Monday, February 20, 2017

May as Well Give Hope a Try

Spiritual deadlock. Then God breaks through. Subtly, though decisively. God seems to say, no-tongue-in-cheek, “You may as well give hope a try. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain in hoping forward of the present moment, no matter how daunting the near future may look.”
It was as if He spoke those Words into my spirit implicitly, as if I could discern what He had said through the spiritual transition I had experienced.
I’d had just three hours’ sleep, yet I woke up with a resolve to do what I could each moment. Not much effort required. No need for extraneous, beleaguering thought. But I only realised through the benefit of reflecting in the present and via hindsight. I had presented with a confidence that belied my tiredness. I was service-oriented, able to desire the best result for others I was serving, without effort. It was as if God had revived me from the inside out. And, I had not expected it. A hope returned is a peace regained.
Of course, like many Christians have, I’ve experienced this rising-from-the-ashes-resurrection many times. It proves the hope we hold to is real. It ushers into truthful existence, that, metaphorically speaking, while there are tears in the night, joy returns in the morning (Psalm 30:5).
The fact is, no matter our circumstances, it does us no ultimate good ever to complain incessantly, or to focus on the negatives. Not that we’re judged for staying in the doldrums. We simply remain there, that’s all. But to press forward into the burgeoning reality of our hour, hopefully, is really the only viable choice.
And, it is a choice — to do what can be done. To effuse light rather than perpetuate darkness, even if darkness is all we see and feel.
Pushing past the darkness is but a decision of faith away. But what underpins all this is the movement of God massaged within the nodules of our spirit. We can no more ‘try’ to have hope than we can achieve it in our own strength. So, ‘trying’ is a dichotomy. It will lead us to an oblivion of despair. Yet, giving hope a try is staying positive no matter what is coming.
It is far better to pray, to be still, to take the pressure down, to desire God move, rather than to move out in our own frail wisdom.
God’s revelation is pure in the fact that hope is a light that returns to the mind, as it moves the body freer, healing the heart.
Hope returns inbound of prayer, having richly desired and sought it. As it breaks through as fresh light, it offers itself to us, as we true believers keenly embark.
Evidence of a hope returned: life is no burden. The mind free, the heart unrestrained, a hope returned, is a peace regained.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Finding Hope When Nothing’s Working

Sliding into a depression is ugly. Enduring anxiety can feel an infernal torment. And a double-whammy is overwhelming. Being overwhelmed gives me, at least, the impression that nothing’s working; that everything in life is crashing and burning. Logically it’s not that way at all, but we can get to the point where it feels like this.
There’s always a lot of inner dialogue going on whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed. Although awareness is usually a Godsend, knowing that it’s the noise within my own head, however, doesn’t help me much. In fact, the more conscious I am of it, the more overwhelmed I can feel.
When we can’t get out of our own minds there are a few avenues we can slide down — panic, at one end of the spectrum, for one; despair, at the other end of the spectrum, for another.
Somehow, we need to find hope, because hope opens the door to joy and eventually peace. Hope also encourages us to apply faith. Hope infills panic with calm, and it augments despair with patience.
I’ve found that when my mind is obsessing about overwhelming matters I need healthy diversions of focus. The best of these is connection through sharing vulnerably with caring others. Provided we have these people in our lives, and we utilise them, these connections give us the ability to share honestly and receive the encouragement of reassurance. They balance our negative self-talk with encouraging truths we need to hear.
On a practical level, knowing we need healthy diversions of focus is one thing; achieving same is clearly another thing altogether. It can feel an impossibility to do. If nothing else, if you’re reading these words, please know you have someone (among the many who do) who understands how confounding it is.
It’s encouraging when we know there are others, too, who suffer for having no simple way of negotiating such confused messes.
But this is a real hope:
When we believe in the power of sharing honestly with caring others
we find those people help relieve our burdens.
In addition, when we trust someone
who cares for us with our struggles,
those struggles diminish
and our minds and hearts are helped.
And if we ever feel we’ve overburdened people with our problems, we can try to find a few equally caring people who we can spread the load with.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Journeying Into Springsteen’s Badlands Wisdom

Badlands, you gotta live it every day
Let the broken hearts stand
As the price you’ve gotta pay
Keep pushin’ until it’s understood
And these Badlands start treating us good.
(chorus of the song, Badlands, by Bruce Springsteen)
Philosophy peddled as rock music. Listen into the words and melody of this 1978 Springsteen classic and in it is a worldly way to live this life that can be juxtaposed with the biblical way of living this life.
Springsteen has written this song for the common battler. It’s an important song with an ever-poignant title. Whoever lives the life of truth knows that reality makes most of us feel the ways the song talks about.
The only way to enjoy this life is to embrace it,
the Badlands as they are.
So many of us seem won to a dream that seems ever out of our grasp. As if to avoid the Badlands, the life as we know it. Badlands tells us not so much to give up on the dream, the calling, but to stop waiting, to not waste our time waiting. John Lennon said life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans. Making plans incessantly is the easiest way to miss this life. We ought simply to live it.
The nature of life is it seems dog eat dog. Poor men want to be rich, the rich want to be kings, and kings aren’t satisfied until they rule everything. But the gold of life is in the lessons we learn. These are the things we can count as real blessings. They show us the product of our progress, the only real possession.
Faith, hope and love rate this mention — that one day they might elevate him high above these Badlands. The promise of eternity believed and enshrined within. What other hope is worthy of our faith in this oft-difficult life? Other than the snippets of joy that come from the simplest gratitude.
It’s no sin to be glad we’re alive. It’s a blessing. The notion that’s deep inside us all is we need to feel we belong wherever we feel God has set us; this, to be glad to be alive.
We may feel there are still too many looking straight through us — ignoring us. We may see more those who reject us than accept us. These are common problems, though not impossible to overcome.
These Badlands are treating us good if we see their role, which is to teach us about life, specifically, our lives.
This is what I think the song is saying in sum:
This life, if it’s the life of learning,
Satisfies only the seeker,
And in becoming meeker,
Satisfied are we in our yearning.

Friday, February 10, 2017

God Compensates for the Worst by Redeeming for us the Best

The world hates suffering. None of us like it. But it is necessary for the better things to come. But that isn’t a theology many, if anyone, in our day will be comfortable with.
Something happens to us when we suffer. Coming quickly to the end of our own strength, we realise how much we took life for granted when it was easy. Or, without suffering, how pathetically ill-equipped we were to live a good life. When we suffer, our whole internal, personal, private world has imploded and there’s nothing we can do to fix it. Actually, the more dire and untenable the situation, the better.
Suffering is by nature irreconcilable, and no Christian can reach anywhere near their full potential unless they have experienced such a pitiable, back-against-the-wall reality.
Suffering is the greatest enabler of the single-path journey. It leaves us no choice but to travel earnestly in the fear of the Lord. Having no option open to us but faith, suffering compels and propels us forward in knowing faith is the only way, no matter how hard it is. Any compromise into supposedly easier journeys ahead are rejected no matter how easy or appropriate they would seem to be.
By suffering the only way God can help us,
He compensates us by giving us
our purpose and abilities to achieve it.
In suffering, we’re driven past our normal responses of ambivalence into unprecedented territory. Finally, God has us in a position that rivals the great white throne judgment. From there, there’s no choice open to us, because there’s a truth to be told.
Suffering forces us to acknowledge the harsh truth, and live with it in such an unescapable way that we must get better. Suffering wakes us up from our spiritual slumber and makes us cling to God more ardently than ever.
It is from this standpoint that God gives us the dream we’ve long awaited, together with the gifts He’s prepared in advance for us to have.
Through suffering the only way God can help us, He somehow makes up for the pain we endured, giving us a special purpose, and gifts to help us execute that purpose.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Expect Life to be Hard and it gets Easier

The easiest way of making life easier is to redefine what we presently think is hard.
If we think something is hard we won’t enjoy that thing, unless we see the purpose or benefit in doing or enduring the hard thing.
If we expect life to be easy, we’re soon disappointed. Expecting life to be easy is the commonest insanity. But, where we anticipate life to be tough, life is suddenly made much easier because our expectations are right-sized to reality. For life is easy for nobody.
Yet reality is an authentic friend to all
who ply courage and humility; who love truth.
Life is tough, always has been, always will be. But when we accept life is tough, it gets easier.
Surely a purpose of life is to endure hardship better so we’re able to experience more joy. The opportunity we all have is to recalibrate how we perceive difficulty. The more prepared we are for a range of difficulty, the more resilient we will in fact be.
Recalibrating our perception of difficulty has got to be about faith, even for the irreligious.
Faith has this direct benefit. It trusts that enduring hardship makes us stronger, more resilient, mature persons. There’s a payoff for our sacrifice of endurance. When we believe something good compensates us for enduring something hard, our actual experience of life is made easier, because we see the purpose.
We can do anything if we see the purpose and agree it’s worthwhile. And in faith there is purpose in enduring misfortune well… to struggle well.
That’s faith. It trusts that enduring adversity is good, for it knows that there’s no other sane option. And when faith is vindicated, we redeem what goodness and growth would not be ours otherwise.
When immersed in the sea of difficulty we either sink or swim. Because there’s no point in sinking we choose to swim.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Liberation or Captivity

CHOICES. We all have choices. An everyday choice that we all have for our mental health’s sake is whether we choose for liberation or captivity.
By our thinking, we come to be.
By our intentionality, we have our being, whether we allow ourselves to become captive to negative thinking or we choose to debunk what can only see us strewn.
Sustained mental health via the strength of resilience isn’t simply about saying the words, but it’s about thinking the actions out into reality.
We connect good thinking with energy that comes from belief that resists captivity. That compels us to act in faith. Acting in faith is done trusting that results will come, and they do always, eventually.
So, do we choose:
-         The tyranny of the blues or the triumph of life, for it is ours?
-         To give into exhaustion or to execute the wisdom of saying no to unreasonable demands?
-         To worry about the coming days after this one, or to stay in this moment of the coming hour?
-         To question others’ motives and their sedition, or to rearrange our thoughts in giving them the benefit of any doubt, which they very well deserve?
-         To stop making comparisons with others, and to start comparing with Jesus, alone?
-         To break the chains of a self-imposed oppression, or to allow the chains to bind ever tighter?
-         To delay important decisions until such a time we’re mentally composed, or to make choices we could otherwise sorely regret?
-         To spend our time with our loved ones, or to waste time on a pipedream that means we must neglect family?
-         The wondrous curiosity of joy, or the choice to extend sorrow?
By our choices we sink to depths we cannot rise from or we rise from depths we’ll never sink to again.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Purpose of ‘Unhealthy’ Emotions

Anger, sadness, jealousy, hurt. Four unhealthy, unproductive, unpalatable emotions. But also, catalysts for transformation.
Negative emotions are inevitable. No matter our temperament, we’re all faced with emotions we would prefer not to have.
They cause guilt and shame and compromise and pain and fear to emerge from within us. They bring unhappiness and anxiety into would-be happy, peace-lit lives.
What and where is their purpose?
Encouragement in Emotional Pain
First, pain is an encouragement, for God is in the pain. He is there with us as we experience it — His Presence beckons us to something better.
Pain is stimulus for reflection, which is a good springboard for change.
God has wired us to do something with pain. Pain, whether it ends in fear or guilt or shame, or a double or triple whammy of a combination of them, is not some nasty end point, but the beginning of an opportunity. Once we’re able to settle down enough to accept the presence of the pain, we’re then in pole position to explore it without judgment.
Pain is never to be judged, ridiculed, condemned or scorned. It’s an important indicator that things are not right so we can right them.
Loving Unhealthy Emotions into a Healing Encounter with God
Unhealthy emotions, accepted, we now have the perfect basis for moving on, from the very place of our imperfection. And pain is God’s chosen instigator. He knows we need to be stimulated — aroused from our spiritual slumber. Pain is His agent.
God loves it when we’ve sufficient humility to journey into reality. Having knocked at truth’s door, we verily find freedom awaits us inside, where lies can no longer reside.
The pain in unhealthy emotions can drive us through curiosity into a search for God’s truth. God never has anything bad for us, and we can be assured that enduring pain does bring healing.
The purpose of unhealthy emotions is the awakening of pain’s opportunity for healing.
Acknowledgement to Paula Constant, The Power of Enough, as inspiration for this article.