A Slow-Learned Lesson

We are all broken. To one degree or another, the best among us are broken. We’re all in need of some sort of healing, or growing. We all need to be restored, to be put back together.

Over the years I’ve learned a few things about brokenness and restoration. Now I’d like to share something with you, something that I’ve only learned through the long, slow, arduous process of repeated breaking and healing.

It is this.

The magnitude of my suffering has never been in proportion to the magnitude of my misfortune. Instead, the magnitude of my suffering has always been proportional to my brokenness.

Hatred, discouragement, bitterness, selfishness, greed, lack of faith, an unwillingness to forgive – these are some of the attributes of brokenness.

These things magnify, ten-fold and a hundred-fold, the effects of misfortune. Misfortune may be an illness, an automobile accident, a house-rending tornado. All of these things are more devastating if you’re broken.

Sometimes our brokenness is a direct contributor to our misfortune. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy, and our brokenness leads to crippling debt, a loveless marriage, a painful betrayal, a messy divorce, or cirrhosis of the liver.

In every case – whether we contribute to our misfortune, or whether it’s caused by circumstances we can’t control – in every case, our degree of brokenness affects both our level of pain and our ability to recover.

Enter God.

I’m going to ask you to do something very hard. I hope you’ll try it.

Instead of appealing to God about your suffering, appeal to him about your brokenness. It is here, in the healing of your brokenness, that your suffering will begin to diminish.

You can approach him again, later, about the suffering. You’ll know when it’s time.

Meanwhile, God can do things in you that you cannot do. He wants to. Why not let him?

–Bob Young
[6/15/2017]

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

The Cup That Jesus Drinks

Convincing the church to sell Christianity as a way to achieve benefit, rather than offering Christianity as a way to be a benefit to others, is Satan’s most insidious deception.

Jesus did not die just for you – he died for everyone. Jesus invites you to participate in his death and resurrection. Baptism and Communion aren’t symbols of receiving a crown, being seated on a throne, and being given a mansion. Baptism and Communion are symbols of Suffering, Sacrifice, and Service. They are symbols of our participation with Jesus in the redemption of a world of people who are lost, and dying, and broken.

“I am crucified with Christ…” (Galatians 2:20)

“Buried with Christ in Baptism…” (Romans 6:4)

“Are you able to drink from this cup I drink?” (Matthew 20:22)

“Drink of it, all of you.” (Matthew 26:27)

“The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve.” (Matthew 20:28)

“Follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

Being a servant – that is, following Jesus – isn’t popular or comfortable. Following Jesus won’t make you one of the Cool Kids. To be sure, following Jesus has its blessings, but they are the blessings of satisfaction, not the blessings of luxury. They are the blessings that come from hard work, not the blessings that come from relaxing. Following Jesus is work, then rest – not rest, and more rest. Jesus will reward you richly – but first, following him will cost you everything.

Are you ready for this kind of Christianity?

–Bob Young
[6/13/2017]

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

 

You (Vision 3)

20160806 You Vision 03dYou’re a cutter. That’s okay. I don’t condemn you, or even criticize you. I mean, it’s not okay, because you’re hurting inside, and I don’t want you to hurt. But it’s okay in the sense that it doesn’t need to come between us. It makes me ache to feel your heart’s pain, but it doesn’t make me turn away. You know? Am I getting through okay?

There’s a cutter in the Bible. Did you know that? Cutting is old, really old.

“They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.’”
(Mark 5:1-7, ESV)

Jesus had no desire to torment him. That’s not like Jesus. If you read the next few verses of this story, you know what’s really great about it? What really makes my head spin? The best part – the very best part – is that Jesus started healing the guy before he asked to be healed.

The cutter was confused, though. Jesus was speaking to the unclean spirit: “Get out! Go away!” And the cutter, he was confused, and thought that Jesus was yelling at him. That’s why our cutter friend said, “Jesus, don’t torment me!”

The thing about cutting is, you really can’t help it. It’s not like you can just decide to stop or something. So when he thought Jesus was yelling at him, it all seemed so hopeless. It seemed like Jesus was like everyone else. The cutter expected Jesus to chase him away. It really didn’t occur to him – it couldn’t occur to him – that Jesus was chasing away the problem. Jesus wasn’t there to chase away the cutter; Jesus was there to chase away the Tormentor.

It’s interesting that the cutter knew Jesus’ name: “What have you to do with me, Jesus?” It’s not like Jesus was unknown to him. He just didn’t know yet why it mattered, how it could possibly matter. He already knew who Jesus was, but here’s my favorite part of the story: Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” (That’s in verse 9. It’s not in the part I quoted above).

Then the story goes really crazy, but if you’re a cutter, you’ll totally get it. The answer Jesus got was, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” Whoa. When you read the story, you have to ask yourself, “Who is Jesus talking to, and who’s answering? Is Jesus talking to the cutter, or to his demons? And, who’s answering? Who is it, really?”

Now, I’m not saying you’re demon-possessed. But you kind of wouldn’t deny it, either, even if I did, would you? It’s like sometimes you’re thinking straight, and sometimes you’re not. Sometimes you’re living your life, and sometimes it’s like you’re watching somebody else’s life, like you’re an outsider or something. But the stupid pain. That’s the constant. Not the pokes, not the slices. Not the glass or the blade or the needle.The deeper pain, the splitting of your soul where the agony oozes out, but never goes away. That’s the real pain.

And that’s where Jesus, who wants to know your name – Jesus, who wants to know you – enters in.

The cutter said to Jesus, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” Do you get what’s happening here? It’s really kind of beautiful. Out of the cutter’s mouth come the words. It sounds like the demons are speaking. It’s not him, it’s them. This disembodied sense of other. But it’s him. He speaks. And he asks Jesus to “send me away.” He wants the pain, the other, to be gone.

And that’s what Jesus does. Jesus, who wants to know his name, who wants to know him, does the miraculous. Jesus reached inside his very soul, knew him, pierced the cutter’s bleeding heart with his own healing hand, and took away the pain. Oh, more than that. Jesus didn’t just remove the pain. He removed its very source. And then Jesus closed up the wound. He healed the ragged, jagged edge. And, then, the most beautiful part – Jesus filled the empty spot created by the absence of the pain. Jesus filled the emptiness with his own presence and love.

You see, healing isn’t complete when you’re emptied of the horror and pain. Healing is complete when you’re filled, when you’re filled with what you were always meant to contain.

This is a spiritual truth. You can’t use words to really tell me why you cut, and I can’t use words to really tell you how Jesus changes things so you no longer need to cut. It’s a spiritual truth, beyond words. But it’s truth.

May I pray for you?

Father, give your much-loved child this mercy. Know her! Know him! Show your child that there is no condemnation, that you have come for the very purpose of taking the pain away. Be the ears that hear, and the voice that is heard. Speak heart to heart of your tender love, and command Harm and Pain to leave. In Jesus’ name I ask it for this Reader, right now. Amen.

–Bob Young
[8/6/2016]

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

P.S. You may have noticed that the truths in this article are equally valid for other situations and other people, too. Really, it can apply to any sort of self-harm or self-destructive practices. Who do you know that could benefit from this message?

“My Life Sucks”

Emoji courtesy of Twitter

Emoji courtesy of Twitter

Circumstances are often the last thing to change. A rich person may learn this before a poor person, because a rich person has experienced unhappiness, and even despair, despite comfortable circumstances. A poor person, not having experienced the comfort of having enough, is more likely to continue in the belief that circumstances must change first – for the better – and happiness follows.

Jesus taught something else. Jesus taught us that there is no connection between happiness and circumstances.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
(Jesus, Matthew 6:25-34)

Notice that in Matthew 6 Jesus does not say that God will make you comfortable. Although he says that God will provide, he finishes this section by saying that every day has its trouble.

There is a vast difference between saying, “God will take away all your trouble,” and saying, “God will provide for you in all your trouble.”

Satan would like you to believe that God has some sort of moral obligation to take the trouble out of your life. But, if God did not spare his own son, why would you believe Satan’s lie? Why would you think that your life should be trouble-free, when Jesus’ life was trouble-filled?

Regardless of our circumstances, there is joy for you in the presence of God: “Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 5:21)

Jesus has shown you how to live, how to have joy, how to be fulfilled, how to have a meaningful, useful life. Do you disagree? If not, then why not serve him, wholeheartedly, without reservation?

Then, watch. This new way of life, born out of joy and the Spirit of God, brings new circumstances.

Right now, enter into the joy of your master. Follow Jesus. Follow him!

 

 

Twemoji_Joyful2

–Bob Young
[2/20/2016]

Did you like reading this? Then you should buy one of my books. (Thank you!)
Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/Bob-Young/e/B00E6Z8PKW

 

Suffering and Moving Forward

Some Christians don’t like to play the victim card. It’s just that they’ve heard “Wait on the Lord” so many times that they don’t know any other way to operate. Christians don’t always grasp our freedom in Christ.

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10)

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord,..) (Colossians 3:23)

“Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you–although if you can gain your freedom, do so.” (I Corinthians 7:21)

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

Fear paralyzes.

Jesus doesn’t call us to suffering for suffering’s sake; he calls us to suffering with a purpose. Jesus, who calls on us to suffer for the purpose of redemption, also calls us to radical change.

–Bob Young
[1/30/2016]

(Note: I wrote this on March 24, 2014, and then forgot about it. I found it in my notes today, and I don’t think I ever published it. I probably intended to turn it into a longer article. Since I didn’t get around to it, I’m just publishing it like it is.

 

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/Bob-Young/e/B00E6Z8PKW

Why would a loving God put me in a home where my parents don’t love me?

20160116 Why Would A Loving God2Today’s Question

Do you ever long to be “free as a bird?” Well, let me tell you something: a bird’s freedom isn’t all it’s cracked up to be… I’ll explain about the bird’s lack of freedom in a moment, but first, let me introduce you to the question.  The question we are presently considering is: “Why would a loving God put me in a home where my parents don’t love me?”

My Answer

Here is the outline for my answer:

  1. Loved or not, everything and everyone suffers.
  2. In fact, God himself suffers – every day.
  3. God isn’t trying to keep you from suffering.
  4. God teaches you how to rightly live in the midst of suffering.

Ready? Let’s begin.

  1. Loved or not, everything and everyone suffers.

I used to think that birds are the luckiest creatures in all of God’s creation. After all, food is all around them, and they aren’t restricted by walls or fences. They can fly! They can go anywhere they want! But my idealized perception doesn’t quite match the reality. In the first place, food isn’t always all around them. During much of the year, a bird, whether carnivore or insectivore  or herbivore or omnivore, may have to search far and wide to find its food. Next, don’t forget that birds live outdoors. Sometimes the temperature is just right, but much (most?) of the time, it’s either too warm or too cold.

Consider rain for a moment. Rain is both good and bad for a bird. If a bird eats worms, rain is good, because it brings earthworms to the surface. But rain also makes a bird’s feathers wet, and that brings two problems. Wet wings are heavy, and it’s harder to fly. Also, wet wings lose some of their insulating property, and it’s harder to stay warm. No rain? Ah, that’s a problem, too! Birds are small, and it doesn’t take them long to die of dehydration.

And, of course, if we’re going to consider the “benefits” of being a bird, we must look at flying. You think the ability to fly would be wonderful, don’t you? Well, consider that flying, for a bird, is like running for you! A bird can hop about on the grass with little effort, but to fly – why, that little bird must flap its wings as hard as it can in order to get aloft! Watch a bird fly. See there, when the sparrow pulls its wings close against its body to rest for a fraction of a second? You can watch it dip down. It begins to fall instantly. Only by constant exertion can most birds stay aloft. There are some exceptions, like the gliding of the hawk – but hawks have their own problems, which we won’t examine here.

Yes, birds suffer. The same thing is true of the rest of the animal kingdom. And you know as well as I do, that it’s true for people, too! Yes, we suffer. In fact, it seems to me that the greater the intellectual prowess of the organism, the more it’s aware of its own suffering, but I could be mistaken about that. It could just be human arrogance.

I can tell you this: our intellect gives us more ways to create suffering. A bird may make another bird suffer by pushing it out of the way and gobbling up a bug – and the other bird is saying, “Hey! I saw it first!” At bedtime, I’ve seen birds make other birds suffer by pushing them out of the way and taking a favorite roosting spot on a branch or a light pole. We might feel sorry for the smaller bird, until… until we watch a little longer, and see the small bird push an even smaller bird out of the way. And then we realize that the bullied bird is also a bully! And so it continues on down the pecking order, until we reach the smallest bird, which is only bullied and has no one that it can push around. Do you feel sorry for the littlest bird? Be careful – as soon as it grows a little older and larger, it, too, will be a bully! The smallest, most picked-on bird has no finer moral character than the largest bird in the tree.

God knows everything, and he’s all-powerful, but still, I imagine that it would be difficult even for God to create a world without suffering. Flesh is soft, and rocks are hard. Inanimate rocks, which bear you no malice – nor do they bully you – inanimate rocks, I tell you, cause pain and suffering. Yet we need rocks. God is too wise to have given us a world made only of soft moss, with no hard rocks underneath!

And so we find it to be true that everything that lives also suffers.

  1. In fact, God himself suffers – every day.

When I was younger and even more naive than I am now, I thought that God didn’t suffer. He’s all-powerful! He’s all-wise! How could he possibly suffer?

I had not yet learned that God’s first suffering was loneliness. I had not yet learned that the remedy for loneliness is relationship. I had not yet learned that relationship is impossible without the ability to choose. And I had not yet learned that some people will choose to hurt those who want only to love them. A bad choice, to be sure – but a choice that must exist if relationship is to truly be possible.

And so what did God do? He gave us choice. Free will. We can love or not. Now we come to the awful truth about being God. Relationship is the cure for loneliness, but even God cannot experience relationship without pain.

God suffers. And to know him – to truly experience the heart of God – you, too, must know the pain of broken relationships, the heartbreak of betrayal, the helplessness of not being able to create love in one who does not choose to love.

The Apostle Paul wrote something incredibly profound, and it was years before I could begin to have an inkling of what he was trying to say. Paul wrote of his deep desire:

“…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, …”
(Philippians 3:10)

Why, Paul – why? Why would you want to share in Christ’s sufferings? Oh! Because only in this way can you ever understand the depth of love that brought God to dwell with us. Emanuel. God with us. God is love.

And now I must change direction slightly. We will still reach our destination, but to get there, we must go around a mountain of truth and see it from all sides.

  1. God isn’t trying to keep you from suffering.

This is the mountain of truth, and you must look at it. Satan will do anything he can to divert your eyes from seeing this truth. If right now you have a sudden urge to go get a drink of water, or if you’re tired and want to fall asleep, or if your phone rings and the Caller ID shows that a close friend is trying to reach you, don’t be surprised. Satan has worked very hard to create the illusion that a just God would never allow suffering, and when you start reading this section, you’re coming face-to-face with the truth: Satan lies. God, who suffers – God, who is only understood by those who suffer – God, who made you, and loves you, and protects you – is not trying to keep you from suffering.

The Apostle Paul wrote:

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. “
(Romans 8:16-17)

It is impossible to know God without knowing his suffering. It is impossible to know God without knowing a broken heart. It is impossible to know why he did what he did, why he created, if we don’t know that relationship is better than loneliness – even with relationship’s pain and loss.

Jesus on the cross is our visible explanation, our mountain of truth, our human comprehension, of the inseparability of love and pain, of sacrifice and redemption. God is:

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all.”
(Romans 8:32)

God’s suffering, of course, has not ended. To this day, there are many who reject his love. And it hurts God. So what does God do?

  1. God teaches you how to rightly live in the midst of suffering.

God is rejected, yet he loves anyway.
God is betrayed, yet he loves anyway.
God is ignored, yet he loves anyway.
God is maligned, yet he loves anyway.

(Father, I pray that the Reader will understand as I answer a question born of pain!)

Now, we are ready to answer your question directly:

“Why would a loving God put me in a home where my parents don’t love me?”

My friend, there are many kinds of suffering in this world, and we all know that no suffering is so great as our own. It is a painful reality that the greater our suffering, the greater we can understand love.

You were not alone then, and you are not alone now.

God, rejected and suffering, was there, with you. And he is here, with you now, with you still.

Come to him. Make the choice. It is only after coming into a beautiful and safe relationship with God that we can ever say, “Now I have found that which makes my suffering worthwhile.”

–Bob Young
1/16/2016

Did you like reading this? Then you should buy one of my books. (Thank you!)

Books by Bob Young

http://www.amazon.com/Bob-Young/e/B00E6Z8PKW

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