God proved Himself in a huge way. I was delivered from a mess of a life – sniffing glue, witchcraft, suicidal tendencies, to name just a few of the mess-makers.
On that day, God granted me a new life; a life free from the bondages that had once consumed me. All of the things that were killing me emotionally, physically, and spiritually were taken care of in one night. There was no doubt about my relationship with God or the salvation He had provided.
Okay, that having been said, let’s skip ahead several years.
I’m now in the military. I’m 22 years old, have my own apartment, and things are looking up. I’m very heavily involved in my church and always awaiting opportunities to share Jesus with others. Again, there is no doubt about my salvation. Things are going great! Well, they were going great for a while, anyway.
Eventually, I allowed myself to get tangled up in a situation that was definitely not conducive to a strong and growing Christian walk. In the midst of this situation I heard the Holy Spirit in a loud, non-audible voice (you get to know that internal voice very clearly as you pursue God with all of your heart) say, “Frank, stop.”
My response? “Shut up!”
Now, it may not have been verbalized by my lips and tongue, but it was definitely a shout in my mind to the Holy Spirit to leave me alone. I remember, distinctly, what happened next.
Well, nothing, plus a grieved feeling in my spirit.
The “nothing” was silence. The Holy Spirit did exactly what I demanded of Him (as if I could actually demand anything from God). He became silent, and not for just a short while.
Within a very short period of time, I became convinced that I had blasphemed the Holy Spirit; that by saying “Shut up” I had cast His presence out of my life. I was now scared. No … that’s way too weak a word. I was terrified! At least once a day I would have a panic attack, convinced that one day I was going to be sentenced to Hell. And along with my persisting panic attacks came the company of a new ‘friend’. Depression.
Every area of my Christian walk began a slowly slide downward. Joy was gone. Peace was gone. Assurance was gone. Communication with God was gone. My prayer life deteriorated to silent pleas for forgiveness. My witness was tanking, and my involvement in ministry was dying. Everything that I held most dear for the previous six years had evaporated because of one rebellious shout into the ear of God.
When you’re—and by “you’re” I’m talking about myself—not confident that God wants you talking to Him, or that He’s even paying attention any longer, you don’t want to be around others who have what you can’t seem to get back.
You don’t want to be around Mr. Joe Holy, because that joy and assurance and constant talk of God just begins to scratch against that chalkboard in your soul. You want to scream, “Get away from me you religious zealot!” But, then, you let out a long, deep sigh, knowing that you’d give anything to have those annoying characteristics back in your own life.
For a full year and a half I walked around like this. I say “walked,” but sometimes I didn’t even want to get out of bed. I wanted to be angry at someone, to have someone at whom to shout for my condition! But, it all fell upon me. I’m the one who blew it. It certainly wasn’t God who told Frank Lattimore to “shut up.”
My mind and soul were so consumed by despair that I couldn’t cope any longer on my own. I had to get it off my chest by telling someone. I confessed my whole situation over the phone to my best friend, Jaimie. What a weight I put on him. He didn’t know how to respond, and told me so.
So, this is it. This was my last hope. Even my Christian best friend can do nothing to alleviate my fears. What’s to live for, except to delay Hell for a little while?
As my friend and I conclude our phone call, and I began to hang up, I heard, “Wait!”
Immediately I became alert! “What?!”
“Doesn’t the Bible say something like, ‘It’s impossible to say Jesus is your Lord unless the Holy Spirit helps you?”
A flash of hope! Anxiety replaced by blinding hope. “I uhh … I … I think it does!”
He and I began to tear through the New Testament looking for that passage; that dear, sweet lifeline of God’s Word. My friend found it. 1 Corinthians 12:3b: “…and no one is able to say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.”
“Frank, is Jesus your Lord? Do you want Jesus to be your Lord?”
“Yes! Yes, yes, yes! Jesus is my Lord. I want Him to be my Lord! Jesus, forgive me!”
Tears flooded my eyes as peace flooded my spirit. I knew … again … that I was God’s child. Still God’s child. “Thank-you, God!”
This snippet of Scripture changed the course of my life. It proved that, because I still desired Jesus, I had not gone so far that I couldn’t come back. His hand had always been outstretched behind me as I continued glumly walking away in shame. I just had to will myself to turn around, refocus, and be willing to find and see God’s strong, caring, mighty hand. I had to be willing to reach out to the hand of God that was being offered through another believer. It was my silence, ironically, that had kept me from hearing again.
While I was most certainly on my journey back into a strong relationship with my Savior, the closeness and intimacy was not quick in coming. There is a price to be paid, a consequence, always, for our actions. In my case, the consequence was dedication without any emotional or “still-small-voice” assurances. No “Holy Ghost bumps.” No comforting signs. The only thing that I had was that single, half of a Scripture verse that said everything was going to be all right. But, that was all I needed to persist in the redevelopment of my relationship—my one-on-one communication—with God.
Listen closely… God will draw back from us. He will hide His face. He will allow a void and distance. Why? The answer, I believe, is that God wants us to be desperate for Him. How bad do we want His intimacy? How hard will we push through all of the barriers to regain what was lost (or what we never really had to begin with)?
Will we persist? Will we battle the enemy who wants us to remain in that place of apparent defeat? Will we pick up the only thing we know will work, the Word of God—the Bible?
If the Word of God promises … insists … that we have a relationship with God, through Jesus…
If the Word of God promises … insists … that He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins…
If the Word of God promises … insists … that He will never leave us…
We had better believe the Word of God over our feelings and perceptions.
We will never be able to cancel out one promise of God’s Word. “The flowers will fade, and the grass will wither, but the Word of God stands forever.”
God will allow us—He will allow you—to get close to Him again. He will bless every person’s persistence if that person fights to finish the race. We may wonder… Where is that finish line; where is that comfort of His presence that we seem to have lost from our lives?
It’s there, still. Behind you. Turn to face it. It’s very much worth the time and the effort to reach it.
“I will be with you always, even until the end of the age.” ~ Jesus