I Survived and Lived to Forgive – #isalt


On June 4th, 1993, I went to bed as if it were any other night.  As I slept soundly, I suddenly heard the scream of my mom as she burst into my room yelling, “Someone is stealing your car!”  This must be a dream.

I jumped out of bed and ran towards the door.  I thought to myself, “This must be a dream and if it is I can do anything and not pay for the consequences.”  Running out the door, I began running toward the street.  As I approached my car, I saw the figure of a person halfway inside my car.  I yelled an obscenity or two and decided in that moment, that I would kill who ever this person was.  It was my dream, so I would have superhuman strength to overcome my foes.  As I came to the passenger door of my car, the person suddenly stood up.  There was no where he could go.  I had him.  All I had to do was to grab him and snap his neck.  Then I would wake up and I would chalk this up to another nightmare.  As I went to lunge toward him, I hesitated for a moment.  It was in this moment, that my dream would change my life forever.

As I woke up from my dream, I heard a voice say, “One, two, three, lift.”  I couldn’t move.  What was happening to me?  Why couldn’t I move?  I began to scream out and fight my restraints.  The voice said to me, “Joe, if you don’t calm down, you will die.”  It was then I immediately realized, my dream was not a dream at all, but my reality.

I could feel my heart pounding through my chest.  One EMT was working on me, while the other drove, racing me toward the hospital.  Was I going to die?  Why me, why now?  I hadn’t even begun to live yet.  I cried out to God, “Lord, please don’t let me die today.  Please calm me down.”  No sooner did I utter these words that I felt a hand upon my shoulder.  I suddenly had a peace I could not explain.  Immediately, the EMT uttered, “Whoa.  What just happened?”  When I asked him what happened, he said, “Your heart rate just went from critical to normal.”  Then a song entered my heart and I could not help but sing, “Trust and obey for there’s no other way.  To be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.”

I knew I had a long road ahead of me, but I also began to understand what forgiveness was about.  But what about those who did this to me?  Could I really forgive them after what they did to me?  It was then I was reminded of what Jesus had done for me.  His life was filled with helping others, loving others and spreading the Good News to those around Him.  Yet in all of this, there were still those who wanted Him dead.  They beat him, laughed at him and beat him some more.  They took his tattered and torn body and hung it on a criminals cross.  In all of this turmoil, in all of this strife, He still uttered these words as He looked toward heaven, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  How could I do no less?  How could I not forgive them?  Maybe they were on drugs.  Maybe they had been convinced that the criminal lifestyle was their only choice.  Either way, I was lost at one time.  I was violent in my younger days and yet in all of this, God still forgave me.  It was my responsibility to show them the love of God in the same way, by forgiving them.

Our tragedies are not there to make our lives easy or simple.  They are situations which are there to teach us valuable life lessons.  Sometimes we have placed ourselves into those tragedies by our bad decisions.  Other times, we are placed there by other individuals.  No matter how we enter into those tragedies, we need to realize there is a greater plan for our lives that we may not fully understand.  For me, I needed to be reminded of the valuable lesson of forgiveness.  In Matthew 18, Jesus taught this same lesson to his disciples:

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me?  Up to seven times?’  Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’” – Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV)

Right after this, Jesus tells a story of a man who owed his master a lifetime of debt.  The master forgave him of his debt, yet when someone owed this same man a day’s wages, he became violent and refused to forgive the man of his debt.  At this, the master heard about the man and threw the man in jail because of his lack of compassion that was shared with him.

What I found astounding about this story is that Peter did not ask about forgiving strangers.  He asked about forgiving his own people, his brothers and sisters.  Yet Jesus shares a story about a master and a servant.  This leads me to believe that Peter and Jesus were on two very different pages.

I think Peter thought that he was asking a great question.  He probably thought to himself, “Well if I forgive my own people seven times for the same sin, then I must be a good person.”  Yet Jesus’ response was quite different.  Jesus responded “seventy-seven times”.  What Jesus was saying was, “I know you think you’re being a good person by forgiving seven times, but really you should forgive them every time.”   In some translations, they record Jesus’ response as “seventy times seven”.  Either way you look at it, Jesus wants us to forgive unconditionally and freely.

Not just that, but Peter thought his question was supposed to be for those he knew, his friends and family.  I’d like to think that Jesus was using His coaching expertise when He responded to Peter.  Instead of answering Peter’s question concerning his friends and family, he told him a story about a boss, his employee and a stranger.  Jesus wanted to let Peter know that it doesn’t matter whether you know the person or not.  It doesn’t matter if they are your employee or your boss.  It doesn’t matter if they are family, friend or stranger.  Forgiveness is to be given out to everyone.  No one is beyond forgiveness.

When the criminal, on a cross next to Jesus, repented and asked Jesus not to forget him, Jesus responded, “This day, you will be with me in paradise.”  In his last dying breaths, Jesus forgave a total stranger who deserved his punishment.  The criminal deserved to die for whatever he had done.  His punishment was just, yet in all of this Jesus still forgave him.  AMAZING!

Likewise, we need to forgive those who’ve wronged us.  We need to forgive them like Christ has forgiven us.  Ephesians 4:32 says, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (NIV)  Jesus expects us to forgive each other.  We need not to hold any grudges.  Holding grudges will only lead to more pain and suffering.  Haven’t we suffered enough in our tragedy?  Haven’t our anxieties, our fears, our anger toward others been enough pain?  Then why not forgive?

To get us from a place of fear, anxiety and anger, we need to forgive.  Forgiveness is not a simple step we take, but is a lifestyle which Christ commands.  Forgiveness is how we view the other person in light of Christ.  Even if the person is unrepentant, our job is to see them as Christ desires for them with His forgiving heart.

This world is filled with people who refuse to forgive.  If you take a look at the news, you will find person after person who refuses to forgive others.  Our society is treading down a path of unforgiveness, so it is now our time to shine!

We not only need to forgive others because it was commanded, but we need to forgive others so that the light of Christ may shine!  Yes it is true that our situations may be tragic and life altering, but that doesn’t mean we can’t shine in this time of darkness.  The light of Christ can shine through the darkest of times in the darkest of places.  The light of Christ can show the world forgiveness is possible regardless of our past or current situation.

Yes forgiveness is hard but it is so worth it.  When you forgive others, you will have a peace you won’t be able to explain.  It took me a while to discover this.  Even after I left the hospital, I got so angry at times that I literally beat a tree with a baseball bat.  One year later, that same tree died.  I thought I killed it.  But yet again, God reminded me that forgiveness is necessary.  From that point forward I decided to see people in light of Christ.

We are all lost at some point in our lives, yet Christ saved us.  We all do something that is sinful and against all that Christ stands for, yet Christ forgave us.  We all think we are in control of our lives, but through our tragedies, Christ still guides us.  We all suffer in this life, yet Christ still reigns.

Don’t allow your tragedies to stop you from forgiving others.  Don’t allow the anger, fear or anxiety to define your future.  Allow Christ to show you that you are worth the effort and in return show others they are worth the effort by forgiving them.  Forgiveness happens when we give up our anger, fear or anxieties to Christ and in return, He teaches us how to forgive those who have tragically harmed us.

Remember, you and I survived and lived to forgive.

God bless and encourage someone today.

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#isalt


Have you ever wondered if tragedy in our lives were meant for something bigger?  What if the terrible circumstances we faced was simply a lesson to teach us?  How does depression, anxiety, cancer or other life problems play into our happiness and joy?  Do you believe God has forgotten about you during the dark times of your life?  Does the darkness in your life create a sense of hopelessness rather than hopefulness?  Have you ever asked God, “Why is this happening?”  If you’re like me, you’ve probably asked these questions and more.

If it tragedy hasn’t happened to you already, don’t worry, it’s coming.  Tragedy happens to all of us.  Whether we find out our child is a drug addict to our spouse cheated on us.  In more recent days many have had the horrific experience of trying to hide or escape from an active shooter.  Others have been told that they only have a few months to live.  Maybe you have been falsely accused of a criminal act and are in the process of trying to rectify your situation.  Regardless of your tragedy, does it control you or do you grow from it?

Many years ago, I had to face similar questions.  I was sent to the hospital due to a hammer blow to my head.  After my stay in the hospital, I had to deal with the post-traumatic stress that ensued.  For months, I had to deal with the anger and fear of hearing ambulance sirens.  I even beat a large tree in front of my parents’ house with a wooden baseball bat (a year later that same tree died…maybe I hit it too hard…).  I had to deal with my past actions, my present situation and my future all within a short period of time.

Like most people, I have had to deal with seeing someone die, a child needing surgery, the loss of a close friend and relative(s), car accidents, anxiety/depression and unemployment, just to name a few.  However, within all of these circumstances there were valuable life lessons to be learned.  Sometimes, it was to trust God more.  Other times it was to point out areas I needed to clean up in my life.  Yet no matter the tragedy, no matter the lesson, I survived for a purpose.

#isalt is an acronym for “I survived and lived to..”  Yes, the rest of the sentence isn’t there.  I did that purposely.  Why?  Just because you survive something doesn’t necessarily mean you understand the reasons.  What do you do with your experience?  How do you handle the tragedy and help others?  Do you help others or do you wallow in the fear and anxiety because of the tragedy that befell you?

This series will hopefully help you not only to understand the reason for the tragedy but also move forward from it.  Tragedies should not hold us back from moving on.  They shouldn’t create a sense of paralyzing fear but rather a sense of purpose.

Our lives have a purpose.  You and I have survived all this time for a reason.  There is a purpose for our lives, whether we believe it or not.  The question is, what are you going to do with your tragedy?  Will we recognize the purpose or just live with the pain?  How can we move forward in the mist of the tragedy?  Hopefully, #isalt will answer at least some of these questions.

Beginning next week, you will see titles with the (#isalt) next to it.  As we move forward together, I will be tweeting using #isalt to make it easier for you to see.  If you’d like, please share a snippet of your story so that others may benefit from knowing that we are not alone.  We are survivors.  We are loved.  We are created in God’s image and He has a purpose for our lives.  We live so  that others may hear the wonderful story of the love of God, through Jesus Christ.

God bless and encourage someone today.

#isalt

Fiction Evidenced As Reality


What is your greatest fear?  How does it affect you?  Do you get a physical reaction or just a mental tornado upsetting the organization in your mind?  Is your greatest fear something you can control?  Is the lack of control your greatest fear?

Most times we fear because of the “unknown factors” which lie before us.  We look at our circumstances, calculate our steps and realize that there are factors which do not enter into the equation.  We begin to wonder what those factors are and how they will work out.  We then allow our minds to wander adding another unknown factor which exponentially increases our fears, until the point where we have no control, including control of our thoughts.

It was once said that we have nothing to fear but fear itself.  Although I understand the thought process behind this and the times in which it was said, I think that we need to go one step further with that statement.  I believe, there is nothing to fear.  This is not the same thing as being afraid.  There are times in our lives, when being afraid of something may save our lives.  When we are caught in a burning house, it is being afraid of dying that drives us to try and escape it.  When we are caught in the under tow, being sucked out into the middle of the ocean, it is being afraid that may keep us afloat.

Being afraid of something and fearing are very different.  Being afraid keeps us alive.  Having fear kills us slowly.  When we fear, we create an environment where our minds are no longer in control of our thoughts and many times a physical reaction occurs.  Yesterday was one of those days.

I woke up yesterday and felt very stressed out.  Over the last three weeks, my schedule has been, what some would call…INSANE!  Working a full time job, where we have been short staffed with more work coming in, helping a friend’s church stay afloat, spending time with my wife and kids and trying to spend more time with God has created an atomic explosion in my mind.  Yesterday was the fall out.

In previous blogs, I shared with you my struggle with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.  However, even though I suffer with this, there are days, like yesterday, where even medication won’t help.  Part of my therapy to combat this “fallout” is to spend time in prayer, read Scripture and write.  If any one of those components is missing, the fallout wins and depression begins to set itself into place.

Here is where fear takes root.  Depression is just one way that fear solidifies itself and it is very difficult to get rid of it.  Have you ever tried to take out a weed that was in the ground for a long time?  The weed spreads out its roots over a vast area.  This way, when the gardener comes, he/she struggles to pull it out of the ground.  Sometimes the week breaks at ground level and cannot be pulled any further.  The gardener then has two choices.  Choice #1 is to wait it out and then try to pull it out again with brut force.  However with this choice, the weed must grow again.  With fear, we may do things to pull it out by brut force but many times, the root of the issue is still there.  When we choose this method, we allow the fear to reinstate itself and take further root in our lives.  There is another choice.

Choice #2 is a bit more drastic but effective.  If the gardener chooses the wise choice, he/she will get a digging tool and begin the process of ensuring that all of the weed plant, with its roots, is permanently removed.  With this method, the gardener will disturb the entire area in an effort to find out the “root cause”.  The gardener will dig up as much as they can in order to ensure that the weed does not return.  When we deal with fear properly, we must disturb other areas of our lives.  The digging up of past issues, past hurts or past relationships causes us to shuffle ideas and question our motivations.  It forces us to rethink ideals and theologies we have learned.  It upsets all that we believe, the question is can we recover from that disturbance?

Just like the ground, healing takes time.  In the Old Testament, God tells Israel to plant and sow for 6 years.  On the 7th year, let the ground rest from its work.  There are many theologies concerning this but from a practical level, it gave the ground one year to heal.

Sometimes, we need to do the same thing.  There are times we need to step away from the busyness of life and allow ourselves to heal.  Maybe, we need to let go of horrible past relationships or forgive someone who has hurt us.  In some cases, it may be us that needs to ask for forgiveness from someone we hurt.  Whatever it is, don’t let fear dismantle the healing process.

Fear is nothing more than Fiction Evidenced As Reality.  It doesn’t exist.  It is a false representation of the reality of a hurting soul.  Fear is the tool Satan uses to keep us where we are so that we do not cry out to the loving Good Shepherd, who is ready to rescue us.  Fear is just as bad as quotes that people say is in Scripture.

Have you ever heard, “Time heals all wounds”?  It’s in the Bible, right?  There is nothing further from the truth.  This saying is a way for us, as human beings, to pull out the weed of fear and leave its roots in place.  Time does not heal, it just passes.

Many have tried to say it is a Psalm or Proverb.  It isn’t.  What the Scripture does say is in Psalm 147:

2The LORD builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the outcasts of Israel. 3He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds. 4He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them.…

New American Standard Bible

It is the Lord who heals the brokenhearted.  It is the Lord who heals their wounds.  It is the Lord who counts the stars and names them all.  It is the Lord who can get rid of whatever is keeping you back from coming to Him.

If you are hurting, He knows.  If you are questioning, He has answers.  If you are crying, he is crying with you.  Two of the greatest words ever written were when Jesus approaches the grave of Lazarus.

John 11:35 says, “Jesus wept.”  It was an incredible proclamation.  Jesus knew Lazarus was going to die.  Jesus knew He was going to raise him from the dead.  So why did Jesus weep?  Simply to show he was 100% human.  Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead to show He was 100% God.  Isn’t that an encouragement for us today?  Think about that for a moment.  Jesus felt what we feel.  He understood what it was like to lose someone.  He understands what it is like to hurt.  And in all of that experience, He never allowed fear to persuade him.  He never allowed the fiction that Satan feeds our minds to take root in His own.

If you are hurting, if you are living in fear, there is someone who understands.  Jesus Christ knows what you are going through, yet desires for you and I to tell Him.  It is Jesus Christ who can heal you.  He can remove the roots of the weed that so easily entangles you.  Only Jesus Christ can take all of our fear, all of our anxiety and use it for His glory and His purposes.

If you don’t know who Jesus Christ is, He is the One who left heaven to come to earth as a baby.  He lived a human life, while displaying His God nature.  He allowed Himself to be beaten and tortured.  He allowed Himself to be put on public display, naked and gave His life in the most horrific way of His time, by being crucified.  But it didn’t end there.  After He cried out in a voice, “It is finished”, he was buried and on the 3rd day, rose from the dead.  HE IS ALIVE!  He is calling out to you, desiring for you to let Him rescue you.

No matter your hurt.  No matter your pain.  Jesus Christ can take it from you.  Just cry out to Him and ask Him to rescue you.  He will.  Let Him into your life and give you the life He always wanted for you.  Believe in Him, cry out to Him and be healed by Him.  Don’t let fear stop you from meeting the only One who can save you, Jesus Christ.

God bless and encourage someone today.

The Shadow of Death


He awoke with sudden shock which made his hands shake, his heart race and nausea filled his stomach.  As he tried to gain his composure, his mind raced with possibilities.  Where was he?  What happened?  How did he get here?  With every possible answer, came another question and with every question, fear entered his mind.

In order to attempt composure, he remembered songs that his mother had sung when he was a little boy.  Every night, his mother would sit at his bedside and make up songs about the day.  She sang soft and sweet.  Every song, a lullaby.  Every note, a soothing agent.  No matter how bad or good his day went, she always sang with her gentle, soothing voice.  Even the angriest of animals would be lulled to sleep when she sang.

Once he was ready to sleep, she would sing her last note and say, “Goodnight my David.  Remember, Jesus never sleeps.”

“Jesus never sleeps”, David thought.  Unfortunately, this gave no consolation to his current predicament.  He knew his eyes were open, but nothing could be seen.  Neither height, nor depth, nor width of his surroundings were known to him.  Darkness enveloped his very being.  All he knew, was when he stretched out his hands, no walls or ceiling were present.  Only the floor was detected, a dirt floor with some small rocks.  Again, the thoughts raced, “Where am I?  How did I get here?  Am I blind?”  The unknown became the messenger of fear.  The more his realization of the unknown, the more he feared.

“Hello!” David cried.  “Is anyone out there?  Help!”

No answer came.  Only the echo of his own voice.  Again David cried out, “HELP!  I can’t see!  Anyone, please help me.”

Frozen with fear, David felt he couldn’t move because he couldn’t see.  If he moved, how would he know where to go?  Would he fall?  What if something attacked him?  How would he defend himself without sight?  His fears became so great that his mind tortured his soul with such force that his body responded with paralysis.

Moments later, he heard a voice, “David.  Are you there?”

David thought to himself, “I must be hearing things.”

The voice came a second time, “David.  Are you there?”

Knowing, beyond doubt, David cried out, “Yes! I’m here!  Help me!”

“Follow my voice.  It’s the only way!”

David thought, “How can I follow a voice?  What if they bring me deeper into this place?  What if this is a trap?”  Gaining some composure, David yelled, “How can I trust you?”

“Follow my voice.  It’s the only way”, the voice said a second time.

“But how can I trust you?”

“Follow my voice.  It’s the only way.”

Although David knew he didn’t have many options, he also understood that following this voice may be the only way to survive.  With extreme caution, David bent down on his hands and knees and began his journey crawling in the direction he thought the voice was coming from.

“That’s it David, crawl toward me”, the voice exclaimed.

While David continued his crawl, he realized the voice had exclaimed something extraordinary.  The voice knew he was crawling.  He couldn’t see anything or anyone, so how did the voice know he was on his hands and knees?  David began to fear again.  What if this voice was leading him away from the exit?  Would there be enough air for him to breathe?  Suddenly, David stopped and sat with his legs crossed, as he didn’t know what was around him.

“Why did you stop, David?”

“How did you know I stopped?”

“David, follow my voice.  It’s the only way.”

David didn’t know what to do.  Was he to continue his journey or sit there and wonder how he would survive this ordeal?  Almost instantaneously, David remembered something else his mother had done with him as a child; she held his hand until he fell asleep.  Every night she sang, his mother would also hold his hand as if to reassure him that everything was going to be okay.   Her tender touch would bring his mind to ease and his heart to calm.

“David, follow my voice.  It’s the only way”, the voice said again and again.  Every few minutes the voice would reach out and call to David to start his journey again.  Over and over, the voice called to him, sometimes loud, sometimes soft.  It was then David began to analyze the voice.  It was a soothing, soft man’s voice.  It was as if the voice understood his feelings and gently called out to David.  The times which were louder, David felt that the voice wanted a response.  The softer times, the voice just wanted to let him know it was still there.

After thinking of his mother, he decided to continue his journey on all fours once again.  David propped himself to the awkward position and began to travel toward the voice once more.  It was then David noticed his hands and knees began to hurt.  Rawness started to encroach on his flesh.  Movement led to pain and pain to fear.  Suddenly, David felt moisture on his hands and knees.  He didn’t hear water so could only assume the crawl had taken a toll on him.  He feared he was starting to bleed.  David didn’t understand why this was happening to him or why.

The voice cried out, “David.  Get up and walk.  It’s the only way.”

David got up as if to say, “I trust you”.  Although attempting to stand bore more pain, a different kind of pain, he knew the voice was right.  From his crawl position, he was able to get to his feet.  After a moment of stretching his muscles into proper position, he started to take his first steps.

Each step was more daunting than the next.  He wasn’t sure how to walk in the dark as like most people, rely on sight to accomplish this task.  With each step he stumbled.  Left in front of right and right in front of left was the mantra he repeated to himself.  Every so often, he would fall from a loose rock or dizziness.  He would then hear the voice and get back up and continue the journey step by step.

Without warning, he saw a white dot in the distance.  What was it?  Could it be?  A sliver of light appeared in front of him.  When he saw the light, it changed his mentality and attitude.  He realized that fear was gone and pain was diminishing.  It was then he heard, “David, continue toward the light.  It’s the only way.”

David wanted to run and even tried.  However, when he ran, he would fall causing pain and fear to reenter into his body, mind and soul.  He decided that walking was the better of choices.  At least he would only stumble occasionally.  With every step, the light grew and when the light grew, so did hope.  David knew the end of his journey was in sight, or so he thought.

Suddenly, David took one wrong step and fell.  His fall was not like the others.  He fell on his back and slid hard and fast.  As he slid, he tried to stop but could not.  Finally, he slowed down and came to a stop.  As he rolled over to prop himself up, he looked around and didn’t see the light.  What had happened?  Did he slide that far back?  Fear and pain began to grow while he felt hope was lost.  He sat down once again and cried.

“David, follow my voice.  It’s the only way”, the voice called out.

Like before, the voice called out over and over again as if to motivate David to continue his journey.  This time, David did not wallow in fear and pain.  He called back, “Okay, I’ll try again.”

The voice said, “When I tell you, reach to your left.”

David didn’t understand what the voice meant, but since the voice brought him to the light, he figured the voice knew something he didn’t.  David continued his slow journey step by step.  This time he didn’t stumble as much.  He barely tripped or fell.  After what seemed like hours, David heard the voice call to him once again, “Reach to your left”.

Trusting the voice, David reached out with this left hand and slowly moved it toward his left, circling up and down attempting to grasp at whatever may have been there.   At that moment, it felt like, something brushed his fingers.  He wasn’t sure, got on his knees and reached out with both hands.  After a few minutes of flailing his arms in front of him, David gripped the object that brushed his hand.  To his surprise, the object felt braided and course.  It was a rope.  He gripped the rope with both hands and raised himself to his feet.

As he held the rope, he looked up and saw the light again.  This time, it was bigger than ever.  It appeared to be almost the size of a full moon on a clear summer night.  David then realized his journey was going to end.  Once again, fear and pain seemed to be swept away by the freedom of hope.

David started to reflect on this journey and realized one question remained, how did he get there to begin with?  He remembered hiking in the woods and pitching his tent.  He remembered the fire he created to keep warn and cook some food.  He remembered falling asleep and waking up to a noise outside of his tent.  He remembered wanting to fall back asleep but kept tossing and turning due to the anxiety he felt from the forest noises.

As he continued to climb, he thought to himself, “Maybe this is a dream?  Maybe this isn’t real.”  He continued to rummage through various thoughts and scenarios in an effort to answer his questions.  However, just as before, no answer came.  It was then David realized that he hadn’t heard the voice in a while.  He stopped climbing to rest and catch his breath.  David then shouted, “Voice, are you still there?”

No answer came.

“Voice”, he said a second time, “Are you still there?”

Again, no answer came.

David mumbled, “I knew you would leave me.  Everyone else has.”  As David wallowed in his state of loneliness, he realized that the light was not only peering but also exposing his surroundings.  David looked around and noticed he was surrounded by dirt and rocks.  David realized he was in a cave.  He also noticed that a small, shallow body of water was within reach.  It was then David realized how thirsty he was.  As the feeling of thirst grew, David willed himself to his feet and began to walk toward the body of water.  Then David heard something strange, it was running water.

Bending down, he dipped his hands into the body of water and took a long drink.  He had hoped the water was not contaminated but without thinking, he drank the water until his thirst was satisfied.  After a few more minutes of rest, David felt that he needed to continue to leave this place, this cave of fear and pain.  He rose from his spot, walked over to the rope and continued his climb.

What seemed like days later, David was able to let go of the rope.  The incline became flat.  David realized his journey was about to end.  He could now see the outside world.  Hope then became belief.  David now knew he was about to leave this cave of fear and pain.  As David reached the opening to the cave, he heard the voice once again, “David.  Welcome to my fields.”

David looked around but didn’t see anyone.  He responded, “Where are you?”

“I am here, but you cannot see me right now”, the voice exclaimed.  “Listen to my words and obey my commands.”

David wasn’t sure if he wanted to listen or obey but decided to respond rather harshly, “You left me!  I was alone in there and you left me.  I cried out to you but you did not respond.  Why?”

The voice responded, “Who was it that led you to the light?  Who was it that led you to the rope?  Who was it that placed you there?  Who was it that subdued your fear and pain?”

David couldn’t respond.  He lowered his head feeling weakness and shame.  David then recognized, the voice had been with him the entire journey.  While David sulked with shame and disbelief, the voice said, “My son, don’t feel shame or disbelief.  You followed my voice.  You followed my light.  Well done.  Now I have something else for you to do.  Look behind you.”

David lifted his head and slowly turned around.  He saw a torch, some food and a container to hold water on a large boulder.  As he walked toward the items on the boulder, the voice said to him, “Take those items and go back into the cave.  There search the cave and look for others who have heard my voice or seen my light.  Help them on their journey.  Encourage them that the end is near.  Teach them about the rope, how to trust in the voice and light and not to worry about the ‘what if’ thoughts.  Lead them out of the cave and into this field.”

David looked up and asked, “But how will I know who they are?  How many are there?  Why did you place us there?”  Questions ravaged his mind.  He was confused as to what had really happened.

“David”, the voice said, “Do you remember last night when you cried out to me?  When you asked me to help you out of your problems?”

Suddenly, David remembered that just before he fell asleep, he cried out to God asking him for help.  He didn’t want to waste his life and wanted a new direction.  It was then David realized who he was talking to.

“Lord, forgive my doubt”, David responded.

With a sense of compassion, the voice said to David, “Do not worry about how many or why.  All I ask is that you do what I commanded you.  Others need you.  I need you.  Therefore, go and enter the cave.  Help others believe.”

David gripped the items on the boulder.  He approached the opening to the cave and lit the torch.  One last question plagued his mind, “How will I know when my task is done?”

The voice responded, “When you see Me, then you will be finished.”

“When will I see you?” asked David.

“When you are finished”, the voice responded.

David realized every answer had a question, but not every question deserved an answer.              As he entered the mouth of the cave, he saw an inscription on the wall.  The inscription said, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.”  David then remembered the words of his mother, “Jesus never sleeps.”  With comfort on his mind and with a sigh of anticipation, David entered the cave and searched for others that were like him.  Those that are afraid.  Those that are hurting.  Those who have no hope.  As David found others, he would tell them about his journey, his struggles and his discoveries.  He would remind them about the voice and show them the light.  David now lived the journey that once overtook him with fear and pain.  Finally, David understood that this life was not about him.  It was about finding and helping others to see the Light and hear the voice of God.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been give to me.  Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Jesus Christ.  (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV)

God Bless and encourage someone today.