Question:My zeal for God, I think now, was in the wrong direction. The last couple of days have been real hard. I can't tell you how many times I wanted to just give up and go buy a pack of cigarettes and have a beer at a bar. I did not do this of course, but lately the urge has been real strong. In fact I have felt deep anger toward my wife, which I thought could not exist since I got baptized. Jesus said basically if the tree is bad it will produce bad fruit and clearly I can see some nasty stinky rotten fruit. I am so embarrassed about some of the thoughts I have had that I can't even list them. I keep them inside and hide it, but I feel awful. I didn't want to go to church this morning but went anyway, and even after I took communion and gave to the church I wanted to leave. I guess I feel better now. but what a roller coaster ride it's been! Everyone at church looked so happy and I wasn't at all! I just wanted to go hide and be alone - with a cigarette, of course. How can I go from feeling so much peace and joy to the exact opposite! I'm not sure how long I can hold on if this keeps going.
Whenever a new venture is entered, it starts with overwhelming optimism followed by a sense of frustration or even despair before it levels out to a steady view of the task. It is true in all sorts of things. Newlyweds are ready to conquer the world, but some where around five years there is a period of time where it feels like the "love" died. But it isn't actually that love changed, it is just that the rush gave out. Mothers face it with newborn babies -- we even name it "postpartum blues." Managers are typically warned to watch out for depression that sets in about three months after being promoted to management.
It is not so much a depression as that the new venture generated so much excitement that when the excitement dies down to normal levels it feels so much less. Your urges for alcohol and cigarettes should be seen for what they are: a desire to "fix" the dip in your mood. Alcohol is a depressant. While under its influence "feel" better because the edge is taken off the problem. Of course, it doesn't fix the problem -- the edge will still be there when the alcohol wears off. Often it makes problems worse because the problems are ignored instead of addressed. And so, a spiral can set in where a person seeks out alcohol to avoid problems that won't go away because they are being avoided. Nicotine in cigarettes work in the opposite fashion. They produce "highs" in the brain replacing the good feelings that had come with the excitement with a chemically induced one. It is why cigarettes are so addictive.
Even the anger toward your wife can be explained as an overreaction to coming down from a "high" of becoming a Christian and lacking the cigarettes that you used for so long. You don't feel well at the moment and it has put on edge.
There is a reason for so many passages dealing with the need for Christians to endure. "Beware, brothers, lest perhaps there be in any one of you an evil heart of unbelief, in falling away from the living God; but exhort one another day by day, so long as it is called "today;" lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm to the end" (Hebrews 3:12-14).
When Jesus talked about "bad fruit" he was discussing how people can identify false teachers. "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Do you gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree produces good fruit; but the corrupt tree produces evil fruit. A good tree can't produce evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree produce good fruit. Every tree that doesn't grow good fruit is cut down, and thrown into the fire. Therefore, by their fruits you will know them" (Matthew 7:15-20). We cannot read the minds of other people. You and I don't know what is motivating them. But we can see what they do and people tend to do as they think.
Yes, each of us must combat evil thoughts and desires. It it through these that Satan can get a toe hold into our lives (James 1:13-16). Sinful action is preceded by sinful thoughts (Mark 7:21-23), so it is here we must first do battle. But the fact that a war is going on doesn't mean that we lost. It is only people who have stopped struggling against sin who have lost. "However, what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ. Yes most certainly, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and count them nothing but refuse, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed to his death; if by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect; but I press on, if it is so that I may take hold of that for which also I was taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I don't regard myself as yet having taken hold, but one thing I do. Forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:8-14).
I'm glad that you went and worshiped God Sunday. It means you put the worship of God ahead of your own personal feelings (Matthew 6:33). It means you didn't let Satan win.
Wow, thanks! That really put a lot of confusing emotions in check. I have not given into my desires but have suffered through them, and I have to tell you it's real tough when you lose that spiritual high. I have so many great desires in my heart, but I need to learn to follow God without emotion, I guess, and that for me will be tough. Just like starting out as a laborer on a framing crew, I'm feeling the same emotions. It took me five years of framing to become a lead carpenter and now I look back and am glad I stuck with it and didn't give up and quit. I wanted to everyday it seemed. I need to view my walk with God the same way.
I just thought I guess I was going to be living up in the clouds like so many other Christians at church I see. I see other Christians at church and this one guy in particular who leads worship. I played golf with him and man did I feel small. He grew up in the church with a dad as an elder. I grew up in a night club with a dad as a night club owner. His dad made so many godly decisions for his kids and mine had a temper. He followed God's rules about premarital sex and I didn't. It seems like this whole church is filled with these perfect Christian families, which is great, but sometimes I feel like I cannot relate. I'm like the newest addition to my small group in like 20 years it seems. I just wish there were more guys like me in the church that made some bad decisions like smoking or pre-marital sex. I'm sure there are somewhere who can relate. My wife is not saved, so when I'm with these other families I feel like they're thinking "Oh! Your wife's not saved? Ok. Well, we will pray for her." I feel like I'm 4 foot tall. I am encouraged thanks to you. I will go at this like the framer that never gave up but fought every day. This is a fight worth fighting.
It is not that Christians are unemotional, it is that Christians understand the danger of being lead by their emotions. We all get as emotional as anyone else. "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn" (Romans 12:15). Our emotions come because of what we do, and not the other way around.
It is not good to measure yourself by others. It would be just like being new on the job and thinking you're a failure because you can't work like the old-timer who has been on the job for twenty years. "He probably never bent a nail!" It takes time to grow and develop. Christians who have been at it a long time are told to have patience with new Christians, as they sometimes forget what it was like at the first. "Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all" (I Thessalonians 5:14). You need to cut yourself some slack as well and not be so hard on yourself.
Besides, neither you nor I know all the battles these "veteran" Christians have survived. You are only seeing the end results. One of the things Christians learn to do is to let go of the past. "Yes most certainly, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and count them nothing but refuse, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed to his death; if by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect; but I press on, if it is so that I may take hold of that for which also I was taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I don't regard myself as yet having taken hold, but one thing I do. Forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, think this way. If in anything you think otherwise, God will also reveal that to you" (Philippians 3:8-15).
Knowing many Christians over the years, I would suspect that there are far more Christians there who were once like you than you suspect. "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it" (I Corinthians 10:13).
But the past doesn't matter. It is who you are and where you are going that is everything. Your past only gives you experience so you can help others along the way.