I recently heard a sermon about anguish and as I thought back on my life without realizing it, some of my greatest breakthroughs with my relationship with Christ and my walk with Him, was when I was on my knees crying out to Him a complete mess. I wasn’t at a revival or being entertained by an engaging pastor who made me feel good as I yelled back , “Preach it Brother.” I was in my pain calling out to my Savior, knowing who I was and knowing who I wasn’t. In the Bible we can read two sentences that may span 3 or 20 years, and if I am no different than any other Bible hero, I can safely say that each of them had their moments of anguish as they drew nearer to God. What I’m reflecting about today is what happens between the lines. Hopefully you get the picture, but for it to come alive we need to be in a place where we are open to God. In my experience, even though we can receive revelation and sense the Glory of God during praise and worship or in a group setting, most of the time, I can’t get to that place where the only voice I hear is God’s. We have been conditioned to live in the happy place and steered away from the places in our lives where it might hurt. Many people, myself included, have confused the pain we bring on ourselves with the process Jesus uses to strip away our old self. One night as I was going through one phase of this process, where I felt I was dying. I was told I was breaking out of my shell and it was a fight I had persevere in. I was fortunate to have people around that taught me that there is pain in our offering. If we hear words like that today, we are told that is old school. They might say, “You need to take the authority that Jesus gave and promised you and go take that hill. This is true but like most appealing messages, it starts in the middles chapters instead of the beginning. There is a difference between happiness and joy. I believe a Christian who understands what anguish is, knows the difference. We only have to do one thing and that is die to one self, but how exactly do you do that?
Thirteen years ago when I went on the Walk to Emmaus, this verse was the cornerstone of that weekend.
And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that it may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested. (1 Chronicles 4:10)
What happened to this guy to have this pop out in the middle of 1 Chronicles? We have no idea how long it took to have that request granted. As a child I cried out. I cried out to my parents, my teachers, my aunts and uncles. I remember even crying out to God as a child wishing I had never been born. I have always wanted the emptiness I felt inside removed. I hated the way I felt about myself and I find could no meaning to my life. My book, Why Nobody is Searching for God, chronicles that path and how I tried to run from it. But as I write today, I never connected to two before, same story, but Holy Spirit has placed further revelation upon it and I can see how my anguish propelled me forward not backwards. If my life was recorded like Jabez’ in the Bible it might go like this.
Roland, first born son of Roger and Anita, early in his life wanted with walk with God, but due to all the false doctrine around him, lived a life that bore mixed fruit in that quest. Never blessed by his father, Roland searched for peace until the pain he brought on himself caused him to cry out to God, finally understanding that all other paths would lead to his death. Roland not only found salvation through Jesus Christ, but lived under the power of the Jesus’s new covenant once he surrendered himself wholly unto God and let Holy Spirit fight his battles.
During that weekend, I fell to my knees pleading to have a burdensome sin taken from me. I heard a man tell me to get free from the snare pornography had on me, I needed to confess that sin to my wife. For two years, I struggled with the merry-go-round of sin, repent, rinse and repeat, until I was reminded again at a marriage conference that a man knows his sins and a wife should know that behind that façade a man can be as feeling as they are, not wrong but different.. I was immediately filled with anguish. I looked at my wife who was glowing, as she had just finished saying, “I understand now.” She was the prettiest I had ever seen her at that moment. I cried out in my spirit, No!!! and I heard, “It is time.”
I knew was at the crossroads as a believer in Jesus Christ, I had to open myself to any anger, retaliation, look of disgust and disappointment that might come my way. I was physically and spiritually defenseless and I only had Jesus with me in that car as I asked my wife to ask me who her husband was. I was not allowed to tell her, she had to ask. Even after all my years of being sober, I still had the one sin I felt I could get under control so I would not have to admit to anyone who I really was. I may have told a ton of men and God about my sin, but that sentence can never describe what those two years were like trying to get right on my own. She asked, “Roland what is your sin?” I could only think, “This was going to hurt and hurt bad and she was going to be devastated.” I will never forget that moment, I was terrified.
I did not get caught. I wasn’t forced to change. I surrendered to the will of God that day through the person He placed in my life, who I loved greatly and was afraid to lose. I had to put my life in her hands through Christ, without knowing what the outcome was. It truly felt like my life was being sacrificed. Abraham had to be willing to sacrifice his son and I had to be willing to sacrifice a marriage. My fear of being alone and rejection had to be offered up. For years I cried out to Him to have this burden taken away and He showed me how to remove it. It didn’t matter that I attended the early Sunday prayer circle with our Pastor or that I played guitar in our community service. Nothing can describe the separation I felt from my wife and Christ after I acted out. I could never see past the sin which was only the symptom to a deeper issue I was blind to. I would cry out to God and pound my fists. There were times I wanted to die. This sin always brought days of spiritual ( residue) separation from everyone around me and my Maker. I lived under the Old Covenant while I wanted the New.
To get right with Christ you have to have skin in the game and because of my anguish and my desire to be free, I heard God tell me what to do. I was afraid to face my wife, even though she was the key to my freedom. As crazy as this sounds, there were days I would rather have been caught and faced the consequences, then have her ask me what my sin was.
I HAD TO FACE THE SIN IN ME AND KNOW THAT ONLY JESUS COULD DELIVER ME. I HAD TO WILLINGLY WALK TO THE ALTAR, FACE THE DEATH OF MY OLD LIFE AND PUT IT ALL ON THE TABLE. HOW WAS I TO KNOW THIS WAS HOW ONE ENTERS INTO CHRIST’S NEW COVENANT. FOR ME IT WAS EASIER SAID THAN DONE.
Yes, He blessed me with the marriage, but I only wanted the cookies and cream, so I thought. I was afraid to trust God with everything and unlock my marriage. But my wife was not only the key to my freedom from that sin but also the key which removed my fear of being alone and abandonment. (Through Christ of course but she was the catalyst.)
I had a history of broken relationships, due to my impatience and lack of trust in God’s timing, I chose women that I was even warned not to venture near. My pattern was saving women going through divorces and a custody battle, who needed someone like me to save them. Just because I may have met one in church did not mean they were meant for me. Then once I presented myself as the knight in shining armor, the tables turned and all my insecurities ruled my behavior. If everything felt OK I could pray to God. But when things got crazy, I would cry out and ask God why is this happening to me, make it stop, but I was more afraid of the pain I might feel if I let go than of the pain I would feel if I stayed. (An uninformed decision). I was like the Pharisees afraid to let go of the law and turn to Christ wholly. I wanted all of this blessed by God because it felt right in the beginning. I had lost the person who GOD wanted me to be and through my anguish I finally understand the term, a slave to sin.
Sin has a way of making me believe what I want will equal the outcome I desire and then call it God’s will to give me permission to proceed forward. So as we discuss this, understand this is the battle that we need to let go of so Holy Spirit can fight it for us. I can’t tell you how this happens, I can only tell you there are days when I feel a tap on my shoulder that says hey, you need to do XXX. I call on Holy Spirt and at some point the cat calls from the peanut gallery stop and it might be hours before I realize what happened. I just know I made it through and thank God.
When sin slowly encircles you like a python, every breath feels like your last and you will grab for anything to survive. I was always afraid to grab on to Christ in those areas of my life I was most afraid to lose. I felt God wouldn’t get it right I suppose. Instead I picked a path, started walking and asked Him to bless it. (square peg-round hole)
So here we are, how does this effect us today.
We instinctively choose a happy path or are told to choose one that initially settles our fears or gives us relief and when is falls apart, we are told it must be God’s will. Wrong! I reaped what I sowed. The God’s will part left the station when I said I could tame the tigress all by myself while in the cage. There are people crying out in anguish in our churches today and our leaders are putting their arms around them saying it’s OK all you have to do is this(fill in the blank and it usually is not repent) and you will feel better. That’s not OK!!!
We need to be honest about the process. In my experience, I had to endure what I was going through to get to the other side. It felt like withdrawals, but there is a part where my old life was ripped away, like a scab on an infected wound so it will heal. We need to remind people that they need to get alone with Christ, in the quiet of their spirit. You must turn to God or it will get worse. We have given sin a life of its own that feeds on our desire to avoid pain and have a false sense of control. We need to stop hoping people will figure it out in their pain and watch them die around us. We need to truthfully give them the remedy. Tell them to get on their knees, so that it will take only two years instead of ten years to walk in that freedom offered through the New Covenant by wholly offering ourselves to God and what ever you do, don’t give up. Better yet, get on your knees with them!!! I don’t know what is it going to be like for the next person, but the more I try to get my soul right my way, the more I hurt and cause damage to others.
24 years ago, one night in a basement of a church a lady stopped a discussion meeting dead in its tracks, after I had spent about 15 minutes crying about the relationship I was in. It had cheating, prescription drugs, violence and we weren’t even married. She did not say, “It’s OK, let’s see if you can work it out.
She looked over to Nobody, with a love in her eyes that only God could produce, she said. “She has to leave tonight, if you want any chance of a normal life. You are going to have to believe it before you see it. You are going to have to trust that God loves you and the strength of God will lead you through this before you understand the way out.” (Taken from Why Nobody is Searching for God)
That night I chose God in my anguish and I was never the same again because of it, but it was only the beginning of my journey.
A few years later, I had forgotten the pain I could bring upon myself in this area, even though sin convinced me this time it would be different. I was holding on even tighter than before to a relationship with a woman I met at church. Even though the components to the relationship seemed normal or different than before they really weren’t. We were trying to hold it together in our own strength forcing an outcome believing it was written in the stars. I even wrote a letter to a pastor and the singles minister who confronted me about living with this women, using bible verses against them to tell them they didn’t understand God’s will for me. (ta daaaa!) They offered to marry us, but we couldn’t admit that she wasn’t divorced yet………… So knowing that……
I likened my situation living with someone, to Mary and Joseph, unwed and with child and no room for them in Bethlehem, even though Joseph was in his hometown. Their family must not have approved of their situation and neither did these pastors. I believe they did not know what God’s will for me and my life just like Joseph’s family didn’t of theirs. To think I could have drawn that conclusion still baffles me to this day. Ten years later, I called each pastor and told them they were right and made my amends. While I enjoyed the services the church provided. “The God blesses everything in my life” was the doctrine I followed. You see doctrine does matter in the end.
Sin entraps you to do things you would warn everyone else not to do. However, I never stopped reaching out to my Father. Anguish has the Fear of the Lord, Worship, Praise, Humility, Repentance all rolled into one. Eventually, my desire for my Father outweighed my desire to continue within destructive relationships and behavior, that had the allure of the apple on the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
The woman God finally blessed me with as my wife, was my friend first. I praise God, we are still married today almost 15 years. God has drawn us together to fulfill a purpose and through that relationship we grow closer to Christ. We did not follow all the rules at first, and a heavy price was paid. However, both of us had to learn to sacrifice something that was entangled in our spirits to fulfill our marriage and our relationship with Christ.
All of this to say I was a serial monogamous relationship killer, whether I was married or not. I jumped in quick and hoped for the best. Now it would be years, before I told my wife who I was in my sin as described above, but God gave me the person (the key) to unlock my prison door. God sent angels to free Peter and Paul from jail, and God sent an angel to open my prison door as well. However, I had to walk through the door.
It is a shame we don’t hear about anguish in church anymore. I know that it was my pleading to God that enabled me throughout the years to hear His voice and find Him. It prepared my heart to discern false doctrine and walk without fear like I used to. I am no longer waiting for the next shoe to drop. I walk out each day knowing that Holy Spirit is beside me. All of this happened, once I stopped fighting and said, “Yes, Lord, I give you all of me no matter how much it hurts.”
Today, I walk in faith. At least once or twice a week I find myself weeping in the presence of Jesus as I ask for forgiveness or guidance with whatever issue may be troubling me. Though fellowshipping with other Christians is important, my time with God in my secret place is priceless. I get most of my revelation for my writings as I kneel on the floor with Him in our secret place in between the sentences. The other morning when I realized how the word anguish and my wife fit into his plan to rescue me from the obstacles that prevented me from being part of New Covenant, I wept in thanksgiving and asked if I could go write it down, I heard, “Yes.”
I love you Father.