raised Him from the dead that I am saved! (Romans 10:9). So to summarize my understanding of Scripture, God did what I was powerless to do, saved me, and now He is still doing what I am powerless to do, changing me.
With all my heart I want to encourage you not to give up. I know the pain that repeated failure can bring. I know the hopelessness, the despair, and even the depression that we experience when we just can’t seem to get it right. But in Christ, we are truly free (John 8:36). Never forget that Jesus came to give us abundant life (John 10:10) so that in Him we could live victorious lives full of supernatural joy as we experience His grace and mercy.
One thing that my time with Ric, all the books I have read, and the time I’ve spent praying and studying God’s Word have lead me to believe is this: we can’t truly experience God’s freedom until we face what He is setting us free from. At one point in Scripture Paul says that although he hasn’t arrived yet, he forgets the past and looks forward to what lies ahead (Philippians 3:12-14). Often I think we use this verse to justify running from the past, hiding from it, trying to escape it, ignore it, or pretend it didn’t happen. I don’t think this is what Paul meant. The problem is obvious… no matter how fast or far you run, when you get where you are going… there you are.
What is it from your past that you need to face? What hurt is it that you tried to run from that God now wants to heal? What horror is hiding in the closet that now impacts your relationship with your spouse, your children, and those you love the most? It’s time to step into the freedom and abundant life Jesus came to give you. Face that giant, or in the words of Carlos Whittaker: it’s time to kill the spider.
I’ll leave you here because I could go on all day. You don’t have to live in this dark place of fear. It doesn’t matter if you are a pastor, Sunday school teacher, small group leader, worship team member, mom, dad, husband, wife, or whatever, don’t be afraid to face your fear. Seek out Godly men and women you can speak to and receive Biblical counseling from. In the dark, Satan has power. When we bring our deepest fears and hurts into the light, we will find greater healing than we ever knew possible. Never forget the call for each of us in Galatians 6:2: Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, anxiety, hopelessness, or despair, encourage them to seek out Biblical guidance from a qualified, trained professional. You can get immediate support by contacting the Samaritan’s Purse Crisis Center at (877) 870-4673 (text or call). Visit https://samaritanshope.org/our-services/247-crisis-services/ for more details.