Lately I’ve seen a lot of social media posts that speak truth, but in a really harsh and ugly way. Rather than lean in and engage with their words, I get the urge to fight them in the comments…even if I agree with their point.
One lady wrote in all caps, something to the effect of, “WOMEN CALLED TO BE PASTORS ARE DECEIVED BY SATAN AND LIVING IN SIN!” My immediate urge was to write some fighting words in the comments but thought better of it. I then stopped and thought, “That post is not going to draw anyone closer to Jesus, so whether I agree with her or not, my comments aren’t going to help the matter.”
Another lady posted that if your pastor didn’t stand up and say something about Roe vs Wade the Sunday after the law was overturned, that’s a huge red flag and you should reconsider attending that church. I commented something like, “My pastor didn’t mention it, but I don’t think he needed to. The church is very involved with supporting a Christian pro-life womens clinic and I know that the congregation was all celebrating. I think you need to reevaluate your statement.” The reply to my comment began, “WRONG!!!…” and I was then completely torn down. Is this how we are taught to treat one another?
What happens when we speak the truth but forget the love? We miss the chance to glorify God. Believers are drawn away from him and nonbelievers turn their backs completely.
My brain was sick. That’s how I explained it to my then 2 ½ year old. The medical descriptions in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5) doesn’t thoroughly describe the hurricane that was raging beneath my skull. I was in my worst episode of my newly diagnosed bipolar disorder. I couldn’t function, and yet I had to. My son needed his mom and Andrew needed his wife. Andrew’s and my business needed me. I was as depleted as a person could be. I wanted to die.
Just a few months before, the pastor from the church we were attending asked me to leave. That’s a long story, but the point is that I was without my mind and without a church. My spiritual community was fractured and so was my spirit. I knew I needed something to ground me to the truth. I didn’t have the wherewithal to get there on my own.
A friend of mine came to me a few months ago and asked me to pray for her toddler son who was recently diagnosed with a devastating illness. “I think God hates me. I feel like I’m being punished or cursed. I don’t understand.”
She’s not alone.
“Is God punishing me? Is this a curse from God?” are questions one often asks themselves when facing a hard situation. Since 2017 I’ve dealt with one crisis after another. I’ve had people tell me that my life should be made into a movie because of all I’ve been through (I’m not sure I want to see that movie). As I write this I’m in another season of crisis. I’m struggling with my bipolar disorder, I’m in conflict with someone I love, and I’m being sued for speaking up for people who are being hurt. Wondering if I’m cursed might be a natural response, but knowing the truth in God’s word, I know this is not the case.
Have you ever had an intimate relationship with someone only to find out they were not who you thought they were? Or maybe you had a certain expectation of someone and things didn’t transpire the way you expected it. You might have in mind someone who disappointed you but the same could be true for someone who surprised you in a good way.
And then there’s Jesus. I can’t tell you how many times I felt like I was walking in step with Jesus, only to have my life change in an unexpected way. “This isn’t how it was supposed to go!” I cry.
The twelve disciples walked intimately with Jesus during his three year ministry. They saw it all and knew Jesus more deeply than anyone. And yet, they still missed out on who he really was!
So often, we miss when God is working in our lives. We’re so bogged down in the details that we fail to step back and see the bigger picture. This is especially true when our life doesn’t look like we expected it to or think it should. We fail to step outside of ourselves and see the divine intervention of God. We look back later on and see that it was staring straight into our face. “How did I not see that?” we marvel. Well, you aren’t the only one.
Over the past year, my church’s women’s Bible study has been digging through the gospel of Matthew. Verse by verse, we’ve examined God’s Word at multiple angles. We’ve marveled at how Jesus worked in the lives around him. Jesus overcame Satan’s temptation. Jesus taught mind boggling truths. Jesus healed the sick and cast out demons. Jesus raised the dead. Jesus foretold what was to come; both in his time on earth and his second coming. One theme I grabbed onto is the fact that the religious leaders (Pharisees, Sadducess, Herodians and scribes) and Jesus’s disciples missed what God was doing and would do through Jesus.
My knuckles were white on the steering wheel, arms ridged, as I forced myself to drive in a straight line going 75mph in the busy I-4 traffic.
Breathe, I reminded myself.
Don’t do it, the Holy Spirit warned.
Arthur is in the backseat. Protect him. My maternal instincts called to me.
I just wanted my life to be over. I wanted to erase the pain that festered deep down into my soul. If I swerved in front of a vehicle on my left at just the right angle, maybe I could end it all. At least I would feel a pain different from the pain I was feeling.
As I look forward to 2022, I find myself anxious and distressed. For the past few years, I have done what a lot of people do in place of resolutions in that I ask God to show me a word and Bible verse to focus on for the year. In the weeks leading up to the new year, and a few weeks after, I struggled to find that word. I was beginning to think maybe I just didn’t have a word for this year.
You’re not sure if you can face your family this year. You’re grieving the empty seat at the table. You or a family member is very ill. Your marriage is struggling. You’ve just had a breakup. You’re struggling with infertility. You’ve lost your job. You’re deep in debt. You can barely afford the turkey on the table. The list goes on. What is there really to be thankful for?
On a beautiful Ohio summer day in 2008 I nervously chatted with my friend as we drove to the house of a couple she knew. Though I had been prepared as to what to expect, I was uneasy. I was grateful for her help and desperate to try anything to free my mind of the racing anxious thoughts, reactionary temper, constant feeling of dread, and overall lack of peace in my life.
That spring this same friend, with a couple of others–all older more seasoned believers than I–had led me through the Seven Steps to Freedom from Neil T. Anderson’s book, The Bondage Breaker. These steps include a process of confessing sin, forgiving those who have wronged you, recognizing lies you’re telling yourself, and combating those lies with truth. Doing these things, the book claims, would grant you freedom in Jesus Christ.