A Hope Restored…Sunday has Come!

A Hope Restored…Sunday has Come!

Well, this is Easter weekend, beginning with Good Friday…I remember years ago, during a period when my life was in turmoil and despair (the years I call the dark years), I always wondered why we called it “Good” Friday. I mean what was good about an innocent man, the Son of God, being brutally beaten and tortured beyond recognition and then subjected to one of the most humiliating and horrific deaths mankind could imagine: crucifixion!? – if you have seen Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ you have a somewhat accurate visual portrayal of what I’m talking about – and that movie is a good illustration of what I am going to share today, because, as we shall see, everything good came out of what happened that 1st Easter weekend which began with Good Friday.

 

I remember the first time I saw The Passion of the Christ years ago in the theater, it was difficult at the time to describe the emotion I was feeling. I was sick from watching Jesus being brutalized and the graphic portrayal of his suffering. I was in tears at the realization that he did this for me as it says in the Scriptures that God demonstrated his love for us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us and that this is what John 3:16 was all about: For God loved the world so much that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall have everlasting life! But even though I knew that in my head, why was I left with such a sinking empty sick feeling in my gut? A feeling I guess I would describe now as hopelessness. It was that same feeling that would come over me time and time again during those years I was in bondage to alcoholism when I would sit in despair and depression thinking about how I had failed my family, my children, my God. It’s that same feeling that tries to come in and take over still when things happen in life that are just too overwhelming; when things just get too hard; when things are not working out according to plan (usually my plan).

 

Hopelessness and despair come in because I am only looking at part of the story! Jesus’ horrific suffering and death to pay for our sin was only part of the story….Sunday is coming!! One of my favorite stories in the Scriptures is the account of Jesus’ walking with 2 of his disciples on their journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus on the Sunday after his crucifixion.

 

And while they were discussing and arguing, Jesus Himself came near and began to walk along with them. But they were prevented from recognizing Him. Then He asked them, “What is this dispute that you’re having with each other as you are walking?” And they stopped walking and looked discouraged. The one named Cleopas answered Him, “Are You the only visitor in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that happened there in these days?” “What things?” He asked them. So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus the Nazarene, who was a Prophet powerful in action and speech before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed Him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified Him. But we were hoping that He was the One who was about to redeem Israel. Besides all this, it’s the third day since these things happened. Luke 24:15-21 (HCSB)

 

Notice is says that they were discouraged and had lost hope! But as the story continues to show, Jesus entered into the situation and reinterpreted it for them; he explained what was really going on and revealed himself to them. They said later, “Weren’t our hearts ablaze (or burning) within us while He was talking with us on the road…?”

And so goes the story of our lives…life is hard; we live in a fallen world, one that lies under the power and sway of the evil one (I John 5:19), we all have stories where lives and plans just don’t work out the way we had hoped, where we get blind-sided by circumstances, where our dreams are shattered and we lose heart. But Sunday has come…Jesus conquered everything that life and the devil hurled at him…he rose from the dead and that gives us hope!! We don’t have to live in just one part of the story; we don’t have to just sit and wait for the next “bad thing” to happen, Sunday will come. Because he lives, we can live also… The Scriptures tell us that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us! We can always have hope, but hope that is seen is not hope, hope is learning to trust God (and others) with every aspect of our lives, that he is working all things together for our good because he loves us. He doesn’t expect us to just “buck up” or just “make the best of our situations”, but he does want us to invite him into the story of our lives…

 

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity… Jeremiah 29:11-14 (NKJV)

 

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My Story

My whole life has been characterized by addiction. I was not raised in a Christian home and had no real concept of who God was. After suffering a head injury as a sophomore in High School a major shift took place in my life. I grew up with sports. My dad was an All-American football player and a successful high school and college football coach. Football was a very important part of my life; in it I found my identity, validation. The injury left a huge void in my life, so football was replaced with drinking and partying at the age of 15.

Before going any further I need to explain something. All of us inherited something from Adam and Eve called the flesh. When Adam and Eve fell “…they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.” (Genesis 3:7). Why? …To cover (hide) their guilt, shame, and pain. We do the same thing. Life happens and as a result, because of sins we have committed or sins committed against us, we begin weaving an apron of fig leaves called “the flesh” to cover our wounds (our hurts, hang-ups, shame, guilt, etc.). These are behavioral patterns (masks) we develop to help us cope with (or more accurately, hide) these emotional wounds; to help us cope with life. These patterns are only the “tip of the iceberg”, the part that everybody sees. What we and others don’t see is the 85 percent of the iceberg that lies deep beneath the surface. There is where the wounds lie. Jesus said He was sent to “heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives…” (Luke 4:18). It took me many years to learn this truth.

In the years that followed, the “apron” I was weaving was the embodiment of the “Sex, Drugs, and Rock –n- Roll” lifestyle. I used habitually or tried nearly all the types of drugs that were available then (the mid to late 70s). Mostly I abused LSD, speed, meth-amphetamines, cocaine, alcohol, and marijuana. I “smoked” away an Art scholarship along with a huge chunk of my Dad’s money. I was in two bad car accidents, both involving drugs and alcohol, and I nearly died from a drug overdose. The only spiritual pursuits I had were in the occult. My life was immersed in darkness.

At age 23, after a series of events, I grew very tired of this dark existence. I wanted out, but I didn’t know how, nor did I have the strength to quit taking drugs…I tried! I knew there was a God, but I didn’t know how to contact Him. Every night for about two weeks I prayed, “God, please get me out of this, I can’t live this way any longer.”

The Lord heard those cries and sent a friend to visit me. I hadn’t seen him in months. During that time he had received Christ and said that he had been sent that night, by God, to come and see me. He invited me to a Wednesday night Bible study at the pastor’s home where he had been going to Church. The following night was the 1st time I recall clearly hearing the Gospel. I told the pastor that it sounded like just what I needed, but in my mind I still thought I had to clean myself up before God would accept me. I tried for the next week to quit taking drugs, but couldn’t.

I went back to the Bible study the following week. The pastor asked me if I had received Jesus. I told him I had been trying to stop the drugs so He would accept me. He told me that I didn’t have to give anything up to come to Jesus. He loved me and wanted me to come just as I was and He would clean up the things in my life that He didn’t want there. The next morning everything clicked, the Spirit of God practically drove me to my knees, and in my living room, with a very sincere and broken heart, I asked Jesus to come in to my heart and take over the driver’s seat of my life because I had made a wreck of it. That was February 14, 1980.

I was on fire for the Lord. I loved Him and had a growing hunger for the Word and I became a bold witness for Him. I felt “called into the ministry” and began attending a local Bible College. I married and over the years we had 4 wonderful children. I graduated with a degree in theology and a minor in Secondary Ed. I was ordained in 1988 and sent out. I served as youth pastor, as a principal and high school teacher, as boys and girls basketball coach in three different Churches and Christian Schools.

I became very busy in the “ministry”…I began weaving a new apron of fig leaves. I had replaced the apron of addiction to drugs with a different kind of addiction, a different apron: religious service and performance. My life was being all torn up on the inside; unknowingly, due to issues I had never dealt with, but outwardly I was serving the Lord with religious fervor. I no longer had a relationship with Him and the relationship with my wife and family was waning fast. I had a form of godliness, but denied its power (2 Timothy 3:5). Alcohol crept back into my life “socially”, at first, then as a means to relax after a hard day.

When the bottom finally dropped out in my life: “my ministry” was gone and three months later my marriage ended, alcohol was there. Feeling like a failure; feeling judged and rejected by the church, I said, “If this is what ‘Christianity’ is, you can have it!” I crawled into a bottle and lived there for the next eight years. During that time I lost everything. I went further and further into darkness.

Through those years (which I call “the dark years”), I was in jail several times for drunk driving offenses, child support issues, and non-payment of fines and contempt of court. The final time, while going through the horrendous experience of detoxing in a jail cell, I asked God to give me a promise. I said, “If You’re not done with me, please show me. Give me a promise, something I don’t already know.” Sometime later I was reading in the book of Joel and these words jumped off the page, “I will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten” (2:25). That was the beginning of my healing journey. While I was incarcerated, my family found out about Teen Challenge and about a week after I finished my jail sentence I entered Mid-Michigan Teen Challenge (November 2003) and completed the 14 month program. There I began letting the Lord heal my wounds and put my broken life back together. It was there were I began to hear His Voice…something I hadn’t heard since the first year I was saved. Ever since, He’s been healing my inner core (my heart); He’s restoring relationships with my children, my family and friends, and most of all with Him.

The Lord has shown me that “ministry” does not take place behind a pulpit, or in a church building, or on the mission field somewhere, but “ministry” is who I am. Wherever I am is where His ministry takes place. He has brought me into something greater than myself; greater than what I ever could have imagined (1 Chronicles 4:10; Isaiah 43:18-21; John 10:10; Ephesians 3:16-20).

During this healing journey, the Lord has revealed that there are many layers of wounding lying beneath our surface problems and behaviors. The “arrows” of the enemy go deep (Psalm 64:3-6; Ephesians 6:16). According to the scripture, God works all things together for good, to those who love him; to those he has called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). God will take all the “bad” things in our lives, including our behavior, and use those for our healing. Addiction, depression, anxiety, fear, etc. are all signs of a deeper wounding. Jesus continues to heal me layer by layer as I bring these “issues” to him and ask that he heal them at their roots. Because of the things he has brought me through and is bee bringing me through, he uses me to help others overcome their addictive behaviors, depression, guilt, shame, etc. in the same way He helped me overcome (2 Corinthians 1:3-8). Not just dealing with these “surface” issues (Jeremiah 6:14), but by introducing them to Jesus and going with them below the surface, “into the darkness” (Exodus 20:21) where Jesus desires to heal their wounds at their source (Isaiah 61:1-7). Helping them find healing physically, emotionally, and spiritually (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

Mark A. Trippett Updated 1-29-2013

Still Waters

“He leads me beside the still waters; He restores my soul…”

Familiar words from a familiar Psalm: Psalm 23. It is a beautiful picture of serenity: peace, stillness…that place where the soul finds restoration. Notice it’s in that place where the Lord leads me to where my soul is restored. There is a process, a journey He has to take me through to find the still waters.

My journey was out of the institutional church (in which I was a leader), a place where I thought I could find peace, but there was none, then through the storm of alcoholism, where I found temporary numbness, but never serenity, never peace…to a place where I felt hollow, abandoned, terrified as I felt my life sinking away. Like the disciples in the darkness of a sinking boat in the midst of a stormy sea, I felt like God didn’t care: “Lord, don’t you care that I’m perishing!” (Cf Mark 4:38). Well, He cared even when I didn’t…and cried out, “Peace! Be Still! And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.” (Mark 4:39)

It sounds so simple, but it’s not. I had to come to an end of myself, relinquish control, and let Him lead me to the place where I could hear His voice…and I am still finding it’s always through the storm. There is no short cut, no steps to follow, no formula, no way around it…when He wants to restore the soul, it’s always through the storm. He turns the raging sea into still waters so He can begin healing (restoring) my soul…

Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me you might have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)