J.S. Park

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Posts tagged with "Fellowship"

What Breaks My Heart Is When You Don't Hear Mine

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I’ve always had trouble approaching someone with a fragile ego, because I know if I say anything disagreeable or honest, they’ll defend themselves like crazy with a million excuses or throw insults or throw things off the desk or make ugly-cry-face and cut me off for a month.

I know this because it’s me too. It’s hard to hear the truth about yourself. It’s hard to confront the ugliness inside.

But confronting yourself is the only way to be truly liberated from the lies we believe. Without rebuke, we’re left sauntering in an unseen momentum of darkness that threatens to destroy us by a gradual downhill fade. The most dangerous way to die is slowly, unaware, in descent.

A few years ago, one of my best friends was messing up with something. No one else knew but me. It probably wasn’t a big deal, and no one would’ve been hurt if he continued, but as a friend I had to bring it up. I really didn’t want to, but I couldn’t just sit by.

My friend is the coolest guy in the world. I’ve never seen him rage out or say a harsh word in his life. He was the kind of guy who would walk away from a group the second they began to gossip, who wouldn’t hesitate to break up a street fight on his way home.

But even when I bring the truth to the coolest people: I’ve seen the worst come out of them. There’s always a mirror-defense where they decide to bring up your grievances, or a lot of casual dismissal, or loud angry hostility. Honestly, I was jaded to this sort of thing whenever I tried to confront someone, and I expected it to go bad just like with everyone else.

 

On a Friday, we were hanging out at my place and I sat him down and started with the ominous statement, “I have to talk to you about something.” My voice shook for that entire sentence. If I wasn’t sitting down, my knees probably would’ve been shaking too.

I told him everything. I said, “I don’t want anyone else to say something bad about you, that’s why I’m saying this. You’re my friend, you’re my brother, I want the best for you.”

After I was done, I braced myself. I physically reeled back, waiting for the shouting match.

My friend said, “Thank you”—and then he stood up without a word and went to the door, and he left.

For some reason, this was worse. I couldn’t sleep that night. I thought I had totally screwed this up. Friendship, ruined. Years of loyalty, over. I kept going over what I said in my brain, all the ways I should’ve worded it differently.

The next day, my friend came by. He sat me down, the same place, the same chairs. He said, “I thought about what you said. And you’re right. I’m going to stop immediately.”

My entire body unclenched. To be truthful, I almost wept. I hate to cry in front of people, but I was just so dang relieved. Some of it was because I was emotionally tightened up, and some of it was my anxiety that I was no longer his friend. But mostly I couldn’t believe that another human being actually considered what I said and thought it was the best course of action, so he changed his life over it. I was astonished.

It would’ve been OK if he cussed me out, or never spoke to me again, or kept living his life as before. I would’ve understood. I still would’ve loved him the same. No one owes me anything, and this is not about him “following me.” But the plot-twist is that he actually listened. Not to me, but to wisdom. I can’t remember a time when it happened so clean, so quickly, so graciously.

He stuck to his word. He stopped. He went out of his way to make sure it never happened again. And I never tried to play around about it, I never said “I told you so” or “It’s better now, right” or “Aren’t you glad you listened.” If anything, we grew closer and stronger. I was one of the groomsmen for his wedding.

 

The simple truth is that if you haven’t been told you’re wrong in a long time, you probably have no real friends. And you might not be a great friend, either, because everyone’s too scared to tell you what’s really real. But even then, it’s uncomfortable and icky and awkward, and if you ever get to that place of rebuke and honesty, there will be a space of tension where the friendship hangs in the balance. Yet true friends are willing to risk the friendship out of love for each other, because being a friend is not a fun-filled fantasy where it’s all giggles and games. Friends also sharpen one another, to be our truest best selves, that we might move forward to greater joy.

Of course, there will be an initial emotional reaction. There will be dumb rationalizations and a sudden list of “Well, what about you.” And I hope you can push past this. I hope you don’t take it too personally. Every creature has an instinct of self-preservation, and if you call me out, I will naturally fight back until I feel safe enough to let my guard down. The only thing we can do is to endure the scratching and stumble through those first reactions, and maybe we can move past this part a little quicker each time.

I also don’t mean we call out everything that bothers us. There’s plenty to just let go. I don’t mean we become behavior-police or try to catch a slip-up all the time. Sometimes it’s not your job. I’ve been there, and that’s not friendship either. Being accountable is nothing without love and vision, and if you have a self-satisfying relish when you rebuke, you’re not in it for your friend, but yourself. None of this is about ultimatums or “getting things off my chest.” It’s because I love you too much to stay silent.

I hope we can pursue rebuke, to pursue truth. I hope we are not only surrounded by yes-men and glad-handlers and kiss-ups. I hope we are not overly sensitive to spiritual surgery. I hope you can run through my overreactions and get to that core inside, where you believe I can do better, and you sincerely do love me. I hope you will hear my heart breaking.

— J.S. Park

Do You Even Journal Bro?

jspark3000:

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It’s really awesome if you journal everyday.  I think journaling is the coolest thing since journaling went from a nerdy noun to a muscular mountain-climbing verb.

It’s cool if you QT every morning at 5am and jetpack to your homeless shelter to drop off Wonder Bread and you pray six times a day for your neighbors and for your governor and for the 6000 people groups who don’t know Jesus.  Praise God that you’re on the Choir, Welcoming Team, Skit Team, Rap Team, and Origami Team.  I’m serious.  You’re a rockstar.

But: Not everyone has this sort of faith.

We’re different.  Some of us take notes; some of us process in our heads.  Some sing loudly; others soak in the lyrics.  Some can pray on the spot; others take a long time to get in the zone.  Some of us love the bare outdoors to commune with God; others need a podcast, a visual, a conversation, and coffee.

We can’t force journaling or 5am QT or “unceasing prayer” on every visitor in the pew nearest you.  It might work for some, but God’s imagination was not limited to the specific way you relate to Christ.  God’s own nature, the Trinity, proves it.  He is both infinitely diverse and profoundly one-on-one.

It’s better to celebrate these differences than define ourselves by them.  Better to have grace between the spaces than a death-grip to conform them. 

We’re uniquely wired to Christ in as many ways as there are people.  We can learn from each other.  Maybe I can journal once in a while, and you can put down the pen in a sermon.  Maybe I can step outside to see God in nature, and maybe you can hear this podcast with me.  Maybe we can pray together, and for once I’ll do it out loud.  And maybe we will sing together, and we’ll both go a little wild.

This is the body of Christ.  We are many; we are one.

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

— Ephesians 4:4-6

— J.S.

Hey Pastor! Some of my friends and I are starting our own youth group/small group this next week! It's been something we have talked and prayed about for a while now. We are so excited to see what God does in it. Do you have any words of advice for us? All of us are late high school and early college and this is our first time doing this. Thanks so much!! Blessings.

Hey that’s really awesome!  Thank you for even trusting me to ask about it.

I would really hate to offer you any formula that you feel the need to memorize or emulate, but please allow me to point you to a few posts:

- The Totally Awkward Bible Study and Four Ways To Push Forward

- I Want To Read My Bible — But How?

- How To Do Discipleship

- The Sloppy Truth of Discipleship (Podcast)

I would really say there are two important elements to remember: 1) the Bible, and 2) getting to know each other.  However you can advance both of these things, try it, try it again, plan it, re-shape it, and have fun.  Rejoice in the Bible, rejoice in each other. 

People will get straight up healed in these small groups.  It’s where the Spirit does surgery.  So long as the Bible and the people are the focus, you’ll get there. 

— J.S.

Aug 4

Here’s what I’ve learned about choosing the things of God.

I’ve noticed that after I disciple a young kid and see his eyes light up from the truth of the Bible, I can’t go back to how I was. It’s too good to give up. After I serve food at the homeless ministry, after I volunteer at a retreat, after I go on a mission trip, after I serve at an orphanage or a prison or the projects — the attraction of sin loses its grip on me.

Because the things of God are so much brighter and bigger and deeper than the things of this world. This is what Thomas Chalmers called the Expulsive Power of a New Affection.

Ever notice that after the gym, you’re too tired to fight anyone? Ever notice that after a healthy meal, you’re much less willing to eat a bag of Cheetos? And whether you “feel like” going to the gym or eating healthy, you choose it anyway: because not only is the alternative bad for you, but it makes the alternative less attractive.

Sometimes people wait to “feel right with God” to go serve Him. You don’t have to wait. You don’t have to be qualified or clean or deserving to serve. Your choices change your heart just as much as your heart changes your choices. What you do comes out of who you are, but who you are also comes out of what you do.

- J.S. from this post

Jul 9

Pulpit Confessions.

At times I feel like the preacher in the pulpit is telling me all his hero-stories, and he seems to be his own marketing guy saying “This is what Jesus does, so do what I’m doing and you’ll make it.”

But I always lean in when the pastor tells me about his failures.  When he’s really for real.  That time he blew up on someone in traffic.  When he really lost it with his wife and kids.  When he quietly refused to help a homeless guy.  His sudden shopping spree.  Those seasons when he stopped praying and reading the Bible because he was so jaded and burnt out.  When he shares his frustrations with the church culture, not in a mean way that points out any one person, but really grieving over our collective lack of passion.  The times when he doubted himself, when he doubted God.

I don’t want the act.  I’d love it for a pastor to just straight up rip the mic and tell us how much he’s hurting right now and how much he still trusts Jesus to get him through all this and even tell us he’s barely holding on by a thread of his beat-up faith.  Hero-stories are okay, but I want to know we’re in this fight together.

I can realize then that the pastor is a human being, and it makes me a little more human too, and this points to our need for Jesus and for grace.  I want to meet inside our mess-ups, because God is there.  With Him, we’ll make it.

— J

Those moments spent with a much older Christian can be life-changing. 

To hear their failures, defeats, triumphs, and tragedies over the course of changing history is to humbly acknowledge there were many who came before us with the same thoughts, struggles, and dreams as we all have.  It is amazing and disarming to hear someone sculpt their history, to see the faraway look in their eye as they remember the sights that God has shown them and the people they have loved.  Our faith changes and we all slip at times: but God never does.  He is the faithful bedrock of all these stories.

We are not the first to feel what we feel, and we could certainly learn from those before us. 

— J

If You Haven’t Been Told “You’re Wrong” In A While — You Have No Real Friends and You’re Not One Either

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I’ve never met a single person who has maturely handled rebuke. Not a single one. Including me.

I don’t blame them. It’s hard to hear the awful truth about yourself.

In general:

When men rebuke each other, they will make millions of excuses and logically try to justify themselves and find ways to say “You’re no good either.”

When women rebuke each other, they will scratch each others’ eyes out and declare the friendship over and find ways to say “Remember that time when you also ___?”

I’m sure there’s overlap here and I’m probably being mean. What I’m really trying to say is: When rebuke happens, expect melt-downs, flip-outs, childish tantrums, tons of backpedaling, and an ugly look into the self-justifying human heart. It’s not pretty. No one ever likes being told they’re wrong, especially when they’re wrong, and we desperately claw to protect our ego-fortresses because being wrong feels like death.

But we need this.  We need to push past the initial hostility of our overreactions.  Some of us need to die. It is a good death.

Because sometimes, just once in a while after a messy rebuke, you get surprised when the mature person comes back. They want to hear you again. After the inevitable awkward weirdness when there’s silence for a week, your friend returns: because maybe there was truth to what you were saying after all.

Maybe your motives were to restore this person and not tear them down. Maybe they discovered you were brave enough to put the friendship on the line to say the hard thing, and that you yourself didn’t get any benefit from telling the truth.  Maybe not everything you said was correct: but there was even 1% in there that needed to be heard with full conviction.

Maybe they’ll see you’re a real friend, and all these other flattering yes-men are just fakes.

We occasionally surprise each other and learn that friendships are not fun little fantasies built on the shoddy scaffolding of entertainment and hormonal highs: but there is a deeper wellspring, a furious love that cares about the future of the other person and will push you out of the way of a bus, even if it’s a hard shove to your head. It’s a love that knows when enough is enough and it’s time to stop the shallow games and quit the fake laughter and maybe grow the hell up a little bit.

I hope you have a friend like this. Someone who with tears in their eyes and a trembling voice can simply tell you with grace: “You were wrong. The way you handled this, what you’re doing to yourself, how you treated that guy, the choices you’re making: I can’t pretend this is okay. I love you and I would die for you and you mean everything to me, but you’re wrong.”

Please be willing to hear this. Go ahead and flip out and melt down: but come back around, because this rebuke could save your life.

— J

Dec 4

Hi pastor, I am struggling with the way I am at times. I'm suppose to be a leader and reach out to people and check up on them but it's hard. I'm not the type to text often because I'm more of a person who speaks to others in person. But even if I were to meet someone in person, for some reason I have never said "how are you" to my brothers/sisters at church. I guess I struggle with reaching out to people. It's not that I don't care for them but I don't know how to do exactly that. What to do..?

Anonymous

My dear friend, please allow me to be both tender and tough on this one.

There are some things that are certainly “struggles” in our lives.  When we feel anxiety around other people or large crowds, this is a legitimate issue that might be a lifelong problem.  I’ve had stage fright since sixth grade, and to this day I still have a hard time talking in public without getting feverish and shaky.  I’m mostly an introvert too, so I would almost always rather be at home in my boxers watching reruns of Whose Line Is It Anyway than chatting it up in the church lobby.

BUT — Saying the word “struggle” in our Christian culture often gets abused to mean “permission slip.”  At some point, the struggle must become a battle.  At some point, the little scared insecure kid inside us needs to sit down and take a backseat, and the grown-up needs to get up and do something.  The scared kid inside doesn’t ever completely go away: but neither can he ever dictate the course of your life.

I promise I’m not trying to guilt-trip you here.  I’m just saying: Please do not use your shyness as an excuse to cover your laziness.  Most introverts just don’t want to put on pants.  They would rather watch a rom-com or TV series or a sports game than actually live a dirty, sweaty, gritty life.  That’s just laziness.  It’s not cute, it’s not attractive, and it’s not real shyness. 

Getting to know another human being is hard work.  And that’s also true for extroverts.  Most people just don’t make an effort to approach people: and you’ll need to fight the natural inclination to hide in your shell every single day. It’s a daily battle. 

It’s still tough for me to call people and just say hello.  I sometimes stare at a phone for as long as an hour before calling a fellow church friend and just talking.  Really.  I know, it’s tough.  But I do it anyway.  And it’s gotten just slightly easier.  But I’m always glad I did when I follow through.

So maybe you’re really bad at socializing, but that’s the very exact reason we would want to go socialize.  To get better at it.  It doesn’t have to be with fifty people at a time.  Start with one.  Take a special interest in just a few people.  Asking “How are you” is as easy as asking, “How are you.”  Then listen.  Some of those church folk around you are just waiting to hear that question from someone.

If I’ve been harsh, it’s just because I love you and God wants way more for you than to believe the excuses.  You’ve probably believed some lies about yourself over a lifetime, like I’ll never be good at this or I’m just not a people-person, but that’s all crap.  Let’s throw that script out the window and just get into the mess.  It’s scary, but it’s awesome.  We’re made to be with people.  Go be with them.  Get hurt, scrape your knees, climb trees, get ice cream, and talk until four in the morning.  You’ll be glad you did.

— J

Sep 4

Question: How To Start A Bible Study

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 Anonymous asked:

I want to start a bible study group, but I don’t know how to go about doing it. I have this urge from God to step out of my comfort zone. Please help!

 

Hey, you’re awesome.  That is very, very awesome.  I love you for doing what you’re doing, and God has your back on this.

Please don’t see the following as a formula, but just a few jolts to get you started at a good place. 

 

1) Read the Bible for yourself first.

I’m sure you’re already doing this, but most preachers and teachers have a habit of reading into the Bible as teachable material.  Soon you’ll be saying, “Oh this will work for that topic” or “This verse fits perfectly here,” and you become a funnel where nothing catches.

Think of yourself as a sponge.  If you’re not soaking in, you have nothing to pour out.  You can probably teach dry for a while, but eventually you’ll burn and crash.  Along with your Bible Study, please consider having a separate devotional time that has nothing to do with your teaching.  While your devotionals can overlap into your teaching, it doesn’t always work vice versa.

 

2) Be a little crazy.  Like run-through-a-wall crazy.

Whether you’re starting a college campus Bible Study or a cell meeting at your house or a life-stage small group at church — be a little nuts about everything.  Be engaged, prepared, persistent, involved, vulnerable, passionate, and seeking. 

I don’t mean extroverted. What I mean is: It’s very difficult to gather people into a room to learn anything, much less the Bible.  It takes a determination to organize them, keep in contact, speak to their life-struggles, work through awkwardness, and to sincerely pray for them.  If God has called you to teach, He will also anoint you with the ability to carry through, so don’t be afraid to max out how God has wired you for the task at hand.  Utilize God’s gifts in you to the fullest.

Also: You will endure a ton of rejection, feelings of inadequacy, and a nagging inner-voice that wants to quit.  You might have only three people for a while or no responsiveness, and it can get discouraging.  However you need to process that stuff — let it pass through your system like poison.  Don’t deny it or hide it or numb it.  Wrestle with it and let it sweat out your pores.  Run through that wall to the end. 

And double-also: You’ll face a lot of disagreement and opposition.  Run through that too.  One of my friends tried to start a Bible Study in her church and she was stopped by the pastor, because he was afraid it would conflict with some other Bible study.  She was more or less devastated: but she went and hosted it anyway, as a non-church function for the ladies.  It worked out really well.  I’m not saying to actively disobey your pastor about these things: but the bigger point is to be a little crazy about pursuing this calling.  If you have to over-do anything in life, it might as well be on what you care about.

 

3) Dive in the deep end.

Bible Studies can be a deep time of confession, repentance, growth, reconnection, and intimate life-sharing.  You can’t force this at all, but you can begin by jumping in the deep end first.

The leader has to be willing to be honest and open about themselves.  I do know of preachers and teachers who reveal too much, to the point where it becomes a One-Man-Show (and I’m guilty of this sometimes too) — but then I know others who never share a single thing and end up looking self-righteous or plastic-perfect. 

Again, you can’t manufacture this moment, and people will know if you’re faking it or somehow using a technique.  But the sincerity begins with you.  Be courageous, ask God for grace, and jump.

 

4) Stick to the Bible. 

Whenever people say “We’re having fellowship,” I sort of don’t believe them these days.  The word has been so beaten down that it basically means “We’re having chips and salsa this Thursday while vaguely making it spiritual by praying for two seconds over the chips.” 

Sometimes in a Bible Study, it’s totally cool to talk about the latest TV show, the you-had-to-be-there funny-story, the random bathroom humor, the latest sports scores, that one viral video, the sad headlines yesterday, or just giggling madly about nothing.  All this is life, and none of it’s really wasted, and a great Bible Study will have these moments.  But the primary objective of a Bible Study is to equip the saints with the Word of God so they may glorify Christ and dismantle the lies of sin and thwart the devil’s schemes. 

As much as you’ll have an amazing time with friends, true fellowship will always have some God-centered growth by planting the Word of God in the soil of weary hearts.  Certainly you don’t want to be the religious nanny, but you also want to anchor all your teaching by reining in the focus.  So long as you tie it back to the redemptive purpose of God in His Gospel, you’re doing it right.  Then the fun times will be even more fun, more rich, more full.

 

There were so many times when I went home empty from a Bible Study where I had a great time laughing, but there was zero substance to the teaching.  There were other times when it was awkwardly silent, where jokes would fail mid-air, where the conversation sputtered — but the teaching was exactly what I needed. 

I didn’t come for a social club; I could’ve picked other places for that.  I came to be fed, for my thirst to be quenched by the Living Water, to be armed to fight Satan.  Remember those broken people, and that no matter how much they laugh or smile, inside they need the Bread of the Word as much as you do.  I don’t mean to sound so dreary, but I also make no apology for making fellowship a time of entering the glorious presence of God and basking in His authority.  God has entrusted you with it, and I’m sure He will do amazing work through you.

— J.S.

Question: Insecure Introverts Finding Confidence and Calling

imageTwo anons:

- You’ve posted an incredible article about introverts, all of which pertains to me. However, with my insecurities combined with my introverted-ness results in a very quiet member of the church, which is considered bad. This makes me ashamed of being introverted, and even more insecure about being insecure. What’s the line between remaining who I am (an introvert) and developing myself into a passionate follower and advocate of Christ? How do I regain confidence in myself?

- I’m not the outgoing type of introvert and I struggle a lot with helping out the fellowship that I am in. I often feel inadequate and that I’m not contributing as much as I should. What’s a good way to get involved? Or what’s a good way to make use of being an introvert? Any advice would help!

 

Hello fellow introverts!  We have found each other. Yay and high five!

That was really out of character, but I couldn’t help myself.

Please allow me the grace to point to some previous posts —

- I Feel Bad For Being An Introvert

- Christians Need To Be Extroverted?

Here’s also an interesting article from USA Today about why introverts are better in the work force and how they’re being hired more now:

On the job: Introverts win in the end

 

Dear friends: there is absolutely nothing wrong with being an introvert.  You are allowed to be methodical, reflective, deliberate, and most importantly, you.  We live in an extrovert-biased world, and while I totally love my extroverted friends, no one should ever twist your arm into their own preferences. 

Introverts can do everything that extroverts can, whether in the spotlight or behind the scenes, and I’ve been blessed to witness every spectrum of personality take on impossible roles to the glory of God.

At times, ministry can force a certain aggression that is confused for confidence, so there’s hardly any room for the people who enjoy numbers and charts and brainstorming and admin, not to mention introverts who can be great speakers, musicians, artists, and leaders.  While your personality can affect your calling, it’s really up to God and not your culture.  God has a funny way of calling you into tasks you might not otherwise ever do.

When I wrote 14 Ways To Handle A Christian Introvert, I never realized how many people felt alone and isolated simply because they were introverted, especially in church. 

When I re-posted it to my main blog, it still gets the most views of anything I’ve written.  But what grieves me so bad is the backlash in the comments section: people saying things like “You’re giving permission for introverts to be moody/selfish/sinful/crappy/antisocial.”  I understand what they mean, and I wish I had a less abrasive tone — but le sigh.  Even if the “selfish introvert” thing was true, introverts still need grace just like anyone else.  Getting on their case doesn’t help anything and could only make things worse.  Again, I have nothing against extroverts: but dang, some understanding could go both ways here.

The critical thing is NOT to feel bad about how God made you, and to utterly embrace your awkwardness as part of who you are.  Once you’re okay with being a slightly sheepish nervous jittery person, you will actually be okay around people because you’re not trying so hard to be someone else. 

 

I’ll finish here by quoting myself and my spiritual brother, C.S. Lewis:

Trusting God is also trusting how He has made you uniquely YOU.  It’s to know that God sent His Son for you and loves you just as you are, the nervousness and all, and this is real confidence: a sort of humility that submits to God’s plan.  People who are comfortable with themselves have increasingly found their security in God’s absolute, never-stopping, always-constant love.  This is the Real You that God is sculpting you to be.  We so often hide that with a cultural idea of “confidence” that is really just shallow fakery, whether it’s a nicer car or better hair or cuter purse.  Those things are fine, but not if they define you.  Let yourself out to play.

 

“You will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making. Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it… Give up yourself, and you will find your real self.

— C.S. Lewis

— J.S.

Jul 5

If the church isn’t messy, then it’s not a church. That’s why God calls us to be in a body of other people: to endure with those we would never hang out with, to persevere with different preferences, to overcome our loss of patience and our growing frustrations and our silly hang-ups, to really love others when we least want to.

There’s no real love that doesn’t push past the initial illusions of perfection. The real kind of love that Jesus aims for is the kind that embraces the ugly underside of our faults and flaws, and looks not at who we should be, but could be.

- J.S. from this post

Jul 3

There are friendships I’ve mourned over where too much history got in the way. There were too many harsh words and broken promises and silent disagreements, and it rotted to an impatient grave. But there are others where we traveled the jagged road of reconciliation, mending wounds and untying knots and covering with grace: and on the other end of this is an ocean-deep intimacy of perseverance that couldn’t be reached any other way. We had to wrestle with the ugly parts of our nature. Demons were exposed. Secrets were spilled. Yet there is a joy in this sort of enduring friendship that goes the long distance; there’s a crazy sort of laughter with a lifelong friend that is colored by the weight of heels digging into the ground, a love that says, ‘I’m staying.’ We see it in the cross, and we can have it now, even in a world such as this.

- J.S.

Question: Struggling With Depression and Faith

image Anonymous asked:

I’ve struggled with depression for a long time, but this year it got really bad—to the point that I went on medication and have been seeing a counselor for a couple of months. Those two things have been extremely helpful and I have been feeling a lot better. However, it’s been super hard to pick things back up with God. Do you have any advice? I’m trying not to overwhelm myself, but even just going to church has been hard. What are some things I can do that will help?

 

Hey my friend, depression has been a lifelong struggle for me and it’s absolutely awesome that you sought help for your issue.  Very few Christians are willing to do this because of the strange stigma of “Only God should heal you,” which as you know, is only said by people who don’t get it.

Please allow me the grace to first share a few posts with you:

- Getting Back The Fire For God

- Is Depression and Anxiety A Choice?

- Why Did God Make Emotions?

 

I know there are no magic words to make everything instantly better, but I’ll share a few things that have helped.  Please know I love you and God loves you and I’ll be praying.

- The Christian life is a journey, not a light-switch.  Please have grace for yourself on that.

- Do NOT pressure yourself into a rockstar faith by setting an impossible standard for yourself.  Jesus had some things to say about people who did this to others, and certainly we shouldn’t do it to ourselves.  Don’t rush it.

- I totally understand that going to worship service can be uncomfortable and sometimes even harmful to recovering people — but also remember there is so much more to church than Sundays, and that Sundays are really the fulcrum starting point for deeper fellowship.  Find a mentor, talk to your pastor, an older mature person, a group of friends, get involved in a team, and keep trying.  Persevere with them.  God tells us that one of the ways to overcome deep valleys of the soul is to rejoice with our fellow brothers and sisters.

- As simple as this sounds, simply get to know God.  Be encouraged by His heart for you. Sometimes the simple act of intimate time with God (for even a car ride or a few moments in the morning) totally recalibrates my orbit back into His mission, and I’m empowered to know that the God of the universe loves me and has my back all the way.

- I have a habit of defining myself by my struggle instead of defining myself as part of God’s story.  I’m not saying this is what you’re doing, but your struggle does have a direction and an end goal.  Many of us just forget.  There’s a time and place to rant, but also a time to regain perspective on what’s next.

- Go have fun.  Seriously.  When I get depressed, I don’t always need theology and discipleship and long lectures and inspirational speeches.  Those are nice, but usually I just want a good burger and ice cream and a walk on the beach and a Netflix marathon and loud laughter about dumb things and cooking a Pinterest recipe for the first time.  Don’t ever think this is shallow: this is life too.

- Find a need and serve the need.  You are specifically wired by God to do something awesome as His force for good in the universe.  You are created to speak something into the world that no one else can.  I don’t mean you do anything to earn God, but that God is excited to work through you and is already orchestrating His purposes in you.  I don’t mean that being “busy” is some cure for our condition, but that the victory over our struggles must also have a direction towards something better.  Find a need, serve the need.

— J.S.

May 8

So often when I talk to a friend who keeps circling the drain of an addiction, an ex, a former life: I want to shout and shake them and slap them awake. But I know that only works for the short-term. Force and coercion never really internalizes or transforms. There is such an agony in patience, a heartbreaking hurt in watching others hurt, a crushing silence to wait until they hit rock bottom.

Yet we must wait on the other end. We must have open arms and a wellspring of grace when they have been spent dry. We must not say, ‘I told you so.’ We must still tell the truth, not in superiority, but with teary eyes and shaking hands. Don’t give up: because maybe you’re all they have. All the long while, be the voice of healing. Cheer for them, and say the thing that no one else has told them: ‘You’re so much better than this.’ Believe there is still yet hope, for God is sovereign and He is still in the business of rescue.

- J.S.

Apr 9

7 Ways To Stop The Christian Gossip Mob

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We’ve all been in a crowd where someone starts doing the sassy finger and going into hater mode.  “Did you hear about our dear so-and-so in Christ?  Because not to be a gossiping jerk, but I’m about to be a gossiping jerk.”

It’s not too hard to stop your own mouth (simple: don’t start), but when someone else among friends starts going off on gossip, it gets awkwardly difficult to control.  It’s not enough to just change subjects or step away.

So then, some ways to shut this down.

 

1) Generously explain for the other person.

Gossip is all about dehumanizing the other person to paint a false cartoon.  The gossiper is attempting to build on a possible nugget of truth buried under exaggerations and embellishments, so if you can flesh out both sides, then the gossip loses much of its power.

Explain that we just don’t know this other person’s history.  We don’t know how they were screwed up by their parents, if they’re depressed or suicidal, if they’re desperate in finances, if they’re taking care of a sick family member, if they’re in counseling or on medicine, or some other motive we just can’t know.  This is more than just sympathy — this is reminding us that we’re all human, we’re all broken, and we ALL make mistakes.

 

2) Relate to the other person.

It’s as simple as saying, "You know, I’ve done the same thing.  We’ve probably all done something like that.  I mean unless you’re perfect."

If you want to dig, add: "I don’t think anyone can possibly be outside of God’s sovereign grace.  I mean if you’re not, then no one is.”

 

3) De-fang silly tactics.

It’s easy to imitate another person’s voice with a ridiculous high-pitched falsetto.  Just reply, "You and I both know they don’t sound like that." 

Expert-gossipers also have a roundabout way of sounding courteous, as if they’re doing a favor by yapping somebody’s business.  There’s this slick way of compensating for trash-talk by suddenly throwing in some nice platitude, like saying “We need to pray for them.”  Call that out, too.  "It still sounds like you’re being a jerk."

 

4) Rumors are just rumors.

Most of the time, gossip is mere speculation.  It’s a tabloid.  The easiest thing here is to expose the lie by asking questions.  "How do you know that?  You only heard about it?  From someone else who heard from where?  So you’re making it up?"

 

5) If you know the other person, celebrate all the good they are.

This will be sort of a verbal firefight.  Without taking anyone’s side, simply go positive.  Maybe this other person has actually done a lot of good for you and your friends, for their family, for the church.  Maybe they’re funny, gentle, good with kids, and doing much better than two years ago.  This person is MORE than the unfair rumors.

 

6) Pray for the other person.

The sneakiest thing you can do, especially if the gossiper says, “We should pray for them,” is to actually pray for them.  On the spot.  Or in the very next meeting.  Go in a circle, and ask the gossiper to finish it off.  It’ll be the most awkward prayer you’ve ever heard, and trust me: you will love every second of it. 

 

7) Just call it out.

Just do what everyone else is hoping you’ll do: be the courageous person who is willing to do the uncomfortable.  Do what Jesus would do if he was standing there: the gentle backhand of rebuke.

"You’re gossiping right now, and it’s making us all feel weird, and they’re my friend too, and we know you’re better than how you’re talking, so please stop. I love you bro, but that’s enough."

It doesn’t matter if someone thinks you’re being a party-pooping prude.  In the long run, people will trust you more: because you’re the one who defends others behind their back and you don’t let anyone get away with loose lips.  No matter how uptight you look, you’ll be earning respect where it counts. 

 

— J.S.