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A chapter of growth
by Joey Parker 
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This is not a story of how I came to trust Jesus Christ with my eternal life in Heaven. It’s a story of how God broke me and taught me to trust Him completely in my life here on Earth.

I was recently in Tegucigalpa, Honduras and was called to share this with the people there. Reading this out to them was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I hate speaking in front of others but, to make it worse, I had to share with them the truth of the pain I’ve endured. I had to drop the mask I wear and let them see the truth I’ve been hiding. We returned last night and now I feel compelled to continue sharing this. I’m discovering that letting others hear about this helps me and may help others. It’s not right that I hide what God has done for me from others.

When I was a boy, my parents were divorced. My younger brother and I ended up in the care of our grandmother and two uncles, Ray and Brian. It was as a young boy living with them that my grandmother started taking me to church. While still a young teenager, I accepted Christ as my Savior.

My brother and I grew up with them in a country house and we became extremely close with our uncles. These two men became a mixture of fathers and brothers to us. These two men were our heroes. We looked up to them. They could do no wrong and they seemed to be eternal security for our lives.

I was in my second year of college and had come home one night to visit. I was leaving the house to go back to school when the phone rang. It’s one of those calls you never forget. It was from one of Brian’s friends telling us that he was on the way to the hospital because Brian had been shot. Within hours, he was dead and my world was changed forever.

My grades in school became increasingly bad. My footsteps stumbled and my life lost direction. In the months that followed my family would see the man that killed my uncle go unpunished and the pain of that wound opened the door to a new path for my life.

As I was back at college searching for direction, a friend brought up the idea of being in law enforcement. It was not something I’d honestly considered before but, when I heard it, I knew it was right. By being a police officer, I could work to ensure that no other family was left to feel what mine suffered. I changed my course of study and began working in the direction of being a police officer.

As time went on, I met a beautiful young woman that became my wife. I graduated college and ended up getting a job on the police force of a small community where I’d grown up. My wife became a teacher. We had children and life was good.

My life was dedicated to searching for justice and truth for others. My life was consumed by that and I was very good at it.

We went to church. Occasionally, we’d tithe and, even though I never tried to lead others to Christ and never taught my children about Him, all seemed right with the world. As time went on, I was hired to work in my dream job at the age of 30 and the blessings were plenty. Our children were healthy, intelligent, and happy. My wife and I had a strong marriage with a strong family support system. Everything was great.

Things were so great that I became filled with pride over my accomplishments and how strong I thought I was. I’m a big, physically strong man. I had strong morals and a professional career and reputation that were highly respected. I was highly praised by my boss for the work I was doing and had received letters of approval from him. I’d see other people stumble and fall and I’d think quietly to myself that they were weak and that I was better. I thought I was ready for anything God could throw at me. Oh, how wrong I was.

I was working for a large agency of over 500 people. In March of 2010, a very powerful man in my organization took something I was accused of out of context. He overreacted and accused me of things I did not do. In one day, my badge, guns, credentials, and equipment were suddenly taken from me and I was sent home with nothing. For a man who’d worked for 12 years and never had so much as verbal reprimand, this left me stunned and hurt.

My friends and family told me there was nothing to worry about. We’d show them the truth of the situation, show them I’d done nothing wrong, and my employer would see that they really didn’t have any reason to punish me. From an earthly standpoint, the situation should end easily and quickly. I was to find that, from a God standpoint, the situation was much deeper than what I could see.

As the days turned to weeks and the months turned to a year, my struggle with my employer deepened. Much to the surprise of everyone around me, my employer brutally and mercilessly took my job from me in May 2010. My world crumbled around me. My job had been more than just a means to a paycheck. It was everything that I thought I was. The badge was what I thought made me a man. If you asked me what I was. I wouldn’t say I was a father, a husband, or a Christian. I’d say I was a police officer. That was first. That was most important and, without it, I wasn’t sure what I was.

I found myself broken in a way I’d never experienced before. Where in my pride I’d looked down on those that I thought were too weak to handle the stress of life, I now found myself in a state where I didn’t think I could go on. God suddenly had broken me against the rocks of my self-importance and exposed my weaknesses to the light of day.

In the early days of my trial, I was unable to eat or sleep. My days were spent hiding in my empty house from the rest of the world because I was ashamed of what had happened. I’d collapse in fits of weeping and pray to the Lord the only words I could think of to pray “Help me.” I’d lay there and just say those two words over and over, “Help me. Help me. Help me.” as the tears rolled down my face. I felt alone. Abandoned.

I slipped into a state of depression so severe that my wife became afraid I’d hurt myself so she hid my gun from me. She was afraid to leave me alone and was intensely worried every time she had to. I became a ghost in my own home. Friends would try to talk to me but it wouldn’t get through. The size of my problem was so large in my mind that there was no room for anything else.

In time, my sadness turned to anger. Anger was an emotion I was more comfortable with. Anger is a MANLY emotion. MEN got angry. MEN raged against their situation. What I didn’t realize at the time is that children do the same thing.

In my anger, I’d go from focusing it on the employer that had taken my career from me to turning it on God for allowing this to happen in the first place. After all, don’t all things come from Him? If so, then shouldn’t HE be the focus for my rage?

I’d rage at Him and demand to know exactly what this was all about. I wanted to know why He would send something like this over me. In the months leading up to this trial, I’d been praying and seeking Him. I’d been faithfully tithing for the first time in my life and I was serving in our church’s youth group. I wanted to know why He did this to me when I was trying to get closer to Him. I felt that, if this is what He does when you seek Him, then why do it? Everything was great before so why’d He wait until now to knock me off my feet?

Eventually, and amazingly, the grief that became rage became something else. Let’s call it…surrender. I began to see God at work. I began to hear His voice speaking to me and I came to realize that I wasn’t alone and never had been. He’d been there all along. He’d held me when I cried and endured my childish temper tantrums when I yelled at him. He was a father that loved me enough to let me suffer for a little while so that I’d become better for it. My God wasn’t abandoning me but was loving me as I struggled.

In my struggles, friends would constantly speak words of encouragement to me. I received messages from them of Bible verses where the Lord gave them words of wisdom for me. Each was helpful and encouraging but none spoke to me as much as those He gave me Himself.

The first arrived in the early days of my struggle as I was facing meetings with my employers to try and change their decision. The first that came to me was Psalm 91:14-16. It’s one that I just opened my Bible up to and the words just jumped out at me.

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in time of trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation”

This was a powerful verse for me to receive in the days of this trial. There are several promises and reassurances of God that are present in just these three verses of scripture but each one struck my heart like a hammer blow because I knew as I read them that God was reaching out from Heaven to speak to me directly and let me know what He was going to do, if I just endured the struggle.

This next verse was also sent to me by opening the Bible to a random page. It came at a time when I had another meeting coming and I was already feeling overwhelmed and defeated. In that time, I felt as if the walls had closed in and hope was gone. Once again, the Lord spoke directly to me through his word.

“Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.” ---Proverbs 3:25-26

The words were once again a comfort to me that I have fallen back on time and time again. He has assured me that I must not fear. He is with me. He will protect me and keep me safe. His words have held true time and time again throughout my ordeal. There have been times when I should have been overwhelmed and beaten down but, at each opportunity, the efforts of my former employer stop short and I am protected.

The next verse I want to share has been more of a encouragement for me in this time than any other. It stands out for me for what it says but also for it’s method for delivery.

To set the stage, in August, 2010, I’d been unemployed for several months and had fought my employer without the help of a lawyer but I was now at a time when I had to hire one to help me. I had begun to feel very discouraged because I’d been speaking to an attorney in the months prior that had led me to believe that, when needed, he’d be my lawyer. When the time came to hold to this promise, he backed out on me and left me unaided.

I was feeling betrayed and abandoned once again. Just like the Jewish people in the time of Moses, I could be as stupid and hard-headed as a mule with a toothache. I was away with my family at a small amusement park and was feeling overwhelmed by my situation. I had told my wife that morning about how I was terrified to move forward without an attorney and was just too tired to keep up the fight without one.

Our children were in a good mood as most children are and were having a good time but I wasn’t because the weight of this problem was so heavy that I could think of nothing else. In the midst of this time, we were standing in a line for one of the rides and I began reading the shirts of those standing around us. It was in this moment that God reached down from Heaven, took me in His arms, and once again spoke directly to my heart.

My eyes fell on a man wearing a T-shirt that displayed a cross on the back. Written around the cross was the following:

“Be strong and courageous…for the Lord your God goes with you” --Deuteronomy 31:6

I was amazed. I felt my heart skip for a second and the weight that had been pulling me down was immediately gone. It was as if the day immediately brightened and my heart was lifted. The feeling of love and warmth that swept over me in that moment was so strong that it left me unable to move for a moment. God knew what I was going through. When I’d told my wife that morning that I was terrified and tired, God heard and answered me by telling me to not be “terrified and tired” but “strong and courageous”. That man will never know in this life what he did for me simply by putting on that shirt that day but I couldn’t thank him enough.

After receiving that verse, things suddenly began to change for me that day. Where I’d gone months and hadn’t been able to find an attorney to assist me, within 24 hours, I’d spoken with two. Within a week, I met with two attorneys that were also Christian believers as well. God provided what I needed right when I needed it.

My wife and I did not have the money to pay the lawyer for his work. I could have gone to my family to ask for it but I wanted to see God work. He did not disappoint us. Within one day of hiring the lawyer, God led other believers to give us the exact amount we needed to pay him. He is faithful.

The last year has been very hard for me. Friends I had before will not look me in the eyes or talk to me now. Before I was able to support my family and, as a man, I need to be able to support my family. In the last year, God has supported us through the love and gifts of others. It is very humbling for a proud police officer to have to accept that he can’t take care of himself and those he loves.

Even though the last year has been hard, it has been filled with blessings for me. In the last year, I have done a lot of things for the first time in my life. I was able to teach very young children during our summer Bible School program and, a few months ago, I was able to teach some teenage boys about Jesus. I’ve been on two mission trips, including the one to Honduras. Before God began this trial in my life, I would never have thought to go there but I’ve learned to listen to Him and be faithful. I am so happy I was able to go. I met suck wonderful people that I would never have met otherwise. The people were gracious and loving in a way I wasn’t used to and I was allowed to speak of them of the sacrifice of Jesus and see many of them pray to Him for salvation.

In the last year, I have begun to spend time with my children talking about Jesus and the Bible. They have seen my wife and I walk very closely with God this past year. They are learning lessons about God and faithfulness at a young age and that is a true blessing.

The greatest thing that has happened to me in the last year is that I led my first person to salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is a close friend to me that was struggling with his business. He’d always been a wealthy man but was going through hard times where he wasn’t making any money and was worried about the government taking away his house and belongings. He saw the way that I was walking with God through my trial and wanted to know more. We talked about it and, on August 2, 2010, he accepted Christ as his savior. That alone makes the last year of this trial worth it. I will now be able to meet this friend in Heaven one day because God was able to speak to him through the pain in my life.

Since leading my friend to Christ, I went to Honduras where I was used to teach the youth of the churches and was personally allowed to lead eight others to faith in Christ. The trip was very humbling for me because I’ve never seen God at work in such a personal way. Everywhere I looked, He was there. Touching lives and speaking to people. It was awe-inspiring.

God has been good to me and my family. It’s been painful. It’s been hard but I’m not the same man I was going into this thing. I’m better. I’m new and improved. As I tell you of this, it’s not over.

My employer is very powerful. They are working very hard to protect themselves and don’t want their mistakes to be known. I know that God is more powerful than they are. What power they possess is because God has allowed them to have it. He has promised me that he is with me. He has told me not to be afraid for the future of my family. He has told me I will be delivered and honored.

God always does what He says. He does not change. He is the same God for me that He was with Abraham, David, Peter, and Paul. Right now, I still do not have a job and am still awaiting the promises of my Lord. I don’t know when He will fulfill them but that’s not important. What is important is that I know that He WILL fulfill them.

I would not be able to stand before you today if not for God’s strength. If not for my faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior, I would have been crushed because I was not strong enough. My acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice made me one of God’s adopted children. He has poured Himself into me over this year. He has revealed Himself to me in so many wonderful ways and I am truly blessed to have Him in my life. Through His grace, I have forgiven my employer for how they have attacked me and daily pray that God will perform a mighty work in their lives so that they may know God the way I do.

God is faithful. He keeps His promises. I’m proof of that.

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