The Stress and Opposition of New

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The Stress and Opposition of New

By: Pastor Don

 

A New Year is upon us, and with it comes so many NEW opportunities.  We like to focus on new beginnings—because who doesn’t like something new.  But “new” can also breed uncertainty and unpredictability.   Remember what Forrest Gump’s mother said, “Life is like a box of chocolates… you never know what you’re gonna get.”  Not knowing can be stress inducing, and we’re prone to play defense against the unknowns.

I’ve been reading The Book of Joy by Bishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama with Douglas Abrams, and in it Bishop Tutu said, “that nothing beautiful, in the end comes without a measure of some pain, some frustration, some suffering.”  He went on to talk about a lesson he learned from prenatal researcher Pathik Wadhwa, who noted that the stress and opposition of our prenatal development are exactly what initiate our development in utero.  Our stem cells do not differentiate to become us without stress to encourage them to do so.  The Bishop said: “without stress and opposition, complex life like ours would never have developed.  We would never have come into being.” (pg. 45).

I remember reading something like this while helping Zachary study biology last semester.  Cell division (growth) is stimulated when injury occurs.  When there is a cut in the skin, or a break in a bone, cells at the edges of the injury are stimulated to divide rapidly.  Growth occurs through stress and opposition.

I like to remember God’s word through the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (43: 9) And Jesus’ words in Revelation, “Behold, I am making all things new” (21:5).

The new think God is doing, and the way Jesus is making all things new sounds so good!  It’s like the “newness” of all those new Christmas presents.  But what about those times when “new” brings stress and opposition?  When the uncertainty and unpredictability of “new” squeezes the comfort out of our existence?

Maybe those are exactly the ways God go is using to grow us.  It’s at the edge of injury that growth occurs; it’s by stress growth is initiated; it’s in the face of opposition that growth is strengthened.  And it’s in those places of injury, stress, opposition, uncertainty and unpredictability that Jesus says, “fear not! for I am with you.”  Remember God is doing a new thing; Jesus is making all things new, and growth is happening, even amidst some measure of pain, frustration, and suffering.

Where did the Christmas joy go?

 

Many of us have those magical childhood memories of simpler and sweeter Christmases past.  When you are facing the holidays while going through depression those memories can seem like an elusive, untouchable dream rather than the foundation for a happy and healthy holiday season.

This year someone I care about a lot is going through a pretty deep depression and crisis of faith.  The stress of the “Season” is only making it worse.  I have been there and I know many others who have or are going through the same struggles right now.

It seems like all the standard answers either ring hollow or are even cruel.  Telling someone struggling with their faith that they need to trust more, pray more, have more faith, or just believe is not only callus, it can be downright mean.   Most people struggling with depression already feel guilty enough.

I am trying to be positive.  By the way, I often fail at this.  When I am on top of my game I turn conversations towards the hopeful and encouraging seizing as many opportunities for humor and laughter as possible with out being callus myself.   I am trying to model my faith with unconditional love, reserving judgment, being patient and acknowledging rather than discounting the sufferer’s pain, struggle and confusion.  I am trying to practice praise both privately and gently in front of the person.   There is a tough balance between acknowledging the struggle and not dwelling upon it.

Of course I pray for the person as often as possible.  I try to trust and believe for them when they can’t.  I gently and carefully encourage them to keep praying, reading scripture, and practicing devotional life without making them feel like it is the problem is due to their spiritual shortcomings.  If spiritual shortcomings were the major source of depression I would be depressed all the time.  Many Great Christians like John Wesley, G.K. Chesterton, Charles Spurgeon and others struggled with depression and doubt.

I am not trying to provide all the answers but just sharing as someone on the journey.  Help me out.  Your thoughts would be appreciated.

Pastor Joel

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