The Monster Within

As I sit here, you are there. You are always there. You keep pushing and pushing. Nagging. Tempting. Whispering. Luring. “Come enjoy me” you say. “Come be with me for awhile”. You say you won’t hurt me. You say you won’t have me stay long. But the more and more that I deny you and rest in Jesus, the more you roar within me. Appease me! You bellow in the deeps of my spirit. You run amuck in my thoughts! You are the caged animal within.

I can hear your scream as you rattle the cage that Jesus has placed you in. You scream louder and louder. You jump back and forth. Look at me. Look at me. Escape, escape, escape. Let go. Stop fighting. This is your chorus.

I used to be afraid of you. You used to weigh me down. But the more and more that you rattle your cage and scream within me, the more and more that I know, that you are going away. For good. I just have to keep moving. One hour. One day at a time. Denying you. Renouncing you.

Pipe down, you caged animal! Shut up, you fantasy! Leave me alone, you escape! You don’t fix me. You wreck me.

Yes, even though I desire deeply to let you out, i have a greater desire that overcomes you. My desire to live. My desire to be known truly, and not to escape into nothingness.

You promise that if I let you out, then you will be good. You promise that you won’t ruin everything and destroy me, but you are not trustworthy. You have told me this same lie. Over and over again. And I have believed you. Time and time again. I have let you out and you have not been good. Because how can sin be good? How can sin be controlled? How can sin be tamed?

You can’t. And you won’t. It’s about time that i saw you for what you were. Death. Destruction. Addiction. Chains. You are the roaring lion, the fire that engulfs. You are the all consuming raging whirlwind of disaster and death.

I will not be controlled by you anymore. You can scream for attention. And I may desire to let you out. But I can’t and I won’t. Minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. I will move forward to newness. Jesus is suffocating you, you beast. He is breaking the bones of your existence. He is snapping them like twigs. He is killing you. But you already know that.

You can harrass me. Torment me. Lie to me. Scream at me for attention. For Now. One day though, you will scream no more. Jesus has defeated you oh monster within. Oh monster within, your end days are coming. Where you will no longer harrass the hurting, the broken, the bleeding.

On that day, we who are bloody faced and black eyed will approach the throne of grace and be forever free from you. Forever free to love and be loved. Forever free from the shame, guilt, and hurts that cascade our lives and thoughts now. Forever free from you and your lies. Forever free to be whole with Jesus.

Yes monster. You are there now. But so is Jesus. He is with me. Always. And Forever.

When you scream within the pits of my soul to be released, Jesus is there, with his hand on my shoulder.

When you bombard my thoughts in the middle of the night, He is there comforting me and encouraging me.

As my entire body convulses within me because I desire you SO MUCH, He is there to settle me. To calm me. To comfort me.

You can’t control me anymore.

Oh monster within me, that used to bring so much terror, and such unsettledness.

Please speak up. I can’t hear you.

For Jesus has muzzled your roar.

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Blessings.

The Precipice of Freedom

I stand on the precipice of freedom. I can see it. I can taste it. I can feel it. It’s right there in front of me. All I have to do is reach out and grab it. Take hold of it. To do this though, I have to let go. To let go of my backup plans, and my comfortable miseries. I have to give up the addiction. But for some reason, I can’t. I see all the good out in front of me, but still I hold onto what lies behind. I stand at the precipice of the mountain of freedom seeing the good and the holy and the right and the peace right there, but for some reason, I am stuck. I am stuck in fear and anxiety. I am stuck in addiction and the lusts of my flesh. I am holding onto Jesus, my master, but I’m still holding onto my flesh, my other master. I despise my flesh and the sins that have brought me so much guilt and agony.

It is insanity! To see the good in front of me, but to not be able to let go of the past behind me, the present state. It is insanity that I would choose comfortable misery over a life of peace and righteousness. A life of comfort and wholeness, but this is where I find myself. At the precipice. All the layers of my sin and cycle mostly aware to me. Stripped away of all rationalizations and here I stand between the choices. The choices between life and death. What will I choose? How do I choose? My brain hurts from the thoughts and anxieties. I will suffer either way. But to suffer for good would be worth it.

What will it gain me to give into my fleshly desires? Nothing. A mere pleasure filled vapor of a life that will be gone in an instant, and I will have wasted it on fleeting pleasures and empty trinkets. But if i choose Jesus, and dive headlong off the precipice, even though there will be suffering, it will be worth it. My gifts and talents that were chosen for me by God will be used for His glory and even in the midst of the fight of the struggle I will be able to say that I am blessed to have suffered for my Savior.

So here I stand. I stand at the precipice of life, joy, peace, and comfort. I stand here frozen, paralyzed, frustrated, and upset. Upset that even though my rational mind and spirit know the correct answers, as I continue to make my choices, I continue to succumb to the latter. To the same. And the same continues to happen. And it shouldn’t surprise me. I’m not desperate for love, but I act as though I am. I act as though if I give up this part, then my world will crumble, and I will cease to exist. That I won’t have friends. That I won’t be able to stand it. But that’s just not true. I can deal with this kind of suffering.

So here I stand. At the precipice. Seeing the goodness in front of me, feeling the miseries of the present, and knowing what choice I have to make. I sympathize with lot’s wife. Running back to Sodom and Gomorrah even as it is being destroyed. And she is destroyed with it. Will i continue to run back to the ruins and the destruction, or will i turn away and never look back? This is the pressing question as I stand here at the precipice between life and destruction.

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Picture taken from: http://www.depressionarmy.com/ourblog/2017/11/21/standing-on-the-edge-looking-down-hope-after-the-worst-of-depression

Blessings.

Dear Josh Gordon

Today I saw the news that Josh Gordon, a talented wide receiver for the New England Patriots, was suspended for violating the NFL’s drug policy. It was sad both as a sports fan, and as a human being, especially as someone who is recovering from their own addiction. So I thought I’d write a letter to Josh Gordon. I don’t really know how to get it to him, so I just decided to put it up on my blog. Here it is.

Hey Josh,

You don’t know me, but I am very familiar with you. I saw today that you got suspended again for violating the NFL’s drug abuse policy. As a current recovering addict, I know what you are going through. I know that addictions are insanity. Even though we keep getting caught, vowing to change, we continue to go back to what we know. I lost my job a year ago due to my addiction. It really really sucked. It was one of the hardest things I have ever experienced in my life. I was in a career where I was impacting the lives of young people, but my struggle just took over again. I had to step away from a career I loved.

That’s what addictions do. They distract us. They numb us. They take over our lives to the point where we look back in the mirror and we don’t even recognize ourselves anymore. Sometimes, it takes something drastic to get our attention. Sometimes it takes multiple drastic things.

I have been battling my addiction for 18 years, and it has been horrendous. It started when I was ten years old, and from ten to eighteen, it remained a secret. No one knew. And it ate me alive. It took me over. Controlled my life. Controlled my time. Isolated me. Pushed me away from everyone I knew and loved.

And then finally I reached out for help. I started going to therapy and counseling at 18 years old and it was tough. Really tough. I was a perpetual liar and had to be to keep up my addiction and to satisfy my cravings.

Lying was my life. I could look anyone in the eyes and lie right to their face. Each lie that I told had a multiplicity of lies underneath it.

I was so addicted and it began to take a toll on me. Spiritually. Mentally. Physically. Emotionally. My eyes were lifeless. My spirit drained. My emotions were numbed out. I was a walking zombie.

It wasn’t until I met Jesus Christ that all that changed. Honestly, I can tell you, I thought I was a lost cause. My parents got to a place where they didn’t know how to help me, and they asked me to leave my house. I was all alone in the midst of my struggle. That was until Jesus showed up.

He showed up and told me that He had good things in store for my life. A plan and a purpose. Part of that purpose was to be a minister of his, but the main thing He wanted from me was just to surrender my life to Him and to enter into a relationship with Him.

So I did. January 6th, 2012 I got down on my hands and knees in an empty room with a bed with no sheets and surrendered my life to Jesus. That was almost 7 years ago now.

It has been up and down time since then. There have been days and weeks of submitting to Him and growing in His truth, and overcoming my addiction, and there have been weeks and months of running from Him and chasing after my addiction. I can tell you honestly that I never regret not giving into my addictive desires, but I 100% of the time regret giving into them, because they always leave me empty, confused, chaotic, and just numb.

Giving into my desires is like bruce banner going into hulk mode. Once I’m under, I have no clue what’s going on until I come out, and then I pray to God that the damage I have done is not irreversible.

I have grown to hate my addiction. I have grown to understand that if I want true joy and fulfillment in this life that this addiction has got to go.

Change is hard though. It takes time. It takes practice to learn to endure these cravings that we desire so much.

I mean these addictions that we give into, they meet something in us. They help us not have to deal with our problems by means of escaping them. In the end though, these means of escaping our problems actually produce more problems than the actual struggles we already face.

For us, as addicts, we have to want to change. That is the first step.

Do you want to change, man?

Its okay if you don’t want to at this moment. I know earlier this year I sat in my Christian therapist’s office week after week and she would ask me the same question, and there was a point in which I didn’t want to change.

I didn’t see the destruction my addiction was causing in my life. I had to see that first and foremost. I had to experience the pain. The isolation from loved ones. The brokenness of my life firsthand before I ever decided that I needed and wanted to change.

Once you get to a place of wanting to change, just know that it will be difficult. It will be a long journey. It will be a lot of unlearning. A lot of new growth. New patterns. New behaviors.

You will have to learn to get to the roots of your problems. And then let go of your ways of escaping those problems. You have to get to a place where you meet those problems head on and learn to find healthier ways to deal with them.

Dare to dream that your life can be different and that this addiction won’t control you forever. Dare to dream that you will enter back onto a football field again (if the Lord wills). Dare to dream that God will use the difficult in your life for good. That he will take the bad and work in and through it.

I know it may not feel like it right now, but there is hope. There is life in front of you. You just have to let go of the bad, to seize the good. You have to let go of the escape, learn to endure the pain, and then you will live.

There is grace. This is why I write. I’ve been shown grace by Jesus amidst my million stumbling’s. So I try to show that to others. I saw the news about your suspension and it really just hit home with me.

Millions out there are bashing you, and have most likely given up on you, but Jesus never will. He sits with us addicts, in the bottom of our self-inflicted pits and tells us that there is a better way.

He is with us when no one else is there. When we have tested our limits, burned our bridges, ruined people’s trust, He still pursues us and calls us to Himself.

This is the gospel, and Jesus wants you to know that He loves you, even here. At your worst. At your lowest. When you have nothing to offer. When you need help. He loves you and calls to you.

I hope this letter encourages you. I hope it encourages you to fight for life. To believe by faith that your struggles can be overcome. And that even here, there is grace.

I want to leave you with this verse that has helped encourage me as I work through my own recovery.

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

Blessings brother.

Your friend,

Joseph.

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Picture taken from: https://www.chron.com/sports/texans/article/Lamar-star-Patriots-Josh-Gordon-step-away-football-13480697.php

Choose to Endure

In this life, we are bombarded. Bombarded with lies. Pleasures. We are tempted daily to give in. To give up. To let go. It’ll just be easier if we do. It’ll be better to just stop fighting. That’s the thought. And that’s the temptation. My encouragement to you today is to choose instead to endure. It will be worth it in the end.

For any of you recovering from anything, you know it’s hard work. You know there are days when you crave that thing that you are trying to quit so much. You know there are days when it would just be easier to have a taste. Have a sip. Have a look. But we know where that leads.

It leads to destruction. Our sins take us farther than we want to go, and keep us longer than we want to stay. They pervert our thoughts. They tear our spirits. They distract us from the good and the godly. We chase that feeling, pleasure, activity until it ruins us and leaves us in the mud. Broken. Distraught. Empty.

We believed sins lies. We believed the lies that told us that all we needed was a little more. A little more time. A little more pleasure. A little more satisfaction AND THEN we could have fulfillment. Joy.

But it’s just that….a lie. A lie that we have to stop believing.

Change though is hard. It’s so difficult. It’s not the easy route. It’s the road less traveled. It takes perseverance and endurance. It takes excruciating pain and grit. It shows itself in a blood curdling scream as you lift the weight of life up above your shoulders. It is the tears that run down your face as you have been beaten to a pulp and you mentally, emotionally, and spiritually are trying to hold on to life, love, and joy.

Change is choosing to do things differently. And you have to want to change. No one can change you. You have to want to change, and then comes the hardest part. You have to endure.

Endurance is standing your ground. It’s believing in the truth of who you want to be, and standing by faith that one day you can overcome these desires, addictions, pains, and sufferings that you currently experience and live. Live the life you know you want to live. Be the person you know you want to be. But you have to overcome first. You have to learn to endure.

Endurance on our own is futile. It might last a few days, or weeks, but without Jesus, our attempt to endure is useless. We will fall back into our desires and our pleasures without Jesus holding onto us.

The writer of Hebrews paints a picture of life in chapter 12. That it’s a race. A race that we run.

Now racing is hard. It takes preparation. Hours of running around the block. The street. Through the woods. Working our way up from half a mile to a mile to two to three and so on.

It is mentally taxing. Emotionally draining. Physically painful. We build stamina the more that we run. The once painful thing is still painful but more joyous. It’s still painful, but it has purpose. It’s still painful but it has direction.

This is life. Living a life of endurance takes practice. We build stamina the more that we run the race of this life well. Choosing love over hate. Choosing humility over pride. Choosing selflessness over selfishness.

Running the race of life begins with a choice. The choice to change. And then once we choose to change, then the choice to give up. And then when we give up, we choose to endure the loss, the pain, the grief that comes with giving up something to gain something better.

“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26).

Jesus laid it out clearly for his disciples on his way to the cross. That a life of following Him would be costly. It would cost them everything. That they would have to lay themselves down. That they would have to give themselves up. That they would suffer because He would suffer. They would suffer for His namesake. This suffering would be worth it though.

He poses this question to them: For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?

The answer? Nothing. It will gain us nothing if we gain all the pleasures, treasures, desires of our heart, because in the end, through giving up, giving in, letting go, and quitting, we will lose our souls.

And if we lose our souls, then in the end, what do we really gain?

Nothing. We lose everything, because in essence, we gave away our most precious lasting commodity for pennies.

And thus we have lost everything.

BUT….if we endure, if we let go of our past, our struggles, if we fight for life, if we stand up for truth, if we bear our sufferings, if we…………………

THEN……we will live. We will be whole. We will be held. We will be filled. We will have joy. We will never be alone. And we will finish the race well.

So the question today is this: Are you willing to endure, to give up, to let go of the things of the world to gain your soul?

It will be HARD. PAINFUL. You will crave your former life. You will have ungodly desires just welling up within you. But it will be worth it.

It will be worth it. Worth it to be able to sleep without guilt at night. Worth it to be able to be whole and honest. Worth it to struggle but not be overtaken. Worth it to stand before Jesus one day and to know that we gave life our all. That we loved well. That we fought hard. And that we made it.

Choose to endure today. Choose to change. Let go. Give up. The things of this world are passing away. They are temporary. Finite.

Jesus is eternal. He is who we run for and run to. He is the goal.

Choose to endure friends. Today.

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Blessings.

Quieting the Noise

We live in a world with many voices. Voices that tell us to do whatever we feel like, even when it’s wrong. If you are hurting, escape in whatever way you see fit. There are no limits anymore to what we can or should do. Believe what you want to believe. Love who you want to love. Be who you want to be. Do what you want to do, as long as it doesn’t hurt or disrupt the lives of those around you. It’s your body. It’s your gender. Your mind. Your life. Your career. These messages though pose a problem for us who are believers because Christ is directly opposed to this way of thinking. He tells us instead to humble ourselves and submit to Him. To die to ourselves. To serve others.  Thus, there is a dilemma. There are two voices vying for our attention. Which one will we choose? 

Tonight, I was struggling. I was feeling super lonely at home by myself, and the temptation was this: you know where to go to not feel lonely. You know that if you do this or that, if you talk to this group of people, if you just give in, you’ll “feel” better. Isn’t it exhausting trying to stop yourself from experiencing the things that you know you want? Wouldn’t it just be easier to have a taste of sin? To ask forgiveness later instead of asking for permission? This was one of the voices. And it was pretty deafening. 

Thankfully, a second voice broke through. The voice of Jesus. Reminding me of where the giving in leads to. That it would lead to more pain, more suffering, than just my temporary loneliness. That it would not be worth it.

He also reminded me that He had been through this exact thing. In the desert, Jesus was tempted by Satan. Tempted to quench his hunger, to show off his power, and to forgo the suffering of the cross. All things that were real temptations to the humanness of Jesus. Because who doesn’t want food when they haven’t eaten for 40 days? Who doesn’t want power? Who wants to experience a ton of suffering?

Jesus reminded me of how He got through it. That he had perspective. A heavenly perspective. That he could believe in the goodness and faithfulness of His Father God. That yeah, he could have given into the desire for food, or the temptation for power, or the opportunity to forgo the cross, but that wouldn’t have satisfied Him in his humanness. It would have instead showed his unbelief in His Father. It wouldn’t have been worth it, and it would have caused Him, the spotless one, to become blemished. 

So when Jesus was tempted, He countered Satan with Scripture. He brought to mind the promises of God and He stood on them. And afterwards, angels attended to Him. God was faithful. 

For me, Jesus’ voice was very clear tonight. Make a different choice. Yes. You are hurting now because you are lonely on a Saturday night when you want to be out with people, but you are not truly alone. Make a different choice. It will be worth it. I know what you’re going through, and I am also here with you. You are not alone. You are loved. You are held. I will give you the strength. 

Everyday, we are faced with two voices. They are vying for our attention. They are vying for our allegiance. One is for our good. The other for our destruction. 

Which voice will we heed? The voice that fills our every pleasure only to leave us empty and destroyed later? Or the voice that asks us to die to ourselves, to suffer temporarily, to give up the pleasures of this life, that we might live?

It’s a choice. I know for the longest time, I have been giving attention to the wrong voice. Giving in. Experiencing pleasure. Escaping. And honestly, I can tell you, it’s not worth it. It leaves you empty. Guilt ridden. Exhausted. It destroys you. It takes the life that God has planned for you, and it taints it. 

I am starting more and more to the listen to the voice of Jesus. Starting to make a different choice. We all have that opportunity everyday. To make different choices, no matter what happened the day before. We can start taking heed of a different voice.

When we do that, we can start to truly experience life. True life. It will feel different. It will look different. But it will be good. It will be fulfilling. It might not always “feel” good, but it will be worth it to be able to deal with the temporary suffering in this life, and to go home to Jesus, and for Him say to us “Well done good and faithful servant.”

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Picture taken from: http://manofdepravity.com/2014/03/drowning-out-the-noise/

Blessings.