Andy Stanley: If you were sitting over a coffee table with our audience–either single men and women, married men and women, seniors, high school students, college students, and you had your, you know, your elevator pitch…the final moment–what do you say?
Stuart Hall: I would probably say that I think we have the wrong job description for love. As humans we are always trying to avoid pain. As parents we are always trying to protect our children from pain. As friends we are always trying to fix each other’s pain. And no wonder we always feel like failures because life is, it’s the human drama. It’s pleasure and pain. And the question I would have you wrestle with is just simply this: What are you going to trust in when that pain happens? When your certainty is made uncertain? Are you going to lean your life on your own understanding? Your own ability to reason? Your own ability to wrap this up and put a bow on it? Or will you trust your life to the only one that doesn’t change, that doesn’t move, and can actually heal you of your pain, can heal you in your hurt? The last thing I would say is that your love for Jesus doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be true. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be true. So I implore you–if you’re not a Jesus person, you don’t follow him–would you consider what you’re leaning your life up against? And if you are a Jesus person, you are…you do follow in the way of Jesus, how much are you trusting him? Are you trusting what you know about him, or are you really trusting him? That’s my prayer for people, that they will lean their life, the full weight of their existence on him.
Dear God, I was having lunch with a friend yesterday, and he said something I think is very true: Struggle is underrated. Struggle and pain are an important part of our human development–all of the way until death. If there is no struggle we will atrophy and die.
My wife has had a couple of specific stressors in her life lately, and she was talking about them with a friend. The friend asked if she had considered taking any antidepressants to help alleviate the stress, and my wife hadn’t considered it because she wasn’t trying to avoid the pain of the situation. She does things to care for herself through this time like prayer time in a chapel with you on a daily basis, exercise, and nourishing herself with a variety of Godly and intellectually stimulating things, but she isn’t trying to mask why is going on. And that’s not to say that there is not a time and place for antidepressants, but I do believe they are overused in our society. As part of that same conversation when she told me about what her friend said, my wife told me that 1 out of 6 Americans are on some sort of antidepressant/anti-anxiety medication. That means 17% of our country, including children, feel the need to mask their stress. I don’t know what that number should ideally be, but for what is supposedly the greatest country in the world, that seems like a high number.
One of the challenges I faced as a parent was trying to figure out when to mitigate the pain my children were experiencing and when to let them walk through it–albeit with my love and support. And there were times when I tried to not intervene when others would intervene and short-circuit any good that might have come from the struggle. It was a frustrating process, and I don’t think it’s a concept that is taught enough in parenting books.
And then there’s my own life. How do I face struggle and pain? Do I lean on you, or do I try to avoid it? Do I live in denial or do I live in faith (although there is a thin line between living in denial and living in faith). And to be sure, the struggles in my life are pretty mild when compared with other stories I know, but there are still times when I’d rather just curl up in my bed and not face the realities in front of me.
Lately, and I’ve told you this a lot in these journals recently, there have been times when I’ve let the COVID-19 news, the daily deaths, the depletion of healthcare resources, etc. get to me. I recently rediscovered a playlist I made of 15 songs I listened to in 2005 when I was unemployed for six months. They are a mixture of worship songs (“Forever” by Chris Tomlin) and songs about seeking you for comfort. The lead-off song is a guy who can’t get out of bed from the weight of his stress (“Staring at a Bird” by The Waiting). Another song has the line, “Sometimes he calms the storm, but other times he calms his child” (“Sometimes He Calms the Storm” by Scott Krippayne). A couple are songs about repentance like dc Talk’s cover of Charlie Peacock’s “In the Light.” I pulled this playlist out this week and listened to it quite a bit.
Father, I guess I’ll finish with this. If the fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, kindness and self control (Galatians 5:22-23) then I want to lean into you/Jesus/Holy Spirit as much as possible to face the trials before me and to help others face their trials as well. I want to do it with transparency and vulnerability. And I want to be a person of action. I don’t want to just sit here and think thoughts that are useless unless they are activated. I want to be a person who sees a need, hears your voice about how you would have me respond, and then be your presence in that situation. Give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can (and your blessing, wisdom, and power in that work), and the wisdom to know the difference.
In Jesus’s name I pray,