“Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you might fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.” 1 Timothy 1:18, 19
One of the most frightening images to me is the thought of drowning at sea. I’ve watched documentaries with footage of powerful waves overtaking huge ships. Many of them seem to split in the middle before going down. The ships usually send out a distress signal. Sometimes the people on board are saved by rescuers, sometimes not. It’s hard to imagine what a person left aboard a sinking ship must feel, watching the dark waves come crashing over them relentlessly, before being sucked into the deep.
I imagine It is quite similar to when a person fails to hold onto faith in the midst of life’s trials. As one who failed to hold onto faith and a good conscience before God at a prior time in life, I can vouch that the result isn’t pretty.
Many who fall away do so after a short haul because their faith never had roots to begin with. But what must it take for a person of good conscience and faith in God to fall that hard?
In my case, I had followed Christ diligently for years. I was young and full of zeal. But my dreams fell apart. I desired what I thought was the ultimate purpose for my life– serving in pastoral ministry. Unfortunately, I got nowhere, despite my hard work and faithfulness. I was encouraged by many others that God’s calling was on my life. I offered countless prayers to God to open the door for me to serve. It all came to a head after what I perceived to be the last failure. And one day I gave up.
Instead of accepting God’s will and surrendering to his true purpose for my life, I turned my heart against him. I hated God for denying me what I desired and felt I rightly deserved. I shipwrecked my faith.
Read 1 Timothy 1:20 and you’ll get a good picture of what happened to me. My stupor overcame me. I awoke from it after many months when I ended up in the hospital suffering from major clinical depression. My life has never been quite the same since. God did not abandon me, but like Jacob, who wrestled with God and received a limp, I have permanent reminders in my body of the experience.
“Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Proverbs 1:7
Scripture says God disciplines those he loves (Hebrews 12:6). My discipline may have been harsh, but it taught me not to turn my back on my faith and my God. It took many years for me to get the lesson. The bottom line is God is above my accusations. He is perfect just as he claims. He does not need my help running the universe or even my own life (Job 40:1-5).
Recovering from a shipwreck is a long and arduous process. God doesn’t take us out of trials. They come and go continually. Impossible situations are God’s forte. It appears to me that’s because it is the only way we truly learn to trust him. The path to him is always the same: trust and obey.
Job suffered immensely (Job 1:13-19). Its important to note, however, that he was never without hope. The scripture is clear that God was watching over him the whole time. Ultimately, God restored Job and blessed him more than he was blessed before his great trial. Nonetheless, you can imagine Job felt something from it for the rest of his life. And it never says that God explained to him what was going on behind the scenes. The picture was far bigger than Job could imagine.
God’s ways are not our ways, but in the context of eternity his plans are divine.