A somewhat amusing though occurred to me today. You might have heard about the five typical stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I think I’ve been going through these stages of grief over the past few years. What’s the loss? Zealous pursuit of the gospel in the traditional West and my own struggles in the faith.
I know I’ve been mostly silent over the last few months, and there are reasons for it. Though I’ve been absent on KindlingTruth, I’ve not left pursuing the Lord. I’ve just been through a phase that’s leading to something I’m glad to be reaching: Acceptance.
I first became acquainted with a zealous pursuit of the Christian faith around this time in 2014. At that time I was learning about some doctrines, that to me, were completely new. I had never heard such things taught, and I wasn’t sure what I though about it. As I delved deeper into studying the Bible and realized how corrupt much is within traditional Christianity, I went through a phase of denial.
Denial: The Majority Can’t Be Wrong…Can They?
This can’t be right, I thought. How can it be that most traditional teachings aren’t true, and worse yet, how can it be that we are taught so little about what the Christian life means? Reciting a prayer and accepting Jesus is enough, right? We are saved by faith, so works don’t matter that much, right? What about all the people I care about that believe in traditional views about the gospel and salvation? The majority can’t be wrong…can they?
So, I studied some more. This was the first time in my life that reading the Bible became a necessity. Most of my life it was a chore that I thought I should do, but I had fleeting desires to actually read it. Every now and then I’d want to, but I ended up with so many questions that I got discouraged. So I quit and went back to my luke-warm “Christian” life.
It was different this time. I had to study the Bible. I had to test the things I was being taught. So, I went through the New Testament very carefully two times with highlighters — one for each doctrine I was learning about. I then went back and read one color at a time, made a spread sheet (which later helped with my Scriptures pages), and took notes. I prayed. I asked questions. I was convinced. I became angry.
Anger: How Could This Happen? Who is to Blame?
It took about a year before I was fully convinced of the gospel as I view it now, along with some doctrines I had come to believe. Once convinced, I was overcome with zeal–and anger. I thought my anger was righteous, but it wasn’t to a large degree. I know that now. Even so, I thought I had to do something. I’m a writer, so I started a blog. KindlingTruth began in October 2015. I lost most of it it around the summer of 2016 and re-started in January 2017 — just as zealous (and in many ways just as foolish) as I was before.
A look at my early writings reveal a very serious and very angry person. I wanted someone held responsible. I wanted the Christian systems of today to pay for what they did to people. I wanted the hateful and self-righteous Christians to face the harm they did to the faith. I wanted the stagnant and luke-warm to wake up…then I realized..I either am or have been all of these things. I talked to people, I gained perspective, and I learned mercy.
Once I started to cool off a bit, I started bargaining. What can we do to make this better? How can I help with all of the needless division and fighting among believers? Maybe if I approach things in a better way, with a better tone and understanding, then maybe people will listen.
Bargaining: Can’t We All Just Get Along?
The division among Christians started to get to me, and I realized that I had not been any better. I had begun to accuse Christians as being false or fake. I had been so attached to the “truth” that I lost sight of what matters most: love for the brethren. I wanted to make things right.
More than anything I wanted to find a way to communicate to people effectively. I wanted to learn where people are coming from. I started visiting churches again. I started reaching out to people more, and I had some good conversations that were very helpful.
I began to sort out my priorities, and pursuing peace became my focus. At times that old zeal came back — sometimes I can’t help myself — and I’d get off track a bit when discussing certain ideas. Sometimes that can be a good thing, but finding the right balance was a great struggle. Still is. I realized that Christians can disagree on much, that no Christian has the Holy Spirit in full measure, so we need each other in order to grow.
I had always felt the need to get myself in order, but that need became more intense. My life felt like a stumbling block to others. How can I teach the gospel, write of the things of God, and have discussions with people when my own life isn’t the example it should be? I became depressed.
Depression: No One Cares And My Life is a Mess
I’ve gone through some phases of depression since I started reading the Bible seriously in 2014. Each time had to do with my sin and unrepentant sin within the body of Christ. This last stage was different. It was more severe, starting in the fall of 2018 — and ending right about now — Lord willing.
I’ve been consumed with my shortcomings. My weakness. My inability to overcome certain sins that keep me from pursuing the things I want most in this life and in the kingdom of heaven. I also began to realize that people — for the most part — don’t want to change. Christians to a large degree are comfortable in their traditions and they don’t care to seek a better understanding that can unite the faith.
I began to think that all the work I had done in KindlingTruth was in vain. It was vanity to think that I should do anything at all. Who am I anyway? Who even cares? I felt rejected by the world and by Christians, and for what profit? Did anyone even benefit from this? Did I even benefit from this? I had focused and re-focused KindlingTruth several times, and what now? What am I really supposed to be doing with my life? I’m still not sure what the answer to these questions are, but I’m learning acceptance.
Acceptance: God’s Will Be Done
One idea that I keep turning back to is this: God is in control, and all things are working together for the good of those that love the Lord. This has been my idea of comfort through much of the difficulties I’ve faced over the past few years. The Lord is in control of all of this. He is in control of all of Christianity — corrupt and non corrupt. He is in control of my life, my salvation, and all things belong to and are upheld by Him.
It is not my job to get out there and fix everything. It is not my job to find out who is to blame and hold them accountable. My job is to keep working on me and my home, to trust in the Lord, and to grow a life worthy of preaching the gospel.
All things that are happening in this world are ordained by God, and all things will be just as they are. There is no use in fighting against the will of God. Peaceful, quiet lives that bring glory to Jesus and grow in the weapons of the Spirit will win this war against deception. The power of Jesus Christ will overcome all things we fight against, both internally and in regards to the evils of this world.
People are going to mock. People are going to judge us unfairly. We are going to suffer many things, including ourselves, as we strive in the things of the kingdom of heaven. Suffering is good. If there is no suffering, then we need to find out what our cross is and take it up.
I’m learning to bear the crosses of my life — not all together with eagerness or the kind of heart I should, but I’m learning. I’m learning to bear corruption of the gospel and Christian doctrine, I’m learning to bear the sins of others that affect my life and those I love, I’m learning to bear my weaknesses as the Lord works on me, I’m learning to wait on the Lord. I’m learning acceptance. With acceptance, we find peace. Thank the Lord for that!
This being said, I do hope to finish the works I started here. I can’t promise I will. Making claims about what I will do on KindlingTruth has been foolish. But, I don’t like leaving things undone. We will see. God bless you all and I pray the Lord strengthen everyone of us who are fighting the good fight for the kingdom of heaven. Jesus will return! He will judge the world in righteousness and all who seek to faithfully serve Him will not be ashamed or cast out. Keep striving!
*In the email-version you might notice that I messed dates up. I fixed that. The dates should read from 2014 to now, not 2004. Sorry about that. I can’t believe it’s only been a few short years. It certainly feels like a decade or more!*