Our choices – they’re powerful things, more so than we think.
Lately, things have been tough, I’ve made a lot of mistakes, been a bit of a git to people, and some of my old fears and doubts had risen their ugly heads, the “am I a REAL Christian?” kind of thoughts. I’m looking to really step out and make a positive difference in the world, so maybe I’ve been undergoing what we Christian types refer to as “attack of the enemy”; the Bible describes the devil as like a “hungry lion” looking to devour with lies, deception, temptation and other nefarious weapons, to cut people down and tell them they’re worthless.
Although I enjoyed church this morning, really felt fresh coming out, by the evening was pretty down again. I went along to X:alt (I think that’s how it’s spelled; someone at Woody Baptist must like namespacing!), feeling desperate to hear from God. Mostly, if I’m honest, to take away the fear and confusion, but also, more honourably, to get equipped to live a good live and also just to spend some time with Him. The Bible says “better is one day in the house of the Lord than thousands elsewhere”, and this has been my experience too – those short moments of His presence I’ve experienced in this world eclipse all else.
Anyway, it was a lovely, unconventional, free-form evening, as far from a service as you could get. Unfortunately, the fist in my chest of fears, doubts, anxiety, self-obsession and general nastiness was sitting like a toad in a stone, and no matter how I tried I couldn’t shake it.
Thankfully, towards the end of the services, help was at hand.
A young man called Justin came over and asked if I’d like prayer, and I eagerly consented, before spilling out a potted history of my life and issues. He prayed for me, and I had the most incredible experience. Justin said he’d received a picture (we believe that sometimes God puts people visions or images on people’s minds). He described me as a mountaineer, carrying a heavy burden, and how I’d been climbing the mountain of faith, but kept slipping or getting knocked down, but crucially, I’d been GETTING BACK UP, and that God was proud of me, and that I WOULD reach the summit.
I’ve never even dared hope that God could feel proud of someone like me. I know He loves me, but I find it easier to picture Him as listing my wrongs, which I know is a twisted image on my part, but knowing isn’t always quite knowing deep down it seems! Being told that just unlocked something in me.
And the tears came. And I shook. As Justin and Chris (one of the elders) carried on praying for me, I sweated, my body felt like it was fizzing, I was shaking a little – it is hard to describe. I shouted out in tongues (the gift of tongues is a direct prayer language from a person’s soul to God; it is not usually something you understand as you say it), and cried out praise. At that moment, I experienced God’s love, His hope for my life, and a glimpse of purpose, fulfilment and truth.
If you’re reading this as someone who knows me in passing, some of this probably comes as a surprise; I’m not a great example of a Christian what with my propensity towards swears, beer, making off-colour jokes, and the fact that I basically get punched in the face for fun ;-). I’m not the finished article though – tonight made one thing abundantly clear – God has not finished with me yet! Clearly, I mustn’t give up on myself and must not let myself be discouraged!
If you’re reading this and are a Christian who is or has been or will be struggling (which covers all of us at some time or another!), be encouraged. If you have a heart to seek God, you WILL find Him. This is no flippant statement; I’ve been through years of dry desert times, had times of wandering of the right track, had fears that nearly consumed me, harboured doubts that rocked me, but through it all, He has been faithful, and I’m still trying to draw closer to Him.
Funny how Justin’s willingness to respond to the spiritual prompting to approach a guy he didn’t know had such a powerful result. Through his courage, God has changed my life for the better. If he hadn’t stepped out, I might have returned home a much less hopeful person!