Overcoming

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“It doesn’t make sense that we can admit powerlessness

and still find the power to go on.”  Anonymous

 These words were scrawled in gold-colored ink across the top of a page in The Life Recovery Devotional I had ordered used from the Internet. I am sure of one thing, that the former owner who wrote these words was making a discovery that was going to save their life.  This overcoming awareness is fragile and can only be sustained in a moment to moment mindfulness of being present.  There must be a recognition of our powerlessness and complete submission of will.  “Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.” Deut. 30:19-20 still applies today.  Choosing life is overcoming. 

The rest of the Scripture tells us how to choose life.  “. . . loving the Lord your God, obeying him, holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days.” 

“Ally was always overweight as a child and teenager.  Her weight was a sore subject in her family, but food was her main comfort for anxiety and depression.  She never felt as though she fit in with others, and her friends seemed to be untrustworthy and two-faced.  Food became her comfort, companion, excitement and recreation.  Over the years, her weight continued to climb until she was hopeless about the possibility of having a slim body.  She would have fleeting periods of weight loss but was never able to make a lasting difference.  Years of self-hatred and feeling marginalized by life made her disbelieve that God could or would help her with her food and eating problems. She struggled for self-esteem and tried many self-help strategies for learning to like herself despite the extra pounds.  When she walked into Overeaters Anonymous, a Twelve Step group for compulsive eaters, she knew that she was powerless over food.  Step One was obvious to her.  But Step Two was to gain enough faith to believe that God could accomplish what she could never do.  As with all of us, Ally’s faith had to grow as she opened her mind to the possibility that God could actually help her with her specific problems.  By talking to a sponsor and other people in the program, she learned to simply believe that God’s power was there and that he was really interested in her food issues.  She began with hesitant faith to ask God to remove this insanity – the obsessive thoughts about food, the time spent bingeing, the negative thoughts about self, and the damaging effects on her body. 

Over time, her trust and belief in God grew as she learned to let go of food one day at a time, follow a food plan, and trust God to help her act sanely around food even when she didn’t feel like it.  By surrendering daily, Ally felt closer to God without the ‘food fog’.  She regained wholeness and sanity around food.”  Taken from “The Life Recovery Workbook” written by Stephen Arterburn and David Stoop.

Who of us has not had something to overcome?  At some point, we reach a point that we just relinquish our dreams and hopes and accept a life that’s less than we once hoped for.  When Job in the Old Testament went through the extreme tragedies in one day that’s reported in the account of his life, he couldn’t imagine how God could make his life even better than it was before.  And, when the disciple, Peter, denied knowing Jesus his Lord three times – couldn’t have possibly imagined himself as Apostle Peter serving his Lord to the end of his life with an incorruptible passion and integrity.  If you read any Twelve Step recovery book, you will discover that the whole premise of this extremely successful program is built upon the fact that you cannot overcome the giants in your life without supernatural help –without the help of a higher power.  I have found that having a giant in my life to overcome, shines a much brighter light of awareness on my need for God.   The giants we need to overcome could be seen as a blessing in retrospect.  There is always the possibility, that, dealing with them will bring us, at last, into an awareness and a miraculous relationship with our heavenly Father – our Creator.    Many people will go a lifetime and never understand a dependence on a higher power.  They will never feel the stirring within them of the joy and satisfaction that comes with finally filling the hole in their heart and spirit with the one necessary element that is missing – the God who created them and longs for a place in their life.  Tapping into that greater Mind of awareness is beyond describing with words. It’s like going from seeing a grayscale rainbow to full-on Technicolor!!! 

“Overcoming” is being written for the purpose of recognizing the giants that have literally broken us and have taken us to our knees, laid our souls bare in that absolutely desperate moment of submission.  This is referred to as reaching “the bottom” – or critical mass.  

We come back to the handwritten words “It doesn’t make sense that we can admit powerlessness and still find the power to go on.” Here is where the “letting go” must happen.  Here is where we become a child again, back when we trusted Mom and Dad (or whomever in our life that filled that role) for everything while we played with our cars and dolls and obeyed the rules they gave us to follow because we knew they loved us and we loved them.  At this point, it’s no different reaching out to our earthly parents than to the Parent who already does more for us than we can imagine and has a much better idea for our life especially beyond the desperate moment we’re in.

John 3:16 KJV “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  God has already gone that extra mile for us.

I experienced this “letting go” after my divorce from a 25 year marriage.  Child custody issues were becoming one of the many giants in my life. I went day to day, month to month, not knowing when the next court struggle would occur about whom the children will live with and who will have visitation rights.  Five times the court was involved in deciding issues around our four children.  At one point, after their father was awarded physical custody, in what must have been a hopeless state of desperation, I decided that if I was no longer living, our children wouldn’t have to be a part of this ongoing toxic struggle between their parents.  As wrong as it may sound to me today, I made a plan to take my own life.

I went to church the Sunday before I was to planning on taking this final action of my life, and one of my good sisters in the church came up to me and told me: “I know what you’re planning to do and God wants you to know that he has a plan for your life and he will get you through this difficult time”.  This admonition saved my life.  That night as I lay in bed listening to my sixteen year old daughter driving around on icy streets late in the night with her dad’s old pickup, I gave my children to God.  My submission wasn’t because I was giving up but that after that experience of knowing only God could have made my friend aware of what was actually about to go down, I realized how desperate and defeated I had become to be making such risky decisions about life and death for myself.  I knew that I was powerless and that God loved my children more than I could possibly imagine and that he would take care of them better than I could.

 

Everything changed after that.  I approached life in a different way, like a child letting go, with a lot fewer worries because I knew God was taking care of the things over which I had no controlThis Scripture made a lot more sense to me following that difficult time.   He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’.” Matt. 18:2-4 NIV

I had a book of daily devotions called “God Calling” that I would read daily and feel the Holy Spirit.  “Believe that I am with you, and controlling all. When My Word has gone forth, all are powerless against it.  Be calm.  Never fear. You have much to learn.  Go on until you can take the most crowded day with a song.  ‘Sing unto the Lord.’ The finest accompaniment to a Song of Praise to Me is a very crowded day.  Let Love be the motif running through all.  Be glad all the time. Rejoice exceedingly.  Joy in Me. Rest in Me.  Never be afraid.  Pray more.  Do not get worried. I am thy Helper. ‘Underneath are the Everlasting Arms.’ You cannot get below that. Rest in them, as a tired child rests.”  January 21, “God Calling”. 

Today, it scares me a little realizing how serious and distraught I was that I would have carried out my suicide plan if God hadn’t intervened.  Normally, that is absolutely not who I am but I now appreciate how devastating the giants in our life can become – to the point of taking our own life.  To this day, I trust God for my grown children’s lives and I enjoy a strong loving relationship with each one of them, respecting their rights to choose who they are but still placing them continually in God’s hands for his direction and protection.  I have found the power to go on because I see the living God working in my life, a life I have fully given over to his will and direction.  I could not possibly have dreamed of the life I have today, with a great husband and family and wonderful friends and doing God’s work with more satisfaction than I can find words to describe.  Yes, he did have a wonderful purpose for my life, one I never would have dreamed of.

“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

Zephaniah 3:17

 

“Jesus looked at them and said,  “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Matthew 19:26

 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.  This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”  John 3:16-21 NIV

 

The Life Recovery Devotional states this about will-power under step one which is “We admitted that we were powerless over our dependencies and that our lives had become unmanageable”: “There’s a struggle going on inside of us – a fight for control.  Our will-power fails us repeatedly.  Where can we turn when we realize that we can’t control ourselves? The apostle Paul says, ‘Let the Holy Spirit guide your lives.  Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.  The sinful nature wants to do evil (an act counter to our best life – rlf) which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants.  And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires.  These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. . . ‘But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control’. Gal 5:16-17, 22-23.  Self-control is not will power.  It’s not something we get by gritting our teeth and forcing ourselves to ‘just say no’. Self-control is called a fruit.  Fruit doesn’t instantly pop out on the tree.  As the tree grows and seasons pass, the fruit naturally develops.  As we continue to follow God’s guidance, taking one step at a time, our self-control will naturally grow.” Taken from The Life Recovery Devotional written by Stephen Arterburn and David Stoop.

 

Jesus Christ didn’t come to earth and sacrifice His life to redeem us and restore us back to God our Creator so that “giants” could come into our lives and strip us of the abundant life He has planned for us. He has assured us that He has overcome the world – our giants. 

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33 NIV

 

We were created for a relationship with God.  If you’re not sure about that, read in Genesis about God walking in the Garden with Adam and Eve and conversing with them face to face – a great beginning.  When we choose out of love and joy to glorify him through our lives we at last have freedom.  God’s glory and our freedom are intricately connected.

 

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (freedom). But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” 

II Cor. 3:17-18

 

God is not glorified by our lives if we allow “giants” to dwarf or diminish us in any way and strip us of our freedom.  These giants can be drugs, alcohol, pornography, food addiction, not controlling our anger and emotionally and physically hurting the ones we love, gossip and drama that is destructive to others as well as ourselves, fear, anxiety and pride.  Overcoming giants is the most important and meaningful part of our journey back to God. 

The American buffalo or bison, an amazing creature that once roamed our plains 50 million strong, can teach us much about life.

 

On the website “Friends of Animals”, we find this quote:

The buffalo’s sense of community is astounding. When they travel through deep snow they often walk in single file, the lead buffalo taking on the exhausting work of breaking trail while those in the rear having an easier time walking in the hoof-steps of their herd-mates. When the lead buffalo grows tired he or she will step to the side of the trail allowing a new buffalo to assume the lead and then falling in behind his or her herd-mates on the easier to walk and well established trail through the snow.

When being pursued by wolves a mixed herd of buffalo will form a circle with the stronger and larger bulls facing outward around the outer rim, facing the predators. Calves and weaker, injured, and older members of the herds will be near the center of the circle, protected by the outer rim of outward facing bulls.

Like elephants, buffalo show signs of mourning.   . . . we have witnessed them circling up around a fallen member of the herd and even nudging their heads under and trying to lift the fallen one back onto his feet. On at least one instance we have seen a group of buffalo gather in a circle around the bones of a buffalo that had died in that spot a year earlier. These ‘ceremonies’ are fairly common and are one of many examples of the buffalo’s social structure.” Fighting For Home Where the Yellowstone Buffalo Roam.

 

The American Bison also has instinctive “overcoming” attributes: “In winter the buffalo faces the storms, instead of turning tail and ‘drifting’ before the storm helplessly, as domestic cattle do.”  As an intelligent animal, the buffalo must realize that he can pass through and out of the storm quicker this way rather than being driven by it’s intensity for a much longer period of time.  Facing the storm – or facing our giants – can take an entire emotional and spiritual overhaul of who we are and how we cope with adversity.  Unfortunately, the adversities we deal with can become giants that hang around if we avoid dealing with them due to fear or denial.  Like the storm, they can drive us relentlessly causing us to feel helpless, lost and alone.

In the book of Nehemiah, in the account of the Israelite exiles returning from captivity in Babylon, we read that they were a new generation descended from those who originally were taken captive. They had grown up in captivity. Jeremiah prophesied this for them: So there is hope for your descendants,”declares the Lord. Your children will return to their own land.”  Free now, and living in Jerusalem, they applied the discipline of gratitude that they had learned from their parents in captivity. 

In Nehemiah 9, we read:

“On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and putting dust on their heads. 2Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors. 3They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the Lord their God.”

This may sound extreme to us, but evidently they had been taught to place God highly in their lives through disciplined devotion. Most likely they were raised in a climate of remorseful humility by parents who had the rest of their life to accept the consequences of forsaking their God. They grew up knowing why they were being held captive in Babylon and how their ancestors had chosen idols to worship instead of the One Living God who loved and cared for them.  The discipline of gratitude to which they were adhering in their lives at that time was their way of controlling their tendencies to wander away from God like their ancestors had done and had paid a terrible price for the next generation. 

Step four of the Twelve Steps is: “We made a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves”.  In other words, “with the help of our higher power we faced the storm”.

 

One woman I know, was going through a divorce from a long marriage of abuse.  The divorce was as extreme and emotionally abusive as the marriage had been.  Her “giants” of stress were literally killing her.  One day, she decided to hang up a sign for her and her teenage son to live by.  This is the sign in part:

In this house . . . There is quiet. Love.  Compassion.  Acceptance.  Understanding. Helping Each Other.  This comes with carrying out our responsibilities we know we have without being reminded by:  Not making others responsible for what we should be capable of doing.  Showing compassion and manners.  Acceptance and understanding of others if we want those feelings reflected on us.  God is the energy in this house, feel it and pass it on by being supportive, kind and always loving.”

 She told me how much it had helped to keep them focused on God and his control over the chaos when they didn’t have any. 

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”

James 1:21,25 NIV

 

 “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 NIV

According to this Scripture, our good works have already been prepared before hand, the rest is up to us. “Choose life”. 

There are lives in our community who are in peril.  If we could learn to respond the way the buffalo instinctively respond, we would gather around our broken brothers and sisters placing them in the center and we who are stronger would stand looking outward helping them face down their giants. You can rally members of your family to intervene for an imperiled child or other relative with a symbolic circle of love to give support and seek solutions.

A young woman shared her “family intervention” story with me.  She had taken her three children to Christmas dinner with her family.  Her parents took the children for an outing. After they left, her loving aunts and uncles gathered around her and confronted her about her drug use and her “out of control” life.  Because of their love, and tears and prayers she recognized her powerlessness over the drugs and went to a faith-based rehab program where she was able to deal with her giants and return to a drug-free life.  At the time of this writing, she is stable, clean from drugs and waiting for her children to be restored back into her care.  This family’s love through the Holy Spirit carried the day for this young woman.

 

God bless your efforts to help yourself and others. Apostle Paul said: “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:13-14 NIV

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