I had to take another look into this Jesus dilemma. It was my understanding of Him and what He wants that got me into this predicament.
In the years that I have been labored for His Kingdom, I had seen some really fantastic things happen in the lives of other people. I have seen a man who was abused for years by his dad call him and forgive him. I have seen a girl who was trapped in an abusive relationship find the means, the courage, and the strength in order to put an end to the abuse and abandon the relationship. I have seen young men and women work through major insecurities in their life and move on to fulfilling careers and relationships. I have seen men who were deeply wounded and responded with anger to everything become peaceful examples of calmness and joy in the midst of strife.
And that is where my problem began.
I have carried deep wounds because of past experiences. One of the easiest to talk about (easy in terms of it being a concise story, not in terms of it being emotionally easy to rehash) is a medevac I was involved with in Ramadi. I saw how my predisposition to an angry manner was exacerbated by combat and produced an uncontrollable simmering rage. As the Jesus I knew healed me, the anger was taken away, but was not replaced with peace, joy, or any such emotion. It was as though the storm had gone but the clouds persisted. I just knew that as I kept doing the things I was doing, Jesus would develop this joy, this peace within me.
It did not happen.
Then one evening while dealing with my kids, I had a flash of rage like I had not experienced in more than a year. After the blinding outburst was over, I felt as though I was not healed at all. That I had swallowed my emotions to a point of numbness, but that Jesus had not healed me at all. If I had been healed, then where did this outburst come from?
I did what I usually do in these times, I evaluated scripture and my situation to determine what happened and what needed to happen next. The Bible seemed to indicate that Jesus loves me and wants me to be healed. I felt like it was pretty clear… I was yet unhealed.
So what is Jesus’ problem?
Is He not as powerful as the Bible says? If He wants me to be healed and I am not producing the fruit that is congruent with a healed life, then He obviously cannot carry out His desires. If He is incapable of carrying out His desires, then He is not all powerful.
Is He a liar? If He says He wants me to be healed, and He is powerful enough to carry out His desire, yet I am not healed, then He must be a liar.
Am I effectively blocking what Jesus wants for me? This could have been an option, but I felt pretty certain that I had maintained my discipline and walked according to the principles of the Bible. I had given an honest, earnest attempt to comply with what I read in the Bible, I saw fruit being produced in the lives of the people who were taking my advice, and I could feel things change in my head and heart… but I was still left with this wounded heart.
Since I had come back to a belief in the Bible and the God of the Bible, this was something that had to be reconciled.
As I spiralled out of control, I remembered a verse from the Bible in which Jesus says to Peter,
“Satan has asked to sift you like wheat, but I have chosen to pray for you, and when you return, strengthen your brothers.”
This was an easy verse for me to dismiss. I have seen so many Christians who start to fall apart and they run to this verse claiming that they are just being sifted. While this may be true, I have found several of them who have not opened their Bible in months, other than when sitting in a Church, and have not prayed in just as long or longer. They abandon the spiritual disciplines in their lives and then try to use this verse to explain why they feel the way they do. This has happened enough times around me that this verse lost its power, and it became more and more impotent as it became more and more cliche. Several weeks into this struggle I got to thinking about this verse again.
And then I saw a Jesus I had never seen…
The cliche part of the verse is that Satan sifts believers.
Let me make something clear. I do not think any verse of the Bible is impotent or cliche. I find that some verses are used in a very cliche manner and are often taken out of context in order either to make a Christian feel better about something in their life or to support a particular argument. Neither of these are appropriate.
The part of the verse that hit me like a brand to an unsuspecting bull was Jesus’ response. Let me put this in my own words for a minute…
“Peter… Satan wants to beat you up… I have decided to let him. I’m not abandoning you, I will be right here through the whole ordeal, but I am going to allow you to feel the pain in the fight. You will survive and when the fight is over I want you to encourage your brothers. Be ready, Peter… life in this moment is going to be rough.”
Who in the world is this Jesus and where has He been hiding? Jesus is a savior, a healer, a righteous judge, a man who got angry and flipped tables in the temple. Jesus, as far as I knew, was not an MMA coach training a young fighter, sending him into the ring against a brute of an opponent, simply to strengthen his understanding of the battle and then use him to motivate and encourage the other fighters. This Jesus is a tactician. This Jesus is a warrior.
While I knew that this was true of Him, this truth did not make its way into my heart.
Could this be? Had I just endured this garbage in my life so that Jesus could reveal another aspect of who He is to me?
Scripture proved to be true. Jesus was powerful enough to heal me. I had not blocked His power in my life. He had not lied… He did want to heal me, but He wanted me to get into a fight first.
I had misunderstood His desire for me.
But why? Why on earth would He allow me to create such caustic damage to His Kingdom in the process?
And why would He choose to sustain my life?