Living beyond the limits of your past—Part IV. Overcoming the past

1-kV9VXChgv7vHsgLPoKrRwAIt’s not the sufferings in my story that should never have happened, but the healing.

We shape our story and we are shaped by our story

“In our story God shows us what he’s up to and what he wants us to be about.”
— Dr. Dan Allender

Coming from where I’m coming from and going through all I went through I shouldn’t be who I’m and shouldn’t do what I’m doing. That’s what human logic and experience can say. I state the opposite: I wouldn’t be who I’m and wouldn’t do what I’m doing without going through all I went through. My story was God’s essential tool to shape me. Sometimes I wonder about the contrast in my life: how is this possible at all?

  • I’ve started as an abused, hurting, sick person who had absolutely no future. I was living with major health, family, financial, legal challenges and disadvantages.
  • I’ve started as a non-leader who were banned to go even to our ministry’s student weekly meetings and now I’m leading other missionaries, projects, a ministry that influenced over 60 countries.
  • I’ve started as a stutterer and now I’m preaching, speaking at conferences, training educators not only in my mother tongue, but in a foreign language, too.
  • I’ve started as someone who had no future and my teachers told me that I shouldn’t even try to go to a high school and now I’m training educators, teaching at a university and coauthored accredited curriculums.
  • I’ve started as a fearful, shy young guy and I’ve addressed impossible legal issues, raised support, helped to plant churches, created strategies, made hard decisions, developed leaders, wrote books, etc..

God certainly in the business of choosing the nobodies, but to that extreme? I literally had nothing to offer to Him other then my own problems, issues, troubles, sickness, pains, disadvantages, losses, fears, sins and hurt. And he turned all of those into a beautiful story. No, it’s not an easy story. It’s not a story without sufferings, problems and pain. But it’s a story which truly shows how mighty He is, how loving He is and how much He can overcome every human weakness and turn the most hopeless situation into a wonderful victory.

Overcoming the boundaries of the past

“Real healing and spiritual power can be found if one can get into a confessing, safe relationship, where the darkness can be made light and the ‘dark parts’ can find forgiveness and acceptance.”
— Dr. Henry Cloud

The impossible can only be done by Someone who is able to do the impossible. Facing the impossible inspires fear or faith. We decide which one wins. Our decision is based on who do we trust in and to whom do we see the one we trust in.

God has a sense of humor. He likes to choose the nobodies, the unwise, the not noble, those who has zero potential. (1Cor 1:26–29.) He finds joy in doing that, because this way it becomes so obvious that He is doing it all! There is nothing I can boast with. Nothing. He saw that I had nothing, that I was hopeless and helpless.

My story is nothing, but a sheer evidence of Jesus being in the business of doing the impossible. The impossible is the healing. It’s His story lived through my story.

Looking back, I can now verbalize a few things that were essential to be able to function, to actually get healed, to go through the challenges, to live through the sufferings and to see the impossible becoming a reality. Below you can read are a few pillars of my personal journey.

1. Relying on God’s daily grace.

I only can say that by the grace of God, somehow Jesus gave enough strength and grace to go through each day, even if we had to drag ourselves through it with fainting souls and trembling hearts. Somehow, he always held our hands, always gave enough wisdom, always gave just enough of everything. But only for that one day. Never for tomorrow. C.S. Lewis verbalize the essence of this daily grace beautifully: “It is only our daily bread we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.” (C.S. Lewis: Learning in War-Time) It’s all grace, and nothing more. There was nothing in me, in us as a couple or as a family to be able to survive, to get where we are now, to make the right decisions, to have enough wisdom, strength or courage. But we’ve tried to listen and obey to him. Intentionally. Diligently. Fearfully. With opened hearts and mind.

2. Viewing God to whom he really is.

Learning and leaning on the attributes of God was and continually is essential for healing. In my first 4 years of my Christian walk I was motivated by my fear. I wanted really badly to live up to God’s standards and earn his love. I continually failed. Only Jesus was and is able to live up to God’s standards.

I had a very bad acquired pattern that determined my relationship with God: I wanted to avoid his anger and earn his love, just as I wanted to avoid my dad’s anger and wanted to earn his love. But I couldn’t do either. I couldn’t earn my dad’s love, because he never loved me and I couldn’t earn my heavenly Father’s love because he always loved me. I couldn’t avoid my earthly father’s anger, because he was always angry with me and there was no anger to avoid in my heavenly Father, because he already poured out his anger against me on his only Son. See, I took the old pattern I learned in my most important relationship as a child and adopted that to my most important relationship as an adult. It was fundamentally wrong. Why was it so wrong? Because the attributes of the two fathers are vastly different. So, if I keep relating to my heavenly Father the same way I did relate to my earthly father it is not simply an insult to God, but it hinders me to experience who he really is and who I was created to be! Not having the right view of God comes with at least 3 fatal consequences: 1. I will insult, hurt and belittle God; 2. I will never experience who he really is and what he can do; 3. I will never become who I was created to be. That’s why our view of God is essential. Our enemy, the Devil will always do everything possible to distort our view of God, so we would not see him as holy, loving, caring, almighty, personal, giving, omnipotent Father who is for us and not against us.

I had to unlearn, undress that pattern. How to do that? Well, I intentionally studied and meditated on (and continue to do so) who God really is and how he relates to me regardless of my behavior. What I continue to learn about who He really is heals me and changes me. When I started to discover that I don’t need to hide or cover my weaknesses, struggles, temptations or failures and that I can be transparent and vulnerable with God without risking to loose his love for me, then my wounds started to heal. Experiencing intimacy (being transparent and real without fearing rejection) with God is not only a power to heal, but a power to change. Real, intimate acceptance doesn’t leave me with my weaknesses and sins, but gives me the power that I always sought for the change I always wanted. His love doesn’t only mean that he accepts me as I’m, but it also means that he wants the best for me. And in order to experience his best, he gives his power to change so I could have more of him. Embracing the fact that God is for me and not against me, gives me tremendous hope for the wonderful adventure he and I will have together in my future, which future is planed and secured by him. The more time I spend learning and meditating on who God really is, the healthier and stronger I become.

3. Taking God’s Word seriously.

Faith means — as it is described in Hebrews 11 through the examples of the Heroes of Faith — taking God at his word. Faith is trusting that what he says about himself, about me, about my relationship with him and about the world is true. And it is not just a theoretical truth, but an experiential reality.Why truth matters? Because truth sets us free (John 8:32). Truth gives us definitions. We know that nothing functions in the physical world without definitions. (That’s why they teach definitions in physics, chemistry and in other sciences.) The same applies in the spiritual, emotional and relational realm of life. God’s living Word gives definitions, breaths life, provides direction, comforts the hurting hearts, gives the knowledge we lack, builds up the broken pieces of our lives and points to areas that require growth. Daily tapping into this infinite source of wisdom, guidance and life gave us important lines of definitions (beliefs, values, priorities, distinctive); guided us in difficult decisions; comforted us when we were hurting; envisioned us for future adventures; gave us hope to press on; encouraged us when we were distressed; educated us to nurture our marriage and raise our children and gave us insights to teach others.

The decision to take God for his word, to stand on his promises and to nurture our soul from his word daily brought healing and restoration to our broken hearts.

4. Awareness

I’ve studied my life. I’ve studied my weaknesses. I’ve put intentional efforts to search my heart, to understand my problems and to know my limits. Self-awareness was sought through wisdom from others, through reading books, through much discussions with my wife. I’ve understood some important weaknesses and tendencies I have. My early developmental years left a painful mark and created some patterns in my life that I continually need to unlearn and pay attention to. Here are some of them:

  • I tend to ignore my own pain and needs to please others. Pleasing others, being way too loyal to authority figures, not giving grace to myself are all patterns rooted in the experiences I had with my father.
  • I’ve developed a very high tolerance of pain and became numb to the poor performances of others. I’ve learned to tolerate situations long past when they should have been dealt with.
  • I have a tendency to be over-responsible, taking too much responsibility for others and for situations. Underneath is the thinking that all depends on me. I feel responsible to make others happy and protect them from having pain. This often enabled people to stay in situations they shouldn’t stay in. This kind of seemingly gracious service of others came with a price for me, for the person who was enabled and for others around that situation.

The many painful endings in my past made it very hard for me to end things that should be ended earlier, release people from positions who should had been released earlier, bring people into leadership situations who should had been brought in earlier.

Being aware of my on limitations and tendencies helps me to recognize and correct behavioral patterns or typical reactions.

5. Building an inspiring community around us.

Every life in the universe exist in connection. There is no life in isolation. God created us to be connected to him and to each other. We are dead without those connections. Life, growth and production comes through connection. That’s why the community around us was and is essential for us to get well and to get through the troubles of life. Somehow God always provided just enough people around us to encourage us, advise us, teach us, inspire us. Not too many, but a few, barely enough. We’ve intentionally invested into some relationship. We’ve established a few, very strong friendships over the years. Unfortunately, most of them now live in a different continent and time zone.

Relationships are so vital to our growth that it became a conviction to us that we will not want to live the rest of our life without real friends and will do everything possible to work again with our best friends. We know we are at our best when we are in the right team. And if we are at our best, that’s the best for the mission, too. Paul couldn’t become Paul without Barnabas. Titus couldn’t become Titus without Paul. Paul left behind great ministry needs and opportunities because his relationship with his coworker, Titus was a higher priority for him.

It was also important that the community around us, our friends needed to be inspiring. There are lots of people around us who have inspired fear instead of faith. We’ve learned to avoid them and intentionally close their voice out from our head.

6. Maintaining a teachable heart.

Proverbs identifies wisdom with being teachable. Protecting my heart from pride and intentionally remain teachable was an important aspect of my healing. Having a listening ear, an open mind to other’s opinion without taking it personally and be willing to apologize when it was needed, helped me to learn and see things from different perspectives. Reading a lot and seeking council is critical for being teachable. Allowing people to speak into my life, being vulnerable and transparent was an intentional decision so others could see our reality, our hurts, our pains, our fears, our joys and our victories.

7. Taking faith-steps and paying the price.

We all make mistakes. Mistakes can be corrected or we can apologize and make it right. But opportunities are coming and going. There are opportunities that are there once in your life. Once those opportunities are gone, they will never come back. Not every opportunity needs to be pursued, but most opportunities require taking risks. According to the Parable of the Talents9 faithfulness requires risk-taking. There are no safe risks. Risk demands courage. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the presence of obedience. Blessings sometimes come with a price that we need to pay first. Sometimes that price is very high. Our sacrifices need to be on the altar before God’s provision would come.

God always gave just enough faith to be able to take risks when we had to. His Word personally spoke to us at various situations when we needed courage. For example, in 2004 when I said yes to the challenge becoming the National Director, some profound truths and a personal challenge were revealed to me through the story of Feeding the 5000: “You give them bread.”

A recent occasion of a major risk we are taking is our decision to turn over the leadership and pursuing to work with Dave and Karen again. Staying in our position and enjoying the fruit of our labor would be much easier than to give it up, pursue a new pioneering ministry and putting up with the hurtful comments from people who are second guessing our decision.

The story of the spies in Numbers 13 and 14 taught an important lesson to us. There are times when there is not a second chance. When we are in a risky, new, challenging, unknown situation, our first reaction to it could be life-changing. The people of Israel reacted with fear instead of faith. The assumed God wants to cause harm to them. They questioned God’s love for them. Circumstances didn’t change their life, but their reaction to the circumstances changed it forever. They were not allowed to go in to the Promise Land. Impossible situations are either generating fear or faith. We decide which one wins. For God the circumstances are irrelevant. Pretty much our choices will set a whole lot in our life: where and how we live, what we do and how we spend our time! They missed a once in a life-time opportunity for good because they reacted with fear. There was no way to undo it or to fix it. A whole generation wasted their life wondering in the wilderness, because they were not reacted by faith to the impossible.

It’s not the sufferings that should not have happened in my story. It’s the healing. We are not the victims of our circumstances, but much more so the victims of our decisions. God heals the wounded, uses the weak, lifts up the poor, comforts the grievous. If you are wounded, weak, poor, grievous than you are in good hands. But there are decisions that you need to make and nobody, not even God, will make those for you.

I hope this story inspires you, educates you and perhaps leads you to make some long-needed decisions you have postponed about your heart, about your life, about your attitude and about your relationships.

One thought on “Living beyond the limits of your past—Part IV. Overcoming the past

  1. Pingback: Born in pain, lived in honor – My Journey to Emmaus

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