by Camille Stevens, a CLU student
While growing up, I had a pretty easy, comfortable, "smooth-sailing" life. I didn't get into altercations at school or participate in the "catty" girl behavior. Throughout my college career, I prayed against trials or anything that smelled and looked like them. While in college ministry, I felt sheltered since I was in leadership positions and was called upon to make executive decisions. However, I began to create a pattern of "fixing" others, their issues, and had little time for self-introspection.
When I returned home from college in 2008, it was time to become fully available for ministry and establish my career. However, when I began to date and become involved in different areas of ministry, the trouble-free life I'd prayed for in college was no longer a reality.
The course Counseled by God was God's provision for me during this time of transition since I was struggling with condemnation regarding time spent in ministry at my church. I was the "yes" girl, and when I was unable to make an engagement, I felt as though I was losing a crown in glory. The Counseled by God lessons opened my eyes to my grip on self-righteousness and works to gain God's attention. I was encouraged to begin to "weed out lies and replace them with the truth of God's Word." I began to reflect on everything I'd done in ministry that was birthed from feelings of guilt and self-condemnation. Do I do things to just please my Pastor? Am I really saved? Have I lived for people instead of God my whole life? Although some of this self-introspection was healthy, it became condemnatory in nature.
Lesson Two highlighted the names and characteristics of Satan. I began to realize that not only did he want to steal, kill, and destroy me (Jn 10:10), but he sought to literally suck my life dry of the joy and hope in serving the Lord! I was being sucked dry with the traditions and "things" I did to make myself righteous, or appear to be righteous. This lesson blessed me as it allowed me to embrace the Comforter and Edifier of my soul. I learned that while He longs to make me perfect through His love and strength, He wanted to do so by His word, light, and love.
As I stated earlier, I began to walk in my season of dating and courtship, which was totally new to me since I never seriously dated in my life. I quickly began to realize that a lot of what I did and decisions I've made were based on what people thought I should do. I was also not privy to the fact that although I supported others in their seasons, this favor would not always be returned to me. I was naïve about the fact that ALL people would not be excited about EVERY season in my life. As God began to bless and grow my relationship with my fiancé, lots of relationships began to dwindle and shrivel into nothing.
While I've banked a lot of what I did for loyalty's sake, the Lord began to deal with me regarding the relationships in my life. While talking with a believer friend one day, she shared that she prayed the following: "Lord, remove, replace, expose, and reveal all those who don't have my best interest at heart." While I thought this was a bit extreme, I began praying this type of prayer as I sifted through the hurts and scars from bruised and strained relationships.
The "Healing Deep Hurts of the Past" lesson exposed lots of feelings I never knew existed within me. The following quote from this lesson was one of the most sobering quotes I'd ever committed to memory: "Whatever is incubated within our spirits is created in our circumstances." I realized that the more I couldn't change a situation or was hurt by someone, it became my reality and an idol in my life. I was in bondage to hurt, misunderstanding, and disagreements.
Matthew 3:10 reminded me to "lay the axe to the root of the tree," and exposed my heart issues, which weren't pretty. Because I had never experienced these types of feelings until the age of 24 (I'm only 26), it was difficult for me to register and process everything. But I quickly began to realize that I had no time to waste since the Lord had a greater work for me. I wasn't instantly healed from the hurt; but I began to incubate healing so that it would become my reality. I began to do 1 Peter 3:9 "Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing."
This was NOT easy since I had continually sought vindication and vengeance, but God blessed me with His words, "Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogance come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed." (1 Samuel 2:3). This was an area God completely shattered during a sermon my pastor preached. He spoke about seasons in our lives of rain and continual hardship and that we weren't far from the Lord, but that we were just tucked away quietly for a season to heal and recover. In another instance, the Lord spoke to my heart during a sermon and said, "Stop playing the victim." This was one of the most liberating words I'd ever received. Currently, when situations arise and I am tempted to fall into my pity party, I remember God's Rhema from this lesson and from the ministry.
The "Moving from Guilt to Hope" lesson further exposed my motives for becoming a "churchaholic." At first glance, I honestly thought the chapter would discuss past sins and shameful things the believer had to deal with. I was tempted to skim through the chapter until I was confronted by these words from the text regarding ministry: "God does not expect me to do everything!" I was so amazed and yet comforted by these words. Before, I only moved because guilt drove me. It became a theme for my lifestyle since I was so bogged down by the responsibilities and directions in my life. In the personal application section of this chapter, I recorded: "Father, I really need to ask You for direction in church." God replied, "Don't operate out of guilt. You can't please Me when you're trying to do 50 million things ineffectively."
The Lord also began to deal with me regarding the newest season in my life since it relates to marriage. Marriage could not become one of my "to-do" list things at the end of a long list. He began to convict and chasten me about spending time with my fiancé. Although he's patient, the Lord reminded me that even though I wasn't married yet, I couldn't wait until I got married to "make time to nurture my relationship with my husband." Since He has ordained my relationship, He's ordained it to be full, effective, nurtured, and Christ-centered. Our ministry to others will be the overflow of our ministry as one in marriage. Likewise, my ministry to others must be from the overflow of time spent with the Lord. As a result, I was able to come to the conclusion that I could not please God doing work He did not ask me to do. I am continuing to move from guilt to hope-the hope in His salvation and abundant life through Christ.
Lastly, as stated earlier, I lived a pretty much cookie-cutter life and had no problems with anger, malice, and unforgiveness (so I thought). I was naïve to the fact that I could harbor anger and resentment towards others when I was wronged. After all, I was the one who fixed these situations, so I thought.
When my season of courtship began, I was simultaneously dealing with feelings of hurt, abandonment, and seeking vindication for my feelings. Before reading Lesson 7 "Moving from Anger to Love," I'd never realized that anger was a right that needed to be yielded to God. This amazed me! I was comforted in knowing that it was okay to be angry but that it had to be yielded to God. That was a major challenge to me as I quickly realized I wanted to keep anger as my crutch. I didn't want to let it go; it was mine. Being gentle, meek, longsuffering, and lowly were the last things on my mind when I had incubated hurt which turned into anger.
Quiet times with the Lord and great, convicting words from my pastors at my church, pointed me to the sobering truth that Christ would return and in my condition, I would not go with Him. In addition, I realized I wasn't a threat to the kingdom of Satan any longer. I was operating through hurt and pain, as opposed to love and forgiveness. My soul longed to be in right standing with the Lord. Daily I asked the Lord to wash, cleanse, and search me until I was completely delivered. I have been delivered with assurance. Praise God! I am also learning how to maintain my deliverance by seeking peace, and pursuing it.
This course opened my eyes to my inability to see who I really was without the light and mirror of His word. Although I have experienced the most emotional days of my life during this course, it has strengthened me in ways I could never imagine. I see His purpose in the hurt, anger, and guilt. Romans 8:28 is no longer a scripture I have just committed to memory but words that give life. Lastly Hebrews 12:11 (AMP) "For the time being no discipline brings joy, but seems grievous and painful; but afterwards it yields a peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it [a harvest of fruit which consists in righteousness--in conformity to God's will in purpose, thought, and action, resulting in right living and right standing with God]. I thank God for fathering me.