When old struggles wage war

We all have different things we struggle with throughout life. Sometimes we think we’ve defeated our struggles only to have them spring to life again. It can be extremely discouraging to suddenly come face to face with an old battle you thought you’ve already won. Recently, I found myself in this situation. There are more things I struggle with than I care to admit, but there are two that always far surpass the rest- feelings of inadequacy and jealousy. 

My greatest struggle with them occurred in middle school and high school, so much so that those years were shrouded in depression and darkness. I started gaining control over them in college when I grew in my understanding of Christ and my identity that’s grounded in him. I still felt the sting of it from time to time, but, for the most part, I was able to bounce back pretty quickly with no real harm done. 

Over the past 6 months or so both of them started to creep their way back in, but I was able to mostly keep them at bay. Last week, they hit full force. I was face to face with them and there was nothing I could do but confront them head on. They were here to wage war. It was terrifying and extremely unpleasant. The Lord has been revealing a lot to me the past few months. He’s stretched me in ways I didn’t think was possible. None of it was very comfortable. However, this, by far, was the most painful. Here I was staring at old battles I thought were (almost) long gone. How in the world could this still be an issue? Haven’t I grown out of it by now? 

As with all struggles, there are always underlying issues. Everything we battle with day to day is a symptom of a much greater problem. When I came face to face with mine last week, immediately I knew there was something deeper going on. Why am I feeling inadequate? Why am I jealous? What’s the real issue here? After taking time to reflect, I discovered two things. 

First, I realized I am deeply lacking trust in the Lord. Really, most (if not all) of our issues boil down to the fact that we don’t really trust God. All throughout scripture he has revealed himself and has proven himself faithful to his word. He shows us he is God, he makes commandments and promises, yet we constantly turn away from him. Why? Because we don’t really trust him. Look at the fall. Right at the beginning of all things we see this play out. God revealed himself to Adam and Eve, he made commandments, he made promises. He had set up this perfect world for Adam and Eve to enjoy. But, look at what happens next. Satan, with all his cunning, comes on the scene- ‘Did God really say?’ In that instance, there was a questioning of God’s authority and character. There was a planting of the seed of distrust. God said those things, but maybe he didn’t really mean them. Maybe he isn’t faithful or good or trustworthy. 

Last week when everything came to a head, I realized my err and faulty thinking. All through scripture God has said and reminded us that we are created in his image- that our true worth and value and importance can only be found in him and the work of Christ on the cross. Yet, I found myself asking, ‘did God really say?’ I was questioning his authority and faithfulness. I was failing to really believe him. Not only was I failing to trust him, I was actually placing my trust in man. I was basing my value and importance on what man was telling me (or at least my perception of it) instead of what God has already made plain to me through his word.

Second, this situation has made me realize I have a real sense of entitlement. I believe I deserve certain things far more than I actually do. Truth be told, what I really deserve (as well as everyone else) is wrath and punishment. I don’t deserve any blessings or gifts. Because of my sin, I should receive God’s righteous judgement. Thankfully, God provided the payment for my sin through the precious blood of Christ. I have received salvation through his death and resurrection. However, shamefully, I sometimes feel this is not enough. As if this unimaginable gift is not already greatly undeserved, I have the nerve to think I should actually get more. I look around at what other people have and think,  ‘Wait a minute. I should have that. I deserve it way more than they do.’ I feel like I’ve paid my dues or l have lived a certain way in which God now owes me some reward. I have failed to truly understand and believe that even if I had NOTHING in terms of material/earthly things, I have far more than I ever deserve in Christ. God owes me nothing, least of all Christ. Yet, he offered him anyway. 

So, what is the solution when you come face to face with your struggles and heart issues? Honestly, I don’t have a cut and dry answer. It’s a messy process without any real steps. I do know it involves lots of tears. It involves stripping your heart bare before the Lord so he can cut it and shape it and make it what he will. It involves preaching the gospel to yourself everyday, reminding yourself of what Christ did for you on the cross. It involves pleading and begging God for restoration and genuine trust in him. It involves realizing this is not an overnight, quick fix. In fact, this side of eternity, we will never be completely free of our struggles and failures. We are still marred by sin. Sometimes, one of the best things we can do is tell ourselves we will continue to fail and succumb to our struggles this side of heaven. We must guard ourselves against the lie that somehow we, as followers of Christ, are supposed to have it all together and never endure the trials of this world. Yes, we have found victory in Christ and we have a future hope of the things to come, but  that does not change the fact we are still part of this fallen world. We will still stumble and fall. But, we will also grow and be refined in the process. We are constantly being sanctified through the work of the Holy Spirit.

I’m still fighting the battle that hit full force last week. There has definitely been some progress, but there’s still more to be overcome. In everything the Lord has taken me through the last few months, I have gained a greater understand of who he is and who I am as his child. It’s had its ugly and painful moments. But, oh, the richness of his goodness and faithfulness that’s been revealed through it all. 

It’s not the end of the world

It’s no secret that it’s becoming harder and harder to hold to traditional biblical beliefs and values in our culture. There are so many political and legal things going on right now that point to this fact. I’ve seen a range of reactions from Christians about this. There are those that seem pretty indifferent to all of it and have more of the ‘it’s no big deal’ attitude. Then, more prevalently, there are those who are angry and anxious about it and seem to have lost all hope. Both reactions are problematic. 

First, we should definitely care what’s going on in our country in regards to this. Perhaps things do not appear so grim right now, but, make no mistake, these issues are a trajectory of where things are leading. We shouldn’t be flippant about it. We need to be aware that things are only going to get worse.

However, we shouldn’t be worried and full of despair, either. First of all, God is sovereign. Even if these things were out of the blue or sudden, he is in control and is not at all taken by surprise. Let’s stop acting like God is somehow losing his grip on his creation. He’s not. The truth of the matter is that we really shouldn’t be surprised by these things at all. I think we have become so comfortable with our freedom that we have forgotten we are not of this world. Scripture is very clear that Christians who stand for the truth of Christ will not be tolerated by the world and, in fact, will be hated because of it (Matt 10:22). Peter goes as far as to say we should never be surprised by our trials, but instead we should actually rejoice in them (1 Peter 4:12,13). Look at the early church in Acts. They were beaten (some killed) for the sake of the gospel, yet never despaired. Even after they were beaten for preaching the gospel, they not only rejoiced in it, but went back out and continued doing it (Acts 5:40-42)! (No, I am not saying what we are going through now can be compared to what they were going through then. I’m saying they had it MUCH worse than we did and still never lost hope.) In the rest of Acts we can even see a direct correlation between persecution and the furthering of the gospel. God, in his complete sovereignty, uses the world’s hate as a means to display his glory and further his kingdom.
Therefore, it is absolutely ridiculous for us to be overcome with anxiety or fear over the current state of our country. We should care, for sure. But, worrying is completely counter to how we should be reacting to it. Instead, we need to calm down and breathe. We need to pray for our country. We need to pray for strength. But, above all, we need to pray that the Lord will move and work in whatever way he will in order to bring himself the most glory. 
I know this comes as a complete shock to some, but life is not about us. It’s about God’s glory. We need to quit worrying so much about self-preservation and, instead, be focused on how we can further the kingdom. It’s really not the end of the world. But, even if it is, don’t forget who’s in control of it. (Hint: not us.) God is completely sovereign over all things. Our duty, as believers, is to trust him and be prepared to live out his truth in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. 
‘Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.’ I Peter 4:19