Posts tagged ‘Faith on Fridays’
I recently stumbled across this treasure on Desiring God: 10 Resolutions for Mental Health. It has really helped me to re-establish perspective and understand what truly matters in life, so I’ve decided to break it down into a series of posts – one for every item on Clyde Kilby‘s list of resolutions. To find out more about the series, read the post on Desiring God. Otherwise, just enjoy the simple wisdom contained in each point.
Growing up, I used to marvel at the fickle nature of the Israelites in the Old Testament. They witnessed the power of God. In a very real way, the Almighty dwelt among them, guided and directed them, loved them and led them. He showed them the way. They went astray. For hundreds of years He gave them warnings and grace, and finally, he had the grace to lead them into captivity: the ultimate payment for their waywardness.
King Solomon puzzled me most of all. After all, he met the Holy One personally – not once but THREE times! He spoke to God. More than that: God spoke to him! God asked Solomon what he wanted – and then gave him that! And so much more. It’s astonishing. But it’s not nearly as breathtakingly astonishing as the fact that Solomon went astray. He was one of the worst, worshipping idols, and leading all of Israel into the same trap.
Solomon’s folly was so great, it ripped the kingdom in two. The devastating effects of his mistake have been felt through the centuries, and still have an effect today.
What I could never wrap my head around was the fact that these people, who had not only a national legacy of walking with God, but who had also had personal encounters – often one-on-one – with the Living God, could ever turn their backs on Him. I couldn’t even begin to conceive of it. How could it happen.
Well, now I know.
All it takes is one bad harvest.
Think about it. You work hard all year. You observe the Sabbaths and the New Moons. You’re faithful in tithes and offerings, and you never miss either a feast or a fast. You’re kind to your neighbours (even when they don’t deserve it), and you raise your children right. You follow the law. You’re good. And you’re blessed. You have enough to eat and drink, a lovely home, healthy kids. What more could you hope for?
But then, for some reason, the crops fail one year. You can’t figure it out. Didn’t the prophet Malachi promise that if you were faithful in your tithes, you’d be blessed? Was he wrong? Was he lying? What’s the story? And even though you know it probably won’t do any good, you take a peak over the mountains to see how the Syrians are doing. To your surprise, they’re doing well. It doesn’t take long for that surprise to boil into anger. You’re disappointed; you’re frustrated; you’re confused.
Why has this happened? Who did what wrong? Who has led me astray? Have I been worshipping the wrong god all this time?
Those deceitful words are the beginning of a steep and slippery slope into despair and apostacy, my friends. The first seeds of doubt quickly take root in the fertile ground of your indignant rage. You wonder where the fault lies. You don’t want to doubt God, of course, but you know you’ve done nothing wrong. The only alternative left to you is the belief that perhaps those self-righteous, power-hungry priests have led you astray for their own selfish ends. Perhaps the Philistines have been right all this time. Or the Babylonians. Or those accursed Syrians. Perhaps the fault was never yours, nor God’s. Because He wasn’t there. And all your well-meant devotion has achieved is to make it impossible to feed your family. For a whole year. A year of effort wasted. A year of poverty and desperation ahead.
You determine to do better. And so you worship the gods of the harvest, the gods of the seasons, the gods of family and health – anyone, anywhere, who promises any hope of a better year next year. You’re desperate, alone and betrayed. What choice do you really have?
And all it took was one harvest.
I know what that’s like. Unlike the faithful Israelite in this story, all it takes for me is a week or two. A late payment from a client; a few panic-stricken days wondering what in the world I’ll conjure for supper – these are all it takes for my weak, faltering faith to be shaken to its core. I’d love to be strong and faithful like Job, but almost invariably I turn out to resemble more closely Job’s wife, with her shameful, infamous, “Curse God and die!”
So, in light of this human condition, I was very encouraged today to receive a study, via email, of the tests we face as God’s ambassadors here on earth, and why it matters so much that we pass them.
Thoughts on the tests we face in life:
Tests will always happen
Regardless of your faith, you will face trials. A life spent questioning this fact is a wasted life. Far more noble to pursue a life of meaning: uncover how you can grow and help others as a result of your personal tests.
Tests keep happening until you learn the lesson
So get on and learn it. Unlke school, where failure to grasp a test the first time around was complete failure with no hope of redemption, the tests we face in life give us second chances. And third. And more, until we’ve grasped what we should be learning from these trials.
At the end of a test – there’s another test!
You may have a break between tests, but it’s little more than a temporary reprieve. Don’t get to comfortable, and don’t expect the calm periods to be your due. They’re not, and that expectation will set you up for disappointment and bitterness, time and time again.
Test can deliver delightful results
Tests give us the opportunity to clarify what we’ve mastered, get rid of “junk” we don’t need in our lives, change our perspective, change us for the better, and equip us to help others. Tests also grants us the unparalleled opportunity to become humble, as we realise we all truly are equal.
There are five kinds of tests we face:
- The Wilderness Test – this is a test of time, in which nothing seems to change for long periods. It’s easy to get discouraged, like Abraham did, and eventually take things into our own hands. The results are pretty much always disastrous.
- The Failure Test – this is a test in which everything we do seems to fail. The trap here is frustration and hopelessness. We need to keep the faith that God keeps His promises, and hang in there.
- The Betrayal Test – this is the test where someone you trust betrays you. It can be the result of misunderstanding, or the malicioousness of others. During this test, bitterness and hardness of heart can destroy us. Guard your heart with all dilligence and don’t let the bitterness take root.
- The Authority Test – we do not understand the power of being under authority. The key to passing this test is submission, and we need to behave with grace and dignity as we accept the authority God has placed in our lives. Remember: there is always something to be learned.
- The Obedience Test – here we battle between God’s will and our own. It’s not wrong to put your request to God – even Jesus did so in the Garden of Gethsemane, when He asked God to take His “cup of suffering” from Him. But when Jesus passed this test, the entire world was given the opportunity to be saved. We too have the opportunity to be part of something phenomenal if we can just pass the test of being obedient to God.
Sometimes, it seems like all five tests strike at once, or a few of them sneak up in combination. Even so, passing the tests will result in a new level of growth, closeness to God, and depth of peace you’ve never experienced before.
Have you faced any of these tests? Or are there some I may have missed? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.
Yesterday I told you my story: why I became anorexic, how it played out, and how I started the road to healing.
Today, I want to share what I’ve learned from this experience. I hope it will be helpful to you if you or someone you love is facing a similar situation.
9 things you should know about Anorexia Nervosa
It’s not about food. Not really.
It’s about control. My life was out of control. My parents could not be made to see reason. My siblings would not cooperate. My grades were never as high as I wanted them to be. The popular girls measured their status by how thin they were – and I was a nerd. Even though I knew it wasn’t true, I hoped that if I could be the best at this, I might have found a way to be accepted. I knew I could be the thinnest (ie: best). I knew I could control food. It was one thing that was utterly mine.
It’s not about what you weigh.
That’s merely a tangible yardstick of your success. I cared about what the scale said not because I had a goal weight in mind, but because the numbers were real and clearly indicated that I was “winning”.
Forcing me to eat would not have helped.
People tried. They failed. All that did was to strengthen my resolve. I would not be controlled. Now, I understand that in cases more serious than mine this is the only way to save a life. However, unless you get to the heart of the problem, this solution is only temporary at best.
Fighting amongst yourselves does not help.
Blaming one another for my sickness is counter productive. I am trying to distract you from yourselves and unite you in a fight against something that matters. Please stop fighting.
Tiptoeing around me would not have helped.
People tried that, too. Even though I stubbornly refused conversation, I longed to be heard. A sincere airing of issues and a resolution to start improving would have been of immeasurable value in the early days.
Focusing on healthy nutrition is only a beginning of a cure.
An unexpected side effect of my experience with anorexia was that I learned that food could make me very sick, and abstinence from food could make me much better. I knew I’d have to start eating again eventually, but I now felt empowered to make choices that would support my body‘s unique requirements, rather than contributing to my general sense of malaise. However, when well-meaning friends and family tried to give me dietary advice, I was deaf. What they advised did not match up with my experience, and my anorexia was never about diet, anyway.
I destroyed my body in more ways than I ever anticipated.
Even though I would never talk about anorexia at that time, I did read about it. I told myself I was simply proving that I was NOT anorexic, but I think I was actually looking for tips. Perhaps I wasn’t reading the right material, but I can’t recall seeing much to prepare me for the devastation I wrought in my body. My hormones have never been balanced since then. I developed endometriosis and battled for a long time to fall pregnant. I lost a baby. My hair is strange. I have heart palpitations. And I have a slew of food allergies and intolerances that make virtually every meal a minefield. I was not expecting any of that. I thought I could turn it off like a switch.
I have become the Food Police
My years of research into nutrition have resulted in a Mama who insists that her kids eat three healthy, balanced, Paleo meals each and every day, and get plenty of snacks and fresh water. Sugar is not tolerated. Starch is only allowed on VERY rare occasions – and even then, never gluten. My girls know more about the effect of GMOs and processed foods than most people my age. I never force them to finish the food on their plates, however, and go all Mama Bear on anyone who does. I also invest a significant amount of time into keeping food and figure separate. My girls think of themselves and others as perfectly beautiful creations of God – regardless of their size. Ugly is on the inside: poor manners and cruelty, not looks.
I will never be WELL – although I AM better.
What I discovered is that I have will power. For months after my appendectomy, I didn’t want to eat. I had conditioned myself to resist the urge. But I knew I needed to, and I had discovered that I could control my instincts and my body with my strong will. I used that, and it worked. I rechannelled my energy into learning about excellent nutrition, balanced exercise, and a sense of perspective. I stopped trying to be the top of the class, and focused on being the best version of me that I could be. The irony was that I did better than I might otherwise have done as a result of my new, improved attitude. I became a nicer person, too – more tolerant. I stopped trying to make people be what I expected them to be. My parents began to heal their marriage, I focused on the friends who brought out the best in me, and I learnt to be less selfish and more attentive.
While it’s not a path I would ever recommend or choose again, I am much better for having walked it than I would otherwise be.
I am still walking this path. When my life feels like it is spinning out of control, my thoughts often head straight for fasting. It seems to be a short-circuit in my brain, thinking that not eating solves everything. It doesn’t. I know that. But I sometimes need to remind myself.
If you’ve faced an eating disorder, or you love someone who has, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The neural pathways that led us to such extremes are hard to rewire. Let me know your experiences in the comments below. I’d love to connect with you on this important topic.
Red Riding Hood is a deep thinker. She ponders ideas and philosophies, turning them round and round in her beautiful young head until she begins to find the sense, the meaning behind it all.
This is most apparent when it comes to pondering her faith. We feel strongly that it is our duty to teach our children what we believe to be true. If we saw them heading towards certain and imminent death – walking onto a busy highway, for instance – we’d be compelled to stop them, correct them, and show them the right way. The safe way. To save them from certain death. In the same way, it is only right that we teach them what we believe to be the only way to be truly Safe.
Having said that, we encourage them always to seek the truth. Truth is robust. It cannot be contained. It cannot be ignored. It cannot be denied. It certainly should not be feared. Above all, it must be sought. I encourage my girls to ask questions, to keep digging into all they know, until they are completely satisfied that they have found the truth. And then I encourage them to dig some more. No question is taboo. No answer is too unpalatable to be given.
No matter the cost, we must know the truth. I want to know the truth. I want to believe the truth. It’s not a case of wanting what I believe to be true, although of course I want that. Who wouldn’t want the assurance of knowing that their beliefs are true? And who would wilfully continue to believe something they know to be false, after all?
Quetions are our friends. They lead us to truth. So the girls are never discouraged from asking as many questions as they can think of, to anyone who will take the time answer.
A shaky foundation?
Red Riding Hood has a persistent fear. She is concerned that her faith isn’t real. We’ve covered this ground over and over again, and it’s taken me some time to get to the heart of the problem. This week we had a breakthrough. Even though Red believes in the fundamentals of our faith, sometimes she has doubts. These very doubts provoke the questions of all true truth seekers.
When I understood that, I could address her fears properly for the first time.
The fact is that it is these very doubts that create the need for faith. They justify faith. Without them, all we’d have is knowledge. Knowledge is good and pure, valuable. The Bible tells us that the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. That is the way to pure truth. But faith is a beautiful thing. It brings with it a sense of mystery, an aspect of the divine. Faith sets us apart from the animals. Faith makes us human. It gives us purpose. It gives us hope. Faith gives us the strength to keep going.
Without faith, we are less than we could be. Less than we ought to be.
And if we have no doubt, we cannot have faith. Our doubts define the course of our life’s journey towards truth. But they serve a higher purpose in creating the requirement for a deep, unwavering faith. In these ways they do us a great service.
How about you? Do you ever doubt your faith? Do those doubts make you question the validity of what you hold to be true? I encourage you to recognise those doubts as opportunities for growth. Allow the questions they give rise to to lead you down new paths of enquiry. Embrace the faith that holds you to the truth. And never, ever fear truth. As St Augustine famously said,
“The truth is like a lion. You don’t have to defend it. Let it loose. It will defend itself.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
4Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.8 Love never ends.
This is true love.
We talk about love all the time, don’t we? “How do you know if it’s true love?” “How can I show my love?” “Does he love me? I wanna know! How can I tell if he loves me so?”
The point is that love is a verb. It is an action word – a doing word. And the person doing the loving is YOU!
11 practical ways to demonstrate love in action:
- Be patient. Don’t expect the person you love to change over night – or at all.
- Be kind. Cutting words and cold sarcasm are destructive weapons, destroying souls in their wake.
- Don’t envy, and don’t boast. Don’t crave what someone else has. Don’t begrudge them their success or joy. And don’t rub their noses in yours.
- Remember that you’re no better than anyone else. Don’t be arrogant. No one is inferior to you. Don’t be rude. No one deserves that. Ever. And it demeans you to behave that way.
- Don’t demand your own way. What are you? A Four year old? Since when is getting your own way the best thing – even if you ARE right?
- Don’t be irritable or resentful. I battle with this. I resent what I perceive as me having to do everything while Papa Bear seems to me to be doing nothing. It makes me irritable, cold and mean. And then it makes me ashamed when I realise all he has done, and how I have allowed in self-pity like a petulant child. I could save myself a lot of mojo-sapping negativity by simply applying this principle. Just don’t let it get to you. It’s never worth it.
- Don’t celebrate poor responses to life’s trials. That means “don’t laugh at your girl friend’s mean joke about her useless husband.” It’s not funny, it’s not kind, and it does no one any good. Even if it is accurate and witty.
- Rejoice in the truth. The truth is, you love that person because God loves that person. And because God loves you. Not because they (or you!) deserve it. We deserve nothing. We get infinite riches. That’s definitely something to rejoice about in my book!
- Take it (you can, and you must); endure it. Loving someone difficult may be hard. Bear it. You can bear it, I promise you. Endure what you face now. It will be worth it in the long run. It really, truly will.
- Believe in the person you love; hope for the results you desire. No matter what they do to erode your faith, believe. Hope for the change and, infinitely more importantly, be the change. It doesn’t start anywhere but with YOU. And even if you never see the future you’ve been hoping for, your faith will be counted for righteousness.
- Never give up. Hang in there when it’s tough. Hold on tight to your Saviour: He is your anchor. Stay the course and look ahead: the light IS there, no matter how far the end of your tunnel may seem to be.
I want to run this race and be proud of my results. I want to run well. I want to run to the end. I don’t need to be happy as much as I need to be successful. Sometimes, those two things are not the same thing; sometimes they don’t go together. Sometimes, doing the right thing, taking the high road, behaving with dignity and grace, makes you very sad indeed. But it is right. Not in the self-justifying sense of the word, but in the absolute sense of the word. No one can doubt that self-sacrifice for the good of another human being is noble and – well, good. So do it.
John 15:13 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
So lay down your life. Give it up. Give up the small dreams you may have nurtured for a fairy tale ever after, and choose instead the glory of a rich, hard-won eternity. You don’t need a half-life when you give your all to get it all, and gain a life along the way.
Live intentionally. Live your best.
– By Vanessa Davies – daily discovering Joy on a Shoestring.
If you’ve decided to live your best, please let me know. Did you start today? Last week? Last year? If not, what’s holding you back? I’d love to hear from you.
Papa Bear is depressed.
I don’t mean that he is sad. It’s not that he “feels blue” or is “out of sorts”. He has depression. We’ve analysed it, and it seems apparent that he’s suffered this debilitating condition since at least his late teens, if not longer.
What does this mean?
Well, it means that he’s tired all the time. He is physically incapable of “helping out” around the house. It’s all he can do to get up in the morning, and seeing clients a few times a week takes mammoth self-motivation. Billing clients is practically a superhuman feat. Once these basics have been achieved, he has no resources left.
It means he needs to be taken care of. He needs someone to make sure he eats well and gets adequate nutrition. He needs help remembering – well, pretty much everything.
It means he needs understanding. He needs acceptance. He needs sympathy. He needs love.
He does not need condemnation or judgement. He gets enough of that from himself.
Giving it a name and understanding what it is and what he needs has been vital for me. I can accept the limitations his condition places on him, and not expect anything beyond what he is able to deliver. When he does more, I can accept that as a wonderful, unexpected gift. I can care for him unconditionally, as one would care for any sick or disabled person. He can’t help it.
It means that, a lot of the time, I’ll have to take up the slack a little bit when it comes to things like earning and income or taking care of the kids. Not because he doesn’t want to do those things; just because he can’t. Accepting that fact alone has been the defining characteristic of the past few weeks.
Working all things for good
I have been struggling with understanding how I can use this situation to help others, when I feel angry and isolated though it all.
Then, last week, we studied the story of Esther in Sunday School. Mordecai says to Esther:
“and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14c
In our church, and among my friends outside of church, at least 6 of the ladies are married to men who battle with depression. Most of them are on medication for this, and a few have even been hospitalised for it. When they try to reach out for support, they’re told to “honour your husband”, “stand by your man” and “pray for grace”. Those things may all be true, but hearing them doesn’t make you feel loved, supported or understood. It makes you feel alone.
That’s why I’m coming clean with a very personal story. Because perhaps I can help. Perhaps I can be here “for a time such as this”; I can understand. I can listen. I don’t have advice, but I do have experience, and I do have a little, tiny bit of hope. Perhaps I can share that.
– By Vanessa Davies – daily discovering Joy on a Shoestring.
Do you livewith someone battling depression? Do you battle it yourself? How do you cope? I’d love to hear your thoughts and advice on the subject.