Don't worry. This is not a blog about me losing my faith. I haven't. In fact, my faith has grown stronger recently. I do want to point out, however, that this is how I felt for many years. I simply couldn't see how God loved me. I loved Him, and I wanted to live for Him, but I felt, deep down, that I didn't have the capability. There are many reasons why I felt this way, but I just want to focus on one for this blog.
For a few years, I was spiritually bullied.
Yes, you read that right. There was someone in my life who tried to manipulate me, use me, and even stifle my growth in the Lord. This was not a family member or someone from church. It was just someone who claimed to be my friend. I met him in college.
Now, did this person make fun of me in Jesus's Name or something like that? Or, did he quote the Bible whilst knocking my block off? No, of course not. It doesn't work like that. No, this was far, far more subtle. In fact, the guy likely believed he was helping me.
So, what did he do?
Well, he forced his own opinions on me and would tear me down every time I made a mistake. Or, made a mistake in his eyes.
And, he would use God or the Bible to back it up.
One time, I was talking about a Bible study group that he was a part of with some people and expressing some of my doubts about it. Another guy I was talking with agreed with me and started arguing with his sister about it.
The bully wasn't even in this conversation. The next day, he (the bully) admonished me about it in front of a group of people, saying that my words had caused "strife" and anger and whatnot. (That's another thing, he loved to use big words like "strife" and "the opinion of man" in normal conversation) Furthermore, when I asked him who told him about this, he refused to tell, saying it didn't matter. There was no grace, no love, he just drilled me down. About something that wasn't even his business in the first place.
When I went to college, I was excited. It was a Christian college, and I was eager to learn and grow in my faith and meet other believers. Did this guy help with that? No. He would say, "When are you going to quit 'playing games' with God?"
Playing games? What games? What does that even mean? It's years later and I still don't know what he was talking about! I was serious about my relationship with the Lord, for crying out loud!!
That's what this person would do. Talk cryptically so I couldn't understand him. He often spoke of being against religion, yet all he wanted to to do was point out my perceived shortcomings. Don't watch movies, don't listen to secular music, blah, blah, blah.
(Disclaimer: If you read this, and you have those convictions, I totally respect that. The Bible talks about personal convictions, and how you shouldn't force them on others.)
One of the worst times was when I was watching a movie with another friend. I thought the movie was too raunchy, so I walked out. What did the bully do when I told him about this? He suggested I end the friendship with the other guy. Where's the love in that?
(By the way, the friend I watched that movie with? He's still one of my best friends to this day. I was a groomsman in his wedding, and though he lives nine hours from me, I will still travel to see him. God has done AMAZING things in his life!)
To this bully, all I could do was sin. He would point out every little thing, no matter how small, and rebuke me and condemn me, as though my very salvation was on the line. He never had anything encouraging to say, and he would try to justify it by quoting Philippians where it says "I've counted all things as loss compared to knowing Christ." But that's the thing. He made me feel like I couldn't know Christ because Christ wouldn't accept me. He watched me like a hawk, just waiting for me to stumble.
He also made me believe that listening to him was the only way for me to get to God.
I went to a Bible study with him and his spiritual mentor a few times. When they prayed, they would call God "Daddy." Intimacy. Yet, it was though I wasn't worthy to call Him "Daddy." Because I had flaws, and this guy knew it. And, I had to fix them all before I could come to God, or God wouldn't take me.
The worst and final time was this. Oh, did I mention that many times he would accuse me of something, he would claim it was from God?
Well, I realized that I didn't have to listen to him. I knew those things were from him, not God, and that God would work out the sin in my life in a loving manner. Well, this guy came up to me and said, "I have a word of instruction for you. You take every thing I say and say 'that's just him' so you don't have to listen to it. But, you need to know it's from God, and that if you don't listen to it, you're not going to fulfill the destiny that God has for you."
Where's God's amazing grace? Where's His love? Where's His mercy? Who gets the GLORY from that, for Pete's sake! This guy had nothing but bad things to say about me, and all I was trying to do was get closer to God!! That's all I wanted! There was no love, no mercy, no compassion from this guy who could have been a great friend to me had he truly listened to God and just, well, LOVED me!
Here's the thing. I'm grateful for the true friends God has placed in my life. Friends who love me and are honest with me when I truly stumble. They don't let me get away with it. But, there's love, there's mercy, there's kindness. Not this angry, self-righteous stuff. One friend said, "Tyler, God's not mad at you. You believe He is, but He isn't. Run to Him."
I hope this blesses somebody. I hope that you read this and see that bullying someone is no way to treat them. It certainly won't lead them to Christ. I very nearly lost my faith because of this bully's words. The only reason I didn't is because of the foundation of faith from people like my mother and youth pastors and of my own desire to know God. Obviously, God Himself was carrying me through all of this.
I may have lost my life, too, had I kept listening to him. I listened to him because he seemed so friendly and so "on fire for God" as they say. I'm not saying he isn't. I haven't seen this guy in years so I don't know what he's like now. I hope and pray he's changed. God spoke to me once and said, "Tyler, show him the grace he never showed you." That's what I want to do. I pray he truly comes to know the Lord if he hasn't already. Romans says that the goodness of God leads men to repentance. It's true. I share this because someone else may have had a similar experience. I'm truly sorry if you have, and I would love to encourage anyone who needs it.
God's love is real, folks. Jesus bled and died for you! He wants to know you! Let Him in and let Him change you! God bless you and keep you.