The Bible tells of a man from the country of the Gadarenes whose life was a nightmare. He was driven by the devil into the wilderness, to live alone in the tombs. He was in a crazed state of mind; naked, crying out and cutting himself with sharp stones. Filled with hatred and distrust, he answered to nobody. Not even chains could hold him down. Modern day psychiatrists would have a heyday with him, labeling him as a psychopath with schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, oppositional defiance, along with serious relational problems. If they were able to give him treatment, it wouldnâ€™t have helped.
I was struck by how his life mirrored mine in so many ways, especially in the way we were healed. Born into a â€˜messed upâ€™ family in Newfoundland, my morals and values were honed on the streets and in the justice institutions. At age ten, I had a rap sheet a mile long. Memories of my childhood included: safe hiding places, empty birthdays, abandonment, malnourishment, drug abuse, and physical abuse. I lived through experiences that hardened me with scars to my knuckles, nose, and heart. The age of 16 was a turning point for me. I was an accomplice to an assault, where my co-accusedÂ beat another man to near death. While incarcerated for this, I witnessed another man get beat into unconsciousness. I still remember the fear of the guards bringing someone into my cell. I never slept that first night. Then the authorities allowed me one phone call and gave me a one way ticket back to my former foster parents in Manitoba. Believe it or not, my life of crime ended. I graduated from school, met my wife, became a teacher, raised three sons, and lived happily ever after. (Cue the vinyl record â€˜ halting-scratchâ€™ noise!)
The happily-ever-after part was not to be, because misery followed me day and night for years. I tried to fix thingsÂ by â€˜betteringâ€™ myself with a counselling degree, an increased salary and such. But 25 years later, I still lived hopelessly inÂ a tomb full of apathy. Personal wellness, education and wealth didnâ€™t bring true peace. I grew more miserable because I knew where to find it. You see, I had heard the gospel before. I knew about mankind being cursed and separated from God by sin. I knew that God sent Jesus to redeem mankind. But I willfully rejected God to preserve my lifestyle, albeit a self-defeating one. Knowing the truth and denying it, was taking its toll on me. I began to wish that I had never heard about God, but He wouldnâ€™t let me escape the truth. Instead, He placed into my life a Christian (my wife) and I witnessed her peace for 25 years. I saw her joy, even through difficulties. I knew where she got it, but I held out.
My day of reckoning came following a conflict at work with a challenging man who said that he was â€œin my cornerâ€, and that â€œsomeone upstairs was looking out for meâ€. I was shocked. I didnâ€™t want him â€œin my cornerâ€ but I did need to talk to that â€œsomeone upstairsâ€. So, like the Gadarene, I slumped down in tears and cried to Jesus saying, â€œIâ€™m sorry, Iâ€™m done running, please help meâ€. Immediately, like the man from Gadara, I was sitting at the feet of Jesus. Lifeâ€™s troubles were still with me but I was resting in my right mind with God on my side. It was March 25, 2011 that I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my Saviour. I found true rest for the first time in 46 years!
When I went to tell others, they were not interested. Responses included, â€œwhatever makes you happyâ€, â€œdid you lose your reasoning?â€ and â€œoh, so itâ€™s like wellness?â€ People think that true joy comes only when there is no trouble in their lives. Not so. Jesus says â€œMy peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubledâ€ (John 14:27). Through His peace, I get to consider my troubles a joy. His peace comes through His blood, shed for the penalty of my sins. His love forgives me of sin and relieves me of guilt. It is a peace that surpasses all comprehension. And now that I am saved by grace, I am learning about this incredible peace of God.
â€˜Rest in peaceâ€™ is a phrase usually reserved for the dead. It is written on headstones. But being able to â€˜rest in peaceâ€™ is also given by God to the living, who are alive in Christ. The rest that I have today, comes from faith in the promise of God, that when I die I get to dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. Amen!
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