Friday, September 29, 2017

How to Fail at Empathy.

Several close friends have pointed out to me that empathy is not my strongest quality. It's true, and it's something I'm trying to work on. The hardest part is resisting the urge to offer advice when all the other person really needs is someone to listen and be on their team. It takes a shift in mindset from "I want to help" to "I am here with you".

Romans 12:15-16 offers some good insight on this:

"Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight."

The last part is the kicker. Never be wise in your own sight. That's where the downfall always happens: when I try to become the expert. It's so easy to shift into thinking about my similar experiences and my ways of fixing a problem. The thing is, often when someone is hurting, they don't want to be told how to fix stuff unless they're literally asking for that type of help. Usually, when someone is hurting, they just want their frustrations to be heard. They want someone who will acknowledge their hurt and accept how they are feeling. They need someone who will be part of the struggle with them rather than standing on the sidelines offering counsel.

When we are with hurting friends, we need to check our motives. Are we humbly striving to follow Romans and "rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep"? Or do we really just want to be the one with all the answers?

Friday, September 22, 2017

What if we remembered God?

Yesterday I looked out the window and saw gorgeous sunny skies. I was excited- perhaps after work, I would go hang my hammock up in the park for a while. Two minutes later, I looked again. Still sunny, but the sun was accompanied by the biggest downpour I'd seen in months. Not good for relaxing in a hammock. I did, however, need to wipe all the dirt and bugs off my car. Having a solid stream of water pouring over my vehicle would be so convenient! I went for it.

I came back in about 10 or 15 minutes later, completely soaked. Over messenger, a friend and I chuckled about my little escapade. "That's using what the Lord provides!" he remarked. I paused and smiled. I hadn't thought about it that way, to be honest. I simply saw an opportunity and took it. 

What if we made more of a point to focus our minds that way, though? What if we remembered the fact that everything is within God's power and granted by His sovereign hand? What if we thought of Him in everything that we set out to do? How much better would life be, and how much stronger would our faith become?

“As for me, I would seek God,
    and to God would I commit my cause,
 who does great things and unsearchable,
    marvelous things without number:
 he gives rain on the earth
    and sends waters on the fields"
- Job 5:9-10

Friday, September 15, 2017

What Kind of Peer Pressure Are You Experiencing?

Peer pressure can be used both for good and for ill. In one instance last summer, I was thankful for peer pressure. My friends and I discovered this abandoned house. I've always had a fascination with abandoned places, but never had the opportunity to go into one before. This time, the chance had finally presented itself. The thing is, I almost didn't have the nerve. Lucky for me, my friend did. He went in first and gave me just the push I needed. As a result, I got a collection of neat photos, fun memories, and a story to tell!

On the flip side, peer pressure can be a terrible evil, as it was in the life of Samson. At the start, in Judges 14, it merely involved him giving away the answer to a riddle that would cause him to lose a bet and some belongings. The second time, things took a far worse turn:

After this, he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her,“Seduce him, and see where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to humble him. And we will each give you 1,100 pieces of silver.” So Delilah said to Samson, “Please tell me where your great strength lies, and how you might be bound, that one could subdue you.” (Judges 15:4-6)

After a lot of pushing from Delilah, Samson gave in to her pressure and told his secret. Promptly, the information was used against him. "The Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes and brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles. And he ground at the mill in the prison." (Judges 16:21)

Next time you are being pushed to do something, stop and think. Is it good? Is it helpful? What is your motive in your choice to follow or disregard the pressure? Is it something that will be pleasing to God?

Friday, September 8, 2017

Doing What Feels Good

"You can't eat donut holes for breakfast, Sarah," my friend Matthew said, staring down at me. We have a running joke that he is my dad, and occasionally he lives up to the title. This was one of those times. "Yeah, yeah," I rolled my eyes, shoving another TimBit into my mouth, "And what would you suggest?" "Eggs! You should start your day with protein," he informed me. "Okay, sure," I grinned, and continued to devour the donut holes. He was right, though. Later that day I found myself hungry, low-energy, and somewhat irritable. 

Isn't that such a perfect picture of the human state? We are told what would be good for us, we know deep down what would be good for us. Yet we charge forward doing what feels good in the moment rather than slowing down and living by the knowledge we are given. It has been happening for all of history.

Romans 1:28 says, "And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done." -- This is the result of letting our desires rule us. God will let us do what we want, but will it truly benefit us? Will it end well? Sometimes God sees our strong wills and decides it would be best to let us learn the hard way. 

What about you? Do you read of God's desires for us and do them, or do you charge onward to pursue your own way of life because it's what feels good to you right now? Be careful, my friend. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Are you prepared for the deadline?

I woke up and stared at the number on my dry-erase board. 1. That was the number of days I had until I needed to turn in my class projects. I'm usually not the last-minute sort of person, but this month I've been traveling a lot and didn't have enough time alone to work on everything. Even when I did, I'd been distracted by other things, such as packing, work, and other little duties. Where had the time gone? It felt like this deadline hit me out of nowhere, and I had to rush to catch back up. In the end, I made it. Just barely.

While our earthly deadlines can be a big deal and occasionally a matter of great stress, there is another deadline that matters more: Christ's coming. Emphasis on the "dead" of that deadline- because if we are not prepared for that one, dead is exactly what we will be. The thing about this deadline, however, is that we have no set date for it. As a result, it is "out of sight, out of mind" for many people, even some Christians. 

Paul wrote to the believers in Thessalonica and said, "For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night." (1 Thessalonians 5:2). Nobody expects a thief, and likewise, when the Lord comes, it will take even those who are eagerly awaiting Him by surprise. 

You can stress over and run after your earthly deadlines constantly, knowing when they will hit. But are you prepared for the one deadline that has no final submission date? Do you know where you will stand in God's eyes on the last day? And does the reasoning behind your answer match up with what the Bible says?