Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Christianity - not a crutch for the weak

I've seen this statement brandished around quite regularly about how Christianity is supposedly a crutch for the weak minded who need to believe in something to help them get through. Christians are often branded as being spineless, gutless wimps.

When I was very young, this was the sort of idea of faith that I followed. Jesus was a weak, timid little man who told us to love our enemies and turn the other cheek when they abuse us so that we can allow injustice to come upon ourselves so that we may "suffer as he has suffered." Unsurprisingly, this belief was very destructive to my mental health and lead to many years of rebellion, frustration and confusion.

When I first became a Christian I tried to be as nice as possible to everyone and show what a good person I was and what a good person I had become while still holding years of unresolved turmoil in my life. I would be the nicest person in the world - until something bad happened and I would either shut down and retreat into a quivering mass of fear or explode into a violent rage, all the while believing that God expected me to be good and just keep the deep darkness within me hidden and managed.

I expected my Christian life to be easy and a continued distraction from my inner darkness. This was not to be. Life didn't get easier - it got harder and harder. But through the hardship I learned how to begin to face the darkness and how to work through it. It was hard and excruciatingly painful at times but I simply had to do it or I would never get better. I learned not to be afraid of working through the pain and that it was necessary.

I realized throughout all this that being a Christian was far from easy. Having to fight against and break through things that others just skip over is not an easy task by any means. Weak minded people may be able to use religion as a crutch, but without guts, determination and a reliance on the grace of God they would never survive in true Christianity. Learning to embrace pain as a friend, learning to love and show grace even when you feel it is not deserved and learning to honestly face the mirror is not a process for the weak minded and the weak willed.

Jesus was not a weak minded, passive guy who looked like a female with a beard as I once thought. Jesus was a carpenter. I've worked on a building site before and I know what carpenters are like. They are no pushovers. They are tough, hard working characters. I would say Jesus was probably built like a truck. So much is made of the kind and gentle side of Jesus which is indeed true, but not as much is made of the other side of Him, which is the tough, bawdy side. What about when Jesus gave the religious leaders of His time a right royal bollocking in front of everyone? Or when He went into the temple and threw the tables over? Doesn't sound to me like something a weak, fearful person would do. He did not die because He was too weak to fight back. He willingly laid down His life out of unconditional love so that those who hated Him might have a chance at eternal life. Is that something a weak, spineless person could do? Somehow I don't think so.

God wants to see His face in our character. Yes, this does involve being meek (not weak - there is a difference) and loving. But it also involves being clear headed, decisive, strong and unafraid to fight for our convictions. Those attributes cannot be performed by those who are weak. I came to Christ as someone terrified of my own shadow who would masquerade as a "nice person" to get people to like me. Now, after years of healing, I am more confrontational, bolder and stronger than I have ever been. Does this mean I am a bad person? No, it means that God has been working on me to make me a strong warrior like He wants me to be.

God is not weak as people seem to think He is. Nor are His true followers weak - the ones who decided to follow Him through thick and thin.

Be strong and take care.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Listen for God's voice

If there is one thing that has got me through the last 10 years in my Christian walk, it's been about learning to identify and obey the voice of God. I want to share a bit about different ways that He speaks to us as His children and why His word is most important above all else.

The main way that He speaks to me is usually just through a still, small voice in my soul that I just know hasn't come from me, and it's like it brings all of my other thoughts to a complete standstill. For example - once I was praying about a job that I was failing in miserably due to a poor work environment and the job being completely unsuited for me. I was frustrated and angry and asking God why I wasn't succeeding in this role and He simply said "Maybe you aren't supposed to succeed in this role." Sure enough, He was right and success was not His plan for me in that awful job but rather learning about perseverance through difficulty.

God also speaks to His people through dreams. Just recently I was sound asleep and in my dream it's like I was talking with God about my struggles and He kept encouraging me to open up to Him about what I was feeling. I managed to address some strongly rooted issues in my own inner struggles while in the middle of a God inspired dream. This insight that I gained while I was asleep helped me to process and continue to heal some of the tension that has kept me so highly strung for so long and is now finally unraveling.

Someone once told me many years ago that I will face many critics over the years and people trying to sway me from the path that I was on but when that happens I need to hear the voice of God. The path I have been on has been a path to finding inner healing and it's come through digging into the heart of my deepest and most painful struggles to unpack and unravel what is there. Many have told me that I am focusing on the negative and that I need to stop being so morbid and turn my focus to positive things and that I'm making things worse by what I am doing, but I have continued to hear God's voice encouraging me to continue to go down the path I was walking down and that it was what I was meant to be doing.

I've learned that nothing is more important than hearing the voice of God and obeying what He says when it comes to different situations. If others disagree with you then so be it - it's not between you and them but between you and God and if doing what He wants you to do pisses other people off, then they can go and take it up with Him. God doesn't always speak the way that we expect Him to and He doesn't always say what we think He should say - but He says everything for a reason.

His reasons for saying things can be different to how we interpret them. Shortly before I went through complete burnout last year, God put someone on my heart very strongly and no matter how much I protested, God would not let me let this person go so I began to place my hopes and dreams upon this person as I believed that they were going to be an important part of my future. God never actually said that they were going to be an important part of my future but based on His refusal to allow me to let them go I began to believe that they were. Shortly before I collapsed through burnout it became strikingly apparent that the future I had been believing for due to hearing from God was not going to happen and due to my already fragile mental state I crashed completely.

I had not heard wrong as God had encouraged me to hold onto the hope that I once had but His reasons were different from mine. I know I heard His voice and I was obedient right till the end. I thought I was going to be blessed but God used my obedience to His voice to break my hopes and dreams for this future I believed in so that I would break completely. It sounds horrible and it was traumatizing at the time to say the least but I have come to realize that it needed to happen for my sake because I needed the time off to get my first ever proper rest and I couldn't heal completely without breaking completely first.

What I learned from all of this was to listen for what God has to say and don't immediately assume you know why He is going to say it as His purposes are greater than ours and He might set us up for a totally different outcome than we expected. But if we listen for Him and obey Him, He will protect us (even if it means we have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death as I did) and He will see us through.

Take care.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Be still and know that I am God.

I'm writing this blog mainly as an encouragement to myself at the moment. My recovery from burnout has slowed down greatly recently and although change is coming in the not too distant future as I am about to move into a new place, very little else is happening. I'm not getting any words from God about much of anything these days and it's frustrating at times to say the least.

Psalms 46:10 says "Be still and know that I am God." This simply means that even when we can't see it, important things that we currently know nothing about are happening behind the scenes. I remember an old lyric from a DC Talk song that says "God is always working." This is very true and He works even when we can't see it.

I remember when I worked as a junior account manager for a big IT firm up in Auckland. People would write or call me and ask for quotes and I'd tell them I'd email them with the details. Then they'd go off and do something else while I got to work on this for them. Just because they couldn't see what I was doing, didn't mean I wasn't doing anything and eventually once I'd finished all of the research etc I needed for their quotation I'd email it off to them and they would read the fruits of my labors in preparing this information for them.

I sort of look at God the same way. We can ask for things at times such as a wife/husband, a new job, a direction or something else like that and if it's God's will I believe He sets to work on those things. Sometimes He gives us specific instructions about things we need to do in order to help these things along but when He doesn't I believe Psalms 46:10 applies. Be still and know that I am God. I'm not asking you to do anything because I have it in hand and I am doing things My way at My time.

God works on the things that He knows we need and that we have asked Him for in much the same way I worked on those quotes for customers. They didn't call me every 5 minutes and ask what I was doing or if I'd forgotten about them or remind me of what they wanted because they trusted me to get the information off to them and in the end their trust was rewarded. God asks the same of us. To sit back and trust Him with the things that we need and to believe that things are always in motion on our behalf even if we can't see them.

It can be frustrating, especially when it takes longer than we want and may not work out exactly as we had planned, but that's when we need to know that God knows best. I'm having to remind myself of that constantly at the moment due to how slowly life is moving for me. Even though I can't see things changing for me right now there are things happening behind the scenes that God is doing for me and things He is preparing that I know nothing whatsoever about. But I don't need to know right now. All I need to do is sit back and know that He is God.