There are times when it just, it seems like we can’t escape our past, and our future is so uncertain that it’s hard for us to understand as it seems like we are so trapped by who we are that it makes it difficult to become who we need to be.
So it was for Saul of Tarsus. Having abandoned his cause of the destruction of the early Church he was now a traitor to all of those who had once thought of him as an ally. He had journeyed from friend to foe on that road to Damascus, on that road that shook with the power and the might of the Lord. Now they wanted him dead and he was forced to flee the city. (Acts 9:23-25) Yet, even as he did, arriving in Jerusalem after being lowered from Damascus City Walls by basket to make his escape, he was still seen as that persecutor, as that sworn enemy of Christ and his disciples. (Acts 9:26) To them he was still the man who watched as Stephen died, and who had carried so many others off to prison.
But then this can be the trouble that each of us can face as we try to escape our past, struggling to make a new life for ourselves. Perhaps it’s nothing quite as dramatic as those early trials of Saul but it’s there, isn’t it?
It’s there, in those moments, when you feel weak compared to those challenges in front of you. It’s there as you’re reminded of who you were and what that meant, of how that felt, of the hurt and the hardship it brought with it. You want to change, you want to be better, to do better, to leave these things behind. They have a way though of sneaking up and trying to knock you down. Whether it’s depression or anxiety or spiritual guilt or despair or coping with loss, or whatever else it may be in your life it has a way of trying to grab a hold of you and draw you back in, either to pull you back or to break you. At times it just seems like, one way or the other, in one direction or another, there is just no getting out, there is just no escaping.
That’s the world’s way of judging it, not God’s way. When you trust in God He doesn’t judge based on who you are, to Him that’s just there to help mold you into a better, more compassionate person. He judges you based on the person He knows you can be and sets to making and remaking you into that person.
God knows who you were and what you are capable of, and He’s not only able to change you and your outlooks, strengthening you in His truth, hope and faith, making you into a new person; He’s not just capable of changing your heart and mind, writing His righteousness on your spirit as, through Christ Jesus, He redeems your soul, He protects you from a world that doesn’t understand your change. When you put it in His hand and become a new creation in our blessed Savior, the old passes away, as we live in the bold newness of our salvation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
This isn’t to say everything is going to be simple or easy from that moment on. Still in this world we have to face challenges and adversity. Just because you put something behind you doesn’t mean it is going to stay there. The devil and his temptation is always going to try and draw you back into his web. He knows what has had power over you… fear, desperation, depression, despair, hurt, heartbreak, bitterness, sorrow, loss, sin, unrighteousness… and he uses these weapons to wound you in his twisted game. He will use old problems to try and create new difficulties, he will use new trials to draw you back into old struggles. He does it because he is always waiting to devour you in his wickedness. (1 Peter 5:8) He is like the wicked man with lies and hatred on his lips to deceive, to corrupt, to crush the righteous, clothed in his arrogance as he tries to ensnare and trap you. (Psalm 10:2-11)
The chief lesson of the conversion of Saul though is that all of these things, all of these trials, all of these temptations, all of our struggles, and stumbles along the path to righteousness and blamelessness, every sin, every moment of doubt, every question, every vice, that stand in our way of becoming people of virtue God wants us to be, our blessed Lord, our glorious Heavenly Father, can and does use to make us better, stronger people. Like steel, when we are tempered in fire we are purified, taken from the flames to be molded into something stronger, something more powerful. If you let it the trials, the tribulations, the struggles and the hardships that you have faced in the challenges of this world and the temptations of our old adversary can give us the capacity to become more than you ever knew possible, to be a testimony to the power of God’s redemption and love for you.
Granted you aren’t going to instantly be at that destination of where you want to be or even where you need to be. That being said, life is a journey of grace, a journey through faith in the hope that we have through the Lord, our God. Even when it feels like everything is in jeopardy, when it feels like your life is overwhelming and the struggles are too much for you, when it feels like there is no escaping the past and the future is so uncertain that you are destine to fail, God is going to give you everything you need. He is going to not only protect you, He’s not only going to change you, He is going to change the world around you in the blessed, wondrous hope He has for you.
Trust God, put it all into the hands of Christ, and know that, in love, the Spirit will move you. Like Saul, through our Heavenly Father, you can be more, you can do more. Just put the fear and the doubt behind you, leave the old at His feet, and move forward in the direction of His blessed creation. When you do God will bless you, and though you may still stumble in the path to His righteousness You will never fall, for He is there to catch you and carry you, to lift you and to magnify you in the miracle of His grace, mercy and peace, given for you. His love, His hope, His blessings will always be there for you, His dear and beloved child.
Lord, grant this unto us all.
Now may the peace of the Lord that peace that surpasses all human knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus even unto life everlasting, Amen.