Finding Joy // 尋找喜樂

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finding_joy

Our editor Penny shares about her breakthrough in faith and how it changed her view of God forever. WitnessHK編輯Penny分享她在信仰上的突破,及這經歷如何徹底改變她和神之間的關係。 

I’ve been a Christian for as long as I can remember. But my walk with God wasn’t always joyful.

I used to get irritated when people burst out into praise randomly. Irritated—and a bit envious, too. How could they praise God so mindlessly? How did they know those were blessings and not coincidences? These feelings would nag at me, but still I went along with the motions of my Christian life. It was, after all, the only lifestyle I knew. So I went to church, attended fellowship, led Bible studies, did my devotionals…but only when I’d slacked too long and guilt got the better of me.

This all changed three years ago.

Three years ago, a conversation I had with a spiritual mentor—my aunt—touched off a radical transformation in my relationship with God. I’d just flown back to Hong Kong after living a few years overseas, and we were catching up over dinner. Because my aunt’s a seminary professor, I brought along a bunch of spiritual questions. She entertained me a bit, and then, perhaps sensing something deeper to my doubts, turned the questioning around. “Do you remember the times you experienced God?” she asked me.

Silly question to ask a long-time Christian, right? Usually I would have a slate of answers ready: God’s blessed me with a loving family. Good friends. Getting into a good school. Getting into the major of my choice.

But that night, I found myself racking my brains and drawing a blank. I couldn’t in good faith give any answer and mean it. The realization rocked me. In that instant, a deluge of thoughts washed over me: What’s this faith I’ve been practicing for twenty-odd years? If I was never really praying through my important life decisions with God, what have I been doing? My life’s a fraud. Surely God’s worked in my life; surely I can think of one instance…right?

I was sitting there, stunned, as my aunt continued to share about her walk with Christ. It was intimate: She rejoiced with Him on the good days. She confided in Him and prayed through the down days. I realized that on a personal level, that kind of intimacy was an utterly alien notion to me.

My aunt sent me home with this advice that night: Give your devos a rest. No Bible studies. Just pray, and ask God to show you His love for you.

So I did. It turned out to be a freeing piece of advice. For the first time in my life, I stopped posturing and pretending before God. I stopped censoring my thoughts and molding them to fit my idea of holiness. I let loose my defiance. And God and I had some really honest conversations which we hadn’t had in a long time. Like, about how angry and disappointed I was with Him. He knew there were issues I’d been struggling with for years. I felt He was unreasonable, unmerciful, unloving—everything I’d been taught He wasn’t—for not healing me the way I wanted. “I’ve tried hard to be a good Christian, I protested, and look where that’s gotten me; believing in You is anything but joyful.” I was angry, and then depressed because God was obviously against helping me where I was helpless. Sure, I believed Jesus walked in human history, died for my sins, all that stuff that’d been drilled into my head from childhood. But I didn’t believe God really loved me. I was tired of doing the right thing when obedience didn’t pay dividends.

That was when I saw what I’d placed my faith in. It wasn’t in God. In the achievement-driven environment I grew up in, I’d turned faith into another category I had to excel in. And now, because by all appearances my life had spiraled out of my control and was far from the picture of perfection I’d dreamed of constructing for myself, my faith crumpled. In truth, I hadn’t known the Lord. I hadn’t known true obedience. In Oswald Chamber’s words, I hadn’t known God as a “living factor in the planning of [my life]“. I’d merely been doing things my way, and then learned to give God some nominal credit for my worldly successes.

Throughout my Christian life I’d been happy, and in a twisted way, even proud, to call myself a sinner—but only in theory. When I demanded God for evidence of His love, He opened my eyes to the ugly reality of sin in my life. I saw pride, cynicism, selfishness, self-righteousness, and a lack of love in my life. I felt I was taken into darker depths than ever. But instead of rebuking me, God extended His loving, grace-filled invitation. He turned my gaze to the cross, and said, My love is here for you, complete, unconditional, irrevocable, all-satisfying. Will you accept it? I experienced the Gospel afresh.

God owed me nothing. He’d already given me everything.

I started reading the Bible again with new eyes. I rediscovered a God who doesn’t distance Himself from His people’s troubles. I saw a God who allows life’s disappointments—consequences of a fallen world—to bring about refining in His beloved ones. Nowhere does He “magic wand” away frustrations and trials, but for His children, God promises His good purposes will always prevail. A new joy crept its way into my Bible study and prayer time—I knew I could expect an organic conversation with a living God. I could go to Him with my messiest, “ungodliest” thoughts and depend upon finding peace.

The psalmist says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” I once took this verse to God and challenged Him to prove it true. He did. What a wonderful invitation the psalmist gives us, and with what assurance! I want to live every day with this expectation to know God’s goodness. His joy is ours in this very life.

 

從很久以前,我已經是一位基督徒。但是我與神同行的旅程並不是常常充滿喜樂的。

我以往會因為別人突然隨意地讚美主而感到煩厭。煩厭 – 以及有一點嫉妒。他們怎麼可以那麼盲目地讚美主?他們怎會知道那些是恩典,而不是巧合?這種感覺很惱人,但我繼續隨波續流地做著基督徒生活中所應做的事。 畢竟,那是我唯一知道的生活模式。我去教會、參加團契、帶領聖經研讀、靈修……都只因為我鬆散了太久,而且罪惡感成為我的動力。

三年前,這一切都改變了。

三年前,我跟我的屬靈導師 – 我的阿姨 – 的一次對話令我與神的關係引發起激進的改變。在海外住了幾年的我剛剛回港,我們在晚飯時間聊天。因為我的阿姨是一位神學研究所的教授,所以我問了一大堆屬靈的問題。她回答著我的問題,然後,好像突然感覺到我的疑惑有著更深層次的問題,她反過來向我提出提問。她問:“你記得你經歷神的那些時候嗎?”

這個問題對一位信了主那麼久的基督徒很滑稽吧?我通常都會準備好一連串的答案:神賜給我一個溫暖的家、好朋友、讓我進了一所好的學校、報讀了我心儀的科目。

但那天晚上,我發現我不斷地想著這個問題,但卻找不到答案。我不能誠實地給自己一個答案。那覺悟很震撼。在那一瞬間,我的思想有如洪水氾濫般向我湧過來:這二十幾年來我到底是怎樣實踐我那信仰的呢?如果我從來沒有以禱告跟神一起做人生重要的決定,我到底一直在做什麼呢?我的人生是一場騙局。神當然有在我的生命裡作工;我必定能夠想起其中一個例子吧⋯⋯對嗎?

當我的阿姨繼續分享她與基督同行的經歷時,我只坐在那裡,目瞪口呆。她的經歷很親密:在好的日子裡,她跟祂一起喜樂。她信賴祂,並以禱告度過失落的日子。我發現在個人的層面上,那種親密對我來講是完全陌生的。

我的阿姨讓我帶著以下的忠告回家:暫時放下靈修。不要去團契。只祈禱,並求神為你彰顯祂對你的愛。

我跟著她的話做了。那原來是一個能讓我釋放的忠告。我人生裡第一次沒有在神面前假裝。我沒有把我的思想過濾,或根據我認為是神聖的定義把它們改裝。我放膽地挑戰神。我跟神有著久違了的誠實對話,例如,我告訴祂我對祂很生氣和失望。祂知道我有掙扎多年的難題。我覺得祂無理、殘酷、沒有愛心-雖然我所受的教育告訴我祂不是這樣的-我覺得祂沒有為我帶來我想要的醫治。“我有嘗試做一個好的基督徒,我有抗議過,但看看這一切都為我帶來了什麼;信任祢沒有為我帶來喜樂。”我生氣後感到憂鬱,因為神明顯地沒有我無助的時候為我伸出援手。當然,我還相信耶和華在人類的歷史裡存在過,為我的罪而死,以及其它我從童年已被灌輸的一切。但是,我不相信神真的愛我。我每每要做正確的事,但我的服從卻沒有得到回報,我為此感到厭倦。

當時,我才發現我把我的信仰放在哪裡。不是在神那裡。在成就主義環境下成長的我把信仰當成另外一個我要做得比別人好的項目。而現在,因為我的人生已經不在我的控制之內,亦遠遠不符合我夢寐以求的完美人生,我的信仰也跟著粉碎。老實說,我沒有認識主。我沒有明白服從的真義。猶如Oswald Chamber所說,我沒有把神看待為“計畫[我人生]時的一個活著的因數”。我以往只是用自己的方法做事,然後學習把我在地上的成就循例地歸功於神而已。

在我的基督徒生活裡,我有快樂過,而且從一個扭曲的角度,我甚至於(只在理論上)很驕傲自稱為罪人。當我要求神彰顯祂愛的證據時,祂讓我的眼睛看到我人生裡罪過的醜陋現實。我看見驕傲、譏誚、自私、自以為是、而且缺乏愛的人生。我感覺我被拉進了前所沒有的黑暗深淵。但是神沒有訓斥我,反而祂為我送上充滿愛與恩典的邀請。祂把我的目光轉移到十字架上,並說:“我對你的愛就在這裡,完全、無條件、不反悔、有滿足感的愛。你會接受這份愛嗎?”我重新地經歷了福音。

神並不欠我什麼。神已經賜予我所有。

我開始用我新的眼睛重新閱讀聖經。我再次發現神不會因為祂兒女的麻煩而遠離他們。我看到神利用人生帶來的失望(世界墮落的後果)去磨練祂所愛的人。祂不會把懊惱和考驗“變走”,但祂對祂兒女所應許的美善用意一定會實現。一股新的喜樂注入了我的聖經研讀以及祈禱時間 – 我知道我可以期望和活著的真神有著真實的對話。我可以把我最混亂、最“不聖潔”的想法帶到祂的跟前,並依賴著從祂那裡能找到的平安。

詩篇作者說:“你們要嘗嘗主恩的滋味,便知道他是美善。”我有一次就用詩篇這一段挑戰神,要祂證明這是真的。祂證明了。詩篇作者給了我們一個多奇妙、有著何等保證的邀請!我想懷著見證神的美善的期望度過每一天。祂的喜樂就是我們這一生的喜樂。

Image credit: Flickr/Tigr

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