The all-American, “apple-pie-ness” of my life was a constant theme throughout my childhood and teenage years. My family lived in a middle class home in a middle class town and went to a middle class church. Everything about my life was very unremarkable, yet extremely blessed; God always provided and took care of me. As I discussed last week, my relationship with the Lord was tight-knit as a child.
However, in high school, a seed of doubt was planted. I began to notice that I didn’t think like other people thought, and in the process, I began to believe that maybe I was not just unremarkable, I was weird—and not in a good way. In college, that seed festered and I began to notice that when I drank, I received more attention. When I was sober, the enemy turned the vision for my life into a burden that consisted of complete doubt in my abilities to do anything worthwhile that didn’t involve being a really fun guy to party with.
Post graduation, the festering turmoil sent me completely off my path, over the side of the boat, and into a giant sea of disappointment where I was swallowed and consumed with my inner struggle.
17 Now the LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Jonah 1:17 NLT
Jonah was only in the belly for three days but I imagine that was the longest 72 hours of his life. The few years after college were long years for me. The lessons I learned were difficult, yet they seemed to fly by as nothing really ever got accomplished.
God brought the storm to the boat that Jonah boarded and subsequently the fish that swallowed him. Those experiences occurred because of Jonah’s rebellion but God allowed them to teach him a lesson while keeping him safe at the same time. The three days in the fish would be a tumultuous time, nonetheless.
5 The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. 6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. Jonah 2:5-6 NLT
Since graduating college in 2004, I’ve had 10 jobs, 11 addresses and 3 lengthy stints on unemployment. Nothing I did felt fulfilling, so my commitment to my job–and every part of life–wavered constantly. I wore a smile on my face much of the time, but deep down I was in a valley of depression. Whether it was drugs, alcohol, or late night fast food binging in front of the TV, my actual addiction was never what was put in my body but rather the numbness that came as a result.
There were times that I would call out to God, looking for a religious experience to cure me from my reliance on drugs and alcohol and bring happiness into my life. It was always temporary. I would begin to find different drugs to escape my reality, even occasionally taking them away from the party and into my home to find a release when I was alone.
After all those years of bad decisions, I sometimes contemplate how I’m still alive or why I didn’t spend any serious time in jail. To God be the glory because his protection is the only possible answer. Jonah was no different. Inside of a giant fish, he undoubtedly was tossed around mercilessly and often submerged beneath the water, yet the Lord never left his side.
6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, LORD my God, brought my life up from the pit. Jonah 2:6 NLT
A few years ago, I experienced my final time of unemployment and it was one of the hardest, longest mental battles I’ve ever faced, lasting more than a year. In that time, I began to finally realize how fortunate and blessed I was even to be alive, though my life was a complete personal disappointment. After months of wondering when I would find another job and losing all hope, I looked up from the floor of my apartment one evening, crying, and shouted to God,
“If you are who you SAY you are, then I need you to help me. If you are who you SAY you are, then I give up. If you are who you SAY you are, then I need you to fix this mess because I have no idea what else to do.”
I cried a lot more after that. No answer came immediately.
Not long afterwards though, a series of events happened that led me to obtain my health insurance license. The irony in it all is that I proudly stated many times, “I will work a lot of jobs, but I will not sell insurance.” God had other plans.
10 And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. Jonah 2:10 NLT
It turns out the Lord did hear my cry, and more importantly, He saw the change in my heart. My battle was not over, but I can confidently say my complete recognition of Him as my one Source calmed the storms in my life and delivered me on land.
If, like me, you find yourself in a battle of addiction or unrest, don’t try to attack it alone. First and foremost, recognize your Source and no matter how weak or unworthy you feel, that your Creator loves you and wants to enable you beyond your wildest dreams. Secondly, find Godly people to stand in the gap who won’t persecute you for your shortcomings but will help you overcome temptations through prayer support and faith in the Lord. You must also realize this is a raging battle, not just a street fight, and it will take time.
However, God will deliver you onto the beach and give you a new hope.
*Photo credit: Sadaton