I Once Had a Christian Professor

I really think so. On the last day of class, he gave us an inspirational speech on how we shouldn’t be afraid to enter the real world and pursue a career in accounting. It truly was stirring. In the midst of the applause, he showed us the last slide on his slideshow, this verse, or one very similar:

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind”
2 Timothy 1:7

I stared at this slide for a moment as everyone else shuffled out. What bravery, what feeling from my dry professor! I looked at it with that serene, but somehow guarded approval that Christians occasionally bestow upon one another.

Later that night, I was reflecting on these words on the long drive home in the dark. Suddenly, there seemed like so much to fear, but I couldn’t put my finger on any of it. I needed the remembrance of those words to prevent myself from having a panic attack.

These words have special significance to me as a person with anxiety. Fear seems to be the driver of my existence. Power? Love? Soundness of mind? Those all seem like strangers, and I confess that at times I feel so overtaken by darkness that those words seem to have no real meaning.

Why all this despair? You may ask. That is a question that I can’t easily answer. But what I can say is that it springs from a lack of faith. A lack of faith in absolutely everything. Lack of faith in God, lack of faith in good, lack of faith in people. My mind, which hates to take things at face value, questions everything, including the merit of goodness itself. Isn’t that awful?

It seems that the day will come when I’ll run out of energy to fight this. And indeed, I already have. So I crawl at the Lord’s feet and beg for the will to go on, to live, and help others live. And then, feeling just a little recharged, I go out and try to fight Satan’s whole army once again, only to be taken as a prisoner of war, at this point sympathetic to his cause. And then the Lord has to ransom me back all over again.

“Stop going out there by yourself so glaringly unarmed,” he tells me. But do I listen? Do I obey like the good sheep?

No!

I keep waiting for the day that he runs out of patience, love, and forgiveness. I suspect he already has. But how can He? He is God.

What’s Really Going On (Spiritual Warfare Trigger Warning)

I guess I shouldn’t try to exact sympathy. It’s got to be my fault that I’ve let my mind become the violent battleground of God and Satan. I could have just let Christ’s victory on the cross be enough. But no, I had to have my own absurd, psychotic, philosophical war which makes so little sense that I can’t even begin to describe it properly. And yet here I am talking about it. 

I wish there was some kind of drug you could take to wipe your mind clear, like amnesia. I’d trade any intelligence I have for a day of peace. 

But there’s not, and I can’t. The easy way out isn’t the right way out. 

How did this all begin? And what justification is there for it? My life is more peaceful than usual, on the outside. Really, I’ve made peace with a lot of things. I’ve made peace with loneliness in a way. I’m grateful that my family seems to love me, despite all the reasons not to. I’ve slowed down the pace in the rat race. I have no particular beefs with anyone because people have generally been good to me, so it seems that Satan has decided to turn me against the human race in general, forcing me to philosophize, judge, mistrust, and hate when I obviously have no right to do any of that when I am apparently a million times more screwed up than anyone just for entertaining these evil thoughts.

This is all so confusing. I am torn between two poles: a hateful, jealous, violent, destructive, disgusting one, and a kind, loving, forgiving, peaceful one. I guess I’m somewhere in the middle. I would just like to be on the second pole. Or would I?

Of course, a lot of this has to do with too much free time and a lack of focus. And that’s certainly part of it. Sometimes these thoughts go away, or God drives them away… but they always seem to return. Because it’s hard to forget what you know. 

I know this all seems really dark and hopeless, and in a way it is, because it’s not an easy problem to solve. But I still believe that I’m saved. I know, I know, Christians are supposed to be good, sane, and normal people. Yeah, I get it. It makes a little sense if you’re a mess before you’re saved, but afterward? That’s just not… good. And I don’t claim to be good. I don’t think this is good, but that doesn’t mean that good can’t come out of it. Good can come out of it in the same way a plant can grow in the ashes of a house fire (that does happen, right?)

I mean this- that I am sharing this story (again) in the hope that it will glorify God. Why not? Why isn’t it to God’s glory if He can save even miserable people like me? Why isn’t it a miracle that I feel loved by Him, in spite of it all?

But right here is where one of my pitfalls is. Sometimes I focus too much on my personal relationship with God, forgetting that so many people have personal relationships with God and will have personal relationships with God. Sometimes I feel that it is just me vs. this evil, superficial society and its endless members whom I am supposed to love, somehow. 

Lord, I’ve admitted the sin, please help me to truly despise it with all my heart and soul and turn from it! Anyone out there who’s reading this, please pray for me, not for my own sake, but for the sake of those around me who deserve my genuine love and not the politeness that masks my depression. If you don’t understand anything I’ve said, then give yourself a pat on the back. You are likely a sane and upright human being. If you do understand, thank you. If you understand too much, please let us bear this burden together in spirit. 

And now I’m a bit teary again, what’s new.

 

 

The Mystery of God… Still Very Much a Mystery (But That’s Okay)

Is God’s will simply what is before us? Or must we carve it out with His guidance?

This question is central to the turmoil that I have been experiencing all day. Turmoil because I felt that I made a decision contrary to God’s pleasure, and that I will surely be punished for it.

The decision was to continue summer school. Doesn’t that seem like the most trivial thing in the world? Isn’t worrying the real sin? And yet I couldn’t feel good about my decision, even though economy and reason were on its side. I figured that this decision could surely benefit God. I can glorify Him in all circumstances, and these seem favorable circumstances, I thought. And yet peace did not descend. The alternative to my decision is what I perceive as God’s will because it is the less attractive one. Does that make sense at all?

Nonetheless, I seem somewhat trapped in this situation. If I do drop, my family will be upset, and why upset them needlessly? Where is this all leading? Surely, God, you could bring good out of that because you can bring good out of anything… But is it the better decision?

And so, I have been entirely unable to find peace. On top of this absurdity. Satan has been at attacking with a vengeance in different ways. He’s really quite relentless. He makes me question everything- including the reason that I choose to follow God. He asks me if I’m really good enough for God, if I’m really good at all. He asked me to join him.

I found myself going along with this way too much. I found myself only distantly admiring God, if at all. Like the tragic old cynic with a face weathered by brushes with demons, who can only exhort her descendants to turn out differently.

But what’s the use in that hopelessness? Why not seek out God and make things right? I knew that I needed Him, more than ever, so I opened His word. I knew that without Him I would be worse than nothing, so I accepted His help. Once again, He was there with open arms.

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (‭Philippians‬ ‭4‬:‭4-7‬ NKJV)

Philippians 4 is awesome, please read the whole thing if you get the chance. I believe this. Yes, Lord, I believe You and I know You are good! It doesn’t matter what I’ve done, You are still the same, You are always the same wonderful God! You are peace, You are joy, You are the antidote to this toxic existence! Oh, please give me the strength to love You! Give me the strength to care! Give me the strength that I don’t have to keep on going! Lord, for some reason I still don’t feel right about my decision; but let me at least stop focusing so much on my own salvation and start focusing on the salvation of others who deserve it so much more than I do. You, in Your gentle way, Lord, win their hearts!

Satan and Society, In Bed

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“It’s your life, do what you want to do.”

“As long as you don’t want to wholeheartedly serve God; that’s just weird.”

“You can pray if you think there’s going to be an earthquake, though.”

“Financial security is the basis. What can you do without financial security, financial security…”

“Money can’t buy happiness, just things that make you happier.”

“Buy stuff, buy stuff! Don’t buy that. Eat! Don’t eat too much though, or you’ll become fat and worthless.”

“If the moon is high and the feeling’s right, don’t let any of that superstitious God crap stop you from following your Heart.”

“Love humanity, sure. Don’t talk to too many strangers, that’s just weird.”

“Heaven help you if you drive too slow.”

“Everyone needs to get totally shit-faced at some point in their life, for the experience of it.”

“Be nice to your friends, but know in your heart that they are out to get you. But forgive them if it makes you feel better.”

“Stay away from that guy! If you talk to him his strangeness will rub off on you.”

“Whatever you do, don’t make eye contact with the guy holding the sign.”

“If you’re not happy in your marriage, who is?”

“The world is such a confusing place. Glean whatever joy you can from it and die peacefully.”

“Stupid, spoiled rich kid STAY AWAY.”

“If you die poor, it’s your fault.”

“Jesus drank wine, wine is alcohol, alcohol is a drug, therefore, Jesus did drugs too.”

“You friggen junkie don’t you know when to stop? You need to stop so you can get back our there and do your duty to the Economy.”

“Never, ever change, you are perfect and sinless the way you are, and if you don’t believe that, well, then maybe you’re not so perfect because you don’t ascribe to our PHILOSOPHY.”

“All religions are the same, really- outdated.”

“As long as you’re having fun, what could you be doing wrong?”

“I don’t think God would want you to completely change your life.”

“The ‘God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob” is rather violent and intolerant.”

“Don’t touch that remote!”

“Because if you work hard, you gotta play hard.”

“Be a good person, when it’s all said and done. Love your family, give generously, and you’ll feel better, you really will.”

“But have a little fun first, by all means ;)”

“Remember, don’t forget it- always follow your heart.”

 

 

Jesus Is For The Weak Part 2: Meeting the Mental Illness Stigma in the Middle and Finding Joy

For a long time, mental illness has been haunting me. I feel that I cannot speak openly about it anywhere, or they will bind me in a straight jacket and lock me in a padded cell for the rest of my life. I don’t want to be institutionalized, and I don’t want to eat jello every day. So I want to open up, but not too much. And the reason that I don’t want to open up too much is this. If you yourself are not well and you are reading this, I would not want your condition to be exacerbated. Everyone has enough of their own crazy thoughts. Those are not something that we need to be spreading to our brothers and sisters.

Why hasn’t this problem just disappeared since I started to believe in God? How does this stuff in any way contribute to a Christian lifestyle? Aren’t I a raging hypocrite, a hopeless lunatic? I myself wonder the same thing all the time.

It’s easy to talk about the past, but it’s difficult to talk about the present. Very painful. I can’t help but wonder what you will think of me when you read this. I fear that you will despise me. Nonetheless, I am compelled to go on.

The truth is, Satan often tells me to hurt and destroy, probably because he knows that I am weak mentally and he thinks there’s a chance I’d listen. He wants me to kill myself, and he would prefer it if I took others down with me. I will be no vaguer than that nor more specific.

Jesus was tempted by Satan too, for 40 days in the wilderness. Not that I am sinless like Jesus. Satan told Jesus to jump off the cliff, to turn stones into bread, etc. Satan even used out-of-context Bible verses in his argument. But Jesus always had a relevant come-back line, and he effectively repelled Satan. I wish I was as good at it as Jesus. I am convinced that I am not without sin, even though, apparently, temptation itself does not constitute in sin.

I ask God to heal me. I have done this on many occasions. And it’s true, sometimes this problem does get better. I should be thankful for that. But why has it persisted? And must I continue to torture myself with feelings of guilt? Why do I have to keep guarding this skeleton in my closet?

Should I continue to feel like the scum of the earth? Should I continue in tearing myself down? I feel that I must punish myself in order to justify myself. And yet, however right it feels, however you may agree or disagree, somehow this is not right. We can’t justify ourselves anyway. Only the blood of Christ can.

1 Corinthians 10:13

Revised Standard Version (RSV)

13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

What should I do in the mean time? I am afraid of myself. I am afraid of Hell. I am afraid of the truth and freedom of the Lord as well. I feel like a hypocrite almost every moment of every day. I wonder how in the world I have the nerve to judge anyone. And maybe I should wonder this. But I also wonder how in the world I have the nerve to preach the Gospel when I myself am so screwed up. Suddenly I am brought to tears because I am remembering yesterday, and how good I felt.

I was at a church picnic type thing. It was supposed to rain yesterday, and it did, but not hard enough to force anyone to cancel it. And thank God for that. I can’t easily describe to you how it was. If you are not a Christian, or if you are, like me, skeptical at times, you will likely see this as little more than phony, emotional, snake-charming, throw-your-baby-at-the-altar Christianity. Still, I will try to make you understand. I’ve already revealed an embarrassing secret. There’s no sense in stopping now.

It’s cold and windy. We are under a gazebo in some park, our bellies filled with carne asada. There’s people from all around the area here, people of all colors, ages, shapes and sizes, united for the sake of Gospel. And it’s an open microphone share-what’you-learned this-year type deal. It sounds boring, but it really wasn’t, until the end when I got so cold and tired I could hardly concentrate. And young people around my age are sharing things- they are proudly proclaiming their faith, saying the most profound and spiritual things. What stood out to me most was a girl saying, “I am not here because of my love for God, but because of God’s love for us” and someone else saying “The church is not a social organization.” And so many other things that I would love to repeat, but they just sounded so much better in person. It was as honest and genuine as it gets in our world. I’ve been with Christians before, but I’ve never seen anything exactly like this. And for a moment, as I was sitting there, I felt so complete. I knew that this was the real thing. All that I’ve heard about the Bible in college lecture halls, that wasn’t it. All that I’d ever seen on TV, all that I grew up believing, that was a lie, and this church, this body of Christ with all its beautiful members, this was real. It didn’t matter what I’d done in the past. I didn’t matter that I wasn’t perfect or that it was cold outside. My circumstances were good. There was nothing to keep me from proclaiming the Gospel myself. All this I felt, but if I were to have spoken, I’m sure it wouldn’t have come out as eloquently.

Unfortunately, these feelings pass. They pass faster than the temptations, or bad feelings that I have. But I know that they are “more than a feeling.” I know that that’s a song. I know that just because I feel these things doesn’t mean that they are real. The Kingdom of God exists outside of human feeling. Feeling is only a channel through which this truth passes.

Jesus came for the weak. I am weak. If you’re from a Christian background, you probably get tired of hearing things like that. You get tired of hearing people describe themselves as “broken” but Jesus “saved” them. It all sounds so painfully boring and meaningless sometimes, but I tell you, it’s true.

Some people think that the Bible is dangerous, that it’s a breeding ground for fanaticism. And I tell you, it is fanatical. Maybe not burning-down-hospitals fanatical, that’s Satan’s area of expertise. Yet I believe that if we took what was in the Bible and put it all into practice, the world would be a terrifyingly different and beautiful place. So the Bible is dangerous in a political sense, but in a spiritual sense, in a real sense, the Bible is our only hope, confusing as it may be. If it wasn’t for the love of God, for the blood of Christ, I would probably be dead, dead or eating jello. What meaning would my life have without God? I am weak. I can’t delude myself with high-flown phrases. I can’t subjugate myself to the rules of society, I just can’t force myself to love humanity. I am weak, physically and emotionally. I am a failure. I am socially awkward. I am unwell. I am a worry-wart. I am not a good person. But thank God I am weak, and thank God I find little comfort in the things that pacify most. For if I was strong, if I was “wise” and self-controlled and normal, I wouldn’t have any reason to put all my faith, all my being into a perfect God.

Everyone has weakness and everyone has strength. God will find you in your weakness and He will find you in your strength. He will find You in the lowest depths, He will find you on your highest mountain. He will find you in your humility, He will find you in your pride. He will find you in the margins of society and He will find you in the midst of it. He will find you in the 99% and he will find you in the 1%. There’s no escaping Him. Wherever You are, there He is also, watching. So it doesn’t matter who you are or where you are. If He can forgive me, He can forgive you, and now you know that. You know that I am not just some goody-goody. You know that I have no right to look down on you. It doesn’t matter who you are, it matters who God is, and it matters if you want to have anything to do with what God is.

 

The One Thing You Thought You Could Trust

If you asked me, what is the one thing in the world that I can trust, if I thought about it, I suppose I would say something like God or the Bible.

That’s why I was so depressed this morning to read an article about how many translations of the Bible may not be all that reliable. I would encourage you to look over this article. I won’t say whether this stuff is true or, I have no idea. It seems a little biased, if it is not a complete exaggeration/fabrication.

I asked a friend about this, and she said that she doesn’t think it’s possible that God would allow the Bible, his perfect word, to become corrupted. Maybe this is true. After all, if the Devil is trying to subtly and systematically undermine the true message of the Bible in the most direct way possible, then he isn’t doing a terrific job. Most of the time, the thing that really tears us away from the truth is our own minds, not a faulty translation of the Bible.

Conspiracy or not, people all around the world are still learning about God and believing. That’s powerful. So you couldn’t quench the power of the Lord even if you wanted to. The power of His word will come out. But maybe just to be safe… get the King James!