Read Job 3:16-19
Or why was I not as a hidden stillborn child, as infants who never see the light? There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest. There the prisoners are at ease together; they hear not the voice of the taskmaster. The small and the great are there, and the slave is free from his master.
• What's the secret to spiritual restoration and contentment?
• Do you "eat up" Scripture regularly and tap into a two-way conversation with Jesus. (Why or why not?)
• Why is it important to know the one true Christ of the Bible?
"Why wasn't I buried like a stillborn child, like a baby who never lives to see the light? For in death the wicked cause no trouble, and the weary are at rest" (Job 3:16-17 NLT).
While this may sound morbid, I (Arnie) once shared Job's sentiments. Why was I ever born? I asked myself. Why can't I die instead?
It was a dark period of my life. I was miserable, and no matter how hard I tried, nothing seemed to move me closer to God. In fact, the more things I attempted to do that seemed "Christian," the deader I felt inside.
Growing up, I got a ton of good thoughts and wise advice about life from some really great people: my parents, a few well-meaning folks at church, coaches, teachers. And it was, at the time, just what every child needed. But as I hit my late teens and early twenties, I started seeing chinks in the armor of leaders. Moral failures, hypocrisy, and then my own behavior started to go south, as well. The more difficult my life became, the more I prayed, asking God to save me from whatever problem I got myself into. Yet the more I prayed, the farther away God seemed to be. And He never answered my shouts for help--or so it seemed to me.
Diving into the field of humanistic psychology, I was exposed to a plethora of ideas and actions, and suffice it to say, they didn't always match up with Jesus' take on life. I was told that "god" is in every one of us, and that if we are smart enough to break away from all of our messed-up, "religious hang-ups," we could be free as a bird. Slowly but surely in my quest for spiritual freedom, I was being sold antibiblical thoughts, with the natural corresponding antibiblical behavior following pretty closely behind--all in the name of having a free spirit--free from anything religious! Sadly, twenty-seven years later, I was so confused, I couldn't recognize spiritual truth. I ended up calling bad "good," and good "bad." My theme song was Peggy Lee's "Is That All There Is?"--"Let's keep dancing, break out the booze and have a ball!"
While it seemed fun at the time, I was empty inside.
In the midst of all of this being-free-from-religion stuff and thinking that I controlled my destiny, I occasionally got the impression that maybe everything wasn't so great in this land of "enlightened freedom." When I was thirty, for example, I completed my 5,500-square-foot dream house but still wasn't happy or fulfilled. Strangely, I became obsessed with the idea of hanging myself from a balcony off of the courtyard. Something was terribly wrong in the world I'd created for myself.
But about eighteen years ago, I launched into the process of knowing Jesus--a process that, for me, happened very slowly. And as I looked back at my old life, I began to see the irony of it all: my quest to be free and to become my own god was, in reality, turning me into a slave. I was in bondage to selfishness, pride, lust, depravity, and--though I wouldn't have labeled it this way--my own twisted sin nature.
Soon I faced a new challenge: How do I set myself free spiritually?
The more I thought about my past failed relationships, the more overwhelmed I became. Loser--that's all I am and ever will be, I'd constantly tell myself.
Eventually, one truth changed everything: I have to win today if I'm going to win the race in all of my tomorrows.
It sounded a bit cliché, yet it made sense. I have to win today. That's all I need to focus on! While I couldn't change yesterday (or just about anything in my past), it didn't have to define who I was, and what I did today.
Spiritual losers can get unstuck and actually become winners as they focus on today and connect with Jesus in a consistent and genuine way. Too often even devoted Christ followers forget that we have a personal, relatable, and persistent Savior who loves us deeply despite our sin and flaws--and who forgets our yesterdays and tells us not to worry about our tomorrows. Yesterday is there to be learned from, not stuck in. And the worries of tomorrow can only be released to God, not owned and clutched tightly in our hands. God owns tomorrow.
Lord, help me to give up empty religion and start having a thriving, growing relationship with You. Show me how to engage Your Word, not just read it. Amen.