Isn’t it funny how things we love, aren’t always the best thing for us to be doing? Let me be really honest with you or a second. I love candy. I especially love gummy bears and Sour Patch Kids. For our wedding registry, I thought it would be really funny if we put our favorite candy on it to see if people would buy us some. At our shower, I opened up the best gift ever, two five-pound bags of Sour Patch Kids. I was in heaven, and I had no self-control. I at the majority of one of the bags in one night, in one sitting. I immediately regretted this later on when my stomach had this tight feeling to it. Now, why did I bring up this moment? I shared this because many of us suffer from a lack of controlling things in our lives. This can be like the things we eat, the things we watch, our emotions; anything that can alter the way we act. The way we act and respond to others, generally reflects the attitude of our heart; our identity. This all might not make sense, or connect right away, but that’s one of my favorite ways to write. Big concepts that don’t seem to fit, funneled together to help us learn more about ourselves. In this season of resolutions and new habits, combined with my reading through Gideon, I want to talk about how to kill the masters of your life. I want to talk about how to kill what’s killing you.
At the time of writing this, Avengers: Infinity War, is only a few days away. I’ve been waiting years for this. Literal years. I love comics, and when Iron-Man first came out, my dad and I stayed after the credits and saw a glimpse of Nick Fury talking to Tony Stark about a little team he was putting together. Then, years after that, Marvel’s Avengers premiered, with another scene after the credits showing a smiley purple guy. I left the theater stunned, Thanos was coming. Being a comic kid, I knew the mad titan, a really bad dude who leaves a wake of destruction in his path. A big purple alien from the moon of titan, bent on taking over the galaxy and harnessing the power within it. Then he gets even more power with infinity gems, and all hope seems lost. The avengers have to band together to stop an unstoppable force. I can’t wait to see this in film form, but this mad titan reminds me of some of the same struggles we face in our own lives. Do you ever feel like whenever you are moving forward, something always seems to go wrong? Something begins to tempt you, a person in your life says words that hurt your soul, you fight those thoughts of self-doubt and loathing in your mind; it can seem almost impossible to survive. These are cases of what we call “spiritual attack.” This can be worse than a physical attack, often crippling us, but the fact is, when we remember our savior we find new hope. The mad titan is nothing compared to the love of God.
This past week, a tornado struck my home city of Greensboro, North Carolina. It came fast and hard, leaving a path of destruction in its wake. The night it happened no one really knew how bad. It hit the east side of the city, a place where attention hasn’t always been given. That night people were in chaos, I talked to a man who was not too far from where they struck and he told me that he was one of the first on the scene that night. He said it was like a warzone, absolute chaos and not much hope. The next day people began to mobilize, no one organization was the first to start, but a grassroots movement of the community began to take place. No company, government, or large entity; simply a community of people with one mindset: This is our city. On Tuesday, the staff at church began to simply walk in the streets affected by the storms. Door to door, doing what they could; grassroots. I was sick in bed Tuesday, but after seeing the full impact the storm left, my heart was heavy. Action Comics made history by being the first American comic to reach a thousand issues, Tuesday night it came out. What makes Superman so iconic is not the immense power, but the symbol of hope. Our city is filled with Supermen and Superwomen. On Wednesday morning, I went to the Peeler Rec Center, which is one of the main hubs in Greensboro to get involved. It opened a food kitchen and I chose to be there every day. We were a community, a true community. Neighbors coming together; a grassroots movement to help our city have hope. That’s the beauty of it all, I can’t explain why God lets things like this happen, but I do know that after the storm, there is a rainbow; a symbol of hope.
In May of 2014, I started this blog. I recently looked back at my first official post talking about what this blog was going to be all about. It’s pretty simple, lots of spelling and grammatical errors, but it was the start of something I would continue to do every week. From that point, a lot of crazy life events happened. Sometimes I wish I could go back and let that kid know about the battles that would be fought and the heartache that would come. I love being able to look back at the past. I never want to linger too much, but it always amazes me at how God has continued to move in my life in all things. I wrote a post in 2015, right at the start of the roller coaster God was going to bring me on. I had faced bullies, church hurt, and feeling un-wanted; but I could not have seen the next chapter in my life. In that same year I would lose two friends, have a family member suffer from addiction, and feel an overwhelming sense of fear about my next steps in life. I started that crazy season with a post about a verse that stuck out to me. I look back not and see just how God moved in the midst of all things.
Some of my favorite descriptions of words, phrases, and grammar come from Lemony Snicket. I gushed about his books a couple weeks ago, so check it out if you haven’t. One of the descriptions he talks of is the saying, “in the belly of the beast.” It speaks of a figurative feeling one gets when in the middle of an unfortunate circumstance, but in scripture, there is a literal event where one particular individual is in, “the belly of the beast.” Jonah was a man who God called for a great mission, but he trusted his own power and not God’s. Because of this, he believed he could not accomplish it, so he ran. Isn’t that a perfect picture of what we do in our own lives? I’m a victim of it, we have a situation we think we can’t overcome, so we run, we retreat from the promise on the other side of facing great peril. The truth is, we rely too much on our own strength when we should be trusting God. We have a God who created the universe and loves us. You’re right thinking you can’t get through it, but God can. No matter what you’re facing, God can. The calling that looks too big? God can. The mountain in your life? God can. When it feels like the world is against you and there is no hope? God can. We can learn much from Jonah, we can learn how to act in the belly of the beast.
Can you believe it? In exactly one week, Christmas will be here. Wow, that’s kinda frightening, especially if you have to finish gift shopping and gearing up for the family travels, there are many working parts that happen during this time of year. Not to mention the high levels of depressing that this season can bring, losing lost ones, thinking about fears you have of the future, wondering if what you do actually means anything; the struggle hurts in a very real way. I’ve been thinking a lot about this. The stress and the sadness that surrounds Christmas can seem overwhelming, but the truth is, we can have hope during this Christmas season.
None of us like feeling powerless. We want to be strong and stand against anything that comes our way, but so often we end up feeling helpless. I’m talking about both a physical attack, but a mental attack or another way to put it, a spiritual attack. We have an enemy who lurks in the shadows trying to tear us down and make us question whether God is truly there. Now before I continue, this isn’t a post about how “the devil made me do it,” stop that, you did it and you have to own the mistake (rant over). Today I want to write about how to combat spiritual attack, because each of us fight on a daily basis. There are words spoken over us (see last week’s post), there are temptations that arise, and there are hardships that don’t make sense to us. Each of these things are a form of spiritual attack, designed to make us lose sight of the one who loves us, the one who gave his life for us. You see, we aren’t hopeless in the midst of these things, we actually have the tool we need to fight back. It’s so easy for church culture to just say, “hang in there,” or my personal favorite, “I’ll pray for you,” (then never pray when you could do it in that moment with them). This tool is powerful and we all have experienced it, but we often don’t consciously see it as a weapon, then it hit me while reading a book.
Well, the summer is finally coming to a close. Not going to lie, I’m ready for this heat to go away. What this also means is that we are all entering into new seasons of our lives. The summer vacations come to a close, college students head back to having their time filled with work, and kids start a new grade while having to wake up early in the mornings (but moooooom, I don’t want to wake up!). It’s funny how fast time seems to fly by, we finish one season of our lives in a blur and jump towards the next. It can be pretty scary if we’re honest. New things always make us unsure of what we know. I’ve been thinking a lot about this because today in fact, I start my senior year at UNCG, which makes me nervecited. What’s that? You have no idea what my made up word means? It’s a combination of nervous and excited. I’m nervous because after this year is when I start looking for jobs and enter into the “real world.” At the same time I’m excited because I will begin a new chapter in the story of my life. We all have transitions and new chapters, all of which have us entering into unknown territory.
We are made for something greater. It’s an inherent aspect of our very being, we want to do and be more than someone who simply exists. One of the biggest questions we ask is, why am I here? My Pastor yesterday spoke about this idea stating, the reason we feel this way is because we were not made for this world. He’s right, we were made for a different world. The concept sounds like I’m writing a comic book, but stick with me. We were made to live in paradise with Christ, but because of a choice that was made, we became separated from God. Isn’t that so crazy? We were made to be perfect living in the world God gave us, but because of a choice we lost it. So that leaves us in the predicament, we were made for something more, but how do we do that? What does that mean? What’s the point? I’ve had these questions so many times in my life, so many moments where I have no idea what to do or how to run after a purpose. When I have these moments in my life, I think of the idea of surrender. To surrender one’s life is to abandon oneself entirely to a powerful emotion or influence. When I think of this definition, it reminds me that when I surrender to Christ, he makes me greater.
Life is filled with the unexpected. These are things that can be good or bad, but each day we are filled with the unexpected. It can be difficult to trust God in these moments, because these life moments can be hard. A death in the family, heartbreak, and watching people close to you fall away can plague our lives and cause us to enter into storms like none other. These unexpected events cause change in our lives, and change is scary. I had a chance to speak last night with our youth about how change can come at us all the time. These students are having to choose colleges and face the hardships of a high schooler in our modern era. This idea came at me in kind of a silly way, this week in an Instagram update, a feature called “stories” was added, a feature that is very similar to the app of Snapchat (*gasp* scandal!). While it is a silly thing, people seemed to be upset, and that made me think, if something this small can upset us, how do we react when the real issues affect us? Changes create unexpected moments in our lives, but God wants to use unexpected moments to make us stronger. John 16:33b says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” You see even though we will face hardships in the unexpected nature of life, we don’t have to fear, because Christ reigns supreme.