Getting Through Despair – A Case Against Works Based Theology

Recently a friend of mine told me he had an uncomfortable experience when another person asked him if he was saved. Knowing my friend is saved, I asked him why he felt uncomfortable. He said that he knows he’s not perfect and that he doesn’t feel like he’s good enough to be called a Christian. I myself have fallen into this thinking trap so I knew what to tell him to get him out of it. You see the devil is always trying to make us doubt our salvation. If he can make believers into doubters he can temporarily derail a perfectly good witness for Christ.

Many Christians believe they have made mistakes too grave for Christ to forgive and as a result they have fallen away or remained crouched in the fetal position when it comes to proclaiming what they believe. Works based theology says that we are Christians based on what we do. But the Bible never says our works are anything more than filthy rags in front of Christ’s sacrifice (Isaiah 54:6). His sacrifice and our belief in him is what makes us righteous. Belief is a gift from God. So you can see that salvation has nothing to do with our works but everything to do with the work the Holy Spirit is doing in us. Jesus says that his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV). If we had to amass our own salvation with works what would we need Christ for? The Bible says that we can do nothing apart from Christ (John 15:5). All our energy, righteousness, faith, love and hope begin and end in God – the Alpha and the Omega.

The early Christian church dealt with the heresy of works based theology. Paul said that those who teach works as a way to salvation are better off not to procreate because they are denying the power of salvation that came through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. They people that preached that people had to be circumcised in order to be saved in addition to believing in Christ were considered heretics by the Apostle Paul. He actually said they should emasculate themselves because their offense was so serious (Galatians 5). God wants us to live by grace and he will commit the fulfillment of the law with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Christ is the fulfillment of the law and we were meant to live by grace not by works. He came so that we would have joy to the full not a burden of keeping the law by our own striving (John 10:10). This type of works based salvation is very attractive to bible thumping hell fire and brimstone preachers because they believe it makes them superior to other believers and heathen.

Good works do have a place in a Christian’s life. They are a result of God’s grace. They are not burdensome or heavy. Good works are a byproduct of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit so that we don’t go around boasting about how great we are but so that we give God all the credit and glory for our salvation and everything that comes with it.

Despair comes from works based theology. It’s during the struggle that we experience despair because at some point we realize that nothing is good enough. We find our human condition in a state of despair. It robs us of our joy and shackles us in despondency. Despair is the opposite of what Christ has planned for us. He came that we might have joy and have it to the full. It causes depression. Depression is demonic oppression. The devil knows you can’t save anyone when you are depressed. No one wants what brand of religion you’re selling if it doesn’t even make you happy. It’s hard to even find a reason to wake up in the morning when you’re feeling despair.

Our nation is in a state of despair at this point. People are just trying to make it through the day and not necessarily preaching the gospel. If they knew the gospel they wouldn’t have to preach it their lives would be a living sermon. Now they are trying to bandage their wounded spirits with entertainment and consumerism. People are sluggish, tired, and fat because they are using maladaptive coping mechanisms (addictions) as idols to replace the joy that is missing in their lives from not knowing the gold that lies in the message of the gospel. The message is “Christ has risen and He has overcome the world!” We are overcomers; we have hope. We have a purpose. Our God has not abandoned us. Joy comes from knowing you are saved. It comes from knowing the gospel. Ultimately it comes from a rich a full life that is inspired by the Holy Spirit. If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ now, what are you waiting for? He’s the only way toward freedom from despair, despondency and the struggle.

Do Not Worry

Don’t worry. We had a sermon about this last Sunday and it really helped me so I think I will expound on it and share my thoughts and experiences so that someone else can benefit from them.

The Bible says that God never gives us more of a burden than we can carry on any given day. Thoughts come in our heads all day but we don’t have to build on them or unpack them. If you are worried about something pray about it and Christ will take care of it.

We just aren’t built to carry the burden of worry. Not many animals have pockets or purses yet they seem to always have enough to eat and a place to sleep. This is because God feeds them what they need when they need it. If they worried about tomorrow they wouldn’t have the energy to forage today. They’d be weak, ugly and sick. Their hair would be coming out it clumps and they would probably stink a lot worse than what is natural from all of their sweat. God doesn’t say don’t be ready for the future, he just says don’t worry about it. Sure the end of the world could be coming tomorrow but who cares? We’ll all be dead if it does. What’s the worst that can happen? We die. If we die we won’t even know we’re dead because the dead know nothing. If they know nothing, they know no pain.

If God couldn’t handle things, by definition, He wouldn’t be God. Worry is a form of striving. We don’t need it. It’s outputting energy into the atmosphere that serves no functional purpose. It’s like a hamster on a wheel. It’s not going anywhere; it makes the hamster tired and it doesn’t fuel anything important. At least a hamster on a wheel is getting exercise but worry is not a good outlet for mental energy. If you stay busy with your hands or mind by working or reading you won’t have any use for worry. They say an idle mind is the devil’s workshop and I concur. Don’t let yourself get bored because boredom often leads to worry.

Also, don’t eat a lot of sugar. Sugar makes our minds and bodies susceptible to demonic attack. It can cause anxiety and a whole host of physical problems. The same is true for simple carbohydrates like white bread or pasta. When I work I sometimes end up eating too much sugar because it’s all that’s available. When this happens I will often have anxiety attacks that come with no warning or cause (besides the sugar). What I mean is that I will have crippling anxiety with no thoughts that should have provoked it. It’s very scary. When I eat healthy I don’t suffer from anxiety at all. It has been said that sugar is more addictive than cocaine. People that eat a lot of sugar often look and feel old at a young age. It reduces the body’s ability to heal itself. If you eat it it will rot your teeth. When it’s rotting your teeth, what do you think it’s doing to the rest of the body – especially when our teeth (or bones) are the hardest structures in our body?

If you have a lot of excess mental energy, I recommend reading or exercising. If you don’t have the patience for that, maybe play a video game. It will buffer the energy and give you something constructive to think about (as long as it’s not a violent game). You can also create things with arts and crafts or painting.

Above all else, if you try to stay positive and think about things that make you happy you will not have time or energy for worry. You’ll find yourself even looking better. You can be your own natural antidepressant. All this requires a little bit of discipline which doesn’t readily seem to sell in our country but it’s worth it.

Love Defeats Darkness

Love is the only way to defeat the darkness. I am a fighter. A lot of the time I am alone and it is important that I stay strong because sometimes there is no one around to encourage or help me. I’ve been judged, hurt, neglected, discriminated against, and even called a witch. I am eccentric and usually awkward socially but honest and faithful. For a long time I thought that I had something wrong with me because I was different than other people I knew. Turns out, I am autistic, which accounts for most of my eccentricities and awkwardness. I’ve finally found a job where I can make a difference in people’s lives and it’s even made a difference in mine. I work with autistic adults, assisting them in their daily living.

For most of my life I’ve thought that being strong meant me against the world because outwardly, that is how life appeared to me. In school I mostly kept to myself although I was friendly and nice to all my peers. My stepdad for a long time now has felt like my enemy. His exterior is very rough and he doesn’t compromise much or show things like happiness or love. This disturbs me and I am usually very shut down around him because I am afraid of getting emotionally hurt. Recently, I realized that I needed to try a different way.

The only thing that has ever prompted positive behavior toward others in me is love. When people reach out to me and show me kindness my heart learns to trust them and open up to them.

I began going back to a church I used to go to with the intention of loving the congregation. At first, I was afraid they would judge me but now I’m fixated on showing them love and helping them. They showed love to me in opening their doors to me and I appreciated it. Deep down I know that I need to maintain internal strength and faith independent of the church family for their sake and mine. People may not understand everything about you and they might judge you negatively but you have to maintain your faith and confidence in Christ for the sake of your own conscience and integrity. You should make sure you’re doing good when no one else is looking and that you’re not putting on an act for church folk.

When we love people we open their hearts to change. When we are careful and considerate in our actions we open the channels for constructive learning. The only reason people act bad is because either they feel unloved or they don’t know any better. Both can be remedied when we show love.

We wage war all day long with darkness. Violence only begets violence. Anger only causes violence and darkness to thrive. If you try to defeat evil by violence you will only make the darkness in you stronger. If you try to fight hate with hate you’ll only reap darkness, misunderstanding, and fear. To defeat darkness you must show love and do good. Acts of love are never wasted. No one may know what you’ve done to help other people but God knows. Also, you must not treat yourself poorly. Be rich in kindness toward yourself. Don’t criticize things you can’t change in yourself. Think about things that make you happy and don’t beat yourself up anymore. If you make a mistake, say sorry and move on. Do your best.

How To Overcome Darkness

Today I learned a lesson. I went upstairs to put my clothes in the dryer and I saw my stepdad. He struggles with depression and alcoholism and he is rarely positive. When I look at him, I start thinking thoughts about how much I dislike him. Today I realized why and what it was actually doing to me. Undoubtedly, he has made mistakes which have hurt me. But I must realize that I have also made mistakes that have hurt him. As a person he has his flaws but as a person I also have flaws. In front of God we stand on level ground without Christ’s help. Christ helped me by saving me. When I think about how I don’t like my stepdad, it is not about how I don’t like him as a person. What I don’t like is when he is mean spirited.

To be mean spirited is to temporarily harbor an evil spirit. When I am thinking about how much I dislike him I, too, am interacting with a negative spirit in a way that is dangerous. It not only makes my ego larger, it makes me angry and causes my thoughts to become negative. This makes me in the current moment victim to an evil spirit. However, if I were to disengage from the negative thinking I could easily dismiss the evil spirit that is attacking me. To get it out of my presence I need to either look away and try to think positive or continue to look and maybe put a smile on my face. In other words, by showing love to my stepdad I have a better chance of dissipating the darkness in him and keep it from entering myself.

When blame steps in it brings with it anger. Anger feeds negativity and dark forces and causes me to act in ways that are inconsistent with Christ’s character. Shame brings guilt and guilt brings fear of punishment which also causes me to act in ways that are inconsistent with God’s character. To be afraid of God keeps me from seeking His help. Which is why the blame and shame cycle never helps save souls it only distances them from God. The preachers that preach in negative ways that condemn and discourage are those that are seen as hypocrites immediately by children and saved folk because the look on their face and the tone of their voice scream their lack of God’s Spirit.

Sometimes I find myself thinking negative thoughts and it causes me to obviously get angry. I will then start attacking the object of my anger in my mind. That invites a mean spirit and usually causes me to feel guilt about something I’ve thought. It also puts me in danger of sinning by speaking something that would criticize or hurt someone else. It also changes the look on my face which can put people off and hurt feelings.

This all works the same with complaining. Complaining is negative and insulting to God. It obviously distances us from God. It will cause you to be tired and to look and feel old. God’s Spirit also gives us energy and natural beauty. Why is complaining insulting to God? It insists that God’s plan and His Spirit are something other than perfect. God gives us what we need when we need it and if we need something He hasn’t given us, it is clear that we should ask for it. If we don’t get it we probably don’t need it. After learning to trust God don’t throw away progress by complaining. That’s what the Israelites did and a whole bunch died because God punished them.

Worry is another negative mindset that doesn’t come from or help the Holy Spirit. Worry comes from a spirit of fear which is contrary to God’s Spirit. Worry causes striving which gives the illusion of struggle. If you catch yourself being tired a lot you should begin to wonder if you have been striving too much. It wears you out so that you’re in no condition or mood to act the way God would want you to. Even mind striving is unnecessary. What do I mean by this? Don’t try to make things happen with your mind. If you think something or do something wrong apologize – then move on. Don’t try to fix a thought with a thought because it can’t be done. It’s like trying to erase a pen mark with another pen mark. It can’t be done because in thinking of what you need to correct in order to correct it, you’ve already committed the error again. You need to say sorry, forgive your mistake and take the healing that comes with it. If you need to talk it out, you can. But you have to get out of your mind and back to earth so you can be fully present and act how Jesus died for you to act – happy.

Never Give Up

I don’t know if other people struggle with this issue or not but I will share my experience in order to shed light on a mindset that is rarely talked about in the Christian church. When I used to go to church I would feel so uncomfortable. The experience was completely overwhelming. What I felt was that if I wasn’t doing the Lord’s work I wasn’t doing enough. I thought it was necessary to become a minister and preach the Word and save souls in order for me to be saved. The truth is there are a lot of needs in the church and to fill those needs it only is necessary that we do simple acts of obedience with love. It is not necessary to preach to people because most of your sermon doesn’t come from your words but from your actions. God sees and knows this and it is exactly why He equipped us with a ready, willing and healthy spirit – His Spirit, in fact, so that we could help those in need.

There isn’t some special knowledge that God endows us with that imparts upon us favor. Belief begins and ends with God so that God gets all the glory. He gives us faith and our gifts are exactly that, gifts. This makes it so people can’t boast that they have some sort of special knowledge that saves them. I believe this is called Gnosticism. It’s really just a tactic of the devil to keep us tied up in knots. When we’re constantly trying to be good we are so focused on ourselves in striving, it’s exhausting. No one is able to be helpful when they’re physically and psychologically exhausted. Striving is of the flesh and it causes jealousy, selfish ambition and strife between people. None of that is necessary. God doesn’t need our help to do His work but he blesses us with His Spirit so that we can share in His joy.

The devil puts us down, he wears us down, and he has many faces. Once you realize that he has many faces and can fill anybody at any time you start to understand how serious the battle is. If you don’t have God’s spirit you will be defeated. By nature we are little more than worms. But with God’s Spirit we really can do anything. A tactic I have learned to help me cope with the ups and downs and subtle discouragements that come is to stay positive and never give up. When the devil reminds you of your past, remind him of his future. He’s very insecure so he will point out your weaknesses in order to destroy your confidence. He will try to humiliate you into not sharing your testimony. But don’t doubt the progress God has made in you. You may have made mistakes but none are so serious that they can’t be forgiven.

You are important to God and He loves you. He would never hurt or discourage you into feeling defeated. Also, God has promised to never leave or forsake His children. That is a promise that you can believe in. Remember the Israelites were stuck in the desert for 40 years traveling around the same mountain on a journey that technically should have only taken 11 days. God prepares us thoroughly for the promise land as He did the Israelites. He wants to bless us abundantly but we have to be ready for it so that we don’t slip into forms of idolatry once we arrive. Things may look bleak but don’t give up because God has promised not to give up on you.

Now, I am a queen of “what-if” questions. If there is a subtle possibility of there being a loophole in God’s promise, I have tried to find it. Honestly, with all my experience and research I’ve only found it to be true that God’s promise remains one-hundred percent foolproof. If any of His children could fall or be snatched from His hand His promise would be void. I am one such example of the tried and true promise. I thought I would go to hell because of the mistakes I made while saved. But that is a fear that comes from the pit not from God. Your church may even give up on you but God won’t. He can and will use everyone He’s called to fulfill His purpose.

If I believed that liar that is the devil I’d believe I was going to hell for leaving church early on Sunday or for swearing in my mind. The truth is that the devil knows how to make us feel guilty because it’s all that he feels (that and fear). He will project his guilt onto anyone that will accept the blame. We just have to remember that Christ’s sacrifice was enough to save the worst sinner. If it wasn’t, what good would it be? We’re all destined for hell without Christ because the Bible says “no one is good.” Don’t let people shame or dirty look you into thinking you’re worthless. You’re not. Also, God is not a respecter of persons that some people would be holier than others due to their profession, deeds or special knowledge. Don’t let people brow beat you. You are just as valuable as they are to God.

What Not To Do

There are three things that I’ve learned that God does not want us to operate from. They are: striving, fear and forgetfulness.

Let’s start with forgetfulness. We know the importance of the maxim “Know thyself.” When you make the same mistakes over and over again something is not going right in your learning process. Basically, you are not learning from your mistakes. We all make mistakes. Sin is a mistake. We aren’t expected to not make mistakes but we are expected to learn from them. If you know what your weaknesses are you can make a plan to avoid situations where you will be tempted to sin. For instance, if you are an alcoholic, you might want to avoid that buddy that tells you it’s not going to hurt anything to get loaded again. It does you no good to forget your buddy is also an alcoholic.

We should never forget what God has done for us. We should never forget where we came from and what it felt like when God freed us from sin. Sin is bondage. When you don’t have Christ you are under the curse. Your body is bound for decay and will reap the fruit of sin – death. When you are saved you are no longer under the curse. Your body is not under the bondage of death and decay; you have crossed over from death to eternal life. When Christ took on the cross he took on the curse and nailed it to the cross. He put to death death and ended the curse. There is no longer a curse for those who are in Christ. They are free from bondage. Don’t forget what that feels like. When you forget what God has done for you, you are more likely to sin against Him.

The second thing God doesn’t want us to operate out of is fear. God has not given us a spirit of fear. He’s given us His Spirit. That also means he doesn’t want us to worry. Jesus promised two things that contradict a spirit of fear: peace and joy. If the majority of the time you do not experience peace or joy you should question whether or not you are truly following God’s lead. Our peace and joy should guard our hearts from turmoil and reassure us of the promise of our salvation through Christ Jesus. These two things are evidence that we’ve been given God’s Spirit and that we are sealed for a victorious life in Christ. A spirit of fear causes bad behavior. It can also cause striving, the third element that God wishes to clear from our behavior.

Striving is against God’s will for us. When you strive you risk making what you strive for an idol. Instead of being content with the moment of now you are focused on the future. When you are striving you cannot experience joy because your effort is centered on something that is essentially out of your control in attaining: the future. You don’t know if you will live or die tomorrow, so why focus your efforts on something that you do not know whether or not you will be there to enjoy? You have the present moment and in this moment Christ has guaranteed peace and joy.

To grasp those things in the future is called striving and it doesn’t work. Striving steals our peace and joy in the present because when you strive you are not content with what you’ve been given. God doesn’t say that salvation is something you strive for. It is a free gift. You’ll never be perfect based on your striving or wanting to be like Christ. Wanting to be something is futile. You are not your creator. The best you can do to attain salvation is to believe in Christ’s sacrifice. Even then, faith is also a gift from God. Nothing you do can save you. It’s like a pig bathing to get the mud off in mud. When your thoughts and heart are far from God, no amount of will power or mental energy can clean that up. You have to let a clean God wash your conscience clear. You know deep down you are a sinner. Everyone is. No one can save you but God Himself. Jesus is the only sinless human because He is also God. Lay down your burden and let Christ carry you to the other side. Because of sin and the guilt it brings you are already tainted. Like a dirty pig you can’t wash your mind free of guilt by wanting to be clean. The human condition indicates that you are born into sin. No one can escape fatality on this planet unless they are sinless and only Christ was.

God is the author and perfector of our faith. God’s plan for salvation is good enough for everyone. He did it Himself and He will receive all the glory for it.

On Yokes and Burdens

Did you ever think that in order to be saved you had to do something hard or something that you just couldn’t bear? That’s the devil talking. God wants all people to come to Him. He won’t ask you to do anything that He hasn’t equipped you for. When I went to my old church I thought that I was supposed to become a minister. My pastor suggested to me that I should take classes at his seminary. Most of those classes are geared for teaching people how to become ministers and teachers of the gospel. Because the pastor suggested this action, I assumed he knew something i didn’t about my qualifications to become a minister. I was anointed in the church to enter into the ministry and I began taking classes at a seminary in Detroit. The seminary is located along the Cass Corridor which is assumed to be one of the most dangerous places in Detroit. I drove there alone and would drive back alone just to take classes. I live about an hour away from the school. While I don’t regret going to that school, I regret that I told so many people I wanted to go in the ministry.

I have Aspergers disorder as I’ve mentioned before. This makes me practically socially inept and sometimes it leaves me quite incapacitated. Had I known back in 2005 when I went into the seminary that this was the case I wouldn’t never had begun the endeavor. I used to get very emotional in church. I would cry because I was overwhelmed with the experience – the lighting, the people, the movement, and the music. At the time I started at the seminary the doctors thought I had bipolar disorder. I asked my pastor, “Do you really think I could handle being in the ministry?” He said, “Yes, as long as you take your medicine.” The problem was the doctors were treating me for a disorder I didn’t have. I have autism not bipolar disorder. Those two things are very different and you can’t help someone who is autistic by giving them drugs.

Basically the church didn’t know what it was doing and didn’t think me going into the seminary could lead to any harm. After two semesters and some unfinished papers later I quit going to the seminary. I had several mental breakdowns after that. I believe that the church suffered, too. I was in my twenties and I fell into the devil’s trap of pride. Most people would say, “didn’t you know any better?” I would say no I didn’t and it’s very easy to deceive me since I have autism. I don’t think the pastor was trying to deceive me. In fact, I think he assumed that as an adult I would know what I was doing and have my own best interests in mind.

Looking back I should have known I wasn’t capable of being a minister because I was barely capable of keeping friends. Pastoral ministry is a very taxing profession socially. People that go into that field love being in groups, telling stories, comforting people. I’m not even good at public speaking. Needless to say I started to have a love-hate relationship with the church. While I loved God I was angry that this seemingly insurmountable task of being a minister was looming on the horizon for me.

It is now almost thirteen years later that I can wholeheartedly say that me going into the ministry was not God’s will for me. While I am still willing to serve God it will not be in that way. He has told me that His burden for me is going to be very light. That is what I would like to share with you. If I learned anything from that experience of suffering through church and the seminary it would be that striving and struggling are not of God. When He has a plan for you it will be made known to you in a very direct way. When Paul was commissioned for the ministry it was directly from God Himself, as were all the prophets and even Jesus Himself. If God wants you to do something He makes it clear. He’s not a hiding elusive God. He makes Himself very available to his children. The Spirit He gives us makes our paths straight and our burdens light. The Holy Spirit even prays for us.

A prideful part of me wanted to be in the ministry – my ego. I wanted to earn my way into heaven by working for God. I wanted to use my intelligence to gain recognition and earn a degree that would exalt me above my peers. For doing that God brought me low and debased me in order to actually bring me closer to the humility He wants His children to have. Never once in the whole time I was going into the seminary did I hear God speak to me about what I should do. I firmly believe now that if God wanted to put me in the ministry He would have given me instruction. All of the stress and burden I put on myself. When you become a teacher you are given more responsibility by nature of the occupation and even the Bible says this. If you are not anointed to teach don’t even try it because people are watching everything you do and judging your lessons in your daily living. Teachers are judged more harshly than the rest of the church. I went so far as to believe I was a prophet. Thank God I never told anyone. The devil was filling me full of lies and on the daily my faith was being tested. When I went into the hospital it almost felt like hell and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was. When I quit the seminary I decided I had better do all the fun things I wanted to do before I had to sober up and speak and teach. My actions were not wholesome. I was going to bars, drinking, sleeping around and spending and wasting all my money on crazy lavish living. If you can imagine, I was still in my early twenties and didn’t enjoy much of my high school years because I was too busy babysitting on the weekends. I’ll be the first to admit: I was a hot mess. In that time I had just broke up with an abusive boyfriend and I hadn’t sorted my emotions out.

I’m so glad I know now what is and isn’t expected of me. I don’t feel like I have to be perfect and I’m letting Jesus do all the heavy lifting because I am not capable of carrying a teachers burden. One thing I am good at is writing. I actually enjoy it and I can do it from home. If I can help people this way this is how I’m going to do it. Right now I’m almost laying on the couch typing this with my shoes off. I feel better. While I’m not qualified to teach I will say that I learned my lesson that God doesn’t ask us to do things that we are not willing to do. His Spirit should motivate and guide everything we do so that nothing we do is born out of struggle but rather we are living lives that reflect God’s glory and the Spirit’s power. We are not here to compete with other preachers and ultimately Jesus is really the best teacher. If you are looking to study God’s Word for seminary take into consideration the task at hand. If God hasn’t directly told you that you have been given the gift of teaching or prophecy don’t dare put that label on yourself. i can guarantee that that will be a way that the devil traps you into a commitment you can’t keep and at the end of that road you will experience guilt and condemnation for your failure. Listen to God and the promptings of the Spirit.

The End of Striving

God takes us from glory to glory. This past week I went on a vacation to Italy. In all honesty, I didn’t like it. I am by nature a home body and going out of my element for any more than a day is taxing. I went with my mom and she loves to travel. Her job consists mainly of travel. The trip was exhausting but God helped me through it.

There is a reason God does the things He does. He doesn’t intend to exhaust us. When we do get exhausted due to our own disobedience, he will restore us to our former glory when we ask. He wants to give us rest. He wants us to seek His rest and His face. In fact, that is what the Sabbath is all about. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1). He doesn’t ask for striving, he asks for presence. He is not a God of wanting and striving, He is a God of being. His name is not I will be but I Am. All seeking and striving is for naught. God is within us. He is ever present. There is no need to run to a foreign country to see the beauty inside yourself. You are an entire galaxy. Why seek to visit another galaxy? What is wrong with yours?

When God led the Israelites out of Egypt He taught them how to be content with what God gave them and not to seek other gods or foreign lands for satisfaction. In fact, God kept them in the wilderness for forty years when the journey to the promised land was really only 11 days. They just kept going in circles until they learned how to live out of God’s hand.

I had a similar thing happen to me. I’m glad it didn’t take forty years but it did take seven. I spent years traveling going to parties and looking for something. I lost my license due to a mental breakdown where I was so exhausted I went crazy in 2009. I lived for seven years without a license or a job. I lived in near poverty but I always had enough. I learned to be content with what I had. It was just me and my dog and cat. We were happy. I learned to tend to my needs and take care of my dog. I learned to be present and to listen for God’s leading. I couldn’t do anything else, For some people it takes illness or loss to learn peace. That’s exactly what it took me.

God built us. He knows how to keep us at optimal functioning. We only need to listen. If we won’t listen we have to learn the hard way. The manual way. When I start striving and envying what others have I end up hurting myself. I think, “if I go here or there I will be happy.” I thought if I went on a trip with my mom I could spend more time with her but how stupid is that when we live in the same house? But in the striving I sinned against my own body and disturbed my peace. By the end of the trip my thoughts were angry and hopeless. That is what striving does. It’s worthless. Don’t say tomorrow we will do this or that because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring (James 4:13). Instead, say, if it is the Lord’s will we will do this or that because apart from His will you can do nothing. Look at the Lilies of the field, they neither toil nor spin and verily I say to you Solomon in all his glory was not clothed as one of these (Luke 12:17).

On our trip we were walking along a canal in Milan and at the end we ran into a shop with the most delicious looking treats. Just then I was saying how hungry I was. I thought “Thank you, God, for bringing this to me.” Then I was overwhelmed with God’s grace and started crying. I saw a huge graffiti that said “No frontier.” Then I realized that God was there with me. I didn’t need to search for Him. Then a song came on the radio that was Ed Sheeran’s Perfect. If made me so happy. Words don’t describe what my heart felt. Just then a group of boys all started staring at me. God made me beautiful. Peace is beautiful. It’s a placid lake.

Dealing with Hatred

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)

My mom taught me a good trick that I learned early that helped me deal with people that don’t like me. As soon as I brought up mention that someone didn’t like me, she would say, “they’re just jealous.” I would then think to myself, “well, that’s not my fault,” then I would pity the person. So, I bandaged my wound while changing the way I felt about the people who had hurt me.

The bible talks about what to do when people don’t like you. When prophets were commissioned for their ministry and they were afraid of their enemies reviling them God told them not to look at their faces. Also, Jesus says that we should rejoice when people criticize and say negative things about us because we know our names are written in heaven and that’s how people treated the prophets while they were on earth (Matthew 5:10-12). Even amongst Christian company we can sometimes experience a bit of sibling rivalry and negative attitudes against us. Sometimes wounds from friends are better than kisses from an enemy (Proverbs 27:6). But even the devil masquerades as an angel of light so don’t be surprised when people who call themselves Christians talk behind your back or put you down (2 Corinthians 11:14).

Some Christians believe that their forgiveness only should extend to certain people. They believe the ones who don’t deserve forgiveness are not really Christians or what they’ve done is so vile that they shouldn’t be forgiven. If they can’t forgive someone and don’t want to admit it to their “Christian” conscience they will often say things like “I don’t like so-and-so.” They think they are reducing the problem to a preference instead of what it truly is, an unforgivable sin. Why do I go so far as to call it unforgivable? Jesus says that if you don’t forgive others, He will not forgive you (Matthew 6:14-15). The Lord says, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” (Romans 12:19). That means it’s not ok to use your Christian identity to condemn other people. Even with spirits, we are supposed to rebuke them by saying things like “may the Lord rebuke you,” instead of condemning them (Luke 9:42, Jude 1:9).

A preference against someone is not even likely. It’s more likely that you felt slighted around that person and your ego won’t get around to letting it go. Your ego likes enemies. It will rile you up and tell you all kinds of negative thoughts that make you feel superior to them. It will try and get you to open your mouth and gossip about them. Why? Because all negativity makes the ego bigger. The worst thing you could do is take their criticism to heart. “Preferences” against people are sometimes coverups for anger and hostility toward a stereotype that likely is just made up of pure ego and not the person’s true self. You have to remember that when you get upset it’s a reflection of yourself that you’re attacking in the other person. It’s not even you attacking, it’s your ego. Why would you attack yourself? You wouldn’t. But your ego would because it’s not you. The fact that it is attacking you makes that evident. That is why people criticize so much about the things they first see in themselves. “It takes one to know one,” right? The people that hate themselves the most are those who are to make the first criticism. And that is why I feel sorry for people that don’t like me.

I would like to define what the ego is for people that don’t know. The Google dictionary defines it as: a “person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance,”(Google). I like how Eckhart Tolle describes it when he describes the pain body. The pain body is the remnants of emotional abuse that create a shadow or dark presence in our lives. The pain body often makes up the ego. The definition of pain body is:

“It is an accumulation of painful life experience that was not fully faced and accepted in the moment it arose. It leaves behind an energy form of emotional pain. It comes together with other energy forms from other instances, and so after some years you have a ‘painbody,’ an energy entity consisting of old emotion.” (Google)

Think about infants. How often do infants dislike someone? They don’t because infants don’t have egos yet. So when you encounter dislike, you have likely just had a run in with an ego not a person. Don’t be afraid or upset. Just acknowledge it and move on. If that same person had a mad crush on you would it be any more tolerable? No, because mad crushes are also generated by the ego. When a person is under the grips of the ego, it’s best to maintain your distance because they are looking for ego enhancements which come in the form of “heated discussions,” arguments, compliments to their ego, superiority over you, violence, in short – trouble. Them saying they don’t like you was only meant to inflame your ego so you would in turn get angry and inflame theirs. Thank God they made it obvious they let their ego get the best of them around you (they’re jealous) so that you now know to avoid them. It’s really only a blessing in the end. The best thing you can do is be nice to them so their conscious mind sees the discrepancy and realizes that they are acting in ways that are not godly. Also, you can maintain your integrity and good conscience.

Paul in Romans 12:20 says,

“On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (NIV)

I think about Eckhart Tolle and how he’s a very meek and modest man in demeanor. He doesn’t have much for an ego. The benefit to that is that people rarely challenge him or bother him because he does nothing to ignite their ego. Other people’s egos don’t see anything in him that they can provoke so they don’t and he avoids much suffering. I would like to think Jesus had much in common with Eckhart Tolle.

Matthew 5:43-45 says:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

The End of Suffering

When I originally was going to write about suffering I had composed a five page document about all the major trials in my life. It was long, tedious and embarrassing. Then I realized that my story about my suffering actually causes more suffering than it alleviates. This was for two reasons: it was boring to read and it focused on negative things. So, I decided to take a different route on this post and put a much-needed positive spin on things. While it’s true that I have suffered a lot in my life, great things came out of it. Also focusing on the sad things in my life is not productive or healthy. It felt good to summarize and enumerate my suffering but I will not subject anyone to it by publishing it online.

In “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle, he describes suffering as coming about when we choose to think negatively about our circumstances. It also happens when you focus too much on the past, worry about the future, and don’t allow yourself to enjoy the present. I reviewed his book in another article.

I feel like one of the major benefits of having suffering in my life is that it gave me a very active pain body which I couldn’t stand carrying anymore so I sought to change the way I looked at things. Another huge benefit of suffering is that it gave me experiences that I can write about, learn from, and teach from. Without all the bad things that have happened to me my testimony would be pretty bland and not very compelling. Life on Earth is short and if you don’t enjoy it, what is the point? So for the past year I’ve decided my biggest goal and my running intention is to be happy. It’s that simple.

When I let my life flow and myself be myself, I am happy. Some might accuse me of being a hedonist but I don’t see it that way. I think of myself as what John Piper calls a “Christian hedonist.” It makes me happy when God is happy so naturally, I obey Him. It causes me suffering to struggle and fight with God in order to satisfy my fleshly cravings so I don’t. I do what makes me happy. This website is an example of that. I could choose to see it as a burden but I think of it as a privilege. I love to write. It allows me to get many confusing thoughts out of my mind and reframe and organize them with my proverbial pen (I realize there is no writing utensils used online but it sounds better than keyboard).

When your goal is to be happy you don’t let yourself suffer. You don’t engage in negative thinking because it causes suffering. You don’t beat yourself up when you fail because your goal is not to be some perfect being but to be happy. Criticizing yourself makes you sad. It’s also good to think positive about yourself and other people because then you find yourself treating people better and acting how God would have you act.

I seriously dislike it when people say things like “I want to” or “I’m trying to” please God. Why? Because it doesn’t take effort and it’s not even a struggle to be a Christian. Just do the right thing and make God and yourself happy at the same time. The reason people say “Lord, I want to be more Christlike,” is because in the wanting to be something you’ve already lost the battle. If you really wanted to be Christlike you would be – end of story. It puts off being a Christian in the now and is actually counterproductive. Christ is not hard to emulate. He even says “His yoke is easy and His burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). When he was hungry he ate, he came eating and drinking and people called Him a winebibber (wino) and friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19). People won’t like you, they will judge you, criticize you and hurt you no matter what you do. So make it your aim not to be pleasing to people but to be pleasing to God. Christ wasn’t a prude but he was definitely righteous. He didn’t judge people based on their past or future but rather opened His heart and saw them with presence. He gave people room to be themselves and to be happy.

Now I’m not saying that life is always easy or happy – you have no control over some circumstances in life. What you do have control over is how you think about those circumstances. All the suffering and all the joy lie in your mind. You don’t have to seek outside pleasure or fixes because the kingdom of heaven is within you. Christ gives us peace immutable. If you have peace you can’t easily be unhappy. Why set your thoughts on things that encourage suffering? Why relive your story of being abused or whatever is your pain source again and again when it’s clearly only affecting you in the present because it’s all you let yourself think about? It’s true that many people have very sad backstories but it can only affect your behavior because you focus on it. You are capable of being happy if you just stop reliving your past in your thoughts and eventually actions. It’s pretty short-sighted to only see and relive the misery in your life. Why not remember the good people did to you? If you honestly can’t thank a single person for your miserable experiences you can at least thank God for what you learned from them.

Jesus says to rejoice in our suffering because it only makes us stronger and it’s indicative that we are God’s children because God’s people aren’t of the world and the world doesn’t understand and often persecutes us. He’s basically saying to be positive about your negative experiences. You only suffer needlessly when you rehearse them. Complaining about things whether in your mind or aloud only ages you. Let it go.