JANUARY 16, 2010 | JUSTIN BUZZARD
Oswald Chambers’ biography is continuing to minister to me. (Todd, thanks for encouraging me to read it).
When Chambers was in his mid-twenties he went through a season he described as “four years of hell on earth.” Chambers wrote, “for four years, nothing but the overruling grace of God and the kindness of friends kept me out of an asylum.”
The more I live and the more I read, the more I see that many people experience a deep crisis of faith in their twenties. I did. The twentysomething decade is a pivotal decade of refinement. Many of you reading this are resonating with this, you know what happened to you, what God did in your twenties.
The crisis that Chambers walked through in his twenties is the same crisis I’ve experienced, and that I’ve observed over and over again in the lives of twentysomethings: the painful removal of idols for the beginning of truly knowing God.
God crushes the false idols/hopes/dreams you’ve built your life upon. You’re left shattered and starved. You’re not sure if you’re going to make it. You didn’t know that you could experience despair and distress this deep. Everything aches.
But, slowly, you begin to suspect, you begin to see that this has all been God’s kindness to you. He begins to rebuild your life on himself and his gospel. You begin to taste the good news of the gospel, not just stare at it on a menu. Freedom in Christ finally makes sense. You wonder if you were truly converted before because now you see how enslaved you were to a master not named Jesus. It feels like a new beginning. It is a new beginning. You discover that you really, deeply love God–you love him more than what you once loved most. You wonder why you used to trust yourself so much and God so little…
Chambers’ four years of hell on earth led to a breakthrough, a new beginning. Chambers eventually recognized that his long season of distress weaned him off of idols of pride, performance, and people-pleasing and brought him to fresh surrender and rest in a life centered on God. At age 27 Chambers described this life-altering experience in a letter to a friend (underlining added, except for the three “He,” Chambers underlined these key nouns in the original letter):
You ask…did I get there all at once, or easily? No, I did not. Pride and the possession of the high esteem of my many Christian friends kept me out for long enough. But immediately I was willing to sacrifice all and put myself on the Altar, which is Jesus Himself, all was begun and done.
Holiness is not an attainment at all, it is the gift of God, and the pietistic tendency is the introspection which makes me worship my own earnestness and not take the Lord seriously at all. It is a pious fraud that suits the natural man immensely. He makes holy, He sanctifies, He does it all. All I have to do is come as a spiritual pauper, not ashamed to beg, to let go of my right to myself and act on Romans 12:1-2. It is never ‘Do, do and you’ll be’ with the Lord, but ‘Be, be, and I will do through you.’ It is a case of ‘hands up’ and letting go, and then entire reliance on Him.
Friend, the hell you’re walking through right now just might lead to heaven. God has not abandoned you. He’s stripping you of false lovers so that you can know him. You were created to know, love, worship, adore, and enjoy God. Praise him that he loves you enough to not let you settle for anything less than him.
PS. You might want to read Chambers’ biography.
Justin Buzzard is founding pastor of Garden City Church in Silicon Valley, co-founder of Three Sons Club, and author of Date Your Wife, Why Cities Matter, and other books. You can follow him on Twitter.