I’ve been mentally struggling since leaving my community. I was excited to be done with my job on staff! But now that I’m in between places again some of the old patterns of thinking and feeling have tried to return.
I want to connect with God, but it feels strange. I want to love God, but at times I feel fake. Logically, I realize that my emotions are getting the best of me, but it doesn’t necessarily make the feelings stop.
It’s not always easy to transition and make a positive changes in your life, but failure or backsliding doesn’t have to have stigma. So I propose two questions…
What if we could believe that our failures are for us? How could that help us grow in a healthier way?
I Don’t Trust That God
It was October 2015. I had just received my letter from Wharton Business School that said, “Sorry, we don’t have a place for you in our class.”
I had spent a few thousand dollars getting help and working through this process of applying to schools only to be rejected.
Also, I had one serious relationship that had been going on about one year, and I was on the verge of self-sabotage (again). I had been so negative, so conditioned to the fact that I was a failure, that I lost perspective of life.
Fortunately, my church Bluewater Mission and my family group began to change that. They didn’t hate me or reject me. In fact, they really liked me and loved who I was.
My group leader John encouraged me and began discussing and sharing talents, abilities, and struggles he perceived in my life that I had not shared with others. It was strange but also comforting to know that the Holy Spirit knew me through John’s words and actions.
But there was a problem dating back to 4th grade. I had a very demanding, perfectionistic view of God the Father.
I saw him as a judge, and he was furious with me and angry with sin.
Thus, since my teenage years, I lived in a lot of condemnation because of the teachings of certain pastors in my life. And by the age of 20, after years of struggling with lust, pornography, and insecurity, I left my faith altogether.
I knew God was real, but as far as I was concerned he didn’t care about me. Sure Jesus seemed nice enough, but Jesus took the wrath of an angry father. Or so I was taught …
If that was the kind of Father he was, then I wanted nothing to do with him.
So, I left my faith because I had reached a conclusion — I don’t trust that God and I want nothing to do Him.
The Problems With A God Who’s Not Like Jesus
Maybe you can relate. You’ve dealt with this same issue.
How is this Father like Jesus, yet He’s also punishing Jesus?
Well, if I’m being honest, I’ve been wrestling with this question for more than 7 years. It was one of the most important questions I ever asked, because it led me on a journey to freedom.
At the core of this question is a deeper question that all human beings are asking around the world:
“Can I trust God when I’m in pain, sinning, failing, or worse?”
Unfortunately, We say and teach this doctrine in many churches, but many of us have not thought it through …
Jesus says, “I will not be alone, for my Father is with me.” Yet, we say God punished Jesus for sin? We say, “God was in Christ”* in the majority of our bible translations, but we change our theory when we share the Gospel.
Should I even mention the Holy Spirit? How does He feel about this wrath between the Father and Jesus?
He must be pretty torn.
God Has To Be Like Jesus Or We Can’t Trust Him
Honestly, I bring all this up because this theory gave me a deep mistrust of God. It made me hate the Father. It made me question that God was like Jesus, when the New Testament is so clear that Jesus is what God is like.
If that’s true, then that is truly the best news in the world. God is with us, he loves us, and he is for us (more that we are for ourselves).
He suffers with us too. And promises he can bring life out of death.
For me, this changes everything because God does not condemn me in my weakness, but he allows it and uses it. And thank God that’s true, because the God of Jesus Christ is much more profound that a “quick-fix” theology.
This God looks much more like my Dad than I ever imagined. He is patient, loving, allows me to learn the hard way at times, and allows me to abuse my privileges and fail to steward his gifts (both intentionally and unintentionally).
Look no further than Judas, he was one of Jesus’ disciples. And Peter, he denied Jesus Christ three times at his death march. Both clearly failed in major ways!
Yet, Jesus doesn’t stop them. So what does that say about God?
Even though you weep over your shortcomings and catch yourself returning to old ways of thinking, trust that God is working in you and loving you the whole time. — Richard Rohr
Your Failures Are Not The End If You Choose To Persevere
We seem to forget that God already knows our heart. He already sees everything. We’re not hiding anything.
What does that mean? It means God knows our hearts, so GET REAL.
Be honest and quit pretending like God doesn’t know or is going to reject you for being a mess. He already said yes to you on the cross in Jesus.
Because of this fact, I truly believe God wants me to succeed! Yet, I also think that he’s not going to hit the easy button because easy doesn’t teach much.
I fail. Often, I fail a second time. But, I’ve failed enough times that I also don’t get too bent out of shape anymore.
I don’t enjoy failing. It’s humiliating. I often think, “I should be over this by now.” BUT, I also know that I didn’t come this far on my own strength. And that reality keeps me humble and helps me trust God more than myself.
Most importantly, it has had built my conviction. Or as C.S. Lewis says,
After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us toward is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again.
Learning How To Coach Yourself Out Of The Pit
The core message of every letter that Paul wrote to his churches was this: REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE IN CHRIST.
When I’m struggling, it’s NOT (normally) because I’m being a bad person. It’s because I’m uncomfortable and not focused on the truth. In those moments, I need a way to coach myself out of these things. I need my truths and reminders of my beliefs each day.
While I can’t share all of them here, here are a few that I find most helpful when I feel myself trapped in the spiral of emotions and thinking. They don’t all makes sense, and their not suppose to!
They simply speak to my soul what I need to hear. So here we go:
- When you feel upset or disheartened, it’s probably because you feel misunderstood, rejected, or have some CRAZY ideal image of yourself — STOP! YOU’RE HUMAN.
- You may have faults, that’s okay. KEEP GROWING and remember that God doesn’t use perfect people or imposters.
- Recognize your emotions are hallucinations of your actual state of mind.
- Be present to this moment. This is your reality. Not some contrived problem.
- Sometimes you will try to connect and it won’t work. THAT’S NORMAL and part of life. A lack of connection ≠ rejection.
I have many others that I read from time to time, such as, “Even 5 minutes of peace is worth fighting for” or “By living I am already expressing God’s love” to remind myself of who I am and am committed to becoming each day.
All of these serve one purpose: to reconnect me to my freedom and the fact that God likes me and is pleased that I get up and try each day.
The Only Sin Is Failure To Grow
The three phrases that I put under the header of this website are “Seek Wisdom. Love Deeply. Grow Always.”
I decided on these three phrases they each reflect core desires of my heart, key influences, and the disciplines I most enjoy.
At my core, I desire to become a man with wisdom from the heart of God, a ambassador of God’s love, and a humble person who is committed to life-long learning. They are the three legs of the chair or purposes that keep me stable.
Thus, my beliefs, my values, and my relationships revolve around these phrases.
Still, I believe that in each of these the most important one is growth. I say that because when I lose heart it’s usually because I have lost perspective on how far God has brought me.
I forget that God is not measuring my progress, but my ability to trust him and act on the convictions he’s given me — even when it results in failure.
God is not measuring my failure. God is asking me, “Can you be as patient, kind, and loving with yourself as I am with you?”
You’re struggling? Good. Look at where you’ve come from, look at where you’re going, and keep growing.
Grace and Peace,
- Charles Payne