Conquering My Demons
As Christians we all struggle. No one is perfect, we are all sinners, and we all have crosses to bear. Even Paul the Apostle had a "thorn in his side" (2 Cor 12:7), and the Apostle Peter was constantly struggling to understand the ways of Christ and even denied him three times. That is one of the powerful truths of Christianity--those who came before us are examples of how to live despite us being creatures of both flesh and spirit. I have found that many of my struggles are common to the human experience, and I hope that by sharing my struggles someone else may be inspired to overcome theirs as well.
Because we are human we are distant from God. Thus, there are times when we fail to feel God, or His love for us. I often (sometimes for month's at a time) feel that God has abandoned me and struggle to feel His presence in the world around. I know that I am not alone however, as many of the spiritual greats (such as Mother Theresa) have felt the same thing. Even Jesus himself felt this on the Cross as he cried out "Eli Eli lama sabachthani"-- My God' My God, Why have you forsaken me-- quoting from Psalm 22. This, I believe, is one of the most common spiritual struggles known to mankind--abandonment from the divine, from the one our heart desires most. Why does God allow this to happen? I argue that the problem here is our human tendency to focus on feeling. Love is not a feeling, it is a choice, and when I fail to feel the love of God I must choose to act out of love. I must choose to love others and keep the commandments of the Lord. This feeling of abandonment makes those times of feeling all the more beautiful. I believe that the answer comes from the very Psalm which Jesus quoted. We recognize that it is God who has delivered us, and so we will choose to bow down and praise Him. This, in the end, will unite us to Him and ultimately, when we rest in God our hearts will no longer be restless.
It is important to be aware that feeling abandoned by God can sometimes be caused by "desolation"--drawing farther away from God. While we all natural go through cycles of desolation and consolation in our spiritual lives, many times the desolation is caused by us. Have I sinned and severed my relationship with God? Have I been ignoring him? Have I been spiritually distancing myself from him? All of these things can cause us to feel abandoned by God when really it us abandoning him.
Spirit of Condemnation
My freshman year of college I went to my pastor to seek some spiritual direction. After a few meetings, we discovered that I had a "Spirit of Self-Condemnation". Basically, I hated myself for every little mistake I made. It always seemed that God's charge that we be "perfect as the Father is perfect" seemed unattainable. I would hate myself for things beyond my control, for things that people had already forgiven me for, for things that were insignificant, and things that I performed well, but not perfectly. This was preventing me from loving myself, and hence loving God and others. It's still a daily struggle, but I have improved and have found some tools to help me deal. I developed a strong devotion to humility, which in addition to knowing my weaknesses, also helps me realize the gifts that God has given me. All things come from God, and without Him, I can do nothing well. I have realized God's unconditional love for me--no matter my screw-up's He still loves me, and His love is all that really matters. Every day I repeat to myself continually, "God still loves me". I focus on my capacity to love: If I do all things with love, then even if I make mistakes they are easier to recognize, to forgive, and to fix. Finally, I pray: In prayer God usually fills me with consolation, and if He doesn't, I know I'm struggle for a reason.
Daily Prayer Time
In the midst of having a job, a social life, and multiple interests and hobbies it is still sad to admit that my conversation with God sometimes takes a backseat in my daily life. This may not be the most common common problem facing Christians (maybe it is though), but is definitely the biggest. Without taking adequate daily prayer time, how can you properly love God. The distractions are so numerous, and Satan whispers so many distractions, that we need CONSTANT VIGILANCE to overcome this problem. My solutions have been two fold. 1) Again, making a conscious choice to purposely take time in my schedule to pray. Whether it be 15 minutes or an hour, one who loves God must take time not only to talk to him, but more importantly listen to him. Ideally prayer would come naturally, but I am a sinful human person. 2) I try to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. If I have an urge to pray outside of the "scheduled time" I try to follow it because it is usually the Holy Spirit calling me to prayer. When I listen I am never disappointed.
Everybody sins, and everybody has their crosses to bear and their thorns in their side. St. Paul says to "pray without ceasing", and that is really the best advice that anyone can follow. However, I hope that by reading this you discovered something in yourself or been inspired to overcome a struggle. God never gives us more than we can handle.
© 2009 R D Langr