Looking for Change: Living Life not on Accident

I have been looking forward to one main thing this summer: the drop of NF’s new album The Search. And let me tell you it didn’t disappoint! (As always, Nate!) But it has also been a summer of change and transformation.

This year in a few days I begin my (real) senior year as a nursing student (I am what the kids might call a ‘super senior’). Before this summer began, I weighed my options–after all this was my last ‘real’ summer as a student. What should I do? I had just ended one of the hardest semesters and difficult chapter in my life, and I felt an air of finality. But God answered my prayers and I worked in a capacity that used my unique skills and passions. I was blessed with fantastic coworkers and many opportunities to share the love of Christ. And to be honest, as hard as it was, I am sad to see this chapter of my life come to an end.

But now it is time to go back to school–the very thing that I dread the most. In the beginning of the summer, I would go into a panic thinking about my eventual return to a college that I hate with teachers and peers that do not support me. And I knew that I would not go the distance unless something changed–unless I changed.

I tend to go thought life on autopilot, a victim to the often cruel circumstances of my life. I have believed the lies that I am worth less than other people because of my learning disabilities and the severe bullying I have endured. I am victim to a school system that refuses to change or accommodate my differences, and a slave to what other think about me. But I’m tired of that. After all, I want to be more than victorious in Christ.

I want to embrace my past and transmute in into something beautiful. I want to take my differences and change the world with them. I want to love and support a school system–and learning–even if change is far off. To simply encapsulate my desires, I want to learn how to be vulnerable again.

Moment I get up, I just wanna know I’m doin’ my best, and if I’m not, Lord, forgive me you can handle regrets. ‘Cause I fee the water tryna go up over my head. Most of my life I always felt like I was holding my breath. Holdin’ my chest, to be honest, I’m so tired if it. Lookin’ for somethin’ in my life to be inspired again. I like to walk around and act like I don’t know what it is–but I know what it is, I just never wanna commit….I’m looking for change.

Change, NF

Even though our struggles are something fundamentally different, Nate’s (NF’s) words echo in my soul. I want to do my best, not as worship to God, but because I far too often believe my worth comes from my failures and success. My past four years of college are filled mostly with pain and regrets–a feeling like I am drowning, yet a refusal to rely on God.

One of my friends at church asked me how I was and I told her my fears for the upcoming semester. And her words still echo in my soul.

“So this year is going to suck, no way around it. So what are you doing in your spiritual life–now–about it?”

In my past, my spiritual life has seemed almost on accident–or at the very least random. Who knew that I was going to become a Christian that day? Who knew that I would accidentally discover the passion of my heart in missions (Japan)? Who knew that I would get to share the gospel just then? And the answer seems obvious now–God did. But I neglected to seek after God because it was just easier to run after lies.

It takes, perhaps, more courage that I have to confront and change the lies I have been living by, but if it is the last thing I do, I will change.

See, all my emotions are liars; all my emotions are violent. They don’t want freedom to find me. Mention a name and everybody riots (change). Yeah, that’s why I’m checkin’ my vitals; they keep on workin’, but I know breathin’ don’t mean you’re alive….Positive thoughts are my rivals (change), I’m tryna be on their side though. Should I feel comfortable? I don’t! Last year I felt suicidal, this year I might do sometin’ different like talkin’ to God more!

Change, NF

I have lived my life by accident, just hoping that things turn out OK. I have relied on my own strength and wisdom rather than on Christ. But if I don’t live intentionally for Christ, I will simply fall back into the old habits of believing the devil’s lies.

This year I made a vision board about what I want the next semesters to look like. As I wrote out on a scratch piece of paper what I wanted a pattern emerged. I wanted thankfulness and not just when times were easy, but a true ability to thank God even in the hard times (Post about Thanksgiving–Fighting the Malcontents). I wanted joy and peace in a time where I know it will be difficult. But also some things surprised me. I wanted to be able to encourage and nurture other believers–something I have always felt overwhelmingly unqualified for before. I wanted to fast from technology often as I realize what an idol and poor coping mechanism it is. I want to pursue missions in Japan, despite the uncertainty in my future.

But above all, I want Christ. These past few months for me at church have caused a transformation in me. Each sermon I frantically write notes while trying to soak it all in.

“Do I shut God out with the distractions/worries of the world? Do I live my life inattentive? Do I live with purpose?” These are the questions that I have been asking myself and the answer is not what I had hoped. I would rather worry than pray. I live with a spiritual amnesia, going thought life without purpose.

But no longer. Today, I live my life with purpose. Today I press into suffering because I know that God will transmute it into glory.

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie

My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply

The flame shall not hurt thee, I only design

Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

How Firm a Foundation, Hymn

 

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Fighting the Malcontents

In the fog a shape emerges, twisted and dark. It lumbers closer and closer. Fear closes around me and courage abandons me. It is the Malcontents–the sin that slips under the radar and presents itself as thanklessness, cowardice, and pride. And I am far too often in its clutches.

It is so much harder to be a malcontent when your heart overflows with thanksgiving. When I give thanks it is much harder to grumble. It is also much more freeing rather than worrying about my have-not’s.

A few weeks ago I began to read the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp unaware it was a book about thanksgiving. If I had known, I would have never started the book. You see, even though I deeply struggle with not giving thanks, I am tired of the old way it is presented.

A simple laundry list of “thankful” obligations with no meaning behind them. Or perhaps something more similar to a personal affirmation. No, I am tired of that dead way to look at thanksgiving. I want living water, something abounding more and more, whenever and wherever.

But I suspect that thanksgiving is much more similar to surrender. It is so easy to say, yet so hard to live. It is admitting that we brought nothing to be via our own power, and it has everything to do with Christ. In this American culture, and in this sinful heart, it is most difficult to admit dependency. Yet in Him I move and breathe and have my being.

So what is this thanksgiving–this eucharisteo? It is a three-fold word, yet united in one meaning: Grace, Thanksgiving, and Joy.

What around me brings this eucharisteo? The small and the large, important and non-important. Where does the joy hide? Where shall I find it? What does it mean–truly mean–to have gratitude in my darkest days? To have joy when the sun doesn’t rise and I stand alone? And not just joy, but overflowing joy!

In this busy, dangerous modern world thanksgiving comes much harder than fear and anger. Tis so easy to see the bad, it is lit up as if neon and the thanksgiving lies in the shadows. Yet that makes the pursuit of thanksgiving all the more worthwhile.

What does real, tangible thanksgiving look like in my life? Finding the good even in the dark? Trusting Christ in the chaos of life?

But today I must start with thanksgiving. For safety, for the birds I hear singing outside my window, the job that I have, God’s glorious, encouraging word. For people who love me deeply, my cell phone, the book I am reading, this very computer I am writing on.

And on and on my heart can sing.

Yet far too often I get caught up in the bad: pain, disappointment, depression, and stress. My heart becomes too prideful for thanksgiving. Because the thing about thanksgiving is it requires humility–and only true humility will do. It requires the relinquishing of many “rights” and a dependency on the Divine.

So today I lean into the unknown with thanksgiving. I press into suffering with joy. I seek His face with purpose. If only my heart will remember to sing.

Chasing Shadows

The following is an essay that I wrote in 2015 in response to how Christians should handle crisis. While some of my ideas have become more nuanced, I have decided to leave the easy in nearly its entirety, only editing to clarify unclear passages:

Of the many things that we have talked about this semester, one has stood out: Crisis. How do we get to a crisis point? What do we do when we are in crisis? Psychology strives to answer this question, to solve it, to put the mind at rest.

In some cases, I have come to believe that crisis happens when we chase or rely upon something other than God. I have come to understand it like this: All the beautiful things that we see here are only a shadow of who God is. I have heard that they are a reflection of God, but a reflection implies that you can see the face of what is being reflected (in this case God). However, all we get is just the outline of God. We can’t understand how much more God is compared to all the stuff we chase after.

There are two types of crisis; those caused by us in some way and those that happen to us. The hardest type to deal with are those that are out of our hands. Something like a family member dying or a hurricane that destroys our home. This is not something we caused, it simply happens to us. Yet, we have the feeling that this is not how it should be at all. And all we are left with is a great amount of hurt.

We may look to Christianity for the answer. We find that things like hurricanes and accidents are a result of man’s fallen nature, but we are assured that God is not simply punishing us. In these cases there is no one to blame, no problem to fix, but simply learning to live with the damage. Though these struggles, many people may come out stronger.

Though none of these people are grateful for the tragedies themselves, they would not trade the insight, character, and strength they had gotten from them for anything. With time and perspective most of us can see a good reason for at least some of the tragedy and pain that occurs in life. Why couldn’t it be possible that, from God’s vantage point, there are good reasons for all of them? If you have a God great and transcendent enough to be mad at because he hasn’t stopped evil and suffering in the world, then you have (at the same time) a God great and transcendent enough to have a good reason for allowing it to continue that you can’t know. Indeed, you can’t have it both ways.

The Reason for God pg. 25

The second type of crisis is caused by sin nature. Things like broken relationships and anger taken out on others. Choices were made; we chose to yell at our friend, to treat others with disrespect, to hurt rather than to be hurt. And on these, it is easy to make progress with behavior modification, but the heart must change as well. People never make these choices because they think it will destroy their lives. This type of personal crisis will occur again and again until the cycle is broken. And the cycle will never truly be broken until the heart changes. In order to find some sort of purpose or pleasure we will run to the junk that the world throws at us. However, no matter how much of this junk we consume, it is never enough.

Our emptiness resounds in the darkness, echoing in the distant light, and we try to hide from it, ignore it, and consume ourselves with the garbage of evil, temporary pleasures: sin. We carry thought our lives asking questions why we are so empty, all more aware of our emptiness and all the more empty. Where is fulfillment? Where is escape from our darkness? In the last place that it would be looked for, though often the most obvious. God. Christianity. Morals. The light. There with God, for God, you will find purpose and substance. There, in the light, you will be filled and your darkness driven out.

–“All sins are attempts to fill voids” by BJ Higgins

The only way that this cycle can ever really be broken is Jesus. I’ve spent a lot of time chasing after all the world throws at me. The shadows, if you will. Every time I pursue them, I find myself emptier than when I started. The only way to spot this cycle of inadvertent self-harm is to find something better to fill that emotional gap. According to Christianity, Jesus is the only way to fill that gap. Everything in the world at some point will fail us. This is when crisis occurs.

As Christians the first thing we should do in a tragedy or crisis is love the people involved, regardless if they deserve it or not. This was modeled by Jesus. The two times that come to my mind are the paralytic and the woman at the well. When the paralytic was lowered down from the roof, Jesus showed compassion and love. He told the man that his sins were forgiven (In those times, physical defects were thought to be caused by sin). He showed the man love, forgiving him of anything that he had done whereas everyone else had already condemned this man for something this man may or may not have done.

On the other hand, the woman at the well was a sinner. Despite the fact that she was a woman, an adulteress, and a Samaritan, Jesus still talked to her, not using social constructs and an excuse to be passive. He didn’t fear breaking social taboos. After all, he was a teacher with several disciples that followed him. He was respected and she was not. He was Jewish and she was not. He had every reason not to talk to her and show compassion, yet he did. Her life was in crisis, Jesus knew that, but he also knew that her witness would bring many people to himself. God’s love breaks all social, racial, economic and ethnic backgrounds–ever. Jesus paid much too high a price to pick and choose who to love.

As Christians we are to first love, and second confront the issue. For the paralytic man the issue was not a sin issue–he couldn’t walk, plain and simple. This would be similar to a natural disaster or tragedy. We love the people and help them get on their feet. It might mean literally, like giving a hurricane victim a place to stay. It could be emotionally, like restoring body image to someone who was sexually abused. Sometimes there is a sin issue that needs to be confronted. First Jesus told the woman at the well to turn to God. This is huge. Before her sin is dealt with, she must turn to God and have the desire to get rid of her sin. If someone had no desire to stop sinning, they won’t. Then he honestly confronts her sin. There is no beating around the bush, no it might be ok, no this is your life and you can do what you want. Instead Jesus just says it like it is. And transformation started.

But you may be saying, “Don’t these stories now end?” Yes, we don’t know any further what happens to the paralytic or the woman at the well, but we do know that is supposed to happen with God’s people. The stories end on the idea that God’s people will come together in community and help the person deal with their sin. If a psychologist is the only person keeping one accountable, failure is very likely. People were created for community. Our struggles with sin was never something that we can deal with on our own.

And, perhaps, this is the most important part of dealing with crisis is community. They are with the individual every step of the way. When a person is in a good community of people they love and trust, they can struggle though their sin or hardships together. This is the very purpose of the Church. It is not just to worship God, we can do that all on our own. Its purpose is to struggle together while worshiping God.

See the difference?

[M

 

Strength for Today

Sorry for the lack of posts. I wish I had some deep excuse like how busy my schedule was or that my computer crashed, but the reality is I’ve been struggling to sleep. And when I don’t sleep, anything bad seems 200 times worse, ya know?

But even in this sleep-deprived state, I feel that my relationship with God has grown stagnant. I’ve been so tired, so lulled into routine, that I have forgotten how to dream. The tests and assignments seem so urgent, and my dreams seem so distant. But if there is anything that I’ve learned in my life is that a stagnant spiritual life is when our enemy loves to attack. After all, as C.S. Lewis talked about in Screwtape Letters, that the best road to hell is the gentle grassy one, with no turnings, no sign-posts.

One week ago I was sitting on my bed watching Netflix (as you do as a college student) and one of the worst things happened: a panic attack. For those of you who don’t know anything about panic attacks, they are sudden feelings of foreboding. When people have their first panic attack, they usually go to the hospital–I would know, I’ve worked in the ER. Your heart starts to race, your hands start to shake, you feel dizzy as if the world is spinning around you. You start to increase you breathing, leading to hyperventilating that causes numbness in your arms and legs, and may even lead to unconsciousness.

And while I am better equipped to deal with panic attacks than most, they are still quite the ordeal. I slow down my breathing, and know not to walk so as to not trigger dizziness. And while my physical symptoms may be managed, the feeling of foreboding doom lingers. And then I had another panic attack, and another, and another.

I hardly slept more than a few hours, but I woke up refreshed. Crazy, right? Here I am, sleeping nine hours and feeling like I haven’t slept, and the I don’t sleep and feel refreshed. And I could chalk it up to a crazy coincidence, but I am not that naive. Only an act of God could have seen me thought the panic attacks and given me rest.

I have often, in this time of depression, found myself praying a line from the song Great is Thy Faithfulness. I recently rediscovered this timeless hymn, and it has become my anthem.

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.

The greatest misconception about the Christian life is that it is, in any way, easy. It’s not, and our adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion. So many times I find myself praying for temporal comfort. “Don’t let it be too cold.” “I want to do well on this test.” Or I even pray, presuming that I deserve the blessings of God, saying prideful things like, “Show them they wronged me.” “I deserve to do well in school.” Looking at my nearly nonexistent prayer life, I have realized how much I rely on myself.

“Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.” Regardless if you blame my fatigue on depression, the harsh rigors of nursing school, or anemia, truth is I don’t have strength for today. It is hard to get out of bed, let alone be motivated, when I feel so exhausted. For several months now, I have been dealing with deep feelings of worthlessness, sadness, and defeat. When I look inside myself for answers, I get more discouraged. I don’t have the answers, or anything even close, but my God does.

And I want to hope. I want to hope so deeply. And not just petty hopes, like I hope my heath will improve, I hope my depression will lessen, I hope I will graduate nursing school. Yes, these are good thing that I do hope for, but I want something more. I want an everlasting hope.  I want a hope that endures all harms and enhances all joy. Something that endures all hardship, all the good and all the bad in my life.

It is my hope that Christ will continue to work in my life. This week I have felt the sins that so easily entangle. They call out to me and seem so comforting. But his soul belongs to Jesus and I must not listen to the siren call of what the world may deem “good.”

“Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.” There is so much life in this song. I am continually reminded that my strength is ever ebbing and God’s strength is ever flowing. I look back and reflect and am amazed at God’s faithfulness. Many times an uncertain future awaits me, and perhaps you feel the same way. And I cry out, “Lord, is this delay undo death?” And he so kindly looks at me, “This delay is not unto death, but unto the glory of God.”

So, if the ashes bring glory to God, let the fires come.

Nursing School Burnout–An Honest Look at Stress

I had been looking forward to October 19 for almost a year: the day that the next season of Daredevil was to be released on Netflix. But when it was released, something happened that shook me to the core. As I began to watch those first few episodes I felt nothing. It was like I had become completely hollow and I could not find any enjoyment in watching any of it. I didn’t feel any emotion for the characters, any enjoyment in the spectacular filmography, or any satisfaction in the plot–and I was afraid. And this alerted me to a far more sinister and insidious fact–I had passed burned out a while ago and was headed for dangerous territory.

Most people know that nursing school is stressful–in fact I would be hard pressed to find someone who thought it was easy. But I believe there is quite a difference between causing your students some stress and causing your students to be burned out. Being burned out should never be a “normal” part of nursing school no matter what your teachers tell you.

It is hard to describe the feeling of burnout to someone who has never experienced it. Imagine everything going wrong it all being your fault along with a healthy scoop of depression, and you might have an idea of what burnout is like.

My personality became warped. I didn’t want to hang out with friends or even leave my apartment. I didn’t feel like working on my homework, that was nothing new, but I also didn’t feel like reading the books I loved or writing. It was as if the enjoyment of all things had been taken from me. I began to lack confidence in even the smallest tasks, believing that I couldn’t do anything correct. No matter how well prepared, I felt as if I wasn’t. With the lack of motivation, along with procrastination, homework began to pile up. I found myself wanting to do nothing but sit on my computer watching videos, and even then I didn’t find any enjoyment. I began not to care–and that is something dangerous for nurses. I didn’t care that my studying may someday help a patient–and that gave me the chills. And the only things going through my head were negative. “I can’t do this.” “I will never be good enough.” “I don’t deserve to be alive.” “I will never change the world.”

Slowly, my body also began to show the effects of stress. Food no longer appealed to me, and even when I did eat, the food didn’t taste good. I didn’t feel like straightening my hair, putting on makeup, or brushing my teeth. Soon, even showering became a challenging task. No matter how much sleep I got, I never felt rested. And when I laid down to sleep, sleep would elude me for hours.

All of this weighed on me and my soul. I can’t put it any better than Annie F. Downs, so I wont.

I felt like a person I didn’t even know.

I had never felt so tired. And no matter what I did, I couldn’t shake it. I couldn’t take enough naps or sleep in enough days to counteract whatever was going on in my body. That was what scared me, I think. It wasn’t that I was having all these negative sad thoughts. It’s not like I was crying myself to sleep. I wasn’t doing that at all, actually. Instead, it was more like my body folded in and simply gave up.

Knowing God, Annie F. Downs

And even though I am in a better place now, the negative thoughts are still there. The voices have not stopped. But this begs the question: who is to blame? The unreasonable expectations of nursing school? Personal weakness and lack of commitment? My learning disabilities that make school much more difficult for me? Personal history of feeling down (depression)?

And I wish that I was here today to talk about how I overcame burnout and how you can too, but I haven’t. It is finally the start of winter break, and I am beginning to rebuild myself. Some days are better than others, and although I am in a much better place than the middle of the school year, I still struggle daily. Rebuilding yourself is not something that happens overnight, it takes work and struggle. And I could sit here all day and ask who is to blame, but that is not the answer I am looking for. I want to know how to fight this, because one thing I do not do easily is give up. I am looking for healing.

I did it [pray] because sometime healing is immediate, and that’s certainly God’s kindness, but sometimes healing doesn’t happen like we picture it, and somehow that’s God’s kindness too.

Knowing God, Annie F. Downs

I knew that however it had gotten to this point, I could not undo the damage alone. I felt angry at God, after all it is because he called me to nursing that I was perusing it in the first place. How could he let me walk thought something like this again?

And I sat here wondering how this could be God’s kindness. And I don’t know the full answer yet. But I do know that I have an amazing strength and endurance. People have called me inspirational, and I really don’t know how to take it. While I have never given up, let me tell you it has come close. I don’t perceive myself as strong, and certainly not as inspirational, more like a cautionary tale. I have had to rebuild myself from the ground up more than once–and I am better for it.

In the end, I am only sure of one thing: God is faithful. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. And I lost sight of both of those things. I failed to see who I was in Christ, and that my value never rested in my grades. I lost sight of the goal, not only to be a nurse, but to be a nurse for the glory of God.

My goal is not to be the best nursing student, my goal is to be equipped to alleviate suffering to the best of my ability. I feared the delaying of my dreams, as if I could never accomplish what I had been put on earth do to.

And I know that some of you reading this blog see me using Christianity as some kind of crutch and that I’m being preachy. And others of you might see me as preaching to the choir. But this is the truth as I see it. Apart from Christ I could not have endured this burnout; apart from Christ I will never accomplish anything worthwhile.

I have felt that the healing process has began, but I know that it is still a long road to recovery. And in some ways, I will be dealing with some of these issues and feelings for the rest of my life. But I’m learning to be OK with that. But for now, let me leave you with this poem about Andrew Barton:

I am hurt but not slain.

I’ll lay me down and bleed a while,

Then I’ll rise and fight again.

So today I lay down and rest so that tomorrow I can stand and fight.

The Power of Someone who Cares

This past week I began watching an episode of BBC’s Ambulance. I was excited for this episode because I knew there was a car accident and status asthmaticus featured. But simple kindness moved me far more than medical science ever can.

The 999 call came in for an older gentleman with a history of chronic heart disease found with chest pain, then he collapsed. Immediately an ambulance and advanced cardiac care team was dispatched. Before the ambulance team arrived, the patient stopped breathing and their wife began CPR. When the ambulance crew arrived it was clear that the patient had died.

And then and there a subtle, yet critical, change began.

The wife became the patient.

The ambulance team began CPR with no EKG change. One of the two-man ambulance team went to be with the recent widow. He held her hand and gently told her the situation. That all their efforts would not bring her husband back.

And my heart broke.

I didn’t know this man nor his wife. Usually situations like this do not effect me, it is quite par for the course in the medical field. But the way they didn’t stop CPR until they informed her of the situation touched me. He held her hands when the stopped CPR and just sat in silence. Something beyond the job description, yet so important. They quietly took off the EKG leads, closed his eyes, and combed his hand back.

The gently carried him back to his bed, dressed him in his former favorite clothes, and tucked him into bed. A gesture so simple, yet I was moved deeply. The crew began to reminisce about other similar calls where the patient died. They have made tea and coffee, made a sandwich or two, and even walked a dog once. It is these simple and kind gestures in times of great suffering that often do more that the whole of medical science.

It is quite easy to get caught up in all the heroics and life-saving stuff of the medical field. But sometimes you can’t save the patient. Sometimes there is not cure. But even in those times we have the ability to make a difference, if only we remember kindness.

“13 Reasons Why” Christians Need Psychology

Most of you are aware of Netflix’s new series (Well, I guess it is not new anymore…) named 13 Reasons Why based off of a book of the same name. Both the book and TV series explore the 13 reasons that the main character committed suicide. The reason she committed suicide was a mix of desperation and a desire for revenge. In reality, the reason people commit suicide is because they believe that death is preferable to life. They are going through so much suffering that they can’t even imagine a place of worse suffering. While 13 Reasons Why is wildly inaccurate with the psychology, at least it has gotten people to talk about depression and suicide. While I would never recommend watching the series or reading the book, I do believe that there is a desperate need within society to talk about depression and suicide, especially in the Church.

So, without further ado, the following are “13 Reasons Why” Christians need psychology.

(1) Psychology struggles to understand “why”

Psychology tends to ask two questions: “How?” and “Why?” In much the same way Christianity also asks these same questions, but in a slightly different context. “How did the world get to the state that it is in? How can I gain salvation?” and once the person becomes a Christian, “Why do I keep choosing my way over God’s?” Psychology, like Christianity, struggles to understand the human condition. Many think that everything within psychology is based on the thought that there is no God, but that is simply not the case. Some Psychologists are Christian, while others are not, just like any other branch of science. If anything, psychology allows for a God more than any other science.

(2) Many things in the field of psychology agree with the Bible

One thing that psychology and Christianity agree on is that this world is messed up. Within the lens of Christianity, we know this is because of sin and living in a fallen world. In psychology it is attributed to living in a non perfect world and often due to the wrong behaviors of others. Aka, both Christianity and psychology believe that (in one way or another) both man and the world are flawed. I could go on and on about this topic about the similarities between many treatment methods used in counseling, and how nearly identical methods are described in the Bible, but those are topics for a different time.

Recently I was reading the book Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt. He begins to talk about how many Christian fail to listen to those whom they are trying to convert–or even simply in a relationship. We fail to see others as people rather than projects. Within the Gospels, we see Jesus first listen to people then give advice. We are to follow his example. If Christians would just slow down, shut up and listen, there would be much less need for psychologists. Because at the deepest level, we just long to be listen to and understood by someone else. We all just want to be loved as we are.

(3) The scope of psychology is broad and not all that is under psychology is addressed in the Bible

Let me get straight to the point, the Bible is not sufficient for everything in psychology. The scope of psychology is very broad. From strokes, to learning disorders, to traumatic brain injuries (I will talk about these later on) the Bible only talks about how we should act toward those people. Nowhere in the Bible does it talk about reading strategies for people for dyslexia. What we know about dyslexia, and how to “manage” dyslexia comes from psychology.

The point that I am trying to make is this: the Bible tell us to love our neighbors, but not how to love our neighbors. Loving someone who has had a stroke isn’t always baking casseroles, sometimes it is teaching them how to read again. And what branch of science studies the brain and how it works? Psychology and Neurology (there is quite a bit of overlap). The greatest commandments are to love God and to love others as yourself. That is never in question. But psychology is much more than trying to make people happy. It has much to do with regaining function. Believe it or not the goal is not to make the person happy, but to equip them to deal with their emotions in healthy ways. Depression isn’t cured when the person feels happy, depression has been treated successfully when that person can reintegrate into their life.

(4) Stroke

A stroke is when part of the brain in damaged, either from bleeding in the brain, or a clot in the blood vessels in the brain. Depending on the severity, strokes can have temporary or permanent damage to the brain. We know what part of the brain controls what because of strokes. By looking at the symptoms of the stroke, we can determine what part of the brain is damaged. It is often (medical) doctors and psychologist that work together and create a plan of care. Perhaps this one goes more into the realm of neurology, but it is still studied by psychologists to understand the brain better.

(5) Traumatic Brain Injury

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is just that, an injury to the brain. It can be from external forces such as a concussion from a sports game or car crash. There are also hypoxic brain injuries that occur when the brain is deprived of oxygen. More recently, there has been more and more media attention to the dangers of TBI’s, specifically from concussions in football. We know that depression is sometimes related to parts of the brain being injured because we can see evidence from the people with TBIs. We know that if certain parts of the brain is injured, the person experiences hallucinations. Meaning that just because someone is seeing things, doesn’t mean they are possessed. Someone can lose sight with a blow to the back of the head, and because of people like Phineas Gage we know that damage of frontal lobe leads to personality changes.

(6) Learning Disabilities (Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, ADHD, etc.)

I have dyslexia, so let me debunk a few “Christian” myths. Yes, I struggled for years to read my Bible, not because I didn’t love God, or didn’t want to hear what he had to say, but simply because I could not read well enough for comprehension. If someone had stopped pointing their fingers at me saying that I didn’t love God, and read aloud to me the words or the Bible, I could understand the Bible. It wasn’t until middle school that I could read my NIrV Bible and could read the word of God for myself with complete comprehension of the content.

I was diagnosed by a psychologist. It was a psychologist that planned my extra classes to help me catch up to my peers. It is psychology that is making great leaps to understanding the mechanisms with learning disabilities.  There were many nights that I prayed I would no longer be dyslexic because I was being bullied at my church and school by adults and children for my reading skills. God said no, and I believe that he has a plan to work through me, even if I can’t see it yet. What if churches reached out to individuals with learning disabilities instead of ostracizing them? How many live would be saved, changed, and rearranged?

(7) Special Needs Children are precious to God too

This topic is one of my passions. Few things make me as angry as a church not caring for special needs children. Are we not commanded to care for “the least of these”? Is not the child with down syndrome the least of these? What about my friend with autism, doesn’t God care about her too? Far too often the church is more concerned with her outward image. We fear to associate with people different from us, as if we could “catch” what they have. But I invite you to watch the Drop Box, or at least read my article (Christianity in Action: The Dropbox). South Korea has more plastic surgery than any other country. The image you present is paramount within the society. But within the city of Seoul (the capital), Pastor Lee cares for children that were abandoned by their parents, often because they had disabilities. It is the authentic love of Christ that enables Pastor Lee to care for those children.

Do not these children deserve love and care? God has not forgotten them, and he has heard their plight. It seems (at least from what I have seen) the only people fighting for them are their parents and psychologists. Perhaps, Church, if you spent a little more time caring for people, and a little less time hating them, you could see how God loves all people.

(8) Mental, Sexual, and Physical abuse signs

As sad as it is, abuse still happens in the Church. In the past few years near where I live, Christian parents were arrested for torturing their children. You read that right: torture. These parent attended a local Church where they were involved with many ministries and even adopted children from a foreign country. Their children were starved, threatened, beaten, etc. While some members of the church suspected something, police and other church member failed to act. It was only after years of torture that the parents were arrested. This is why we need to know the signs of mental and sexual abuse in addition to the signs of physical abuse. Just because a child is in the church does not mean the child is safe. Justice is caring for those people who cannot protect themselves: children who are abused, a battered wife, and anyone going through any kind of abuse. The thought that a church wouldn’t learn these signs because “they are not in the Bible” astounds me–in a bad way. The Bible is sufficient for everything in spiritual life, but not everything in life. And before you stone me, let me explain! The Bible isn’t going to give you driving directions, it is not going to teach me how to properly insert an IV (I’m a nursing student), it doesn’t have recipes. Knowing the signs of abuse is practical and vital in a church that cares about the community.

(9) Depression is more common in the Church than we would like to admit

There are two causes of depression: situational and chemical. I shouldn’t even have to talk about situational, but it seems the church has missed the point. One of my friends was struggling with depression (due to a situation) and began to self-harm. The church rather than coming along side her, gave her a 10 page packet about how she was going to Hell, citing Bible verses out of context. Christianity is a compassionate call. If you don’t know, compassion is “suffering with.” When the church refuses to come alongside its struggling members, it is tantamount to telling them to go to Hell. I don’t know how else to phrase the church’s indifference to depression. It is as if they have pulled the trigger themselves. I believe that God will hold them responsible, and that seems to be the only justice I will get.

Depression is more than just a feeling of sadness, but the lack of any other emotion.  “When you listen to people describe their depression, you will hear two extremes. People will report that the pain is so intense that they want to die. Others will describe an emotional numbness in which they are already dead. Sometimes you will hear one person describe living with both extremes simultaneously.” (Source: Blame it on the Brain [book]) Where is your compassion?

And even if the person has caused their situation, you must still come alongside them. Or do you not remember that when we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly….No one wants depression, or any type of suffering for that matter. Pointing fingers and assigning blame will never fix the problem–and keep in mind that the problem might be chemical.

(10) Suicide and suicidal ideation

I can’t phrase it any better than the article “Healing comes from Christ,” so I won’t try. “…As I write, it is the 32nd day after my son, in a split second, put to death the precious life that my husband and I created from our own flesh and blood over 22 years ago….” I did not know him well, but I knew him. I remember talking to him during my study hall about how bullying should never happen in the church. It was something we were both passionate about, and something we had both experienced. But with grace and poise, his mother continues to address the church.

“Does this mean that we keep mum about such things as suicide and sweep it under the rug? Avoid Discussing it? Refuse to acknowledge that it happens? Fail to address the why? Not at all. Undoubtedly we all need to be aware, but especially as parents, of behaviors and activities and mental states of the ones we love and care about. But this awareness needs to come in the form of proper education, proper research, proper counselling, and proper understanding based on medical, spiritual, physiological factual information, not theatrical and fictitious dramatizations[13 Reasons Why]….I know that the true healing will come with Christ’s return.”

Do you know how bad someone’s life has to be where they believe that death is a better than life? Really, think about that for a moment. Do you know what it is like to have so much suffering that the thought of drawing another breath fills you with trepidation? The world is incredibly broken, and some people get more than their fair share of sorrow. But, Church, you are to be so loving that people will feel comfortable telling you about suicidal thoughts because they know you will still love and care for them. “Perfect love casts out fear.” Church, your call is to the lonely, the broken-hearted, the lost, the poor, the least of these….Do I need to go on? If you cannot love someone who is suicidal, is Christ’s love really in your life? Because I know that He deeply loves those who think life may not be worth living.

(11) Eating Disorders

A few year back I had the honor of hearing the testimonies from the people in my small group at church. About a third of the people that I saw once or twice a week had/were struggling with an eating disorder–and I had no clue. Perhaps it is because I have never had an eating disorder, but I didn’t understand the impact it had on these people’s lives. It was through many tears and prayer, and coming alongside these people, that they were healed. It make me think, how many more people in this church secretly struggle with an eating disorder? Again, the fear of judgement keeps many people from admitting they need help. Thankfully not at my church, but I have heard from some other churches, that the people who admit they have eating disorders are shunned. This is quite simply not the way of Christ.

Yes, it may reflect that you do not see that your value comes from Christ alone, but the way to deal with that is not secrecy. As a Church we are to build each other up! Perhaps we don’t know that Christ loves us as we are because we were never told! Far from punishment or judgement, we are to come alongside and love those brave enough to share their most inner struggles with us.

(12) Mental Illness does not care if you are a Christian

Dyslexia, TBI, stroke, schizophrenia–none of these things care if you are a Christian. They affect you anyway. They are just as likely to occur in Christians as in non-Christians. So, why is it then, that mental health is almost exclusively talked about outside the church? Why is it that members of a community that was modeled after Jesus, get told that they are not wanted? I have watched friends walk away from Christianity–I almost did myself. And the reason why had to do with Christians telling them they were not good enough. “Oh, you have a diagnosis of schizophrenia. We don’t want you here.” “Don’t talk to that girl, I hear she has autism.” “Did you see the state of her clothes? I can’t believe she wore a sweatshirt to Church.” “They started to self-harm? Tell them to get the hell out.” All of these statements have been made to people I know. Some of them have walked away from Christianity, some have not. If you are not angry at what was said, how dare you call yourself a Christian! In Jesus’ own words, “I came for those who are not good enough, not the ones who think they are already ‘in’ with God. A hospital is for the sick, not those who are well.”

Perhaps what is not understood is that when you become a Christian, Christ Himself has declared you righteous before God. You have been made worthy, but so has everyone else. Christ was willing to lay down his life. Are you? Caring for someone who has a mental illness or learning disorder or stroke is not easy. It is hard. Some days it will seem like it is not worth it. But it is.

(13) If the church won’t talk about psychology, Christians are going to continue to get their information from books/TV shows like “13 Reasons Why”

I have admittedly, not watched “13 Reasons Why.” And I don’t really plan to. For all its flaws (and there are many) at least people have began to talk about mental health. If Christians don’t step up and love people with mental illnesses, then who will? If Christians are going to sit in a corner and put our hands over our ears, who will share the gospel? We cannot any longer stand in indifference to the great suffering all around us. Church, step up!