“What Satan brings against you to destroy you, God redeems to develop you.”
I was deep in my faith, feeling spiritually connected and that God was with me. I felt pure, and light, like nothing could shake me. Then all of a sudden, the past few months have unfolded some very tragic headlines in the news. They did not affect me directly – and yet, they did. I became confused. Surely, this was not the first time that tragedy strikes our nation – but I felt an overwhelming sense of fear, mainly for my child and my ability to protect her.
We went to the movies a couple of months ago to see ‘Finding Dory’. As I was checking showtimes, I remember the thought crossing my mind: “what if there is a shooting in the theater tonight?” – I quickly cast those fears aside and remembered that by living my life that way, the enemy wins. So I stood up, and my daughter and I left for the theater. Once we arrived, we walked towards the ticket counter and stood on line, the movie theater was so crowded. In front of us stood a tall man wearing all black – black boots, a long black trench coat (in the middle of summer) with a black hat and black sunglasses. He had a grim look on his face and stood completely alone with his hands in his pockets. Normally, I would have been fine, but the recent news reminded me that evil lurks and my faith was not as strong as I would have hoped. I thought about leaving the line because I had a bad feeling about that man.
Who had I become? I never used to judge people by what they wore, or how they looked. This is not what I believe in! It’s not fair that I acted that way due to the perceptions, or misperceptions, of my own mind as a direct result of terror put in the world around us by evil.
I reminded myself that I am not to live in fear. I planted my feet firmly on the ground, gripping my daughter’s hand close and told myself: “we are not leaving this line”. I watched him as he slowly looked around, examining the theater lobby. My eyes stopped to notice the police officers standing in uniform stationed to our right and left giving me an extra sense of security, while at the same time an extra sense of alertness to the condition of our nation. When my eyes returned their focus back to the man, he was gone. I looked behind me and through a flood of people I caught a glimpse of him as he was quickly walking to exit the theater. Just like that, he left.
That was living in Fear. Regardless of the fact that I eventually talked myself back into Faith and stayed in line, my thoughts were originally driven by fear.
The news on Lane Graves who was taken by an alligator in Florida really shook me to my core. He was only 2-years-old. How could this happen? How could my God allow this boy to be taken from his parents in such a violent way? I sympathized so much with the parents, trying to fathom the idea of my child being taken away by a wild animal. Then I imagined how Lane felt during those tragic moments, such an innocent young child, only on this earth for two short years, being violently taken from his parents and the life they made for him. It absolutely wrecks me when I picture the terror that must have been in his eyes as he looked back to shore where his parents stood defeated. When the news reported that Lane was missing and that they were still searching for him, I was attentively watching and praying that they would find him and he would be reunited with his parents. I remained faithful. Unfortunately, the worst possible outcome became the newest report on Lane Graves. He was only 2-years-old when he died.
The shootings at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida which killed 49 innocent people was another headline I could not understand. It happened only two days prior to Lane Graves’ tragic attack. These were innocent people who were murdered in cold blood. They had hopes, dreams and plans for the future. They loved and were loved. Now…. they are gone in an instant.
Did God allow this to happen?
At work one day, someone made a comment while we were discussing these tragic headlines. They said, “How can there be a God if there is so much bad stuff in the world?” After I explained my opinion that evil doesn’t come from God – someone else asked if I was “a born again”. I said yes. They accused me of being in a “cult”.
On the days that followed those conversations, I began to question God, my faith, my religion. Everything I believed in, all because the destruction in the world was happening so fast and I was not feeding my faith the way I was supposed to be. All these things, plus other personal circumstances have made me slowly distance myself from Jesus. I was not “on fire” for Him anymore. I didn’t feel like he loved me, or that people loved me. I felt unworthy. I felt like I was being completely misunderstood and “wronged” for trying to do right. I left too much room for the enemy to creep in and destroy me.
In the months since, I have disconnected from my church. I have lost contact with members of the congregation and isolated myself from many people who I would normally associate with. I should mention that a year ago, thanks to my best friend Sandi, I walked into this very same church when I was facing severe adversity within my family. It was the answer to my prayers. I quickly opened up and shared my heart. I was so broken down and defeated, I just needed someone to listen. They listened. They welcomed me. They accepted and embraced my daughter and I. Trust had become a constant struggle for me, but slowly I let my guard come down and began to believe these were real relationships, real friendships, people who genuinely cared about us. I gained some of the best relationships that I have ever had in my life. Newbridge Church became my family at a time when my actual family walked out. I felt like I fit in. Those were some of the best months of my life. It was not until joining Newbridge that I fully understood the meaning of becoming a Born Again Christian. I was saved.
So, why stop going? Why would I walk away from such a wonderful place?
Yes, fear has kept me from the place that originally restored my hope. It may have been my mistake to share so much of my story so soon, but I was a single mother with no support, facing a crisis. I had nowhere to turn – so yes, a year ago, Newbridge was my refuge. Recently, however I began to feel shame and embarrassment, like I had become overly exposed; like too many people knew my story, yet none of them really understood me as a person. I have done much thinking about this, and I realize now that the enemy preyed on me during a vulnerable time when I was already questioning God. Satan crept in, and clouded my mind, telling me that church was the place I needed to avoid. He fed me lie after lie: “They are going to judge you”, “They think you are a failure.”, “They laugh at you.” “They don’t really care about you the way they say they do.” . More and more distance grew and now, it’s been over three-months since I have set foot in my church. I still worship and pray, I still listen to the sermons online, but I am alone. All because I let fear take over.
In these past months I have spoken to non-believers. Some are friends some were acquaintances. I embrace people for who they are and I never judge them for their beliefs. But having doubted God, and felt what the desolation feels like; having heard from others who don’t have faith, I have come out from this experience stronger and I know which side I choose. Yes, I will continue to befriend non-believers, and I will never act as though I am better than anyone else for my beliefs. But I will also never forget how empty it feels to lose faith. I would rather have Faith and be homeless, than be rich and believe in nothing. Because when disaster strikes, like it did for Lane Graves and the people in the Orlando shooting, it is only with Faith that we can continue living and hoping and understanding. Without it, we are just existing, by chance.
I want to know that I am not here by chance. I am here for a specific purpose. That purpose is not to live in fear. It is not to run away from those who have shown me love. It is to love others the way I wish to be loved. And it is to walk by Faith.
© Caitlin De Naples TheRevivalExperience, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Caitlin De Naples and TheRevivalExperience with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.