The years of 2012, 2013, and most of 2014 were very difficult years for me. I dealt with a divorce after 14 years of marriage, abandonment by my pastoral staff at a church I had served for the previous four years, an eight and a half month unemployment, when I did find a job my finances were cut to a third of what I had previously been making (Less than I had made since 1999), I went into a deep depression, and found myself struggling to keep my head above the waters of despair. I can’t tell you how many times I would be five minutes from having to drive the hour long drive to drop my kids off with their mom when out of the blue I would have to quietly go upstairs and cry while I tried to compose myself from a panic attack. Then I would drive them to their mother and break down once again after I dropped them off.
Those were some of the hardest, most impossible times to traverse and yet, today I found myself wishing I was going through them again. What could make a man wish he was going through hell on earth again?
Is it crazy that today I was praying and actually said, “I wish I was going through difficult times again”? Don’t answer that because I know it is. But I did say just that…what’s more crazy is that I meant every word of it.
Those times were very difficult but also very beautiful. It was during those times of hardship that I grew more and more intimate with my Lord. For the first time in my twenty-five years of Christianity I actually began to KNOW who God was. I had such a passion to be in His presence during those times, not because I wanted Him to do something but because I wanted Him. He was my singular goal and I would stop at nothing to reach Him. At one point, for several months, I would get up at 3:00 in the morning and read my Bible and pray for four hours before getting ready to go to work. During my unemployment, there were days when I would sit at my desk and study the Bible for as much as eight hours a day. I remember how in tune my mind was to God’s handiwork in nature. A friend used to say that I could see Jesus in a tree that fell on the road, and I could, as a matter of fact I wrote a blog article about a fallen tree once.
The problem is, life got easier – I went back to work, depression abated, I began making more money, I no longer had random emotional breakdowns – yes, life easier but intimacy got harder. The reason I prayed that crazy prayer of mine today is because I am missing how passionately I would read my Bible.
To be honest, I have a difficult time doing that these days. Don’t get me wrong, I read it, but the words don’t seem to jump off the page to me anymore…or at least not as often. I miss being so excited about reading my Bible that I was willing to wake up four hours early to do so before work. I miss the thrill I would get when God would speak to me when I read His Word. If you thumb through my Bible you see quite a few scriptures circled with dates written beside them. These are my promises from God, the scriptures I felt God speaking to my heart when I read them. You’ll see a lot of scriptures from 2012-2014 but they slow up in later years.
Something has changed and I want it back. In fact, I want it back so bad that I would be willing to go through difficult times to get it back!
Why is it, we seem to find it so easy to seek God when we are going through difficulties but we find it difficult in the good times? This is a conundrum as old as mankind himself. When the Children of Israel were in bondage to Egypt they sought God until He delivered them, then when the Egyptian army was destroyed and they were safe on the other side of the Red Sea, they began to forget about God and instead worshipped their golden calf. Throughout Israel’s history we see them turn to God and have revival in hard times only to leave Him in the dust of the life of ease after the hard times left.
I guess that is why we are encouraged over and over in the bible to beware of the strong pull the world has on us.
In Mark chapter four Jesus tells the parable of The Sower. When He explains the parable to His disciples He tells them, “And these are they which are sown among thorns, such as hear the word, but the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lust of other things entering in choke the word and it becomes unfruitful” The truth is when I read the Bible these days, I am doing so with a full mind of “cares of this world”, my “seed” is falling “among thorns”. The “cares of this world” do not only have to be troubles but can also be my dreams, hopes, plans for tomorrow, thoughts of my girlfriend, my vacation plans with my kids, etc. They can also be my addiction to Facebook and assumed need to check it for “likes” constantly. (Don’t judge me, you know you do that too). What about my staying up late to watch a show and not getting enough sleep which causes me to fall asleep while reading my Bible. Yep, my mind is filled with the things of this world every day and the world’s “things” are always going to be a “thorn bush” which robs the seed of the Word of the fertile soil and water needed to grow.
Jesus said in the sermon on the mount, “Blessed are they which hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled”. Well, here’s the thing about that, if I am filling up on chips, candy bars, and other junk, I won’t be hungry when that big, fat, Filet Mignon and potato is set down in front of me because I won’t have any room for it in my stomach. such is the case with the Bible. Maybe my answer isn’t to have difficult times return to my life so I can once again have a fruitful life of Bible study but simply to have myself quit filling up on the junk food of this world so when it comes time for the main course of God’s word, I will be hungry and dig in with a passion and be filled!
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Peace, Love, and Awakening!