Chapter 24- Overcoming the Pain of Yesterday
(Rough draft chapter from my next book)
Amplified Bible (AMP)
25And I will restore or replace for you the years that the locust has eaten–the hopping locust, the stripping locust, and the crawling locust, My great army which I sent among you.
I have purposely waited until this point in the book to address this subject because, for me, coming to this understanding was the turning point in my life that liberated me and set me back on course both in ministry, focus and destiny.
Much of what I have addressed in throughout the previous chapters, I had a pretty decent grasp upon going into the time when I learned this lesson, but when I was confronted with this realization, my entire life and paradigm of who I was shifted!
Like many who have spent any length of time in church, I was very wounded. In hindsight I realize that people are people and everyone, including myself, has made mistakes and done things that would hurt others in some capacity. Sometimes the wounds are superficial and sometimes the wounds go very deep. But there is a common thread of pain throughout humanity and relationships…We’ve all experienced it and for many of us, the most difficult hurts have been at the hands of people who we cared about…
The circumstances that I encountered leading to my own disillusionment was actually multi-faceted and in a season where I became very frustrated with Christians. I knew what the Word of God said, but I was immersed in an environment, living in the belt buckle of the bible belt where, almost everyone that I encountered claimed to be a Christian but it seemed that nearly everywhere I looked I was seeing blatant inconsistency between what people said they believed and their actions.
To be fair, not everyone that I encountered was exampling this inconsistency, but in the place where I was at emotionally and spiritually, the devil made sure to place those who would add to my frustration, right directly in my path and then whisper things like “see, there’s another one” so that my mind became consumed with cynicism and distain for Christians who, in my assessment were failing miserably in their walk with God and love for people.
In this season, some leaders in my life fell or showed me a side of themselves that I did not expect or want to see and I began to slide backward into a very negative mentality about Christianity or those who I DEEMED lacking a real relationship with God because they were legalistic and religious by my standards. I was let down and hurt and it was very easy to see things from a jaded perspective.
In this season, after 9 years of serving as a youth pastor or an associate pastor, I was seriously contemplating forfeiting my ministry credentials and pursuing another career full time. I was just in a place where I didn’t want to even be associated with Christians or Christianity and couldn’t seem to shake the pain associated with my experience which I realize now was rooted in a bitterness that was further feeding the flame of frustration. It was a terribly unhealthy place to be as a pastor and I felt like a poser even allowing people to call me Pastor Aaron because I knew, in that season, I did not have a pastors heart.
Those who knew me best were concerned for me because this cynicism was also bleeding into every other area of my life. On several occasions, my wife expressed deep concern to me for what she saw happening but felt powerless to address. My parents were concerned as well. I remember many conversations with my father on the phone when he would attempt to encourage me, but because I was in a dark place in my mind, I was not completely able to receive what he or anyone else had to say.
Emotional pain and offenses have a way of influencing so much about who we are and how we respond, particularly when we hold on to them and refuse to release them. Without getting into details that would hurt other men’s reputations, but to make clear where I am coming from, I was holding on to feelings of bitterness as a direct result of feeling intentionally used, lied to, manipulated and taken advantage of. All of which were factual without argument, but I believe my response to how I was treated was causing more damage than the actual events had and it was holding back my destiny and even causing me to question whether or not I even wanted to pursue it anymore!
I’m not proud to say, I lived in this place for a considerable time, a few years to be exact, and the longer I lived there, the worse I felt about the issues that were plaguing my mind. I wanted to hear from God but the voices that I was entertaining actually kept me from clearly hearing what I believe He was trying to speak to me during that season. I felt like I was alone, but what I didn’t realize is that my response to the pain that I had experienced positioned me in a place where I could not receive my breakthrough. It was a catch 22. I needed to hear, but I couldn’t hear because of the choices I was making which in turn caused me more frustration at the lack of direction! I was just in a bad place!
God is Faithful
You know, God’s faithfulness is crazy to me! Even when I was standing in the way of my own progress, God was planning to provide another means to reach me where I was at. I wasn’t in a place to hear from Him directly because I wasn’t listening, I wasn’t hearing what people who loved me and had my best interest at heart had to say because I felt like I knew better than them and I sure wasn’t going to go to someone I didn’t know for advice…so I was left wanting answers that no one could give me…or at least none that I was able to hear…Then God intervened…
My parents came to visit from Detroit and my dad asked me if I would take him to the church of some preacher he had seen on TV. I’ve got to tell you, I was not too thrilled with the idea of going to any church, but especially not some TV preachers church, in the heart of the bible belt. My cynicism in this season had grown to an all time high and the lack of trust I felt for Christians in general, let alone some guy who was on TV was pretty much off the charts. But, because it was my parent’s vacation, I complied with their request and took them to this Oasis Church in Nashville.
As is Gods M/O He started working on me before the first note of the first song and I found myself liking the vibe of the church and the people who were coming up to me and saying hi. The church was very ethnically diverse, which I LOVED and was also very uncommon in this part of the country. So, I found myself actually kind of intrigued as to why this place was different than others I had experienced.
The worship team did a really good job and then up pops this guy that dad had seen on TV, Pastor Danny Chambers. My first impression of him was, he seemed like a nice enough guy who was relatively down to earth, so I was willing to listen and see what he had to say… and then he went into the message that shattered my world-How Long Will You Mourn Yesterday…?
How Long Will You Mourn Yesterday
I grew up in church, I went to a TV preachers bible college, at one time, my aspirations were actually to be that guy on TV so I pretty much had the impress me mentality about pastors because, from my arrogant perspective, there wasn’t much that I hadn’t heard or didn’t know about the bible. As I listened to this pastor, he started sharing this story about the Prophet Samuel.
1 Samuel 16:1
Amplified Bible (AMP)
1 Samuel 16
1THE LORD said to Samuel, How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided for Myself a king among his sons.
Samuel was in a very uncomfortable predicament for a prophet. You see, in his day and time, a prophet of God was held to a very high standard. If they prophesied in the name of the Lord and were wrong they would be branded a false prophet and put to death. So, when Israel wanted a king, God showed Samuel that a man named Saul was to be anointed as their leader and the king He had chosen.
1 Samuel 9:17
Amplified Bible (AMP)
17When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord told him, There is the man of whom I told you. He shall have authority over My people.
For a time, Saul led the Israelites faithfully and brought them victories over their enemies. But Saul had an internal issue with insecurity and in a time when he should have listened to the direction of God, he succumbed to the feelings that he was losing the peoples faith in him and Saul disobeys a direct instruction from God and finds himself being rebuked by the same prophet who anointed him as king.
1 Samuel 13:13-14
Amplified Bible (AMP)
13And Samuel said to Saul, You have done foolishly! You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God which He commanded you; for the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever;
14But now your kingdom shall not continue; the Lord has sought out [David] a man after His own [a]heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince and ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.
This grieved Samuel and actually placed him in grave danger. Even though he had anointed Saul, as king, Saul could have had Samuel put to death for coming against him. In addition to this, the people could have deduced that Samuel was a false prophet because he now appeared to be talking out both sides of his mouth and contradicting himself in saying that God chose Saul and then a few short years later now rejected him.
I’m sure that there was a bond that Samuel had with Saul. He likely loved Saul and maintained a close friendship with him. There were likely meals together, time spent in laughter and friendship with his family, times that Samuel spoke into Saul’s life and encouraged him to be the man that God created him to be and that Samuel believed he could be…and then the rug was ripped out!
Samuel’s first allegiance was to God and as a prophet I’m sure there were times, in this season that he questioned a lot of things just like you and I would in similar circumstances… Did I miss it somehow in hearing God…? Did I fail Saul as his spiritual advisor…? Did I fail my country…? How am I going to move forward in this calling on my life after such a catastrophic failure and set back?
But in His faithfulness, God confronts Samuel’s wrong thinking by asking him, How long will you mourn yesterday? God’s call upon Samuel did not change because his circumstances changed. God’s positioning of him as a prophet did not change because of a temporary set back. Going through a season that wounded him emotionally did not close the door to his future. Saul, because of his own choices became a part of Samuels past but God did not define Samuel by the past. Even though Saul was no longer the leader in Gods eyes, God was already planning to set up Samuel for his next fulfillment as a prophet by anointing David as king, who incidentally ended up being the greatest king in Israeli history!
Samuels’ destiny was not defined by a seasonal failure! When things fell apart, God was already posturing Samuel for his next success! I’m sure Samuel wondered if his legacy would be, the prophet who anointed the king who failed… But in true God fashion, He shakes Samuel from his personal pity party and puts him back in the game after, what appeared to be a career ending loss… With God, a setback is nothing more than an opportunity where He can make what seems impossible a reality!
Once David assumed the throne, the failure of Saul and his connection to Samuel was a distant memory! The memory of Samuel, through the faithfulness of God, became the prophet who anointed the greatest king of Israel!
Now, ask yourself, what would have happened if Samuel would have continued to mourn Saul after God told him to get back in the game! What if he would have just continued to wallow in the memory of his loss and what he perceived to be failure beyond restoration? What if Samuel had chosen to tell God, I’m through, I’m not going to anoint another king and be associated with another failure… ? If he had taken that position, his every fear would have been confirmed and his legacy would have been defined by a failure that was never overcome! Samuel did still have a choice to either follow God in what he knew was his calling in life or to throw in the towel and be the prophet who used to be God’s voice to his nation!
Get Back In The Game
I had read this story many times in my life but never heard it from this perspective. I never placed myself in Samuel’s shoes or saw the parallel for my own life until that moment! I realized that I was at a Y in the road and the choice I made would affect my destiny! I felt like I was in the place where Samuel was when God asked him, How long will you mourn yesterday. To me, it felt like God was saying to me, Aaron, it’s time to get up and let go of all of this stuff that is keeping you from what you were created to be!
I had lost my vision for tomorrow because of the pain and letdowns of yesterday. Like Samuel with Saul, I was frustrated with relationships that I believed my future was tied to and I felt like, because of their failure and broken promises I was left hanging. But, I realized that I had placed a faith in man that I should have only had in God! I realized in that moment as I was listening to the preacher that I didn’t even care to see, that God, in His faithfulness, brought me to that place for that exact message and that it was He who had placed this call upon my life to do what He created for me to do and it is up to me to continue to walk in that because it is He who is faithful to complete what He began in me!
At one point in my life, I was so full of faith and I believed that God had purposed me for greatness and although I had lost sight of that by allowing people to sway my focus, I was seeing clearly the deceit of the enemy who was trying to steal from me the legacy that God created for me. I reflected back on my earlier years in my ministry, when I would make statements like, I will follow God if everyone in the world turns away…and yet, I was in a season where people’s actions caused me to doubt that I even had a purpose anymore! I had taken my eyes off of God and in this moment in a single church service, God was telling me, Get up, it’s time for you to get back in the game! …and I did…
After the Rain
Matthew 5:45 says that the rain falls on the just and the unjust. Occasionally I will jokingly say, with a king james slant, Manure Occureth. We all experience our Samuel moments of pain, frustration and setbacks. It is an inevitable part of life. I’m not minimizing or trivializing these moments by flippantly saying, Manure Occureth, I’m only saying that it’s par for the course. I realize that for some, the pain one experienced may be much less than another’s and sometimes someone else’s setbacks seem much more temporary than our own. I don’t have an answer for why that is in your life but, it is what it is. We are the sum total of our life experiences and who God has called us to be! We can allow our negative encounters to define us or we can allow God to mend them and use what we have learned from them to define our future.
The hurt that Samuel felt concerning Saul probably followed him all of his life. Not from a wallowing in it perspective but from a love for a friend perspective. The relationship between a king and a prophet was a special one and when everything happened and Saul was eventually killed, I’m sure it grieved Samuel’s heart. But Samuel still had a destiny of his own to fulfill and he couldn’t allow himself to be held back because of a series of circumstances that restructured his life temporarily.
The rain will fall, that fact is inevitable. But, what the rain produces in your life depends on the seed that is in you and whether or not you are cultivating it. Each of us has a seed of destiny in our lives! God has a plan for us that will put behind us our greatest disappointments if we will cultivate it and allow God to continue to work in our lives. We have the ability to keep our destiny seeds maturing by how we respond in seasons when God is attempting to better us in spite of our circumstances.
Amplified Bible (AMP)
28We are assured and know that [[a]God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.
This scripture doesn’t say that all things ARE good, it says that God is faithful to work them together FOR our good. I am convinced that the devil throws things at us to destroy us! Many times the rain that we are experiencing in our lives was meant for our destruction, but God takes it and works it around for our good.
I can say that there have been a lot of things in my life that I wish I could have learned a different way or avoided all together, but it is what it is… My experiences, good and bad, are a part of my story and something that God has used to help others.
If I hadn’t experienced the things that I have in my life, my ability to relate with you and speak from a place of authority on these subjects my have been compromised. In essence, God took that rain in my life and used it to water the seed of my destiny when the devil was hoping to drown it!
God required something of me a few years ago that I spent a lifetime trying to not walk in. I don’t like feeling vulnerable or exposed but I clearly heard Him say one night that, for me and my influence with others, transparency was to be an essential part of what ministry looked like for me. In essence, He was telling me that being transparent will help others see that they’re are not alone and that God is faithful despite pain and perceived failure and if I would allow myself to be transparent, God would use those painful times to be a catalyst not only for my success but other people’s as well!
The lessons that I learned in that season in my life and put on paper here in this chapter are not limited to my experience any more than they were limited to Samuels experience thousands of years ago… My story can be your story!
New International Version (NIV)
9 What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
What you have experienced others have also had to go through in their lives! Some have experienced less, and others more…but you can have the ability to speak into their lives and help them reach their own destiny if you will allow God to use what has been set against you to destroy you and turn it around for good.
It doesn’t mean that there is not a scar from the events or even that there will not be pain associated with the memories…but as you allow God to use you to help and heal others, you will find that you also experience greater degrees of healing yourself.
If you are still breathing you still have purpose here on this earth! No matter how difficult the path has been getting you here, you must realize that your legacy does not have to be defined by your past but can be defined by how God works it together for your future. As painful as yesterday was, realize this, with God you can step into a destiny fulfilled tomorrow.
As the opening scripture in this chapter said, God will restore the years that were stolen and He will make all things new..
Amplified Bible (AMP)
5And He Who is seated on the throne said, See! I make all things new…
I don’t believe that Israel would have been the same if Samuel had not embraced his calling and stepped back into his destiny. I’m not sure that my sphere of influence would have been reached as efficiently as it was, had I not submitted to doing it…and I’m not sure that your influence can be replaced in the way in the capacity that you were created to have it… Each of us have a unique calling and God wants to use us FIRST to complete that calling!
I’m sure God could have raised up another prophet but Samuel was His first choice. Israel needed his gift back then, and today, the world needs YOURS…How long will you mourn yesterday…?
The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.