It is not just the massively afflicted that experience the Abyss. Many of the people I met of the middle and high-class variety experience that as well. It comes across in the emptiness they often feel – they just don’t realize they are in it because are they continually experiencing temporal comfort. Henry David Thoreau describes the observation this way, “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation, and go to the grave with the song still in them.” The difference between them and the obviously afflicted is simply that the afflicted have had the illusion of temporal comforts forcibly stripped away and has been forced to stare eye-to-eye with the Abyss; whilst the others, though they feel the breath of emptiness upon them, have the luxury to pretend it’s not there by looking at shiny objects. The interaction between the two can be tragic. The afflicted is looking for help and empathy and it disillusioned when none comes. The non-afflicted are either irritated because the afflicted are “making excuses” for themselves, or that they are silently afraid to be reminded that something out of their control could just be around the corner.
Past trauma, emotional scars, a distrust of people and yourself, post-modernist notions that there is no objective truth, present condemnations, repeated failures and debilitating diseases all make up some of the elements within the Abyss that lends it it’s power to pull you closer and ensnare. That was my Abyss. Like a black hole, the closer you are to the Abyss the greater the pull towards it. Sadly, once we are kidnapped in it, even forms of Stockholm syndrome can take place. We, the hostage, develop empathy and positivity towards our captor to the point of defending and identifying with the captor. We makes excuses staying within this place. Once this happens, the effort it takes to escape this by human effort is close to futile, that is the definition of an Abyss. If it were easy to escape it, it would have been called an inconvenience. If it were difficult, it would have been called a mountain.
Neuwen precisely expands on the tendencies of the abyss and the difficulty of our response to it. He writes:
“The question is ‘Can you stand erect in your pain, your loneliness, your fears and your experience of being rejected?’ The danger is that you will be swept off your feet by these feelings. They will be here for a long time, and they will go on tempting you to be drowned in them. But you are called to acknowledge them and feel them while remaining on your feet… You have to dare to stand erect in your struggles. The temptation is to complain, to beg, to be overwhelmed and find your satisfaction in the pity you evoke. But you know already that this is not gaining for you what your heart most desires.”
(Stand Erect in Your Sorrow, The Inner Voice of Love, emphasis mine)
Like the proverbial frog boiling slowly in water, we die if we stay in too long. Even when we try to progress out, without any fundamental changes to our person and environment, we are easily swept back. Fortunately, the past can shape and frame the future, but it doesn’t determine it.
The very first think to do is to anchor your hope in the right person. We must look to Jesus, and be convinced that there is indeed a New Country waiting for you. There can be a place where love, meaning, and purpose exist in this world. The second is to actively have faith to walk through the doors He lovingly and wisely sets up for you. Entering these specific doors set up for you, which were baptized in God’s plan and grace, and closing them behind you is what will truly fundamentally move you closer to the New Country. An effect of this is that over time, even when bad days occur and you are momentarily drawn backward, you’ll find that you can snap back into the journey of progress easier.
In the end, you will also be pleasantly surprised that the New Country is not just a physical destination, and it is not the be all and end all. But in the process of entering these ordained doors and experiencing miracles of grace, by the time you reach the New Country you’ll find the greatest blessing isn’t the new surroundings. God orders these experiences and blessings to frame his character so that we can understand it. It was the relationship forged with and knowledge that there was someone out there who was bigger than the universe, who was bigger than the world that you knew, that loved you and provided a way for you when no one else would. This joy, no one can take away.
Not all PROGRESS is REAL PROGRESS
Because the Abyss is not just an “Old Country” but is also a part of you, not all “progress” is real progress. You feeling better about yourself is not the only measurement of your progress from the Abyss. You have a fundamental position, where within it, is what some people describe as a happiness set point or baseline happiness. We can deviate from it due to things that happen to you, some call this a situational happiness. Unfortunately, this is temporary and happiness is usually mean-reverting to the baseline. This is not so much a problem if your fundamental position is in a healthy place, but it is tragic if that peg was in the Abyss.
Imagine yourself being pegged to the ground with a rubber band tied to your foot. The peg is your fundamental position (it leads to your happiness center), whereas any position from it is temporary (emotional variance). When negative thoughts hold you captive, you regress behind the peg. You are in the Abyss when your peg is in an extreme depth, and is being held there by causes that lie deep in your soul. Hence, when you are in “good” spirits (or on the temporary highs of positivism), you seem to go further than the peg. However, this progress is not true progress because your fundamental center hasn’t moved – and you will return to that dark place inevitability.
* Note that what I call our fundamental position (or center) isn’t only your happiness center. Your happiness center is a subset of your fundamental center. Your fundamental center also contains within it your degree of morality (how much and the motivations of why you do certain things), your degree of moral courage, your levels of compassion, your steadfastness, the degree of your vision for the future, your levels of consciousness etc. I am talking about the happiness center to help illustrate the similar concept as I compare it to secular studies on happiness.
For Physics-buffs: Restoring force F = kx. Quite apt.
In the emptiness that we often feel, we sometimes reminisce about the Old Country to where the Abyss dwells and it can lead to a viscous cycle. A thought, a long look, a hesitation can evoke the wrong thought – and we are pulled back behind the peg. Stay in a state behind the peg long enough and even our fundamental peg may move back as well. Hence, escaping this Abyss is much more than just psyching yourself up. Psyching yourself is temporarily beneficial, eventually we need fundamental changes to progress.
Here’s an example of a fundamental change. In my younger basketball playing days, I shot free-throws at any average of about 60%. When I mentally psyched myself with all sort of positivisms and pop psychology, I could shoot at about 70% but I reverted back to 60% on the longer term. It was only when I fundamentally deconstructed my shooting form by spending hours experimenting and drilling that my average rose to 85%. I won my college free-throw competition by nailing 96% in front of people. That was a fundamental change.
But making this fundamental change wasn’t just me lying back and thinking about it on my bed or just saying to myself repeatedly that I could do it. It translated into action. I had to research which book to read that explained to me shot mechanics. I had to take the initiative to go the gym to experiment with what I read. I had to take opportunities to play with people so I could practice my shot in a real game situation. Then finally, I had to have the courage to enroll in the tournament. If I didn’t enroll in the tournament, I would never have known I could hit 96% in front of people. But imagine a case where I couldn’t find the right book to read (not all basketball books help, some give sub-optimal advice -if all the books helped, everyone would be shooting a high percentage), or meet people who would play with me, or if there were tournaments near me to enroll in? Transposing this example to real life, we must have the willingness to make changes, but God is needed to steer us in the right direction. Just because we are willing to drive doesn’t mean we are going the right direction.
True progress out of the Abyss is a slow and arduous process, and it can only truly take place in combination that involves real and the right fundamental changes.
But what changes? And how will they help?
Today I want to talk about the first 2 aspects that propelled me out of the Abyss. 1) The true journey out of the Abyss starts with the Look, and 2) then commences the Journey Of Doors. The Look gives us an idea of what the end goal or destination looks like and also gives us the courage to make fundamental changes. The Doors are the special door that God sets up for us based on our unique needs to get us further than what is limited by our imagination and past experiences – the sequential following of these doors lead us in the right direction.
We only know what we WANT, which leads to disappointment. God knows what we NEED.
It is well-known that when you get what you want, you find to your surprise that it leads only to temporary happiness. Such is the sad implication of this Hedonistic Treadmill, a direct outcome of our fallen state. Even if walking through doors give us a constant stream of blessings, is that true happiness?
“The idea that one more dollar, one more dalliance, one more rung on the ladder will make us feel sated reflects a misunderstanding about human nature – a misunderstanding which is built into human nature; that we are designed to feel that the next great goal will bring bliss, and the bliss is designed to evaporate shortly after we get there.”
Robert Wright, The Moral Animal
The solution, according to Tom Murcho, is to have “an internal locus of happiness”, not an external one. We are told to base our happiness on absolute conditions, not relative conditions. Permanent conditions, not temporal ones. Tom Murcho suggests you should be happy for these types of reasons: “You are alive. You are conscious. You can contribute one sentence to humanity’s great story.”
These reasons seem intuitive for most normal people. But I suspect out-liers may find these statements lacking. One can be alive but what about those who know they are dying? One can be conscious but are presently going through so much pain (physical or otherwise) that there is no point being conscious. Some people are discriminated by collective society, the world doesn’t even want to hear the “one sentence” to humanity’s great story. Imagine being born a Jew in Nazi Germany. In that world, you are no better than an animal. Whatever you say, no one pays heed. You are only interacted with because you can be used as a slave or otherwise. Carrying this thread of thought, some can argue that humanity doesn’t even have a great story. Maybe there is no story or worse still, a story that is simply bad. If we all exist due to an accident, and are “only dancing to the tune of our DNAs”, then we all have to bear with the natural selection and chaos in the world we live in. Not only do we live in a constant grind against the machine, even what we do will be forgotten over time. It’s meaningless. On the end these reasons are based on self, and I have learnt that the self is a poor candidate to rest your security on. We deceive ourselves, we change too often, we are weak.
The best internal locus of happiness to have is that God exists, God is good, God loves you and has a meaningful story for you and humanity.
Hence, in this Christian walk, it is not the blessings themselves that are meant to save you. As great as these blessings are, they are still external and mostly temporary. Firstly, God gives you the blessings you need, not want. It’s usually blessings you didn’t expect, but made you more joyful than what you initially imagined. Secondly, He does so in order to convince you of His heart for you, not to indulge your carnality. He does so you can know where to place your security and ultimately, this will affect your baseline level of happiness. He gives the right doors, at the right times, with multiple chances to enter even if we turn down a couple due to fear; in order that we can be convinced that…
… there is a God, bigger than the world, that loves us so much to die for us and has a future for us. This means you have a future and that humanity as a whole does have a great story.
That is the end goal of the process. To burn this truth in a living way into heart which lies your inner locus of happiness. What reason could be more absolute and permanent than this?
Back to The LOOK and the Journey of DOORs that lead to the unveiling of His HEART that lead to BLESSING no one can take away.
To expand on our previous post, what you choose to believe when you look at him is of great importance. This is because the beginnings of powerful miracles or breakthroughs seem to always come concurrently when his children look to God and believe He is for them (Rom 8:31).
When we look at Jesus we visualize a New You in a New Country. We see the You in the future. Your circumstances has changed for the better, and you are also fearfully and wonderfully changed. We talked about how past trauma, emotional scars, a distrust of humanity, post-modernist notions that there is no objective truth, condemnations, repeated failures and debilitating diseases all make up some of the elements within the Abyss that lends it it’s power to pull you closer and ensnare. To the world, these things ensnare you, but do you know that God promises to use all of those things the enemy intended to ensnare you with as building blocks to get you where you need to be? He did that with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph. He promises to do it for you (Gal 3).
You should see a New You, because God certainly sees it. Take a look at what I call the Gideon Simulation.
After God allows Israel to be taken by the Midianites for seven years, God addresses Gideon as a “mighty man of valor!” (Jgs 6:12, KJV). However, the Bible records that at the time of being described by God that way, Gideon was far from it! He, cowardly, was found threshing wheat by the winepress to “hide it from the Midianites” (Jgs 6:11). Gideon had to have known how cowardly he was. Not only did he ask for multiple signs as a confirmation that God was with him, when Gideon finally started to do the ‘noble’ and ‘valorous’ tasks God assigned (which was to take down his father’s alter of Baal and build an altar to the Lord – an extremely small task for someone who is supposed to lead Israel from the Midianites), he did not have the champion-like courage to do it in the day time! In anti-cllimatix fashion, he revealed his true colors doing it by night, “because he feared his father’s household” (Jgs 6:27, KJV). In addition, when Gideon wondered of the Lord: “if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us?” (Jgs 6:13, KJV), the Lord’s reply is astonishing:
And the LORD looked upon him, and said, “Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?” (Jgs 6:14, KJV, emphasis mine)
Even though Gideon was obviously unaware and uninitiated, God saw Gideon as a mighty man of valor and had already been, if not, then in the process of being, called. This passage shows God’s foreknowledge, and suggests that God is shaping / has shaped Gideon’s path.
God spoke as though the future was captured (determined) just as the past was. This concept is apparent when God tells Deborah and Barak, “Have not the LORD gone ahead of you?” (Jgs 4:14); or when God tells Joshua “He hath given you this land” (Josh 1:13, YLT) before Joshua even starts the conquering on it. God was just telling Deborah and Joshua what he is doing right now (in Deborah’s or Joshua’s present timeframe) in God’s own timeframe of eternity.
The preface of Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible states:
No other kind of rendering [between Hebrew and English] could place the reader in the same mindset of the Biblical Hebrew authors:
I. That the Hebrews were in the habit of using the past tense to express the certainty of an action taking place, even though the action might not really be performed for some time. And
II. That the Hebrews, in referring to events which might be either past or future, were accustomed on the principle of transferring themselves mentally to the period and place of the events themselves, and were not content with coldly viewing them as those of a bygone or still coming time; hence the frequent use of the present tense.
God promises that the future is captured for you – in a good way. There is meaning, purpose and love there. As strong as the Abyss’ pull is, so strong and certain is the New Country. And that certain journey to the New Country will develop the New you. Fear to be replaced by courage. Unforgiveness replaced by love. Bitterness replaced by grace. Curses replaced by blessings. Prosperity in all things, just as your soul prospers (3 John 1:2).
God sees the New You, and is shaping your path. He is taking your things of old that has tried to shape you, to box you in; and is re-shaping that to get you to your person of valor.
I’m no cartoonist, but here’s my chicken scratches for you.
He promises that “in all things” God is working for your good (Rom 8:28). Good things, bad things. Mistakes of others. Mistakes by you.
Mistakes of others. What the enemy has intended for evil, God can use it to fulfill His glorious plan for you (Gen 50:20). Joseph was betrayed by his brothers and others, and then thrown into a dungeon for years. God used all of it to make him a governor of Egypt where he then proceeded to save Egypt as well as his brothers who betrayed him. God can use the mistakes of others for his glory in your life.
Mistakes by You. Even your honest mistakes can be used by redemptive power of God to move you closer to a greater destiny. Under grace, your mistakes are forgiven; and even your present weaknesses God can use for glory. Abraham had the promise of grace, just like you. He was not under Law, just like you. Because of moral failings, he lied to foreign kings and was willing to give up his wife to their harems. Incredibly, God used both incidences to enrich Abraham. He became richer and one step closer to being a father of nations (which is what God promised). You can say that grace worked (Rom 8:28) in his circumstances to propel him further.
This is what the psalmist meant when he said that “surely goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life” (Ps 23). When you look to your Jesus as shepherd, this is what happens.
Seeing Jesus in the right way is the starting point to experience biblical faith and hope. God looks at you and smile. The hope emanating doesn’t disappointment (Rom 5). These are the forerunners of good things coming your way. This is Salvation (greek: souzo) working through you.
These gifts that God will give are the ones that will last.
“I have held many things in my hands,” Corrie Ten Boom, a victim of Nazi persecution, once said, “and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that, I still possess.
The journey starts with the LOOK. Followed by the WALK through DOORS
“Be not the slave of your own past – plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep, and swim far, so you shall come back with new self-respect, with new power, and with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
God promises light at the end of the tunnel. But at a certain point we must walk to move our fundamental peg. A fundamental change could be to your person or your environment. The deepest changes will be to your mindset, your deep goals in life and your commitment to God above yourself. But fundamental changes also involve physical changes around you. It could be a new job, a new season in another country, a new exercise routine, a new church, new hobbies, a new set of intimate trusted friends, a new practical plan for development. Both the internal and external changes must work together for results to be alive. The world might call this “acting with intention”. However, I am suggesting “acting with God’s intention”.
Once you look to God, not only will your face be made radiant and never covered with shame ( Ps 34:5), but He will work to create doors for you to walk through. It is only when we walk through these door, and close them behind can we deal with the Abyss in the manner spoken about in the beginning of this post.
When you walk through these doors, and close them behind you; you allow your peg to move in accordance to God’s plan and prevent you from regressing too much on bad days. You might seem to regress back (your feet is chained to an elastic band), but at least your peg is stymied by the closed door, so this regression is temporary. Note, your mental state can regress behind the door, but the peg is fixed at the door.
Henri Nouwen alludes to this phenomenon when as prescribes how to go to the place of your pain. He says:
You have to live through your pain gradually and thus deprive it of its power over you. Yes, you must go into the place of your pain, but only when you have gained some new ground. When you enter your pain simply to experience it in its rawness, it can pull you away from where you want to go.
(Go into the Place of Your Pain, The Inner Voice of Love)
True recovery requires you to look back in the Abyss at certain times. But those doors prevent you from being consumed by it. Think of it as special sunglasses that you put on that allows you to look at Medusa, but her eyes are blocked out. Once we can take a hard look at the monster without its power to consume, the Abyss goes from terrorizing to less scary to neutral, to eventually a toolbox for you to bless the world with. Hence we need both mental or emotional progress and physical progress together for real progress.
The Abyss is usually dominated by a major problem in a particular area of life. However, when God blesses other parts of your life (He will), don’t ignore it. Build on it. Going to Seminary in USA for a couple months in 2009 was an example of such a door for me. Leaving behind many sad memories, I was building new meaningful memories in a new place of growth. But God led me to this specific seminary in this specific country and state. Once there, I had a few significant achievements. I had a couple of very well received papers that professors thought could be further developed into books, I made some new friends that were kindred spirits… the type you can search for years and not find. I discovered certain trading strategies for the stock markets which are not covered in books. Every time I was reminded about the things I lost, including my health and girlfriend; I felt lousy. My past hurts was catalysts combined with my present sufferings (my immune system was still significantly malfunctioning) to tempt me to believe that my present sufferings would continue. But nothing can take away those new accomplishments which served as a peg. This stopped me from an extended regression.
But how do we know which changes get us the New Country and not simply going in a circle?
Emerson’s truth claim above is very true, however, just because you go into a new ocean doesn’t mean you come out stronger or better. You come out different. In my old post The Crownless shall again be Kings, some people try to do things their own way, but they come out with “worldly” results. They fight on their terms, and in their victories they emerge with a bruised ego and a chip on their shoulders. They tend to disdain anyone who competes with them and they generally do not like themselves. But the results of God is always “exceedingly and abundantly more we can ask or think.” (Eph 3:20). Jesus-type victories are characterized with love, joy, and peace and His love never fails (1 Cor 13). The New Country is characterized by these.
Many will try to make fundamental changes to themselves or in their situations. But which doors do we go through? In this world, we are too flawed, too myopic and the world too unfriendly. I have a friend that took a new job that seemed better than the 1st (it was a hostile office environment) but yet also found similar problems to the first. I have a friend who married who he thought was good, but she unpredictably changed halfway leaving him devastated. Very often, what we think is good may not be as good as we think. He need someone like God who sees into the future and loves you enough to prepare you to get there.
A Small Sample of Ken’s Story
In 2009, I was almost at the end of my rope. By then, my career was washed up and the auto-immune problem brought me to my knees as the medicines were helping, but not helping enough. The worldly thing to do is to get healed by seeing more doctors, get a great job so that I will have enough money to everything and put myself out there to make new friends. These worldly things are the intuitive things to do and they are good. But it was not the right thing to do at the time because there was no real cure. God opened a door by forcing me to re-invent myself as a financial trader from home and then He convinced me to go to Seminary (I had my own reasons). That was the worst thing to do. I almost died in 2009 due to infections. My body and face is covered with 70% sores. How could I be traveling to the USA for Seminary? I already had career issues, how could I waste more time with a “non-monetizable” pursuit like Seminary? There were many voices discouraging me from going.
But by seeking God first and having the courage to walk through this particular door for me (it doesn’t mean you should go to Seminary), I ended up meeting certain people that either I had a heart for, or they had a heart for me. In this “divinely set-aside” space, God also gave me bright ideas as it pertained to the Bible, life, health and the world. For the first time in more than 15 years, God started to reverse the direction of my illness. (It would take 5 more years for an even more significant recovery). He also gave me wisdom for me to experiment on other ways to improve my health – something that no doctors or whosoever told me in the last 10 years before that. This was something that couldn’t happen in my situation before. He also gave me great ideas for financial trading (in the quietness of Seminary), as well as eventually triggering a series of other doors that ended up with me in present job in my country of choice. I had to go through each and every door that God prepared in order for this opportunity to manifest. One after the next. This job and situation I am in now is something I could never imagined. This job is a restoration of a broken career. I didn’t think of my health and career when I stepped through that door, but God took care of those things.
“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt 6:33)
Because of the length of this post, I will share the details of this journey in Working through your Abyss with Jesus Part 3 and Part 4.
Back to DOORS: the perfect interaction between imperfect You, perfect God and Doors with your name on it
As we looked at how God crafted the journeys of Abraham and Joseph, you’ll see that God progressively created specific, not intuitive, doors along the way for them. Each time they stepped through, they were closer to the New Country and further from the Old. So He will do for you.
God works for in your life by preparing doors for you to enter. All the doors are directed at the New Country. Do not be afraid you will be on a wild-goose chase, especially once you have given yourself to Him. Every time you have the courage to enter them and close the door behind you, you have moved your peg that much further away from the Abyss. So even if the Abyss manages to turn you back around, and you have “bad days”, you can only retreat a certain distance because your fundamental position has changed.
Yet another attractive force for physics buffs F = Gm1m2 / r2. The force diminishes with distance away. Very apt.
You may not see too far beyond each door and thus resist going through, but that is why we keep our eye on Jesus and see His promises. It gives us the courage to step through the door He sets up for us even if it doesn’t seem to solve our immediate problem. It is also a characteristic of God to use events that are not intuitive to set us up for greater glory. Consider this pivotal set of verses:
For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong. (1 Cor 1:26-28)
The beautiful irony of God is that He has always used the weak to confound the strong. He uses the unlikely to show the world who He is.
God asked Moses to grind in the desert for 40 years… it turns out that was exactly the leader the Israelites needed to lead them out of Egypt – not a guy trained in political school, or in the military. Go figure.
God asked David to grind and do low-class manual labor as a shepherd boy. He asked David to risk his life against lions and bears to save a couple sheep. This might be today’s definition of a dead end job. David, with child-like faith, agreed to grind in this anonymity. No one expected that this shepherd boy was hero Israel needed, not what they wanted. He was not a fully-trained Israeli soldier. Thank God, because no soldier was going to be bigger a soldier than Goliath. David was basically the Stephen Curry of the day. A basketball-er some teams were hesitant about but has totally changed the game. Funny that both of them are small, long-range snipers, up against giants and both hold a high regard for God. So while the world was training the conventional way (sword, spear and shield), God knew David would change the game because he was training against wild predators with a sling.
ONE LAST THING ABOUT THE DOORS. God works in the higher dimension.
This means that He is able to fully satisfy your nature as a free-will decision maker and His nature as a higher dimension sovereign will God. He knows that even if you make initial mistakes, He knows all the permutations of future door arrangements to get you back. So, try your best, but don’t be afraid you’ll make too big of a mistake. Big mistakes hurt. In God’s economy, big mistakes lead to big scars (meaning: they will heal), big scars make you beautiful.
He is so amazing.
A parent protecting and shielding their children is great. But a parent that allows their children the freedom to make mistakes, then willingly becomes a safety net and continues to give them more opportunities to succeed is amazing.
God is like that. Even when the mistakes you make seem to totally derail you off your course, God can guide you back within the perfect timing of your rhythm. He doesn’t force you in a direction like a donkey. Instead he trains you from a healthy distance to make you a King and Priest, but always around spiritually to give you intimacy when you need it. When He doesn’t seem to be there, trust me, that’s when His eye is the most mindful of you. That’s the time when He knows you are most vulnerable and Daddy is waiting. I will write a post about this another day too. I’ve experienced this.
Please bear with my last-minute scribbled maze of one-way doors.
All of us try to go from the Abyss (or low point) to the New Country (A place filled with love, security and meaning). But in the history of man, we are shown to be very clueless about how to get there. The myriad of stories of rich powerful men who were born with good genes and rich but who are desperately miserable are commonplace to prove that point.
Try the maze above. Make sure you follow the arrows. You cannot go backwards if the arrow points forward. Go try now.
Imagine those arrows are potential doors you could go through to change either your person or situation. From the many people whom I counseled, I observe that many people choose the more obvious ones girded by popular or conventional wisdom but have a tendency of ending up going in circles. For example, we hear things like “the world loves you if you love yourself”. But many people’s reality is that the world may not want to cooperate with you even if you love yourself. Racism is still very real. We hear things like, “if you harbor negative thoughts, don’t be surprised by the negative outcomes”. This can be dangerous for people with genuinely difficult situations or have been raised in a broken past – they may continually blame and condemn themselves for their lack of success. I’ve seen this in my own life and in the lives of others.
It’s intuitive that such popular psychology is can be quite limited. Such advice is everywhere, people do attempt to follow them, that’s why they are popular. But in many disciplines (especially in finance and trading), knowledge which is openly popular usually aren’t that effective, or else everybody would be succeeding. I hear this all the time, “forgiving is good for you”. Sounds good, except that it’s practically lacking. Everyone knows that if you get to the point where you can forgive, it’s good for you. The question is how to get there! There’s a girl that couldn’t forgive her partner from cheating and abusing her. She is told that she needs to forgive to release herself. She cannot, hence, she repeats this to herself on bad days, “I need to forgive, I need to forgive”. The reason why she cannot forgive is because of what was “stolen” from her. Because there is evidence in her present life that makes her feel she can never get back what was stolen, that’s why she cannot forgive. And in a naturalistic worldview, there is no reason to believe that getting it back (or more) is guaranteed. There usually are fundamental reasons why you got into this mess to begin with. Continuing the do things the same ways almost guarantees the same types of outcome. Our soul can this prison, and the hopelessness causes unforgiveness. So this positive truism puts the cart before the horse. This “fluff” gets it wrong, you must be restored and released first, and that’s why you can forgive. If bad genetics, natural selection, selfish genes caused you to be where you are and you are too disabled to work yourself up in ways this world recognizes, in this framework, how can we ever get out? There is no point looking for a key inside the prison you are in. The key must be external. External to the limited naturalistic world we live in.
Einstein’s thought that the idea of insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results is quite apt. If pop-psychologies were popular at one point but diminished in the next generations, what does that tell you about their power to really change your life? I am not saying learning these philosophies are useless. Some are more effective than others. I concede they are helpful, but perhaps they are not the cornerstone to fill that hole in your heart. Neither are they ample to fix your problem if wounds run very deep. If you are severely malnourished, don’t look for tic-taks, or even one or two good meals; look for a dietitian who will get you the food you really need and will supply you until and even after you get healthy.
A close look at Nick Vujicic reveals something not too surprising.
Nick is a premier inspiration speaker. He is arguably the most qualified (IMHO) to teach inspiration because he TRULY had to overcome obvious great disadvantages to get here. Being born with no arms and legs is a totally different tier of adversity entirely. He has to probably spend 10x the amount of time to do anything physical – from mundane things from getting something from the fridge or to travel to school. He had every reason for self esteem problems. If you want to learn about how to forgive the worst circumstances, talk to an Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp survivor who has forgiven. If you want to learn about overcoming adversities in life, ask the one that has overcome the worst adversities.
Hence, If Nick says something different, I would pay close attention.
What’s different about him?
Yes, he has thought about the power of positive thinking, overcoming your fears, that the world loves you… etc etc. But it seems obvious to me that those techniques are just the appetizers and side-dishes to the main course.
He tells you the key difference in his introduction to his Life With Limbs website.
“Born with no arms and no legs, Nick Vujicic has overcome life’s challenged through strength and hope found in Jesus Christ.”
Jesus doesn’t just open doors – He is a Map-Hacker and Game Changer.
Remember that maze of doors above that irritated you because there was no solution?
Are you trapped by the “rules” of the world? The “rules” of man? Are you doomed by statistics?
If you take the original maze and fold it such that the “PRESENT” meets the “FUTURE” (cool huh?), you’ll see that all of a sudden, any of the initial doors that led you nowhere now leads to the New Country. Jesus is not just an external guide. He is a savior that works with you and through you. You walk your journey not just with Him, but through Him. Jesus doesn’t guide you through the maze to find that one perfect path. He does a whole lot more. Instead, He can fold the landscape on itself, funneling your mistakes into the New Country. He works with the totality of your human nature, your free will, your pains, joys, good and bad decisions, and makes it work with His sovereignty. This causes you to have “the best of both worlds”, where you end up going through unintuitive doors only to end up in a place much better than you expected. In addition, you don’t lose yourself in the process, but find the New You.
Why is it so important to LOOK at Jesus and all His promises? Because it gives us the courage to walk through those doors when the time comes. It really isn’t the case that there is a specific order of doors that you have to go through to the to the New Country and if you don’t go through the exact ones you won’t make it. It’s about going through those doors with and through Jesus. Without Jesus, those doors may lead nowhere. With Jesus, the same doors leads you to the right place. The reason why we need to look at Jesus to generate faith is precisely because those doors look like mundane ones from the outside, and we usually can’t see how it would lead you to the New Country.
He will customize that sublime sea to get you where you need to be. He will satisfy your free-will and His sovereignty in perfect balance to get you there. Therefore you won’t lose yourself in the process but be fully you as He is fully God.
This is your Jesus. Your lover. Your shepherd. Your Wisdom. Your Savior. Saviors don’t come to teach. They come to save. If you are drowning, He is not going to throw a “learn to swim” book at you. He jumps in to save you first, saves you again when you need it … and recommends good reading and wisdom for your soul later.
Those who look to the Lord, their faces are made radiant and are never covered with shame (Ps 34)
God bless you fellow brothers and sisters,
I’ll share a little more of my story on how God miraculously did it for me in Part 3 and 4.
This smile and complexion today, is a very far cry from this: