From “Hopeless” to “Purpose”

I have been absent from the blogging scene for quite a few months now. Not for lack of trying; on the contrary, I have sat at my laptop, fingers resting on the keys anticipating words that never came. My mind was a desert, parched from my creative drought with nary a drop to refresh me.

The truth is, I was afraid of putting into words the things that until now I have kept locked away. I was afraid of what the reaction would be if people saw behind the façade I maintain. To be transparent is to be vulnerable, and that is not something I handle very well. To be fair, anyone can say the same. We all have times when we choose to “suffer in silence” instead of admitting our personal struggles to someone. It’s easy to convince yourself that no one else would understand, or that you have to endure these struggles alone.

For me, it’s been a culmination of years upon years of wasted opportunities, stupid mistakes, and buying into lies from the enemy that have caused me to conceal myself away from God and the world. As a result, my writing suffered. It felt like every thought I wrote down was too dark to put into the open. After what God has recently spoken to me however, I feel it’s my responsibility to use my platform the way God intended. My struggles are a part of my testimony, so it’s important to put it into writing as well.

I had come to a point in my life where, at times, it felt like it would be easier to embrace death than overcome the obstacles in my life. The weight of hopelessness was profound, more so than any physical weight I bear. The pain of past regrets shackled my mind and heart. Depression, anxiety, and fear had become these possessions I refused to let go of. I lived life inside of my shell, keeping myself safe within it’s confines along with my “possessions”. Envy was the scale by which I judged my self worth, always comparing myself to others who have achieved far greater than I have.

My prayers felt empty. At times I thought God had left me to deal with my own problems. Any feeble attempt to crawl out of the depths of despair led me right back to where I began. I longed for a glimmer of hope. I couldn’t feel nor hear God at all. I’ve lived in near isolation aside from immediate family. All that time alone really works on the mind, allowing every mistake I’ve ever made to run rampant in my thoughts.

Truth be told, I’ve had many moments when I wished I were dead. If I’m going to be completely vulnerable with you, this needs to be said. I’ve hit some pretty low points over the past year and a half. I was losing battles on every front with my white flag in hand. When you reach that point, life loses all color. It could be a brilliantly sunny summer morning, and inside exists only gray. Everything becomes meaningless, uninteresting or overwhelming.

I was especially frustrated that I couldn’t hear anything from God. This perpetuated the belief that I was alone in my struggles, and amplified the hopelessness I felt. In hindsight, I realize I probably missed His answers many times because I had already determined in my mind the specific answer I was expecting. So, this past Wednesday evening, God chose a more direct approach in order to get my attention.

Through some wonderful people God has put in my life, He spoke some much-needed truths to me. I came to realize I was actually fighting against God when He was trying to deliver me. For so long, I prayed for God to take away my depression, anxiety, and fear, and He essentially said, “if you would let go of it I would.” It’s weird to think about using these dark emotions like a crutch, but that’s exactly what I was doing. I would isolate myself from everyone, as if inside a shell, with my emotional crutch as my only companion.

I’ve always felt like my life has been taking one step forward and several steps backwards. Meanwhile, God is waiting on me to get my stuff in order and catch up to where He is. God helped me see that He will always come back for me when I stumble. He meets me where I’m at. His grace knows no limitations except for the ones I create.

I’ve been so caught up in my constant struggles to regain financial stability, to gain consistency in weight loss, and other day-to-day issues that I kept putting off God. I told myself, “if I can just beat these few obstacles in front of me, then I can actually be useful to God.” What He revealed to me was I don’t have to wait until I’m this ideal version of myself before He can use me. Rather, my ministry can begin now through my writing.

Part of the reason I’m writing this is so I can come back to this in the future whenever I need a reminder of where God has brought me from, and where He is taking me. I wanted to die. I thought my life was a huge waste of potential, and that I let everyone down. I thought God had abandoned me.

One of the biggest factors in my turnaround has been surrounding myself with God-fearing people who will stand with me, and always remind me I’m never alone. Another factor was a willingness to be transparent with them when the opportunity presented itself. God had set it up perfectly for me to open up about my darkest thoughts and fears, and I decided not to let it go to waste. Being vulnerable is scary, but with the right people, it can change everything as it did for me.

The other reason I’m writing this is because I know others can relate to my story on some level. It is my hope that anyone who may be having similar thoughts will read about how God has delivered me, and consider that it can happen for them as well. God was fighting for me the whole time, but I was blinded by the lies I chose to believe about myself.

From now on, I will try to be more transparent in my writing, instead of being afraid of what the response may be. God has given me my testimony so that I may reach this generation. My journey is about going from a place of darkness, and stepping into the light, so my posts tend to have a bit of both. Hopefully, through reading these, God will reveal Himself to you, and show you He is fighting for you too. Be blessed.

Forged in Fire

And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”

Zechariah 13:9 ESV

One of the most fascinating things to watch is the process of taking raw material in various shapes and sizes, and making them into something completely different, from super-heating the material, to pressing and hammering it into the desired shape, each strike as intentional and precise as the last. Last year, I came across a show on the History Channel called “Forged in Fire”, in which blade smiths encounter three grueling rounds of challenges designed to test every aspect of their abilities. I began watching it purely out of boredom, but was quickly taken in by the pride they take in their work, and the idea of watching these lumps of steel become something they can be proud of.

The process of turning raw materials into something completely different always starts with a vision. The smith knows what he is going to do with the steel; he can see the end product before he picks up a hammer. However, before the metal will budge an inch, it must be superheated to make it malleable under the force of his tools. So, with a forge averaging temperatures between 2,150-2,375 degrees Fahrenheit, the smith puts his creation in the fire until it glows a bright white; this tells him it’s perfect for shaping as he sees fit.

Now, consider the awe-inspiring foresight God had when he made you and me. He has a specific vision for each one of His creations, from the time we were forming in our mothers’ wombs. When the Lord called Jeremiah to be His prophet, he told him, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born, I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5 NIV). He had a vision, a divine plan for him, before he entered into the earth. Such is the craftsmanship of our God, and that same God that declared these words to the prophet Jeremiah is the same today.

God takes great pride in His work. Every action is with divine purpose according to the plan He’s drawn from the very beginning of time. We all enter this world as a beautiful creation, made in the very image of God Himself, our very being consisting of layer upon layer of different “materials” which make us 100% unique. The enemy sees our potential as well, so he seeks to corrupt us to keep us from our purpose. However, when a material contains impurities, the smith doesn’t throw it away, but puts it to the fire so that those impurities are removed, leaving it purified metal.

In the context of life, going through the fire is a struggle, often filled with pain, uncertainty, loss, anger, or any other combination of emotions brought on by trying circumstances or tragedy that question everything we believe. This leads to asking God, “Where are you?”, “How could you allow this to happen?”, or maybe we have no words due to the sheer mental and physical exhaustion we feel trying to bear the weight of our burdens. I tend to go the way of the turtle: slip into my shell and shut everyone else out; that is, until my emotions boil over and I find myself bawling in front of my whole family.

What God has shown me is that I was never alone, that He will stand in the fire with me, and I will not be burned, just as His servants in the Old Testament:

Then King Nebuchadnezzar leapt to his feet in amazement and asked his advisors, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”

They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”

He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

Daniel 3:24-25 NIV

Are you going through something that’s too much for you to handle? Have you spent years of your life just trying to survive the day-to-day chaos that seems unending? Then you and I have this in common.

The Father doesn’t want the intensity and complexity of life’s struggles to destroy you, but to strengthen your faith and trust in Him to where no enemy can break it. You were never alone in this fight, and will never be alone, because there is another in the fire, and He will keep the flames from overtaking you. God placed a calling on your life before He even handcrafted you. Compared to that, any plan we make is insignificant, and will only bring about our destruction. When we surrender to God’s process, we will be made a brilliant light on the other side, shining with the light of God’s love in a world darkened by sin and corruption.

I pray that we would make a daily decision to submit to God’s perfect plan, and trust Him in all of our trials. I pray that the “fires” in our lives would not tear us down, but temper us as steel in the hands of a master, strengthening our resolve to see the lost come home to God’s salvation.