I grew up in a loving Christian home. It was not perfect by any means, but my parents loved Jesus and they were faithful to bring my siblings and me to church every Sunday. I was the "good-Christian girl" which is to say I rarely, if ever, disobeyed my parents. But the Christian part...looking back I'm not so sure. I know my young spirit had moments of love towards the man called Jesus and I liked going to church. I liked worship (for the most part) and there were times throughout my life I was excited to tell people about the Lord, confident they would love him if they knew him like I did.
As I said before, I had peaks and valleys with my faith. I chose to be baptized in my early twenties and I heard the Lord call me to Northern Ireland just as clear as I've ever heard you speak to me about your life. I've seen God change other people and change my heart. The Holy Spirit has always been moving in my life, but there have often been times, especially over the last couple of years, where I have questioned my Christianity. Let's face it, Christian's haven't recently been known to be anything set apart which is what we're called to be. Knowing this hadn't been sitting right with me and I attempted to pursue God intentionally to the best of my ability. When I hit rock bottom, He didn't rescue me right away. He let me feel sorry for myself, but when He moved, it was like I finally knew what people were talking about when they say they wanted to live their lives for Christ.
Not living my life for Christ, friends, is where the major disconnect for me has been in my faith. It wasn't that I questioned the existence of God or Christ's Son-ship or my salvation. I believed in all of those things, but I was living for myself. I wasn't picking up my cross daily to follow Jesus or believing my life was his to lead. I wanted control. All that mattered were my dreams and what made me happy. There were a couple key moments along the way before the Holy Spirit really started to move in my life. I'm sure there were more than these four but here are the ones I know of for sure:
1. Brokenness (low-point): losing my job and unable to find another one.
2. Admitting I didn't trust God with my life - I was choosing to not trust God and I believe he let me stay where I was. There was also a moment where I think the Holy Spirit was like, "OK enough of this missy. Time to get moving." I struggle with thinking that my stubbornness blocks the Holy Spirit but also knowing He is the author and perfecter of my faith. All I know is, I was putting up one heck of a fight in not trusting God's best for me - but whenever I sought Him I found Him, and the Holy Spirit kept nudging my heart and moving in my thoughts and heart more than ever before.
3. Surrender - Somewhere along the line I realized I was acting like a spoiled brat, and I still can be. I spent so much time focusing on what I thought I deserved and what God owed me that I didn't think to let it all go and trust God would work everything out. Thankfully, I recognized when the Spirit was moving and have since lived in a faith-filled mindset, (slowly but surely).
4. Letting go of idols - This is to say, I actually started to put God first in my life. I started to believe the Holy Spirit would work with me on my idols. I've come a long way with the relationship aspect. It used to have a mighty grip on my heart and I can happily say it no longer does. Gone are the days where all I can think about is happiness within a relationship, or thinking my value lies in if a man wants me. I realized a man DID want me, the best man who ever lived and he guarantees his love fully satisfies. His name is Jesus.
Which leads me to my original question: How can one live with such sorrow and joy? Today is Saturday, the day in between Good Friday and the day our Savior triumphed over death, our enemy, and sin. Hallelujah! I have sorrow in my heart right now because of what Jesus went through. He obeyed his Father with his whole heart, and that obedience led Him to death on a cross. It behooves us to spend some time on thinking about this, no matter where you're at in your journey with Christ: as Shane Claiborne once said: "After all it wasn't so comfy getting nailed to it."
I have joy in my heart because Jesus' torture and death led to me being right with God. As I watched the Passion of the Christ (or attempted to) I knew every blow to his back and thorn pushed down his brow was for me. For every selfish thought and deed, every unkind word, every evil deed or thought, every sexual sin, every lustful sin, every disobedience: the Son of God and Man took it so I could come before God washed of it all.
I know for some of those reading this you have deep pain in your life, legitimate questions that demand answers. Questions I can't answer, but I do know one thing, Jesus said we would find him if we sought him with our whole hearts, and His life, His sacrifice is what makes me trust that God can redeem every hurt, give peace about all situations and circumstances and reach you in your pain, no matter how deep.
We all must reconcile who Jesus is. His life and ministry, horrendous death and victorious resurrection demand we take the time to ask who this Jesus was. You may believe He was a good man but was not the Messiah, you may be unsure but haven't spent any time seeking God or reading the Bible to find out. My question to you comes from Pastor John Burke of Gateway Church in Texas (and I'm paraphrasing here): Say you got everything you ever wanted: the fulfilling job, the spouse and family, (insert biggest dream here) then died, found out Christ is the Son of God and the whole point of life was to live for him?
Paul says in Philippians that he counts everything in life as loss compared to knowing God. When a college peer asked me if I understood what that meant, I realized I didn't. I'd been a "Christian" for my whole life but I never thought every good thing in life was loss compared to knowing Jesus. But now? I'm starting to, and it's better than anything I could ever imagine, and I can imagine a lot in this life!
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him, will not perish but have everlasting life."