Well, if anything has become clear to me recently it is that many of us are wondering how.
How to forgive
How to conquer fear
How to move past the past
We live in a #DIY society but that doesn't really work in our faith. We cannot do this overcoming thing by ourselves.
I was reading through some old journals yesterday and I was once again amazed at how well Jesus knew me, before I knew him. Years ago, my journals were filled with pleas. I can hear my own brokenness in those pages, yet at the time I saw those words scribbled out as good.
"Please just help me."
"I just want to not be afraid."
"Why won't this cloud vanish?"
I never really waited around for a response. I just threw out my pleas and sorrow, then walked away from the conversation. Oh, I wanted to know "how" to all those questions. I wanted the secret formula that would help me overcome, but my view of Jesus was so skewed that I couldn't see past my ashes. Well, eight years ago, Jesus rocked my world.
After years of pleading for scraps, Jesus met me and offered me His entire kingdom.
Stunned is only one word to describe how I felt when Jesus began meeting me in my counselor's office, in my journal, in my relationships. He was everywhere, and I couldn't believe I had been missing him all those years.
It makes sense that we want to know how to overcome. That desire comes from the mark of eternity that is on all of our hearts. We are meant to be free of strife. We are meant to be courageous. We are meant to be at peace. The how is what overwhelms us. The how is where we get stuck, often, and think we are not capable of moving forward.
So, how did I overcome? How did I heal? How did I find solid ground?
I think there are some first steps that can get us pointed in the right direction...
Friends, we are experts at covering up. Think about your children or children you have observed before. No one teaches them to be sneaky, to lie; they just know how to do it from infancy. What was the first reaction of Adam and Eve in the garden?
To make their own shabby attempts at covering themselves.
Their second instinct was to hide in the bushes when they heard God coming. So, don't think you are unique if it's hard for you to admit to the darkness warring in you. That is the human struggle.
Admitting I was not well was so scary. My pride had to lay down and die for me to willingly admit that I didn't know what to do, that maybe I wasn't well. I had to admit that I was afraid, that I had a lot of pent up unforgiveness. Healing would never have come if I had not first admitted that something was wrong.
We have to admit (out loud) that there is something in us that isn't right. Until then, we are Adam or we are Eve, hiding in the bushes, hoping He won't see us when he passes by.
Ask for help.
We have to ask for help and I don't mean, write in your journal that you need help. Remember, I did that a lot for many years. The difference came when I told someone that I needed help. Yes, it was terrifying, but I did it afraid and you will will have to also, my friend. The fear isn't going to vanish and then you will be able to reach out for help.
You have to do it afraid.
Are you in community with other believers? There's a big push in our society these days to avoid what has been labeled "organized religion." To that I say, "Great! Who needs organized religion?" No one, that's who! What you and I do need is relationship. We need a community of faith with grandma's and grandpa's that have lived a little longer than us and have some nuggets of wisdom to offer. We need peers in the same season of life to link arms with. We need to be surrounded by the next generation so we can pour our lives into them, and leave a legacy.
You don't get that from organized religion, but you do get it from relationship with other believers.
Ask for help. Someone has walked your road and knows your struggle, and they want to help you. You won't find them until you ask.
This is the third element of overcoming that I believe we tend to lose sight of in the journey. I cannot tell you how many lies I believed about God, myself and everyone else, but there were a lot. Every time Jesus presented me with a truth that countered the lie, I had to choose to accept that truth. He never forced his ways on me. He only ever invited me to see something new, something different. Many folks can get on board with the admitting and the asking, but the acceptance of truth...well, that takes some discipline.
Jesus did not come to make you good. He came to bring you back to life.
The lies you believe are death and believing them keeps you dead. Accepting the truth of God's word means dead things come to life. Old habits die. Old desires die. Old ways die and new ways are learned. Accepting truth is hard but it is oh, so priceless. The truth of God's word has become sweetness to my soul. It is the balm that heals the wounds, the sword that pierces through the darkness. Only God's truth will change your life.
So, three things to remember on your journey...
Admit it outloud.
Ask for help.
Accept the truth.
Those things alone will take a lifetime to walk out. I'm on year eight and I haven't even scratched the surface of this journey with Jesus. Ultimately, what I discover over and over as I walk with him is how deep his love is. It is so deep that I cannot find the bottom of it. It is so deep that I can fall into it, yet never sink.
There isn't a magic formula or a secret code that only the best figure out. Jesus gave us a blueprint for overcoming and it is for anyone who is interested.
"In this life you will face trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
All the steps, all the "hows" point to Jesus. He overcame the world, so we can overcome through him. The journey is always about finding Jesus. It is always about coming close to his side, so close you can feel his breath on your face. That only comes when we offer him our dead places and let him bring them back to life.