Spiritual confusion


A few weeks ago I had the privilege to read Grace is for Sinners by Serena Woods. I say “privilege” because this autobiographical book gives a look into some very difficult aspects of Serena’s life and she presents them with grace, honesty, and humility.

Serena, although being a Christian, made some choices that did not adhere to the standards the Lord has given to us and she is transparent about the choices she made, the effects of her sin, and what the results have been in her life. Serena, while married, became involved with a married man and committed adultry. The results of her moral failures shattered her life, her relationships, and shook her faith to the core. She honestly tells about the questions she asked, the struggles she walked through, and the reactions she received from others.

This book holds some very powerful messages if people are willing to listen. For those who have made choices that led them into sin, Serena talks about coming to terms with those decisions and accepting that although she never thought she was capable of this type of sin it was now her story. For those who have faced rejection, banishment, or judgement from other Christians when they needed love, there is a message of understanding, and some direction for how someone might overcome the pain and the disillusionment. For those who want to provide safe, loving, and redemptive places for those who have been hurt or who want to be restored after sin, this book gives a fantastic glimpse of the pain and suffering someone may go through and the issues they may wrestle through in coming back to faith.

Serena is honest about the struggle she faced to accept her own sin, and to find some message of hope. She knew that she had made mistakes, but longed to set things right and to be restored to faith. The honest and authentic approach to her quest for resources, words of encouragement, and places of truth and hope provide the reader with a heartfelt understanding of her pain and desire to change.

Serena’s answer to her pain, her sin, and her quest for answer led her straight to the Word of God. Scripture became her place of truth, and strength as she looked for answers. That message above all others is the one that I believe we need to hear. She didn’t find the answers in the sinful relationship with the man she became involved with. She didn’t find the answers in the words or support of friends and family. She didn’t find the answers in books, podcasts, journaling, or attending church services. She found her answers, her hope, her path toward righteousness and restoration by turning to God’s word and learning about God in new ways. Her relationship with Him became the most important thing. She now knows that her lack of relationship and understanding of the Lord kept her from recovering, and through growing in her knowledge of God and scripture she now has a firm foundation that drives her life, her recovery, and her quest for hope and purpose. She is now a living testimony that God can redeem lives. She is now a living testimony that Grace is for Sinners, and she is developing a faith that will be immovable. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). Serena is a witness to the power of grace and its power to change lives.

I commend Serena for her honest and authentic and transparent presentation of this time in her life. She does an amazing job of sharing the hardships and pain that her own decisions led to, and how difficult it was to return. She also presents us with hope that returning from a place of devastation and rock bottom is possible.

Thank you Serena for the message of hope and the witness of the Lord’s restoration.

It truly was a privilege to hear your story, and to see God at work in your life!

Check out Serena’s blog at http://www.graceisforsinners.com/

There is an old hymn where the chorus says, “Trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.”

The hymn comes from Psalm 84:11-12. Verse 12 reads, “O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.”

Are you trusting and obeying? Or are you obeying and then trusting?

There is a difference!

Placing obedience before trust means we are living to try to please God through our actions, we are trying to “earn” our salvation and our identity in Christ. That just isn’t possible. It was already given to us as a gift and it is ours. We can’t earn it when we already own it. We just need to learn to walk in it.

If we do not start with trusting God, especially with trusting what he says about who we are and where our identity comes from we end up trusting in our own abilities, resources, skills, mindset, etc.

Trusting the Lord isn’t about earning our place. It isn’t about offering a sacrifice. It isn’t about performing and doing all the right things.

Trusting is about accepting, receiving, embracing, and believing.

Most of us are living this out backwards. We are living out the obedience before the trust. How would it affect your life if you switched and started living out of trust, a trust that then leads you to obedience?

I just finished rereading Faithquake by Doug Herman. Doug was a pastor when his wife was diagnosed with HIV. Later his daughter also contracted HIV and he and their son Josh lost wife/mother and daughter/sister within a short time period. The HIV came through a blood transfusion, through blood donated by someone who was participating in homosexual partnerships. The illness, journey, and loss of his family shook his faith and left him questioning things he had never looked at before.

There were times Doug wanted to give up.

There were times Doug was unsure about what he believed.

There were times when Doug was shaken.

“Quitting seems all too common today. Look at the divorce and suicide rates. Obviously many people are not content with their lives.  The actions range from dramatic to insignificant, but they are indicative of people who do not follow through.  And tempting though it was to give it all up during our Faithquake, Evon and I decided to stand.  For us that meant enduring the thoughtless a reactions of people.  It meant to we would continually seek medications and treatments in conjunction with our prayers for healing.  We had decided to stay and in our faith, continuing to seek god and worship him as Lord even though we didn’t understand him.  We could easily have given up, and though we were greatly tempted at times to do so, we stood instead.  Above all, in our efforts to stay, we had to fight another enormous temptation: spiritual anemia.”

“Anemia is a condition of the blood where a deficiency of hemoglobin accompanied by reduced red blood cell counts causes of weakness and breathlessness.  Anemia is expressed physically in decreased power, vigor, and vitality.  Spiritual anemia has parallel symptoms.  They are even more serious than the physical ones because they are soul-deep – of eternal significance.  This spiritually anemic person lacks the power, enthusiasm, and endurance of soul required not only to endure a Faithquake but to rebuild after having one.” (p70-71)

“If, in the face of crisis, you and I are anemic in the spiritual sense, we need a transfusion.  This must come from one who has already encountered the disease of sin and subdued it.  We need the blood of and overcomer-Jesus Christ.” (p73)

“When we experience a shaking in life, we feel it emotionally and struggle with that intellectually.  But spiritually we can survive intact when we live our lives in God’s presence.  This is the deep, inner communion with God where spiritual truths are found and strengthened.  It is here that we abide in the presence of Christ.  It is here that we cannot be shaken.  Sad to say, we often allow our spiritual security to find its foundation in elements other than Christ himself.  We may have all the training and heritage of Christianity, but we have never personally anchored our soul onto this immovable rock.  This is a situation I found myself in when we discovered that Evon was HIV positive.  I had been taught about Christ.  I knew him as savior and lord but not yet as Rock.  Thus, I was shaken.” (p88)

Doug chose to stand, stay, and believe. So should we!

Do you believe in Christ as Lord and Savior? Have you anchored your life to him as the rock that provides you stability in the storms of life?

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (Psalm 23:1-5)

One of the battles I fought in my journey of disillusionment was that of spiritual confusion. Often spiritual concepts didn’t make sense to me and I would try to sort things out but my mind honestly could not sort through the issues and come a place or peace. Sometimes people thought I was causing the issues by not trusting or by being controlling but spiritual confusion is a true condition that we can suffer from which keeps us from thinking, hearing, and receiving clearly.

I have already written about how we can have power over our thoughts. I have learned two scriptural truths that help us to overcome spiritual confusion. The first is found in Psalm 23:5. The passages says “You anoint my head with oil”. The oil that is referred to is likely what shepherds used to care for their sheep. They placed oil around the mouths of their sheep to prevent flies from laying eggs in the moist areas around their mouths. If the eggs were laid they would drive the sheep mad as the eggs hatched. Sheep would bang their heads on things and do anything they could to find relief from the infestation. Spiritual confusion is an infestation we can experience. The enemy lays eggs of confusion and disillusionment causing us to feel cloudy, confused, depressed, frustrated, and in discord with others in the body of Christ. We need the Lord’s oil not just around our mouths like the sheep but on our head, on our brain and spirit to keep us from being infested with the enemies lies.

Once we have that oil on our head and spirit there is another tool we can use to protect us even further, the helmet of salvation.

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:16-17)

The helmet of salvation goes on over our head. It protects us by giving us assurance that we are saved. With the protection of the helmet we can stand firm knowing that our heads are protected from attack. It has already been made clean and clear by the work of Christ, and the helmet protects us from doubting and faltering in our faith about that. It keeps our head clear from further attack.

Spiritual confusion is a debilitating condition. It locks us in darkness, confusion, and despair. Christ came though to heal the sick, to save the lost, to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and to release prisoners from darkness.

His oil can set us free. His helmet can keep us free.

I am walking with a friend right now who is going through a similar depression, spiritual struggle, and crisis to what I experience 10-12 months ago. For the last couple months she has been through an incredibly dark time that has been one of the hardest seasons of her life. She has struggled to hear God, to have confidence in her faith, and has been emotionally distraught and stressed.

When I went through this time last year I tried to express it to my pastor, but he didn’t understand.

When I expressed my struggle I was told I needed to trust the Lord and go through the motions. I was told that we do not need to understand everything and that I needed to attend fellowship even if it was an uncomfortable place for me (since all we did was hang out and have dinner but no spiritual fellowship and I was in such spiritual need).

  • My friend’s pastor has advised her to take the time she needs, to let us know how we can help, and those who know and love her are reaching out to her and offering support so she does not need to initiate.

When I expressed that I was having questions about my faith and understanding about God/Christianity and wondered if I had some misconceptions I was told that I was not a believer because I was doubting.

  • My friend has expressed her struggle and has been told that others will stand with her, help her to work through questions she has, and that because of the Gospel we will never let her go or reject her.

When I asked for support and resources I was told that all I needed was within the local church. I was discouraged from reaching outside that church.

  • My friend’s pastor encouraged her to find a counselor and now she is on medication to help with anxiety and depression.

When I wanted to share with others to get support I was told that I could not share my struggles because it involved miscommunication with the pastor and would cause disunity in the body.

  • My friend’s pastor has encouraged her to share how she is doing and invite others into her journey and struggle so she has people around her praying for her, uplifting her, and supporting her.

When I was in crisis and expressed that to my pastor he never responded and neither did others in the community, and a month later I was told that I was not allowing him to speak into my life so I was sinning by being unsubmissive and was excommunicated from the church.

  • Today my friend expressed that she is not able to serve in a way she had committed to for a ministry. Others have come around her to not only fill in the gap but to minister to her in deeper ways.

I know I walked one of these paths as the person in need and one as the person walking alongside, but the two stories are very, very different. One story led to anguish, pain, rejection, and abandonment. One has led to support, community, unity, strength, and empowerment. My friend’s story is not done yet and I do not know the outcome, but I know that God is actively involved and ministering to her. I know that he is involved and being called upon by a community that is standing with her. I know that he is being allowed to minister to her because her community of Christian friends (that goes far beyond her local church) are standing with her in prayer, strength, and hope.

It is amazing to see the people of God stand together when there is a need!

One of the areas I still struggle with in my recovery and healing is missing those I love so deeply and am no longer allowed to have relationship with. Others have made decisions about my life in a manner that control my ability to have open and free relationships which is hard. I don’t think that is God’s heart at all. He so desires for us to share in rich relationships, forgive and reconcile, and to love others no matter how hard. He never gives up on us and he doesn’t want us to give up on others.

This weekend has been an incredible time of healing and new steps forward for me. I am learning how to let my past die and be buried with Christ, and to open up myself to brand new opportunities. I am taking big steps forward in faith, surrender, and opening myself up to God in ways I have never been willing to before. It is exciting, hopeful, and yet scary also. I miss having people in my life to share times like this with. Some of my new friends would care, but not truly understand. I wish others who have known where I was could see me today. That wish does not come from a heart that wants to show off, put down others, or cause any pain. I just am so excited about the healing and hope God has given to me and I want to proclaim it and share it. I want God to be glorified! I want others to find the healing and hope that I have because after 4-1/2 years walking the hell I lived in spiritual confusion and pain I want to help others out of the confusion and disillusionment.

I was just listening to a version of The Heart of Worship by Matt Redman and there was a part of the song where it said, “You will not share your glory with another.” I guess that is what God is teaching me this morning. This is about him, all about him and about his glory. My recovery and healing is not in any way due to man, and no part of it is due to me! I am healed. I have new life. I am living testimony of a God who loves, saves, heals, gives hope, and restores. No pastor, church, leader, ministry, or person can have that glory. It ALL goes to the Lord Almighty, my Lord, Savior, King, and High Priest. How thankful I am to be able to give him all of that glory

I recently came across this article (http://www.barnabasministry.com/recovery-practicals.html) on the Practicals on Spiritual Recovery and found it really good. It lists five practical areas to address in our recovery process.

  1. Stop the activity that is causing the injury – Step out or away so you do not experience further damage
  2. Diagnose the injury – Spiritual matters are complex so diagnosing the injury correctly may be difficult
  3. Receive treatment for the injury – The best treatment, the only one that truly heals, comes from God. Allow him to heal hearts and faith.
  4. Rehabilitation – This is the work and journey back to health
  5. Learn from the experience – This is part of growing, changing, and healing

My favorite quote from the article was: “The lesson I learned from this is that if something is true, no matter how many times you challenge it and reexamine it, it will always remain true. So, we needn’t have fear in challenging our beliefs and understandings of God’s will for our lives.”

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