I lived with a log in my eye for many years, even after making the decision to dedicate my life to Christ. My log was not one of judgment but of comparison, which I think actually is a form of judgment. I would look at what my friends had and wonder why I didn’t have the same things—everything from girlfriends to jobs to houses. I was so blinded by my own lack of self-worth that I could not see the life of fullness and joy that God was trying to give me. I was trapped by my own unfulfilled desires and wants, rather than finding satisfaction in the new life God had given me. Instead of receiving God’s gifts of mercy and love, I was resentful and jealous. I was, as Paul put it, miserable.
Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?
Even as a professing Christian, I cried out to God, asking him the same question. Why am I angry? Why am I jealous? Why am I afraid? Why am I miserable? These were difficult questions to answer. I was like the people Matthew described in chapter 23, verses 27-28: “For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. 28 Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
From a worldly perspective, I did have good things in my life. I was newly married, and I had a job, a place to live, and a serviceable vehicle. But on the inside, I was wasting away, and I couldn’t figure out why. There were days I didn’t get out of bed, when I said I was sick so I didn’t have to go to work, and times I blamed God for how I felt. I pleaded with God to just let me feel happy. But I was depressed. Now, I have several people close to me who have battled depression in far worse ways than I have, and I even lost a cousin to suicide. I do not want to compare what I went through to the demons some of them have battled; but my feelings of inadequacy and helplessness were very real to me. The difference is that I was able to cling to the hope I have in Christ, the promise of love and salvation and healing and forgiveness. Because of Jesus, I did not have to be dominated by sin and death. Paul continues in Romans 7:25: “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
When we make Jesus the Lord of our life and give him his rightful place in our hearts, we can find that freedom. It is easier said than done, and like I said, I experienced my lowest points even after I became a Christian. For me, I had to remove—or rather, let God remove—the things of this world that were competing for my love and attention. My wife and I make no secret about how difficult the early part of our marriage was. I lost my job. I removed myself from certain friendships. I stepped away from a ministry I devoted nearly a decade to. It was all necessary to bring my focus back to God, the author and perfecter of my faith. I have to make a conscious, daily effort to put aside things that will fade away for the only thing that will last forever—my Savior. My pleas to “feel better” and to “be happy” were not enough. God wanted me to be happy, but not at the expense of my faith.
What is the conflict within you that is keeping you from living the life God has called you to?
How can you remove the barriers in your life that prevent you from growing closer to God?
Make spending time with Jesus a habit. Studies have shown it takes 21 days to form a habit, and as a church we recently participated in 21 days of prayer. Whether you completed or even attempted that challenge, I encourage you to do it this time. Find a way to spend time with God for 21 consecutive days. It could be a simple prayer, reading your Bible, listening to Christian music and meditating on the words—whatever works for you to create space to encounter God. If you start today, it will take you to Thanksgiving, which will provide you with plenty to be thankful for.
God, thank you that I am not the person I used to be. Thank you for healing me, and bringing me out of a difficult time in my life. Even more, thank you for taking the logs out of my eyes so I can focus on you. I ask that you renew my mind every day, revealing yourself to me in new ways and drawing me ever closer to you. Amen.
This post was written by Ryan Cook. Ryan is the business director at Chick-Fil-A in Toledo. He enjoys spending time with his wife, son, and daughter, and watching Cleveland sports as much as anyone can. Follow him on twitter @cookfila
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