The Cross Before Me by Ashish Joseph

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Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” – Matthew 16: 24-26

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When I accepted Jesus into my life, I thought to myself “That’s it! Life is set from here on out.” I imagined the rest of my life riding on blazing chariots of fire through each day till I met Jesus in heaven. At first, it was wonderful, and I saw God transform an unsure and insecure kid into a someone with a passion and desire. Slowly, the reality and circumstances of life hit me. 

In a period of my life where I was pouring myself out for God’s calling, I saw my personal ministry lack fruit. Everything I tried seemed to end in disappointment, at least in my own eyes. Whenever I prayed for something, it didn’t seem to go the way I wanted it to go. Yet I wanted to persevere and continue to serve in different capacities in hopes that I would be able to break “the funk/drought/desert” periods in my journey with God. I had read of many instances in the Bible and missionaries going through similar periods. However, these servants repented and turned back to God. They chose to be filled with His Spirit and re-entered into their areas of ministry. I, in my immaturity and recklessness, forged forward. 

What ensued was envy towards my fellow Christian brothers and sisters and bitterness towards God. God became the reason I was miserable. I started to gradually withdraw myself from the church and other Christians. Instead of community, I chose to look after myself and pursued belonging in the world through work and relationships. Healthy boundaries that were ordained in my life by God were thrown out and I exposed myself to the ways of the world.

This distancing continued for 2 years. One day, I decided to reject God and the church. It seemed perfect. I was starting a new job and I was ready to taste “the good life.” I was done waiting for God to save me out of my misery and decided to take my future into my own hands. I was now excited to live my life to my own expectations. The second I made the decision, it felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off. At first, life was fresh and full of hope, but soon the sense of impending doom crept in. I was confronted with futility of my choices and found myself helpless. The question of “Am I damaged beyond repair?” would ring through my mind and I would find anything to drown it out. However, I was stuck in a cycle. I went from week to week of going to work followed by weekends of escape and trying to numb the pain. Outwardly, I professed to my friends that I was no longer a Christian and God did not matter to me. 

Yet, God never gave up one me. Praise Him! A handful of my Christian friends stayed in touch with me and never gave up on Jesus bringing me back. On the way to meeting one of them, I was debating how I would be able to fix my life. The thought of going back to church and repenting entered my mind. That’s when I heard God speak clearly, “I can forget the last two years of your life.” For the first time forgiveness and grace felt real. I no longer had to work my guilt away like a prison sentence. Instead of listening to the voice of self-criticism, I was overwhelmed by love that I could never manufacture. I did not know how to contain my joy in the moment. That week, I joined a small group and went to a church service at lunch. My colleague and partner-in-crime asked me what had suddenly changed. I had no “cookie-cutter” response and all I could tell him was that I was excited about following Jesus again. 

The journey back to faith has been one of surprises, turns, falls, anger, regrets, love and filled with grace. There have been days and weeks filled with the same doubt and struggle where the bitterness towards God followed by the guilt of my past actions overtakes me. Yet in those moments, I feel God telling me “It’s ok. You’re ok.” My response to that is to repent, praise Him and thank Him for saving me from my own self-destructive ways. I thank God that I have a future in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

God has instilled compassion in me for the people around me. God has taken away envy and judgement I had towards people in the Christian community and instilled in me love and grace for my brothers and sisters. My current work as a recruiter means that I figure out a person’s strengths and weaknesses and find their ‘Red Flags’. After receiving repeated forgiveness, I now feel empowered to extend grace to my candidates. God has opened so many opportunities to me to show the same grace that I have received. My conversations with candidates are no longer about their work but about helping them realize that they have been gifted and called for a special purpose in life. I now feel ready to trust God more in my work and believe in His transforming power in people’s lives.

The call to come back to Jesus was a very clear and distinct one. It was borne out of a need to fix myself and find a purpose. I have come to understand now that I cannot do this on my own strength. Instead, I thank God for my salvation and that I do have a future in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Everyday, I chose to wake up and praise Him for my life up to this point and what the future holds. 

“The cross before me, the world behind me. No turning back, no turning back.”

Ashish has been attending Redemption Church since 2011. While he is not networking with every Architect, Engineer or Construction Manager in Vancouver, he enjoys music, sports, learning about the latest advances in the wheelchair and walking all around Vancouver.