Christianity -- Christian Living/24-Year Dilemma

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Hello Barbara

We all know lives consists of peaks and troughs and way back in the mid-80's I went through a trough but on this occasion kept going downwards. The only deviation to this downward trend was in the mid-90's when it went virtually vertical.

I could go into detail but for my question I don't think it makes a lot of difference, except to say my life now is a mirror image of what it used to be.

I had a good job for which I was well paid, a beautiful wife, three adorable kids and a small intimate group of friends, REAL friends who I'd known for years. Then suddenly (well a few weeks really but that IS 'suddenly' in the space of a life) everything just evaporated. My wife left me for one of those friends, my kids grew more and more distant from me, more than their growing maturity could justify, I lost my job and there I've remained for the last 24 years.

I'm hated and loathed by my kids which must've emanated from their mother which explains her opinion of me and I haven't heard or received replies to any of my letters from my erstwhile friends.

Lives are supposed to evolve and change but so drastically, so tragically and 'overnight'?

Please be assured I'm not complaining, whinging or moaning; I'll take whatever life throws at me but I'd like at least to understand and I don't.

Apart from my family relationships other aspects of my life deteriorated by the same degree - it seems my whole life now is the exact opposite to what it used to be and it just doesn't make sense.

I know it'll sound as though I'm going round the bend but I've thought for some time that perhaps I'm surrounded by some evil force and it was for that reason I sought the advice of the local vicars but not one of them would reply to my letters, texts or phone calls.

I know God is a God of love but I can quite understand that even in that environment there's room for punishment if it's thought necessary, just as we teach our kids discipline and if this is
the case I've no worries - I'll just take it all on the chin comforted in the knowledge that He knows what He's doing but what if it isn't Him?

Thanks for reading all this.

Take care,
Dave Crew

Answer
Hi Dave,

Thank you for writing to me and trusting me with your story.  I know sometimes it helps just to get things out there and to know that someone, somewhere, is willing to be a friend and listen.  Some people even process things by writing and since that's my nature, I completely understand that too.

Reading your set up, it's obvious you've put a great deal of thought into this.  And 24 years is a long time.  In the span of a life, yes, it was sudden and 24 years can seem like an eternity.

All that said, things that are bad happen because we live in a fallen world.  It's no more complicated than that when boiled down to its essence.  What IS complicated is our response to it.

Our response will be determined by the nature of the bad stuff:  Is it a consequence of something we're doing?  Or is it something we have no part in causing that we're simply experiencing to form our character (discipline, as you say, or the redemptive work --the pruning--that God is always forming behind the scenes.)  

Let me state clearly that God does NOT punish for the purpose of being vindictive, but only redemptive.  He can redeem your 24 years in the wilderness too.  :)

I can see that your nature is very stoic and you're willing to persevere as the 24 year stretch shows.  To help discern whether the root of the troubles was something for you to give up or something God is using to form you for a powerful purpose, I am going to ask a few questions and then if you'd like to continue the conversation by answering them to me,

****might I recommend submitting a new question and flagging it as PRIVATE**** for your protection?  

I left this one as is because you're not the only person who has ever had this question about his/her life and you're an excellent teacher, having well articulated what's going on.  But recognizing the highly personal nature of continuing, it'd be better to have any further information remain for your eyes only.

(1)  It sounds like the events might all be connected.  Like you perhaps experienced an event so jolting to your system than it then spread to other areas of your life. Kind of like PTSD only to your spirit.  Why did your wife say she was leaving?  (e.g. Did she feel neglected while you went about your work or was there substance abuse involved or outbursts involving the kids, etc.)

(2) It sounds as though you've considered whether perhaps you're "cursed" or "have demons" that are visible to others.  What makes you think that?  BTW, that's no excuse for the vicars.  Spiritual stuff is their job, but then again the Church in England has been declining as it is elsewhere in the world including the US, so it doesn't surprise me.  Spiritual stuff is my job and I, for one, intend to honor God by addressing what He brings.

(3) When you interact with people, what are they seeing?  Are they seeing a reason why you lost your job and your wife?  Are you still unemployed?  (e.g. I know people who are alcoholics and they don't think anyone knows because they put on a really good game face in public, I know people who don't know how to love but they know how to blame others and they'd contribute to a "toxic" work environment, I know people who have abused our legal system and received a settlement that was a windfall at the time, but makes them totally unemployable in the kind of work they used to do, etc.)

(4) Deep down, in your quiet moments when no one else is around, are you angry? Depressed?  What is your reaction to feelings of betrayal, anger, depression, or fear?  Have you forgiven your wife and your friend and your kids?

(5) Are there any sins God is still waiting for you to acknowledge and confess to Him?  He alone can provide the forgiveness that frees.

That's enough questions for now, but it will help as you discern why you are still in the wilderness.  I went through a 7 year period in which we experienced--as a family--9 of the 10 most stressful events a family can endure.  It's painful and confusing... and I can say unequivocally that it's not always someone's fault with causality.  But I can also say that it ended when I figured out the answer to "What does God want as my response?"

I'm still in a vocational ministry drought.  It's been 13 years of accepting that because I'm female, I will not be employed in a church here in the States that still holds to the Bible in other areas.  I am content because God provides and I have been learning forgiveness, humility, and grace, three things that are worth more to God than they are rewarded by people.  :)

I hope these questions have begun the process of mapping a way out of the wilderness.  If it'd be easier to do email, there's a contact form on my web site and we can chat over email which may be a bit easier.

Be blessed today and let me know how I can help, okay?
Your friend, Barbara <><  

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Barbara Shafer

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Barbara Shafer (Seminary Gal now also at http://seminarygal.com ) I am an Evangelical Christian who is willing to answer faith questions in a thoughtful, researched manner. In particular, my heart`s desire is to assist those who need answers regarding suffering and those seeking to reconcile the Christian faith with the field of science. SeminaryGal.com

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I have a Masters of Divinity degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I particularly enjoy apologetics (defense and explanation of the Christian faith) and systematic theology (understanding how the Bible itself supports various aspects of Christian doctrine). Both of these play a vital role in the "nuts and bolts" of evangelism... but the heart of Christian evangelism is love and compassion. A turning point for me was when I experienced the loss of my daughter Julia. Since then, my heart has been to help people who struggle to understand the Christian faith (and those who may be questioning the goodness of God) in light of the problem of evil and suffering. I've been informally answering Bible questions via other Internet avenues for over 10 years- to skeptics and believers alike. Thank you for blessing me with these opportunities.

Education/Credentials
Master of Divinity, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

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