Updated: Nov 19, 2021
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown? - Mark 4:35-38
I AM LIMITED in words to express how I am resting in the privilege to be the new Editor of the DTS Magazine and Content Manager for Dallas Theological Seminary. For some, the appointment of a new editor is nothing extraordinary. Perhaps, for another qualified candidate, this job would be a minor set back for something greater. For me, this position is something greater. It is a long-awaited withdrawal from my spiritual escrow account -- a blessing that had my name on it long before it came into my periphery. These are the only words I can express: With all my heart, I am grateful, and to God be the glory.
My specific journey to this assignment is a microcosm to the macro level of suffering we are enduring in 2020. If there is a Richter scale measurement to the upset we have experienced this year, then it would be a 7 (destructive power: critical loss of life, economic plummet.) Yet, the slow grind of the spiritual pivot of Christian believers around the world is turning, powered by the blood of Jesus.
Judging from a carnal perspective, it seems as though the Church has collapsed. Sound-bites of unanswered prayers and un-impactful sermons are streaming online. Church buildings are empty across the country, albeit the few congregations that have chosen to gather. The daily American struggle does not seem to be relenting. Political wars, cultural wars, and race wars are what fill media platforms. In some respect, it is inconceivable for anyone to experience a joy that comes from winning an unwinnable battle or crossing the finish line in an un-finish-able race. Suffering has encapsulated us all, regardless of demographic.
However, there is another perspective to consider. It yields to what is conceivable. This spiritual perspective opens the door to what is happening and has happened in the spiritual realm. Jesus Christ won the strategic victory on the cross. Despite universal suffering, there are Christians who are winning tactical battles daily with the resurrected Jesus Christ. Christians are experiencing joy in the darkest circumstances, and are living in a peace that surpasses understanding. So far this year, we are acquiring dream job assignments, marrying long-awaited for spouses, purchasing dream homes, graduating from post-grad programs, accomplishing real community impact by bringing the world under the authority of Christ. Most of all, we are growing deeper in love with God. It is almost inappropriate to expound on a suffering-to-victory story during a universal time of sorrow. But this is our life. These are the physical happenings that reflect the spiritual happenings in the invisible realm.
Our Christian lives, as varied and as multifaceted as they are, will all encompass three objectives that are from the life of Jesus Christ. The first is suffering, the second is death, and the third is resurrection. It is the destiny of all Christian believers to experience all three moments that defined the life of Jesus Christ. I am a witness to all three objectives. These objectives fruit in our specific journeys through trial and testing.
One of the hardest trials I have had to face was asking something from God and not receiving it. It is painful. If I were to describe this kind of spiritual turmoil, I would equate this to the pain of the future self-proclaimed Christian who was left behind from the Rapture. It is a harrowing stunt in your soul. You are hurt, confused, angry, and even worse, frightened. You need a resolution!
At that moment, you are face-to-face with the ideas that God does not exist or, He is a liar. Questions stream across your mind like: How can I obey God's word and the exact opposite of what He said, happens? Here is total darkness.
You revert to the Bible, and it states: Have faith in God, Jesus said to them. Truly I tell you that if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted [up] and thrown into the sea,’ and has no doubt in his heart but believes that it will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. -- Mark 11:23. Then there are the questions: Did I not have faith? I moved in faith, believing that it would come to pass. What did I do wrong?
These were my questions after I lost three jobs in 2019, and what I thought was a dream job at the beginning of this year, which ended upon the arrival of COVID-19. I could not pay rent nor tuition for seminary, and there was no recourse for work relating to my spiritual purpose. I felt as though God had abandoned me because my circumstance was not a linear course of events that revealed a cause and an effect. What was happening to me did not make sense. It was consecutive losses back to back. It felt like I was taking two steps forward and five steps backward. With every measure of grace that was short-lived, I was growing weaker in my resolve to be a champion for scripture. I was walking in faith. I performed as my pastor instructed. I proactively obeyed the words of scripture with a pure heart. Yet, I kept losing, and things were becoming unstable. I asked and believed God for what I needed, and nothing. My sin was conquering me.
Here is where God met me. I was a like a Christian who was experiencing dying grace. God met me when I was two months overdue in rent, past the deadline to register for the 2020-2021 Fall Semester, and with no reliable transportation to find gainful employment. God met me and said, Come with me child, let's take a moment to give me some glory. When we are fortunate to witness the peace within the storm, God allows us to understand how we are stable all along. He kept me and brought me to this moment to see His hand and understand His process. It is not about what we want or need during our times of trial and suffering. The end game is His glory.
God reveals His glory when we are put on display for the angelic host to witness. The invisible realm has the opportunity to see the fruits of the Holy Spirit unfold from within our souls. Pieces of our calloused souls fall off while God's divine design for our humanity comes alive. Specifically, for me, I learned patience and contentment. I was at the end of all I could do to survive. The only thing left for me to do was obey scripture, believe that this was the will of God, and wait for it to come to pass.
How did I know that it was the will of God? Because my talent was not taught but given to me. I have been writing and creating graphic publications for years. I desired to build the kingdom of Heaven with His gift. What was the alternative for me after being rejected by the world? My only recourse is to glorify God. He commands that we flip or invest our talents for His kingdom. I had no other choice but to believe and wait. This period of suffering had to happen so that I would meet this moment to put my salvation story on record for the next believer to take courage.
As I transition into this new role, the colors of my past suffering became more vivid. I understood this trial I endured to meet the blessing of this new role, as God's nod to every tear shed, every unpublished article, every job lost, every unpaid contract, and for every failed publication. I met the moment where I became thankful for every failure because it was a part of the journey that lead me to this victory. It was clear that this journey was all God by Himself. He had not abandoned me. I am His vessel for His glory.
I made it to the other side. #TotheNextFaith