Wonderful Blessings When I Least Expected Them

I wrote this a couple weeks ago and forgot to post! Reading it now has been a comfort.0

I was in the desert for a while. It seemed that the whole world was just ignoring / judging me. I grappled with it. I tried to understand it in any way I could. What’s wrong with me? Is this a punishment or a trial? Should I discard hope? Love myself? Reach out- no, they’re all better off without me.

I finally came to the conclusion that I should stop thinking about myself so much. 

Then, starting a couple days ago, everything seemed to change for the better. Old friends whom I thought I would never see again started texting me. A family member was nicer to me. An email I sent out a long time ago finally got answered. A couple people very sweetly reached out through the internet. I even had an employer ask me for my resume in an email! 

I was happy yesterday- not just that “Christian joy”- but I was really happy in my own unusual way because I was thinking about how God is taking care of me. After all, all these things happened without me lifting a finger. To me, it’s a sign that He cares and He listens, and yes, that He loves me. 

Where is this all going to lead? I don’t know. I’m sure that it can all end as abruptly as it began. Perhaps my old friends just felt obligated to see me, and it won’t even come to fruition. Maybe the same resume request was sent to everyone or it’s some kind of scam (I don’t really believe I’ll get the job, by the way). Maybe my family will get mad at me and I’ll feel lonely again. 

But you know what? Why should I care? Why does any of that matter? Why can’t I allow this happiness and blessing to bring me closer to God? Why can’t I feel good even though I know that at any moment it can all come crashing down and I’ll feel depressed again? Why do I need more when I already have so much more love than I deserve? 

Why can’t I believe in people a little, for a change? Do all those good times mean nothing? Should I just forget how I feel now and go on feeling disillusioned and bitter? I think not! 

If being content with the pathetic, fleeting joys of this world, that God is merciful enough to let me experience is foolish, then I don’t ever want to be wise. And if rejoicing in the unchanging and all-powerful God even in the worst of times is silly, then shove me in a tiny car with twenty other clowns and call me Bozo.

I only hope that when the inevitable happens, I will be just as happy or even happier than I am now.  

 

Unity of the Faith

till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— (Ephesians 4:13-15 NKJV)

Christ is unity- not division. It’s not clubs and cliques and churches and Christianisms… It is the church. It is the body.

I would say more… But I think God through Paul said it best.

There’s the Fruit!

When I was in middle school, I remember going to chapel every Wednesday. They made us wear these really ugly plaid skirts and white oxford shirts. Yes- they had to be white oxford shirts. Our normal white polo shirts, I guess, just weren’t holy enough. 

And when we were dressed thus, we sang many cute songs, one of which is called The Fruit of the Spirit, based on this verse:

Galatians 5:22-23Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)

22 And the fruit of the Spirit is: Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith,

23 meekness, temperance: against such there is no law;

 

I used Young’s Literal Translation even though it doesn’t flow quite like the other translations because I like the words long-suffering, meekness, and temperance which are more familiarly translated as patience, gentleness, and self-control. 

Long-suffering- what does that make you think of? Somehow I’m picturing someone who’s been at the bottom of a well for five days, singing “How Great Is Our God,” hoping that someone will hear even though his voice is weak and rough. The word “patience” doesn’t give me quite the same image. “Patience” reminds me of standing in line at Starbucks and repressing the urge to yank the pony tail of the girl in front of you ordering five impossible concoctions. Or maybe I’m just crazy, and the two words are perfect synonyms. 

“Meekness.” I suppose that’s similar to gentleness. But “gentleness” seems more linked to grace and femininity, while meekness is a bit more gender-neutral. Meekness is close to humility, while it also implies gentleness. Yet, one could be gentle without being humble, right? So I like the use of the word “meek” a little better.

“Temperance” makes me think of ladies wearing way too many ruffles carrying signs with pictures of liquor bottles x’ed out. We can call them naive and misguided from our view, but maybe that’s what we all need as a society, more temperance. 

I think what I’m really trying to say is that I like the word “long-suffering” because it involves suffering and not just waiting for good things to come. Patience is when we see the first streaks of dawn. Long-suffering is when it’s pitch black and the only light is in our soul. It’s a reminder that the Spirit will help us in our suffering, help us endure it, well, for a long time. And we will endure it because the “Love, joy, peace, and goodness” will keep us going. Somehow, we will keep going. Somehow, we will feel love, and somehow we will give love. I believe it, even though a part of me screams that it is impossible. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where’s the Fruit?

I have known about God for about 7 years, and I have been officially baptized in His healing waters, partaking of the flesh of Christ (no not literally). But still I ask, where is the fruit of my life? 

This is an important question, one that cannot be ignored anymore. 

Matthew 7:16-20Revised Standard Version (RSV)

16 You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. 18 A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will know them by their fruits.

 

Doesn’t that just scare you? Or maybe it only scares me because I don’t produce the good fruits…

Yes, Second-Great-Awakening-Era Preacher, here is a good verse to use in a fire-and-brimstone kind of sermon that will leave ladies crying on bales of hay. This is not so much a sleepy-Sunday afternoon-in-the-valley kind of verse, is it?

But come now, allow me to be serious. So what we’re saying here is that we can’t bear any bad fruits… but how is that even possible? Even if you had a 100 years to live and you were a Christian from childhood, how could you possible eliminate all your bad fruits?

And what are bad fruits? Are they just actions? Or are they thoughts too?

And what about when the Devil or the voices or society tells us to do things and we think about doing them? Does that count?

But maybe these are the wrong questions to be asking. I mean, they are valid questions that everyone asks, but maybe these are not the questions that will get us to our goal- fruit production. That is the goal, right? Okay, maybe step one is clarifying what the goal is. And then the right question is simply, Lord, in Your mercy, how may I produce good fruits?

I think we’re finally getting somewhere. 

But am I getting anywhere? Look at my life! I would like to help bring people to God, but I don’t seem to be able to do that. And it’s no wonder, I’m such a mess myself. No one who knows me personally seems to like me that much. Not that it’s important to be thought highly of for the sake of being thought highly of- but it is important to give God a good name, or at least do what He asks!

Sometimes I wonder why I have so much jealousy, anger, and sorrow locked up inside. But how can I blame God for it? How can I blame anyone else for it? I sin because I choose it. I sin because I don’t value God highly enough. That is the only reason. I want to blame it on my circumstances and mental illness- but where’s that going to get me?

 

 

 

 

 

Christians Have Feelings Too

Is it just me, or is it hard to know how to process your emotions as a Christian? How do we justify our state of mind before the Almighty?

“Comfort is a hair’s breadth from complacency! Sorrow is the right up there with self-indulgent melancholy! Happiness is next to worldliness; Godly joy is the goal, but this is hard to come by without caffeine and uplifting music.”

“And fear, doubt, and worry, of course, must be repressed at all costs!” 

“And what place is there for depression and mental illness in a Christian?”

What I’ve been trying to focus on lately is the message of comfort.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.[a] If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 RSV

After all, how can I comfort others if I myself don’t feel comforted by the love of God? How will I ever make a positive influence if I continue to spend my time worrying and sulking? Surely, this is not God’s lot for me. Surely, I must put on a brave face and the breastplate of righteousness and go out there and feel… comforted. But how?

So we are supposed to feel comfort. But Paul also speaks of the afflictions, in his case persecutions. As we all know, afflictions will come. But should we feel afflicted, which makes sense, or should we feel comforted? Or both, at precisely the same time? What?

Jesus cried the night before the Jews put Him to death because He knew it was coming. That is right, the Savior, the Son of the living God, cried. But what does that mean? Well, it couldn’t have been a sin because He is, like I said, the Son of God. And who wouldn’t cry if they knew they were going to be crucified the next day for the crime of serving God? I would probably do more than cry, that’s for sure. 

Are we only allowed to cry if we are being severely persecuted or about to be put to death? What do we do with all these emotions? 

“If you feel it, it can’t be wrong,” someone with flowers in their hair might say. 

Indeed, I feel a lot of things. Guilt, for one, constantly. But is it wrong of me to feel this? Especially if it’s not quickly resolved and the sins repented of? How long are we allowed to wallow? 

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I suppose I should be more serious about this. The answer to these questions may just be staring me in the face. After all, the Gospel is “the good news.” It’s not supposed to leave us feeling lousy about life. 

I guess what I mean to say is that emotions will come. I’m sorry, but even after you are saved you will continue to be sad at times. After all, it is a little hard to be comforted if you were perfectly happy in the first place. But it’s not the sadness that we know and love and remember… or at least, it shouldn’t be. It’s a different kind of sadness. It’s a sadness that we don’t fully believe in, sadness tempered with hope. 

When we come to trust God and let Him work in our lives, we continue to feel emotions, but we are no longer their slave. Or at least, we shouldn’t be… 

That is the difference. We are doing things now for the glory of God, not to satisfy ourselves. Jesus was sad, to say the least. You know, before they crucified him. And I’m sure that, at times, Paul wasn’t too thrilled about being imprisoned. But that didn’t stop them. Why should any little thing that life throws at me prevent me from serving God?

And maybe, eventually, we’ll start feeling different kinds of emotions. Sorrow over our sins (temporary), anger towards Satan, joy in serving the Lord, compassion for the weak, happiness for the success of others. I hope those things will come with time. 

 

From:

A little perspective.com

 

 

To All Who Suffer From Social Anxiety

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There was a time when people didn’t get drugs for what we now know as SAD. Their families and peers likely brushed it off as shyness, introversion, or plain weirdness. There was also a time when drunk driving wasn’t illegal and you could buy a candy bar for a nickel.

What I’m saying is that times have changed, and so have attitudes about many things, including mental illness, for better and for worse. It is good that nowadays we tend not to trivialize things so much. Like, “Oh, that’s just a flesh wound… Oh that’s just mercury… Oh, he’s just a little shy and quirky.” People tend to have a little more knowledge, sensitivity, and symapthy… Right?

But are we overreacting? Are we overmedicating? Are we overthinking?

The problem is that when we turn SAD into a disease, well, we turn it into something that is important and real… But we also turn it into a DISEASE!

I’m not saying that you necessarily need to stop taking drugs. If Prozac keeps you from spending 5 hours a day crying and if you need a little something something to keep from passing out every time you enter a crowded room, who am I to judge you? Maybe I should be on drugs myself.

I’m just saying that it is time for a new kind of victory. No more defeat, no more shame, no more stigma, no more self-loathing. It is time that we say, “No more, we are free from SAD (figuratively…)!”

Society may shun us with its well-meaning smile. Maybe our friends will leave us and our families will continue to misunderstand.

But you may know what I’m about to say. You’ve known it all along- that there is someone who cares, there is someone who gets it, and there is someone who loves us for who we really are (not that everything we do is perfection, that is actually something society tells us, and doesn’t really mean).

We don’t need to view anxiety as a tragedy. We don’t need to view it as a manifestation of all of our failures. It doesn’t need to be fully integrated into our innermost being. It can just be another struggle. It can just be another cross to bear.

Something I’m beginning to understand is Paul. People criticize him all the time for all his “boasting.” But is he really “boasting” in the way we think of the word? Look at me, I’m such a good Christian…

Well, maybe he did sometimes, he was human after all. But there is another way to look at it. Paul often “boasts” in response to his trials. He would go city to city preaching and church-building along the Mediterranean and Jews would persecute him. They would tie him up and put him on trial and it would happen over and over again. That can get a little tiring, disheartening, frustrating… But through it all, he expresses joy. He “boasts.”

We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed. But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things. (II Corinthians 6:3-10 NKJV)

Maybe we can do the same thing. Not that we shouldn’t be humble or that we should think that we are better than our non-anxious counterparts. There are more than enough examples of Jesus’ humility, most do not put that into question so much. Paul was also far from taking all the credit (see 1 Corinthians 3).

Nonetheless, we can have victory. Maybe you’re not so much used to the idea of victory, like me. You know, I certainly wasn’t the star of my JV tennis team in high school. I think I won 1 match in 2 seasons. And that whole teenage triumph invincibility thing… You know what I mean… Driving around town with your friends, feeling like you’re on top of the world, believe me those moments were all too fleeting and far between for me. But there is victory outside of sports, dollar signs, and conventionality. If we believe in the Lord, if we believe that all things are possible through him, if we complete his work in spite of setbacks… Then there’s no reason to not have joy.

“But tell that to my depression,” you may say, and I would understand.

But victory is still possible. Victory is always possible. Depression is a disease of the mind. It doesn’t need to be a disease of the soul and the Spirit (although keeping it from spreading is way easier said than done). I’m not saying the road will be easy. God forbid… but is victory ever easy? And would an easy victory be as sweet?

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Socialanxietytestonline.com

Letter to Satan

Satan;

I know that we’ve had our differences… and that’s actually a good thing. The fact is, I’m with God. I know I told you this before; but I mean it even more this time. And you hate God, so I just don’t see how this is going to work…

Okay, listen you scoundrel. I know your tricks. I know how you like to get me all stirred up. I know how you like to get me angry at people in the name of God… but this isn’t done in the spirit of God. I know how much you like to distract me. I know how you thrive in fear and how you take pleasure in the misery that you make me inflict on myself. 

I know you like it when I take the easy way out. I know you like it when I get all complacent. That’s enough Bible reading. That’s enough restraint- just keep yourself from biting her head off is all. That’s enough compassion. That’s enough joy. But the fact is that it shouldn’t be this way anymore. 

I really feel that we’re growing apart more and more. I know we’ve tried to stay friends and hang out, but something just feels wrong. So I think it’s best if we call it quits. And please don’t try to find someone to replace me. I’m sure that they don’t need you. No one needs you. 

Nevermore Yours,

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