Amy Winehouse was a train wreck waiting to happen. Those of us who followed her downward spiral in the media knew the crash was imminent. Perhaps she did too. But I don’t judge her. She was just another damaged soul in a cruel world, and I just wish she were here today still belting out soulful tunes.
All of us have those dark corners in our soul. I, too, once had a dangerous snake coiled in a dark corner of my soul. Moby sings about these personal, painful places we all have tucked away in our dark corners on his album, Play “Natural Blues:” Oh Lordy, trouble so hard. Don’t nobody no my troubles but God.”
I tried everything I knew to kill my own snake. I starved it. I ignored it. I prayed it would go away. Sometimes I would convince myself that it wasn’t all that dangerous, and so I would take the snake out and play with it, perhaps for a few hours, sometimes for a few days, but it always turned and bit me, just as it did Amy.
Its poison would course through my veins for weeks. I would spend days, sometimes months, hating myself, feeling at turns hopeless then angry that this snake had so much power over my flesh. Worse, the poison ate away my faith, drew me away from God, and rendered me harmless to the enemy. “We know that the law came from the Holy Spirit. But I am a weak man. I have been sold like a slave to do wrong things.” (Rom. 7:15)
As the months turned into years, I continued to battle the snake through prayer and repentance, and a strange thing happened on the way to deliverance. I began to hate the snake. “I do not know why I do the things I do. I do not do what I want to do. But I do the things I hate. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but my wrong ways in me. (Rom. 7:16-17)
In my profession in the legal field, I have seen the damage that addicts cause to themselves and to their families. There is no program apart from God, no matter how many steps it may have or how gently it dries a person out, that can effectively salve the wound that caused the individual to seek solace for their pain in the first place. Life is cruel and being numb helps. If it didn’t feel good, it would have no appeal.
It was during my own dark nights of the soul that I became truly cognizant that I was absolutely helpless to conquer my own sin nature or stop the bleeding in my heart. I was completely and wholly dependent upon Jesus to save me from myself. This sounds so simple—but not so fast.
How often do you find yourself taking your own sanctification bull by the horns as if you have the power to change yourself through sheer resolve. No matter how sincere our intentions may be or how short a leash we put our vice on, God wants us to recognize that apart from His Spirit, these are flesh-based works. Ultimately, they are impotent. He and He alone conquered death and sin.
I often wondered why God didn’t just instantly deliver me from this vice that had such a stronghold in my life. Why doesn’t He save countless others enslaved to sin that is—quite literally—killing them?
In my own case, I believe God wanted me to see my true self, that is, that I am a wretched sinner saved by grace and grace alone. He already knew this, but did I? Did I really understand my own depravity of soul? Do you?
I also believe God wanted to personally reveal Himself to me: “…but let him who boasts, boast about this: that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the Lord.” (Jer. 9:24)
Through your trial, you will come to know Him if you don’t give up. Failure is part of the letting go of self and taking God’s hand instead, and it is part of the process of becoming more like Jesus and less like ourselves. Oftentimes, if God were to instantly destroy the citadel we have built around self, we would not be able to bear it. In His compassion, He allows us to feel, see, and touch the pain of each brick that comprises our citadel before allowing us to see the whole picture. And brick by brick, He heals us with His Spirit.
But God is a gentleman. He will never override our own will. Though it is Him who heals us, it is only through our posture of humility and our brokenness that God can touch us. “A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish.” (Isa. 43:)
Rather than run from God as Adam and Eve did in the garden after the fall, we must let our failures compel us to come boldly to His throne so that we may receive the grace and mercy of His unfailing love. And when we fail, remember this: “His mercies are new every morning.”