Fighting Despair

How do you avoid despair?

 
I believe one of the biggest mistakes we make in treating weariness, depression, anxiety, or despair, is that we treat it as if people are blinded to all the good flooding in around them and only focusing on one little shadow that covers up their life.
 
Now, that does happen. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve done it myself more often than not… when a fear or evil or bitterness in your life slowly grabs a hold of you, strangling out every last bit of light that you can see till there is nothing else in your life that matters save for that one issue you can let go of… that is a true problem… but I’m also not gonna lie…
 

Life stinks….

 
It does… This world is unfair. The cruel and inhumane win. The only way to earn money is to have money. The ones with good looks or charisma get treated well while the others get overlooked. The people placed in charge are usually the last who deserve to be. The first to be yelled at are usually the least to be able to do anything about it. There are lies, corruption, propaganda, false facts everywhere to the point that it’s near impossible to remember what truth even is anymore. There are a whole world of people people don’t even realize exist. We hold ourselves to the standards of fake lives we’re shown because people are too scared to show that they can’t live up to the standards of the fake lives we show. People are living 5 to a house because the products available to us weren’t designed for this economy. People are working 3 jobs only to make half the income needed to live and spend half of that paying off the debts to schooling that was promised to give them a better life.
 
This world is a rotting cesspit of greed, bitterness, lust, and anarchy, like a train that has long since driven off the tracks and people are beating each other hand and foot to climb to the last car so they can survive just a few seconds longer when it finally hits the ground. So I really don’t think that depression, anxiety, and despair always come from obliviousness. In fact, I sometimes feel that it comes from being able to see too much. Being unable to distract yourself like many can. For seeing the world as it is, and how terrifying a place it has become. How meaningless the set path before us looks. For seeing the people who fell off the road and what happened to them. It’s scary… I know.
 
And yet… at least at this point, I don’t feel despair. This year and a half has been ridiculous. My body’s broken permanently at age 27, lost my job, my finances, my future goals, friendships, opportunities, family members, and more…. I feel trapped.. I’ve been beaten and burned several times, and almost every door I’ve tried has been slammed right in my face. Meanwhile people stand on the sidelines chastising my laziness for not making it through the doors they could easily.
 
There have been times during this last year and a half where I have felt despair… I can probably count on one hand though what those times were like. Those nights when you don’t want to wake up because what future is there for you. When you don’t want to fight anymore because you’ve already lost. When you stop eating, the world starts spinning, you’ve broken out into a cold sweat, and your mouth tastes like something died in it… I have experienced despair a few days… and I’ve had numerous bad days, or days when I just don’t want to push forward anymore… but even still, there’s always been a spark that’s kept me going… and having talked to several people these last few weeks who feel like their lives are worthless, that they’ve seen everything there is to see and there’s just no point in going on… I start to realize that in spite of loss, I’ve also gained something not everyone has.
 
Hope….
 

But what is hope. Where does it come from?

 
First off from God.
 
And no. I don’t mean the half baked “Pray every day and be a good person because those are good life practices that will help you mature” type beliefs that many people push these days… I mean the faith that comes from thinking… from realizing the implications of your faith.
 
Don’t half-bake your faith. God either is or He isn’t. He isn’t here when it’s good doctrine and then gone when it comes to your responsibilities. He isn’t a God you should pray to, but then you’re the one in charge of your own fate. Stop being such contradictory flip flops!
 
DO YOU BELIEVE THERE IS A GOD?
 
Then stop thinking like this world rests on your shoulders alone.
 
DO YOU BELIEVE GOD CREATED THIS WORLD?
 
Then why do you struggle to realize He can help you too?
 
DO YOU BELIEVE HE IS WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS HE IS?
 
Then why tell yourself He hates you or let these things happen to punish or harm you? Do you think you let God down?? You’re human! You were never holding Him up! At your very best you always were a sinful person unable to save yourself but by the grace of God. Don’t think God suddenly got offended and fed up with you because you struggled with a mistake that even tweaks your conscience!
 
If you believe in God, and that He’s real, and all the Bible says He is… then realize the implications of that.
 
1. You AREN’T alone!
You were never asked for results. You were asked to follow. You were never asked to make things happen. You were asked to trust and believe. You plant the crops. You listen for God. That is hard enough. Don’t try to make the skies rain as well. That was never your place to begin with!
 
2. God does ALL things for your good and for His glory.
Things are going poorly? Your world is falling apart? It feels like you’ve been beaten beyond your abilities? Seek God. Ask to see what you need to learn and to grow stronger for it. In order to rebuild something stronger, you must first take it apart. In order to refine something you must first melt away all the junk. What you see as destruction may actually be rebuilding. God has seen a lot of nasty evil people do some pretty horrendous things. Do you honestly think He decided you would be the one so bad that He’d make special exception tormenting your life? No. He has a reason. Even if that reason is just to slap you awake to realize you never could do this in your own strength. Rely on Him!
 
3. HE is in control!
People do as people do. People will offend you. People will destroy the world. People will do crimes, inhumane acts, talk during movies, all sorts of evil evil things! You may feel like God is losing the fight against so many evil things…. you’re looking at the battlefield at too low a point. This isn’t a battle between good and evil. This is God showing how even the scariest things people may try to do for the worst reasons. The harshest pains. The most hopeless situations… God can turn them all around and do greater good than there ever was loss.
 
Now that you start to realize that you aren’t alone, realize you aren’t powerless either.
 

You are still alive! That means there is still hope!

 
Don’t give up on life. You may feel like you understand where you stand better than anyone else in the world…. but realize this is just your first attempt at life, and most of you probably aren’t even halfway through that attempt yet. Don’t act like you know exactly what you can and cannot do. Don’t act like you can tell the ending from the climax. We read stories and wish we had happy endings like that as well… but we so easily forget that those people didn’t know when the ending would come either… there were times when they felt like there was no hope, no point, no reason to move forward… but they endured. And it was because they endured that they lived long enough to see the ending.

 

Find out what you are living for!

 
No I don’t mean something simple like “To get a job and a family.” I mean seriously ask yourself. If you could be remembered for one thing in your life…. if you could make one impact on the world around you. What would it be?? For me, I decided back in high school. I wanted to make the lives of everyone I met at least a little better than before they met me, and to empower people to do things they never thought they could.
 
This goal is important. Why? Because we’ll have many goals in life. I wanted to be a bush pilot. I wanted to run a spreadsheet design company. I wanted to go to Japan and teach English. To fall in love by 18, get engaged by 21, married by 22, and have kids before 25 so that by the time they were teens I’d still be young enough to keep up with them… yet here I am… almost 28, single, under many health issues, and forget kids, I can’t even keep up with people my age anymore….
 
I’ve had many plans and even more failures…and yet, that initial goal hasn’t changed. In fact, in each failure I’ve had, I’ve learned, I’ve gained resources, contacts, and more…. I haven’t failed my goal yet. I’ve just added more tools to my toolbox I’m using to achieve it.
 
As humans we need something to work towards. We weren’t designed to drift through life… to be dragged down paths we haven’t decided, or to have no idea where we were going. In WWII POW camps they proved that was the greatest torture of all… the loss of purpose… and honestly it’s lethal.
 

YOU

 
HAVE
 

PURPOSE!

 
Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Know you aren’t alone. Know you aren’t powerless. You are alive! You are unique! You have something that no one else in this world can bring! It’s okay to take the time to mourn, cry, mope, or more. It’s human. But don’t give up! You’ve got this!
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How Can a Good God Let Bad Things Happen?

“How can a ‘Good’ God let bad things happen?”
 
How many people have left the faith for this question? How many churches have split over it? How many people wave it proudly as their banner in their self proclaimed crusades against religion.
 
This year especially I’ve seen this question raised a lot. I’ve met people forever cursed to suffer. Children lose their lives after long battles with sickness. Young adults lose their lives, or even their functional futures after momentary freak accidents. I’ve watched parents and children alike mourn. I’ve watched idiots threaten to destroy the world with their posturing. I’ve watched lives get flipped upside-down, and my own has been flipped so many times I forget which way is up.
 
“How can a ‘Good’ God let Bad Things happen??”
 
The first thing you have to ask yourself is, “Are things really just good or bad?” A birthing is a painful event, but it brings forth a brand new life. Exercising hurts like crazy, but it enables you to live longer and better before. Studying is something I bet we could all do without (I am maybe being stared at judgingly by my abandoned textbooks as I write this) but the intellect we gain gives us so many more options.
 
All gains come at a cost…. but all costs come with some gain. The balance may not always be equal, and sometimes you have to search pretty hard to find what you gained or lost, but it will always be there.
 
That’s the way the world works. Why does it work this way? I am not the creator so I cannot say. I will point out that in order to receive love and worship, the being you receive it from must be sentient (or else it is just lip service), in order for something to be sentient, it must have choice, (lest it be forced to live its life constantly questioning its actions but without being able to control them). And a choice is only as valuable as the consequences to it.
 
Is this the right answer? Unfortunately, this is the only reality I have lived in, and my perspective within it is limited at best. However this does make sense, in my opinion and I believe is a good foundation to work off of.
 
Secondly then, if we accept that we are given choice and in order to be given choice we must also be given consequences to our choices, we must also realize that while everything will fall within God’s plan, not everything is necessarily how God wants it.
 
Have you ever worked with an annoying person? I am sure you have… if you haven’t you probably are the annoying person… in fact even if you have you may be an annoying person in your own way as we all tend to prick and bump each other in ways we don’t necessarily like.
 
When placed in charge of a problematic group, you learn that you have to compromise. Yes you know that that guy’s plan is going to fail. You know that he hasn’t told anyone in charge about it yet has told his team to arrive at the location he hasn’t booked to use the materials he won’t order…. You KNOW that this is going to be a failure… but there comes a point when all you can do is damage control.
 
Message the people in charge so that they are aware and prepared. Try and get what you can together so that when things turn south there is a backup plan. At times you feel like that dog in Loony Toons that would get itself nearly killed trying to let the oblivious cat walk safely through the construction site, but you do what you can to make it work!
 
In the same way, God is looking at the world. Not in our limited human perspective and resources, but as an all knowing God who created all things. He knows that we will make bad choices. He knows that innocent people will often get hurt by them as well as ourselves. But He loves us and lets us keep that free will. He knows that there are consequences to our actions and the actions of those around us, but He plans for them, and gives us people to be there for us through it.
 
AND HE DOES SUPPORT US THROUGH IT!
 
Even if it feels insufficient. Even if we can’t see it in the moment. Even if we feel totally abandoned, no matter how dark the tunnel gets, there is always at least a glimmer of hope.
 
Finally we need to realize, we aren’t done yet. We are hurt. We are beaten. We have lost a lot. We feel unmotivated and unwilling to go forward. But we aren’t beaten yet. Even in death we are not beaten. Do you realize how many people that influence our world are dead? We are not beaten, and we have not only lost. As I said at the beginning. For every gain there is a cost, but for every cost there is a gain.
 
Now it is possible to throw these costs aside. It is possible to devote our lives to bitterness and hatred. To tearing down anyone who even reminds us about our pain. To go on a self righteous crusade of vengeance…. It is possible to waste all the gains you have received through your losses, and become someone who does nothing but cause greater pain and losses to those around you… but even in that, you are gaining. You are gaining the experience and insight that should you ever turn around, and realize just what a destructive and terrifying force you have become…. you become someone who is better able to recognize it in yourself and in others, and as such warn them before they walk the same path you did.
 
You are not beaten yet. Your story is not done. You’ve experienced pain but gained compassion. You’ve felt loss but gained perspective. You feel lost, but have gained determination. You are not beaten yet, and God cannot use you.
 
Following God does not promise an EASY road ahead… anyone who’s read the Bible can tell you that fairly easily. But it does promise “A” road ahead.
 
You are not relying on only yourself! It doesn’t matter if you can’t see a path forward, or if everyone around you has abandoned you, even if you have nothing you can do are invest or give… because it was never about what YOU brought, it was about what God could do through you!
 
So am I saying to stop whining? To suck it up and keep moving forward? That anyone who feels down or complains needs to man up and take it on?
 
Pfft! No! Such advice is ludicrousy!
 
LIFE IS HARD! What you are going through is hard too. You need to mourn. You need to cry. You need to let all your pain and frustrations out. Burying them down to let them build up and boil will help no one.
 
BUT YOU ARE NOT BEATEN!
 
You are strong!
You are irreplaceable!
You have a future!
You’ve got this!
 
/endrant

Faith Through Pain

You know what… it’s time to be honest… this past year and a half has been miserable… possibly the worst I’ve had in my life… I’ve had a slew of health things pop up including (but not limited to)

  • The tendons in my left kneecap being stretched to the point that my kneecap won’t stay in place causing my knee to collapse and be in constant pain
  • The tendons in my right ankle being stretched and messed up so my ankle is always stiff, locks up, and are also in constant pain
  • Finding out I’ve had fibromyalgia all this time, so there was actually a reason I could never keep up with people
  • Finding out I also had NASH which compounds the Fibro symptoms and means my liver is basically constantly destroying itself (Still getting tested for if I have liver cancer as well)
  • Finding out that by trying to be responsible and “Kick it up a gear” all these years I’ve actually been permanently destroying my body

In addition to this there’s been car troubles, losing my job, missing out on unemployment insurance, realizing I didn’t qualify for disability insurance, having literal hundreds of job applications lead to nothing, my dog dying, my grandmother being hospitalized, family stress, heartbreak, offensive accusations and rumors, nearly going bankrupt, having most my dreams and plans for the future go down the tubes, increased debt, being forced to be a burden to those I care about, losing independence, having to get rid of the furnishings of my old apartment (and simultaneously admitting that it might be years before I could ever use such things again), time and time again hitting the barrier of “lack of working body” or “lack of finances”, the list goes on…

So why bring this all up? Believe it or not, it’s not just so I can whine… (though a good whine feels good from time to time…) It’s more so you can understand exactly where I’m coming from when I say what I’m about to say.

You see, my generation REALLY liked motivational speakers. I’m sure many generations had their motivational speakers, but my generation practically thrived on them. Every year we’d have 3 or 4 come to our school… And being the naturally cynical person I am even at a young age, there were two things that always bugged me.

First of all, there was the obvious thing… These people were paid to come to schools and businesses to tell them about how they were once hopeless and considered a failure by all… but now they had achieved true success…. By going around to places and telling them how they were once a failure, but were now a success…. I mean come on! I may have been in the third grade, but even I realized this was pretty cart-before-the-horse!

The second thing was probably a bit more subtle… You see… it might be encouraging to hear of people who were once failures but were now successes… but it’s not very educational… How did they survive those times when they were in the dumps? How did they think of a way no one else ever thought of to get out? Did they ever lose hope? Were they only able to act so confidently now because it was all over? Hindsight 20/20 afterall…

And so… I wanted to say this now. Now that I feel hopelessly lost. Now that my heart is breaking. Now that I feel like I’ve taken three knife-wounds to the chest in quick succession. Now that I don’t want to stand up even though I have to go to the bathroom because putting weight on my legs feels like my bones are made of shattered glass cutting into my muscles. Now that I wince as I type each letter because of the pain in my hands. Now that it’s hard to even think straight because the brain fog is so thick. Now when there’s no possible way visible to get out of my predicament… I’m standing up to my neck in a burning fire on a platform that’s crumbling away… and even if I were to gain the “Ordinary life” tomorrow out of nowhere, it would still take probably over a decade to recover from all the damage I’ve taken through this… While all my health problems are not only prominent, but also incurable. When I don’t want to fall asleep because it will mean I have to wake up. When I don’t want to wake up because what even is the point. When I walk through life behind a fake smile and lies about being fine because quite honestly, I’m never fine. At this point in my pain filled, stress filled, loss filled life, without even a glimmer of observable hope for the future I want you to hear me say…

 

GOD IS SO GOOD!

 

No… I’m not being cynical here. I haven’t gone to the looney bin either, nor was I overexaggerating my mood previous… My life stinks. I’m not blind enough to not see that. I try to ask people twice my age for advice, and once they hear the reality of where I am, they start to sweat and say they don’t know what to say. Major damage has been done, and major damage is being done. I’m not getting any younger, and peoples’ expectations of what I’ve accomplished by now are only rising as my options are vanishing. Life is horrible, I’m stressed, I’m depressed, I’m scared, I’m heartbroken, and there are days I just wish I’d never been born. But even still…

 

GOD IS SO GOOD!

 

So how can I say that? How can a “good” God let things like this happen? How am I not rebelling against my faith even now? People give up on God for way less than this… so why am I still here?

Instead of answering right away, I’m going give some encouragement… or at least some wisdom I’ve come to find when it comes to dealing with grief, despair, and the hard times of life. See, I think there are three things that every person needs to hear, no matter what they are facing.

  1. What you are going through IS hard.
  2. You are NOT facing it alone.
  3. God is with you, you CAN get past this.

 

What You are Going Through IS Hard:

This is an important one for you to understand first off. I don’t know what it is you’re going through. It could be the loss of a loved one… relationship stress… persecution… bullying… school stress… family stress… depression… ANYTHING really. But whatever it is, I’m sure there is something in your life that is in your mind that is stressful and weighs heavily on you.

There is a very unhelpful thing we have a tendency to do for the most innocent of all reasons. I’m sure you do it with your own problems… I’m sure a bunch of you were doing it to me while I was listing off mine… and that is telling ourselves “So what… at least it’s not *insert worst possible thing we can imagine happening to us*.

Now a part of me honestly gets this. We don’t want to become whiners. We don’t want to feel entitled or put ourselves into a corner where we stop trying to move forward and are just sulky about how our lives stink… BUT THIS IS NOT THE WAY!

First reason I don’t like this tactic is that it gives us unrealistic expectations as to how others are doing. When you belittle someone else’s problems, you simultaneously tell them “You have no right to feel stressed over this because I definitely wouldn’t.” Even if that is not your intention. Even if you totally would be way more stressed than they are right now in the same situation… that’s the front you give them. In our idiotic world that tries so desperately to hide any fault or struggle we have, we already struggle with trying to live up to impossible standards. Don’t encourage people to repress their stress. It just makes the problem worse!

The second reason I don’t like this is because, this is NOT how pain works! Out of all the functions of the human body, it’s ability to adapt is the most amazing. In the same way, if people get used to an incredibly arduous lifestyle, something rough might not seem as bad.

For me, I have been pain, which is too strong to ignore in every one of my joints. To many, the thought of this is insane, and to tell you quite honestly, I’d probably be able to accomplish a lot more if I wasn’t in pain, but here’s the thing… I’ve been in pain my WHOLE life! I don’t really know what it’s like NOT to be in pain. As such, it’s not really something I would notice as much as someone who doesn’t live in pain. When I say “I’m fine.” What that actually means is “I’m in a frustrating amount of pain right now, but it’s not causing too much of a headache and I’m still able to move without any limbs giving out which is pretty good for me.” Some people may have trouble understanding this, but it’s my life.

A better way to explain it might be to imagine you sitting in a car. If the car goes from 0-70km/h in a matter of seconds… well… honestly you might black out the pressure would be so extreme! However, if you go from 110-115km/h you would barely notice the change, even though you’re going WAY faster!

It’s not the intensity of pain as much as the amount of change from our norm that determines hardship.

The final reason I don’t like encouraging people to suppress their grief is because it’s downright unbiblical. Job, who God called “a faithful servant with no one else like him” spent an entire book talking about how horrible his life was and how he wished the Lord would take his life or cursing the day he was born. There are numerous psalms written by David where he expresses his doubt of God’s plan and exhaustion of trying to move forward. Jesus Himself even mourned twice! Once crying over Lazarus’ death, and the second time begging God to take the cup of wrath away from Him which was the entire reason He came!

At the same time, not all grieving is considered good… God got furious at the Israelites about their whining in the wilderness. He got frustrated with Moses for his complaints that he was too weak a man for God to use… so what is it that separates the acceptable grieving from the whining in the Bible?

I am no pastor… nor a prophet… nor even a very smart guy… but if I was to wager a guess, I’d say this:

God is okay and invites us to bring forward our pain and complaints to Him SO LONG AS we still hold Him as worthy and wise, and as long as we still decide to follow Him, even if we don’t understand why.

God knows what you’re going through is hard. It’s called a “refining fire” not as something beautiful… but as something harsh and deadly, which from it will melt away everything except for the most valuable and beautiful pieces. This was never going to be easy. This was never going to be comfortable. But know in you heart of hearts, that God lets these things happen for a reason. And trust in Him even when it hurts. He doesn’t ask us to feel no pain, He asks us to trust Him through it!

What you are going through right now, WHATEVER it is… it’s hard. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! But… know that God is having you go through this for a reason. Let this pain drive you to run towards Him, not away from Him. Let Him show you what He can bring forth from this!

You are NOT Facing it Alone:

If you are reading this post… you are most likely alive. If you are not alive you most likely cannot post a comment to argue this point because I’d probably have heard about something like that by now.

Humans are fragile creatures. We aren’t designed to live alone… in fact for the first 14… somethings 60+ years of our lives we CAN’T live alone. We’re young, frail, poor, weak… and most likely pretty dumb too.

I’m not here to fight or defend family matters. I know many people whose home lives make me cry or want to throw up. But all I will say is that, raising someone is not easy. If you are still alive, that means SOMEONE took the time and effort to do that. You are NOT alone… there are people who care about you. As you grow and impact lives, that number will most likely grow with it… even if you don’t fully realize it.

Ah… but people…. People…. People…………………………. People… People are both the greatest asset to helping you move forward, as well as the greatest barrier keeping you from moving forward… sometimes if they are incredibly skilled, they can do both at the same time. As they often say at my church… “We’re like a bunch of hedgehogs in the winter… we need to get closer to stay warm, but the closer we get, the more likely we are to stab each other!”

The truly mind-blowing part is that, people don’t even need to intend harm to cause it… I have been told far more destructive things out of love than out of hate. When someone hates you, you can at least be angry at them for being such a jerk… but when someone says something horrid out of love… well then all you’re left with is the crushing realization they really think you’re that stupid.

There was one case in particular however, which really changed how I viewed how I want to react to certain inputs. I had someone come up to me, older, supposedly wiser, and tell me that God had put it on their heart to tell me something…

Now this is my cynical side speaking again, but I instantly get apprehensive when people start a conversation with “God told me to tell you.” Because

  1. Why is God telling you? I was talking to God just 15 minutes ago and He told me a lot of stuff. Why wouldn’t He just tell me then instead of telling you to tell me? It seems inefficient!
  2. I always find it interesting how many people hear “God telling them” to tell other people things, when they very rarely hear God telling them to tell themselves things.

This is of course NOT to say that you should never trust someone who says such things. God has allowed me to touch the lives of people in ways I could never imagine in the past by putting it on my heart to ask them things… However, when faced with this, it is usually wise to take the biblical approach of analyzing what is said against much prayer and comparing with the scripture. If God could tell them, ask God to tell you too, because you serve God, not them.

But anyways, the person then went on to tell me their message… It was amazing… It was 100% the worst thing I could possibly hear at that moment… It took every insecurity I was trying to stand strong through and shot a cannonball through… It made me feel worthless, stupid, and like I had been a piece of garbage in everyone’s eyes this entire time only barely put up with.

Now I am a non-confrontational person… but unlike most non-confrontational people, it is not because I stink at fighting. In fact, it is the reverse. I am a fighter by nature. I am in fact such a fighter by nature that should I get mad, I will absolutely demolish my opponent till there is not a shred of them standing. Me letting myself get angry at provocation is like a guy with a Gatling gun finishing off a toddler with a water balloon, and quite honestly, I scare myself. It is for this reason that I usually don’t let myself get mad… but at that moment I was fairly close. Like a cornered and scared wild animal, I was ready to lash out with every last bit of righteous anger I had in me. I could hear the twitter replies coming in saying I was totally justified and for once I was going to fight back… But then God tapped me on the shoulder…

He asked me, “What if I did send this person?” no… not as an encouragement, or wise message, or advice. It accomplished none of those goals and God admitted that… but what if God sent that person at that time to see if I would still choose to trust in God, or instead lash out in my own strength….

It was at that point I realized how much we chase after the wrong enemy. We waste so much time and energy getting angry at humans. “HOW COULD THEY SAY THAT!? HOW COULD THEY DO THAT?! HOW COULD THEY LET THAT IDIOT GET VOTED IN?!” that we forget how much we aren’t acting in faith.

The Babylonians in the Old Testament were DEFINITELY not Godly people. Sex crazed, cruel, irrational, impulsive, sadistic… even history textbooks tell stories about the horrible things they were known for doing… Yet if you read in the Old Testament, it’s very clear… GOD sent them… GOD raised them up… it was part of GOD’S plan that they would do what they did. It does go on to say that they go to far and as such God punishes them… but the Bible is very clear the only reason they rose to power was because God let them… and He let them rise to power, not because He was angry and wanted the Israelites to suffer… but out of love to save the Israelites from their own corrupt ways. To make sure they would survive even though they demanded they wanted to live in such a corrupt manner.

When people hurt you… don’t waste your energy getting angry at them… Quite often, even the most hurtful people act out of love… but what’s more, it was God who decided to blind their eyes to what you’re going through. It was God who decided to let them say what they were going to say at that time you were closest to bursting… If God lets it happen, there is a reason for it, even if it is to make you stronger through enduring. When those around you hurt you… yes feel pain… yes grieve like we said before… but don’t hold bitterness and anger against them… it will only destroy you. I know this because I struggle with it myself. But pray to God. Ask God what it is He wants you to see. Pray for the strength to forgive and the wisdom to learn.

There is however, the other extreme as well. I HATE asking for help…. Which is a bi hypocritical considering I’m a busybody who’s always pushing to make sure everyone who lets me be in contact with them is alright. But still I hate it. I feel like I’m burdening them. I feel like I’m a bother to them. I feel embarrassed by all the things they’ll judge me on. I hate going through the repetitive task of trying to tell them “Yes I tried that… No, I really did… Okay see I’ll try it again… and no it still didn’t work… and yes I got hurt again trying it…” but most of all… I feel like if I can suffer alone, isn’t that better than letting others suffer my fate as well?

 

DO NOT BE ME! THIS IS WRONG!

 

We are human beings. We were never designed to stand alone… in fact we can’t. We’re like incomplete puzzle pieces. Each one of us are different and unique, but it’s only by fitting them all together that the true picture can be seen.

David could not stand alone when being chased by Saul. Moses could not stand alone when leading the Israelites through the desert. And yes, even Jesus did not stand alone, having the disciples with him.

There are people who care, but communication is key. Most people can’t tell what your intentions are, and as such all of their judgements are based on your results that they can see. Results and actions are THE WORST WAY to understand who someone truly is because there are so many causes that can bring forth the same results.

You have to communicate and build a relationship with people. Most people are open to doing this, because quite honestly, everyone knows what it’s like to feel pain, it’s universal. And those who feel pain, most often, don’t want anyone else to feel the pain they went through.

Even if you don’t know if you can talk to your family, or your friends… there are professionals out there too! Pastors, Counselors, Suicide hotlines… People are out there. And they’ll listen to you. They’ll help you the best they can. At the end of the day they can’t take your pain from you, nor can they always give the answers for you. These are things which only you can bear. But to quote Sam Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings, “I can’t carry it for you… but I can carry you!”

God is With You and You CAN Get Past This:

Now time for the point of encouragement. No tunnel lasts forever!

Yes, while I’m writing this, I feel like I’m climbing out of a pit where the walls are made of loose sand, and the longer I climb, the more caved in the exit seems to be getting to the point that there’s barely a pinhole of light left in it. Yes, there are times where I wonder that even if I get out of this… what will I have left to come out to? But when I think of it… Joseph was sold into slavery, accused of rape and then thrown into the worst jail where he was forgotten about for years. David was chased by an entire army for years having everything stripped from him by the one he most loyally served and was forced to live with the people he had killed for years. Job lost his family, house, wealth, health, friends, and more…. And yet… it all worked out for them… in fact, in spite of there being no logical explanation for it save for “God”, they all ended up with far more than they even started with or could have ever dreamed of getting if any of this hadn’t happened to them.

Many people point out that “God won’t test you any farther than you can handle.” But I’m going to put an asterisk on that… Because God DOES test us farther than WE can handle… I’ll tell you right now, I was ready to give up after the second month of this past year and a half. I remember crying in the shower in despair, because God put it on my heart “What if I don’t save you from this yet? What if I let this go on for 6 months? A year? Will you still trust me then?”

God tests us FAR farther than WE can handle… on our own… but we aren’t on our own. God is with us. Rely on Him. He wants us to! He wants to show us what He can do through us.

“But I have nothing left to get me out of here!” you would probably be thinking, if you’re like me… A verse that has really stood out to me recently is in the book of Mark where Jesus and the disciples are on a boat. Jesus had just gotten frustrated with the Pharisees and told them “Don’t eat the yeast they provide” meaning “Don’t listen to their words.” Which the disciples had taken to mean as “We didn’t bring enough bread.” At this point, Jesus points out to the disciples the two times he fed thousands of people with just a few loaves of bread. The first time he fed 5000 with 5 loaves (1 loaf of bread/1000 people… TOTALLY DOABLE!) and they ended up with 12 baskets of leftovers. The second time he fed 4000 people with 7 loaves of bread. Now… even if you’re bad at math, you can probably figure this one out… You’re feeding less people with more loaves of bread… THERE’S GOING TO BE A TON OF LEFTOVERS THIS TIME! But… there were 7 baskets.

This was on purpose! It illustrated that it’s not about what we bring to God. It’s about what God does through us. If you are feeling trapped because you have nothing left, so what kinds of things can you do with your life… YOU STILL HAVE GOD!

These past 6 years, and ESPECIALLY this past year and a half has taught me that there is honestly nothing you have that can’t be taken away from you, EXCEPT FOR YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD! That is one thing you can never have taken away from you, because you can only give it up yourself. And even when you do give it up… no matter how far you run… no matter how long you’re gone… no matter how impossible you feel it would be to go back… you turn around and repent, and BAM He was there beside you all this time.

You may feel like you have nothing, but with God you have everything!

And don’t underestimate what He’s doing in this time as well. Too often we view times of trials like “The waiting room.” We want them to be over so life can start again… YOU’RE ALIVE RIGHT NOW! SO LIVE!

I am not where I want to be. I have no “real job.” My health is a mess, my finances are worse… There are massive giants swinging their clubs one after another and no matter how hard I pray, God seems to be ignoring them… but if I look harder… I realize that around me, a number of other giants I had been ignoring are falling one after another.

My relationship with my parents is stronger than it’s ever been. My organization skills are rising. I’m fighting procrastination. I’m eating healthy and exercising. I’ve read through the bible cover to cover once and am going for a second lap. I pray every day. I’m learning skills they don’t teach in schools. I’m stretching myself and what I can accomplish. For the first time in my life I’m a high 90’s average and it’s in University. I can hold a basic conversation with people in Japan in Japanese. I’ve been home to look after the house while my grandmother is in the hospital so everyone else can be with her. I’ve made tough decisions about what matters and what doesn’t, both in physical items and who I am as a person. I’ve understood my limitations better and am learning to say no. I’m learning to rely on others more. I’m growing in confidence. I’ve accepted that I don’t just want to live a mediocre/safe life anymore (in fact I honestly can’t)

These times hurt a LOT… and the areas I want to get fixed, and where most people seem to be looking remain untouched. But God IS at work. I’ve seen His hand so actively in my life this past year and a half in ways no one can expect. The exit may be getting more blocked in, but He’s been making me strong enough to come flying out when He clears a way. I don’t know what the future holds, for all I know, I could die tomorrow. And quite honestly, that would be alright. God has still used me in this time. I could spend the rest of my life living a meager life alone… and again, if that’s what God decides, it’s His choice… I’d rather it not be that, but it’s God I follow not me… even still though… no matter what happens or how far it all falls apart… I know God CAN turn it around at any point. Because it’s not about what I bring, but how much I trust in Him.

So, whatever it is you’re going through in your life, know that it IS tough. You feel stressed and upset by it, and it is totally alright to feel that way. Don’t give up pushing forward, and let this pain drive you closer to God so He can help you. But don’t feel you’re weak because you feel helpless or in pain. Strength was never about not feeling helpless or defeated… Strength is about being willing to stand up again in spite of that and fighting again!

Remember you’re not alone! I just wrote about 5000 words to tell you that I know what you’re going through and care enough about you to be this raw and real with you about all this! On top of that you have friends, families, professional services, and more out there for you. Don’t try to carry life’s burdens yourself. You can’t. And that’s okay. Rely on others, and be there to help them when they need help too. A chord of many strands is not easily broken!

Finally, know that by relying on God, you CAN get through this… and what’s more, He’s using this time to make you stronger. Don’t fret and be dismayed about how you’re going to get out of this and all that you’ve lost, because God knows what you need and He can return all that and more as easily as can be! Live, learn, trust, grow. One day you’ll be able to help someone else through a similar time because of what you’re going through now.

If you’ve stayed with me this long, I thank you for your endurance… and hope this was encouraging for you. If you know someone else who’s going through a rough time and needs encouragement, feel free to share. This is no scientific study, or theological thesis… it’s just the writings of an ordinary guy being very raw, very real, and hoping that by being honest about what he’s going through, that he can encourage even one more person to not give up fighting forward.

So once more… in full recognition of the state of my life, the consequences, the implications, the slander, the pain, and more… I just want to say this one last time to tell you just how honestly, I believe it. In spite of my circumstances, my fears, others’ judgements, or more…

GOD IS SOOOOOOOOOOOOO GOOD!

 

Amen

~Malcolm

A Prayer of a Broken Heart

“And Lord, I pray to you through the storm. Not because I am strong, but because I never was.
 
As paths around me crumble and there seems to be no way forward, I walk towards you, on the path I cannot see.
 
Though the world around me my disappear, and everything of value to me may be taken away, I cling to you who is of greatest value, who no one and nothing can take away.
 
Though pain and hardships have become my daily bread, and I feel too weak to walk forward again, still I follow you. Not for what I get, but because you are, and have always been the only way.
 
Lord, though you pull me beyond the extents of my endurance, the bounds of my wisdom, the distance of my foresight, still I will trust in you. For the limits I can go are but a drip in the ocean from the journey you can take me on.
 
So Lord, do not forget your servant, though he is battered and bruised, still he clings to you. Though the days come where I feel too weak to stand back up again, I shall crawl towards you and cry to you until these days shall end.
 
I know all you have taken away can be returned 10 fold at a mere word from you. But even if my life were to end at this time, I know my life has not been for waste in your plan. No matter the results, no life spent chasing after you first-most can be considered a failure. And so I shall pick myself up yet again, shakily on tired fight, and continue to cry out to you, until the day when it all makes sense.
 
You cannot expect a simple life if you wish to let God do amazing things through you.
 
Amen”

Prayer is NOT a Cop Out

When it comes to responses to stressful and overwhelming times, few remarks lead to quite the negative feedback and concern as “I’m praying about it.”
 
“Prayer” has become synonymous with “Copping out” or “I don’t really want to change anything so I’ll just say this again.” To say “I’m praying about it.” often leads to responses such as “Well that’s good and all, but what are you DOING?!”
 
Now if this was only with regards to non-christians, I would fully understand this. If you do not believe in the existence of an all powerful God, who allows all things to happen like an intricately woven tapestry, so detailed that even those who attempt to destroy it by doing evil, only end up showing it’s beauty all the more… then it would make sense that praying to this would be on par with speaking to an imaginary friend to go earn some extra spending money for you. However, more often than not, it is the Christians I know who hold the greatest apprehension towards praying about problems, which makes me believe we don’t fully understand quite what prayer is.
 
Prayer is not a passive activity. It is not a chant you speak while attempting to pass the time hoping that things will change. Communication is not a one-way deal, so why would prayer ever be?
 
Prayer is opening yourself up.
Prayer is accepting you are lost and need help.
Prayer is listening for direction with a willingness to take it.
Prayer is accepting that you need to change.
Prayer is abandoning your right to feel bitter and betrayed.
Prayer is a willingness to move forward.
Prayer is a willingness to forgive.
Prayer is a willingness to grow.
Prayer is a humility to submit.
Prayer is an acceptance to repent.
Prayer is laying your heart bare on the altar and showing your trust in the creator of all things to treat it with respect.
 
One of the greatest descriptions I’ve heard of the proper mindset for prayer was an explanation I heard in grade school for why knights bowed before the king. It was more than just a ritual. The knight was lowering his guard, as the king placed a sword near his neck. It was showing with his actions that he was willing to be placed in such a vulnerable position before the king, because he trusted his life in the king’s hands.
 
We are a results-based culture. We see the results of someone’s life, and then instantly draw conclusions as to what led to it.
 
Someone has failed? They must be weak.
Someone has succeeded? They must be strong.
Someone looks a certain way? They must be ___.
Someone does a certain thing? They must be ___.
 
Because of this, we often treat our faith the same way. We believe the value of our faith is the results we bring forth through it. If we can’t lead people to Christ, if we can’t be self sufficient, if we can’t avoid falling into temptation, if we can’t make some huge impact on the world… then we will be of no use to God.
 
THIS IS BACKWARDS THINKING!
 
YOU do not do things that are of use to God. GOD does things that are of use through you!
 
Even the non-christians of the world. The skeptics, the tyrants, the cynics, the haters…. Everything they have is because God gave them. Everything God gave them is for His love for them and for His plan.
 
Does not the rain fall on the crops of sinners as well as saints? Did not God raise up Nebuchadnezzar for His purposes as well as David? There is no blessing in this world that does not come from God. Nor does He withhold His wrath from those who abuse His blessings.
 
Your duty is to follow where God leads and give Him your best. The results are up to God.
 
Much like Job, David, Joshua, and even Jesus Himself… you can do everything right in life and still fail hard. Still be persecuted. Still be a social outcast deemed a failure by human standards.
 
It is not what you DO that will determine the outcome. It is God alone.
 
Despite what many Christians seem to think, is not a cop out answer to encourage laziness. In fact, I would go so far as to argue that true laziness comes from those who try to keep control in their own hands, as in practice, they have a much easier time of it.
 
Focus your energy on trusting God. On submitting yourself to Him. To trusting Him through the fires, and acting as He wishes even when it’s unfair. To turning the other cheek when you’re hurt. To striving to improve yourself and know Him better even when it seems to get you nowhere. To steadfastly follow Him even when you are ridiculed for it.
 
Do you think praying and trusting God is easy? To think that is to suggest you’ve never truly tried it yourself!
 
Get up off your butt! Stop wasting your anxiety and stress over things that were never in your control in the first place! Your battle is to trust and follow God! That is more than you can handle in the first place! Stop killing yourselves to ensure the results YOU think God wants from you. That was never your place to begin with.
 
Live chasing after God. Leave the results to Him. Trust in Him.
 
Amen.

Feeding Thousands

When Jesus broke 5 loaves to feed 5000, there were 12 baskets left over.
 
When Jesus broke 7 loaves to feed 4000, there were 7 baskets left over.
 
this has been a part of the bible that has really challenged me this way. As well (if you read Mark 8:17-21), you realize this was done on purpose.
 
See, a lot of my mind still gets locked into the logic of the parable of the talents. The man with 5 talents invests to gain 5 more, the man with 2 talents invests to gain 2 more, the man with 1 talent creates the first “hedge” fund and it turns out very poorly for him. But the logic is there. They invest what God gives them, and if God gave them a lot, they earn a lot. If God gave them a little they earned a little more. This is mathematical. This is logical. But the two times Jesus feeds people with a small amount of bread TOTALLY FLIPS THIS ON ITS HEAD!
 
Jesus feeds more people with less bread and gets more left over…. think about this for a moment. The first time, Jesus has to feed about 1000 people per each loaf of bread, and ends up with 12 baskets full afterwards. The second time, Jesus only has to feed 4000 people and he has 7 full loaves! That means he has to feed a little less than 571 and a half people with each loaf of bread. If feeding 1000 people/loaf led to 12 baskets left over, you’d assume feeding 571 people/loaf would logically lead to near 24 baskets!
 
But instead there were 7…
 
Why is this? Was there not enough yeast in the bread the second time? Did Jesus get better at performing the miracle so there wouldn’t be as much waste? Were the 4000 a touch more glutenous than the original 5000???
 
If you read Mark 8:17-21, you realize Jesus did it on purpose… to show them that it is God who provides, not them.
 
And this is something we still struggle with today. I know I do. It’s so easy to feel like God can only use you as far as you resources can provide. “I mean God… I’d love to do a lot more for you if I was rich and famous… or had a working body…. But I don’t, so I’m gonna dream small right now and hope the day will come in the future where I can do the big!
 
It doesn’t work like that!
 
What God wants from us isn’t power he can wield, resources he can distribute, influence he can spread. God doesn’t tell us to bring everything we’ve managed to acquire to him so that He can send it out where He chooses. In fact, most times in the Bible, Jesus told people “Get rid of what you’ve earned, it’s just going to hold you back anyways, and I’ve got bigger things in store for you!”
 
God doesn’t ask for us to provide for Him to make a way. God tells us to follow as He provides to make a way. God tells us to trust in Him so He can use us to accomplish the plans we could never have planned. God doesn’t ask for us to make his plans work. God asks us to let Him show us how His plans work.
 
So the next time you think of all the things you would do if you only had the money, strength, fame, time… look at what you have right now… pray to God about what He wants you to do with it… those are your 5 loaves, so keep 12 baskets handy on standby!

Good and Evil

The Lord has used both the good and the evil for His plan equally. He’s used both Babylon and Israel. Both warlords and peacekeepers. Both…. Well it’s hard to think of two politicians that morally contrast each other these days but if there are two He’s used them! Not that it is in His plan for those to do evil… nor His desire… He gave us the free will to do as we choose and the responsibility for our actions that come with it. But so wise a God is He that even those who choose to destroy His creation, he can plan around and make something stronger and more beautiful out of. Much like Eru, the supreme being of the Silmarillion, though Melkor attempted many times to throw the song out of tune to make something ugly out of it, with a few changed notes, Eru made it a beautiful melody again.
 
But how can God, a being who is supreme good, possibly work using those who are evil?? How could he let those who go against Him rise up in power?? These are questions that throw many into bitterness and confusion. For those who already have the question of “How can a good God let bad things happen?” isn’t this a question which could set them over the edge??
 
Well what is evil?
 
We tend to view good and evil as two opposing forces born into existence for no reason other than to fight each other till their deaths… but is this really the case? Is evil really a “thing” that exists on it’s own separate from good? You cannot have light without darkness, sound without silence, fullness without emptiness, brilliance without idiocy… why can this reliance be? It is not because these are two distinct items cursed to be at war with each other. It is because they are comparative terms, where one is the absence or warping of another. In the same way, evil is not a thing on its own. It is but the absence or warping of good.
 
Has there ever been a unique sin? Is not all sin the warping of what is good to get what we consider good in ways we consider easier or to get it in greater amounts? I believe John Piper said it best when he explained that no one sins out of obligation. There is no “I lie, not because I want to, but because it is my duty to do so!” NO! We may choose to do what is good because it is our purpose. We may choose to do what is right because we know we should. But we do evil for one purpose.
 
Because we have convinced ourselves that it will give us what we believe the Lord cannot!
 
So, if we know that evil is the absence or warping of good… choices often taken from the desire to experience good things easier than experiencing good things by doing good… then what is good? What decides what is good and what is evil? We may tell ourselves “It’s what the majority agree upon.” or “What does the least amount of damage.” But if it was built on something as frivolous and unreliable as the majority, could it really have lasted as long as it has? Could it really have done the exact same reset after being corrupted slowly the exact same ways so many times throughout history?? There have been so many complaints and heartbreaks these past few years tied to the choices of “the majority”. If what was good was truly decided by the choices of the majority then why would rebellions exist?
 
There have been people who say that God is the “greatest good.” that “He does the most things good of all of us.” but… if God were only a being that did what was good, how could He have the right to tell us what was good? If all the things in the world that were good, were good just because of a frivolous decision… would it really be “good”? Or would it just be actions we take in an attempt to earn the favour of the deity that placed these obligations on us.
 
No, God cannot tell us what is good simply because He does what is good. In order for God to tell us what is good and what is bad, He, himself, must be above good and evil. In fact, all things that chose to be “good” and all things that chose to be “evil” are things He created. Did He not create Satan as well as the angels? Did He not create Hitler as well as Mother Teresa? Did He not create Stalin as well as Martin Luther King Jr?
 
God did not create the good to fight against the evil. He created both, and gave them the CHOICE to do either good or evil. He gave us the choice because He loves us. He gave us the choice, because free will is potentially one of the greatest freedoms and responsibilities we have. He gave us the choice, because love and praise without free will is naught but lip service. He gave us the choice, because sentience without free will is torture.
 
And we have used that choice. Some have used it to do great good. Others have used it to do great evil… But this brings us back to the question. What does God creating both those who chose to do good and those who chose to do evil have to do with what is “good”?
 
Well you see… that it is only because God made everything, that He can say what is good and what is evil. And I don’t mean this in the sense of “God deserves the right because He made you and He has the right to do what He wants with you.” Though that may be true, the argument for good or evil is far more practical than that.
 
The inventor of the microwave can tell me that placing a meal inside the microwave to cook it is the right way to use a microwave, while placing a wet infant inside the microwave to dry it off is the wrong way. Why do they have the right to say this? Are they infringing upon my rights and free will? NO! I have the free will to fry as many infants as I can before either the moral trauma or the police catch up with me!
 
(note, this is only for a hyperbolic argument. I have not, nor will not be stupid enough to throw a living thing inside the microwave)
 
So why can the inventor of the microwave say what is good and what is wrong? Because they made it!!! They know how it works! Apparently better than me!
 
In the same way, God made EVERYTHING! Only it is even more intense than that, because He didn’t make us on some scientific theory, or some experiment He came up with to see what would happen. He made us knowing exactly how all things would work. But He made us all the same because we were precious to Him.
 
A very limited example might be a couple who decide to have a child. Unless this couple is either very proud or very naive, they are probably aware that a child will be very costly… very loud and obstinate in their toddler years… very rebellious and groan worthy in their teenage years. They must realize that this child will be influenced by the world around them as much as themselves… that there are very high chances this child will do things they would not approve of, hurt themselves by not taking their advice… they may even leave them in bitterness and never come back….. but still they have a child… and still they go out of their way to raise and protect it. Why?? Because they love that child.. and they want to see it succeed, even if it chooses not to.
 
If finite humans limited to their own small perspectives and minuscule wisdom can experience these thoughts, then how much more the God who created all things? How much more does He want to see us return even though we reject Him? How much more does He know what we will choose to do even if we choose to rebel against Him? How much more will He rejoice when we choose to come back to Him?
 
When God uses even those who do evil to accomplish His plans…. remember He is not using the enemy… He is not manipulating the other side, or working as a double agent. We were never made good or evil, but were given the choice to do either, and corrupted with the desire to do one to combat the responsibility to do the other. When God sees those who rebel against them, he doesn’t see an army rising up against Him…. He sees His children… running away from Him…. bitter and spiteful towards Him…. and He greatly desires for them to return to Him, and will give them every opportunity He can to allow them to do so. At the same time, He looks out for those who haven’t run away yet. Even if it means letting them experience their more rebellious siblings to realize where the path their headed down leads. Because He cares about us enough even to scare us back to Him by showing us the reality of where we’re headed in one giant leap instead of in adaptable baby steps.
 
But you still have free will, you still have the choice. So the question is… What will you do with it?