Friday, December 11, 2009


The biggest disease in the world today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for and deserted by everybody.”


One of the greatest lessons that I have learnt while growing up , is that life is a strange, exciting and daring adventure – full of pleasant and sad memories, loses and gains, enjoyable and happy stories, frightening and tragic tales. Life’s pathway is queer with twist and turns. Life is a tapestry of positive and negative experiences, sweet triumphs and hurting defeats. On the way to destiny there are many highs and lows, ups and downs. As we drive towards our destinies, it’s certain each person will take a wrong turn and hit potholes. Again and again, we will scream in frustration, “I QUIT!!!” The road of life is littered with challenges and obstacles to be overcome, mountains to be climbed and conquered. Rivers, seas and oceans to be crossed - fierce battles to be fearlessly fought, won or lost.

“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows; but cheer up, for I have overcome the world.” John 16:33b (TLB)

Adversity is the nature of life. Great trials, hard difficulties, unpleasant failures, temporary setbacks are required for our development. They are often necessary to prepare us for high responsibilities and the big tasks of life. The Chinese have a proverb that says, “The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.” And Mary Case succinctly puts it this way: “No pressure, no diamonds.” Our life is like a notebook. Each new day, provides every individual the opportunity to record a new experience in his or her own pages. Different events unfold in our lives. Different things happen to us everyday. We experience many challenges and difficult moments. Cruel trials will come at some point to every person. The adversity which enslaves one person throughout a lifetime is the same adversity another person bravely converts into a stepping stone for advancement, success and exploits. Andrew Balon once said, “The adversity that causes some to break down causes others to break records.” To be victorious in life, to reach our colourful destinies, we must contend with ruthless ogres, flesh-eating giants and monsters, vicious fire-breathing dragons and one-eyed Cyclops. We must rise and triumph over adversities. Everybody has some kind of experience. And all experiences have something to offer us. It will make us better or bitter. Every challenge, ordeal, obstacle, hurdle, mountain have been purposely and wisely put on our paths to strengthen, build, mould and shape every person’s life. The American gospel music icon, Kirk Franklin confirms this, “It’s been my experience that God never shapes me through pleasures but through pains.” Robert Schuller remarked, “I know that pain is only a process: that seed buried alive under suffocating ground in a windowless grave agonizes before it raptures into new life.”

Along the line of our development, God guides every person through hard difficulties, fierce storms, through dark places and dark moments so that we can discover the hidden part of us within us – what we really and truly are. Job declares: “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” Job 23:10.

When a grain of sand gets into the shell of an oyster and irritates it, instead of resisting and resenting it, the oyster wraps it in layer after layer of beauty, till a pearl is formed. As the irritation on the oyster produces the pearl, so also, life’s cruel trials bring out the beautiful colours of our lives – the true colous of our lives – our inner beauty. In his international bestseller, Soaring with Eagles, Australian author, Bill Newman writes, ‘A traveler in Africa saw one of the large butterflies of the tropics struggling to free itself from the cocoon. He pitied it and, with a sharp knife, cut the cords at which it was straining. It was released but all the brilliant colouring was gone!

The struggling was necessary to make the colour appear. As you gain victory over trial and adversity you will see beautiful colours and qualities come from your life.’ Bill Newman concludes, ‘People who have never had difficulties or problems tend to be shallow.’

One old poem goes like this!!!
If the water was shallow, everyone can swim
If the task is cheap, everyone is sharp
If the day is bright, everyone is brave
So God made nights too, so that stars can shine

Gold is not found on the surface. Trials and adversities help us to dig deep down – to reach inwards and discover vast deposits of gold within. John Mason, a famous author and international speaker says, “We are like tea bags: Not worth much until we have been through some hot water.” True, it takes both rain and sunshine to make a rainbow. Every person has a story. Here’s mine: The family is the smallest unit of association found in every human society. It is basic building block of society. The family is the source of spiritual, emotional and financial support for its members. Parental time, love, care and affection are truly the basic human rights and need of children. Material gifts and luxuries are important but children need parents who are there to love and care for them. The love, instruction, wisdom, spiritual and emotional support which parents give a child help him or her to grow into a healthy, trustworthy adult who is morally and socially responsible.

Our children are a gift from God
On loan from heaven above,
To train and nourish in the Lord
And show to them His love
. (Sper).

The family is where children learn the first, basic and most important lessons of life – lessons that will stay with them wherever they go. A child grows with them. The Bible (the most amazing and inspiring book in the universe) points this out,Teach a child to choose the right path, and when he is older, he will remain upon it.’ Proverbs 22:6 (TLB)

I believe that a majority of juvenile problems can be traced to poor and faulty home education and unwholesome influences in early childhood. For me, the largest proportion of young people that are a menace to the progress and wellbeing of society are children from fractured homes and dysfunctional families, who did not get sufficient love, proper care and adequate attention in their formative years of childhood and adolescence. We are the architect of the social problems that plaque our societies. The problem starts right there in our homes. I believe too that happy parents make happy homes, happy homes raise and nurture happy and productive children, productive and happy children make a happy and progressive community and happy communities make a beautiful, peaceful and happy world. The rapid deterioration and collapse of family life is one of today’s realities. The family is a casualty of the troubled and challenging times facing the world. Widespread divorce rates, out-of-wedlock birth statistics, juvenile and spousal abuse cases, decay of positive social and moral values, prove that there is a global crisis of the family structure. Indeed, difficult times are confronting families everywhere. Another sad truth is that good parents – God role models for the child are rare. God’s help is vital for success, achievement and exploits. But, parents are pivotal to a child’s success in life. In the present time, a majority of homes have been converted into war zones and battle grounds rather than the haven of peace and harmony God intended it to be. Someone said, “The greater part of our lives is spent in our homes, with our families. But the home which should be a happy place of love, care, attention, support, understanding and security, often turns out to be a hostile place – a destructive arena.” An aggressive and belligerent home must produce aggressive and belligerent children.

Like millions of young people on the hungry and famished streets of Africa – dregs of society, I am a product of bad and irresponsible parenting, a fractured and emotionally-distant family. I was raised in an unhappy and destructive atmosphere – a home that was very negative and hostile. Vividly, I can still remember the depressing, terrible years of childhood and adolescence. It was HORRIBLE!!! I didn’t enjoy a harmonious relationship of a caring, loving and closely-knit family. Throughout my growing up years, I struggled against a dad’s verbal and physical abuse, neglect, aggression and violent discipline. These factors were largely responsible for my anti-social bahaviour and rebellious and dangerous lifestyle as a growing up teenager. Teen years were a dark prison. As I grew up into adulthood, intense feelings of rejection, pain, hurt, anger, frustration, and insecurity overwhelmed me. I felt excluded from the whole world. It seemed everyone in the universe hated me and nothing gave my life meaning. Anytime I open the door of memory into the past, I still see the frightening, towering figure of my dad hovering over me with a cudgel in his hands, yelling, “Akin you’re a worthless piece of trash! You have no chance of success in life! Akin, you’re an accident…a mistake, failure!” For me, teen years were a scary nightmare! I felt so unwanted. While a teenager, my motto for life was: Eat, and drink, take drugs and smoke, for tomorrow we are to die. I wanted to escape from pain. I craved for unrestricted freedom. I desired separation from my home and family. Because I felt they didn’t want me and I didn’t belong with them. As every one of us sometimes learns, life’s pathway is full of bumps, pitfalls, snares, traps and choices. And everyone, everywhere and every time, has a choice to make. None of us is perfect. We all make wrong choices – sometimes we choose to follow roads, paths, routes that we believe to be right, only to find out later that we are mistaken. And certainly, I made a poor choice.

The Bible says, There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. Proverbs 14:12.

I was seventeen, a rebellion, and like the prodigal son of Jesus’ parable at Luke 15:11-24, running away from home seemed to be the only way out and the safest route. I thought I would be safer out there on the streets than with my family. I yearned for four things that are essential to every child: understanding, support, love and attention. As it happens over and over again in life, it’s what we don’t foresee that always shipwrecks us. Unknown to me, I was only heading to greater troubles, difficulties and problems. As a young, inexperienced runaway teenager, the future was covered with a thick, black, cloud of fog - uncertainty. I was confused about life and unsure about myself. Living freely alone on the streets without parental guidance was a very difficult and dangerous task – an enormous challenge. I became a slave to destructive thinking and vices. I cultivated costly self-destructive habits. Slowly, I developed a dependence on alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. I indulged in violence, crime, cultism – becoming a nuisance and a menace to my society. I did everything and anything I could to stay alive. On the streets, survival is top priority. This was the first street lesson I learned. I became a member of the Black Axe Confraternity (Neo Black Movement of Africa- NBM), one of the satanic and evil cult groups that is ruining the lives and futures of young people as well as undermining the education system in my country, Nigeria. Someone said, “Hurting people hurt people.” Looking backwards, perhaps I joined this wicked and violent cult in the university so that I could release the anger, the pain and the hurt that had accumulated deep within me over the years - from my miserable, growing up years.

At some point in my life’s course, I desired change. There was a vacuum in my life – emptiness. It seemed I was searching for something …a missing part of me. Then, I didn’t know exactly what I was searching for. But many years later when I encountered Christ and experienced rebirth and real change in Him, I realized that the missing part that I searched for all those empty years was Jesus Christ. I wanted to live a different kind of lifestyle so I dropped out of the university and I returned home to my family. I wanted to start over. Again, I faced rejection. They didn’t want me – perhaps I would be a terrible burden on them. Maybe I would interfere with their lives or probably, I would inconvenient their lives.

Long blank nights…restlessness, dejection, emptiness, chaos, loneliness, depression, frustration, dreadful nightmares scared me every night like the hooting of an owl in a grave yard at night. I was living alone in a miserable world – alone without God. I was HAUNTED!!!!!

There seemed to be no identity – nothing to stand on, nothing to hope on, and nothing to live on. Life was dull, stagnant, motionless, worthless and meaningless. The only thing I could see was Satan’s darkness every where. I was in the wilderness – stranded on the cross road of life. Sometimes, I considered suicide. But I really didn’t have the courage to do it.

“Disaster strikes like a cyclone and the wicked are whirled away.”

Proverbs 10:25(TLB)

Change is the nature of life.
Crisis comes at the point of change.
Crisis leads to change.
And change happens to all of us

I met my own challenge to change many years back, sometime in November 2000, when a recurring mental illness threatened to ruin my life as a result of long years of drug use and addiction to dangerous and harmful substances. Prolonged use of drugs caused serious damage to my mental health. Sadly, drug overdose affected my brain, making it difficult for me to process and retain information. It was a harrowing yet a priceless life-changing experience that led me on the path to self-discovery. It was a transforming experience that led me to discover my true and original identity, my significance and God’s high purpose and calling for me. I discovered what I was born to do on planet earth. After many unwise, foolish, sinful, irresponsible, unsafe, dangerous years of self-destructive living – after a long period of dependence on injurious addictive substances, suddenly I became mentally ill on November 9th, 2000. And I was confined to psychiatry. A pivotal moment, a critical time – a period when the circumstances of my life changed dramatically. Initially, I thought I would never have a normal, useful life again after the illness.

Everyone around me concluded that I had come to the end of the road. But I held on. I was determined not to spend the rest of my days, bound with chains in the psychiatry. While I was in the hospital, I recycled this single thought in my heart: “Akin, you will not end your life in here. There’s hope for a greater, better and brighter tomorrow. There’s light ahead.” After I was discharged from the hospital, grave danger loomed. The father of rebels, manslayer, wicked murderer, truth-hater, the evil prince of this present world, the source of all evils, the old serpent – Satan the Devil, slowly, snuffed life out of me. I suffered a partial loss of memory (temporary amnesia) for a while. It was painful. It was truly a difficult and depressing season of excruciating and unbearable pain. A year later I had a relapse and was confined to the hospital again, for treatment and rehabilitation. I fought the battle of my life against mental disorder for four, long traumatic, dark years. It was a hard fought battle for survival. But in the end I overcame the ordeal. Today, I have a healthy, sound mind and I am living a normal, useful, happy life despite the fact that medical experts expressed their opinion that I would never make a full recovery.

The experiences that I waded through at this turbulent time altered the course of my life. Peter Drucker once remarked, In every success story, you find someone has made a courageous decision.” At some point in our lives, every one of us faces decisive moment – a decisive choice, the moment of destiny. It was during this dark and chaotic season that I faced the greatest and biggest question of life. I made the biggest and most important decision in life – I took a bold step of faith towards Jesus Christ and real freedom. Like the rich man’s son – the prodigal son at Luke 15:11 who returned home to his father , after living rebelliously, dangerously, wastefully and sinfully in the city for many years, I turned around and followed the narrow road that leads to eternal life. I surrendered to God. I decided to follow the road to healthy, positive, productive, happy and useful living. I chose the ‘new and abundant’ life in God’s only son – Jesus Christ (the liberator of humankind from the chains of darkness, sin and death).

“The thief’s purpose is to steal, kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.” John 10:10 (TLB)

Whenever my thoughts drift back to the past, I realize now that trials and adversities can turn us around and point us towards paths – a course that we might never have considered. Truly, adversity is a grinding wheel that puts a new, fresh edge on our lives. Trials give new meaning, new depth, new direction, new perspective and bright new colour to life. Often times, we arise and grow to new heights after the storm is over. We become better and stronger, and our lives become more beautiful, purposeful and colourful. I realize now that trials are part of God’s divine and intricate plan for us. Difficult experiences can be used in God’s overall plan for good. I am aware that life’s challenges, obstacles and hurdles are not God-designed to hurt us or make us bitter. Rather, they are God-intended to make us better and bigger – to reveal to us the eagle, the champion, the hero, the visionary, the pearl, the gem, the change agent, the change maker, the change leader, the change crusader, the peace maker, the giant-killer, the problem-solver, the difference-maker, the world shaker, the history maker, the world changer, and the genius inside all of us.

One of the supreme lessons I have learnt on the crooked, gritty and ever bumpy road of life, is that all of life is under God’s command and authority. Personally, I believe that there are no accidents in life. I believe too that God purposely and wisely guides us through the wilderness and the desert – leads us through dark valleys, through difficult moments of life and through dark places so that He can fill our lives with meaning and purpose. No diamond or gem has ever been polished without friction. So, God polishes us - prunes the rough edges of our lives with dangerous ordeals, tough circumstances, turbulent times and desperate situations so that we can all glow like the true gem He created us to be.

“He has preserved our lives
and kept our feet from slipping.
For you, O God tested us;
you refined us like silver.
You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs.
You let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water,
but you brought us to a place of abundance."

Psalm 66:9-12(NIV).

In my exciting, personal relationship with Jesus (the one who paid the price for our redemption), I have unearthed many amazing discoveries. I have found out that God’s love comes with no strings attached. God loves us unconditionally. He loves each individual with an intense, everlasting love. Jeremiah 31:3 reads, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” (NIV) In Christ, I have found genuine love; care and affection which my family failed to give me during my childhood and teen years. Christ has showed me again in my lifetime.

“How precious it is, Lord, to realize that you are thinking about me constantly!
I can’t count how many times a day your thoughts turn towards me.
And when I waken in the morning, you are still thinking of me!”

Psalm 139:17-18.

Also, I have discovered the value and true meaning of life in Jesus Christ. I have gained awareness that all humans are pilgrims and sojourners here on planet earth. “I am a stranger on earth;” Psalm 119:19.
Also, I have learnt that the consequences or long-term results of our actions follow(s) us around like a shadow. I have learnt more than anything else to give God first place in my life and to live a life of full obedience to Him. And He will take care of all my needs.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33

Also, I have discovered inside God’s awesome message to humanity, the Bible that He promises to bless us with a future filled with hope – a meaningful future of great exploits, not of suffering, sickness or poverty. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD , “ plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Jesus Christ has thought me to live an others-centered life rather than a self-centered life. “Be full of love for others, following the example of Christ who loved you and gave himself to God as a sacrifice to take away your sins.” Ephesians 5:2a

And so I am giving a new commandment to you now – love each other just as much as I love you.” John 13:34

Now, I am aware that before the beginning of time, God had a master plan – to turn ‘worthless’ lives, ruined by disobedience and sin, into beautiful masterpieces. God gives second chances to drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes, criminals, adulterers, fornicators, murderers… He offers forgiveness to all people irrespective of age, gender, race, colour, culture, language, country, ethnic background, belief and continent. None of us can pay the penalty of our sins. I know now the truth that when Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross, He paid the full price and penalty for all of us. He died so that we can live. In Christ we have eternal life, without Christ we have no hope of living at all.

Until I met Christ, my life was unproductive, uninspiring, without purpose or direction. Life was burden, full of chaos, dull and meaningless. Now, life is fun, exciting and colorful. The future is bright. It’s illuminated with Christ’s hope, light and goodness. When we put God in the center of our lives, our future can be better than our past. Oprah Winfrey, a kind, giving, determined, hard-working, special and remarkable African-American woman – whose life is bringing inspiration, hope, meaning, purpose and change to millions of lives across the globe, says, “When I look at the future, it’s so bright it burns my eyes.” At the moment, I provide young people in my local community with useful, vital and valuable information that would help them make responsible and appropriate decisions, informed and safe life choices in today’s choice-filled world.

Down here in my home country, Nigeria, I counsel, teach, and instruct teenagers, especially street kids on the dire consequences of experimenting with drugs, alcohol, tobacco and other harmful addictive substances. I also educate delinquent teenagers on the destructive implications of immoral living, truancy, violence, crime, cultism, and other anti-social vices.

All the years that I have been taking diverse lessons from life, perhaps the greatest and most important lesson that life has graciously offered me is: MEN ARE NOT GOD. IT IS GOD AND GOD ALONE THAT CAN CHANGE LIVES, TRANSFORM LIVES - MEND RUINED AND BROKEN LIVES. IT IS ONLY GOD THAT CAN RE-WRITE THE SAD STORY OF OUR LIVES INTO INSPIRATIONAL BEST-SELLERS.

No comments: