The Struggle is Real
I have a lot to say, and the thoughts I share are borne out of my relationship with God. God has changed my life. I am not the same person I once was because of God's amazing grace. It is my desire to give from His grace to me.
Jesus said, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water'" (John 7:37-38, ESV). The Apostle John explained, "Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive..." (John 7:39, ESV). I have received this Holy Spirit to which Jesus referred as living water. But receiving the Spirit of God into my life didn't end with a one time experience; He continually changes me. My relationship with Him has been a life-long journey.
I recently shared a change process for becoming better. I apply this process to my life regularly. The foundation for my life changes is rooted in the work of the Holy Spirit in me. But He didn't change me overnight. Change is a process, so I am still changing.
There are three pivotal life moments where God's Spirit began to change me and confront faulty thinking that had been developing in me over time since my childhood. Through His Spirit God began His good work in me. Thankfully, He is still working on me, and I am confident He will complete what He started. (See Philippians 1:6.)
Many years ago, I was consumed with hatred towards another person. And I hated so viciously I wished the one I hated were dead. Though I knew hating others was contrary to God's Spirit in me, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't make myself stop hating. It seemed the more I tried to stop hating, the more the hatred grew. After many unsuccessful attempts to win the battle on my own, I finally came to the end of my rope. Hate was exhausting.
One morning, while alone in my house, I sat on my kitchen floor and admitted my hatred to God and acknowledged my inability to help myself. I was immediately aware of His presence and heard Him ask, "Have you considered how your behavior may have caused others to hate you just as deeply?" From that moment on, though the circumstance that drove me to justify my hatred did not change, God began to remove hatred from my heart. I am still confronted with reasons to hate, but I refuse to hate. I choose to allow God's changing power to continue His work in me. And His grace proves again and again to be sufficient.
Thirteen years ago, at the age of 34, I was filled with anger. Over the course of several years my anger drove me to become verbally abusive to my husband and children as well as other family members. Finally, after several years of denial and many sleepless nights, I realized I was unable to control my anger on my own. Anger wore me out.
One night during an episode of insomnia, I sat in our home office and told God I was tired of being angry, that I didn't know why I was angry, and that I didn't know how to stop being angry. I immediately felt His presence as He revealed to me the root of my anger. He reminded me of the unresolved issues I had carried since childhood. In that moment, God began to heal my emotional wounds, and over the next several years, God led me down the road to healing. Though I continue to be confronted with justifiable reasons for anger, God's Spirit has taught me and continues to remind me to be angry without sin. (See Ephesians 4:26.) God is ever merciful to me, and I am more thankful than I have words to express.
I have been fearful most of my life, but beginning three years ago fear started growing in me until it was almost debilitating. Eugene was traveling a lot at that time, and sometimes both he and my kids would be gone while I stayed home. Some of those times when home alone I went multiple nights without sleep and would then have to go to work and teach during the day. At one point I experienced a couple times when I was too afraid to leave my house to go to work. I was physically and emotionally drained. I prayed daily for relief and read the Bible for encouragement and strength, but I could not stop being fearful. It felt like fear was killing me, and I actually asked God to let me die.
About a year ago, I noticed my fear subsiding. I was still fearful, but the intensity level would come and go, which provided some relief. Not too long ago, I dreamed my family and I were on a trip and had stopped for a restroom break at a rest area. As I entered the restroom a man followed me inside, crowded up behind me, and forced me into a stall. Once inside the stall, I found a way to turn around and push him back with my foot. The man fell down then got up and ran away. When I woke up, I knew immediately the dream was from God. I knew He was giving me victory over fear, and I was finally going to be free.
A few days later we left for a trip out of town. I was driving while my husband and daughter slept, and I was thinking about my dream. As I drove, I felt the fear lift from me. I've had no fear since that moment. I can still find good reason for fear, but God helps me trust Him rather than those things that are out of my control. With His help I make the choice every day to not be afraid. God keeps proving Himself again and again to be the source of my life. He remains faithful.
All three of these struggles have something in common. Hate is rooted in anger, and anger is rooted in fear. When I consider that fact, I am not surprised by the sequence of God's healing work in me. It's been like peeling an onion—as one layer is removed, another one has to be dealt with.
When I was at the end of my rope, I called out to God, and He helped me. Though I had His Spirit living in me in the midst of the struggles, I was focused on the problems rather than God. I tried to handle my problems on my own my way. All three issues were rooted in wrong philosophies about God and myself. Though I was taught the truth about God from a very young age, there were things that came into my life that interfered with that truth. As a child I was incapable of resolving these things correctly, so my faulty thinking was threaded into how I dealt with life as I grew. My faulty thinking misguided me and led me to rely on myself rather than God's help. But when I finally turned to God and acknowledged my need for Him, God made the difference.
God has done and continues to do a great work in my life. Because of His work in me, I have learned to believe His love for me. My experiences have strengthened my relationship with Him. Through this relationship, He teaches me how to love Him and how to love others. I have found the more He changes me, the more I am able to love Him completely, love myself unselfishly, and love my neighbor, the least, and my enemy the way He loves them.
My stories may not be your stories, but as my husband often says, "What is most personal is most universal." We all have stories. The struggle is real, but there is hope! I was thirsty, and God gave me living water. This living water is available to all. I hope what I have shared encourages you to drink if you haven't already done so. God will change your life if you let Him.