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Hugs from the Devil

When’s the last time you hugged the devil?  It may be more recent than you think.  The enemy becomes our friend when we least expect it.  Despite all the pain we know he’ll cause, we start to get used to him.  Start to find comfort in his presence, because once he’s been there a while, the idea of change is scary.  Because the longer he’s been there, the more he’s separated us from Christ.  And that’s when he becomes the one we come to rely on.

What is your devil?  Is it drugs?  Sex?  Alcohol?  Food? What in your life comes between you and God?

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2017 was a tough year.  My husband I got sued and eventually settled, but at a great price.  It was a long and drawn out process that left me angry.  Frankly, I was livid.  Not just a momentary kind of anger, but a long-term seething and rabid sort of rage.  I wanted someone to pay. I wanted to make them pay.  None of those musings of vengeance required a shovel and a deep hole, but there were days I actually prayed for a way to take extreme measures against them.  I wanted to hurt them.

And the more I let that anger fester in me, the more separate I could feel myself getting from God.  My old sins, ones I’d long since asked for and received blessed assurance of forgiveness, haunted me.  I felt unworthy of Christ’s love.  And as I warred with that, I began to get anxious.  I knew that before long, I’d be to that point where even the tiniest thing would send me close to a panic attack.

The truth is, this wasn’t a rock bottom moment for me.  I’ve been more despondent and more separate from my God in my life.  But I recognized the signs of what was happening.  I was asking for hugs from the devil. And believe you me, he was right there, willing and waiting to take me in his arms and offer me all the things to make me turn my back on my savior.

I needed to find a way to let go.  I needed to find a way to forgive. And that wasn’t going to be easy.  The reminder of what had happened was right outside my front door every time I left the house.  It was in the community emails that we received.  It was in the good-meaning friends who were eager to tell us all about the latest dirt.  I was surrounded, and it didn’t take much to stir the pot inside me.

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But God knows what we need even before we do.  He provided the manna, and even though it took me a while, thankfully I was willing to receive it.  I can thank any number of people for being the ones he put in my path as I struggled.  My darling friend Tawdra Kandle who shared her own struggles and her example of reliance on Christ.  Scott and Leah Silverii for their wonderful Marriage Matters mission.  My pastor’s sermons that always seemed to be speaking just to me.  And my husband’s steadfast love as we took turns picking each other up when it all got too much for us.  All of those were pieces of the puzzle.

But what really helped me put things all together was the book I just finished writing.  My character is an alcoholic.  The pain and tragedy in her life were caused by the bottle.  And the bottle was her friend.  The one thing she knew she could count on in life.

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I really didn’t know much about alcoholism or the twelve steps before I started writing this recent book.  I’d had some experience in the legal business with clients who had recovered, but nothing much beyond that.  So I grabbed The 75th Anniversary Edition Alcoholics Anonymous on Audible and started listening on my way to and from work.

As the narrator described the alcoholic, I could relate. It seems to me there’s a reason addiction is so rampant in our society together.  It’s a human frailty that any of us can fall into.  Our “drugs” are different.  The levels of impact on our lives aren’t all as destructive as those fighting addiction, but most of us, from time to time, have struggled with something that seemed to take over our lives.  Something that came close to breaking us.

And the principles of recovery described in the twelve steps can be universal, too.  The first step is to admit we’re powerless and that our lives are unmanageable.  It’s when we get to steps two and three that things start to get hard. Step Two:  Come to believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.  And Three:  Make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God.

How does that work?  I didn’t know how to turn things over to Him.  Sure, I’d read it.  Understood it.  Said it to myself.  But I wasn’t practicing it.  I told my friend Tawdra that I was an Indian giver when it came to offering up my worries to God.  I would ask Him to help me, ask Him to take the burden from me, then almost immediately I would snatch them back from Him to stress and worry all over again.

But I was determined to make progress this time.  One of the central tenants of AA is helping others.  At meetings, other alcoholics give their testimony and connect with someone struggling.  And then later, as recovery continues, that person will in turn reach out to others.  It’s the community that is so vital.  When I heard that in the AA book I was reading, it clicked in my mind.

All the signs in front of me were encouraging me, giving me the direction I needed. God was putting everything I needed right there.  When my grandmother died last year, my heart led me to write about my faith, and Tawdra suggested we start a blog for writers.  I’ve been immeasurably moved by the opportunity to work with her and the other authors in our group.

About that time, I also started following and was invited to write for Scott and Leah Silverii’s Marriage Matters/ Faithful blog.  It was during that time when I read about Scott’s struggles with forgiveness.  It seemed his issues were parallel to mine, and so I decided to take some of his suggestions to heart.  I actively and verbally asked God to help me forgive.  I announced to myself that I would forgive, and I started writing those lines in a journal daily.

And then the new year began, and something miraculous happened.  Peace.  Complete and utter peace.  I didn’t feel angry.  I didn’t feel nervous.  All of the rancor and anxiety had melted away.

I’d finally surrendered.  I finally gave it all over to God.

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All along, I’d wondered how forgiveness could happen for me.  Because our particular situation isn’t over yet.  There’s still another lawsuit ongoing, and I just couldn’t understand how, without resolution, I could let go.  Because I still truly feel justice must be done.

But the point is, I don’t have to understand it. God knows.  God knows the situation.  He knows me.  He knows how this will all end, and He knew it even before it began.  He’s got this.

Christ knows every piece of me, and He saw just how and when I would ask for and receive His healing.  In all the times I’ve been in the darkness, in all the times I was offering hugs to the devil, He was still there, waiting.  And all I had to do was call on Him with faith.  All I ever have to do is surrender to Him, and He pulls me out of the clutches of the enemy.

God works miracles every day.  And yes, even this, even my surrender and reception of peace is a miracle.

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Are you struggling today with something?  Are you in the middle of one great big embrace with the devil?  He is there with you.  And He’s offering a light in the darkness.  It might be a friend.  A blog.  A prayer.  A kind word.  Somewhere, He’s sending you the sign right this very second.

If you need prayers, please know that we at A Pen and A Prayer will offer those for you.

Blessings,

Olivia

 

By oliviahardinwriter

When Olivia Hardin started having movie-like dreams in her teens, she had no choice but to begin putting them to paper. Before long, the writing bug had bitten her, and she knew she wanted to be a published author. Several rejections plus a little bit of life later, she was temporarily “cured” of the urge to write. That is, until she met a group of talented and fabulous writers who gave her the direction and encouragement she needed to get lost in the words again. Olivia has attended three different universities over the years and toyed with majors in Computer Technology, English, History and Geology. Then one day she heard the term “road scholar,”' and she knew that was what she wanted to be. Now she “studies” anything and everything just for the joy of learning. She's also an insatiable crafter who only completes about 1 out of 5 projects, a jogger who hates to run, and she’s sometimes accused of being artistic. A native Texas girl, Olivia lives in the beautiful Lone Star state with her husband, Danny, their corgi Bonnie Sue, and their new rescue Heidi Ho.

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