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God Isn’t Done With Your Story Yet

Growing up, I lived in great fear of my abusive father. I was neglected, beaten, and abused. His treatment convinced me that I was unwanted—a burden hardly worth being tolerated.

By age 15, this led me to become very embittered and depressed. I felt rejected, and covered up my incredible loneliness and pain with an angry protective mask.

Void of love and acceptance, I often questioned why I was alive, and whether my life even mattered. Somewhere deep inside, there was a part of me that longed to know that there was more to life than the hard, angry world that surrounded me.

As long as these questions about purpose remained unanswered, the emptiness I experienced persisted in a deep way. But when I found the answer to why I existed, there came a change so radical, things haven’t been the same since.

 

The dead, lonely end the world led me to 

As I grasped for purpose, my natural inclination was to turn towards what the world offered. So I sought my identity through sports and girls. I chased fulfillment through alcohol and drugs, and found temporary escape through music. I looked to bottles of vodka for peace, and another high from drugs to give me relief from my pain.

Of course, the relief never lasted long. I kept trying to convince myself that these worldly pursuits would help me, when in fact, they left me feeling more confused about my purpose in life—endlessly caught in a dangerous cycle of addiction that only left me empty.

 

At the end of myself, I finally looked to God

Through years of building up anger and bitterness against God and everyone, I had ignored the efforts of those who tried to share the Good News with me. But I eventually found myself desperate for something—anything—that could help me make sense of my life. And that desperation led me to reconsider the gospel I had distanced myself from. I had tried nearly everything else, and knew how deeply these things had failed to give me meaning. Perhaps it was time to give Christianity a chance.

From a point of despair, I was drawn to the rich promise Jesus makes, of a life of fulfillment and complete satisfaction in Him. I longed to experience that in my own life—to have a taste of the water that wells up to eternal life (John 4:12-14).

Finally, at age 16, I received Christ into my life and began a life-long process of learning how Jesus is the source of life and the answer to my quest for purpose.

 

A new creation in the same circumstances

However, once I accepted Jesus, my circumstances remained the same. Drugs and alcohol still beckoned me. My father was still abusive, and offered nothing resembling love or acceptance. Yet, while my circumstances remained unchanged, things couldn’t have been more different on the inside.

The difference lay in the reality that I no longer felt imprisoned by the situation I was in. Since Jesus had saved me from the confines of sin, He welcomed me as an adopted child, offering the unconditional love and acceptance that I had been so desperate for (1 John 3:1). Through redemption, He gave me hope for a life outside the traps of fear and cycles of addiction.

Though accepting Christ wasn’t a quick fix for all of my problems, it cut to the core of many of the deep struggles I had about identity and purpose. God taught me how to overcome the lures of the things of the world, and instead, to look to His Word to understand that I was made for Him (Colossians 1:16), and His purposes!

How God is still helping me understand my purpose

As I continue my journey as a Christian, God is constantly exposing ways that I rely on things apart from Him to understand my place in this world. Recently, I’ve had to work through the temptation to look to the applause of men for affirmation of the work I do in church. Instead of looking to others, I remind myself that in trying to make sense of who I am, or what I do, I must look to Christ. Because Christ is the reason I am. He is the one who sacrificed His own life—to offer us a way to come back into relationship with the very One who created us.

When we get caught up in the busyness of life, there are a thousand ways to lose sight of this. In order to carefully re-center my thoughts when I find myself straying, I’ve started a practice of pausing and praying. I ask God to silence the loud noise of my surroundings, which only offers loud, false hope. I ask Him to help me listen to His still, small voice that calls me to Him. In these moments, I’m reminded that God is all I have ever needed or longed for. Even if briefly, I can be still and rest in knowing that He is God (Psalm 16:10).

And this helps me remember one of the freedoms we have in Christ—freedom from the pursuit of seeking satisfaction from the things of this earth, from being failed by jobs and relationships, or whatever else we are tempted to define ourselves by. I have found peace in knowing that true eternal satisfaction is found in praising and worshiping God.

It’s my hope that I can encourage others to find hope in the freedom Christ offers—freedom which allows us to turn from self-indulgent pursuits, and to worship God freely with grateful hearts and satisfied souls.

ODJ: restored

July 16, 2015 

READ: Romans 5:1-11 

Our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son (v.10).

Bob Goff travelled to a country where he witnessed extreme human rights violations. In response, he chose to live out the call of Isaiah 58:3 by seeking justice on behalf of the oppressed. Goff founded Restore International to “fight for freedom and human rights, working to improve educational opportunities and to be helpful to those in need of a voice and a friend”. For more than a decade, Restore has helped to free those in bonded labour and sex trafficking, along with other exploited men, women and children in select troubled countries.

The definition of restore is to “return (someone or something) to a former condition, place or position; to repair or renovate so as to return it to its original condition”. In Romans we read of the ultimate restoration: the relationship between God and man. Though we were originally intended for relationship with Him, our sins separated us from our Creator (Colossians 1:21). Yet, “when we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners” (Romans 5:6).

Jesus didn’t shed His blood for us because of our goodness but to demonstrate God’s love for us “while we were still sinners” (v.8). The blood of Christ makes us right in God’s sight and saves us from spiritual death. And a relationship with Him that was severed by sin can be restored as we believe in Jesus and accept His gift of salvation.

Paul wrote that “our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies” (v.10). And now “we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God” (v.11). We’ve been restored!

—Roxanne Robbins

365-day-plan: Mark 6:14-29

MORE
What relationship was restored and unified in Ephesians 2:14 as a result of Jesus breaking down the wall of hostility? 
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According to Colossians 1:13, from what has God rescued you and to what has He transferred you? How has the restoration of your relationship with God affected your relationships with others? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODJ: new way of seeing

June 4, 2015 

READ: 1 Peter 3:3-6 

Clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within (v.4).

God has given me new things to treasure and value since I left America for Uganda 6 years ago. Some of the interests and things that I truly enjoyed before moving to my new ministry have, to my surprise, been replaced. I haven’t even missed American football—my favourite sport! Nor have I missed many things that my birth country’s culture suggests are necessary for fulfilment, significance and happiness.

In Africa I’ve discovered beauty in watching the face of an impoverished child light up after receiving a gift of clothing, in witnessing a mother as she loves and cares for her sick child, in seeing a starving child share his meager food portions with a sibling, and in hearing children express gratitude in being able to attend school.

Among the poor in Sub-Saharan Africa I’ve gained deeper understanding of “the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God” (1 Peter 3:4). I have better understood how this type of loveliness, observed by pure and reverent living, pleases God more than “the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewellery or beautiful clothes” (v.3).

Though the meek aren’t exclusively found living in poverty in Africa, it’s here that I more strongly grasped that the humble are blessed and “will inherit the whole earth” (Matthew 5:5). It’s in this place that I more deeply appreciate that “God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (v.4). I also found greater comfort in God’s promise that He “blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied” (v.6).

God provides what we need to grow in faith—including encouragement from Scripture that causes our hearts to grow in confidence and hope. By His work, we’re better primed to see beauty—and all of life—as He does.

—Roxanne Robbins

365-day-plan: Jonah 3:1–4:11

MORE
In addition to kindness, tolerance and patience, what are some attributes of God that Romans 2:4 says we can see? 
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How does your view of beauty differ from God’s? How can you begin to better realise His values in your thinking and choices? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODJ: “who touched Me?”

October 25, 2014 

READ: Mark 5:21-34 

He kept on looking around to see who had done it. Then the frightened woman, trembling . . . came and fell to her knees in front of him and told him what she had done (vv.32-34).

It is said that the number one fear in life is public speaking, ranking higher than even the fear of death. As a comedian once observed, that means that at a funeral, people would rather be in the coffin than give the eulogy!

With that in mind, Jesus’ request that the bleeding woman identify herself seems almost like a punishment (Mark 5:30). After all, she had already been healed—why not simply let her go on her way, without being publicly singled out? One important reason was that her healing wasn’t yet complete. Her bleeding had ceased, but her wounds were more than physical. In fact, since her condition made her religiously unclean, she had been isolated from others for more than a decade (v.25). Jesus stopped and asked her to identify herself, not to punish her but so that He might heal her completely, speak words of peace and forgiveness over her and call her “daughter” (v.34). He wouldn’t let her go until all of those things had been said and done.

This is a wonderful reminder that God wants to mend not only our physical wounds, but our hearts and souls as well. It’s easy to forget this and—like the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4—become focused on physical concerns and needs. This makes us unable to see that the “water” Jesus wants to give us is more than physical (v.10). Or we’re like the people of Israel who yearned for a political liberator, and so failed to understand that Jesus had come to free them from so much more: the sin that separated them from God the Father.

Whenever God heals or provides physically for us, we shouldn’t be quick to run off and simply resume life. There might be greater and deeper healing that He wants to do in our hearts! —Peter Chin

365-day plan› Acts 11:1-18

MORE
Read Luke 5:17-26 to see another example of Jesus healing, not just physical brokenness but spiritual as well. 
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Have you ever experienced physical hardship that overflowed into spiritual or emotional effects? How do you make sure to give God as much time to address spiritual and emotional needs as physical ones? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)