What Grief Does

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It’s occurred to me over time that grief is one of the most universal experiences one can endure, yet it is also the most misunderstood. They say grief is the price to pay for having loved someone, but I suppose some days the price seems unbearable. It is on the unbearable days where one has a fundamental choice to make: do I let the grief consume me or do I try my best to move on and lean into Christ and the promises He makes? We often like to refer to grief concerning someone dying, but I don’t think death is the only thing one can grieve over. The loss of something, whether it be a friendship, relationship, or marriage, is all something one can and should grieve over. Now, of course, the intensity of this grief may vary depending on the relationship dynamic and other factors, but I find it ludicrous to believe that we should simply move on and get over it. Now, you do have to move on to an extent- but let’s be clear here, there’s only one of that person for which you are grieving over. There’s only one laugh. There’s only one smile. There’s only one distinct way someone looks at you.

This whole notion that real men can’t cry or show emotion is not only wrong- it’s toxic. It’s when somebody tries to keep it buried inside and deep within them that more significant issues come out. Now, there’s only so much people share with you on a daily basis. There’s only so much someone is willing to say- especially to a stranger. But I think the mere presence someone brings- the mere ability to simply be there- is often a bigger gift than we realize.

This whole week has been emotionally draining on me. To sit here and try and act like everything is perfectly fine would be a blatant lie and disservice. However, nothing is ever going to be completely fine. This world is a broken place. I don’t need to spend a lot of time elaborating on that. It’s when we put ourselves in bubbles to try and lessen the brokenness that we often become more broken. The only answer to anyone’s brokenness is Jesus.

The Christian who comes across as perfect is deeply mistaken as to what He or She believes in. Or, at the very least, he or she is concealing a hurt that hasn’t been fully handed over to the author and maker of our souls.

We can try all we want to be flawless. We can try all we want to be perfect. But in the end, we all come across way short.

It’s funny- I think grief is one of those words that gets used, similar to “love,” that people have absolutely no idea the true meaning of.

Grief is a part of love. It is the price we pay for love. I continually remind myself of this. I also remind myself that as a follower of Christ, I do not grieve, nor should I grieve, as the world does. Grief is tough. It lasts for quite some time. I believe, for a lifetime.

But, I cling to the promises of His word and His plan. Romans 21:4 says this, “For I shall wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

No more hospitals.

No more chronic illness or disease.

No more sons without fathers or fathers without sons.

Families, reunited.

Lovers, once again in harmony to sing to Love himself.

What a glorious promise.

What a wonderful day.

Until then, we are called to, “Lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the [aauthor and [b]finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2.

I don’t know exactly why God allows pain or suffering in this world.

I do know this, however, that that pain and suffering produces endurance and perseverance.

I don’t know everything, but I do know that He is good, and His mercy and love endure forever.

Today is today.

Tomorrow is tomorrow.

Only today is promised.

So, we must run our race.

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What Love Does

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1 Corinthians 13;

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith that can move mountains, but do not love, I am nothing.

If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is Patient, Love is Kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.

For when I was a child, I thought like a child, reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put my childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in the mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.

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I’ve been thinking and meditating on this verse recently. It hits home for me. Too often we like to think of love as a series of transactions. “Well, if I get you this, than you can get me this. Then will we be even.”

The thing is, love doesn’t work like that. As a follower of Jesus, I can’t pick and choose who I want to love more or less. Yes, obviously, some people are harder to love than others. However, it is those people who are the hardest to love that are the most in need of the love Jesus provides.

I will be listening to the voicemails my dad left me seven years ago soon. I hate he’s not here. I hate it with a hate that could consume me if I let it. But I don’t let it, because I know and will be able to hear in his voice how much he loves and continues to. He’s not here anymore. There’s nothing I can do to change that fact. I spent a lot of time and nights crying out to God, a mixture of sadness, anger, and pain. However, it is when I started to let His love step-in for my earthly father’s absence that I started to truly be free.

Let’s be honest here, my generation, and yes I’m talking about myself here as well, has twisted the meaning of love and boiled it down to a series of mere transactions. Hookups? Sure. It’s only one night. I’ll move on and she will too. But then you leave and you’re still left wondering why you did that. It doesn’t do anything to fill the deep desire we all have to be fully known and fully loved.

At Carolina, there’s such a twisted notion of love and romance. Ladies, romance and love isn’t some dude in a fraternity house handing you a beer and telling you that he likes you. We use the word love like it’s some sort of magical fairy dust that we can sprinkle on top of everything that will make everything better. Love does make things better. Love transforms lives and people for the better. However, we must go to the source of love: God. I’m not talking about some man in the sky with wings who grants wishes on a whim: I’m talking about Jesus. He lived the life you and I couldn’t so that we could live ours in complete and total freedom.

I walk through a lot of brokenness on the way to class each day. I hear the music at night, smell the weed, and look at the girls. They are all beautiful. I just wonder how many nights they go through that without anyone ever telling them their true worth or value. How many are objectified, treated as mere objects to simply gain pleasure out of, and then tossed to the side.

That isn’t love. That’s lust. We grow up watching Cinderella and Snow White and then we get to high school and college and realize that things like that don’t really exist anymore. Well, the thing is, they could, but I struggle to see how any real and lasting relationship can be forged over alcohol, weed, and sex. Those things are all used for placebos to satisfy a desire that only Jesus can. You can hold out on Him and decry Christianity as nonsense and a list of mere rules you have to follow, or, as C.S. Lewis wrote,

“It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, then I first begin to have a real personality of my own…There are no real personalities anywhere else. Until you have given yourself to Him you will not have a real self…But there must be a real giving up of the self. You must throw it away ‘blindly’ so to speak. Christ will indeed give you a real personality…

“The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether. Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His)…It will come when you are looking for Him. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes, every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being and you will find eternal life.

Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in that long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else…”

What are you holding back?

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

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It’s always been interesting to me the depths at which people will go to rationalize seemingly inane or deprived behavior. Some of the excuses people tell themselves for acting the way they do are often tied to their particular season in life. “Well, I’m in college. It’s what everybody else does. I only get to go through college once so I have to enjoy it.” It seems for every questionable action one commits, there is always a twisted self-justification of said action.

At UNC, I am witness to a lot of brokenness. I think deep down this brokenness comes from the chief pursuit of other things that aren’t God. The idea is- we’ve all been engaged in this pursuit at one point or the other. It is when we come to terms with the fact that the full search of anything but Jesus leads us astray and causes insurmountable pain, suffering, and hurt that we can truly be set free.

We are only given one life to live. It would be a tragedy to reach the end and realize that in the pursuit of all this is worldly and fleeting- we end up gaining nothing. My prayer over the past couple of weeks has been for myself and others to fully come to the realization that Jesus is everything. Friendships often fade. Money is volatile and can be lost or gained in an instant, but the LORD stands forever and will always be there to never leave us or forsake us. What a beautiful promise. What a glorious assurance. C.S. Lewis once said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it, I see everything else.”

I may not understand every hurt or pain in this world, but I do know that the God of the universe holds everything together in the palm of his hand. I may not understand the pain, suffering, or tragedies of this world, but I know that one day, I won’t have to anymore. In Christ, suffering is not for vain. In Christ, pain is not merely something designed to make us hurt. To fully immerse oneself in Christ’s love is to be fully free. And to be fully free in a loving creator’s arms is everything.

 

The Weight of Brokenness

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I moved this past year from an on-campus dorm to an apartment. It’s nice. Nice amenities. Nice location, but somehow I look at the niceness of this place in comparison to the brokenness that is surrounding me and start to wonder a simple, yet seemingly profound question: How would this environment change if people knew the true source of love? Now, I see parties with girls going into houses and I wonder- what will they encounter there? Would I feel 100% at ease if it was my daughter going into those houses? Probably not. Paradoxically, in a search for more belonging and meaning they encounter more hurt. This, of course, is because true meaning and love can only come from knowing the source of that meaning and love. The world is full of placebos and false-promises. Just do this and you’ll be satisfied! Just try this and you’ll belong.

Friend, there is only one person in which you can achieve your full-identity and self-worth in.

His name is Jesus. The Jesus who knew you before you were born. The Jesus who still knows you inside and out. He knows you’re not perfect. He knows you’ll never be perfect. You don’t have to be. He lived the life that you and I could never had lived- all so that we could be set free from our sins and past vices.

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“Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.””
‭‭John‬ ‭4:13-26‬ ‭ESV‬‬
https://www.bible.com/59/jhn.4.13-26.esv

Come to The River- Housefires

The Prodigal Son (Searching, But Not Quite There).

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This is the second part in a series I’m starting on my blog. I hope this insight into my walk with the LORD will prove valuable and insightful. “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.

I remember when I first stepped foot on campus at Carolina as a student. It was last year, and as a transfer student in particular, I was thrilled to get my first taste of real college life. No more community college. Not that I hated Wake Tech at all, but I just found the social scene to be lacking. I had only been through the 10th grade in high school before medically withdrawing and earning a GED, so the very fact that I even got into Carolina was nothing short of a miracle.

I soon forgot about this miracle, however. I joined a Christian organization on campus and loved going to Bible study and the people I met there. I loved the genuine conversations I’d have with the new connections I made on campus late at night. I loved all of it. But, there was still a large part of me that hadn’t given into Jesus. I had plenty of head knowledge of God’s word from growing up in church. However, it never really sank into the depths of my heart. I would go out, meet girls, and feel a rush of excitement and optimism. I felt I belonged here. I do belong here. But, you see, the problem lies in the fact that I used other people and emotions to try and find a sense of belonging. The girls would come and go. It’d be an exhilarating rush of emotions- only to end up at the end heartbroken and wondering what I did wrong.

This was millennial life, I would sheepishly tell myself. No real commitments. Just one night stands. Swipe right. Swipe left. They’re just faces. It was all a game. She’s hot, she’s not. Slowly, I’d use this logic to devalue and place women in a bubble. It’s OK. I’m a guy. I mean, this is what everyone else is doing, right? Emotions and the other person be damned- as long as it was “fun” and consensual. It’s just sex. It’s not like it’s cocaine or heroine. After all, sex is natural, right? Sure it is. In fact, God made sex. To try and shame sex and to describe it in a way that makes it taboo does a disservice to God. The problem is this- sex was designed specifically for those in marriage. Now, this isn’t a popular opinion.

The argument against this goes something like this, “Well, if two people love each other and are in a consensual relationship, what’s wrong with expressing that love sexually?”

I won’t go into the Christian viewpoint in-depth regarding this yet, but I will say I think each one of us knows in the depths of our souls that sex isn’t merely some cavalier thing that a lot of people, particularly in my generation, treat it as.

Needless to say, I was enjoying myself at UNC, but I always felt like there had to be something more. I mean, seriously? This is it? This is what everybody raves about in college? Drinking and girls? Maybe I’m just doing it wrong. Nope. I was sick of myself. I was tired of the letdowns. The confusion. The mixed emotions. This isn’t as fun as it was all made out to be. I once heard a pastor say, “Sin gets an A for marketing and an F for results.” Yep, I had fallen for the marketing trick. The beauty, however, is there’s a key to your heart that is no gimmick or letdown. He doesn’t promise a life full of leisure or pleasure, but He does promise an unconditional and unwavering love. A love that only He can provide. He is, after all, the maker of you and me. Who would know us better than the one who created us?

Continue reading “The Prodigal Son (Searching, But Not Quite There).”

The Danger of Substitution

Lately, I’ve been confronted with the fact that I have often used other things and people for a true sense of meaning, joy, and purpose that can only be found in Christ. I’ve been confronted with the fact that without Him I am nothing and any attempt at substituting Christ for some worldly pleasure will result in pain and a never-ending cycle of nothingness.

This may sound extreme, but any attempt to find true lasting happiness and a sense of purpose and belonging in some worldly concoction will lead one to discover that there is nothing that is of this world that can bring a lasting sense of fulfillment and hope. In order to find the love and sense of purpose you’ve been waiting for, it is important to first acknowledge that the things of this world are merely temporary distractions designed to be a temporary relief for our permanent problems and struggles. How many times have we bought something or did something due to the belief that it would relieve a gaping desire only to discover that the core desire for love, purpose, and meaning remains the same?

I’ve come to the realization that everyone who does not personally know the Jesus of the Bible is merely searching for a substitution that cannot and will not satisfy our hardwired desires.

C.S. Lewis once wrote, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

What desire are you trying to fulfill that only Jesus can?