When Our Loved Ones Self-destruct

Sad woman sitting in the darkI’ve been on both sides of today’s topic. I’ve self-destructed myself to the streets of Tacoma, and I’ve also grieved the self-destruction of those I care for. Having experienced the pain and utter hopelessness rebellion causes and the freedom found in surrender deeply impacts how I pray, speak, and act. I want to do something, and yet, though there are countless ways to reveal Christ each day, in this spiritual battle over hearts and lives, I often feel powerless and ineffective.

But Scripture promises the opposite. As my guest today reminds us, there’s something we can always do, whether near or far, that has the capacity to change lives for all eternity. (James 5:16)

When Our Loved Ones Self-Destruct by Linda Samaritoni

Have you ever known someone who walked away from God? Maybe a colossal disappointment shattered their world, and they assumed if God allowed such a thing to happen, then He didn’t really care about them. Maybe temptation overcame them, and they blamed God for not preventing their headlong charge into sin. Maybe… Well, there are millions of possible maybes.

What happens to those individuals who remain separated from Christ?

For many, stepping away from faith feels like a relief—at first. Even in their misery, they welcome the release of pressure, similar to ratcheting down a steam valve before the pipes blow.

Such pressure is self-induced. In a performance-driven society, people often fall into the trap that Graphic using a quote pulled from the postGod is expecting them to succeed at an A+ level. They don’t understand His grace. They don’t trust this grim deity who takes note of every mistake. Once they withdraw, the burdens of their own making ease off. No more straining to “be good.” No further obligations to “do good.” Since they’d already proven themselves way short in every category of life, why not abandon efforts to please God?

Before those individuals decided to turn away, they chose to keep a death grip on their lives, not allowing God to control the pressure valve. They added more weight to God’s expectations. They kept spinning the wheel harder and harder to the right, edging into the red zone until the pounds per square inch became unbearable.

I’ve agonized over a dear friend for years. He felt betrayed because God didn’t say “yes” to his one big prayer. He had worked for a positive answer. He had tithed, taught Sunday school, attended church every week, and led a Bible study.

Instead of seeking his Father in the midst of disappointment, he marched in the opposite direction, jerking that wheel farther to the right. He would never ask God for a thing ever again. A wrench of the wheel. He would do as he wished since no amount of work met with God’s approval. Wrench.

At first, he enjoyed the release from assumed church pressures and any obligations to join us in prayer or Bible study. He turned his back on the guilt resulting from his sin against God and others.

His relief was short-lived. Since he’s not on speaking terms with God, life is terrifying, yet he remains tied to performance-based objectives as a way of life. He knows every one of his character flaws, and nothing he does will ever be adequate.

These days, shame drums endlessly like a nagging headache, and he has no resources to assuage it. He won’t call on God for help. He refuses to take his hands off the controls as the needle on the gauge trembles further into the red zone.

Ultimately, the freedom to please self turns sour. God’s beckoning hand either draws the person to eternal refuge or the individual resists Him and spirals downward into hopelessness and poverty of soul.

Words from the latter part of James 5:16 and image of two women prayingWhat can we do for our loved ones head toward self-destruction? We model Jesus. We pray. And we pray, and we pray. If only they would turn that wheel in the opposite direction—toward the Lord!

God doesn’t give up on His children, and we shouldn’t either.

Jesus knows the perfect time to intervene and lift the crushing constraints, sending the dial below the red zone. Only He can release the pressure and bring our friends and loved ones to freedom.

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Let’s talk about this! Is someone you care about self-destructing? Have you felt powerless as you’ve watched them head toward a spiritual or emotional train wreck? Did anything in Linda’s post give you hope? Or maybe you have a miracle story regarding someone you’ve prayed for over the years. Share your stories, examples, and suggestions with us in the comments below, because in this area, I’m pretty sure we could all use the encouragement!

Before you go, make sure you sign up for my free quarterly newsletter to receive great, inspirational, and entertaining content sent directly to your inbox. The next edition releases at the end of this month. You can subscribe HERE.

You may also enjoy my latest article on Crosswalk, 10 Things We Can Learn From the Adulterous Woman.

Get to Know Linda

Linda Sammaritan assumed she’d teach middle-graders until school authorities presented her with a retirement wheelchair at the overripe age of eighty-five, but God cut those plans short by a couple of decades when He gave her a growing passion for writing fiction. After blowing goodbye kisses to her students, she now dedicates her work hours to learning the craft. Every once in a while, though, she finds her way back to school so she can teach creative writing workshops. She is currently working on a middle grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister.

Linda often travels across the country to visit her grandchildren, regaling them with “Nona stories,” life lessons from her childhood. Visit her online at her personal website and group website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Stepford Wives for God

I think we’ve all asked the question a time or two. And when evil or illness or heartache touches us or someone we love, the question rages louder. Some questions, I believe, will never be fully answered–fully understood–this side of heaven. But in the meantime, God allows us to ponder immensely confusing questions, and I believe, He is blessed most when we ask not one another but instead, turn to Him. For whoever turns to Him, He will never turn away. Today, fellow ACFW member Linda Samaritoni shares her thoughts on the age old question–How can an all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving God allow evil?

No Stepford Wives for God by Linda Samaritoni

If God loves everyone as Christians are so fond of telling the world, then why does He allow evil? Why doesn’t He just make people love Him, and all would be right in our universe? These questions keep cropping up while I am involved with my current work-in-progress novel. I’ve heard several attempted answers, and while I may agree with some of them, the responses don’t satisfy my heart.

There is the “Just Trust and Obey” answer. Certainly, as a Christian, I need to trust and obey Jesus in everything, but those actions on my part don’t solve the riddle of an all-powerful God putting up with evil, even if I know it’s temporary.

thinkingThen there’s the “Tapestry” answer. I like that one better. Because God knows everything, He can see beyond my immediate pain in the midst of evil. He knows how He is going to use the situation for my future good. That’s comforting, but it doesn’t answer the question as to why He allows evil in the first place. But “Tapestry” is a difficult concept for humans to comprehend. When I consider that He knows the endless possibilities for every individual on earth who has ever lived or will ever live, “Tapestry” is mind-boggling. I have to step away; my brain can’t wrap around the concept, and the emotional result is awfully close to a panic attack.

I’ve called the answer with the most potential to assist my finite understanding “No Stepford Wives.” Within a limited analogy, I can relate the earthly to the heavenly and gain some knowledge and wisdom. The term ‘Stepford Wife’ has become synonymous with creating something that “loves” you. Stepford wives never argued with their husbands, never left dishes in the sink, never suffered from headaches at bedtime. They were perfect – but ultimately dissatisfying. Why? Because they never loved their husbands of their own free will. The husband knew that he had manufactured feelings. Would she still love him if he relinquished control?

God doesn’t want to make us love Him either. He could. We could all be living in some version of the Garden of Eden, little robots with no thoughts of our own. Perhaps, we would be happier in our ignorance, but we wouldn’t know the joy of choosing to love others. Nor, I suspect, would God be satisfied with His creation.

I’ve read that God is the most emotional Being that exists. He is more joyful than we can comprehend, and His sorrow goes deeper than any of us could ever bear. He made us to be creatures like Himself in that we are capable of loving, willing to make sacrifices for someone else. And the greatest gift we can offer is to love Him because we want to.

When humans do not love God, they choose to not love God, and evil results. God already knows how He will deal with it. In the meantime, He is willing to create further generations who have the opportunity to choose to love Him, and whenever individuals make God the center of their lives, He sits back and says, “It is good.”

Jeremiah 31:3 – [The Lord says:] “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”

Linda Samaritoni lives near Indianapolis. She teaches Spanish in a private elementary school and enjoys writing and music. She has completed two novels, one for children, one women’s contemporary and is currently working on a YA novel. Linda is married and has three sons and two granddaughters, the lights of her life, after Jesus!

Check out Linda’s blog at www.my2ndnature.wordpress.com for more posts comparing the temporal and the spiritual.

livingbygracepic.jp

I like questions. But more than that, I like answers. Clear, easily contained, easy to explain answers. But unfortunately, my small, often inconsistent and finite mind will never truly grasp the mind and ways of God, at least, not this side of heaven. But that doesn’t keep me from asking, from reading His Word, His purest self-revelation known to man. And when I do that–when I draw near to God with an open, teachable heart, an amazing thing happens. Suddenly, many of my burning questions begin to fade in the indescribable peace of His presence.

Let’s talk about this: What do you do when questions regarding faith arise? In what ways do you believe God answers our questions? In your experience, does He normally answer right away or take time, and why do you think this is? As parents, how can we encourage our children to turn to God and His Word for spiritual answers? And lastly, have you been able to see a blessing or protection or perhaps moment of healing in hindsight, perhaps after a situation that initially seemed unbearable? I’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.