Let Go of the Pain and Focus On Me

Today the thought hit me like a ton of bricks… it was as if Jesus Himself was talking directly to me: “are you going to let go of the pain and focus on Me?” As the thought came to my mind I typed it out so I wouldn’t forget it. Once I typed it out, I found it hard to say it out loud.

Just over 3 years ago on March 11th of 2017 a moment in my life happened that has impacted all future moments up to this point. On that day as my family and I rode in the car on our way to a spring break filled with wonderful family time, my world came crashing down. What started as an exciting family vacation ended up in a massive car wreck that killed my four year old daughter Brynleigh and ultimately claimed the life of my late wife Cassie 16 days later.

Even three years later I can clearly remember waking up in the smoking car with blood flowing in my mouth, glass and steel laid shattered around me. The wreck came so quickly and violently that I never saw the RV coming from behind us. As we sat at a complete stop on the highway because of a wreck ahead of us, the wreck that would try to destroy me unfolded.

So back to Jesus’ question to me today… that pain that He is asking me to let go of, every part of my heart and spirit fight to hold onto it. It isn’t the pain that I want to keep, it’s the memories of the love that was stolen from me in that moment. In a deep connection I’ve only began to understand today, letting go of that pain feels like letting go of them. Jesus is asking me to release what I’ve convinced myself is the last part of them I have, and I’m scared.

Slowly over the past three years a series of peeks and valleys has left me exhausted from a spiritual roller-coaster I still don’t fully understand. Over and over I’ve tried to convince myself that this pain gives me power. A power to connect with hurting people. But the thought occurs to me… this thing I thought gave me power is leading to paralysis. I sit paralyzed by the desperate hope that I can hold onto my precious daughter and my late wife. Somehow feeling an overwhelming sense I’ll betray them if I lay this pain down, so I cry.

As I wrestle to hold on to the pain that Jesus wants to take away, a deeper struggle lays beneath the surface. I punish myself over and over with thoughts and feelings of regret. I am ashamed of how I failed Cassie as her husband. How I failed to love her or honor her the way she deserved. As tears fill my eyes I ask her for forgiveness over and over again. I’ll never get a chance to tell her how sorry I am that I didn’t love her the way she deserved. 

I fight the feeling that if I punish myself that my pain and suffering may gain me penance for my sin. So I refuse to push deeper into the forgiveness and grace that Jesus extends me. I belong here. I deserve this pain. I don’t deserve to be happy. I don’t deserve to be filled with His joy or peace. I deserve to suffer. 

As the fog of grief and despair clear from my mind, as the tears dry and my mind thinks clearly of God’s truths, I see the merry-go-round I’ve been riding, fully unaware of the battle I’ve lost daily. Today, I make the choice to lay down this pain, in Jesus name and by the power of God knowing that the joy and peace God wants to shower on me is on the horizon.

Though the joy I seek still seems far away, I can feel it slowly rising. I can be happy. Jesus came to give me life, abundant life. I have been forgiven for the failures and sins of every yesterday. My identity is not in this pain but in the person of Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus, I hold onto the promises of God. Today I choose to leave this pain at the feet of Jesus. I will still hold onto every wonderful memory of you both as I long for the day we are reunited. Until we meet again, I love you both. 

Running in Quicksand

Recently I have experienced a onslaught of spiritual attacks that have caused me great despair throughout my life. The Scripture reminds us that our struggle is not a physical struggle only but a spiritual one (Ephesians 6:12) and I must confess, I feel like I have lost many more battles than I’ve won. In my time walking as a follower of Jesus, I have often quoted the Scriptures that tell us that our faith filled life is like a race (Hebrews 12:1) or a war (1 Timothy 1:18) and tried to remind myself to be a good solider (2 Timothy 3:5). Today, I want to confess: I’m tired.

Hebrews 12:1 tells us: let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. If I’m being honest, lately I feel like I’ve been running in quicksand. The pressure has mounted and I feel like I will crumble in my weakness. It is here, in the midst of my deepest weakness that the reminder echos in my heart: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Throughout 2019 and well into 2020 I’ve found myself saying “I’m trying”. I’m trying to be a better husband, a better father, a more faithful servant, to eat right, to live a more vibrant, Christ honoring life. I’m trying. Honestly I’ve reached a point where I am tired of trying, but I wonder if that’s the point. As I continue to focus on what I can do, as I continue to examine my own life in light of my own strength, I am taking my eyes off Jesus. In some ways, maybe I’ve been running the race, but I’ve failed to keep my eyes on Jesus. Hebrews continues: fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

As I’ve found myself running in quicksand, I’ve also found myself taking my eyes off Jesus and somehow thinking I can finish this work that He has started. Scripture reminds us that the One who started a good work in us (the Holy Spirit) will continue that work until the very end of time as we know it (Philippians 1:6). 

To every follower of Jesus that feels weary and tired, you aren’t alone. Jesus has promised to never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) and encourages us to come to Him in our weakest moments to find true rest (Matthew 11:28). At some point, each of us will come to the end of our own strength. When you find yourself trying to run in quicksand, fix your eyes on Jesus and cry out to Him, He will strengthen you and help you bare whatever burdens your facing.

Whatever you do, do not lose heart (Hebrews 12:3). Do not give up (Galatians 6:9). Keep fighting the good fight. Rest in the presence of Jesus. Never forget: we aren’t fighting for victory, we are fighting from victory.

Special note from the author: If you’ve read the words I’ve written today, but you don’t read and mediate on the Scripture, nothing will change. My words cannot change your life. The Scriptures I’ve shared though can change everything (Hebrews 4:12).

Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV) – Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Is this the Beginning of the End?

As the virus known as COVID-19 or Coronavirus continues to ravage its way across the world, this question has come to my mind on more than one occasion: is this the beginning of the end? The purpose of this blog post is not to discuss eschatology, the study of end times prophecy and events. The purpose of this message is to share a very important truth: regardless of when Jesus returns, we should be actively sharing the Gospel with the world. We should continually be discipling other followers of Jesus.

Anyone who has known me since I gave my life to Jesus in September of 2011 has likely experienced the passion and excitement I once had as I studied prophecy and end times events. There was a time where I spent countless hours reading prophetic news events from around the world, visited end times prophecy websites and forums, and studied the Scriptures thinking Jesus would return at any moment. Then, something happened along the way… I became almost consumed with “looking up” for Jesus that I became paralyzed with inaction serving Him here.

Lest you misunderstand me, the study of Scripture is of critical importance for every follower of Jesus and should be a daily discipline. So we are clear, Jesus thought His second coming was important enough to speak about the end of days on more than one occasion. Plainly said, I encourage every person to take a honest look at Matthew 24 and Luke 21 to understand an important truth: Jesus is coming again. The events that He said would happen are beginning to happen; and just as the “birth pains” increase until a child is born, so the events Jesus told us would increase in measure and intensity will continue to do so until His coming.

So back to my question, is this the beginning of the end? The answer is “I don’t know”. Only the Father does… (Matthew 24:36) When Jesus told us to “look up” because our redemption is drawing near (Luke 21:28), what Jesus was not saying was to become so mesmerized  by these events that we stopped serving Him. Is Jesus coming again? Without a doubt. Should that excite us? Most certainly! Should that change how we act or serve Him? Most definitely! It should increase our urgency, passion, and resolve.

The purpose of this message is to share from the painful lesson I’ve learned. To my brothers and sisters in Christ around the world, let the Master find us at work when He returns. If that’s this week or 100 years from now, let us be faithful in taking the Gospel to the nations. Don’t get so caught up on being “caught up” (raptured) that you forget the world that God so loved He gave His only Son (John 3:16) not wanting any to perish (2 Peter 3:9).