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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 My Dad Helped Me Through My Depression

My Dad has helped me fight my depression in countless ways and he has always been there for me in some way when I needed him.  The one way that has helped most is by watching him persevere through many trials that he faced throughout his life.  Many people in his position would have probably quit when things got as tough as it did for him, but he never did.  Eventually, after many tries, my dad almost always got a blessing or something he long awaited. His mantra, “I am not a quitter,” has inspired me to likewise persevere through my own trials.

One recent example is in buying the house where my mom and I now live.  When my parents saw the house, they instantly fell in love with it and immediately put in an offer.  However, it took a while for the previous owners of the house to accept it. Because the process took longer than expected, my mom wanted my dad to give up on trying and look for another one, since we didn’t have long before we’d have to move out of our old house.  Thankfully, however, the owners got back to us just in time! There were other things going on afterwards that delayed the home-buying process further, but in all this, my dad never lost hope that the house we live in now would be ours! A couple months later, we finally closed on the house.  A few days after that, we packed our stuff and moved.  Had my dad given up on buying this house, we would not be living where we are today.

Another example of his perseverance is how he has pressed on at his jobs.  When other people quit due to many factors, including the environment and benefits, my dad remained loyal to his job.  As a result, he has gained the respect of his colleagues and superiors and continues to have income.

My dad’s perseverance in these and countless other situations has helped me fight my depression because his refusal to quit in life has inspired me not to quit on my own life, even when things got dark and I was tempted to give up.

There had been days at one of my previous jobs that I was so plagued by stress, depression, and anxiety that I seriously considered quitting right then and there. But, inspired by my dad’s perseverance, I went back to work the next day. I didn’t even have to take a leave of absence or call out!

I have been with my current company for over four years.  I have watched so many co-workers come and go in the two stores I have worked in.  I told a friend of mine that sometimes I still struggle with thoughts of ending my life (though I usually am not seriously planning anything, as I was in times past) when I am super stressed and depressed, and she said, “At least you have stuck to your job. I couldn’t handle staying around any longer.” And I told her that I get my tenacity from my dad.  This tenacity has not only helped me keep my job with the same company for over four years, but has also helped me persevere in practicing new skills and improving my existing skills.  About two years ago, I wanted to learn how to backup cashier. Although it took me many months to train and one of my so-called friends kept discouraging me from even training, my perseverance paid off.  About a month later, a customer complimented me on how fast I was.  The CSMs (customer service managers) now call me for backup cashier assistance often, as I am one of the few registered-trained associates that isn’t a regular cashier.

When I was in the dark pits of my depression, my dad not only supported and comforted me, he also encouraged me not to give up and to just try my best.  With God’s (and my earthly dad’s) help, I was stopped many times from carrying out plans to end my own life, and I am very thankful for that. Without their help, I would not have been able to enjoy any of God’s blessings that He had planned for me over the years!

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Do Better, Be Better

I came across a situation in which someone is having issues with somebody else, whom she termed “a bully.” An adult bully, to be more exact. She then discovered that, ironically, this bully runs his own group, in which he portrays himself as a “peace guru.”

Yes, strange situation, but what saddened me was a reply she got from another person: “Must be bipolar.” As if it is that simple. As if everyone who acts one way in front of one set of people but different to another must be bipolar. As if it is simply a descriptive term, one to be use flippantly, rather than an actual illness.

It is a known fact that mental illness in our world is still largely misunderstood. Part of that unfortunate situation is due to how much we have yet to discover about the brain itself. Another is how many communities, for their own various reasons, reject even the idea of mental illness. Sometimes people have a difficult time grasping the concept of mental illness and simply cannot comprehend it in its entirety. Still others are simply unwilling to learn. And then there are those who do know but don’t care.

Whichever of the above is true about the person that made such a careless comment, one thing is certain: a lack of education regarding illness, in general, but mental illness, specifically, is terribly apparent.

There are, also, the additional repercussions of being so careless about using an actual illness as simply another adjective. The consequences do not stop at the mentally ill community and their doctors’ being offended or upset. It further perpetuates the misunderstandings of mental illnesses of all kinds. It encourages people to remain ignorant of something quite real. It furthers the worlds’ idea that mentally ill people are all unstable or to be feared. And, yes, it harms the psyche of those who deal with these types of obstacles on a day-to-day basis.

We need more research, resources, and education when it comes to mental illnesses and coming alongside those who deal with them. Those struggling with mental illness, diagnosed or otherwise, do not need misunderstanding and judgment. We, as a community, need the exact opposite: we need people who will link arms with us and support us. To be better, we all need to do better.

 

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

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Why Christians Should Take a Vested Interest in City Planning/Design

We are a product of our built environment. If you put me in a crappy house that doesn’t smell good and it’s got a bad bathroom and broken faucets, I’m going to be a crappy person. If you put me in a small cute house with good door handles and good faucets [and] a good shower, that I can walk to the park when I get mad, I can walk down the street and get a cup of coffee without having to have a car—I have more money in my pocket that way—I’m going to be a different person. I’m also going to have an interaction with different people who may be able to help me with my problem, whatever my problem is.[i]

 

These words from Monte Anderson on the Go Cultivate! podcast sum up why I’ve come to believe that city planning/design is an issue in which Christians should become more involved. I’ll be frank: I strongly believe America should re-evaluate the way we design cities and towns. I believe this primarily because it would make life better. It would alleviate many of our social, economic, and environmental woes.

I’ve made it no secret that I think loneliness is a massive problem in America. Much of the reason for our loneliness is the way our towns and consequently our lives are structured. Living in isolation—except for when we have to go to work or run errands—is our default. We are isolated units who meet together when necessary and then disperse back into isolated units. One of the main reasons for this lifestyle is how spread out our cities are. We have to drive (generally an isolated activity) to get anywhere.

It’s not impossible to be social. But neither is it easy. It takes considerable time to drive (if you even have a functioning car); it takes increased effort to create plans while accounting for drive time; it takes no small amount of money to buy a car, maintain it, pay for gas, and pay the taxes necessary for road upkeep (not to mention other infrastructure and police). I know for me (and I’m sure for other introverts), getting out of the house is hard enough, so putting these extra obstacles in the way just makes me want to stay inside more. And when you’re driving, there’s very little chance you’ll have the opportunity to socialize on the way to wherever you’re going. If you’re walking to your destination, you may run into neighbors and people walking their dogs. If there’s a small ice cream shop on the way, you could quickly pick up a cone or a milkshake. But when you’re driving, it’s just you and whoever is in the car with you. What do we expect when we make socializing harder? Of course it’ll result in loneliness.

There are many ways Christians address our country’s problems. Some of these problems can’t necessarily be solved or alleviated by redesigning cities, but many of them can. The flawed planning/design of our cities is a root cause of many social ills, yet I don’t hear Christians talking about it. Is it possible that we’re focusing on symptoms and not the cause? Here are a few examples.

I recently heard a pastor state in a sermon that all Christians should care about the environment. I agree. It was part of a passing statement he made while giving examples of how we pursue God’s kingdom in our professions. He didn’t get political and he didn’t elaborate much on practical steps for creation care. But he did say that we should, before driving somewhere, think about whether the trip is absolutely necessary. That way, we can drive less and release less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

I don’t disagree, but the statement feels to me like a half-hearted attempt at environmentalism, like slapping a band-aid on a gaping wound. Pastors encouraging their congregations to think twice before getting in the car will do essentially nothing for the environment. Perhaps a few people will drop a trip or two per week for maybe three weeks. But then they’ll revert back to normal. Why? Because you have to drive to do well-nigh anything in our country.

If we re-evaluated our city structures, though, we could drastically reduce automobile dependence. It would become manageable for people to walk or bike to where they need to go. It would also reduce the need for parking lots and streets, which would mean fewer trees cut down and less disturbance to the ecosystem. This would actually solve problems. But who knows a preacher who discusses this approach? I don’t.

Exercise is another example. We’re told to go to the gym, to jog when we have time, to fit it into our daily routines. Yet, as a certified fitness trainer, I hear from people all the time that they’ve tried, but they just don’t have the time to fit in exercise. So our health suffers. But what if exercise had to be a part of our daily routine? If we could walk or bike to work instead of drive, our daily exercise would be taken care of. But most people work way too far from home to bike, let alone walk. And what if we could walk or bike to most of our daily errands or friends’ houses? But most of us live so spread out that walking to even the grocery store isn’t feasible.

Pastors tell us if we’re lonely to get out and see friends. But they also tell us not to drive unless we have to. They encourage us to serve at the church food bank. But there’s little mention of how Christians can advocate for affordable housing. We’re slapping band-aids on problems and not thinking about root causes. Treating symptoms is helpful, but it doesn’t solve problems. And the church needs to solve problems.

I’m not suggesting that we completely get rid of cars. I think cars are a blessing. It’s amazing that we can travel long distances in a relatively short amount of time. I just think we should use cars a lot less. Also, reducing automobile dependence would drastically reduce the number of automobile-related deaths.

One of the main arguments conservatives make against climate action is that it would decimate the economy. But if people and cities decided to restructure on their own, top-down governmental climate mandates would be much less necessary. Plus, people and communities would be more self-reliant, so the economy would be more healthy and resilient. (The current Covid-19 crisis is revealing some the fragility of our system.)

Rethinking current norms on city planning and design would make life better. Americans love their space and privacy (and I’m not saying people can’t own their own homes), but if we consider the benefits of living in smaller communities closer together (and these can be pockets of big cities), I think we’ll realize how much happier we’d be. Americans vacation to Europe and gush about how walkable European cities are. There’s no reason that can’t be done here. Plus, we’ll give our cities an American flare—I’m not saying we have to become Europeans. Nor am I saying life will be perfect. Accidents will still happen and people will still get sick. I’m not advocating utopia; I’m advocating what I think is a better way of life.

Our mission as Christ followers is for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Therefore, if there’s a way to improve quality of life and alleviate multiple social ills, we should be involved. I know there are some Christians already working hard at this. But frankly, most American Christians don’t care about this subject. It’s time we start the conversation.

 

[i] Clark, Jordan, host. “Affordable housing & incremental development.” Go Cultivate!, Episode 48, Verdunity, 11 Dec. 2019, https://gocultivate.simplecast.com/episodes/affordable-housing-incremental-development-m5He7hvQ.

 

This post was originally published on my website: https://www.wrhwriting.com/episode-10-why-christians-should-take-a-vested-interest-in-city-planning-design/

It’s also an episode on my podcast Churchthink.

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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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The Problem with “That’s What the Bible Says”

If you’ve been around evangelicals for long, you’ve probably heard the phrase “That’s what the Bible says.” This is generally said to justify or defend an unpopular position the person holds when he or she is speaking during Bible study or debating a friend or preaching. It’s used as a trump card, a last resort, and as an implicit statement saying, “Don’t blame me, blame God.” In many cases, its use is motivated by intellectual laziness. In other cases, its use is based off of a genuine desire to adhere to God’s truth. In most cases, if not all, it’s a terrible thing to say.

One of the problems with the phrase is that it doesn’t take the relevant verses in context. By nature, the phrase simply plucks up a statement or a few words or a sentence and highlights that at the expense of everything else in the passage and perhaps even the rest of the Bible. This tactic doesn’t consider other passages to shed light on what that one verse means, nor does it take potentially contradictory passages into consideration. The phrase implies that this is what the text says and that there’s no other way to interpret it because this is literally what it says. In general, it shoots down any other attempt to understand the text because any other attempt would be failing to take the Bible seriously or to take God at His word. And if you’re not taking God at His word, you must be creating your own god and your own doctrines.

This is a non sequitur and a false dilemma. It’s a non sequitur because it doesn’t necessarily follow that just because one verse or passage of scripture says to do or don’t do something or to believe or don’t believe something means that should be the case at all times. It’s a false dilemma because there is another option besides believe what one verse literally says or reject the Bible.

For example, let’s look at anxiety. Some Christians say it’s a sin to be anxious because Jesus and Paul say not to be anxious (in Matthew 6 and in Philippians 4, respectively). In Matthew 6, Jesus is talking to a crowd that is probably filled with poor people who are obviously concerned about how they will provide for themselves (hence “do not worry about…what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear”). He wants them to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” and trust that “all these things will be given to you as well.” In Philippians 4, Paul gives exhortations to the Philippian church about how to live, knowing that they may face imminent persecution of some sort.

We can take away from both passages that God wants us to trust in Him through all life’s circumstances. He doesn’t want us choosing to sit around and fret instead of pursuing His kingdom. But we run into a problem when reading about Jesus the night before His crucifixion. Luke 22 says Jesus was “in anguish”; that “his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground”; and that he prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me.” Jesus never sinned, but He was clearly anxious the night before His death. What do we make of this?

There is obviously a kind of anxiety God doesn’t want us to have, and there is obviously a kind of anxiety that He is okay with. I think God doesn’t want us to willfully choose to worry about the future, our provisions, or our circumstances. But I think there is a natural, neuro-chemical type of anxiety that we don’t have much—or any—control over. We can choose to fight through it or succumb to it, but it’s there regardless. That kind of anxiety isn’t a sin. How could it be? We didn’t choose to have it.

Or take addiction. I once talked to a woman about joining my website as a writer. I had read an article on her website about addiction and I told her I disagreed with her position that addiction is entirely a spiritual issue. She pointed me to Proverbs 4:23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” She then told me that this verse shows that all sin begins in the heart, and so all other attempts to deal with addiction are vain.

I don’t disagree that there are spiritual elements to addiction. But research shows there are significant physical elements to it as well, and an effective approach to fighting addiction includes both. Nor do I think this verse implies that there is nothing else that affects behavior except the heart.

For one, this verse is a proverb. By definition, proverbs are instructive statements that are generally true. They aren’t meant to say that whatever the proverb states is literally always going to be true. For instance, is it always true that a “troublemaker and a villain…who plots evil with deceit in his heart” will have “disaster…overtake him in an instant”? Will every bad person “suddenly be destroyed—without remedy” (Proverbs 6:12, 14, 15)? No. We all know that bad people sometimes get away with their actions, and if they don’t they still aren’t immediately blotted from the face of the earth. Some bad people repent and end up living holy lives, which is the opposite of being destroyed “without remedy.” If we take Proverbs literally, we will end up very confused—because we’re not reading it the way it was meant to be read.

So yes, in general everything you do flows from the heart. Our moral choices come from our heart, which is why Jesus says we know people by their fruit. But someone with brain damage can’t always control his or her actions. If we read this verse literally, then it means that person is choosing these actions and that he or she is completely responsible for them. This is the kind of interpretation that defies common sense and makes Christians look hopelessly ignorant. In regards to addiction, yes, we need to address the heart, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing else to address. There are external and biological factors that influence our behavior, and these factors may give us a propensity towards a certain sin, which is why they need to be addressed. Again, the woman I talked to about being a writer for my site committed a non sequitur (and a false dilemma and some sort of argument from exclusion): just because the text only says “heart” doesn’t mean there’s nothing else involved.

If the Bible was just a one-by-one list of rules, perhaps we wouldn’t have this problem, perhaps we could say, “That’s what the Bible says.” But that’s not what the Bible is. The Bible is made up of several different genres that all have different expectations about how they’re supposed to be read. The Bible was written 2000+ years ago, and if we don’t consider each book’s cultural and historical context then we run the risk of misunderstanding what the text is saying. We can’t simply read one verse or passage and say, “Look! That’s what it says!” We have to consider the rest of the Bible, especially the contradictory verses (like in my example with anxiety and Jesus the night before His death). We have to let scripture interpret scripture, and from there try to draw conclusions. The Bible is hard work. As C.S. Lewis said in his book Reflections on the Psalms: “No net less wide than a man’s whole heart, nor less fine of mesh than love, will hold the sacred Fish”[i].

I think we need to ditch “That’s the Bible says.” The phrase has done a lot of harm. It shuts people in cages and can discourage them from digging deeper to really understand the Bible. Even for those who genuinely want to uphold truth and don’t quite understand why the Bible says what it does, something gentler like, “I’m trying to uphold God’s truth and this is what I take it to mean” would be better.

I’m not saying the Bible never means what it says. I’m not saying we can make up our own version of truth. I’m not saying we shouldn’t take the Bible seriously (in fact, I’m saying we should take the Bible more seriously through deeper study). What I’m saying is we need to take the Bible on its own terms (for example, reading each book with its genre in mind) and sometimes do further study to truly understand its meaning. When we do that, the Bible will make a lot more sense—including some of its most baffling passages. I’m suggesting we think twice before uttering, “That’s what it says.”

 

References

[i] Lewis, C.S. Reflections on the Psalms. Inspirational Press, 1958, p. 192.

 

This post was originally published on my website: https://www.wrhwriting.com/episode-3-the-problem-with-thats-what-the-bible-says/

It is also the transcript of an episode of my podcast Churchthink.

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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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Living In Fear–My Journey Out

I have lived in some fear for most of my life. Even back to my elementary school days, I was chided by teachers and peers alike for “worrying too much.” I had severe OCD in my early teen years. Later, some of my anxiety sometimes turned into paranoia. My senior year of high school I was dubbed “most paranoid” by my graduating class.

But God has rescued me out of many of my fears. Yes, He is the same God that said “Do not fear” numerous times in the Bible.

I recovered from my severe OCD with medication and by slowly trying to reduce the time I spent on my nonsensical rituals. Now, many years later, I barely even remember what the rituals were! God used people and situations in my life to help me combat the devil’s lies that not doing the rituals would bring me “bad luck”. (Yes, I actually believed that “bad luck” deal!) God helped me realize that not doing the nonsensical rituals actually freed me to be joyful and to do what He wanted me to do with my life.

I also used to be so afraid what people would think of me if they found out that I was on the autistic spectrum. I tried to hide my struggles from the outside world even before I realized I was on the spectrum. I was taught by my parents, my culture, and the community around me to not tell anyone about my “dirty laundry.” I know they all meant well—they did not want to further expose me to becoming prey to unscrupulous people who may have wanted to take advantage of my openness. However, I also felt alone and powerless to fight the battles that still raged on in my heart long after the visible symptoms of the struggles had passed. When the Spirit impressed upon my heart to write about my struggles, I expected people to judge and even reject me, but, at that point, I did not care. I knew God wanted to use me to bring hope to others struggling similarly. When I started writing about my struggles, something amazing happened! Not only did God use me in His amazing way, but I also found that most people found my vulnerability refreshing. It opened up a way for them to share their own struggles and find acceptance and camaraderie with those struggling similarly, including myself.

Sometimes, I would also be afraid of certain people, as when an abuse survivor sees his or her abuser in close proximity after going “no contact” for a long time. This probably stems from an incident where a teacher growled at me and acted threateningly to me when I ran from him in fear. I still fear people when they yell at me because of this, but thankfully my fear abates within hours, or only a couple days at most. God has infused the power of forgiveness and redemption to quell my fears of people yelling at me or hurting me. He has taught me (and continues to teach me) the power of releasing bitterness and replacing it with mercy, compassion, and grace.

When I was in school, I used to worry about many things–for example, whether I would pass a test or quiz, or if I would get in trouble for something that I may have said or done. Sometimes, I would lie awake for a long time worrying about these things. What I learned was that my worries and fears either never came to pass at all or it wasn’t as bad as I imagined. I still struggle with this sometimes, but one major way God has helped me is redirecting my focus from my circumstances and the “what-ifs” (like what if I don’t pass that test….or what if I get laid off or fired from my job?) to His sovereignty and goodness. Now, I am learning how to say, “Even if I don’t pass the test, God will give me a second chance. Even if I get laid off, God will provide me another job. Even if I get COVID-19, God will use my illness to glorify Himself and bring about good in my life.” This has quelled my fears about COVID-19 significantly, and has helped me to trust God’s sovereignty and goodness in my life, no matter what happens.

Almost everyone I know has at least one fear, even if they don’t readily acknowledge it. It’s normal, but when fear starts to paralyze your joy and freedom in life, then it needs to leave. With God’s help, you can conquer your fears and experience the joy and freedom He has for you.

 

This post was originally published on Patricia’s blog: https://placeinthisworld224.wordpress.com/2020/04/16/living-in-fear-my-journey-out/

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