As a young pastor, I took Jesus command to be a fisher of men seriously. My goal was and is to make disciples, equipping them for ministry. That goal is not unique or cloudy; it even seemed achievable in my community. I went to seminars and read books on church growth, consuming all the information I could get. I practiced what I learned and God blessed our little church plant with numerical and spiritual growth. Then, something started to happen that I did not expect. I should have expected it, but thought that our church was the exception. People started to leave the church. Some left because they got divorced or moved away. Others left because they had an interpersonal conflict, didn’t like the music, or didn’t like my preaching or leadership in general. I knew people change churches all the time, but in my head, I really didn’t think they would leave our church. Why would they? We had everything they needed and we were doing ministry, lots of ministry. My expectations were not only unrealistic, they were unhealthy. For years I lamented those who came to our church and eventually left it for one reason or another.
Unwittingly I had envisioned our church as a pond of sorts. People would come and I would minister to them and with them. I imagined the pond growing larger and larger eventually turning into a lake or reservoir. We would fish and God would draw people in, that was my logic. Unfortunately, this analogy set me up for failure. What I envisioned to be a pond is in reality a river.
The difference between a pond and a river is simple. A pond is where water collects, and fish live. A river is moving, it ebbs and flows as the tributaries supply it. Fish live in the river as well. Small streams add to larger streams and larger streams lead to rivers. Rivers typically flow into the oceans. When you think of yourself pastoring a pond of people you only pastor those that are in the pond. When you think of yourself pastoring a river, you pastor a section of the river and people ebb and flow through it. Some stay for a while, possibly even years or decades and others pass through your area rather quickly. Either way, you are responsible to pastor those who flow through your slice of the river.
I used to get upset and take it personally when people left our church for a different one. Now, I remind myself that I am only responsible to pastor those who are in the river in front of me. They may stay for a while or pass through quickly, and how long they stay is always a mystery. Do I want people to connect with the church and grow there? Absolutely. Do I want them to stay for a long duration? Absolutely. But if they swim to a different church I should not take it personally because they are still in the river and they are still being fed.
Changing my mindset to pastoring on the riverbank has helped me navigate the COVID-19 fiasco, stay in ministry for over 25 years, and look ahead with anticipation of what God will do in the future. After all, I pastor God’s church and shepherd God’s people, they don’t belong to me. All I can do is fish and feed them while they are part of our church community. You need to have the same mindset if you plan on being in ministry for the long haul. If you don’t, you will start to resent people if you haven’t already. You will be mentally and emotionally better off if you think of your ministry as part of a river.
Having been a pastor for more than 23 years, I can say with a high degree of confidence that there are many things that us pastors want to say to certain people within their church, but shouldn’t. If we did, it wouldn’t be very Christ-like or mature even if it made us temporarily feel better. I know that there have been plenty of times you wish you could have said what you felt, but chose to keep silent. Just for fun, I put together a list of eight comments every pastor wants to say to certain people but shouldn’t. As you read the list someone in your church might come to mind. Just promise me you won’t snicker when you see them this weekend. Enjoy.
1. I don’t like you.
I don’t like you and never have because you are a jerk. I try to love you and see you through compassionate eyes, but it’s a real struggle. Maybe it’s because your arrogant or you want public praise even though you contribute nothing. Maybe it’s because you have no integrity or insist on creating controversy over everything. Whatever the reason, I don’t like you and probably never will. There, I said it and I meant it, let that soak in you jackwagon.
2. Stop pretending to be generous because you aren’t.
You complain that the church isn’t giving enough to missions, that it should do more outreach, and that it has too many paid staff. At the same time, you put your kids in our kid’s ministry, attend services in a climate-controlled facility, and have even taken up my time receiving counsel and yet you don’t give anything. Really? Jesus called people like you hypocrites. In fact, you would make a really good Pharisee. Thanks for nothing, literally nothing.
3. You never share your faith so stop telling me how to do it.
Every week we talk about making disciples and it goes in one ear and out the other. You say “It wasn’t the right time to talk about my faith,” “I didn’t feel led” and “I’m waiting for the Lord to prompt me” knowing full well Jesus already told you to go tell the world about him. These lame excuses bore me. You don’t talk about your faith with anyone and then complain about how I share the gospel. Maybe our church isn’t growing very much is because you don’t share your faith, ever thought of that?
4. You need to shut up.
If Gossip was a sauce, you would smother everything in it. For being such an “upstanding” Christian, you have a big mouth. And when you say “bless their heart” it doesn’t mean that your criticism magically turned into a godly comment. Stop cutting others with your comments, it’s wrong and you should know that.
5. Do you actually listen to any of the message?
You are fascinated by the so-called “deeper” spiritual truths, but in reality, you don’t even apply simple truths like “make disciples of all nations” “love your neighbor” or “care for the poor.” All you do is consume and complain. Here is a thought: Get off your butt cheeks and serve somewhere, anywhere. Just stop asking to go deeper and start doing something with your faith.
6. Don’t just come to church to pick up chicks.
I know we have awesome coffee and an incredible environment. We have these to reach more people for Christ not just so you can sip coffee and try to pick up chicks as they walk in. That’s just wrong. It actually irritates me that you want to find a biblical woman but have no intentions of treating her like one. The next time I see you I might just kick you in the junk. You’re still single because you’re a prick.
7. Stop being a spiritual a-hole.
I have noticed that you have a “holier than thou” attitude and it’s irritating. You are not a better mom, dad, husband, wife, disciple, and person in general than me or anybody else. You put on a good show but behind your hyper-spiritual attitude we all know you have issues. Your farts still smell like everyone else. Knock it off and admit you are a work in progress like everybody else.
8. Feel free to leave anytime.
You have sat on the sidelines complaining about everything from the nursery being too crowded, the band being too loud, the music too fast, and that we don’t do enough to care for our members, and that the Elders have no idea how to lead the church. I have to be honest, why don’t you just find another church? Don’t worry about me; I’ll get over you leaving sooner than you think. And no, I’m not going to call and beg you to come back because I’m happy you are gone.
That’s the eight comments I would love to say. I could add dozens more, but these cover the basics. Ministry is tough, people are mean, and that’s life. We can laugh together because every pastor has those people in their church they want to throat punch. You are not the only one. Let’s laugh it out and get to the real work of making disciples. Remember to have thick skin and a tender heart, it will keep your first love in first place.
The Lewis and Clark Expedition began in 1804, when President Thomas Jefferson tasked Meriwether Lewis with exploring lands west of the Mississippi River that comprised the Louisiana Purchase. Their mission was to explore the unknown territory, establish trade with the Natives and affirm the sovereignty of the United States in the region. One of their goals was to find a waterway from the central US to the Pacific Ocean.
The excursion lasted over two years: Along the way they confronted harsh weather, unforgiving terrain, treacherous waters, injuries, starvation, disease and both friendly and hostile Native Americans. Nevertheless, the approximately 8,000-mile journey was deemed a huge success and provided new geographic, ecological and social information about previously uncharted areas of North America.
But they almost didn’t make it. They started their expedition in St. Louis and paddled, dragged, and lugged their canoes upstream fighting the current the entire way. In their minds, they thought they would struggle up to the head of the Missouri river and then they would find a new river that would carry them downstream all the way to the Pacific Ocean. When they got to the head of the Missouri they came face to face with something they did not expect. The Indians had told them there would be mountains and in their minds the mountains were like the hills of the Carolinas, instead they would be staring at the Rocky Mountains.
When they reached the mountains, Lewis and Clark had to make a decision. Would they turn back and plan for another expedition some day in the future or would they press ahead. Going back would be easier. They could float down the Missouri this time and they had mapped it out. If they pressed ahead they would be going off the map into the unknown.
The decision was an easy for Lewis and Clark because they had been tasked by President Jefferson to find a water route to the Pacific Ocean and that is exactly what they were going to do. They ditched their canoes and prepared to climb across the Rockies. It was a monumental shift.
Right now, you may be at a crossroads. COVID19 hit the world in the face and nobody understood just how much it would impact and change society. Now is the time to move into new territory. You will have to take risks that you have not taken before. You will have to look at how you do what you do differently. You will need to assess and reassess your current reality. You are going to have to go off the map.
For parents this means your kids might not go back to play all the sports they did. It might also open up opportunities for more family time due to changing work schedules. For youth it means you have more new opportunities to learn and grow in front of you than ever.
When Lewis and Clark made the decision to ditch their canoes, they let go of what was familiar to them and never looked back.
And for you, embrace the new opportunity you have. Maybe now is the time to search for a better career or a less stretched schedule. Ditch the canoes, you are not drifting back to where you were.
The Lewis and Clark expedition lasted from May 1804 until September 1806. Lewis and Clark failed to find a waterway from the Mississippi to the Pacific, but succeeded in documenting more than 100 new animals and 178 plants, as well as providing 140 maps of the region. It’s time for you to let go of what was and embrace the unknown and uncharted future. The bible says: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
It seems like racism tension erupt with every generation. In 1955 Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to white people on a bus in Montgomery Alabama. Consequentially she was arrested, and this led to the largest bus boycott in American history. The black community’s bus boycott marked one of the largest and most successful large-scale movements against racial segregation.
In the 1990’s Rodney King was pulled out of his car in L.A. by police who beat him mercilessly and it was all caught on camera. After the three officers were acquitted, the 1992 LA riots took place. Similar events took place after the death of George Floyd last year. Ahmaud Arbury was murdered by three white men who chased him down as he was out jogging in his South Georgia neighborhood. These are only the high-profile racial cases that made the news. Racial tension isn’t just a white on black or black on white issue. Racial tension exists between people of every color and ethnicity. This is not just an American issue either.
Racism is not feeling uncomfortable with people who don’t look like you, speak like you, or act like you. You are not a racist if you inquire about ones’ ethnicity or ask them questions related to their culture. You are not a racist if you don’t know what to say to a person of another ethnicity. You are not a racist if you don’t like Chinese food or Mexican food or spaghetti. You are not a racist if you avoid dangerous neighborhoods. You are not a racist for being proud of your ethnicity.
Racism is defined as prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior. Racism results in hatred, fear, and inhumane treatment toward someone because of the nation they’re from or the color of their skin.
Egyptians, Israelites, Romans, Greeks, Arabs, and Gentiles are all ethnicities mentioned in the bible. Back in biblical times, most ethnicities hated each other. Then came Jesus. Jesus came to seek and save the lost regardless of their social status, skin color, or position. Jesus was most likely around five feet tall with dark skin, dark hair, and brown eyes. He didn’t hold any political office or even have a house of his own. He moved from place to place teaching the Word of God.
The Samaritans were a mixed breed of Jews and pagan foreigners who created a religion for themselves that the Jews considered heresy. To the Jews, a Samaritan was more revolting than a Gentile. That is what makes the parable of the Good Samaritan so powerful. The parable is recorded in Luke 10:30-37. As the parable goes, two men pass a wounded Jewish man who has been beaten by robbers. They do not stop to help. Then a Samaritan man sees the wounded Jewish man and helps him. The Samaritan, who Jews never saw as the hero of any story, was the hero. He stopped to help the injured Jewish man and even paid for his care. Not only was Jesus teaching the significance of helping others, the greater point is that racism is wrong.
What will it take for racism to fade into history? It will take the perfect love of Christ lived out daily in your life. Check your heart for racism and demonstrate the love of Christ always. If you believe that all people are created in the image of God, then treat them with the love of God. You be the Good Samaritan. The Apostle John writes; “And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.” 1 John 3:23
Hate is not an option for Christians. Don’t just talk about loving others, show it. Live it out. Not just with your people group, but with others you are yet to know.
Every spring after the snow melts an ugly roadside scene emerges. All of the discarded trash and debris tossed and lost from automobiles and trucks over the winter is exposed on the ground. This litter makes scenic roads, well, less scenic. And until someone stepped up to do something about it, the trash just kept piling up. Everyone saw the problem, but nobody was doing anything to fix it. Then came James Evans.
In the 1980’s James Evans worked as an engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation. One day he noticed debris flying out of a pickup truck bed. The flying trash sparked a crazy idea. Evans invited a local group to “adopt” a section of road that they would keep clean. The Texas Department of Transportation would pay for the bagged trash to be hauled away on a quarterly basis. Unfortunately, his efforts were short lived and the concept died. A short while later Public Information Officer for TxDOT’s Tyler District, Billy Black, became involved. He built upon Evans idea working hard to make it a reality. Billy came up with the idea of erecting “Adopt-a-Highway” roadside signs that recognize the volunteers and organizations who do the clean-up. Black provided volunteer safety training, reflective vests, equipment, and the concept took off. Within just a few months, more than 50 groups in the region surrounding Tyler, Texas had joined the new program. It quickly spread to 49 other states, Puerto Rico, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan. Today there are over 90,000 groups participating in the program.
What would happen if Christians decided to get involved in cleaning up their communities? I am not talking about just sacking roadside trash, but actually cleaning up their communities by caring for the poor, hungry, homeless, and widowed. What if Christians got involved in creating mental health solutions or assisting the addicted. What would happen if Christians got involved in politics and started supporting Christian values, morals, and ethics? What would happen if Christians stopped complaining about at all the problems in the neighborhood and started helping their neighbors one by one? What would happen if Christians began to care about their neighbors and loved them like Christ does? What would happen if more Christians served on the school board, with the PTO, and voted for people who actually want to make society better? I believe that everybody would win and society would be a more beautiful place. Christ’s love would be shown, people would find hope, families would be strengthened, and lives would be changed. We would have less suicide, depression, and isolation. We would have more community, love, and understanding.
I am convinced that there is no better time than now for Christians to step up and help make a difference. For all practical purposes, our world is not getting any better. According to most polls, people feel more hopeless and helpless now than they did 10 years ago. We need to step up and step up in a big way. Jesus never tells believers to sit on the sidelines and just pray for someone else to do something. Jesus tells believers to let their light shine and to make a difference. How are you making a difference? God doesn’t expect you to fix everything wrong in the world, but he does expect you to adopt a piece of it and let the Holy Spirit work through you to clean it up. You can help and when you do, you will help make this world a better place.
Prayer is more than talking to God and asking him to provide this and that; prayer involves listening to what God is telling you. I have never heard God speak audibly to me, so when he speaks to me it is always a tug on my heart, peace in a decision with my decision, or a prompting to take action.
Christians are called to be people of faith. That means they believe an answer is coming even when one can’t see it yet. Conversely, if you are not searching for the will of God, you won’t be able to know and follow the will of God. Here are three thoughts to consider when you are trying to understand what God is saying.
1. Do I feel God leading me to proceed, stop, or wait? God is always at work around you so expect Him to provide you with an answer. Just because you don’t have clarity now it doesn’t mean you won’t have clarity later. Trust the gentle leading of the Holy Spirit to lead you and guide you to the place God wants you to be or help you make the decision you need to make. A good indicator that you are following the will of God is when you pray about it and God gives you peace about what to do next. God’s peace will rest on the right answer.
2. Do I feel God leading me to do or view something different? When you seek God and listen to him for the answer, you need to be open to another option if the option you really want doesn’t happen. Maybe God wants to do something different. It’s amazing what you will see if you pay attention to what is happening around you. I call it the third option. There is always a third option and usually the other options have to close before God reveals it. It might be a new solution, a change in circumstances, or even access to new resources you didn’t have when you started seeking God’s will.
Luke recorded a situation Paul was having in Acts 16:6-10. The Apostle Paul longed for God to open a door for him to travel to the east to preach the Gospel, but God never let him go there. Instead God had a different place in mind. One night Paul had a dream about a man in Europe calling out to him to come and preach there, so he went and his trip produced results.
3. Do I feel God doing a work in my heart? When I pray God moves my heart. He wants me to learn patience or grace or forgiveness. When God seems silent, reflect on your own life and see if God wants to change you. God might be doing a work in your life to be more generous with your finances and time. On more than one occasion I felt led to give financially to a project after praying about it. That is God doing a work in your heart and you know when he is. You can feel it. Don’t dismiss the tug of God on your heart. When you ignore the tug on your heart is leads to regret. And if you dismiss the tug enough, eventually you won’t even feel it and that is a bad place to be.
King David was a man with a checkered past. He was a bad father, sent people into battle knowing they would die, and committed adultery. Yet in spite of all his weaknesses, he loved God with his whole heart and sought the will of God. In Psalm 66 David writes:
“You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.” Psalm 63:1-2
God is constantly speaking, you need to listen for his small voice leading you. Pray, then listen. Talk to God about anything and everything and when you ask him for an answer, listen for it. He will provide an answer.
The hardest person in the world to manage is you, and you are the only one who can do it. You are the only one who can manage your emotions, spiritual life, and relationships. Nobody else can do it for you. Just like no one else can’t work out for you or eat for you; you can’t have someone else manage you. You can hire a coach, ask for help, or find a mentor, but ultimately only you can manage you.
Here is a little formula that works:
Intention + Action = Outcome.
You can have all the good intentions in the world but unless you act on those intentions nothing is going to happen. Last fall I intended to lose 10 pounds but didn’t change my eating habits. So, now I weight the same.
That formula applies to most things and it certainly applies to your spiritual life. Spiritual growth happens by intention. If you intend to grow spiritually, you need to take action. You can’t outsource or delegate your own spiritual growth. Only you can commit to spiritual growth.
If you don’t commit to it, you won’t grow. We become what we are committed to. Jesus says: “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” Matthew 4:19.
Spiritual growth is a gradual process that takes place over time. The key is to stay connected to Christ. In John 15, Jesus uses a fruit tree as an example of how to grow. He says, “stay connected to me”.
“5I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
The biblical term for spiritual growth is sanctification. Sanctification is the process of continually giving your fleshly desires over to God so that the Holy Spirit will be able to make you more Christ like.
For example, as you give your anger to God, there is room for God’s peace to fill that space that anger used to occupy. God cannot fill what he cannot have. Give that space of anger over to God so he can fill it with peace and love.
If you struggle with lust, fill that space with prayer. Pray that your husband or wife will meet your needs, and you theirs. If you are single, pray that God will provide you the right person if you desire to get married or remarried.
The Japanese use the word kaison which means “a little bit better every day”. If you get just a little better every day you will be continually improving. They applied the concept of kaison to car making and that is why Japan makes some of the best cars in the world. Back in the late 60’s nobody would buy a Japanese car because their quality was so poor. Then they started practicing kaison. By the 80’s, while American made cars were only going 100,000 miles, Japanese cars started lasting over 200,000. Now we expect cars to last well over 200,000 miles all because the Japanese committed to building better cars.
The same principle applies to spiritual growth, but instead of kaison the bible calls it sanctification. Growing closer to Christ day by day, as you choose to stay connect to Him day by day.
It takes time for your life to change, and it will if you are intentional and committed. If your spiritual life is the same now as it was two years ago, you need to ask yourself: “Am I growing spiritually?” If not, you need to figure out why not. Only you can manage you. There is no better time than right now to start strengthening your spiritual life. It will help you in every other area of your life.
I have decided to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to me. Jesus tells believers to love their neighbors, and this is just one small way I can do that. There are dozens of theories out there that debunk the vaccine or depict it as some form of governmental control. A few blogs I have read even declare that the vaccine will change your DNA. In my opinion, there will always be conspiracy theories. You may not agree with me, you have the right to your own opinion, but I also have the right to mine. I am not for forcing the vaccine on anyone, but I do plan on being vaccinated.
Back in the 1950’s polio was ripping through the country. In 1952 the US saw the worst polio outbreak. The disease affected some 58,000 people, killing more than 3,000 and paralyzing 21,000, most of whom were children. Parents were concerned about their children fearing their kids would wind up in an “iron lung,” a device that enabled a person to breath but literally robbed them of living. Thousands of people ended up in wheelchairs, hospitals, and even died. People stopped using public pools and were afraid to spend much time in public. When Dr. Salk’s vaccine was proven effective in 1954 the biggest fear people had was that there would not be enough vaccine for their kids. By 1962 the number of new polio cases in the U.S. had dropped to less than 1,000. By the year 2000 polio was virtually extinct in the U.S. and rare worldwide. I am sure that even in the 1950’s there were conspiracy theories surrounding the vaccine, yet it worked and society is better because of it.
The reason I will be getting the vaccine is simple, I don’t want to get COVID-19 again and I don’t want to potentially unwittingly infect others. I also despise wearing a mask and am irritated by all the social distancing stuff. We were made to be connected in community and social distancing has profound psychological affects on people, especially the elderly, children, and young adults. By getting the vaccine I am hoping to help society move forward faster. I enjoy going out to eat, hugging people, and shaking hands. Nothing warms my heart more than seeing someone smile. Wearing masks ruins all that. So, I want to put the whole mask mandate in the rearview mirror.
I fully anticipate the naysayers and fearmongers to push wearing masks in public all the time, even when we are past COVID-19. I adamantly disagree with their baseless rationale. I reject fear in Jesus’ name and want to help people - getting the vaccine is one simple way of doing that.
Back when the plagues struck Europe, it was the Christians who cared for the sick and the dead. When everyone else ran from the plague, Christians stayed to serve. In the same way, I will continue to minister to people, pray with people, and care for people as I have always tried to do. And if I get COVID-19 again before I get the vaccine, so be it. That is a risk I am willing to take to minister to people in need. When the vaccine becomes available to me, I do plan on getting it. I want to love my neighbor like Jesus tells me to do. Getting the vaccine isn’t compromising my faith or theology, it’s the right thing to do for me and everyone I am trying to disciple and share the gospel with.
The hardest person on the planet to manage is you. That’s right you. Many people can manage great companies while failing miserably at managing their own life. You are the only one who can manage your life, so you need to manage it well.
In my conversations with people, especially during COVID, I have often heard certain words repeated over and over. Words like: exhausted, stressed, anxiety, tired, anxious, isolated, and depressed. The people who use these words are from all ages and stages of life.
Surveys show a major increase in the number of U.S. adults who report symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression during the pandemic, compared with surveys before the pandemic. Some people have increased their use of alcohol or drugs, thinking that can help them cope with their fears about the pandemic.
(https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/mental-health-covid-19/art-20482731, accessed 21 December 2020)
The Mental Health Association reported that in May and June of 2020 anxiety screenings were 406% greater than in January of the same year, while screenings for depression were 457% greater. A six-fold increase was noted for those considering suicide or “self-harm.”
(https://journals.lww.com/ajnonline/Fulltext/2020/11000/Mental_Health_Effects_of_COVID_19.5.aspx, accessed 21 December 2020)
I understand what it feels like to have stress. At one point in my life, I was so stressed that I had to wear a mouth guard because I was grinding teeth at night.
In my experience, there are a handful of key practices that will help you manage your emotional health during these difficult times.
First, remember that this is a season and it will pass. King Solomon was incredibly wise. He writes: “1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). There are two types of time, Chronos time and Kairos time. Chronos time refers to clock and calendar time. There are 24 hours in every day and seven days in every week. That is clock and calendar time. Kairos time refers to seasons. Think of it like seasons of the year or seasons of life. For example, there is a time to be single and a time to be married (if you choose). There is a season when you may have young children and a season when you parent adult children. COVID is a season and this season will pass. You will be the happiest and most fulfilled in life when you learn how to embrace both types of time.
Second, stay connected to God because it will help you stay emotionally grounded. When I feel connected to God, the rest of my life feels manageable. When I feel God’s love and open to the Holy Spirit’s gentle promptings, my quality of life goes up. This shouldn’t be a surprise since Jesus says: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Third, invest in life-giving relationships. If you feel loved and like you are able to give love, you are more likely to feel emotionally healthy. Not every family relationship is healthy to maintain. Sometimes it is healthier to end or pause a relationship, even with a family member, rather than to try to fix it.
Everyone needs a refrigerator friend. This is the friend who is so comfortable around you that when they are in your house, they go in your fridge to get what they want. If you don’t have someone in your life like this, ask God to bring the right person into your life, He will.
And finally, take time to have some fun. What do you like to do for fun? Do you like to watch movies, bike, or cook? Find something to do that fills your fun-bucket in this season of life and do it.
God wants you to be emotionally healthy. Getting emotionally healthy isn’t just a one-time decision, it’s a lifestyle. Right now, your emotional health is more important than ever and only you can manage it, so manage it well.
I have a long list of complaints. I don’t like this social distanced way of living even a single bit. I hate wearing a mask, don’t like seeing businesses close, wish I could go see a new movie, don’t like seeing people get sick, struggle with my kids “distance learning” efforts, can’t stand all the political division, and the list goes on and on. It’s easy to get caught up in all the problems because they keep popping up faster than one can count. I have even limited the amount of time I spend watching the news because it’s depressing. It’s not that I am pretending that everything is good, I’m just choosing to catch the highlights and not get bogged down in the mud.
You probably have a list of complaints just like I do. This past year has been a dismal mess for many. The question is “Who can we share our list of complaints with?” Sure, you could fire off emails, pound out nasty texts, and make scathing phone calls, but the truth is that the schools dislike distance learning as much as you do. Restaurant owners are just as frustrated with limited capacity as you. Sick people don’t like being sick and healthy people don’t like wearing masks. So, complaining to everyone doesn’t help anyone.
There is one person who is willing to listen to your litany of complaints. He is the one who knows exactly how you feel. He was lonely, let down, betrayed, gossiped about, and beaten by people who hated him. He felt the sting of a whip, the agony of death, and by the grace of His heavenly Father, the joy of being resurrected from the grave. He is interested in your life and wants to be present with you in it.
I encourage you to bring your complaints to Jesus. Maybe you have never done this or are afraid that he doesn’t want to hear about your problems. Nothing is further from the truth. King David wrote many of the Psalms recorded in the bible. He complained to God about his enemies, his lack of food at times, and his frustration that God seemed silent just when needed the most. Another book in the Old Testament was written by a man of God named Jeremiah. If you read the book that bears his name, it can be depressing. Jeremiah was not known for his humor, he is remembered for his depression. Yet God inspired them to write their feelings and emotions down for you and I to see. God wants you to know that he is with you in victory or defeat. He cares about you and understands your situation. God is big enough to handle our complaint lists - he handled David’s and Jeremiah’s just to name two.
When you share your complaints with God, He will fill you with His peace. It’s a supernatural thing that is hard to explain, but awesome to experience. In the past month I have had more intense conversations with God over my frustrations than I can remember. Every time I bared my heart God filled me with His presence. Just knowing that God is in control calms me. Talking to Him in prayer centers me on what matters most, my relationship with Jesus Christ. When you talk to God in prayer it will center you as well. God will fill your tank, calm your storm, and give you peace regardless of how many complaints you have. So in this season, trust God and take comfort in knowing that he cares about you and loves you. Talk to Him about everything that is near and dear to you even if it’s your list of complaints. By the grace of God, you will get through this if you lean into your faith. God is with you.