CHRISTIAN LIFE & GROWTH
Entering Into The Rest Of Jesus
By Jesse McEwien
Peace, something that we all long for yet often proves so very elusive. For a number of years peace was a foreign thing to me. In its place was fear — debilitating fear — and a longing to be at peace.
You see, until recently, I have been nearly totally isolated from the outside world, with occasional exceptions marked by debilitating anxiety that would drive me back to the gilded cage that was my room; in short I was a shut-in, at the tender age of 15, with no apparent relief in sight and a bleak future awaiting me...
Ever since I was young, I had a shy disposition and evidently possessed some peculiar traits that caught my parents' attention. Still, it wouldn't start becoming a problem until later, in fourth grade, when I noticed that other kids were becoming harder and harder to relate to, changing in various ways I wasn't. In time, I would become more and more isolated and the growing changes with each school year proved difficult for my younger-than-normal mentality to deal with, so I was eventually taken to be evaluated by professional psychologists.
Turns out I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome (now considered "Autism Spectrum Disorder") a high functioning form of Autism. At first having an answer for my growing difficulties was helpful, but ultimately having a label would provide little comfort, as I longed to be free from my growing anxiety and awkwardness around people, which proved more and more debilitating. I wanted to just not be me.
Eventually, by the time I hit middle school, my parents were so concerned with my increasing depression that they pulled me out of school into a home school program. Finally, I was able to run away from the environment I came to dread so very much. The next year, my mother asked me to try public school again, promising I could come back home if I chose. But when I wanted to go back home, the program had been counseled. Although she hadn't known, I felt betrayed by her and the school system and forced back into the place I came to hate so much.
Near the very end of the school year, the program was offered again. Despite being almost finished, I jumped at the chance to flee back to my home, fearing I would lose the chance later if I didn't take it now.
So, I took the chance, and though my academic performance improved, I think my combined physical and mental isolation made me regress to the point that just being in the presence of a single stranger would fill me with anxiety. It got to the point that I couldn't even go in public without my family.
But good news...it gets better, sooooo much better.
But before it got better, it got worse. My family and I would search desperately for anything that would help me: medications, therapy, hypno-therapy — we even had a consultation for a magnetic device which interacts with the brain to have a therapeutic effect, but our insurance wouldn't cover it. I was even considering brain surgery — anything, anything that could help. But nothing available did.
I remember fleeing to online gaming to numb the pain of despair I felt, looking to a group of online gaming friends to heal my loneliness. Though I would have fun with them, when the game was over the emptiness returned and with it the despair.
I remember crying out to God to please take my life, for I would only be a burden to those around me. Yet instead of taking my life, from there, in my brokenness, he would give it to me, in himself.
While I had had an encounter with Christ at an earlier age, realizing my sin and my need for him, putting my trust in him and feeling the joy of his presence, I was intimidated by the Bible, and so I didn't put much effort in seeking the God I claimed to believe. Lo and behold, when the adversities struck, I, like Israel of old, looked to other things for relief (Isaiah 55:1-2).
So God in his mercy made me realize the futility of such things, and that only he can satisfy, only he can heal me (Psalm 119:67, 71). In my desperation, God enabled me to realize that he can surely help me, through a combination of circumstances. So I started with the Gospels, figuring that is what I'm the most familiar with.
Immediately I was stuck that, in spite of the fact that Jesus is God, high and holy, he loved and had compassion on the broken and scum of society and seem to pay special attention to those who simply looked to him for help (Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 4:16-19; Matthew 1:40-42; Mark 2:13-17; John 4:1-42).
But there is one promise I distinctly remember, when making it to the eleventh chapter of The Gospel of Matthew, in the 28th through 30th verses, Jesus says this: "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Although that promise is to everyone, I knew right then and there that Jesus was speaking directly to me in my despair. And then and there, I decided to really follow Jesus and to know the rest he promised me. So I made it a point to study his word, even if only a few chapters a day, progress is progress after all.
While my life didn't immediately get better (indeed just reaching this point took years), the weight of despair left me and gave way to the love of God and the hope that comes from knowing I'm forgiven, that I am loved in spite of my failures, and that I am being conformed to being made like Christ and one day will be completely like him in character (1 John 3:1-3).
And with that hope, Christ has enabled me to shed my self-hatred, to let go of bad influences, and more and more to love people, through the combination of his word, my local church, and even from a response to a question I sent to GotQuestions, which I still look at sometimes, being reminded by the encouragement it brought.
Now at 22, while I still have a ways to go, God has taught me much and has enabled me to make progress I once wondered was possible, and even granted this recovering coward the courage and opportunity to speak at my local church several times, declaring his word, which at one time I would probably have thought impossible — and yet all things are possible with God (Matthew 19:26) — which I'm still beginning to grasp.
In closing, I just want to say to any possible readers who are weighed down by despair, who are wearied of life, who are wondering if there is any hope — I want to say that no matter how bad your circumstances, you are not so far gone that God can't help you, heal you, and, if you don't have a relationship with him, save you. Take his yoke upon you, learn from him &dmash; he is gentle, he is compassionate, he will never leave you, he will never drive away any who seek him (John 6:37). While your life may not become instantly perfect, nor will you be immune to hardship, through him you can endure anything and do anything he would have you do (Philippians 4:13).
Image Credit: lechenie-narkomanii; untitled; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Truth | Christian-Life | Depression | God-Father | Hardships | Jesus-Christ | Personal-Life
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Published on 7-25-17