For freedom Christ has set us free;
stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Everyone experiences God in different ways. Some come to Him through addiction, some come through financial difficulties; Some come through a natural born faith. More than likely, if you follow Jesus, you have faced some form of difficulty that drew you to Him. My story isn’t different from that at all.
I’ve struggled with identity my entire life. Because of that countless relationships and friendships have failed. When you are void of definition, anything the wind blows your way can and will become your god. I was a sinful man prone to despair and despondency, and when you are in a despondent state, hope is a very hard thing to see. You desire to cling to it with all your might, but the energy doesn’t exist. Hope seems fleeting, and shame puts you into the mindset that you are no longer worthy of grace. That you are not worthy of hope.That’s a huge part of my story.
I don’t know what happened in my life to pull me away from Jesus, but I do know this…He is not satisfied when His children stray away.
Before Jesus redeemed me, I lived in fear. I was a very angry, anxious, and depressed person. My version of pursuing Jesus was the pursuit of intellectualism under the veil of Christianity. But faith in Christ and love were far removed from this.
Somewhere down this path shame and anger became my identity. They were two great wrecking balls in my life and they were the veil that I wore for a very long time. Growing up, when I was submissive to the teachings of Jesus, the veil of shame wasn’t so heavy, but when I began to wander away like the sheep describe in Luke 15, It became more than I could handle.
Because of this I had the tendency to fall into despair very quickly. I ran from God because I was too ashamed to admit I had issues. I ran from other believers too. Church became very offensive and I would do anything to stay away and not be confronted with my sin. The further I strayed away from God, the more roots of shame took over my life in most every way imaginable.
I was a miserable man incapable of feeling joy. I had uncontrollable anger issues and fell into depression at the drop of a hat.I had no hope that I could ever be saved, but Jesus in His great love and mercy had other plans.
My wandering state cost me every relationship and even lead to a failed marriage. I wasn’t innocent in the failure, in fact it was largely my fault. but God has a way of working through our failures to get our attention. I’ll never pretend to understand why he chose to use this method to do so. But I do know this. I was lost. I was defined by cycles of anger, malice, hate,fear, anxiety, and depression,
But God, in His great love and mercy redeemed me.
On the second night after my marriage fell apart, the Holy Spirit began to speak life into me. I laid in my bed, too exhausted to move, too depressed to sleep, and even too tired to get up to throw up. I was lonely, scared, and broken. My sin destroyed this sacred calling. My bible stayed with me that night and ever so slightly at the urging of the spirit I could hear him telling me “Just open it. Trust me. Read it.” At this point it had been many months since I opened the word of God, but didn’t know what else to do. So submitting to the Spirit for the first time in a long time, I opened it up and began to read.
I was immediately lead to 1 Corinthians 13.
This is what it says:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith,so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things…So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
My misery began with the pursuit of the knowledge of God while I neglected His love. I was a bitter and jaded person incapable of loving anyone or accepting love. I was so controlled by my anger that it dulled every good emotion until I was consumed with self hate.
God revealed the depth of my sin in that moment. He showed me though I spoke like His child and even understood complexities of the faith, I didn’t know how to love or what love was.
Over the next year God took away a lot of the knowledge I had gained over the past 10 years and replaced it with the fruits of the Spirit. This was a very slow, painful, and surgical process and many days I felt like he was slowly killing me, but all the while His perfect love was casting out fear. He was restoring me. He tore me so that He may heal me. He struck me down and he bound me up. (Hosea 6:1)
He was the one removing deeply rooted sin in my life that I tried so many times to remove myself and failed miserably. He was removing the veil of failure and shame that was my identity, and restoring to me the joy of Salvation (Psalm 51)
He lead me to Jeremiah 29:11 A very common verse that never carried any weight for me.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
These words brought amazing comfort into my life. Surely the plans God has for me are the same plans he had for Jeremiah. He also lead me to Romans 11:33-36 through the process.
“From Him to Him and Through Him are all things…” became my battle cry. And although the pain of failure hurt, even though separation and abandonment was painful, through those two promises, I knew He was working behind the scenes on something immeasurable.
This isn’t the path I chose. It was chosen for me as a result of my sin, and God redeemed it to reclaim His lost son. Though I didn’t choose this path, I couldn’t imagine not traveling it. It has been a very rough road, but our Father, who is rich in steadfast love and mercy, is the God who redeems. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.
Because of what Jesus has done in my life, I am now able to stand firm in the freedom that Christ has given and extend the invitation into that freedom to others. I am no longer defined by waves of depression, fear, anger, or anxiety. I am a child of God. I am proof that Christ will set you free.
So friends, When I write about fighting despondency, It comes from the overflow of what God has done in my life. It comes out of the love and mercy that He has shown me. I want you all to know that even in the hardest of trials and darkest of depressions or pinnacle of anxieties, there is always a bigger picture taking place with God.
There is always a master plan, and there are countless second chances given to us at the Cross.
I am thankful for a God who redeems all things. I am thankful that in Him there is no condemnation and that He is working all things out for the good of those who love him and work according to his purpose. I am thankful for the Joy of His Salvation!
I pray that this story is full of hope, because we serve a Holy God who restores the broken and binds up their wounds, and the story is long from over.