Dear Prisoners of Hopelessness …

Jesus answered What I am doing now you will understand later

… your pain will not go to waste.

That’s right, I said it.

But I know what you’re thinking…

“How would you know, Ken?”

You’ve got through too much crap to want to listen, what do I know anyway?  Actually, when I went through tremendous trials that few could understand, I felt the exact same way. I felt misunderstood, judged and everyone had an opinion about my situation… and at least 90% of those opinions didn’t help.

If you are a prisoner of hopeless right now, please read this message.

There is no rock bottom that God cannot help you in. Many people say they hit rock bottom but really aren’t at rock bottom. They liken being dead-broke or losing their job as rock bottom. It’s not. They liken losing their spouse as rock bottom. It’s not. They liken being sick as rock bottom, it’s not. Rock bottom is maybe if all of these happen all at the same time, and you believe the chance of getting them back is so infinitesimally small that there’s no point even praying. Rock bottom occurs when you are convinced you will never have that which will make you happy or whole. At this point, true hopelessness sets in and you question all that is in this world. When the questions overwhelm to the point of paralysis, you have truly reached real rock bottom.

Perhaps you’ve got that debilitating sickness doctors can’t quite figure out how to treat, and this caused your spouse to leave you as your health and career went down the drain. Perhaps people around you judged that it’s your fault the sickness can’t improve or that you couldn’t hold on to your spouse. Perhaps this process wasn’t an overnight occurrence, but an exercise in futility for over a decade. It is one thing to be in pain and isolation, it’s another thing when the world thinks they don’t need you. You are irrelevant.

Unnecessary.

At this point, you’ll have existential problems, especially if you’ve known hints of what’s in the Bible. Where is the victory? Where is the kingly crown? What a cruel joke it is to fight for that crown for so long, and when you grip it tight in your hands, you look at the blood trickling on to ground because you found that it was a crown of thorns.

Crucifixion-300x199

 

Friend, the paragraph above, that was me. Here’s the link for that story.

I lost my career, health and spouse. Some old church mates thought it was all my fault or that I didn’t have enough “faith”. I had to start from scratch again at the age of 34, with a broken body, being without profession and being very misunderstood.

1914139_156690812714_1555829_n
2008-2009: 70% of body covered with 2nd degree burns. I was unable to go outdoors much. I was trapped indoors, in pain, and had to watch my life dwindle away.

I managed to bottle up some of the emotions leaking out during those times. Can I share some here? Can you feel my hopelessness?

Picture this, Imagine that
Crawling on my fists, Lord, where you at?
on the bed alone, dying, I was broken and sad
like mice running away and death was the cat
2nd degree burns, failing liver, what kind of choice was that?
Like caught in a vacuum, lose your voice in that?
broken toys in that Burlap Sack, thrown away like that
Flesh flaking, blow off the flies that my wounds attract
I’m shaking, throw off goodbyes that I shouldn’t have had.
Perspiring far too long, my skin burns right back.
Have I been gone too long? Just tell where my friends are at?
Has it gone too wrong? Tell me why my friends do that?
Has it gone so wrong? I never meant that.
I never meant that. (2009)

I have many stories of devastation that will make anyone cringe. But I also have literally dozens of non-trivial stories that tell of God’s goodness. I’m talking about stories like this, or that – the ones that leave you with a sense of wonder, surprise or even moroseness. These were the ones that were either stepping stones – helping me believe God really does exist, He’s there, and He loves me enough to help and change me. Or the ones that were so dark and painful – these provide the contrast that set up just how redemptive the God-story lines were.

Monster

You know who else hit those lowest of rock-bottoms?

Joseph. Job. Jesus. The triple Js.

Joseph was sold as a slave, was betrayed by his family and was imprisoned unjustly. Job lost everything, and the world despised him. Jesus took the ugliness of the world on his shoulders, was beaten, condemned and crucified on the cross – the mere anticipation of his crucifixion made him sweat blood.

You know what else is cool? God helped everyone of them and established a greater purpose for them.

The good news is that if God can help a person in those rock bottoms, how much more can He help us?

But if I had just one message to tell. It might be just this:

This one message is the foundation in which all my other story arcs derive its fuller meaning. Data scientists would say that information is when data receives meaning and relevance. Data is useless in the long term unless it can be harnessed into information that can be acted upon. Our experiences are like data. But this one message I will soon tell is the foundation which my other stories are built on, or the encryption key that decodes meaning to what I had to go through and what I read in the Bible. It is within this decoding that I see God for who He truly is, how beautiful Christ is, and in the process I, as well as the circumstances around me, are transformed into His perfect will. Some preachers would say this decoding is to catch “revelations of grace”. Revelations into Christ is like the encryption key of a crypto-currency that can unlock spiritual wisdom and currency.

encryption-key

My friend, it’s just these three things I am so glad that were instilled in me since young, that were proven in real time through the dark storms of life – the futility of medicines and current medical thought, the rejection from the world, hitting rock bottom multiple times, the 24-hour cycles of distracting physical pains, seeing loved ones leave you.

I tell you this as a survivor of hopelessness. If you’re truly in a hopeless state now, I know you are resisting this message even now. You think no one understands what you are going through and that no one is qualified to speak into your life. I felt this way before as well… but give God’s Word a chance. Not what some Christian speakers have said, but see exactly what God’s word says. I guarantee it will lay roots, a seed, that will produce fruits in due time – when you least expect it. So if you are a child of God going through extreme pain and hopelessness, this message talks of 3 Biblical principles …

3. THREE. 三. Tres. Tiga.

Thought 1: God is there in your darkest times.
Thought 2: God is not there to condemn you or finger point or finger wag – He is there in perfect love to rescue you.
Thought 3: Your darkest moment might be the start of your greatest rebirth and victory.

Thought 1: God is there in your darkest times, regardless of whose fault it was.

In what you imagine is your darkest time, and I mean darkest times – where you can’t possibly see any human way out because the world calls you too poor, too dumb, too unattractive, or you’re feeling too condemned because you made too many mistakes, or that mistakes were made on you from others, I’m talking about those darkest times, God is there even when there seems to be no one left that believes in you.

King David went through multiple dark times almost in escalating fashion in the course of his life. David had to run for his life to avoid the murderous, treacherous Saul who was trying to kill him to protect his own throne when David didn’t deserve it (1 Samuel 21). David also had to witness his family and kingdom being torn apart as his own son Absalom tried to usurp David’s throne, all this due to a set of events, caused by David’s own heinous sin of murdering an innocent man so he could marry that man’s wife (2 Sam 15-19).

In the “richness” of having experiencing these personal hells, caused by other people’s aggression as well as his own mistakes, David could say to the Lord in his famous Psalm 139:

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
Psalm 139:7-10

David likens his personal hell to Sheol. Sheol was regarded as a place for the dead, a very dark place indeed. Unlike this world, Sheol is devoid of love, hate, envy, work, thought, knowledge, and wisdom (Ecclesiastes 9:6 Ecclesiastes 9:10 ). Even in such a place, David was confident God would still be there. Even better, God would use his right hand, a symbol of God’s best, to protect and guide. A person of high rank who put someone on his right hand gives him equal honor with himself and recognized him as possessing equal dignity and authority. What?! A sinner given equal honor in Christ? Isn’t that the Gospel in a nutshell?

This is also a picture of how God sees you in Jesus (Hebrew 10:14, 2 Cor 5:17). Perfect in His eyes, though imperfect in thought and action.

This attitude of always turning to God no matter whose mistake it was and how deep in your personal hell you are in is part of why God tells us that David “is a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22, 1 Samuel 13:14), even after all of David’s mistakes were made. Because you have to be so confident in God’s loving kindness to know God would always accept you despite your mistakes and personal hell. And God loves it when you know His loving kindness (Hebrews 11:6).

Even better is that the darker it is, the more He is there, it’s just that your eyes can’t see him because you are in the middle of the storm. Your eye might not be on Him, but during those times, His eye is most on you.

So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the LORD opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:17)
Thought 1: God is there in your darkest times.

Is 432 When you go through the deep water I will be with you

Thought 2: God is not there to condemn you or finger point or finger wag – He is there in perfect love to rescue you.

Even if we believe God is there, we might see him with the wrong lenses. He is not there like a condemning spirit, pointing fingers to you to accuse you and say “I told you so.” This produces fear and that is the devils and the Law’s job (2 Cor 3, Rom 7). This way of thinking due to the conditioning by the fallen world onto our own personal sinful nature that came because of the sins of Adam.

No my friends, God’s perfect love is the type that drives out all fear (1 John 4:18), and when the real God comes close, because of what Jesus has done, wherever your place, there will be freedom (2 Cor 3:17). FREEDOM from your circumstances. FREEDOM from condemnation. FREEDOM to pursue a destiny that the enemy cannot stop (Jer 29:11-13).

Romans 8:1 tells us without ambiguity, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

NO condemnation. If you feel condemned, then that’s not the true spirit of God but some other spirit that you should reject.

But God doesn’t just turn up with love.

Unlike the ways of the world today, His love comes with action. His love comes with a plan – and that plan is good.

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jer 29:11-13)

As a side note, notice the grace ways of God. God blesses first “then you will call on” Him. In grace, God blesses first, even when we don’t deserve it; and that goodness of God causes us to repent (Rom 2:4, Luke 5:1-11, John 21:4-8). But under Law without Jesus, you will only be blessed if you obey a special standard, and punished if you don’t. That’s why Paul declares Grace as the better covenant versus the Law (Galatians 3-5).

But dark times are special events, unlike normal events. When God comes during those times, special things happen. The Bible says that when God comes into your tribulations, the result will always be one of hope, and this type of Biblical hope does not end in disappointment.

3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Rom 5:3)

Why will our journey not end in disappointment? Because He makes all things work for you – even the things you do not realize. Imagine all the good events in your life and the bad events. Imagine all of people’s intentions for you, some want the best for you, others want to destroy you. Imagine how nature and the economy can cooperate with you, helping your business or career, but other times, they go against you.

All of these things are like employees working for you to produce God’s best!

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. (Rom 8:28)

God will do it not because you deserve it, else we would always be in fear of blowing it. God does it on account of Christ, because Christ loved you enough to pay the price for all your sins, past and future. Christ, not you, is the author and finisher of your faith (Heb 12:2). An author is someone that starts a narrative with a finish in mind. You have a plan and purpose.

Thought 2: When God comes during your dark times, He comes in love and a redemptive plan that doesn’t end in disappointment.

jer2911

Thought 3: Your darkest moment might be the start of your greatest rebirth and victory.

That’s the example of Joseph – being imprisoned and forgotten for years from a crime he did not commit in the middle of his life seem to nullify all the effort he put in during the first part. Turns out this was Gods perfect transition for Joseph to become governor in Egypt to save many lives as well as for his own personal redemption of the hurts his family inflicted on him. Joseph’s many years of suffering in isolation all started because his very own flesh and blood betrayed him by selling off as a slave.

Can you imagine that?

They didn’t just isolate themselves from him, they wanted to destroy him. A slave has no real prospects, no family, no savings, and no real friends at the time. He was sold for a small bunch of money too. Was that all Joseph was worth to his brothers? In the decades spanning the terrible event of this betrayal, Joseph had many setbacks. Potiphar’s wife landed him in prison when he was innocent. The butler he helped was supposed to help him but forgot, adding years of prison time to his sentence. In all those setbacks, I’m sure he would have realized that none of these bad things would have ever happened if his brothers wouldn’t have been so envious, so evil.

But Joseph’s transformation as a person was necessitated by the receiving of God’s grace. God didn’t just expect him to forgive his brothers with no help, for God knows Joseph is a finite human with real feelings and a vulnerable ego. Look at Joseph’s response to his brothers after becoming Egypt’s governor and finally seeing them again after what was decades.

20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. (Gen 50:20-21)

Whatever Joseph lost because of his brothers, God gave him even more. The receiving of God’s grace, empowered Joseph to forgive – “So then” it says in verse 21. Joseph knew that if he had not received the Lord’s grace redemption of his situation, he would not have the maturity to forgive his brothers.

We love, because He first loved us. We give, because He first forgave us. We can take betrayed and what others stole from us, because God restored even more. In this peculiar paradigm, in an odd way, we can even be thankful others tried to wrongly steal from us, because as children of God, God promises that He will restore even more than what was stolen.

Consider Job in the Old Testament. When he lost everything, his wife told him to curse God and die. He refused and, instead, responded to God in faith, and “the Lord gave to Job twice as much as he had before”. (Job 42:10)

In future posts, I will write about how Job was a brilliant prototype of Christ, the same Christ we worship and receive as God’s gift.

The Bible says that we are “prisoners of hope” compared to “prisoners of sin” when we didn’t have Christ. When we have hope that comes in Christ (Rom 5), these Old Testament verses that speak of the future kingdom start to have their fulfillment (Mat 5:17).

Return to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope. Even today I declare that I will restore double to you. Zechariah 9:12

Double for what was lost on account of God. When we follow God’s way, we are now a participant of a different economy. When we lose things because of God, he restores more. Such is how God’s economy works differently from the world’s economy.

This is but one of fruits of the kingdom of heaven, it starts in the heart and starts small; but the eventual fruit allows you to be transformed to a person that by the end of the journey, others will nest under your wings. Your journey that started from darkness will end in loving strength that others depend will depend on. And because it’s a fruit and not based on work, it will happen automatically. Even when we are sleeping God’s plan for you is working and churning.

31 It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; 32 but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.” (Mark 4:31-32)

But this hard swerve into the ways of the Kingdom and God’s economy usually starts from a place of darkness. In God’s hands, dying to ourselves multiplies our true potential. It is in our darkest moments where we finally let go and let God, where we die to ourselves and finally allow God the master potter, to mound us in His fashion. See the way the Kingdom of heaven starts?

24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:24)

That’s also the example of Jesus. How many people would have thought that Christ’s death was the end of Christ’s story and His impact? Can you imagine the devil gleefully thinking that he has succeeded in stymieing the plan of God for the world? So Christ’s darkest time was the time of God’s greatest victory. The world was saved, and Jesus was promoted to the right hand of God, resting because the job was done.

This is one of the reasons why I loved Star-wars episode 4, A New Hope. Obiwan’s death was the start of a bigger victory – it reminded of what Christ did for us. He died so that the Holy Spirit can empower and guide us from within. The alternative is far more frustrating, trying to obey God’s Laws from the outside and by our own works. The entire Old Testament is there to show us that as human beings, we cannot “will” ourselves to  match that perfect standard  (Deut 28:15).

That’s the pattern of a loving God working grace you’re your life through Jesus Christ.

Here’s my triple J rule, from the examples from Joseph, Job and Jesus.

Thought 3: God is the most attentive to you during your dark days even when it seems is the least attentive. Your darkest moment could be the start of a glorious new beginning. Your darkest time can be the start of your biggest victory.

So in summary, here are the three thoughts that I will elaborate and add color to in the next few post. Be blessed my friend. There is hope. His name is Jesus.

Thought 1: God is there in your darkest times.
Thought 2: But when God comes in your dark times, He comes in love, without condemnation, and with a redemptive plan that doesn’t end in disappointment.
Thought 3: Your darkest time is when God is most there even when it seems He is the least there, and it’s the start of a glorious new beginning. Your darkest time can be the start of your greatest victory.

… and because of these 3 reasons, confirmed by price Christ payed for us, I can confidently say:

“Your pain shall not be wasted.”

When it’s all over, God will use it for His glory. You will be a trophy of grace.

God bless,

Ken

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2 thoughts on “Dear Prisoners of Hopelessness …

  1. Reading your posts often seems like reading my own life story.
    The beauty is that you always have that encouraging point to make. Thx for yet another great sharing, love the verses and the 3 points.

    Even when I myself am still holding on to God’s promises, just like to share with you Joel 2:25 “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,..”

    Our God restores!

    Like

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