Response #1: Let's Talk—The Struggle is Real
In my latest "Let's Talk" blog I invited those of you who were willing to engage to respond to three questions. They were: What changes has God made in you? How have those changes helped you better fulfill the great and first commandment—love God; love others? How has God helped you love Him completely, yourself unselfishly, and your neighbor, the least, and your enemy the way He loves them?
Below is the first response I received in answer to my questions. Thank you to the author for your willingness to share your story. To the reader, I hope this testimony of God's grace blesses you as much as it has blessed me.
A Story of God's Grace
In my teen years and early adulthood, God was my enemy. He had taken a loved one in what I considered to be a gruesome manner. I was convinced that no loving God could allow such suffering, and therefore, He could not exist. For about twenty years I was a vocal and committed atheist. I sought argument simply to show the inconsistencies in belief. I believed that faith was simply a crutch used by people who were incapable of establishing or achieving goals.
Then I encountered a challenge that I could not manage. After my first wife left me, I found myself deeply in debt, stuck in a house I could not afford, and feeling unlovable. The future seemed to be beyond my reach. In this state, I asked the God that had been my enemy to help me. The moment the plea formed as thought I was washed with an incredible feeling of hope. I just knew that it would all be okay. A short time later a woman I had loved and lost due to my stupidity called me. It had been 10 years since I had seen her. We were married a year later. This was His first grand act to save His prodigal son. With that, He etched into my soul "I AM".
Even then I could not understand what I needed to do. I continued to plan and tirelessly work to make the world what I thought it should be. I tried to control life for my loved ones and myself. I was a loving ogre. Five years ago, in another fit of despair, I called for His help again. This time understanding washed over me—understanding that my wants and my plans for this life could only go wrong. I needed to look to Him at all times for guidance as to what comes next.
Learning how to ask, listen, and obey Him above all else is the journey I enjoy now. This brought a change in me as dramatic as anything I have ever witnessed. Had someone told me of a change like this, I would have been skeptical to say the least. The beauty of this path is that He has taught me not to concern myself with what others think of me but just love them.
He has shown me through the blessed curse of pain and suffering that selflessness, love of both neighbor and enemy, forgiveness, and a deep humility are essential for me to hear His will. My ego corrupts His guidance constantly calling me to serve my own interests. Anger, hate, judging another, lust, or any of the self-serving vices I possess will keep me from hearing His will. Only when I am free of the egocentric emotions and live in selfless love can I be confident in His guidance. My only chance of finding this wonderful place is by asking Him to help me let go of desire for the self-serving and material. I am learning how to do that more every day. I have a very long way to go.
In learning this Way of serving His will and loving all, I have also come to appreciate the cleansing and guiding power of suffering. He has shown me that what I condemned Him for all those years ago concerning the painful and humiliating death of my grandmother was what she needed to complete her Way on this earth. Looking back from this new perspective, I see that Gram let go of all of this earthly comfort, and He received her with loving and open arms.