Love is a Choice

Love is a Choice

I was recently teaching on the Problem of Evil to the youth in our church.  I made the point that in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were given a choice:  they could eat of all the fruits of the garden except one, the one that was in the center of the garden.  God gave them the opportunity to choose to obey or choose not to obey.  He wanted them–and us–to choose freely whether or not to obey him.  True freedom and true love necessitate the ability to choose otherwise.  God did not create evil itself, only the option to choose otherwise.  

There came a time in my life when I chose to follow Jesus.  It wasn’t an emotional decision for me, but a well thought out choice to live my life as a Christian.  Since that day, I’ve dedicated my life to following Christ and I’ve grown in a relationship with him.

There have been many times in my walk with Christ where I felt it was necessary to give up something good to follow his better.  All of us make these choices every day.  We choose what to wear.  We choose to eat this and not that.  We choose our leisure activity for the day.  Some choices are tougher.  We may decide on a new job, a college major, or who to marry.  We may choose something really, really hard like kind words when we would rather chew someone out.  Maybe we choose to forgive instead of holding a grudge.

When teaching on the Problem of Evil, you can’t get away from talking about suffering.  While preparing, I looked back on times when I’ve suffered.  Teaching the lesson brought to mind times when I’ve prayed about really gut-wrenching needs — mostly related to health issues of family members.  As a wife and mother, I don’t worry nearly so much about myself as I do about my family.  I’ve prayed many a prayer with tears asking for healing and strength.  Along the way, I also matured into realizing that I would love God anyway even if things didn’t turn out the way I had prayed.  Loss is part of life and, although we are never completely ready to give up our loved ones, we can be assured God will help us through.

Our family went through a particularly difficult time that included some prolonged suffering.  This was during the time when I was going to school to pursue my ministry degree and I would hear time and again how God almost always takes people he uses through a period of wilderness wandering (think Moses).  As a family, we made it through the time of suffering and, as an individual, I made it through the degree program.  I genuinely thought that we had made it through the wilderness and into the clearing.  I suppose we really did, but the clearing didn’t lead to where I thought it would.  I had a certain future in my mind and it didn’t materialize.  After three years of struggling trying to find a place in ministry…

I gave up.

I lost my purpose.

I plunged into the throws of a massive spiritual identity crisis. 

I almost gave up my faith.

For me, it boiled down to this:  I knew I had been saved; I knew I lived an obedient Christian life; I knew I had heard God’s voice and felt the Holy Spirit.  I felt sure I was called into ministry and that I had experienced confirmations along the way.  What I couldn’t figure out is why I didn’t hear God’s voice correctly.  It had to be an error on my part, because the nature of God is that he can’t make mistakes and he can’t mislead. So it had to be me.  

The gist of my thought process was, if I am such a defective Christian that I can’t properly hear God’s voice, how could I go on?  What good was the Christian life if I couldn’t hear from God?  

After much prayer, I finally came to the following two conclusions:

  1. I’ve studied apologetics for almost two decades.  My minor is in Christian Apologetics.  I am utterly convinced that Jesus rose from the dead and that the accounts transmitted in the Bible are true.  To live any other way is to live a lie.
  1. I had completely depended upon God to make it through a very rough spot in my life.  If I were to give up my faith, I would miss God.  

These two truths saved my faith.  Upon realizing these two simple things, I made a choice that however disappointed I was, however I misunderstood God’s message, however inept I am as a Christian, I cannot live any other way.  I chose to follow Jesus…again.  

I don’t want to give you the impression that I had some great epiphany and suddenly I was all hunky dory with Jesus again.  It has been a long road of continuing to walk the walk without feeling any real connection to God.  There would be moments, but only moments, of clarity.  The challenge was to continue to pray, read, study, and go to church (during a pandemic, no less) when the awareness of God’s presence in my life was sporadic at best.  I needed to remain committed to Christ regardless of how I felt.  I made the decision that the essence of who I am is a follower of Christ and to live any other way is to live a lie.  

It’s been over a year since my great existential crisis.  I’m just now starting to feel the hope and optimism I once felt.  To call this time a desert experience is putting it mildly in many ways.  Fortunately, for me — and for you — God is faithful and his faithfulness doesn’t depend on me.  His faithfulness doesn’t depend on my feelings.  His faithfulness doesn’t depend on my abilities or lack thereof.  His faithfulness is divine and perfect and true. 

Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it.  It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deu 31:7-8)

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