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Don’t Waste Your Life

One thing that COVID-19 has taught me, with the suddenness and the severity with which it could strike, is that we all have a limited time here on earth. 

Even pre-COVID times, I have been taught this lesson. I almost died in June 2014, because if I hadn’t gone to the ER when I did, my gall bladder would have burst. If that happened, I would not be here today!

As I have gotten older, I have realized that I have spent too much of my life angry and hurt.  I had spent too much time holding grudges and arguing with people who won’t even be there for my funeral! I spent too much of my life worrying about things that would be resolved within days of the incident or things that have no eternal impact at all. 

In 2020, I have observed people around me fall into similar patterns.  I see people against who they voted for in the last election. Mind you, many of them are not arguing with close family members or friends who they see often, but people gone from their in-person life, or someone who they haven’t seen in twenty or so years.   I’ve seen people arguing with a store employee who they probably don’t have to deal with on a daily basis about rights and mask wearing.  I’ve known people who have lost sleep over things that were resolved within days of the incident.  

If we do things like I have observed from various people this year and like I have done when I was younger, then we are wasting our lives! No one will say on their death bed, “ I wish I had spent more time arguing with person X about xyz.” On their death bed, no one will care about whether a particular store requires us to wear a mask or not.  We will not be concerned with work-related stresses or, on the other hand, anything related to entertainment, such as how a favorite team is performing.  

Most people will think about what they had wish they had done differently in life, whether it is how they treated people or opportunities they wish they had taken.  They will want more time to make things right in their world, but at the same time, regretting that they hadn’t used the time they were given more wisely. 

Don’t let that be you. Don’t waste your life! 

Ask yourself when you are tempted to get in a heated debate with someone: Will that person even be in my life a year from now? Is that person even in my daily in-person life today? When I die, will the person be there for my funeral? If the answer is “No,” disengage and walk away from the conversation. 

Spend time with people who are supportive of you. Minister to those around you. Smile at a person who is having a rough day, and encourage their soul.  Be determined to be a peacemaker and a life saver in someone’s life today. 

Ask yourself when you are worried about something: Will this even matter a year from now? Does this situation have eternal significance?  If not, QUIT worrying about it!  Also, remember what it says in Isaiah 26:3 (KJV), “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee,” and Romans 8:28 (KJV), “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” In other words, God will give you peace when you give your worries to Him and trust that He will bring you through the situation for our good and His glory. 

When we begin to have an eternal perspective on things and live like it could be our last days on earth, not only will we most likely have more joy in our lives, but our lives will never be wasted!

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It’s Okay to Be Mad at God

Suffering is extremely difficult. There’s a lot of emotion involved, and that’s 100% okay. I’ve found myself mad at God before, and I’m sure you can relate.

There are some Christians (including pastors) who say it’s a sin to be mad at God. When I hear this, I always want to ask: Have you ever read the Psalms? The Israelites obviously had no problem expressing themselves to God. The psalmists laid themselves bare, so to speak, before God. They didn’t have a filter. And they didn’t expect God to be angry with them. It was just a natural expression of their faith.

So no, I don’t think it’s necessarily a sin to be mad at God. Maybe it reaches sin if you’re just blatantly cursing out of a hateful heart (although I’m still convinced God would rather people yell honestly at him as opposed to being afraid to say anything to him). But a child of God laying his or her heart bare before the Lord? I think God loves that. Jesus said anyone who comes to him he will never cast out.

I pray that laying it all out with complete honesty, just like the psalms, would become commonplace and natural to our faith.

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Things That Bring Me Joy When I’m Upset or Anxious

Though I have battled depression and anxiety for much of my life, recently there have been more blessings God has put in my life that have brought me joy when I had been upset and anxious about a situation.  If anyone here struggles similarly with anxiety and stress, maybe you can relate with me on these things that bring joy after you experience something stressful or anxiety-provoking, or you may have other things that bring you joy. No matter what it is, I hope that God brings you things that will produce joy or will at least alleviate your stress or anxiety. Here are some things that bring me joy when I am upset or anxious:

  1. People who demonstrate they care—I am so blessed by the people who didn’t just stare at me or judge me for my anxiety-produced autistic meltdowns. Instead, they tried to help calm me down and find a solution to the stressful situation. They understand that I have been overloaded by stimulation from all sides (a common trait for those on the spectrum like me) and need compassion.  I hope to care for others similarly when I see someone that is visibly upset and/or stressed.
  2. God’s grace and mercy in the situation– When people yell at me, I sometimes fear that I’ll get in trouble, even if I didn’t do anything wrong. However, what often happens is that God brings situations and people into my life that demonstrate His mercy and grace. For instance, a couple days ago a customer yelled at me for something someone else did, and it caused me much anxiety and grief because the day was already stressful for various reasons. However, the next day, an associate told me that he or a manager would be there for me if a customer made me feel uncomfortable or unsafe.  His comment made me aware that God had a hand in this situation and He would always provide me the grace needed to deal with anything.
  3. People who motivate me to persevere— When I have gotten stressed at work or in other situations, my temptation (as I know some of you can relate) is to quit and give up. However, because of my dad, my mentor, and others who believe in me and motivate me to persevere, I have found great joy in finally being able to accomplish some of what I believe God has made me to do.
  4. Realizing what I have–As I said in an earlier post, gratitude can alleviate and even kill depression, bringing much joy. Reflecting with thanksgiving for all God has brought me through and blessed me with makes me so happy. After I was a little upset one day, I found an associate wanting to buy snacks for our entire department. Because of this associate’s thoughtfulness, my anger completely dissipated and I focused on the blessing of what God provided through this thoughtful associate.
  5. A resolution to the situation making me upset or anxious–About six or seven months ago, I was so upset at how I was being treated in comparison to another person that I almost got myself in trouble. However, a few weeks later, that person became kinder and much friendlier towards me. It was then that I realized that I should probably forgive this person and let go of my anger. That resolution brought me much peace–and joy, of course.
  6. Music that comforts my soul—No, I cannot listen to “happy” music when I am upset. It annoys and upsets me even more. However, music that speaks to my stress and assures me that God can use even that situation for good brings me joy.
  7. Hope that it’s not always going to be like this—Yesterday, I was tempted to call out from work because of how upset and stressed I was the day before. However, a.) I was already at work, so I didn’t feel like wasting time going back at home, and b.) I had hope that things would not be as stressful as they were before. That hope enabled me to complete my shift as scheduled and I even enjoyed being at work that day!
  8. People who make me laugh—I have had a couple coworkers who are master comedians. They make me laugh so easily that even when I’m upset, their jokes never fail to bring me joy.
  9. Seeing someone I have missed who I haven’t seen in a while—Sometimes, during the most stressful situations in my life, I see people that I haven’t seen in a while. The joy that person brought to me in the past and the joy of seeing them at that moment makes me forget about my stress.
  10. Taking a rest or nap, and feeling refreshed the next day or week—If all else fails, I take a nice, warm shower and go directly to bed. Sometimes, having adequate rest–not too little or too much—can clear my mind and enable me to look at things from a more positive perspective.

I have learned that there are many ways that God brings us joy again after we have “suffered a little while.” Life’s difficulties can sometimes be what truly produces joy in us. With God’s grace and mercy, we will find it. Don’t give up!

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Express Yourself to God–Even If It’s Anger

The following is an excerpt from my new book 20 Encouragements for the Depressed Christian https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B089KVKTCX/

 

I became a Christian when I first started dealing with depression. I didn’t know where else to turn with my pain, so I started crying out to God. And God took me in and began changing me.

Thus, my first few years trying to deal with depression were my first few years trying to understand God. Unfortunately, I had this notion that there are certain emotions you don’t express to God because, well, He’s God. That included anger, despondency, and anxiety. God is holy and anger is sin—right? So I can’t bring that to God. He’d be mad at me.

The result was I kept many emotions inside. I didn’t express them to God because that would be sin, and I didn’t express them to other people because that would be sin. But, of course, this only made everything worse.

There’s this notion within evangelicalism that we can only tell God certain things. We’re given blanket statements that anxiety, depression, and anger are sins. (Prominent theologian John Piper once said, “It is never, ever, ever, right to be angry with God.”[ii] Suffice to say, I disagree.) Thus, when we feel these emotions (and everybody does), we assume we can’t express them to God. He’d be mad if we did.

One of the first things my therapist had me do when I began depression/anxiety therapy was to read Psalms and to journal honest prayers to God. It was exactly what I needed. I began to see in the Psalms that expressing oneself openly to God is completely okay. Indeed, God seems to encourage it (Jesus quotes a Psalm on the cross). The psalmists do not expect harsh judgment for speaking honestly with God. On the contrary, they expect God to be closer to them when they talk openly.

I realized after a while that my journaling had brought me much closer to God, even though I expressed many negative emotions to Him. And through the years, over and over again I see that God is not displeased when His people express frustration or anger at Him. In Jeremiah 15:18, Jeremiah asks God, “Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? You are to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails.” And God’s response, instead of anger, is reassurance: “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman…I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you” (Jeremiah 15:19-20). Paul asks God to take away the thorn in his flesh (implying frustration, anxiety, and pain, at the least—feelings that could be construed as failing to trust God), and God responds again with reassurance, not anger. Most importantly, Jesus models for us how to interact with God: He doesn’t hold back negative emotions. He quotes Psalm 22 on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And the night before His death, He prays in anguish for God to “take this cup from me” (Luke 22:42).

I suspect other Christians with anxiety and depression have had this problem of expressing themselves to God. We’ve been exposed to bad teaching that treats sin as a list of “Thou shalt nots.” Thus, when we feel certain “unpermitted” emotions, we think we’re bad people. But that’s not true at all. In fact, this is exactly the kind of teaching that Jesus was so opposed to. Throughout the Gospels, He criticizes the Pharisees for treating the Law as a list of Do’s and Don’ts, when all along God meant for the Law to be wisdom that benefits His people and draws them closer to Him. That’s why it was okay when David ate the consecrated bread (1 Samuel 21). That’s why it was okay for Jesus’ disciples to pick and eat heads of grain on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1).

What John Piper and some other preachers seem to misunderstand is that sin is a heart issue—it’s not just doing or feeling something from the forbidden list. So yes, there is an anger at God that is sin—if it comes from a heart antagonistic to God. But if anger at God comes from a place of wanting to understand, of loving God but being confused and frustrated, then it seems to me that God is perfectly okay with it. And no matter what, God wants us to express ourselves to Him. That’s how we grow closer to Him.

 

Piper, John. “It Is Never Right to Be Angry with God.” DesiringGod, 13 Nov. 2000, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/it-is-never-right-to-be-angry-with-god. Accessed 18 April 2020.

 

W.R. Harris is the founder and owner of Persevering Hope. He is the author of seven books. You can check out his author website here: http://wrhwriting.com/

 

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How We Can Become Stronger Through the Pandemic

There is a lot of fear, panic, anger, sadness, and depression in the world today due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I understand that. But what if God is using this pandemic in order to strengthen us and not just make us “suffer,” as some may think? What if, instead of fearing the worst that can happen to our families and friends, we could rely on God’s comfort, presence, and power to help us to get through each day without paralyzing fear? What if, instead of getting angry at the inconveniences that the pandemic has caused in our lives, we learn to live with it and make the best of it? And what if we could take the time to mourn those we have lost, without fear of ridicule or judgment? What if we could treat our fellow human beings with more love and compassion than ever before? I believe we can, if we trust God to help us.

I have been grieved by all the politicized vitriol surrounding the pandemic, especially here in the U.S., because it points to our society’s inability to come together in unity. One of the customers that I talked to recently told me, “We are all in this together.” That is certainly true, but some people act like only their view is right and that those who have differing views are somehow immoral and/or inferior to them. In order for us to become stronger through the pandemic, we need to be respectful of people’s beliefs surrounding it. For instance, if you believe that people should stay at home except to shop for essentials and that they should wear a face mask in public, you should not chastise the people who for some reason can’t wear a face mask or who must go out to shop for certain items. On the flip side, those who are not as concerned about the pandemic should not chastise the people who believe that staying at home and not going out too much is the best option. We must remember that each person is an image bearer of God, and that they have needs and dreams, just as we do. They are feeling the effects of the pandemic, just as we are. Be open to others’ views by treating those with whom you disagree with grace. 

Many people have legitimate fears about the pandemic. If you are one of the people working as an “essential worker,” as I am, you may worry that all the people you come in contact with at your job could cause you to unknowingly pass on the virus to your family or those with whom you live. You may worry about finances if you are unemployed right now and may worry about not being able to pay bills on time.  

In Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV), it says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  Know that whatever is happening in your life right now, that God is using that for your good somehow (Romans 8:28).  What you are going through in your life right now may not seem “good” or “hopeful,” but know that God will use the icky parts of our lives to either teach us something we will use in our future or lead us to a better future. We can ease those fears, at least a little bit, by trusting that God will protect us and provide for us.  

Another way we can become stronger–emotionally and mentally–through this pandemic is not getting so upset at all the inconveniences caused by it. One of the things that really gets people upset is having to wear face masks in public. They say they can’t breathe in them (I understand their concern); it forfeits their “rights” (I am baffled by that one), and they are allergic to the kind of masks they are wearing (there are different kinds of masks you can wear). If you are one of the people who have significant trouble breathing through a mask, ask your doctor to recommend a face shield that can function as a mask or some other alternative so that breathing won’t be so difficult. For those that just don’t want to wear a mask, know that complaining about wearing one or refusing to wear one will not alleviate the inconvenience. For one thing, if wearing a mask is required where you live, you could be fined for refusing to wear one! 

Also, please be patient. I have noticed certain things take a little bit longer because of the backlog caused by the pandemic and certain businesses not being able to open. Do not yell at an essential worker if you have to wait longer for an item, or if the item is out of stock. This is not an issue with that worker, and may be an issue with the supplier/manufacturer of the item not being able to make the particular item at the rate of demand. If you have to wait longer for an item, it may be because of inadequate staffing to meet demand. Again, the worker is only one person. Unless you find a way to clone them, they cannot do five people’s jobs. 

When we unite as children of God and as a society to get through this pandemic together, we will grow stronger in faith and character. Then, we will realize that we are all in this world together, and we will all lead others to know the love and power of Christ by our care and compassion.

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Momentary Troubles, Eternal Glory

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

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” – Romans 8:18

 

I consider these two verses to be perhaps the most comforting verses for a suffering person. Our current troubles don’t feel “light.” They didn’t to Paul, and they don’t to us. But believers in Christ have the greatest joy just ahead: we get to be with God in His kingdom forever.

Let us remember that when we’re suffering. Our suffering is temporary. For the believer, suffering always has an end. For the believer, joy in Christ has no end.

Persevere, persevere, persevere—even through the worst of times. Let us say with Paul that it will be so worth it.

 

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://wrhwriting.com/

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Our Illusion, God’s Reality

“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.”

–Proverbs 16:9 (NLT)

 

As human beings, we plan and prepare for many things in our lives: school assignments, which college to attend, what to major in, where to get a job. We plan weddings and birthday parties and funerals. Even our days are planned: when to have time with the Lord, when and what to cook (or order) for dinner, when to go to bed. In fact, upon scrutiny, we can see that we plan just about everything. Granted, maybe not all of it will go exactly according to plan, but most of the things we plan will. Right? We certainly expect good outcomes.

 

The issue we come upon is one of having a sense of control. Most of us have been through enough to know that we don’t have absolute control, and many of us know, on an intellectual level, that we do not have any control, truly. But everyone falls into that trap of thinking that the control for which we grasp is something we can, in reality, obtain. Even people that have had their plans so seriously derailed that they know on a heart-level that, as humans, we have no control, can slip into a mindset of having some form of control.

 

However, Proverbs 16:9 makes it extremely clear that our illusion is God’s reality, that, while we plan things, God is the one in control. No more. No less. The end. Period.

 

And that? Is great news. Especially as our country, our world, faces a pandemic unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes. It’s scary—the media outlets don’t help, nor does social media. We’re all being encouraged to social distance. We can’t go to our church building on Sundays. And yet, in all this, God. Is. In. Control. God is King and He is on His throne.

 

What does this mean for us? It means to, yes, take precautions, but more importantly, to remember that God hasn’t stepped off His throne during this pandemic. In the Bible, we are actually told that our Earth, our home, is merely God’s footstool (Isaiah 66:1). God hasn’t left us and He won’t (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5). He knows what is happening and what’s going to happen, and He tells us not to worry about tomorrow—in essence, today has plenty of trouble to deal with all on its own. Don’t go adding on more trouble that you may not even have to deal with (Matthew 6:34).

 

At first blush, not having any control sounds horrible, but given a second look, we realize that having an all­-knowing, all-powerful God in control of things, Who is working everything together for our good (Romans 8:28), is far better than anything we frail humans could manage.

 

 

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Good Days and Bad Days

There are so many factors that contribute to how we feel each day. The weather, the economy, our boss’s behavior, our spouse’s behavior, our kids’ behavior, how well we slept the last few nights, how much we’ve exercised, our diet, if our favorite sports team won, etc., etc. Some of these are within our control and some of these aren’t.

Sometimes we fail to take care of the things we can control, and we feel miserable because of it. That’s okay. Jesus is there with us and forgives us if we fall. The best thing to do is to pick ourselves up and do our best for the rest of the day.

Sometimes we take care of ourselves perfectly—and the things we can’t control fall apart. That’s okay. The best thing to do is to do our best with our situation.

The point is there are good days and there are bad days. If we always measure ourselves based on our very best on good days, we will have a low opinion of ourselves. That’s not reality: we can’t always be at our best. But we can make the best out of whatever the day has given us or however we feel. It may not be our “absolute best,” but it is the best we can do given our circumstances. And that’s what God calls us to—to be faithful right now, in our current context.

So some days we may not be as happy or gracious or creative or patient or energetic. That’s okay. Good days will come around again. Give yourself some grace. Relax, take a deep breath, and just do your best. That’s all God is calling you to right now.

 

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://wrhwriting.com/

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Things I Learned in Order to Cope with the Coronavirus

Saying that these are uncertain and tumultuous times would be an understatement to so many in this world right now. I just moved almost a week ago and face some uncertainty because of that event. However, many of you are facing even greater uncertainty and even fears because your jobs may have been eliminated or changed, your children are no longer able to attend school (except online), and most of you can no longer attend church services, mosques, temples, or any other place of worship because of this pandemic. Even with all this trouble and uncertainty in the world today, there are still ways we can successfully cope with these new realities and stay healthy, both physically and emotionally. Here are some things I learned about how we can cope with this pandemic that is affecting our livelihoods:

Selfishness can cost lives, so we should strive to be considerate of others. When people hoard the essential supplies to combat or prevent the Coronavirus, or when they are rude and non compliant with those that provide services and supplies that they need, they are being selfish. This selfishness can cost lives because it can force stores and other businesses to close and those without means of transportation and access to online services can potentially starve or be in otherwise grave danger because they will have to go without the supplies they need to survive. If people don’t practice social distancing, not caring about whether they will potentially infect someone, they could potentially make someone who has a compromised immune system or is fragile physically to get seriously ill and even die! This can happen because the person who is acting nonchalantly can be a carrier of the virus, even if he or she doesn’t yet present any symptoms. However, when we practice social distancing so that the virus does not spread, wash our hands frequently in order not to spread potentially harmful germs, and when we are patient and considerate to those who serve us and to those in need, I know God will give each one of us the grace we need to be able to endure this trial for as long as He allows.

God will always provide for us, so we do not have to be afraid of not having enough. Many people are in fear of at least some aspect of their livelihood being affected by this virus—whether it has to do with their job or financial security, having adequate food and water, and even that they may contract the virus themselves. I confess that I had some fears in all these categories at some point during these past few days, but then God brought this verse to mind:

“Casting all your cares upon him, for he careth for you.”-1 Peter 5:7 (KJV)

That is when I was reminded by God that He cares for me. And He still cares for every single person reading this today, even when we are going through trials. Not only that, but we don’t have to fear because God always provides for us what we need in some way because of his loving care for us. In fact, Philippians 4:19 (KJV) says:

“But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

My family and I have personally experienced the truth of this verse, even just over this past week! For example, my mom needed chicken to cook a dish, and she looked for it in several stores, only to discover they were already out. However, God provided us with the chicken through my brother, who was able to find it at a store closer to his house, and bought it for my mom. Another incident where God graciously provided happened a few days ago, when I found out I would still have a job, after having worried about what I would do if I didn’t have one, since I tend to delve into depression and get antsy when I have to stay home and not have work to do. Moreover, I would have a very difficult time staying at home for several days on end and still be relatively sane and stable mentally. Thankfully, I went in for the job offer at my new workplace, and they allowed me to start the next day! Not only that, God provided for me beyond what I had asked or even expected when I discovered I got a good raise compared to the last place I worked! I am so blessed! God also did the same for Job, after Job’s time of intense suffering, by fully restoring or replacing all that Job had before. I am convinced that if we all continue to fully trust and lean on God, He will do similarly for you, in His timing, according to what is right for you. Even when you don’t think God is coming through for you right now, do not give up on Him! God will always come through just when you need Him. His timing is always perfect.

I learned we should help others in need during this tumultuous time, according to what we are able to do. If you are healthy, do not have the virus, and have the means to do so, help others who are battling the emotional and/or financial effects of the virus. For instance, if a friend (online or in person) wants to talk or vent to you, listen to him or her with thought and consideration. Do not seem too busy or judgmental in your demeanor. Offer words of encouragement as he or she faces these trials. Share how you are getting through it and talk about the hope that comes from Christ. If your friend needs financial help, and you are able to do so, give him or her the necessary resources as a gift, not expecting repayment, as burdening him or her with a loan can create additional financial and emotional burdens. Help your loved ones in any way you can, and value their presence in your life even more now, as they may have no one else they interact with face-to-face.

If we do our best to put others before ourselves, trust that God will always provide what we need, and help others struggling with the effects of this pandemic, we will defeat Coronavirus and God will make us stronger and better than before!

 

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