Saturday, May 7, 2016

Falling apart or falling into place?

The past month has been a trying and emotional for our ministry and our family. We have been getting spiritually attacked like crazy. The warfare is intense. We expect it due to being in a front line ministry where souls are being saved and literally crossing over from darkness to light- but it is not fun to go through, especially when you are being relentlessly bombarded to the point that you feel like you can't even come up for air. When there is no breathing room, no time to catch your footing. No time to rest and recuperate and prepare for the next battle.

My husband and I have had a lot of attacks in our personal lives. Attacks involving our relationships, our health, our lives, our property, our children, our friends, our hope, our determination, our beliefs. Attacks that have tried to make us question the future, question if what we are doing is worth it, question why God is allowing everything to seemingly crumble around us when we know we are walking in his will. The past month we have felt very much like Job at some points. Job, who in the bible, lost everything due to Satan's attacks. His wife, his children, his health, his home, his land- everything.

I, personally, have spent a lot of time the past month questioning why it is that we are burning ourselves out trying to help people while others are content to just sit back and watch them die. There are SO many hurting and broken addicts in our community who desperately need God's love. People know that there is a problem. The churches know that there is a problem. Yet, every day I watch as another addict ignored, overlooked, or forgotten about by Christians. Addicts who Jesus loves and is desperate to save are given a back seat on the priority list of Christians who are so wrapped up in their bible studies( with the same people who have been going to them for fifteen years), youth group outings, PTA meetings, kids soccer games, and coffee dates with friends. People are so wrapped up in themselves that they can't be bothered to notice that there are people literally dying right in front of them. The great commission is in front of their faces, yet they have better things to do. Saving the kiss and saving the whales and vying for gmo free food are all worthy causes, but if you are looking past the broken soul right in front of you to focus on it, there is a problem.

Now, don't get me wrong. PTA meetings and youth groups and bible studies and all that are wonderful. They are all great things. I am not trying to put down any of it. I am just coming from a place of desperation, a place of loneliness, where sometimes it seems as if we are the only ones that are fighting for these people. The only ones that don't have better things to do. The only ones that don't have an option of making them an option. God won't allow us to, and sometimes it gets overwhelming and very, very discouraging when it seems like no one else cares. It is hard for my heart to wrap around the fact that there are people who don't see souls as a priority in the way that we do.  I just want to scream from the top of my lungs for people to wake up. Don't you realize that these souls matter? That your bible study can wait, but they could very well be dead tomorrow? That God has put them in front of your face for a reason- and it's not so you can pretend they aren't there? That they are not meant to be an afterthought- and maybe you will think about praying for them after you are done with all of your PTA meetings, youth group outings, and coffee dates- if you remember?

I am not trying to bash the church. In fact, I absolutely adore my church, and most people have been very welcoming of the addiction ministry that we run. I am just frustrated for the people that we minister to. I know the hurt and pain and rejection of feeling that no one cares, and that you're not worth their time. My heart breaks for them, because I was there at a point in my life, and I know how it hurts.  The fact is that as Christians, we should be the FIRST people offering to help addicts. They should be able to see and feel the love of Jesus in us. They should feel accepted in a way that they have never been in society, because Christians are supposed to be different and demonstrate the unconditional love of God. We are supposed to love the out casted and the broken. These people have spent their entire lives being treated as if they don't matter. As if they should just die off. That they aren't important and no one cares about them. That their lives are no more important than a PTA meeting. The love of God is the ONLY thing that will ever be able to change that. And until they get to know God for themselves, we need to be His hands and feet that bring that love to them. You see, as Christians, we are supposed to live our lives as living sacrifices- for God and for others. Our own wants and needs should not be on the top of our priority lists. If every Christian could lay their lives down for others, we wouldn't have so many lost and broken people in the world.

My husband and I make that the goal of our ministry. To love addicts even if they are still using and even if they are hard to love. To show them that Jesus loves them no matter where they are or what they have been doing. That they are a priority to Him. That they matter. But, sometimes we get tired. Really tired. We take on so much, and when we have a month like we just had, it takes everything within us to keep going. Sometimes when the spiritual warfare gets so intense and we look around and see that we are fighting alone with no backup, we want to quit. Sometimes we get so emotionally, physically, and spiritually drained that we do quit. For about a day- then when a need arises and someone needs help and we see that no one else is stepping into fill it, we come our of our 15 hour retirement, and push aside the rest we desperately need. We just cannot sit back and watch people hurting and not take action- God compels us to. Sometimes we wish we had people to help us carry the load. People to stand beside us, to pray for us, to offer encouragement, to be our friends.  People to show the addicts that they care, too. Everyone can't do addiction ministry, but everyone can do something to help. Even if it's just acknowledging them on Sunday morning, even if they are stumbling down the aisle high. Heck, invite an addict with you to your PTA meetings and bible studies. Show them that they matter. Show them Jesus.

Because we can't do it all. There are so many addicts- and they have so many needs- and we are only two people. And sometimes when we are getting pummeled by life, we need someone to help lift us up, so we can continue lifting up others. We need people to care about the hurting and broken people in front of them, and offer to show love to them when we can't. When we are empty and need to pull back and be filled by God, we need to know that there is someone there willing to take over showing the love of Christ to these people. We can't operate under the assumption that we will do it later- when the PTA meetings are done with, when youth group is over, when the soccer season is done. Because for many of these addicts, by that time, it will be too late.

What makes all of this so much harder in the Job times is that SO many times we have given our all to people, just to have them drift away from God or back into addiction in the end. We spend months and years pouring our hearts into addicts, taking them under our wings, praying for them, becoming friends with them, helping them in any way we can, making them part of our family, giving up our lives for the sake of theirs- and many times they end up throwing it all away.

That is just par for the course for this ministry. The nature of addiction is wicked. Satan does not let people go easily. He fights tooth and nail to get their souls back, and sometimes he wins. It is so hard to see someone you love go back to their addiction. Someone you had hopes for. Someone who you thought finally may have gotten it. Someone who has tasted the goodness of God, and knows He is real, yet choose to go back to the destructive life the enemy has for them. It is easier to get an unbelieving addict to give God a chance and for them to turn away from drugs than it is to get back someone who has been freed and healed of their addiction by God and then willing go back to it. Because at that point, they are ignoring the voice and conviction of God, and that is dangerous territory. If they ignore it long enough, pretty soon they will not be able to hear it anymore. An addict who decides to give their life to Christ does so in search of the truth, and He is compassionate to have grace and mercy for them and their ignorance before they knew the truth. An addict that goes back to addiction after knowing Christ already knows the truth, and are just choosing to ignore it. Once you start doing that, it becomes easier and easier to ignore the truth, until you finally end up so caught up in the enemy's deception that you are as far away from God as you were before you got saved.

Many times we know it's coming. We can see if from a mile away, and God will begin to show us that people are starting to pull away from Him. However, that never makes it any easier. You still feel blindsided. You still wonder what else you could have done. You still wonder what would have happened if someone besides you were trying to help them. We are fools for hope, and we were taught to NEVER give up on anyone, because you never know when God will work with someone. But, when people start to drift away from sobriety and God, many times we have to back away from them not only for the safety of our own sobriety, but in order for them to fall and hit a bottom that makes them desperate enough to turn back and surrender to God. And that is a hard, HARD thing to do when you care about someone.
It is ALWAYS hard when that happens. It's hard to watch, because we know what the end result will be, but Satan has so blinded their minds that they will no longer here the truth. It's like watching a train wreck in slow motion. But it's even harder when we are going through a Job season, and it seems like everything else is crumbling around us. When our world seems to be falling apart, and no one is noticing. When the devil whispers to us to curse God and die.

But it is during these times when we have to fix our eyes on Jesus all the more. When we need to focus on things above, not on earthly things. When we need to rest in the fact that God knows what He is doing, and that somehow he will use all of this to work for our good. That He will send people to help, that he cares about the people that we are fighting for, and that we are not in this alone. He is right there with us. and He has it all under control, even if it doesn't seem like it in the moment. We need to focus on the fact that God has indeed blessed us with amazing friends and an amazing church family, and that He is positioning things in our favor. That as long as we are obedient to what He is telling us to do, He will fight for us, if we will only be still.

Circumstances will make you give up if you focus on them. That's what the Devil wants us to do- to focus on everything that is going wrong and doubt God's goodness and sovereignty. We can't save anybody. No one can save anyone but God alone. The devil wants me to look at the fact that it seems like no one cares, as if hope should rest in people. It doesn't. And I need to remember that.

The thing is, the story of Job seems really depressing and hopeless-  until you get to the end. God made everything right- in fact, he made it better than before Job went through everything he went through. I have seen God do it numerous times in my own life, and the lives of others. He will never fail, and He will never leave of abandon us. He won't leave and abandon the addicts that are dying. If the people who he places them in front of won't help, He will send someone who will. He can soften hearts and redeem and restore all things. He has this under control. And when we come out the other side, we will be refined as gold- as long as we don't let the circumstances discourage us.

I do know, that God will always give us enough encouragement to keep us going, even when we want to give up. I was feeling down about people in our ministry drifting away, relapsing, and going to jail. Then this Sunday I turned around and behind me in church was the first woman who ever walked into CROSSroads. I hadn't seen her in about six months, and I cried tears of joy when I turned around and saw her face. The next day, another one of our girls that had been in jail for months got released, and she is doing better than ever. He let me know that even if sometimes it feels like we aren't making a difference, we are. Even if no one is helping us, God is fighting for us- and that's all we need. Even if it is ONE soul that meets Jesus because we reached out to them- that is enough, and it makes it all worth it. None of it is wasted. Sharing Jesus with people is never a waste, and he will take the seeds that were planted and do the miraculous with them- even if we don't see it right away. That's why we don't quit. That's why we can't quit. Because even one addict's life matters to God.

There is a Casting Crown's song that says "your world's not falling apart, it's falling into place, I'm on the throne, stop holding on, and just be held".  What looks like things falling apart to us is usually God rearranging things to how they should be for his purposes, but many times we can only see that He was working all along in retrospect. My prayer is that God grants me the strength to live out that belief, even in my Job moments.