Have you ever been sucker punched?
I’m not referring to actually being physically surprise punched, but rather being sucker punched by life. You know that moment where you are be-bopping along and all seems to be right with the world….the birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, the extended forecast predicts sunshine with a slight gentle breeze at a comfortable temperature of 75 degrees; and WHAMO!!
Completely out of the blue you take a straight up gut punch that leaves you staggering and gasping for air while sliding down the ropes of life.
You know, that feeling of being shocked, dazed and confused all wrapped up in one?
I have to believe in my heart of hearts I am not the only one who has had this type of experience.
Even God’s Word is full of examples of people who dealt with surprise heavy weight bouts from The Old Testament straight into The New Testament. Cain killed his own brother, Joseph’ brothers sold him into slavery, David was chased away from all he knew by a madman, Judas betrayed Christ with a kiss, Peter denied ever knowing Christ, and Paul was imprisoned for preaching the Word of God…just to name a few.
In the book of James the author tells us, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” James 1:2 (NLT).
Really, James? Consider it an opportunity for great joy? I don’t know about you, but great joy generally is not even on my radar when the rug gets yanked out from underneath me. Neither is letting others know I have just been handed a heavy blow.
Why do we try to portray ourselves as people who always have it all together?
Why do we act like we are masters at bobbing, weaving and dodging those violent left hooks?
The reality is none of us escape this life without a black eye or two, or even three or four.
I have noticed two common reactions to the sucker punches of life. Now, I know this is not always the case, but I do believe there is value in being honest and admitting we sometimes respond this way.
If you don’t fall into one or both of these categories that is wonderful and I truly commend you, but I am perfectly OK with admitting I have and I still do react this way from time to time. I do not admit this to use as an excuse. I offer my admission to remind myself I still have a long ways to go in applying what God is trying to teach me. Some days the application process occurs seamlessly and sadly, more oft than not I completely miss the mark.
One thing I have noticed after we receive a gut-wrenching life blow, some of us try to downplay the experience.
We listen and are supportive of others, but we stop short of admitting we too have had our jaws popped a time or two. We say “we understand”, but we dare not share how deeply we understand. I’m not sure if it is embarrassment or feelings of being ashamed or what causes us to minimize our personal battles, but we do.
The other action I have discovered some partake in is we disconnect and attempt to recover from the knock-outs all on our own. We withdraw and retreat hoping no one else will notice….just buying our time until life gets better. I can share with you neither of these responses hold any beneficial value, none whatsoever.
How do I know? Because I have been someone who has tried and failed miserably with both. What I have discovered is these responses leave you feeling lonely, intimidated, fragile and full of doubt, fear and questions; none of which is of God.
Somewhere along the way early in my life, I adopted a manner of thinking where I convinced myself if something “bad” happened it was because God was displeased with me and the sucker punch was my punishment.
I am also a person who has struggled with sharing parts of herself especially those deeply vulnerable areas of what I view as epic failures. So, in order to protect myself, I’ve been known to withdraw.
Please notice I said I ADOPTED A MANNER OF THINKING and I CONVINCED MYSELF.
I am grateful God has been patient with me and continues to allow me time to grow and learn more about who He really is and how He can use the sucker punches of life to mold me into who He wants me to be.
I imagine Him from time to time shaking His head in love when I respond like this. Then with a welcoming smile, He holds out His arms ready to scoop me up in His lap and comfort these misguided thoughts away.
Although not always orchestrated by His Mighty Hand, there is nothing that touches me without God’s permission.
With that understanding, I can face whatever is out there with the saving knowledge only He will use it for my good and His glory. What satan means to use to harm me or cause me to stumble, God fully intends to counteract to bring me into spiritual maturity. My battles have often been ugly and many times I have been left bruised and scarred, but I can share with you I am a living example of God’s Amazing Grace.
There have been trials I thought would take me completely under and there have been days I was on the verge of letting go.
I know what it feels like to beg God to make the pain stop and to please turn my mind off. I have gasped for air and felt nauseated all at the same time while being unable to stop my body from shaking.
I have longed for the break of day to peek through the dawn because the night had been so long.
I know what it is like not to have the energy or desire to get out of bed. I have wept until I had no more tears and I have shut down to where I went completely numb.
I have cried out asking God why and I have also shouted out in anger at my Creator.
But with each painful strike, I have been given the perfect measure of faith to take the next step, to get to the next day, to make it to the next glimmer of hope; and some days my friend that is all there is.
My pastor often reminds us of the following…..you are either coming out of a trial, heading into a trial, or right in the middle of a trial.
It is not normal or natural in our human condition to consider a trial an opportunity for great joy; but God’s desire for us is to not respond to circumstances in the normal or natural ways.
In our own strength we will crumble under the weight of the punch, but in God’s strength we can continue on all the while growing in faith and endurance. I don’t know what lies ahead for me and I don’t know what you may be smack in the middle of, but what I do know is Jesus loves you and I more than life itself.
That was evident when He gave up all of heaven to come to earth to be our substitute. There was never going to be anything you or I could do to bridge the sin gap because only the perfect sacrifice would be sufficient.
Jesus Christ was that perfect sacrifice and He willingly came to earth and lived through everything you and I would ever experience.
He being without sin, carried all our sins to the cross to defeat death. He was then raised in glorious victory so that life’s sucker punches would not leave us down for the count. He is our only hope and I know He is reaching down His Hand to lift us up today. How do I know? Because I am living proof that Christ Jesus has met me at my greatest need every single time and I know He will do no less for you!!
Let today be the day you meet someone at their greatest need:)