Posted on Leave a comment

Tearing Off the Mask

“Oh, I’m doing great!”

“Things have been wonderful.”

“Oh yeah, things are awesome on my end, too!” *insert fake smile*

 

Have you ever caught yourself using one of those statements? I have—many times. When someone asks how you are, you automatically know that they don’t want to know the reality. They just want a quick, “Great! And you?” Thus, we shy away from telling the truth, from saying, “Ya know what, actually, things have been tough. I could really use some prayer.”

 

Instead, we put on a mask—maybe it’s a smiling mask; maybe it’s a mask that looks tired but has the determination to keep going, even if you run out of steam. We often have quite a time admitting that we’re struggling, especially when we’re not sure if the person we’re speaking to believes in mental illness or understands the extent of our physical illness(es) or grief.

 

Are you bearing your load alone? Of course, as many will say first, it’s important to note that the Psalmist said God carries our burdens for us (Psalm 68:19) and that Jesus said His “burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). However, it’s important to realize that we need people and community around us. We need support systems. We need to be real and vulnerable with other humans, which, yes, means tearing off that mask that we very well may wear 24/7. And when we tear off those masks? Inevitably, some of our own skin is going to come off. It’s not a question of if it will be painful to be real with people, but rather a question of how much it will hurt. As the skin comes off with the masks and we begin to unburden our very hearts to another human, parts of our heart will leave, as well. This is often the hardest part.

 

We armor our hearts–in truth, the very essence of our beings–sometimes so well that when we begin to chip away at walls and pull apart armor and reveal even a bit of what lies within, we, in fact, have to give up pieces of ourselves. We can no longer protect those pieces—they’re in the hands of the people we’ve befriended or been befriended by, the people we’ve decided to trust with the innermost of our beings.

 

In all honesty, as well as an amazing friendship displays such acts, there is truly no greater relationship than that of marriage to show how this plays out. And since marriage is a picture of Christ and His church, you don’t need to actually be married to understand. Simply being one of God’s children allows you to see this relationship, though, admittedly, it’s more imperfect when there are two humans involved, as opposed to one human and one God.

 

However, for the sake of illustration, I will use marriage between a husband and wife—it just doesn’t get more real that that! It’s the end of a long day. Perhaps you’re a stay-at-home mom, and the kids have been getting under your skin all day. No doubt, they’ve seen you without your mask, because you’ve probably snapped at one—or all—of them, at some point. And then your husband comes home. He, too, has been wearing a mask all day at work, but he drops it the moment he comes in. You can see the level of fatigue in his eyes as he takes in the laundry that’s still piled up and the number of dishes in the sink. “What have you done today?” he asks.

 

It very well may be a perfectly innocent question, meant simply to inquire, but you take it personally. I kept the kids alive! you may want to scream. Oh, and I did wash the counter…once. Your mask may come off, and you may say just that. You may refrain. It changes daily.

 

Or maybe you’re in my shoes: homemaker due to being disabled; struggling with infertility; lying, depressed, on the couch, near daily. You feel like a failure—a broken wife and human. Your husband comes home from work to see the same pile of laundry and dishes you’d have if you had three kids, but it’s just you, save the weekends your stepdaughter is with you both (and you feel that you have life)…and he asks the same thing. Maybe you didn’t keep the kids alive, but you kept yourself alive. And you want to scream that, but you’re too tired.

 

Either way, both your masks will come off. Sometimes, that results in fights; but, if we’re more intentional about removing the masks and the armor and the walls, we can have beautiful fellowship with our spouses. We can cry or rejoice…or both! We can be real. We don’t have to pretend that it was a great day. We can tell the truth. We can be raw. And we should be.

 

May we, if married, practice this within our unions. If you, dear reader, are not married, find a good friend with whom you can be yourself—vulnerabilities and all. Tear off those masks and tear down those walls. And when the pain comes with it, welcome it and shed those inevitable, but cleansing, tears.

 

 

Alyssa is an author trying to break into the field, but willing to go where God wants her to with her writing. She writes Young Adult Christian novels in an effort to bring the truth back into the lives of young people in which it is often so severely lacking.

She has overcome 13 brain surgeries, 4 spinal cord surgeries, and countless others since 2009 alone, and battles two organic brain issues, a traumatic brain injury (TBI), Bipolar II, two different anxiety disorders, and more mental illnesses. Her goal is to reach others with the Gospel and what God’s taught her through her ailments.

Alyssa lives in Central Florida with her husband, part-time daughter (a blessing that came with marriage!), and three fur babies.

Check out Alyssa’s blog: http://teacupsandpaperroses.wordpress.com/

And check out her author Facebook page: http://facebook.com/teacupsandpaperroses

Posted on 3 Comments

Just Because You’re Lonely Doesn’t Mean You’re Not Close to Christ

I’m a part of a few Christian mental health Facebook groups, and one thing I hear repeatedly is the notion that if we feel lonely it’s because we’re not close enough to Christ. Don’t get me wrong: I believe closeness to Christ can help loneliness. Feeling His presence is amazing. But He also hard-wired us for human interaction, and if we don’t get it, then the natural (and God-given) response is to feel lonely.

In our individualistic church culture, people talk as though your personal relationship with Christ is the only thing that matters. But a healthy walk with Christ necessitates that we seek out Christian community. God didn’t design us to walk with Him alone—He designed that a people would walk with Him. To deny others in favor of a one-on-one relationship with Christ is to object to His desire and call for our lives. Misguided Christians guilt lonely brothers and sisters into thinking they aren’t close enough to Christ when in reality to seek Christ at the expense of community is to fall farther away from Christ. Their solution is the problem. To walk with Christ is to walk with others. We should seek community while not neglecting our individual closeness with Christ.

If we feel lonely, we should do our best to find community. We should think of ways to invite others over or to create hang outs that others would want to attend. When we get frustrated, we keep trying. And during this process, we continue our personal prayer and Bible reading time. That, I think, is a better solution than simply telling people to get closer to Jesus.

 

W.R. Harris is the founder and owner of Persevering Hope. He is an author who has written six books to date. You can check out his author website here: http://www.wrhwriting.com/

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Things to Remember When Stressed and Anxious

I have struggled with depression and some anxiety since I was a little kid. When I was in school, I remember I would often worry about getting my assignments done on time and about my test grades. Sometimes, it would be so bad that I would wake up for a while thinking about these things as I lay in bed trying to sleep! Even now, I still struggle a bit with anxiety and depression, though much less than before. This post is as much me talking to myself, as it is to my readers. Unfortunately, I almost always learn or know these things after an anxiety episode happens. However, here is what we all need to remember when we are getting stressed and anxious.

In the words of Paul in Romans 8:28 (KJV): “All things work together for good to them who love God who are the called according to His purpose.” In other words, God will work all the events of our lives, including the bad ones, for our ultimate good, usually to strengthen our character and/or grow us spiritually. At least for me, when I get anxious and stressed, I am very tempted to think about the worst possible outcome, and I worry I would never be able to survive after that. This sometimes leads to suicidal ideations. Thankfully, it rarely, if ever, leads to suicide attempts anymore, though it had several times in the past. However, when I remember what it says in Romans 8:28, I will not lose hope as easily, and thus I will become less stressed. I, then, will be able to recall some bad situations in my life that God has indeed already used for my good and for His glory! For instance, at work, there were a couple of people that I always had butted heads with and never thought anything would get better in our relationship. However, what ended up happening was that God used them in my life to grow my character and teach me to reconcile with and forgive them. God also made me realize some things that I did to hurt those people that I had not gotten along with in the past, and I repented of those things.

Along with remembering that God will always use the events of my life for my good and His glory, I need to remember that God is sovereign over all things. When I am stressed or anxious, at least for me, I fear losing control of the event at hand. I fear that I will not be able to handle the situation well and that things will never be able to be redeemed in my life after that. I fear failing the people I love, and even more, failing as a witness and a disciple of Christ. However, when I remember that God is sovereign over all things, I don’t have to fear losing control, since I can acknowledge that I was never in control in the first place. He will put events into my life according to His will. For instance, when I have to deal with a difficult associate or customer at work, if I acknowledge that God sent them in my life and that something good can come out of the situation, I will be much calmer and less apt to get frustrated or anxious in that situation.

Finally, I should remember when I am coming into a stressful situation to trust that God will give me everything I need to deal with it and to use what He gives me in order that I may be able to react positively and not get upset and anxious. The verse that comes to mind that speaks of God’s provision for us is Philippians 4:19 (KJV), which says, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” For instance, when finances are tight, and God still expects me to tithe at church, I don’t have to skimp on tithing or worry that I will not have enough for what my family and I need, because I can trust that God will provide someway somehow when I am faithful to Him. Another example of God giving me everything I needed is the time when I forgot to bring fruit from home to have for my snack, and God moved in one of my coworkers to give me a Taffy apple. Thus, I was able to eat that apple, and did not have to go out and buy one from work.

If we remember that God will use all situations we encounter in our lives for our good and His glory, that God is in control of all things, and that He will always supply everything that we need to make it through life, we would never have to worry or be stressed. So, my prayer to each reader, including me, is that we would remember these things and have much joy and peace this month.

 

About Patricia Go:

My name is Patricia A. Go, and my love of writing started when I was just eight years old, when I remember writing little stories on cut-up pieces of construction paper stapled together.  I have been actively involved with various church ministries for about fifteen years. I have volunteered at a church’s food pantry and health clinic.  I started my blog on December 23, 2015. God’s  Whisperings is a blog that started out as wanting to share with others lessons that I learned about what God had been teaching me through various situations in my life, and quickly became, for me, a catalyst to bring people God’s love, hope, and joy through what I have learned in life.  I work full-time at a job that has nothing to do with writing, but I love it and consider it a ministry.  Also, God uses the situations I find myself in at my day job to teach me lessons, many of which I share in my blog, at http://placeinthisworld224.wordpress.com.

Posted on Leave a comment

The Day You Stop Fighting

“The day you stop fighting is the day you lose.”

 

Those words have been in my mind for years now—sometimes bounding their way around in an endless, repetitious reminder; other times, sluggishly processing, reminding me that, no matter what, I cannot stop fighting.

 

“The day you stop fighting is the day you lose.”

 

Those words are a direct quote from my father. My bipolar and anxiety disorders come from my mother, and I heard my dad repeat these words for years.

 

And then I was diagnosed in my early twenties. Four brain surgeries seemed to be the trigger. At first, I refused to admit there was anything wrong. I so desperately didn’t want to be like the mother I’d grown up with. Not because my mom isn’t fantastic, but because my young adult brain recalled all the bad times—all the broken promises of  trips and outings because my mom would get depressed, all the times we left a venue because my mom’s anxiety couldn’t take it, all the times my grandmother had to take us because my mom was too overwhelmed.

 

And I didn’t want that. I didn’t want any of it.

 

But I knew.

 

I finally made it to a psychiatrist. I was finally diagnosed: Bipolar II, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, and more. I finally allowed myself to be put on medication.

 

And then began the tiring process of finding the right medicinal cocktail, seeing my psychiatrist every few weeks, having therapy recommended. And realizing that I wasn’t going to be just like my mother…in fact, my psychiatrist informed us all that I was far worse off.

 

And those words my dad had used many times when discussing with me one of my mother’s episodes came back: “The day you stop fighting is the day you lose.”

 

“But I’m so tired, Daddy. I’m tired of feeling this way, of always being way up or way down, never having a normal.”

 

“The day you stop fighting is the day you lose.”

 

“But, Daddy, I hate being this depressed. What if my husband leaves because I can’t even be a good housewife? I don’t know how I’m supposed to get off that couch and do anything.”

 

“The day you stop fighting is the day you lose.”

 

“But, Daddy, I don’t want to kill myself, but some days I wish God would just do it for me.”

 

“The day you stop fighting is the day you lose.”

 

Of course, my dad said more than that, but that was a phrase he never left out.

 

Some days? You won’t be able to do it. The depression will suck you so far down that you can’t even think, let alone move and complete tasks.

 

But most days? Most days, you can fight it, even if just a little bit. Even if you just load the dishwasher. Even if you just brush your teeth and put on deodorant. Even if you just get dressed. Even if…

 

Because the day you stop fighting is the day you lose.

 

 

Alyssa is an author trying to break into the field, but willing to go where God wants her to with her writing. She writes Young Adult Christian novels in an effort to bring the truth back into the lives of young people in which it is often so severely lacking.

She has overcome 13 brain surgeries, 4 spinal cord surgeries, and countless others since 2009 alone, and battles two organic brain issues, a traumatic brain injury (TBI), Bipolar II, two different anxiety disorders, and more mental illnesses. Her goal is to reach others with the Gospel and what God’s taught her through her ailments.

Alyssa lives in Central Florida with her husband, part-time daughter (a blessing that came with marriage!), and three fur babies.

Check out Alyssa’s blog: http://teacupsandpaperroses.wordpress.com/

And check out her author Facebook page: http://facebook.com/teacupsandpaperroses

Posted on 2 Comments

Understanding the Infertility Struggle

I spent some time focusing on my fertility issues and the loss of identity of ever being a biological mom in “He’s Not on the Cross” and was, today, thinking about those very topics again. At my age, it makes sense that my Facebook newsfeed sees a myriad of creative pregnancy and birth announcements, and it causes me think back to when I saw all the engagement and wedding announcements while I remained single. But this is somehow…worse.

 

As most of you know, the majority of people, even extremely good friends, will call you (or text you) with a pregnancy announcement and expect excitement. I mean, why shouldn’t they? They are excited, rightly so, and, as their friend, you ought to be, as well. Plus, a baby on the way is an exciting thing, in general! And you are excited, but…

 

“I know you’re happy for me, but I want to be sensitive to your feelings. I can’t even imagine what you’re going through, especially every time you hear about someone’s new pregnancy. So while I’m happy you’re excited for me, I don’t ever want you to think that I don’t care about you or what you’re going through. Are you ok?”

 

Those words—you long to hear them.

 

What’s amazing to me is that I have heard them. I have one friend who, with all three of her pregnancies, has been amazing regarding my feelings, which makes it much easier to be genuinely happy for her.

 

It’s not that I wouldn’t be happy anyway: this is my best friend we’re talking about! But the fact that she recognizes that I’m not always going to be super cheery about someone’s pregnancy because it hurts to think about it is amazing to me. That she takes the time to think about how I’m feeling, even though she’s obviously extremely excited, will never cease to amaze me.

 

 

Alyssa is an author trying to break into the field, but willing to go where God wants her to with her writing. She writes Young Adult Christian novels in an effort to bring the truth back into the lives of young people in which it is often so severely lacking.

She has overcome 13 brain surgeries, 4 spinal cord surgeries, and countless others since 2009 alone, and battles two organic brain issues, a traumatic brain injury (TBI), Bipolar II, two different anxiety disorders, and more mental illnesses. Her goal is to reach others with the Gospel and what God’s taught her through her ailments.

Alyssa lives in Central Florida with her husband, part-time daughter (a blessing that came with marriage!), and three fur babies.

Check out Alyssa’s blog: http://teacupsandpaperroses.wordpress.com/

And check out her author Facebook page: http://facebook.com/teacupsandpaperroses

Posted on Leave a comment

Finding God in the Hospital

It was not long ago that I was hospitalized for a week for ongoing neurological issues that I deal with. The week started out bleak and anxiety-ridden, as I lay in a bed with my mom in the chair next to me, waiting for an MRI, waiting for answers we never even got.

 

I soon noticed my mom had her devotional with her and that she was reading it frequently. I desperately wanted her to read to me, but I was too…something…to ask. Proud, perhaps? Fearful? Annoyed at the imaging staff who weren’t getting me in for my MRI soon enough?

 

But finally, after a couple days, I brought myself to ask. And read, she did. Those devotionals pierced straight to my heart. I’d been praying for revival for years, but those devotionals made me realize that, no matter what I felt (apathetic; fearful; annoyed; even grieved over my current state, though not enough to do anything), I had to do what God was moving me to do—spend time in prayer and in the Word. They made me realize that my feelings are so very deceitful. Just look at some of what God says:

 

“Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.”

–Proverbs 28:26 (ESV)

 

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief.”

–Proverbs 14:12-13 (ESV)

 

And hearing those things, having God reveal those thoughts through the devotionals and Scriptures I had memorized, moved my heart to repentance and renewed devotion to our Lord. I’m now in a full-blown personal revival, and the grief that accompanies being outside the Lord, outside His will, outside His Vine, trying to produce my own spiritual fruit without Him, is melting away. The fruit I produce will be His—for this my soul cries. I will remain in the Vine—with His help. And I will remain in Him—with His grace and mercy. Hallelujah to the Lord that loves us enough to pull us from our miry pits of grief and self-loathing into a new life with Him.

Posted on 1 Comment

Holding on to the Hope of Eternal Bliss

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” – 2 Corinthians 4:17

For people suffering from anxiety and/or depression, sometimes it feels like God is literally the only reason you have for living. It’s hard to “live” for much else when you can’t find joy anymore in activities you used to love. It’s a terrible thing not to find joy in fun hobbies and activities, and God doesn’t want things to be that way. But as I mentioned earlier, He can use it for good. When your life feels emptied of all else, God can be your everything. You can experience an intimacy with Him you never thought possible.

That’s not to say it’s not hard. This kind of suffering is hard, no matter how close you are to God and especially with a disorder that constantly drags you down and depletes you of energy. In these times I think it’s helpful to remember our great hope of eternal joy with God.

The Bible, from the Old Testament to the New Testament, constantly points us to a better world where everything will be made right. That’s why Jesus came—to usher in the Kingdom of God. To all those who trust in Him, He promises eternity in this New Kingdom. He promises to reward those same people for their good works in His name and for persevering.

“God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done.’ To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life” (Romans 2:6-7).

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24).

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” (Matthew 25:21).

“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done” (Revelation 22:12).

So hold on. God sees you fighting, and He will reward you richly for it. It will be more than worth it. “Our…troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (my emphasis).

 

This is an excerpt from my book Anxiety and Depression Are (Not) Always Sins.

Posted on Leave a comment

Two Quick Verses for When You Feel Overwhelmed

I’m not sure if this post needs an introduction. Life gets overwhelming. It happens. And it happens for numerous reasons. Whatever the reason, God’s word helps because God is the God of rest. He is peace. I hope you can read these verses and rest in His love.

 

  1. “No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.” (Joshua 1:5-6)

 

After Moses’ death, God speaks to Joshua, who has been appointed the new leader of the Israelites. Joshua faces quite a tall task, and he knows it. It appears as though he was nervous, afraid, or that he didn’t believe he was up to the task because God tells him to be “strong and courageous” three times in a span of four verses.

This passage gives me comfort. I struggle with self-confidence, so naturally I don’t always feel confident I’ll do a good job in what God has called me to do. I can get overwhelmed quickly and give up. In this passage, God doesn’t rebuke Joshua for his lack of confidence. Instead, He repeatedly encourages Joshua. God knows that if Joshua will just trust in Him and move forward, he (Joshua) will do great things. And that’s what happened.

I think this principle applies to us as well. If we’re scared about something God’s calling us to or we feel overwhelmed, God encourages us to trust Him and take the first step forward. He really is a good Father.

 

 

  1. “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33)

 

Worrying can certainly makes us feel overwhelmed. It’s not uncommon to worry about bills and money and food. What if this happens? What if that happens? What if we don’t have enough?

Jesus addresses this problem. I recently wrote about this verse in my new book Pursuing God’s Kingdom Day by Day:

 

He exhorts His audience not to worry about life’s necessities: “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’” (Matthew 6:31). We should remember that His audience in this passage likely consisted largely of poor people. They were dependent on the harvest for food, so we can imagine they worried about the harvest’s productivity. Jesus knows that. He grew up in Galilee—He knows the people’s mindset and how they think about food. His response to this concern is to trust that God will provide because He “knows that you need” all these things (verse 32).

God wants us to trust Him enough to pursue His kingdom. In fact, He wants us to pursue His kingdom “first,” and, He says, “all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). That is, make God’s kingdom your priority and He will provide life’s necessities for you.

 

Worrying is hard because we want to have control over our lives. We want to know there’s going to be enough food or enough money tomorrow. It bothers us that we don’t always have that control. But Jesus tells us to just trust Him.

If this kind of trust is hard, I think the number one thing to do is pray. Ask God repeatedly for the faith to believe that He will provide. Our Father gives good gifts: He will give you the faith you ask for. He wants us to rest in His love, so to speak, so we will have room to enjoy Him and pursue His kingdom. That, after all, is where we find true joy.

Posted on Leave a comment

He’s Not on the Cross

With Easter approaching, the Cross is heavy on the minds of many. But as it’s been pointed out time and again in the church I attend, we really ought to focus more on the empty Grave. Christ is not on the Cross, and He’s not in the Grave. He’s risen and ascended, and that is where we can find our power—or rather, God’s power to live the lives He has for us.

 

I’ve been trying to rest in this power lately. My husband and I have been struggling with infertility since the beginning of “us.” On top of that, I have Bipolar II, along with a double dose of anxiety disorders (and a myriad of other issues that can be passed on). I often wonder if I’m barren because of my health issues. God has yet to see fit to bless us with a child. You see, I am a mom—I have a beautiful step-daughter, whom I never feel the need to use the phrase “step-” for—but we’ve not been blessed with our own child.

 

Knowing I’m infertile has its own struggles and grief. I never realized you could mourn a child that never was and never will be—a child of imagination. At best, the grief that accompanies knowing you will never bring life into this world is hard to deal with. At worst, it feels impossible. In a late-night fit of anxiety, I turned to my laptop before I began to write this to look up verses on anxiety and uncertainty of the future.

 

And I am glad I did.

 

There are so many promises in the Bible—promises that are possible because Jesus isn’t on that Cross anymore, and He isn’t in that Grave. Promises of a Heavenly Hope—one that is far different from earthly hope.

 

I’ve always believed earthly hope to be paralyzing. We spend time hoping for things that may never come to pass, and our hope often turns into worrying about things over which we have no control. We often get stuck, unable to move because we want something so desperately it infiltrates every area of our lives, immobilizing us.

 

But our God is a great God, and He is a God Who keeps His Word—that is, His promises. (Which are found in His Word—capital W. And I don’t see the meaning of that phrase and the use of the capital letter to be coincidental. God works out even the smallest of details. And if He can do that, how much more can He work out the bigger details in my life and the lives of others?)

 

Here are just a few verses that really stood out to me tonight, as I grasped for a shred of anything that can give me Godly, Heavenly, Eternal Hope:

 

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.”

–Psalm 56:3 (NIV)

 

 

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”

–Isaiah 26:3 (ESV)

 

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28 (NLT)

 

“For I am the Lord your God, Who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’”

–Isaiah 41:13 (NASB)

 

Did these verses magically melt all my trepidation and anxiety? No, they didn’t, but they helped immensely. I pray that they’ll help you, too. God does have a plan (Jeremiah 29:11), and He will bring it to pass.

Posted on Leave a comment

“Just Come to Him” May Be a Better Prayer Approach than “Get in the Right Mindset”…Especially for Hurting People

There’s a notion that you must speak properly to God in prayer. It says you must be on your best behavior, that you must be in the right mindset.

I’ve heard several references to Christian writers who advocate this. They say to sit in silence, meditate on God’s word and His holiness, or something of the like. This practice can be encapsulated by a quote from Kenneth Bailey in his book Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: “Twice in the recent past it was my extraordinary privilege to personally greet Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II…How much more should we sense the awesome nature of our approach to ‘Our Father who is in the heavens’ and be appropriately prepared to address him.”

I think there’s a place for this kind of practice in the Christian life. It’s not bad to meditate on God’s word or holiness or how grateful you are to Him. However, I think any attempt to claim this should be our routine every time we pray is mistaken.

As expressed in the earlier quote, many people view God as king and therefore think He should always be addressed as such. God is the King, but I think this earthly analogy breaks down when considering prayer. You’d never address a king with anything less than the best decorum. However, God seems to encourage spontaneous and even frustrated prayer. In a sense, God doesn’t demand that we always address Him with the utmost respect. He’s a king who’s more interested in a genuine, deep relationship. He wants you to express yourself to Him, all the way down from the depths of your soul.

Let’s look at some examples from David and Jesus:

 

“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2).

“But now you have rejected and humbled us;
you no longer go out with our armies.

You made us retreat before the enemy,
and our adversaries have plundered us.

You gave us up to be devoured like sheep
and have scattered us among the nations.

You sold your people for a pittance,
gaining nothing from their sale.

You have made us a reproach to our neighbors,
the scorn and derision of those around us.

You have made us a byword among the nations;
the peoples shake their heads at us.

I live in disgrace all day long,
and my face is covered with shame
at the taunts of those who reproach and revile me,
because of the enemy, who is bent on revenge.

All this came upon us,
though we had not forgotten you;
we had not been false to your covenant.

Our hearts had not turned back;
our feet had not strayed from your path.

But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals;
you covered us over with deep darkness.

If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,

would not God have discovered it,
since he knows the secrets of the heart?

Yet for your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.

Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.

Why do you hide your face
and forget our misery and oppression?” (Psalm 44:9-24).

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).

 

This is the kind of communication He wants. He’s not interested in a “respectful” façade (Jesus says in Matthew 6:7 to refrain from empty words in prayer). He knows you at your best and your worst anyway. Why would He care about a proper appearance when you approach Him? He wants you, more than anything, to draw closer to Him. Spewing all your “junk” at Him, so to speak, does that better than approaching him with “proper etiquette.”

I’ve heard so many people say they feel they can’t pray. How can I with all I’ve done? How do I talk to Him? I feel too much shame, guilt, fear, hurt, anger (and yes, this could be anger at God), apathy, distrust, confusion, distance. I can’t bring myself to pray. To these people, it wouldn’t be helpful to say, “You need to get in the right mindset before praying.” No, to these people I say this: Just come to Him. Just start speaking, even if it’s frustration.

I once heard a therapist say, “If you don’t think you can pray, just go home, open up a window, and scream (a certain curse word I won’t repeat here). That can be considered praying.” While I don’t necessarily endorse the expletive, I agree with his point: Let everything out, don’t hold back. Start spewing. If you spew consistently, you may be surprised how deep your prayer life is a year from now.

Again, meditation and quoting God’s word before praying isn’t bad. But for those of us who are addicted, feel numb to God, feel hurt by God, feel mad at God, feel they can’t see Him, are scared to approach Him, or fill in the blank, just coming to Him may be the best way to pray.

 

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11).

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

“whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37).