by Steven Gledhill for FREEdom from MEdom Project… CLICK HERE to return to Page 1
Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 (NLT)
Of primary importance for each an every one of us is the value of freedom. Think about it. In everything we do, whether we do it for ourselves or someone else, freedom is the goal.
We want to be free from conflict and tension. When you are the most free it benefits me, and when I am most free it benefits you. We want to be free from anxiety and stress, discomfort and pain, in every facet of living. Whether it involves our relationships, our health, our finances, our expectations, the expectations of others; the chief motivator is realizing a genuine sense of freedom of each and every experience.
When active and mobile for too long, we need to rest and relax to settle the discomfort of fatigue and exhaustion. When inactive and immobile for too long, we need to alleviate the anxiety of boredom and restlessness. As the stress builds and escalates over time becoming increasingly painful, it becomes cumbersome and burdensome requiring relief and escape. There is the inherent need to apply a remedy for discomfort; to be set free from pain and struggle.
Living is the exercise of pursuing freedom. Freedom is satisfying. Freedom is comfortable. Freedom is contentment. Freedom is loving. Freedom without love isn’t free. And love that isn’t free isn’t love, which begs the question… What really is love, anyway?
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18 (NKJV)
Love appears to be the classic double-edged sword. Love at its best is exchanged and experienced freely. How often does that actually happen? How common is that kind of love?
The best love would be described as patient and kind; love that perseveres and is sacrificial; love that hates injustice and is always fair; love that is never conceited so it is never envious or covetous; love that is always trusting and trustworthy and therefore always confident and fearless; and it’s loves that is honest, righteous, and it goes the distance, no matter what. It is love that never fails because it is perfect.
So guess what? If you have never experienced that kind of love, join the club. No one has from another human being. It’s not possible.
As amazing as the experience of the best love is, love is also torment for most of us at one time or another. Flawed love is selfish and is contentious in one way or another; to one extent or another.
Even love of self is contentious and tormenting. It is love of self that seeks relief in the form of some kind of remedy, even if that remedy proves destructive and oppositional to that which is healthy, constructive, promising, and productive. Even what appears to be self-loathing is rooted in an unhealthy love of self since self-loathing behavior is initially an effort to experiencing relief, to feeling better than whatever it is that emotes heartache. If self-abusers had no love of self, they would be indifferent to their own needs and wouldn’t care enough to generate the effort to be self-destructive.
The mantra of human love can be described as something like, “I love me and I love you for what you do for me.” Most of us have difficulty admitting that our love is flawed… selfish. It’s not easy admitting the truth about love that isn’t perfect. Love is inherently selfish. Put a few toddlers in a room for awhile, unsupervised with one toy that they each admire. Will they share? Or will it be the survival of the fittest, as the most ambitious, strong-willed, perhaps physically dominant child plays with the toy as long as he or she wants until growing tired of it. Add another toy to the mix and watch the same child secure both toys until choosing a preference. We humans are born takers until we have learned the reward—the advantage—of giving. Animals are more likely to defer to another in the early stages of life than human beings are.
It is this selfish love of self that breeds contempt, jealousy, resentment, greed, lust, and even a “survival of the fittest” approach to living in the insecurity of lost and broken love. Flawed love leads to failed expectations, rejection, betrayal, abandonment, guilt, broken trust, and everything else related to brokenness and loss.
For everything gained in the experience of love, there is no doubt everything to lose. The outcome of lost love is a broken and anguished heart. Enough of that and we can feel unloved and worthless. The absence of love is fear. There is nothing free about fear. The opposite of free is fear. When freedom is lost, it is replaced by fear. Fear is the cornerstone of hopeless despair.
People, young and old, contemplating suicide are in the most immediate pursuit of recovering lost freedom. It is paramount then to help them to think it through now to achieve their objective in support of recovering lost freedom. To recover lost freedom is to overcome the fear embedded in their discomfort.
People having considered or attempted suicide are desperate for relief from prevailing discomfort. Whatever it is that is so heavy and overwhelming has to stop… end… right this moment. They are only considering the need to be free from dot-dot-dot. They are not considering what free from dot-dot-dot is free into.
I wrote a little bit ago about those who have attempted suicide but then changed their minds, and panicked having done it. Could they get to a phone? Would someone find them before it’s too late? For some of the ones that I didn’t get to convene with, it may have been, “How do I stop falling before I hit the ground?”
Something happens deep down inside that might be keenly aware of that something spiritual that wants connection with the creator before hitting the ground… before suffocating… before losing consciousness for the last time. What exactly is it that is on the other side of the curtain of mortality? Not sure? Is it an escape? Is it deliverance? Is it freedom? Or, is it more pain and discomfort all alone? Or, is it debilitating captivity… hell?
Which area of the brain panics? Is it the emotion-driven area of how the brain works? Or, is it the rational thinking area of the brain’s function?
When there is acute crisis of this magnitude, you would think that it is an emotional reaction. I challenge that. I believe there is something innate found in the depths of conscience and sensibility that recognizes and realizes the finality inherent in this “shock” to the entire system. I believe it is there, in that moment of finality, when we hear from the soul. I submit that it is the soul of a person that serves to bridge the binary process between the rational and the emotional; the meeting of the minds, if you will, within the mind.
Is anything worth more than your soul? Mark 10:37 (NLT)
Have you ever considered the definition of the word ‘soul’? (per Merriam-Webster)
- the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life
- the spiritual principle embodied in human beings, all rational and spiritual beings
- a person’s total self
- an active or essential part
- a moving spirit
- the moral and emotional nature of human beings
- the quality that arouses emotion and sentiment
- spiritual or moral force
When speaking of the mind, the inference is typically having to do with intellectual thought and logic. When speaking of the heart, the inference is typically having to do with emotion and intention. When speaking of the soul… Where is the soul? Is it in the brain somewhere? Is it in the heart that the soul resides? Well… when referring to the heart as anything other than the valve in your chest pumping life-giving blood, the “heart” is also in the brain as a willful, motivational component of cognition.
This matter of the soul sure seems to infer something spiritual… something transcendent.
It seems that it is the soul—the spirit within every one of us—that leads the way in our connection with God. Is it possible then that the soul within us is even bigger than we are? Does the soul connect with God, whether we believe in God or not? Is that why that girl I mentioned earlier, that said she doesn’t believe in God, panicked when taking those pills and thought she might die; because her soul, connected to her creator, spoke from within all at once to the entire cerebral network, “Don’t do this!”?
I search my soul and ponder the difference now. Psalm 77:6 (NLT)
Is this really what Dr. Andrew Newberg is wanting to discover and prove with measurable data leading to verifiable proof? Is the soul more than a transcendent phenomenon of human life; an attempt to explain the innermost regions of how we apprehend, comprehend, and then process everything?
I believe that it is the soul within that can truly be free to experience the spectacle of life’s promise through a spotless lens. The purity and beauty of God’s grace is made manifest in a life surrendered to the transformative reality of who and what God is in relation to who and what I am not.
We are riddled with imperfection; flawed by both is our undoing into what ultimately appears to be the collapse of an entitled civilization. As we continue to hurt each other, the entire interactive process is under siege and consumed by the stress of what burdens it as the collective experience of toiling hardship piles up over time.
For some, the pain and struggle is more swift and severe than others. People are hungry, angry, lonely, and they are tired; desperate for change. The kids I have the privilege of working with are right in the thick of it, and they’ve had enough. They cannot take it anymore. They want out.
They feel hopeless. They’ve given up. Do they want to die, or would they feel better if their experience was in fact better?
If this is your experience, I hope you will ask yourself whether it is that you truly want to die, or is it that you need someone’s help and support to turn off the treadmill so that you can get some rest.
Perhaps, you already have connection with God in the very depths of your soul, even though it doesn’t always feel that way. Perhaps you already know the truth of what God can do in your life and in your world, even though it doesn’t always feel like God will do anything as the intensity escalates in your circumstances.
Or perhaps you are reading this and whether or not it’s your experience, you know others who are in a very dark place, and you are so very concerned about them; even afraid for them. Hopefully, you can be better informed and more supportive, with a better understanding of what’s going on in their head as they attempt to sort it all out. Maybe, you can help them, or get help for them, before they do something desperate out of a sense of hopeless despair.
There are professional people, including therapists, psychiatric physicians, clergy and other pastoral types, who will not be judgmental and will express genuine empathy in their effort to help. Just having compassion for someone who is hurting and in trouble can help others to transition emotionally from feeling hopeless to realizing they are helpless. That conversion from hopeless to helpless is often the first step to taking suicide off the table as a viable option to remedy intense and immediate discomfort.
There are children and young adults who have experienced a lifetime of rejection, betrayal, abuse, and neglect who feel unloved and worthless who are in that dark, perhaps even scary, place. They may not reach out because it’s so dark they can’t see that anyone is there. They may feel as though death is the only way to be free… finally free.
Feelings from that emotional place in their cognitive process will lie to them. Feelings of shame and worthlessness are killing people every day. Even people that believe in God do not believe that even God—or especially God—cannot forgive them or love them. They have judged themselves as doomed. Happy is not for them. They are completed depleted of joy. They are miserable.
Hopeless is the belief that help will not ever come because it cannot be for them. No doubt, the experience of betrayal and abandonment in their circumstances and relationships is real. The anxiety and stress is surely the real deal. So, they need help to recognize and accept that their feelings have also betrayed them. Not at all an easy task.
When it’s been years and years of piling on until the burden is so heavy it’s impact is crushing, it becomes normal to them to be so consumed by distress that has evolved into the sense of despair that all is lost.
The time for change is now. Better is way overdue. There is hope in realizing helplessness. The rational cognitive process figures that out and is more able to filter the fallout from experiences for the purpose of advancing authentic change.
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. Psalm 94:19 (NKJV)
Reaching out to God to comfort the soul strengthens the bridge between what we feel and what we know. It is God that repairs what feels terminally damaged and transforms it into something new.
All we do is offer ourselves to him. It requires sacrifice. We need to be willing to let go of what has seemingly felt comfortable as we attempt again to remedy pain. All we did was relieve the immediate discomfort while deepening the wound. If our attempts to resolve our struggle have failed repeatedly, then why would we not lay our struggle down at the feet of the only one who can restore what’s been broken? It’s a no-brainer.
God is merciful, and should we let him, is able and willing—and wanting—to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. What we do is offer ourselves to God from the outside in. What God does is transforms our being by first renewing our minds; changing us from the inside out. What follows is a new perspective on how we see ourselves and our world, and a new approach to living in it. It is a life restored. It’s God doing something awesome within and throughout, according to his love and generosity.
In view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)
Please, pardon me for quoting the same passage for the third time, here. It’s been my pleasure to bring it to you in this context. The word ‘holy’ means to be separate and unique in this case. You are special to God and uniquely you. As you approach God, confident or not, know this: God has confidence in you. He doesn’t see you the way you see you. God sees you as seeing himself already involved in the restoration process, and already sees the finished product. The transformed you is holy and pleasing and, yes… WORTHY of his favor and generosity.
Please read the following passages together.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7 (NIV)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6 (NIV)
Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in (relationship with) Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 (NLT)
How ’bout them apples?
Something I mentioned earlier was the need to ask for direction to find your way. When you’re feeling lost, inquire from those who have been where you are and then themselves found their way. If you’re not sure how to pray, or you’re still not comfortable about the whole God thing, I suggest you find those who do pray that have experienced what the passage above is talking about. Like me, they will tell you about how prayer really works for them.
They will be happy tell you about their experience. They will tell you about relief from their anxiety and stress; comfort when they were struggling; remedy for their pain. They will be happy to share with you the experience of finding calm in the midst of their storm. They will want you to know how it is that they experienced forgiveness from consuming guilt and shame; and how from there, they were able to find themselves able to forgive and experience release from jealousy and resentment. They want to tell you how they overcame their fear of failure and disappointment.
They have experienced the promise of God and will tell you that no one can take that away from them, or persuade them otherwise with clever explanations contrary to their experience. They will insist that what God did for them was renew their hope, revive their soul, and restore their way of life.
Remember your promise to me;
it is my only hope.
Your promise revives me;
it comforts me in all my troubles. Psalm 119:49-50 (NLT)
Maybe you are thinking about people right now you know have been where you are and made it through. Notice the peace in their eyes and the joy on their face.
Don’t you want that?
If you are someone already reveling in the peace and joy of God’s generous favor, you know what it is for your soul to dance in the experience of God’s best in your life. Who do you know that is missing what you have? How might you extend the blessing of contentment to others you know who are mired in disappointment?
My hope is that having read this, you have grown in your understanding and that you will get the help you need, and/or be the source of strength and support to others who need someone like you to help lift them up.
When you were stuck in your tracks and needed a bridge to cross to get to the other side, remember what it was like. There are so many that need for God to build for them the bridge from pain into peace. But they cannot find God. Maybe for some we are the bridge to God. All we need to do, really, is listen and then point them in the right direction.
Someone who has lost hope and given up, feels perilously alone as if nobody anywhere cares. Just by caring and expressing empathy through honest compassion, we can also serve as the bridge from hopeless to helpless on the road to new hope and needed help.
We might need to pay better attention and be prepared to help, unless we are the ones in need of help. Then, we need to be willing to reach out for help. Either way, it’s important that we be willing to extend our hand; whether it’s to be of help to someone in need or to reach out for help when we’re in need.
To surrender to the process of change requires one thing, regardless of our position in the process. We must be willing to participate in the process of change from pain to peace.
Where are you in the process? Are you the one feeling hopeless, feeling like the only thing left is to give up and check out? Or, is there someone you know who is in that dark place of despair?
Remember, hopeless is not okay. Helpless is okay. Yes, there is hope when feeling helpless since, then, change is possible. We need only to be willing to seek help from someone capable of helping us to find our way.
Strength in Weakness
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow—crushed with grief—to the point of death.”
I began this article with a quote from the most famous person to ever walk planet earth. Jesus Christ, the son of God, was a human being about to take on the single most insurmountable challenge that any person of flesh and blood could never be prepared for.
Jesus felt lost. We know he felt abandoned since, while in the midst of the most severe of his trauma (and what Jesus experienced was nothing short of trauma), he cried out to God, “My God, my God, WHY have you forsaken me.” Just prior to that, Jesus had been betrayed by one of his beloved friends who gave him up. In between those two incidents, all within a matter of a few hours, another of his best friends disavowed even knowing him. Jesus knew what it was to experience rejection by those he loved.
In fact, he was so messed about it all that in his torment three times begged God to remove from him from this massive undertaking. It was too much.There had to be another way. What Jesus experienced was that God would help him through the unbearable stress and excessive pain. With God’s help, Jesus, not only made it through, but experienced God’s best as he committed himself to getting through it with God’s help, God’s way.
One of the great writers of the first century, also was dealing with adversity that offered up overwhelming stress; something that had become such a heavy burden that he too begged God to take it from him.
Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 (NLT)
No matter what it is you are taking on and going through in your experience, God wants to do for you what he did for his servant the apostle Paul, and what he did for his son, and in your weakness, afford you the strength and the courage to get through. Scripture informs us that to God we are sons and daughters. So again, just as loving parents wants to express love and blessing to the children they made, God wants to express his love through compassion and blessing according to your need.
Tell God about you’re experiencing. Tell God what you need. Tell God what you want. Ask God to show up. Dare God to be real to you; to prove himself to you that he is involved and engaged.
There are some that will say I am taking the following passage out of context, but I believe that as you give your full attention to the one who made you that God says to you…
“If you do… I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!” Malachi 3:10 (NLT)
And if that didn’t do it, then listen to this…
What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Romans 8:31-32 (NLT)
God is great! He is more than capable. He loves you and can’t wait to show you how much.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:20 (NLT)
If we’ve been there and found our way from pain into peace, then we need to be sensitive and compassionate enough to notice when someone we know is needing our attention.
Should you know someone who’s been quite sad for prolonged periods of time, there could be more to it. Should you know someone who has experienced trauma or loss and appears indifferent and disinterested in things they once took delight in, there could be more to it. If there is someone in your world feeling hopeless, whether they have expressed it or not, they may not reach out before it’s too late. Someone with an intentional bent toward suicide might not say a word about it because they are committed to the task and do not want for anyone to get in the way.