—written 11/27/2020, Edited: 12/03/2020, by Patricia A. Go
About a month ago today, I was in a deep dungeon of darkness—that was full of scary pictures of what my future would look like, as well as pent up anger and despair of the person I had become under months of demands and major changes in my life. I couldn’t keep any food down, and I had trouble falling asleep at night. Days later, I also began to have nightmares about work. This evolved to anger at almost everyone around me, including God, who I blamed for allowing these circumstances. I wanted to run away and hide. I wanted to give up on life, and everyone that had hurt me, as I held on to bitterness, anger and resentment tighter and tighter. I was too terrified to go back to the place that I felt began my journey into the dungeon. I shook with fear even at anything that resembled that place.
Until a week ago…
Last week was Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time of gratitude and honoring God and one another. However, I was still too consumed by bitterness, fear and anger to think about being grateful for much of anything.
The Holy Spirit, because He is relentless in His love and truth, continually prodded me to forgive and/or let go of bitterness that I had against several people He brought to my mind, especially this one person. I did not want to let go and forgive. I thought if I did, I would open up myself to more hurt. The cycle of the Holy Spirit’s prodding and my resistance went on almost throughout the whole day. By the end of the day, I had a small desire to forgive this person, but there was an invisible roadblock that prevented me from obeying the Spirit. I knew I was grieving the Spirit, but I still was not in the place to forgive. Still, I was desperate to know how I could get over the roadblock, so I could finally stop grieving God.
At around 6:30 that night, I texted a friend to see if he had answers, but he was busy. So, I turned to YouTube, and finally found a video of a Christian speaker, Mark Ballenger, giving me the answer to the question of how to forgive from a biblical perspective. To make a long story short, he said that we should forgive the people that have hurt us because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for us. Ballenger said that God deserves our obedience of forgiving the person that hurt us. The offender may not deserve our forgiveness, but God deserves our faith in forgiving the offender.
After watching this video and reading over something on forgiveness that one of my friends had given me, I decided it was time to forgive this person who I held bitterness and anger against for these past weeks. So, I finally obeyed, and this huge weight was lifted off me.
Then, the next day, I called the person and apologized to them for holding bitterness and anger against them and several others. I felt so free. Not only was I able to reconcile with this person, but my whole outlook on life changed as well. I was no longer afraid of the place which had caused me so much trauma and pain a month ago.
Like Job, God has blessed me much on the other side of the pain that I endured. Through the hurt, pain, turmoil, and trial, God was always there and never gave up on me.
I am nearing what I hope to be the end of this dark, long tunnel of this past month. I am finally running towards the Light.
According to a Forbes article on demotivation at work, two major causes of job dissatisfaction are unpleasant or incompetent bosses and unpleasant co-workers (1). I have certainly found that to be the case for many people I have encountered that have worked for various companies. It is true that we cannot change other people’s behaviors or hearts. However, in my career in retail sales, I have learned these things about how to get along with a manager or co-worker that was difficult:
Realize you cannot change a person’s heart towards you, work, or anyone or anything else.—I had a manager (see also:What I Learned From My Manager) who I had such a tough time dealing with that I used to pray to God every day for 1 1/2 years for our relationship to get better, not thinking God would actually really do anything to fix our work relationship. Finally, things got so bad, that I was full of wrath and anxiety when, on my day off, I walked into church for bible study! I wasn’t even thinking about God or church. I was consumed with both fear and anger of my manager. However, after my pastor at the time counseled me through the situation I had with my manager, I had an epiphany: I realized that I had spent so much time trying to change my manager, that I failed to look in the mirror and examine the things in my heart that I needed to change! Once I realized that I couldn’t change my manager’s heart, I began to shift into a more positive attitude towards him and I became free of my bitterness and anger that I had held inside for so long! When he left the company, I was on such good terms with him that we considered each other friends! I had a co-worker that I had a really tough time dealing with also, but once I realized that I couldn’t change them (or get rid of them), I became more patient and friendlier towards them. So I learned to not try to force someone to change their behavior by being vengeful or venting my anger towards 20 or so other people. You need to accept that you cannot change that person’s heart, and that only God can change them.
Be intentionally kind to the person with whom you are having difficulties. –Yes, this is completely against our human nature, but it is what Jesus would do. When I was having difficulties with my aforementioned manager, I realized that he was working very hard and not having enough time to eat adequately, so I shared some of my food with him. I am not mentioning this to pat myself on my back (after all, I was also the same person who treated him before with malice and contempt), but to illustrate how being intentionally kind can change one’s attitude towards another. This is why pastors advise their congregants to pray a blessing on a person whom they view to be “difficult” or the “enemy”. Other ways to be intentionally kind to someone who is difficult to get along with is to help them with their work when you see them struggling, compliment them in a genuine way about how they are working or if you see an improvement in some aspect of their attitude, and saying “thank you” if they do something nice for you that you do not expect of them.
Avoid gossiping about the person with whom you are having difficulties. –Most people have gossiped about someone that they did not like and with whom they were having difficulties. I think most of the problems that I have had would have been avoided if I did not “vent” about these people with whom I thought were “difficult” to other coworkers and managers, and I instead talked gracefully towards the person directly. However, fear, coupled with my prideful attitude towards the situation prevented me from talking to that person directly. If someone else gossips to you about a person that they are having difficulties with, a good question to ask them is, “Have you talked to that person [with whom you are having difficulties] about this?” If they haven’t, tell them to either talk to them directly or a manager if they are having fears about confronting that person alone. Remember, it is gossip if the person you are talking to about the situation is not part of the solution or problem.
My pastor talked about showing grace to others today, especially in this chaotic time we are in these days. When we realize we can’t change anyone’s heart by ourselves, when we are intentionally kind to others, even our enemies, and if we avoiding gossiping about co-workers and bosses we don’t like, we will not only be able to show more grace at work, we will receive the same as well.
A recent study by Cigna found that about half, or one out of every two Americans, feels lonely. (1). In the age where everyone and everything seem more closely connected than ever, especially by the Internet and social media, this statistic is particularly alarming. Moreover, a study by the CDC, found that suicide rates are also increasing by as much as 30% over the past decade (2). In fact, during junior high through my sophomore year in high school, when I felt the loneliness, I often had suicidal ideations. Thankfully, God, in His mercy and sovereignty didn’t allow me to go through with that option.
We were all created for community. Even when Adam was
surrounded with animals, God acknowledged his need to be surrounded by at least
one other person when God said in Genesis 1:18 (KJV), “It is not good that the
man should be alone.” So, after that God created Eve from Adam’s rib. Even
Jesus, in order to fulfill the purpose which the Father had for Him, had to be
surrounded by people, at least some of the time. Believers in Christ or not, we are all
created to be with at least one other person. This doesn’t have to be in the
context of a romantic or marital relationship, but we do need some kind
of relationship with another to truly be content with our lives.
When I was growing up, I didn’t really feel connected with
my community at school and I rarely attended church. As I consequence, I
struggled on and off with loneliness throughout most of my childhood. Many people, especially the younger
generation, sadly feel the same way I did when I was growing up.
Though we are, in some ways, more connected to each other
than ever, through phenomena like globalization and the Internet, we can also
be more isolated. While we may have more
virtual connections, our face-to-face connections as a society have
suffered. Because many people may see
that their face-to-face connections are suffering, instead of confronting this
problem head on, they may be tempted to retreat into virtual reality. For instance, in my personal life, I found
that when I am stressed and/or feel lonely, I tend to isolate myself more.
One of the things that God has taught me through all that,
is not to isolate. For instance, about two weeks ago, I was so depressed I
couldn’t get out of bed to go to church!
However, later I decided I should try to go the evening Sunday school
class at church, so maybe I’d feel better.
Not only did I feel better, but some of my friends were able to help me
through what had been causing me to feel depressed in the first place! Also, when we are part of a community, there
is place for both accountability and vulnerability. (Yes, there are toxic
communities where people will not feel safe to be vulnerable or accountable. In
that case, I would find another, more genuine community, and not give up until
I found the right one.) . In a community, we can learn from one another, be
accountable, and can encourage one another. That is why, in Hebrews 11: 25,
Christians are encouraged not to forsake the assembly of believers (i.e…Don’t
neglect your local church community).
Another thing that God has been teaching me about combating
loneliness is the connection between being lonely and the temptation to forge
idols. I know several people who have
turned to idols, whether it be smoking, workaholism, alcoholism, gambling, or a
number of other life-dominating vices, because they sensed a void, or
loneliness, in their lives. One of my
pastors said that the reason that many people turn to idols because they have a
mistrust of some aspect of the character of God.
So, God has been teaching me, that In order to combat true
loneliness, I need to forsake any idols that I have used as a “filling in” for
any of my perceived feelings of loneliness.
One thing that I have realized combats both the loneliness and idolatry
is basking in God’s presence and learning about and believing His character. In my class that I attend Thursday nights at
church, when I learned about God’s steadfast love and that He would never leave
or forsake me, through Scripture, I found that I became more joyful and more
aware of His presence in my life. It goes without saying, that I no longer felt
stressed or lonely that day, in dealing with life. Also, I was surrounded by a
community of believers that were able to help and/or teach me to overcome some
of my temptations to idolatry, so I would be less likely to fall into that trap
God has also been teaching me that some people are lonely
because they feel afraid to forge connections with others, even though they may
crave it. This may be due to a number of
reasons, but one of the major reasons I found in what I have observed with
people around me, is that people don’t want to forge connections because they
are afraid of getting emotionally wounded by another person again. They have been wounded, manipulated, and/or
betrayed by so many people in their lives; they would rather risk loneliness
than be abused again. I don’t blame them for this reaction, but ultimately it
will ruin them as well. I used to be one
of these people who was afraid to be vulnerable and really connect with others,
and thus, I was constantly depressed and lonely. However, I found that when I
became vulnerable and was able to be myself that I not only became less lonely,
but I also became more confident of who I was and where I was going in
life. So, how was I able to be more
“real” and “vulnerable” with others?
First of all, I surrounded myself with people that really had my best
interests in mind and were supportive and caring, even in my darkest
times. I also strived to forgive those
who had hurt me somehow. For instance, I forgave several managers at work who I
had bitterness and anger against for a long time. Since a lot of people
respected them, I sometimes felt alone.
However, when I let go of my bitterness and start to consciously think
good things about them, not only did I not feel alone anymore, my relationships
with these managers also started to improve dramatically! Also, in order to not feel lonely for a
prolonged period of time, we must persevere in forging relationships with
others, even though it may be difficult at times. People may irritate us, be
rude to us, or treat us unkindly, but that doesn’t mean we should give up on
relationships completely. Also, God may
want us to learn something, even if it is how not to be, from these rude or irritating people.
We were not created to be alone. That is why children and
adults who are isolated from others for a long period of time, may have
irrevocable damage and trauma from that experience. However, when we experience
true unity among one another, we can find love, joy, fulfillment, and community
in our lives that gives us purpose and hope for this hurting, broken world.
It was a cold, wintry February day, right after my birthday when I got interviewed for my current job. I sensed in my spirit to ask about the status of my resume. I honestly did not think anything would happen, but when the HR coordinator told me to come back for an interview, a couple hours later, I knew there was hope.
Since I didn’t have time to go home, I couldn’t adequately
plan for the interview. When I came back to my current workplace, another
interviewee, Anastasia * was already there, and we made some small talk, as we
waited to be interviewed. Anastasia was
interviewed first, and after she came out, I was interviewed. The interviewer,
I found out later, was also going to be my manager, Chris*! I was very nervous
during the interview. All Chris asked me was, “How did you go above and beyond
for a customer.” Nervously stuttering, I answered how I made sure the
customer’s questions were answered, and how I would pray for them if they
wanted me to.
I didn’t think I was going to get the job because I was so
nervous, but to my surprise. Anastasia and I both got job offers! Anastasia
accepted immediately, but I waited until the next day to accept after seeking
counsel from my family.
During orientation, Chris kindly sat down with me to give me
my schedule for the next couple weeks. It was many more hours than I got at my
previous job. The only time I had ever worked that much, was during the
Christmas season! I was very pleased. But then Chris went on vacation for two
weeks, and everything changed….
Because I didn’t take the time to get to know Chris as a
manager or a person initially, we had many conflicts. There was always a period
where things were good again, but then there would be more conflict, that grew
more intense, as time went on. This cycle repeated itself for one and a half
years! During the worst of the conflicts, I flirted with the idea of switching
departments or even quitting my job! However, God, in His sovereignty, didn’t
allow me to follow through on these options
When the conflicts got really bad, I had also tried avoiding Chris completely, as I had dreaded seeing him every day, but that only lasted a few days. However, I knew I had a serious problem when, on my day off from work, I came to church still very upset about the situation with Chris. I was not only dreading possibly having to see him again the next day at work, but I also became consumed with thoughts of how much he had hurt me and so on. The bitterness and anger inside my heart, at the time, was like a whale about to consume its food whole!
I saw my pastor, John, and immediately sensed that I had to
seek counsel about my situation with Chris, because I was afraid if I didn’t
get help soon, I would eventually blow up at Chris, get myself disciplined and
even lose my job!
these concerns to my pastor, John*. I also told him, “I tried to be nice to my
manager, but I don’t think anything is happening.” In retrospect, I wasn’t even really working
hard in being that nice to Chris. That
is when Pastor John told me to turn to Romans 12:12-20, and Matthew
5:44-48. The particular verse, Romans
12:20, struck me. It said, “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he
thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his
Then, Pastor John said, “How do
you know God is not working in Chris? Patricia, you have to trust God’s
timing. God may not bring about the
changes now, but how do you know he won’t make the changes later, in His own
perfect timing.” The verses in Matthew
5:44-48, about loving your enemy, and Romans 12:15-20, about serving someone
who you view to be the enemy, as to soften him or her, and what Pastor John
said about God’s timing, made all the difference. I had renewed hope that
things could change for the better between Chris and me. And it did!
That night, I sensed God telling
me that I should apologize to Chris for the anger and bitterness I had against
him, so I typed up an apology note to Chris for the anger and bitterness I had
held. The next day, I wanted to give it to Chris but the department manager
ended up doing it for me since another manager wanted me to straighten some
aisles in the store right that second! After my break, I caught Chris doing
freight, and asked him if he had read the note. He said he had. There, we
worked things out, and that day, things really started to become better.
After that next day, I felt so
much better and so hopeful that things would get better for us. The barrier and slime of hatred and
bitterness that I had for Chris melted away within days, if not hours, of me
talking to Pastor John. I started to be
able to look at Chris with eyes of love and compassion, and not the revulsion
and disgust that I had earlier.
However, several months later,
Chris was moved to a different area of the store altogether. I would no longer
have the opportunity to show the love and respect to him in the same capacity I
did when things were tough between us. I
was sad, but now I know having Elizabeth* come on as my new manager was part of
God’s good plan for me.
Several weeks after that, Chris
switched areas again to cover for someone else, who worked nights. However, since Chris did such a good job
covering for this other manager, the store manager kept him in that position
for almost a year.
One wintry day in February of
last year, I wanted to work overnight for Chris because many people had called
in, due to a severe blizzard ensuing outside. I felt really bad for him that he
had to do all of this work with only a few people to help him. However, when
Chris realized that I lived more than a few minutes from work and I had already
worked since two in the afternoon, he told me that working overnight that day
for him wouldn’t be a good idea. He, in essence, said “I care about my
associates. I would rather have you safely home, than to worry about getting
all this work done.” That care he had for me contributed to me being physically
safe that day. I listened to him and
went on my way, at a decent time. The
next day, the storm was so bad that I called in. Had he not cared about my safety and just let
me work for him, I don’t think I would be alive today.
After that, Chris and I got
along much better.
Then, a few months ago,
Elizabeth told me she had accepted another opportunity at another company. I
cried, as I never thought she would leave that soon, and besides that, I
considered her one of the best managers I have ever had! I was also anxious because I didn’t know who
would replace her or what would happen to our department.
Some people who know me well may think to themselves why I didn’t just quit when I felt Chris was hurting me, because when most people feel as hurt as I was, they will make sure that they never have to face that person again. They won’t take time to think about how they may have contributed to the conflict, or even think that things could ever be redeemed between them and the person who they have harbored anger and bitterness against. I confess that though I had prayed for one and a half years for things to be improved between Chris and me and for God to take away my anger and bitterness away from me, I never really thought anything would happen. God, however, in His grace,proved me wrong.
What people don’t understand is how the power of forgiveness and redemption changes you and allows you to see the light in someone you may have once hated. Upon seeing the light, you know you can never give up on that person again. You start to see beauty in that person, and the anger and revulsion will start melting away. That is how I saw Chris was worth the fight.
Epilogue: Chris is no longer with my company, but I will always remember him as someone who always worked hard and believed in me and my potential. I will never forget him. I wish him years of joy and success in wherever he ends up next in his life.
I’m not going to lie. Being content is still a struggle for
me, but I can say with a fair amount of certainty that I am more content now
than I was even five years ago. Over the past couple years or so, I have
learned many things about how to be content and why for many people,
contentment with life seems to elude them.
In this New Year, contentment can be a reality for you. It
can be an even greater reality for me. In general, from what I have read,
heard, and learned, these are some of the major factors in cultivating
contentment in one’s life:
Live with purpose.—I had always had this lingering question in my mind about work: Why do most people hate or dislike their jobs and have no passion in what they do for a living? When I observed people and the general trends from the world around me, I found the answer. Basically, for a lot of people, their attitude towards work and much of their other parts of their lives, too, is “I’ll do what I can to survive another day.” While that can motivate some to not give up, I believe we need to live with greater purpose than just survival if we are to be truly content. I recommend that to find your life purpose (if you haven’t already), you think about what your passions are in life, and what God-given abilities you have, and see how they can fit together. For instance, one of my passions in my life is to see people know and experience the joy and love of Christ in their lives. God has given me the ability to articulate myself well through writing (though I am much less gifted in speaking!). Therefore, I have chosen to write a blog about lessons I’m learning about God’s love and joy in my life, and how others can cultivate the same. Though my day job does not involve writing at all, I can still be content in my job, because my passion to see people experience the love and joy of Christ is still being realized through the opportunities I get to interact with people on a daily basis.
Live in forgiveness.—I used to hold grudges against certain people for years, and then wonder why I wasn’t content with my life. It was like there was something always holding me back from experiencing true joy. Once, I held anger and resentment against someone that was so bad that I started experiencing PTSD-like symptoms and a real dread of ever seeing them again. However, when I finally forgave them and let my anger go, I felt an enormous weight lifted off me. I was finally able to live in love and freedom from the bitterness that held me captive for so long! Some people think if they forgive someone, they are letting them off the hook, so to speak, or excusing the offender’s behavior. Nothing could be further from the truth! The very fact of having to forgive someone necessitates that they did something wrong or sinful to hurt you. Also, like so many others who have struggled to forgive someone, I used to think that the longer I held a grudge, the longer I would make the offender “suffer” for what they did to me and feel the isolation and pain of my hurt. Then, I realized that the offender often either does not know what they did to hurt you or to what degree, or if they do, they don’t care at all. I realized that holding a grudge only makes you and the people around you that have nothing to do with what the offender did suffer. Let. It. go. By holding a grudge, you are continuing to let the offender hurt you. Get out of your offender’s prison! Forgive them—for your sake, not theirs!
Live with gratitude.—I believe that one of the biggest barriers to contentment is a complaining spirit. Often the people who complain the most are also the most depressed. This has little to do with the person’s circumstances, and more to do with the person’s attitude towards them. For instance, I know several people from my church who have had to struggle through cancer. Even though a lot of them had some trying times just battling the disease and having to go through strenuous treatments to combat it, they remained in good spirits because they focused on God and the good that was still in their lives. When I looked back on the good in my life and the blessings that God has given me, I find that I am much more satisfied with my life than when I focus on the negatives. One thing that I find helpful is to start a list of some of the blessings in your life. I keep mine in a notebook that I update occasionally throughout the year. I started it about 10 years ago, and it has over 100 ways that God has blessed me throughout that time!
These are the three main lessons that I am learning about
contentment. Though practicing these things is not always easily, and we may
fail to live these at times, never give up.
The more purpose, forgiveness, and gratitude are implemented in our
lives, the more content we will be with our lives. Try living these, and you
won’t be disappointed with the results.
I know most people have heard the phrase, “So much to do, so little time.” I know this has been the case for me, more so just in these past couple of days, as those around me have become more “time-conscious.” One of my friends reminded me that Jesus is coming soon (though we don’t know the day or the hour). My parents let me know last night that our days in this place may be numbered. So many U.S government employees are wondering how much their savings will last until the shutdown is finally over (which I hope, for their sake, is very soon!). As my pastor has said repeatedly, “Time is life.”
Time is life.
That alone should point to the importance of how we spend
our time, and help us not to waste so much time, me included.
Other reasons why time is so important are implied in these
Time is limited.
You can never get the time you lost back.
Time is valuable.
Yes, we live longer than we have, let’s say 100 years
ago. Even so, we will all eventually die
and face our eternal destiny. Time is
Sadly enough, we all have been guilty of wasting time, at
one point of our lives or another. I know I am not immune to this. I have
wasted too much time being bitter about people that either didn’t mean to do me
harm, or didn’t care that they harmed me.
I should have just forgiven them and moved on in my life, instead of
brooding about what they did and how much they had hurt me. I have also wasted too much of my life
wallowing in self-pity, anger and despair.
Maybe you have had similar stories of time wasted.
Maybe instead of
appreciating your spouse (if you are or were married), you catered to your own
selfishness and self-indulgence, until it was too or almost too late to save
your marriage. Maybe instead of caring for that relative or friend, you brushed
them aside in their time of need because you were too busy to attend to
them. Maybe you have wasted time doing
other things that were just not that important, and neglected the things that
should have been most important.
I think the reason we sometimes waste time is that we are
not conscious of time. We perceive we have more time than there actually is.
Some people don’t anticipate change—or that time will move on without
them. Moreover, we think we can make up
for lost time, only to discover it was too late!
So, how do we redeem the time (i.e.. not waste time)?
First, we have to be time-conscious. Most people are more
time-conscious when they know their time is limited, such as when a loved one
dies or when they attend a funeral. However, we don’t have to wait for death to
knock at our door in order to be time-conscious.
Lose the attitude that you have all this time in the world!
Strive not to procrastinate! Do what you can today, and strive to live each day
as it was your last. Some people go to work, or even approach life, as if it
were drudgery that will last forever, doing nothing to change their attitudes
or their circumstances. I am not talking
about people suffering from depression or who have already done what they could
and are still miserable. I’m just talking about those that are determined to
stay miserable no matter what. Know
that time is fleeting. If you are having a tough time now, there is hope
because this will eventually pass. If you are content with your life now, be
thankful for all that you have been blessed with.
Secondly, we have to determine what is important to us. In
order to not waste time, we need to prioritize what is most important to
us. We need to ask ourselves what we
value the most, whether it be God, our family, our friends, or other
priorities. Then, we need to spend the most time on those things we value most.
For instance, I value God, family, and friends, in that
order. If I want to redeem my time that
I have in life, I will focus on the interests that matter in my relationship to
God, my family, and friends. I would not waste time wallowing in self-pity or being
idle in regards to these priorities.
Also, we need to be sure that what we value will last
through eternity, and not put so much emphasis on those things that are
fleeting. For example, if a manager or co-worker at your job has a bad day and
gets snippy at you, don’t become bitter and angry for more than a day with them
and let that destroy your relationship with them, if you value relationships as
eternal. Instead chalk it up to them
having a bad day, and forgive them for their frustration at you.
Since our time is limited, valuable, and can never be
regained, we should be sure not to waste time.
In order to do that, we need to prioritize what is most important to us
and be sure we are conscious of the scarcity of our time here on earth, valuing
each day as if it were our last.
Let’s redeem our time today, and do positively in the days
we have left on earth!
Along my blogging journey, I have met some amazing people that have encouraged and inspired my own as well. One of these people is R. Christian Bohlen, who has quite an extraordinary testimony of how he came to know God, through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
R. Christian Bohlen has been
involved in ministry and church leadership for over thirty years, including
oversight of a prison ministry program in central PA. He holds an M.S. degree
in communications and has received multiple personal and team awards as a human
performance improvement consultant, instructional designer, and program manager
to Fortune 500 companies throughout the United States and Canada.
His prior work with juvenile offenders and his own
family’s trauma due to mental health issues instilled a commitment to somehow
help those who need it most to find comfort in Christ. For over twenty years,
he has labored to simplify and clarify the beauties of the life of Jesus Christ
for everyone, regardless of background or knowledge of the scriptures. In 2018,
he launched Christ on the Inside
prison and addiction recovery ministry with the goal of making easy-to-read
books about the life of Jesus available at no cost (and no profit to anyone).
My Conversion Story
I’ve devoted over 20 years to
writing a book about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, mostly because of
the remarkable and unforgettable way Christ kept pursuing me and not giving up
In my 20’s, the confusion of trying
to find my way to God was torturous—in spite of my sincerest efforts.
Finally “finding Christ”
brought the peace and clarity I was looking for, but it certainly wasn’t like
walking into a door labeled Nirvana and then thinking, “Ahh!
It’s all good now.”
There was a process that gradually
filled me with light—triggered by one key insight and the most difficult
decision of my entire life.
Up in Light and Truth
I was raised by faith-filled parents
in a gospel-centered home. It was an idyllic setting. A family with father,
mother, three children and a large community with kids everywhere, bordered by
the dense forests of northwest Pennsylvania where we played and fantasized.
Attending church every Sunday was a
given. Family prayer was routine and sincere and our home had a spirit of
meekness, love, and obedience to God.
As a child and teenager, the other members of our small church family were important influences on me. The older members of our congregation had the Spirit of God with them when they spoke. Their kind and patient ways were noticeably different than the world around me, showing a “peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:2).
I was taught many stories from the
scriptures. These often touched me and, looking back, I sensed that they were
true. I felt good when I read the scriptures myself, although I typically had
better things to do and simply didn’t bother.
I didn’t pray on my own. I didn’t disbelieve
that there was a God but I didn’t really believe it. And I certainly didn’t
feel his love, nor did I ever feel what I would call love for God either.
Sayings like “God loves you” just bounced off. “Everybody knows
that,” I would think to myself.
But I didn’t know it.
Gift to the Undeserving
Maybe you can relate to what I’m
about to share. Maybe in some way, God touched you whether you deserved it or
whether you were seeking him or not. Maybe, at the time, you didn’t recognize
it as such.
God reached down to me powerfully
twice when I was a teenager.
One day in church, after watching an
inspiring video about some story in the scriptures, I recall walking into the
hallway feeling touched and uplifted. I paused in front of a bulletin
board and looked at a picture of Christ surrounded by people in
old-fashioned clothes like the ancients might wear.
A pure spiritual light of
understanding entered my whole being as I stared at Christ in the center
of this picture. I wasn’t consciously trying to think of anything. It just hit
I comprehended that Christ was God,
the unchangeable God of the universe. I mean, I knew it and I understood
it. I comprehended that the trends and fashions and ideas of men will come and
go, but the wisdom and supremacy of God are unchanging. It was obvious why some
people were bent down in an attitude of worship. This insight was a gift
of spiritual light that filled me mercifully, with no effort of my own.
This gift entered my soul at a time
that I was behaviorally in rebellion against God and was giving him no thought
whatsoever. It was pure grace.
The next day I was supposed to meet
someone new—a large scale drug dealer—to buy a sheet of acid (meaning, a large
volume of LSD doses intended for distribution and sale). This was only one of
several drugs I was involved with. Getting caught selling hard drugs would have
changed the course of my life with a minimum of many months in a juvenile jail
and all that comes with entering the “system,” the stigma, and
dashing my parents’ hearts.
I stood there nearly in shock.
“What am I doing to my life? How can I do this tomorrow?” But I had
been panged by remorse before and it had only lasted a day or two and I went
right back into my double life.
Nevertheless, I never met with that
person. I don’t recall why. And I never pursued it again.
Unforgettable Witness of Christ
A few months after that incident, I
was getting ready to head out for college. I had been taught many times that
there are a few important crossroads in life that we’d better pay attention to
and make the right move: going to college, getting married, those kinds of
I recognized this as a chance to
reprioritize my life. So, I sought out one of our pastors for counsel and
began making small steps to get ready for a big change. Like the Parable
of the Lost Son, I was trying to leave the “wild living” behind and
trying to head back to the house of my Father (Luke 15:11-32, NIV).
This pastor asked my friend and me
to sing a duet during our last Sunday in church before leaving for college.
“Sure, no problem,” I answered. I didn’t think much about it.
The song was, “Abide with
There we stood in front of the small
congregation that we knew so well. My friend and I had decent voices and had
practiced a time or two and I wasn’t too worried about it.
But the strangest thing happened.
The sounds of the hymn became hauntingly beautiful, moving me to a different
place. I was filled with the sound of the notes as the words became crystal
clear on the page and full of significance:
other helpers fail and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.”
Suddenly, I couldn’t see well. The
words blurred as water filled my eyes. To my teenage horror, I was crying, on
stage in front of everyone.
But I couldn’t stop. Just like
before, the light that filled me was sweet and clear and so satisfying. It was
worth more than anything. I just kept reading and listening to the surreal
At that moment, I understood the
character of Jesus: the help of the helpless. The compassionate one who cares
when nobody else does.
The revelation continued, flowing
pure and sweet into my mind and heart. Again, I understood that God was the
supreme, unchangeable being—more important than any earthly thing. I tried to
sing but could only read the words and listen as my friend sung his part. He
kept looking at me like, “Whoa, what is goin’ on here?”
joys grow dim, its glories pass away; Change and decay in all around I see— O Thou who changest not, abide with me.”
It all made perfect sense. I was
comprehending the character of Christ, “who changest not,” and for
some reason he chose to “abide with me,” on that stage, in front of
the entire congregation.
Forward to Near Madness
Within one week of this precious
gift I was back to “wild living.”
I didn’t realize it but I was an
I’m not going to recount my entire life story here, but suffice it to say that my life went back and forth between long periods of no drug abuse with sincere strivings to live a godly life and occasional relapses.
My feelings regarding the goodness
of the gospel were real but I lacked the faith and understanding to truly live
the gospel of Jesus Christ. I had no real foundation.
At one point in 1983, I reached a
crisis of sorts. My efforts to live the gospel and keep the commandments of God
were not working. I was intensely miserable and confused. I decided the only way
to get past it was to start over again: forget everything I knew about God,
religion, and just follow my heart, make the best decisions I could, and see
where that would lead me. I didn’t know what else to do!
I stopped going to church and
stopped “keeping the commandments of God,” as such, although that
doesn’t mean my life turned into a hedonist free-for-all either. I treated
people decently, didn’t party, and did a lot of thinking.
“How could this happen?” I
often thought. “I had really tried to change my life. I tried to follow
God and ‘follow the rules.'”
After a year or so of this, I
suddenly became despondent. I was scared, in fact, at how gloomy and hopeless I
felt. I feared that I was losing my sanity and thought about taking my life to
I can still remember where I was
sitting and staring at the floor in this unstable, panicked state with no idea
of what to do.
A thought came to me: “Go see
Bob was a good friend, a former
spiritual advisor, and a man that I simply trusted. I felt a tiny bit of hope
and decided to do it.
Our conversation was intense and his
love for me was palpable and comforting. He said I was “hanging by a
thread,” which I felt was a truthful statement and didn’t take it as an
insult at all.
“You are in Satan’s
power,” he said, “and you need to cast him out.”
Hmm… Okay, so this was kind of
dramatic and not what I expected. A little crazy, to be honest. “Me? I’m a
pretty nice guy,” I thought. “I’m not like a Satanic dude or
anything.” I started to pull back from Bob.
“I want you to tell Satan to
leave you,” Bob said.
“Huh? How?” I asked.
“Say, ‘Satan. In the name of
Jesus Christ, I command you to leave me,'” Bob instructed.
I probably just sat and looked at
him. I don’t remember. But I do remember being frightened and feeling very
unstable. Not evil, but very confused and unhappy.
“Oh, great,” I
thought. “Me. Possessed.”
Could it be true? As crazy as it
sounded, I opened my mind that it might be true. I had a tiny, new hope.
As we parted that day, he hugged me
and just wept and wept and wept. I sensed that it was the love of God reaching
through him in hope and celebration for my willingness to try.
Reality of Satan
Writing this now, in 2018, I’m sure
that most people have not and will not ever experience what I’m about to
describe. But it was a reality for me and what I felt and experienced was
I learned what constitutes light as
I truly witnessed darkness.
I went home and awkwardly explained
to my mother what was happening to me and what Bob counseled me to do. I have
no idea how I broached the topic with her but somehow my mother and I sat side
by side on a couch and I decided to do what Bob advised.
I opened my mouth and verbally
commanded Satan to leave me in the name of Jesus Christ using the words above.
Within seconds, I felt a terrifying,
dark force pull away from me. The best I can explain it is that I knew it had
been enmeshed with me and now it was just a “few inches” outside of
me. It was menacing and extremely angry at what was happening and by no means
intending to stay outside of me. It was waiting for me to lose focus and come
But now I knew there was
“me” and there was “it” and I could distinguish the two.
I commanded Satan again. And again.
Always in the name of Jesus Christ. Over time, the line between us because
firmer and the distance greater. My peace and sense of self were forming again.
Truthfully, I had forgotten some of
these details until just a year ago when my mother said, “I sure know that
Satan is real, like when you cast him out as we were sitting together. What a
horrible feeling that was.”
From her vantage point, she had
experienced it as vividly as I had: an awful, frightening, threatening presence
in that room. I did not know (or recall) that she felt it that way until she
shared her memory of it with me last year.
In the weeks and months that
followed, I continued to tell Satan to leave me in the name of Christ, as
Two things were certain and beyond
The evil force I felt was real. Satan was an actual entity and not just a concept.
The name of Jesus Christ has real power. Satan was enmeshed with me but he could not disobey the command to leave, in Christ’s name. I had been given a tool that worked 100% of the time and that was enormously reassuring.
How Christ Found Me and Cared for Me
I’ve listed just a few episodes in
my life where Christ reached out to me to teach me, inspire me, help me
understand the truth, and save me—even when I was doing little or nothing to
seek him out.
I can’t say that I found Christ. I
prefer to say he has been watching over me all my life and finding and touching
me, according to his own wisdom and ways.
He gave me sweet and loving parents who shared their testimonies of truth lived godly lives to the best of their understanding.
He gave me the examples of other church members whose sincerity and willingness to love God first was real to me, even as a boy.
He gave me light and understanding as I read scriptures, participated in church activities, and that one eventful day in front of the bulletin board.
He gave me the freedom to make decisions and figure things out on my own but he was always watching for my return. At the first sign of turning, he ran to me like the father of the lost (prodigal) son and whispered the idea to call Bob Johnson to help me.
He kicked Satan out of my life like the mighty God of the universe that he is. All I had to do was invoke his name, which always has power.
Christ Finds and Cares for You
I know that our Christ reaches out
to every living soul on this earth in ways that are suitable to that person.
Take just a moment to reflect back
on your life. Who were the people that were good examples in your life? It
might not have been your family. What were the experiences where heavenly light
and understanding called you to something higher and helped you understand the
things of God? Maybe you appreciated it. Maybe you didn’t.
All of us have been touched and
called to something higher. Through somebody. Through a life experience.
Through the Spirit of God directly to our souls. But every living soul feels
the fingers of God reaching down. But will we take that hand?
When did you hear something or read
something that touched you? Maybe you felt an impression like, “I can do
more with my life; I can turn away from these destructive things in my
life,” or “God really is there and he wants me to listen and trust
Those inspired impressions are from
God. When we say, “I want to please God and keep feeling those good things
more than my destructive, sinful past,” we are moving toward Christ.
I Came to Christ: Believe in the Name of Jesus
My troubles weren’t over yet,
however. Confusion returned frequently because other than knowing how to get Satan’s
power to release me, I didn’t really understand what to do next.
I recall telling people, “I
feel like I have no foundation. I’m walking in quicksand. I don’t know where to
For someone who had attended church
for most of his life and had read the scriptures many times over this seems
ludicrous, looking back, but so it was. I found that there’s a difference
between knowing from the head and internalizing from the heart. But I did find
my way to Christ.
I recall a certain day when I was
staring at green, patterned carpet in a different bedroom, trying to figure out
what to do next.
Because I knew the Bible well
(meaning, I had made some good decisions in the past to invest effort and try
to learn the ways of God), a key phrase popped into my head:
is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ.” (1 John
“Just believe in the name of
Jesus Christ,” I repeated to myself. I didn’t know Jesus as a man. I
had never seen him. But I could just believe in his name. I mean really
put my whole heart into it. I could decide to trust this Jesus Christ.
“Just do it,” I recall
But oh, it was hard to do.
I had many atheist friends who
poo-pooed the idea of believing the unseen. Their faces and voices in my mind
made this a spiritually terrifying decision.
But one thing I knew for sure. I had
factual, first-hand, experiential knowledge of this: the name of Jesus Christ
has power. “So why not believe in that name,” I reasoned.
“Perhaps more good will follow?”
I then received another merciful,
beautiful insight: Into my mind’s eye came the John the Apostle and John the
Baptist. I pictured Peter and Paul. I felt them saying, “We gave our everything
to give you this knowledge. Believe it. We love you. Believe in the name of Jesus.
I felt in my heart that these dear scriptural friends were just and holy men. Real people. Worthy of my trust.
The Pivotal Decision: Jumping in
with Both Feet
Sometime in 1983, I made that great decision. I opened the faucet of belief in Jesus Christ and the water of life began to trickle into my life. I could feel the difference. What the scriptures call “salvation” was happening for the first time in my life. (See Acts 16:30-33
I often said in my mind—and still do
to this day—”I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe He was sent from the
Father. I believe He is the Messiah. I believe Jesus Christ is the very Son of
God.” These thoughts and intentions fill my heart with light and happiness
There is power in believing. We should never underestimate the power of believing on the Light of the World.
Today, I am grateful and thrilled to tell you that—praise
and thanks be to God—I am truly happy. Genuinely, deeply happy and at
I have been saddened by the general climate of the world around me. So many people are hurting, and some people seem to have the need to be nasty to others. Despite it being the holiday/Christmas season, it seems that a lot of people are more stressed than ever. I think Roy L. Smith was right when he said, “If one does not have Christmas in his heart, he will never find it under a tree.”
So, how do we have Christmas in our hearts, or how can we have joy and peace this holiday season? The answer is simple, yet difficult to do: We need to love each other like we never have before. I don’t mean the mushy, romantic type love. I don’t even mean just friendship love. I mean the all-out, sacrificial, agape love!
Many around you carry deep pain and hurt inside. Some may have lost a loved one around the holidays. You may even be one of these people, and to you, I say this: There is hope when you can be vulnerable and tell a trusted friend or loved one how you have been feeling, so that you can begin to heal. Someone out there cares for you. Don’t give up.
If you are not, or if you are already in the process of healing, I say this: Do not let the stresses and pressures of life allow you to overlook these people. Do not let your heart become calloused and apathetic to the hurting people around you. Always strive to be compassionate and caring to others. It could make a world of difference in their lives, and could even save a life! Don’t just ask someone how they are doing and walk away. Listen to and try to be genuinely interested in what they have to say in response.
Always try to uplift people and encourage them. If you see a peer or co-worker doing a good job, thank them for their efforts. If someone is down on themselves, encourage them by pointing out the good you see in them. If someone thinks no one cares about them, tell them that you do and then demonstrate that love and care by doing a tangible act of kindness for them. Maybe it can be as simple as a kind, encouraging word. Or maybe it can be watching their kids, if they have children.
This can take us out of our comfort zone, especially if we don’t like some of the people we are dealing with, but it is well worth it.
Friends, let us bring joy and love to the hurting people around us today and help them experience the best Christmas or holiday ever!
There is a mentality in most Western societies that we are entitled certain rights, such as freedom, respect, and the pursuit of happiness. A few people have even taken this to such an extreme that they see most people as peasants serving them (the god or goddess) of the universe—a narcissistic mentality! However, what if we lived lives that were opposite this mentality? What if we realized that no one really owes us anything on this green planet, and that everything good we get is really a gift? There have been countless studies done that have shown that gratitude helps not only boost our mood levels, it can help alleviate many physical ailments as well.
One way we can show gratitude is in how we treat others. I think one aspect of showing gratitude for the people that are in our lives is by treasuring them. Never treat anyone as if they were dispensable or take someone for granted. Unfortunately, most people, including me, have taken someone for granted at one point or another in our lives. We assumed that they would always be there for us to serve our needs and make us happy. However, if we realized just how much of an impact they have made in our lives, and how limited a time we may have with these people, we might treat them more as royalty, rather than as slaves or servants.
Another way we can show gratitude to other people is by giving grace to them. My definition of showing grace to people is to loving them, flaws and all, being willing to learn from them, and by forgiving them. We love others by not giving up on them even after they have made a mistake or hurt you. Yes, there may be situations in which we cannot be with someone after they hurt us because they pose a physical or emotional threat to our safety and that of other loved ones. However, that does not mean we should harbor hatred or bitterness towards them, as it will only hurt us in the end, not the offender. I know several people who have hurt me emotionally, and who I initially had bitterness and anger towards them, but then when I forgave them, the relationship was able to be restored. We should also be constantly striving to learn from the people around us, both for our and their benefit. We learn so that we can understand the people around us better and form stronger connections with others. We also learn from others so that we can better care for those around us. Finally, we learn from others in our appreciation for their uniqueness and what they contribute to this world—including ourselves.
However, when we harbor an entitlement attitude, this erodes our ability to be grateful for those in our lives. First of all, an entitlement mentality brings about complaining and judgments against others, especially when they don’t meet what we perceive to be our needs. For instance, the gunman in the recent Mercy Hospital shooting had wanted the engagement ring from his ex-fiancee back so badly that he felt like he had to kill to get it.(1) In other words, the gunman felt that she owed him the ring that he gave her back because they broke up, and he judged her to be a wicked person because she probably did not want to give it back to him.
This same entitlement attitude also impedes forgiveness and reconciliation because of the element of pride in entitlement. Proud people are not inclined to forgive others because they think they are always right and that the other party “deserves”their anger and bitterness. Forgiveness requires some measure of humility because part of forgiveness is the willingness to share in some of the consequences of someone else’s sin. For instance, if you forgive a family member for their alcoholism and the effects of it, you may still have to deal with their recovery process or deal with a couple of relapses. However, if you are not willing to forgive and feel that they owe you something back, then reconciliation and freedom from the effects of the offense will not really be possible.
Another way we can show gratitude is by being thankful for the material possessions given to us. One way to be grateful for our material possessions is by enjoying them. Enjoying them does not mean being wasteful or taking what we have for granted. Enjoying our material possessions means to be joyful in interacting with our gifts. It also means being grateful to those who gave them to us. Another way we can be grateful for the material possessions we have is to see them as gifts, not as wages owed us. When we see possessions as gifts, we are often more appreciative of them, especially when we know that someone sacrificed financially to give them to us.
However, an entitlement attitude completely destroys our joy and gratitude in the things we are given. This is because it completely devalues the gift and giver, since instead of something to be treasured and enjoyed, we have it because we “deserve” it,or it is “owed” to us. We may not enjoy the gift or gifts as much, because of the fear of it being destroyed or devalued. Also, an entitlement attitude toward the material possessions we have encourages greed and selfishness, because it breeds the further mentality of being “owed” more than we have now. It also breeds selfishness because, with an entitlement attitude, we are often less willing to share our material goods to those in need. We think we “earned” these gifts,and that no one should take them away from us.
What a difference we could make if we strove to be more grateful for each person and each gift we were given! However, when we have an entitlement attitude and are ungrateful for the grace that is given to us each day, we lose our joy and love in life and for others. Since it is a time to give thanks, who in your life, can you thank today? Maybe write them a note of gratitude, or tell them in person how much they mean to you. As for the many material gifts we are blessed with, enjoy them, but also be willing to share with those in need so that they can have joy too.