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 wouldn’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 ‘messed up’ 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-accused 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 ‘halting-scratch’ noise!)
The happily-ever-after part was not to be, because misery followed me day and night for years. I tried to fix things by ‘bettering’ myself with a counselling degree, an increased salary and such. But 25 years later, I still lived hopelessly in a tomb full of apathy. Personal wellness, education and wealth didn’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 wouldn’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 “in my corner”, and that “someone upstairs was looking out for me”. I was shocked. I didn’t want him “in my corner”but I did need to talk to that “someone upstairs”. So, like the Gadarene, I slumped down in tears and cried to Jesus saying, “I’m sorry, I’m done running, please help me”. Immediately, like the man from Gadara, I was sitting at the feet of Jesus. Life’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, “whatever makes you happy”, “did you lose your reasoning?” and “oh, so it’s like wellness?”People think that true joy comes only when there is no trouble in their lives. Not so. Jesus says “My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled” (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.
‘Rest in peace’ is a phrase usually reserved for the dead. It is written on headstones. But being able to ‘rest in peace’ 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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