Commentary by W. Thomas Smith Jr.
I have been thinking lately about my relationship with Christ and where I would be without Him. I almost hate to consider the question – any answer would be too bleak – but for the sake of anyone who might benefit from my experience, I will.
First of all, my life today is not perfect. It’s a good life to be sure. But in many ways, it’s a mess; a result of nearly 60 years of living – some easy, some hard – and the baggage and brokenness that inevitably follow. Still and all, it’s a blessed life. How blessed? We’ll save that for another story.
The question I want to address today is: “Where would I be today without God?”
I think without God I probably would be a selfishly smug, hateful, regretful man; clinging to the past – its perceived glories which I can never recover and its mistakes which I can never repair.
Without God, I would have no way to appreciate much less deal with the hurt I’ve brought into the world of others – an ex-wife (who I once blamed for everything, but now realize she deserved far better than me), girlfriends, family members, friends, even my enemies. Granted, not all of the ‘hurts’ inflicted by me have been big hurts. But I do know that little hurts are painful too, especially if they have never been fixed, forgotten, forgiven, or all three.
So without God, I’d be unable to forgive myself for the things I’ve done to others and myself. And I’d be unable to forgive others for the wrongs done to me. Simply put, without God’s 360-degree, multi-dimensional, infinite and eternal forgiveness; I’d be an insufferable, remorseful, angry and condemned soul. I’d be seeking retribution against others and wrongly believing I could hide from my own sins and transgressions.
Without God, I’d probably be drinking again. “So what?” you say, and, yes, that’s a fair question. After all, I’m not averse to someone having a drink. Even if I did drink today, I probably wouldn’t drink regularly. I never really have. I’m also not suggesting it’s wrong to drink. IT’S SIMPLY WRONG FOR ME, and God delivered me from that. When I did drink years ago, it was usually too much. Whenever I drank, I did and said things I regretted and still regret. I made promises I couldn’t keep. I often woke up feeling a secret bit of remorse and emotional vulnerability, and with a headache to boot. Not to mention the fact that my family, like so many others, was rocked by the scourge of alcohol and alcohol abuse.
What about women? Because I didn’t trust God, I frittered away my marriage. Divorce was easy, and I took the easy way out. I threw away something which God blessed me with and that I had vowed to love, honor, and cherish forever. Even today, were it not for God in my life, I am quite sure I would be pursuing women for no decent objective. Fortunately for me, God knows the depths of my weaknesses and lusts; and He loves, honors, and cherishes me despite them.
Without God, I would probably be seeking the attention of others (sort of like what I see so many pretentious albeit sad souls doing today on social media), and I would be pursuing a sort of weak, corrupted gratification from other temporary pleasures and making idols of professional success; all the while struggling to survive any inevitable failures or setbacks.
Without God, I probably would be deeply – maybe even precariously – depressed (which potentially leads to drinking and the vicious cycle associated with that) because of my struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition I was diagnosed with a few years ago and for which I am now receiving treatment through the VA by the grace of God.
Without God, my hyper-vigilance stemming from PTSD would probably force me to always avoid the world with all of its perceived threats – real and anticipated. I frankly cannot imagine NOT holding fast to God throughout the daily, hourly, minute-by-minute endured-torment of PTSD that any real sufferer of the disorder has to constantly suck-up into himself and put a mask over. Sufferers do this every day so that the world doesn’t know, and I believe it would be impossible to weather the experience without the grace and strength of God.
Without God, none of us would have any real purpose or substantive joy. I know I would have neither. Those things would only be delusions not unlike the self-conceived imaginings people often create for themselves as a means of surviving. But with Christ, I have both real purpose and indescribable “joy in the midst” as some of the ladies in my church like to say.
Without God, everyday struggles which we all experience in varying degrees, would likely drive me, at least run the risk of driving me, into a dreadful fog. And the sufferings I see and have seen others experiencing – and have far too often absorbed too deeply into my own heart – would almost assuredly thrust me into a deeper state of depression and angst.
So yes, without God, most everything would probably seem black and hopeless, because, well, without God, most everything in the world actually is.
Anyway, without God, the Christmas season, which I have loved since childhood, would today be a season of loss and melancholy (as it was beginning to take the form of a few short years before I surrendered to Christ). Today – because of Christ – Christmas is richer, sweeter, more purposeful and spiritual than it has ever been.
Easter would be a hollow spring ritual, nothing more. It would be a pleasant Sunday with family where we would enjoy a nice dinner and I would unwrap a few foil-covered chocolate eggs and maybe give a passing thought to Jesus if I went to church or perhaps looked at a dogwood tree.
Though I will add that even when I was living my life without Christ, He did tug on me a bit more at Easter. Not sure how to explain it, but I now know why. And today, Easter serves as a wonderful renewing of my love for God and His Word.
Without God, my judgment would not be nearly as sound as it is today. And my judgmentalism, which I still struggle mightily with, would have grown to the point that it would truly be difficult for me to love and appreciate anyone outside of the small coterie of a few familymembers, a small number of important business relations, and a handful of both fair-weather and good friends who for various reasons matter to me.
Without God, I would have never discovered the pleasures of reaching out to those in need. I think I’ve always desired to give to and encourage others; not with hollow flattery mind you, but with meaningfulness and measure. But Christ has taken this natural inclination and appreciation I have for the value of encouragement, to heights I would have never imagined on my own. So, for those of you who know me, any kindness and generosity you may think you see in me; remember, it’s not from me at all. The source of all kindness and generosity is Christ. I’m just blessed to have found Him and accepted His calling, and I’m now clinging to Him and will never let go.
Without God, I would not know the pleasures of Scripture reading and Bible study, meditative prayer, and God’s unique blessings. I would not be blessed with the many Christian friends I have today. I’ve always had many friends, but my Christian friends – most of whom I’ve only known for about five or six years – are not only numerous, but they are as close or closer than any of the best friends I’ve had for decades.
Without God, I would not have my niece and grandniece. I would not have the regular weekly prayer times now going on three years with my mom and stepdad, and regular prayer times with others. I would not have my newfound understanding of why things happened in my past the way they did and did not. I would not have the hope of broken or estranged familial-relationships, one day, being restored or made new. And I would not have experienced the stark, often dramatic, utterly inexplicable miracles with which God has so graciously blessed me. We will also save miracles for another story.
In short, I’d be a hateful, selfish, miserable wretch were it not for the grace of God and my relationship with Him.
Why am I saying all this? Because I know me, and I want you (those who are reading this) to perhaps recognize parallels and possibilities in your own life. And for those of you, who may be rolling your eyes right about now – or whenever you hear me talk about the LORD – just remember, you probably wouldn’t want to have anything to do with me without what He has already done with me.
– W. Thomas Smith Jr. is a New York Times bestselling editor, a military analyst and military technical consultant. Visit him at uswriter.com.