Tag Archives: contentment

Considering Suicide?

Dear Friends,

Suicide is one of the most difficult issues I deal with. Being a pastor and military chaplain, I see it quite a bit more than most other people probably do. And usually, I’m the one who is called to sit with (if not inform) the family, sort things out with the friends, speak to the unit, and try with all my heart get others who are considering a similar course of action to reconsider. I have to admit – these tasks are not easy. Why? Because when someone makes the decision to take their own life, it’s not just their life they are taking. In a very real sense, they’re taking the lives of those around them that love them so much. A mom. A sister. A friend. A fellow soldier. No one wins when suicide happens.

Here’s the thing that I’ve never been able to understand – and please know that these are just my own reflections on the subject – I’m certainly not trying to be judgmental, but I’ve never been able to understand how a person could feel like life was so bad that they had to end it. I know life gets bad for a lot of people, even most people, at some point in life. A relationship fails, a career tanks, a loved one is lost, personhood is violated, self-esteem and dignity are shattered — and sometimes all these things happen all at once, and they don’t ever show any signs of stopping. In the end, I guess some people just get enough of it and see no reason to think that tomorrow will be any better than today. And I guess that’s a legitimate feeling – depending on what you believe about the world and your place in it. But here’s where God comes in.

I honestly believe (and the Bible actually teaches) that when His kids hurt, God hurts. Our tears are important to Him. When our dreams are lost, He grieves with us, even if we fail to recognize His presence. When we make poor decisions that hurt and embarrass us, He defends us when everyone else wants to stone us. When life becomes lifeless, He’s the one who invites us to trade in the crappy, failed, flawed life we used to have for true and abundant life – the life that can only come through the mystical union He invites us to have with Himself through the infinite but personal power of the Holy Spirit. And when we want to die, He reminds us that we don’t have to because Jesus already did. We may feel that life sucks, and we make think that our life is in no danger of ever getting any better. “Same crap, different toilet” may be how we view our world, but God invites us to come out of the bathroom altogether. He invites us outside of the homes we have built for ourselves and into a new world He has built just for us – one of fresh hope, life, purpose, and knowledge of Him.

If only people could see Jesus and the intense and intentional love He has for them. If only people could know that He has the power to change their world, along with their heart. If only people could know that their future doesn’t have to be anything like their past, and that they have a Father who is ready, willing, and able to rescue them from the despair and depression into which life has thrown them – maybe then they would reconsider ending it all. Maybe then they would take a step toward experiencing the glory of God by becoming, themselves, fully alive.

This is a strange post, I admit – and to be honest, I’m still praying through a lot of it. But I guess my point is this. If you ever find yourself in such despair that you don’t think life is worth living any longer – please hear me. Life IS worth living. And God is ready to show you the life HE has for you if you’re willing to stop trying to control your own.

Maybe you’re alone and need to vent. Maybe you just need to be around some people who will love on you. Whatever you need, I assure you that if you are willing, God has someone already stationed in your life who is ready to help – wherever you are. For example, God has given me the privilege of serving as the pastor of one of the most caring, loving, and friendly churches you’ll ever find on planet earth. If you visit The Rising, you won’t leave there unloved. And if you just need to talk with someone, you are always welcome to call us. Myself or one of our other staff members are always ready to make a new friend, share stories, and walk together to discover how God wants to revolutionize our lives by teaching us to stop focusing on our lives.

Please don’t feel as if you’re alone. You’re not. God is there. So are His people. He always has been there – and He wants you. He wants you SO bad. Just give Him a shot. If you do, your world will change. Guaranteed.

Before you give your life away to nothing – try giving it to Him first.

Never give up. Never give up. Never give up!!!

May you Know the Abundance of His Presence, His Spirit, and His Love.

Yours,
J

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Joy: Now, Not Later

Dear Friends,

There are a lot of things in my life that I wanted that I don’t have – and I think every man’s temptation is to focus on those. But today, God was able to show me that what I DO have brings me more joy than any of the crap I thought I wanted in life. Enjoying the weather, cooking breakfast, and getting excited about the coming of Summer may not seem like significant, earth-shattering events in life – but I’m learning that these are the things – the everyday things – wherein God gives us great joy. I don’t have to make millions, have political power, or enjoy all the sensual pleasures life has to offer in order to experience the fullness of God’s joy. Why? Because His joy – His presence – is right in front of me every second of every minute of every hour of every day. The trick is learning how to recognize that it’s right there – not somewhere else – and that every bit of peace and contentment we’re all after in life is totally available always – no matter what the circumstance. I was able to see that today – even if just for a moment.

God, teach us to live in that kind of vision. Don’t let us fall into the trap of believing that joy – real joy – exists anywhere else but in Your presence. Show me your life in every raindrop, every breakfast, every wonderful memory in the making, and in every experience where I suffer. I know You’re always there. Help me to remember, even when I’m weak and my memory fails me.

Yours,
Jason

Wish for What You Have – Not for What You Don’t

Dear Friends,

I believe the health of your soul deserves serious attention.  Why?  Because even if the world around you caves in – your money, job, physical health, you name it – a healthy soul will always sustain you and give you joy even when the “outside” of your life looks (at least to others) like it’s crumbling.  That being the case, I’d like to share with you something I’ve come to believe can be absolutely detrimental to the health of your soul.  Some call it want.  Some call it greed.  But whatever name you give it, it’s that sickness deep within us that is never satisfied with what we have.  It’s that spirit that says, “Yes, I’m financially taken care of – but I really want to get the next level – and I’ll do whatever it take to get there,” or “Yeah, my wife is hot and we have a good sex life, but man that woman I work with – I wouldn’t mind…,” or (for all the pastors out there) “My church is stable, healthy and growing – even when most churches these days are in decline – but I can’t rest until we get to ‘mega-church’ status,” or “I have lots of nice outfits in the closet, but I just have to have a new one.”

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I know that there’s such a thing as a healthy or godly discontent (i.e. you have a horrible marriage, you’re distraught about it, and you want to work hard to make it better), but that’s not what I’m talking about.  I’m taking about when your happiness, peace, joy, etc. can’t be sustained unless you “have more.”  Whether the issue is money, sex, power, success, influence, popularity, stuff, etc. – the disease is the same regardless of the manifestation.  As evidenced by your lack of peace, your soul is not healthy.  It feels bad – and you try to make it feel better by distracting it with “stuff.”  But this never works.  You may get that job, but if your soul isn’t healthy, you’ll lose your peace until you get a promotion.  You may finally get that boat – but sooner or later you’ll start noticing that it’s not big enough – and you’ll experience serious unrest until you get the bigger one.  Maybe you can bench press more that 90% of the guys your size in America, but somehow, you can’t be happy until you can get to the 95th percentile.  Do you see what I mean?  It’s a never ending rabbit-chasing endeavor – a cycle that will only end with your death.  Why live that way?  Why not learn to wish for what you do have rather than for what you don’t have?

Dante’s Inferno is arguably the greatest poem of all time.  In it, Dante is guided on a tour of hell, purgatory, and heaven – in that order.  Near the end of the poem, Dante is in heaven and encounters a woman who, though she is in heaven, is a good distance away from God’s throne.  There are many, many people who are closer.  Dante asks her, “Don’t you ever wish you were closer to the throne?”  In other words, “Doesn’t it bug you that you are so far away while so many people are so close?”  The woman’s answer was, in the eyes of T.S. Eliot, the most beautiful single verse in the history of poetry.  I’ll let you read it in the original for yourself, but the woman’s response was basically this:  “In heaven, things are different.  Here, we don’t wish for what we don’t have – we wish for what we do have.  And what we have is a life in the center of God’s will, and,” and here’s the beautiful part, “in His will is our peace.”

Think about that.  God makes available to each of us those greatest of blessings – His presence, His will, and His peace – but somehow we think that other things – things that are “external” to our own souls – will bring peace and contentment to our souls.  This is crazy!  Our souls are not made of the physical order of things and they won’t be strengthened by anything in the physical order.  To have the life, peace, contentment and joy that we were made by God to have, we must go outside of the physical order.  We must go to God directly – but to do that, we have make Him #1 and put in their place all the selfish pursuits that may have little to do with Him.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t work for a promotion, but I am saying that if my peace is in a promotion, I should probably take a leave of absence and get spiritually healthy before I lose my soul to a pursuit which, in 10,000 years, won’t mean jack squat.  Remember what Jesus said:

“And he said to them, Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’” (Luke 12:15)

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36)

Here’s the point:  Your soul is the most important part of who you are.  It’s not that your job, wealth, sex life, etc. are not important things – it’s just that they are far less important and far more temporal than the life and health of your soul.  That being the case, take the other things for what they are – but don’t make them more important than they are.  Definitely do not look for your peace in them – because the moment you gain peace in “things,” your sick soul will begin looking for the “next thing” to satisfy it because you have refused to satisfy it with the only thing that can ultimately satisfy it: vibrant communion with God.  I’ll write more on that later, but for now – ask yourself, “Am I the kind of person whose contentment is based on situations and stuff?  Or is it based on on the healthy and vitality of my soul?”

My prayer for all who are reading this post (and that’s you!) is that you’ll be receptive to God’s voice, as He says to you, “Wish for what you have – not for what you don’t have, and in such wishes find a healthy soul, and in finding a healthy soul, find my will, and in finding my will, find your peace.”

Yours,
Jason