Faith struggle


I have not been writing over the last few months because I took a journey into healing at a new level.

It has been a journey I never expected.

Days are hard. Heartache is real.

Pain is very present.

I have lacked hope. I have clung to faith.

I am starting to see some light.

One of the impacts or coping mechanisms of abuse is to numb your emotions.
When the pain is so deep, the emotions seem overwhelming. We can shut them off to cope. We stop feeling to survive.

Part of recovery is turning our emotions back on.

That means choosing to feel….to feel the good, the bad, the painful, the joy, the emptiness and violation, and the hope that it all can change.

I have been learning to feel again. Learning to come alive.

I forgot how deep the pain could go. I now remember what it is to feel emotions of all kinds and intensities.

The work has been hard. The work is starting to pay off.

I am thankful for the grace and mercy the Lord has shown me through this time, and I am falling on that grace and mercy with faith that he will see me through.

You are right. I’m a mess.

I know that. I live that.

You see, I am a mess, but I choose to believe.

I believe in a big God.

I believe in a Savior

I believe in new life

I believe he can and will turn it into something more

I believe I can be changed

I believe that he can use a broken, messed up, anxious, hurting, life in huge ways

I believe that he can redeem

I believe in second chances

I believe I am not forsaken

I believe I am not lost, but am found

I believe that there is a plan for my future and my hope

I believe, and I choose, oh how I choose

I may be broken, messed up, and anxious, but

I KNOW I am saved, chosen, and anointed.

I choose Him. He already chose me.

My God is an amazing God, and I will fight for his glory.

Even if I have to limp, crawl, cry, and make a mess along the way.

The idea of whether we have permission to speak comes up a lot among those who have been hurt and disillusioned by and with the church.

Author/Speaker Anne Jackson is releasing a new book today titled Permission to Speak Freely.

If you or someone you know has been hurt by the church and has questioned God, this could be the book that will begin a road to recovery. Permission to Speak Freely is also an excellent resource for those in the church who haven’t been through the things Anne and many others have to help them to become aware of the dangers of living a life of condemnation toward others. The stories in Permission to Speak Freely can serve as a wake-up call to the church. Jackson’s book and ministry will help many in the church who have been wounded and left to pick up the pieces. – CBA Retailers & Resources Magazine

Today Jonathan Acuff at Stuff Christians Like posted an excerpt from the book, an excerpt showing some of the roots of Anne’s disillusionment with the church. He ends with this question, “Have you ever had an experience where how people in the church acted and what the Bible says didn’t line up?”

I share this not to draw you to more stories about what is wrong with the church. That is not my heart, nor do I believe it is something Jonathan or Anne would support. I share this because the discussion about having permission to speak, having a voice, speaking out, and confessing our need for each other and for a Savior is so important.

Pick up the book.

Lurk on the sites and learn more.

Find the courage to speak freely.

You have permission!

Later this week I will be participating in an event where I may cross paths with my old pastor. I know he is connected with others who will be attending the event. The fact our paths may cross is really weighing on my heart.

Near the end of April I had communicated with the pastor and elders that I could not remain in silence any longer about the situation because I knew that God was calling me to step up, to share my story, and to proclaim to others about the amazing healing the Lord had done in my life. They have been unwilling to work through and resolve issues. The response I received was that I was unstable and irrational, did not understand the Gospel, again was showing I was unrepentant, and that if I spoke I would actually damage God’s kingdom.

I have continued to try to respond in love and patience to these leaders, and have offered over and over again to resolve the issues with no progress. It took until the beginning of July for those leaders and my current pastor to agree to meet. My pastor has not wanted me to meet with these leaders because he does not believe they are willing to reconcile, and he believes it would be unhealthy for me to share with them. So far, even after meeting with him, they have not shown any openness or willingness to reconcile. I also know some others that were key in my story are no longer at the church. They also have been hurt and are dealing with a difficult road of healing.

I am not sure how to respond if I see my pastor. The last face-to-face interaction I had with him was last December when he had an uncontrolled outburst and made a public scene. I do not want to cause any disruption at the event, and I have concerns that the pastor will try to speak to me. His elders told me not to speak to him, and after the run in last December I clearly defined that he was not to speak to me again without witnesses (on my side) due to his outburst. If he tries to speak to me the only thing I know to do is to calmly remind him that we are not allowed to speak, and then to involve others if he tries to communicate further.

My heart is heavy with concerns for all involved. I am walking in faith, still knowing that God is capable of healing and restoring everything if we would surrender, so he is definitely capable of taking care of much smaller pieces of this, such as this even.  I am going to the event with a very open and hope-filled heart, trusting that the Lord will use it mightily to change things, and believing that He can be glorified in all situations.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Prayer is one of the things people struggle with the most.

We don’t know how to come to the Lord and share openly. We ask with wrong motives. We seek the wrong things. We ask the wrong questions. We fail to offer a prayer in faith. We ask, but we also doubt.

Prayer is one of the most powerful things we can do.

It changes circumstances, impacts situations, alters hearts, inspires change, brings resolution, and breaks down barriers.

Prayer is our communication with the Lord.

It is the means by which we can share with the Lord. The Holy Spirit was left with us when he returned to be with the Father, and the Spirit helps us to pray.

Prayer is not about being perfect.

The words, the mannerisms, and the methods are not what is important. It is our heart. The Lord wants to know that we desire to share with him, and as we ask with hearts that do not doubt and have the right motives the prayers will be answered in ways that we can recognize as answers. Whether a plea, a groan, a praise, or a grateful spirit is what we have to offer, we have the freedom to come to the Lord in prayer and to share.

“You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” James 4:2-3

Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:13-16

“But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” James 1:6

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8

Prayer bring hope and faith

As we share with the Lord, even if that prayer is nothing more than the word HELP, there is an impact in the spirit. Through prayer we begin to find hope, we open the door for faith, and our hearts and spirits will be changed.

When was the last time you shared a moment with the Lord in prayer? Could you spare a moment now?

There is no magical formula. Say hello and tell him what is on your mind and heart. He wants to hear what you have to say.

After I experienced spiritual abuse I questioned everything.

I did not know who to trust, what to believe, or what was true. I doubted my own judgment about everything.

For over four years I wanted to know what was true, but I did not know where to find it.

Thankfully, someone did. It took over four years of searching, trying Christian counseling, talking to pastors and ministry leaders, sharing with family and friends. It took over four years of searching, digging, striving, working, pleading, fighting, and finally surrendering before God said, “look here”.

I knew the answers lay with God, I just didn’t know how to find it and live it.

A door opened for biblical counseling/discipleship. This was completely different from the Christian counseling I had received because it was all about God and scripture and not about us. I was shown what the Bible said about each subject. I was taught that the Bible was not an instruction manual given to guide me, but was the revelation and presentation of God. I was shown once and for all that truth exists, and exactly where to find it. When God said, “look here”, he wasn’t referring to the discipleship, but to himself and his revelation in scripture.

“We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true.  And we are in him who is true – even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20)

If we do not believe that Christ is truth, and that he is the source of all truth then we are not believing in who he is.

I no longer believe in a man, believe in a religion, or believe in teachings. I live by truth.

Today I listened to an amazing sermon that clearly presents how we can be deceived and misled. It is based upon Colossians 2:6-8. “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”

If you have struggled to know what truth is or have felt as if you are mixed up, confused, and living under confusion I have three suggestions:   

  1. Study scripture to learn about the character and nature of God. Throw out everything you have known and especially what you have been taught by man, and let the Lord and the Holy Spirit bring truth to you.
  2. Read 1 John. I believe this book clearly shows how we know what is true, presents fruit that is exhibited by those who walk in truth, and teaches us HOW to live out a life that is changed from the Gospel transforming our lives.
  3. Listen to the sermon I mentioned above. It is by Matt Chandler at the Village Church in Texas. I do not know much about the church, but I know Matt’s reputation is very sound, and he is one of the strongest biblical teachers in our nation. He is very blunt (which I like), which means he will address things that other pastors might not, including how we are misled by false teaching. He gives us some tests to use and ways to communicate with others when they present us teachings and philosophies that sound good up-front, but which really drive us away from truth. You can find the sermon here. The first 12-20 minutes are the section that speak directly to these issues, but the entire sermon is good and powerful.

One of the things I have learned through my journey over the last few years is that there are easy days and days that are more difficult ones. The last few days have been some of those more difficult days.

I am still learning that there are conversations which engage and bless my heart and soul, and others that may cause me struggle.

Unfortunately I am still not very good at recognizing ahead of time those that might lead to struggle and then avoiding them.

Recently I engaged in a conversation that has caused me struggle. One of the hardest pieces for me over the past year has been learning to deal with the love I still feel for my last pastor and the people of that church, and having absolutely no outlet to express it since they will not speak with me. In this conversation someone voiced an opinion they hold which left me conflicted. It is their right to hold their opinions, even if I do not agree with them. I do not believe this person had any intention of saying anything that would cause me to struggle, but the truth is it did.

Struggles come in all sorts of forms, and we don’t always know when they are headed our way. We can not always avoid them.

We can however prepare ahead of time to deal with them when they arrive.

In this situation, the root of my struggle is twofold 1) I am left asking what the biblical truth is about a specific subject 2) My heart aches that someone has spoke negatively about someone I care about, even if our relationship is currently broken and unresolved.

For the first issue, the best way to respond is through time in the Bible and in prayer. The Lord knows the truth and he can reveal it to me. He alone defines what truth is. Men may disagree, but the Lord knows how to take multiple scriptures that speak to different sides of an issue and to bring them together to make sense. I could have prepared ahead by spending more time in Scripture before this conversation, and by recognizing this area of uncertainty, however since I did not do that I need to turn to Scripture quickly and not let the questions and uncertainty fester and cause me confusion or distraction.

The second issue is more difficult for me to deal with in my relation to others. On my own, I have spent time mourning the loss of these relationships and allowing the Lord to minister to my heart. Each time this comes up I have to go back to him and allow the Lord to comfort me on a deeper level. I continue to try to reconcile the broken relationships and have to deal with the constant disappointment associated with that. I also have to protect my heart and soul from anger, resentment, and bitterness.

When I speak to others about my story I have faced some very hard conversations and pressure. Over and over again I have been told to have nothing to do with the people from my old church. I have been told to let go of the past and to move forward. I have had to listen to great criticism of others, and have faced a lot of criticism about how I have responded. There are some people I have encountered who hold a great deal of anger and bitterness in their hearts. They get angry about things that are not a part of their story due to resentment and offense they hold in their heart. I have been told to turn my back on others and to not work through the issues. I have been told it is okay to forget them. I have been told I am justified to feel angry, hurt, and to be unkind and unloving toward others.

I just can not agree! No matter what others have done or will do to me I have to choose to follow what the Lord has shown me love, sacrifice, and truth.

The Lord has changed my heart and healed it so deeply that I can not even understand much of what I have been told by others. I do not feel offense or anger. I do still live with the pain of the brokenness and disunity that exists. My heart desires love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

Today my heart hurts. I wish the world would be a place where the only conversations I even could engage in would bless my heart and soul.

Unfortunately, life brings struggle, but I know that God can use every single struggle to bless, grow, change, and draw me to be more like him. That is where I want to go!

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