Since We Have Such Hope…

Some Words About Peace, Faith, Hope, Love


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Dark Nights (Plural)

02240250You have heard it talked about that most people go through some kind of “dark night of the soul” at some point in their lives. Well I don’t know about you, but I feel like I go through some kind of depression/darkness almost monthly (if not more often) when I feel depressed and it feels like there was no way to avoid it. I just need to be depressed, something needs to die.

My wife told me last week too that babies go through a fussy period when they are getting ready to move through some developmental something soon. That pretty well sums up my life, too: I get fussy and depressed and grumpy and hard to live with and then, what do you know, the next few days, something has changed. I have changed. I feel like I should have realized this before in a more profound way. It’s just the growth process! That’s what all these dark nights are about. It’s just that sometimes we get stuck in them and call it “Major Depressive Disorder.” One of the ways we can stay unstuck is by figuring out what needs to change, what needs to die.


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Rest Is Coming

IMG_2832It is also true that rest awaits. I believe C.S. Lewis said somewhere that man has the capacity to endure suffering only as long as he has to – that once the suffering has ended, he will have the experience that he could not have possibly endured one minute more. This is the other thing that makes our suffering bearable: we know there is respite when it is finished.  This day will end at some point and you will be able to sleep. This week will end in a weekend. This season of life will eventually pass. Some day, the suffering will abate. At the end of it all, there will be rest with a certain finality.

This is our hope – that this present darkness will someday end and we will be able to lay down all our weapons and rest, suffer no more, lie down in peace and security. And this is the way our lives are structured. Even God took a day off and suggested we do the same regularly. This is one of the things that helps us endure suffering: realizing that some day it will cease. “‘He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain.”


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Freedom In Suffering

IMG_3849 I have long been fascinated by and drawn to stories of people who have suffered greatly and yet live free. That’s why my favorite movie is The Shawshank Redemption. I heard once that Nelson Mandela was able to find a sublime level of peace in his soul while imprisoned. You have probably heard similar stories. I have even wished suffering upon myself at times because in suffering, we learn who we truly are and what really matters in life bubbles to the surface. Weird, right?

We cannot really avoid stress or suffering, though we try and try. It is what you make of the stress that matters. These “new” findings suggest that what you believe about stress is very important. If you believe stress will kill you, then it just might. Instead, it is more true that whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger…if you let it. Then again, maybe dying is not so bad. The stress is there to set you free and to form you. We must learn to trust it.


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Grace For All

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Grace is the only real transformative currency. You have probably learned by now that judging, criticizing and shaming people does not really produce great results. It may change people’s behavior, but in the long run, it just produces more and more shame. You shame your kids, then  they feel ashamed and shame their kids. They way out is to find grace for yourself, and you will at that same time find it for others. To some of you, this may seem like cheap grace or “letting people off the hook,” but what else is there? I dare you to try it. Are you holding back on receiving grace for yourself?


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Compulsions

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So much of our depression and anxiety occurs because of our constant compulsive behavior. We feel badly and our compulsions crop up to try to help neutralize our pain and help us feel better. It is like our bodies and brains instantly want to heal us, but since these compulsive behaviors have their genesis in our brokenness, they do not help. They only serve to produce more of the feelings we sought to neutralize in the first place and more unwanted behavior is produced. 

Compulsions could be defined as anything that is produced unthinkingly out of our guilt, fear, discomfort or pain. What’s amazing is that you can enact the same behavior and if you do it in thoughtfulness rather than compulsivity, it can be life-giving. The goal of the healing arts is enhancing our thoughtfulness about our pain. The thoughtfulness means we will again become present to the pain, but ignoring pain and relying on our compulsions will not help. The more we can do thoughtfully (and not compulsively), the more we will be able manage anxiety and emotion. The goal is that brokenness will be healed and we will be able to live out of our wholeness.


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Receiving Forgiveness

2012-12-14 12.04.41-1You will be able to forgive others as soon as you are ready to accept forgiveness for yourself. The things we do not forgive in others are the same things we refuse to forgive in ourselves. Alternatively, as soon as you are ready to receive grace into your greatest shame, you will be able to offer the same to another. If you can be forgiven then so can I, and vice versa. Grace reaches both of us at the same time; it is the great equalizer.


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Trusting Everyone

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When you learn to trust, I believe you will begin to trust EVERYONE. Now most of us choose who we trust, which is wise in a way, especially when you are talking about actually entrusting yourself to people. But I believe you can also learn to trust the people who have hurt you continually and will continue to do so. Trusting those who have hurt you looks like this: forgiving them and giving them over to their own devices.

When you learn to trust, it means you realize those people who have hurt you really do not have any control over you and you act like it. You forgive them and you may even feel compassion for them. That is trust. You are not scared of them. And you also trust them enough to allow them to continue to make the decisions they make, hoping they will dig their own grave and somehow come to their senses.

May we all learn to trust more.

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