Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned in thirty-seven years is that I can trust God in the midst of adversity.
I was raised in the Charismatic Movement, taught to believe we could believe it and receive it, name it and claim it, blab it and grab it. Because I believed in God’s plan to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me a hope and a future, I knew that all things were possible if I just believed in God.
In those days, I wrote Scripture on index cards and carried it with me until I had the verse memorized.
I got my first taste of freedom from that kind of formulaic Christianity during my freshman year of college, and I quickly burned out on the church game. Like many kids that age, I grew jaded and bitter. I questioned everything, doubted everyone, and dared anyone to question my choices.
Yet I still tried everything to find my purpose, which I expected to be magnificent. I was accustomed to excelling, and didn’t God promise me a hope and a future? But after being President of my Freshman class, making the Dean’s list, and dating a couple of girls, I still wasn’t satisfied.
So, at nineteen, I walked away from a four-year scholarship at a public liberal arts university, opting instead for a tiny ministry school. Why? Because I’d been playing the church game all my life. As long as I performed like the rest of the crowd, I could be anonymous. It was going to be easy.
How to Trust God in the Midst of Adversity via @iamsteveaustin #hope #graceismessy #catchingyourbreath
After ministry school, I served as a youth pastor and worship leader for the next decade, believing I could change the world and change the church. Around the age of twenty-nine, the shiny things lost their appeal and I began to burn out. I lost myself in trying to do everything bigger and better than the time before.
The truth is, I was using ministry to try and cover up my mental illness. I was dying inside, crushed by the weight of depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I nearly lost my family as a result.
For a while, I lost my will to live.
These days, I am no longer the boy who intentionally memorizes Scripture, and I haven’t been the President of anything in nearly twenty years.
I have always called Jeremiah 29:11 “the graduation verse” because that’s when it is most used.
And what about this one: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13
In reality, neither of these verses are promises from God that we can achieve anything we put our minds to. Philippians 4:13 was actually penned by Paul, while chained in prison, encouraging the rest of us who are stuck in dire circumstances to keep trusting.
In essence, Paul is saying that we can face all sorts of difficult circumstances and persevere, as long as we keep trusting in a faithful, changeless God.
It's natural for good, positive parents to want to tell our kids they can do anything. We want them to aim for the moon, and reach for the stars. Our hope is that they graduate with honors, get the job, get the girl, and have the life they want.
But Paul's gritty hope is saying when we don't get the job, or the girl, or the life we wanted, but instead lose our house, or our baby, or our momentary sanity, we can still endure all things through Christ who gives us strength.
"I can endure all things through Christ who gives me strength." - Philippians 4:13, via @iamsteveaustin #graceismessy #hope #holdon
When Lindsey experienced the hell of postpartum depression following our first child’s birth, it was the scariest time of my life. No young guy ever dreams of having his wife placed in a psych ward. I would have rather died. When she was rolled away on that stretcher, I couldn’t imagine anything worse.
A year later, Lindsey got the call no wife wants to get. “We found your husband’s body. He’s been transported to ICU.”
In both situations, we faced our darkest days, but we trusted in God in the face of great adversity and He walked with us through every experience.
Neither situation was easy - far from it! I wouldn’t wish those dark and uncertain days on my worst enemy. And in the midst of that kind of hell on earth, I wasn’t quoting Scripture or living out my faith with ease.
But the truth is, we did endure, and God was with us.
We never want to face adverse situations. Unfortunately, they will happen. It’s not a matter of if, but when. If there is to be a silver lining, it’s that we will learn from them. That is if we are willing to learn.
The deeper the adversity we face, the more it tests our resolve. We will learn much about ourselves in how we deal with the situation. I didn't want to have my wife hospitalized for her own safety, and that of our son. She didn't want to accept that I'd intentionally tried to end my life.
But we couldn't heal in either scenario until we were willing to face the pain in the first place. It's the only way to learn from adversity.
Today, I no longer want to do “all things”. Instead, I want to do a few things well, and persevere through adversity and tragedy, because the dark days make the Light shine that much brighter.
The dark days make the Light shine that much brighter. via @iamsteveaustin #adversity #hope #faith
For 8 days, beginning Monday, 5/4/20, I’ll be sending a brief thought on adversity to my email friends. For access to this bonus content, sign up below.
Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.
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