It was November 2013, and I had just finished a seminar at the church I was pastoring at the time. I had planted the church with my wife and children in our basement twenty years before. Through sleepless nights, many obstacles, and the power of the Holy Spirit, it had grown into the thousands. We had recently launched a successful second campus.
As I walked into the lobby, a grim looking church elder met me and asked me to follow him. No explanation was given. All kinds of thoughts ran wildly through my mind. Had something happened to my Liz? Were the children okay? Was there a car accident? I was filled with a foreboding feeling.
As I entered my office, I was met by more church elders. Over the next hour, it was explained to me that I was being placed on a six-month forced sabbatical. As the reasoning behind this decision was explained, I was filled with a combination of anger, frustration, and loneliness. It felt like a set-up for an eventual firing.
What had I done to deserve such measures? Who is behind this? All kinds of conspiratorial thoughts went through my head. I was flooded with shame and confusion.
It was an existential crisis in my life. I was entering a four-month ordeal that would lead to a spiritual breakdown of many key values in my life.
As the months passed, God shifted my focus from blaming others, to taking responsibility, to embracing the pain. God did such a marvelous work in my life. The story is explained in more detail in my upcoming book Strong & Courageous.
The Bible says, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4). We are in the business of staying comfortable, and God is in the business of making us holy.
God often puts spiritual setbacks in our life to awaken us to the new reality of a fresh work He wants to accomplish in us. He often does His greatest work through pain and suffering!
It was through this spiritual breakdown in my life that God gave me a spiritual breakthrough. To move from breakdown into breakthrough I had to grapple with three questions:
- Who was I working for? Was it the church or board of elders? Was it myself or God? I found breakthrough in choosing to reposition myself under God’s mighty hand. I was working for God!
- Who were my friends? Was it the staff or the people of my church? Or were they my family and the people who hung with me and listened in my darkest hours? I chose my family and the new bloodstained allies who gathered around me in my bleakest time.
- Who was the person I wanted to become? Did I want to simply justify myself in my peril through blaming others or would I choose to believe God was at work to perfect and complete my character? I chose to believe that God doesn’t do things to me, but for I chose character over position. I was set free!
You may be going through an existential crisis in your life. You may be experiencing a mental, emotional, or spiritual breakdown. Let me encourage you to take these three crucial questions and ask God to speak to your heart. Your breakdown could lead to a breakthrough that just might change your life forever.