"What do you want from me?" The tone of this question I passionately asked the Lord during this season comes from a place of broken humility and sincere desire. I was in the middle of a mental battle that was full of anxiety and chaos. I was crying out to God in earnest prayer during my pain. There was no fancy theology attached to my petition. Only vulnerable cries for deliverance from this physical and emotional anguish.
Have you been in a difficult season like I was? Do you ever dream of having more peace in your life? Do you consistently relate to words like anxiety, fear, stress, mental unrest, disorder, or hostility? If so, there is hope for you in Christ, and I pray this devotion will direct you to abide in the Prince of peace.
I have never been an anxious person or even struggled with mental battles outside of the ordinary day-to-day things we all experience. I live in optimism and have a spiritual gift of encouragement. As a pastor, I have had a front-row seat to hundreds of people as they find peace and rest in Christ, especially during difficult seasons. I have walked with my wife through the hell of chronic depression and watched God miraculously deliver her. I have personally lived a life abiding in the peace of Christ. I was perplexed about what was happening.
In this recent season, I went through some mental warfare that I can only describe as anxiety attacks or mental anguish. The characteristics of these episodes were both psychological and physical and left me worn out, ashamed, and struggling to make sense of it all. Was it all in my head, a neurological or psychological issue, or maybe demonic oppression? I was indeed at a loss and spending a lot of time in prayer and meditation with God.
As I shared my story with trusted friends and accountable leaders in my life, I began to hear similar stories from others who had comparable experiences. God began to open my eyes to see that He was doing a deep work in me.
One of my mentors makes a statement often that I have repeated over and over. I have preached on this and used biblical context to unpack this statement many times. However, in this season this became a reality kick in my pants. That statement is "experience trumps theory." I began to see how spiritually immature I was. I had an intellectual knowledge of God's Word but in many areas, had yet to experience it for myself. Knowing and experiencing have completely contrasting results, and I am walking away with an entirely different perspective.
During this season, I spent a lot of time studying Job and others from scripture that experienced much suffering in their lives. My theories about many of these stories had scriptural understanding but lacked experiential context. Now they are taking on a whole new meaning because I have walked some of them out myself. My experience is tempering me. My speech and how I look at others have been seasoned, and God's grace has taken on new depths.
In Job 42, Job is coming to the end of his horrible season and understands things differently than when it all started. I relate so much to this and the statements he made.
• He was embarrassed at the way he questioned this infinite God with pride and presumption.
• He admitted that he had an intellectual understanding of God by what he had heard, but now, at the end of his suffering, he has the experience with God that he never had before. This experience is priceless. You cannot buy it.
• He repented of the way his faith faltered when circumstances did not align with his theology.
• He recognized a lack of trust and surrender to God. Was his faith simply in all the blessings of God or the person of God?
Maybe God has invited you into an intentional season of growth that will require some intense mental and spiritual wrestling. Whatever is happening, God has a purpose, and the way to peace is to abide in Him.
1. Why did you start this devotion and what do you hope to gain by completing it?
2. What words describe your current mental struggles? (Do you consistently relate to words like anxiety, fear, stress, mental unrest, disorder, or hostility?)
3. Prayerfully, ask God to help you surrender anything that would hinder peace with Him.