1 Corintians 13:11 (NIV) When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
In January 2009, I sat down on the side of my bed and prayed in earnest to God for the first time in a couple decades. I was finally sick enough of my life that I decided to go back to trying to do things God’s way and not my own. Since then I’ve been reading my Bible and praying and actually trying to grow as a person and as a Christian. It’s been by no means easy. Thirty years has passed and it feels like trench warfare. I’m still the same guy I was before – with one exception: I’m trying again. I hadn’t really tried at anything since Dad died back in 1982 and when it feels like doors constantly close for you in life, it has a way of reinforcing that defeatist attitude.
I remember standing outside Dad’s bedroom door knowing he’s breathing his last breaths mad at God that Dad had to die and saying to God, “You’re not going to make me go in there and watch that man die.” I carried the pain of that event around with me like a lodestone along with my defeat. That wasn’t what God wanted from me then or now. The lesson I wish to this very day that I had learned was this: God wants us to emphatically and completely trust him. “Trust me, Justin. I know what I’m doing with your life.” It took me twenty-seven years to learn that fact. You might think, “But, twenty-seven years…” and yes, my life would be completely different had I learned that December 23rd, 1982, but at least I learned it.
One of the first (and most hopeful) passages I read was Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV). It’s also one of my favorites.
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. [b] I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
The whole passage is about restoration. God loved Israel when Jeremiah wrote it and He loves it just as much today. He loves each and every one of us equally as well. As young people, we are filled with so much hope and optimism but often we let life run us down. That’s life. There’s highs. There’s lows. How each of us approaches calamity in life is what defines our character. I am one hundred percent positive that the reason why we suffer through calamities such as the loss of a parent or child or loved one is God wants to use that event as a catalyst to draw us towards Him and as a testimony on how we handled it when we do trust him through the hardship. In the short time I’ve been going to CrossRoads Community Church, I’ve seen this act of trust displayed on numerous occasions. It’s been people of good character trusting God through the hardships, clinging to their spouse and weathering the storm. When asked, they can say, “We trusted God and we got through it.” Trusting God and the hope are like two tightly woven helicoids of DNA. They are implicitly bound to one another. Trusting God gives us hope. Through hope we persevere. Through perseverance, we gain character, we grow and we learn that our trust was not in vain. That, in turn, reinforces our trust.
As we get closer to the day of Christmas and the closing out of the year, find someone to encourage. If not for them, do it for you. Be encouraged and be an encourager! If you think the year has been a lost cause, remember God’s hope and promises. Cling to hope. Keep trying. Don’t quit. I’ll leave you with this one promise of hope: John 3:16-17 (NKJV)
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
Wow, what hope! Have a great Christmas and be safe this holiday season!