Breaking points. Being in too deep. Rock bottom. The lowest valleys. Deep in the pit.
No matter what we call our deepest and darkest seasons in life, it is in those moments when our discontent, unhappiness, and longings manifest.
“Something needs to change.”
Chris, one of our family members, has uttered these four words at various “breaking points” in his life, just like we all have. One night, just last year, Chris sat in his car following a shift at work and found himself in a familiar place within his life. He wasn’t happy with where he was. Depressed, anxious, and living life according to his desires, he felt the void of discontent that seemed to always seem to resurface. Something did need to change, and little did he know that God was moving him further along on a divine journey.
There are people in the world that know a life apart from church. There are also those people who do not know a life outside of the church. Chris found himself in the latter. Born in South America on the mission field to Christian parents, he grew up with a DNA that was threaded with Bible stories, good moral behavior, and honoring Wednesdays and Sundays.
As he grew up in Florida, he took in what he was told and saw around him, as any person does. In the context of church, he heard the Gospel many times and learned about Jesus Christ, painted in specific ways and often clumped with certain church traditions. He played guitar on the youth worship team and the Sunday worship team. His entire life he has known a perfect, shiny on the outside, yet inconsistent and murky on the inside “Church Christianity.” All of the showy, drama-filled, religion that Chris saw before his eyes placed a filter on knowing the real Jesus and being transformed by the real Gospel. This was the constant disconnect that allowed Chris to know how to “do church,” and go through the motions of being a Christian. Unfortunately this included not knowing that “being the Church,” meant having a living and active relationship with Jesus Christ.
In his early twenties, he had an opportunity to participate in a discipleship internship in the Carolinas, where he gleaned from many wise Christ-followers, yet something remained “off” inside of him. Despite this being one of the richest and best seasons in his life, a pessimism and dissatisfaction with Christianity continued to ensue following the internship. He returned to Florida, removed from the church, and unhappy with where was in life.
“Something needs to change.”
He sat in the parking lot and vocalized this statement on the phone to his cousin, Drew. Drew, who had moved to Detroit to plant a church, encouraged Chris to consider moving up for a change of scenery, involvement in ministry, and healthy guidance. Chris thought about it, but then avoided Drew for months after that, prior to arriving at another breaking point. Chris felt the gut-wrenching emptiness of knowing that there must be something more than where he currently was in life. He knew something was missing. A few months following Chris and Drew’s conversation, Chris packed up and moved to Detroit.
The change in location was refreshing and motivating for him. Having different people around him was beneficial. Learning new things was important in growing up more, but something was still lacking. There was a void that needed to be filled, and Chris was on the verge of finding the solution.
When we hit rock bottom or reach a breaking point, it is said that we can only go up from there. Chris had many breaking points in Florida, but only a few months ago, he finally arrived to the single-most important break point in his life. He had no desire to seek Jesus. He was consistently irritated with the church. He still longed for something or someone that didn’t make sense. One night, as the family discussed a Sunday sermon in the living room, it hit him. This breaking point was different than the others. It meant so much more in the best and worst ways.
“I don’t think I’m actually a Christian. I don’t have a relationship with Christ.”
This realization shattered his identity and sent shock waves through his life. Being in church and being a Christian had been his whole life up until this point, but now the alarming awareness of the invalidity of it all changed everything. The next couple of months seemed like a wrestling match that was bathed in pleading prayer from those around him. Chris knew he needed God and was looking for him, but the desire to make him complete Lord of his life was still not there. The longings made sense. The unhappiness added up. It was all there because there had never been a true surrender to Jesus Christ as the Lord of his life.
Last month, on a normal day during the week, Chris went into work. He had many unpleasant experiences with jobs in Florida, but somehow they worked to his advantage with his current job position at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. The dissatisfying, prior experiences gave him an opportunity for a raise in pay. This was the day he became aware of it. Awestruck and thanking God for His favor with financial matters, his work day ended with him deciding whether he should go home or to the gym. Reluctantly, he headed home, although he knew that there was a mission team there rebuilding a few front porches. This meant that he would have to be social and share about his life.
The pastor involved in the mission team struck up a conversation with Chris. The pastor asked him what he was doing in Detroit and why he was living with Drew. With a disdain for being fake, Chris decided to cut to the core and be honest about where he was.
“Why are you trying to look for God without accepting Him first?”
Pastor Derrick asked the basic question.
The Holy Spirit was simply calling Chris to a simple, obedient faith in the real Jesus. Chris surrendered to the Lord on that cool, October afternoon. He now desired a relationship with Jesus. The previous filter that was placed on the Gospel and Jesus had been removed.
The path that God put Chris on to Detroit is evident. He can look back and see the Spirit’s leading in His life, even when he had not fully surrendered to Jesus yet. Chris knows that God was always there, sustaining him and rescuing him from many different situations involving his weaknesses. The Lord waited for a humble submission to Him from Chris to fully reveal Himself.
He had said the words to “be saved” years ago, but now it was real. He grasps the Gospel, understands its impact, and the redirection of his life around it. He sees that a life with Jesus is an everyday pursuit, rather than a task to accomplish on Wednesdays and Sundays.
God is in the business of taking our breaking points to give us momentum towards a relationship with Him to ultimately glorify Himself as the orchestrator.