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How to Fight for Faith in the Dark

depression1

Three Lessons for Depression

I’ve often said that depression is like wearing tinted glasses. Everywhere you look, things look dark. Bleak. Black. Hopeless. Helpless. The waiting room for depression says, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”

Depression is both a physical and spiritual affliction. Neurons and synapses fail to fire properly, leading to chemical imbalances in the brain. These imbalances cause the depressed person to feel awful, like their entire world is a raw catastrophe hovering over the depths of despair. When everything is a catastrophe, it’s easy for faith to falter and stumble.

Normally, the prescription for faith is somewhat straightforward. We read the promises of God, let them diffuse throughout our hearts, and then embrace them fully. As we embrace these promises, our faith rises. When we have more faith, there is often a physical feeling of encouragement and hope.

But with clinical depression (and most other forms of mental illness), things don’t work quite that way. Depression usually causes a person to feel only gloom and despair, no matter what they’re thinking. Filling your mind with God’s promises is necessary, but it doesn’t usually alter the way you feel. It’s like having a migraine. Believing God’s word is essential, but it won’t take away the migraine (usually).

From Gloom Toward Gladness

When all you feel is gloom, it becomes very hard to have hope, no matter what you read in Scripture. As someone who labored under a lot of depression and anxiety throughout my life, I know that it usually doesn’t help a depressed person to say, “Just believe God’s word more!”

So if you’re depressed, how can you fight for faith? How can you believe while also stumbling through the dark? Here are some things that have helped me.

1. Distinguish between fact and feeling.

The most important thing I’ve learned is that 90% of the time in the midst of my depression, my feelings have zero connection to reality. This is key when you’re in the morass of mental illness.

I feel bad because something is seriously wrong with my body. Because my brain is rebelling — not because everything is really going to pieces. Reality is outside of my broken brain. It is defined by God’s word. It’s solid. Objective. Unchangeable. If I try to process my life or circumstances through the dark lens of depression, I will be terrified.

If you’re depressed, it can be dangerous to evaluate anything in your life. Don’t scrutinize your circumstances or friendships or prospects for marriage. I can assure you that you will misinterpret reality.

Instead, simply say, “I’m leaving that to God for now. I’ll think about it later and trust him to handle it.” God is good. He is faithful. He loves you even though you don’t feel it. He can handle your life even when you can’t.

Remember, faith is not a feeling. Faith is simply believing that God will do what he said, even when it doesn’t feel like it. I can guarantee that when you’re depressed, it won’t feel like God is faithful. But that feeling simply is not true. Don’t believe it.

John Calvin, a pastor acutely sensitive to the imperfect feeling of our faith, says that true faith “clings so fast to the inmost parts that, however it seems to be shaken or to bend this way or that, its light is never so extinguished or snuffed out that it does not at least lurk as it were beneath the ashes” (Institutes). Like David prays in Psalm 139:11–12, our faith may often slip away from our sight, but it does not slip away from God who gave it in the first place.

Separate your feelings from the truth.

2. Find a friend to remind you of the truth.

Depression gets you stuck inside your head. Your brain becomes a swirling mass of half-truths and distorted perceptions. Up seems down; truth seems stranger than fiction. It’s impossible to think straight. It’s like looking upside down in a hall of darkened mirrors.

During these times, I need someone to tell me the truth. Not in a corrective way or as an exhortation, but simply as an anchor. I need someone to say, “Listen, here’s what’s true. I know it doesn’t feel true, but it’s true. Right now, you feel like you are doomed. But God is with you. He loves you and won’t let you go.”

If you’re depressed, one of your greatest temptations is to shut people out. And I get that. It’s really hard to let people into the cage of your life. But you need someone to gently remind you of what’s real; a faithful friend to walk through the valley of depression with you.

When your friend speaks the truth to you, it gives you something to grab onto. In the moments of darkness, don’t believe what your mind is telling you. Believe the words of your faithful friend.

3. Give sunshine to the soul.

There is an intimate connection between the body and soul. The body often charts the way forward and the soul follows in the wake. When your body is deeply sick, it pulls your soul downward, like a weight tied around the ankle.

I’ve found that one of the most effective methods for increasing my faith begins with my body. When I exercise or go for a walk or sit in the sunshine, my body feels better. Blood and oxygen pump through my body, refreshing and nurturing it. When I feel better, I think more clearly and see things more accurately.

When I think more clearly, I can more easily process and embrace God’s promises.

When I embrace God’s promises, my faith surges.

Charles Spurgeon, who often fought depression, said,

If you’re depressed, embrace the sunshine. Go for a walk or a jog. Sit on your porch and feel the warmth on your face. Drink your coffee and watch the sun rise.

You won’t feel like it. You’ll want to hole up in the darkness of your room or stay in bed. But just twenty minutes in the sun can do wonders for the darkened brain and the sunken soul.

A Grip Stronger Than Your Own

Ultimately, your hope in depression hinges on Jesus. He’s holding onto you even when it feels like you’re free falling. You may be in the dark, but your Shepherd is walking right beside you. He knows what it’s like to be overwhelmed by grief and swallowed by bleakness.

Your grip on life may falter, but his grip on you won’t.

9 Bible Verses for Depression to Shine Light Into Darkness

Are there Bible verses for depression?                                                        Jesus

It depends what you mean.

The Bible is not a dispensary that we come to for our daily dose of inspiration or good feelings.

The Bible is primarily the grand story of God’s plan to redeem a people for himself for the glory of his name.

Nevertheless, the Bible does speak directly to the depressed, which is good news for people like me who often find themselves engulfed in the darkness.

So yes, there are scriptures for depression. These verses shine light into dark places, give hope to the hopeless, and allow the depressed person to have God’s perspective rather than their own dismal view.

If you’re depressed, burn the following verses on your heart. Print them out. Think about them and rejoice in them. They can be life to you.

You Won’t FEEL Any Different

Now, one thing that’s really important to note as you read these verses. You probably won’t FEEL any different after reading these verses.

There’s this weird idea in some Christian circles that the moment you change your thinking your feelings will also change. That as you read these Bible verses for depression, the gloom will suddenly lift.

This couldn’t be further from the truth, especially when it comes to mental illness. But here’s the good news: all these promises are TRUE. They don’t depend on you. They’re all about God and his mighty works on your behalf.

As you read these, thank God that they’re true, regardless of what you feel.

With that being said, here are nine bible verses for depression. May these give you hope and strength as you wait for God to lead you out of the Valley of Darkness.

Verse #1: God Will Never Leave You

8 And Hashem Himself will go before you. He will be with you; He will not fail you or forsake you. Fear not and be not dismayed!” (Deuteronomy 31:8) (The Israel Bible)

Don’t be dismayed because God is with you! Just as he swore to never desert the people of Israel, he will NEVER leave you or forsake you because you are in Christ. You are his child, and like a dad clearing a path through the woods for his small child, so God is going ahead of you, clearing the way.

Verse #2: God Will Strengthen You and Uphold You

10 Fear not, for I am with you, Be not frightened, for I am your God; I strengthen you and I help you, I uphold you with My victorious right hand. (Isaiah 41:10) (The Israel Bible)

In your depression, you feel like you can’t hang on to God. Like your weak and helpless, unable to do anything. Sometimes you can’t even get out of bed.

Good news! You don’t have to hold on to God because he is holding to you. When you fall, he will uphold you with his righteous right hand. When you are weak, he will strengthen you. The reality is, you ARE weak, you’re just feeling it more acutely now. Take heart, because God loves to sustain the weak.

Verse #3: God Hears Your Cry

1 For the leader. A psalm of David. 2 I put my hope in Hashem; He inclined toward me and heeded my cry. 3 He lifted me out of the miry pit, the slimy clay, and set my feet on a rock, steadied my legs. (Psalm 40:1-3) (The Israel Bible)

God hears your cries and sees your tears. He is not ignoring you and his heart breaks over your suffering. He takes no delight in the suffering of his people.

You can be sure that God will respond to your pleas for mercy. Maybe not when you want or in the way you want, but he is your loving, merciful Father, and he can’t ignore the cries of his children. He will put a new song in your mouth and set your feet upon the rock.

Verse #4: The Lord is Your Shield

4 But You, Hashem, are a shield about me, my glory, He who holds my head high.
(Psalm 3:4) (The Israel Bible)

God is your shield when you are weak, helpless, and hopeless. He is standing over you, guarding you, protecting you, keeping watch over you. Even though you are broken by depression, the almighty God is your shield.

He will lift your head out of the dirt and set you on your feet again. He will move you to sweet places and green pastures. You can trust HIS sustaining, protecting power even though you have no strength in yourself.

Verse #5: God is Near to the Brokenhearted

18 They cry out, and Hashem hears, and saves them from all their troubles. 19 Hashem is close to the brokenhearted; those crushed in spirit He delivers. (Psalm 34:18-19) (The Israel Bible)

When you are sunk into the depths of depression, you feel constantly brokenhearted and crushed in spirit. The soundtrack of your life is in a minor key.

God has a special place in his heart for the brokenhearted and crushed in spirit. When you find yourself under a crushing burden, God draws near to you. He sees you in the midst of your affliction and moves toward you with deliverance. Even though you can’t feel his presence, God is nearer to you now than ever, and he is working on your behalf.

Verse #6: The Lord Will Renew Your Strength

31 But they who trust in Hashem shall renew their strength As eagles grow new plumes: They shall run and not grow weary, They shall march and not grow faint. (Isaiah 40:31) (The Israel Bible)

Few things sap your strength like depression. Everything seems overwhelming and impossible. Even the most mundane acts require a massive amount of effort.

The good news is that God is in the business of giving strength to those who have none. He loves to sustain those who are fainting and give life to those who feel completely depleted. Wait for the Lord and He will give you life. He has promised to renew your strength even though you don’t feel it now. He has good things in store for you.

Verse #7: A Bruised Reed He Will Not Break

3 He shall not break even a bruised reed, , Or snuff out even a dim wick. He shall bring forth the true way. (Isaiah 42:3) (The Israel Bible)

A bruised reed is one that that is on the verge of breaking, and a faintly burning wick is a flame that is almost entirely extinguished. That’s a very apt description of depression. You feel as though you’re about to be completely broken or totally extinguished.

But doesn’t break bruised reeds or blow out flames that are sputtering and smoking. Rather, he nurtures them and heals them and brings them back to life. God doesn’t despise you in your bruised, broken, smoldering state. Rather, he is near to you, nurturing you and sustaining you.

Verse #8: Come All Who Labor and Are Heavy Laden

28 “Come to me, all of you who are struggling and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) (The Complete Jewish Bible)

Jesus gives rest to those who are crushed by the weight of the world. He is gentle and lowly in heart, and he doesn’t rebuke those who find themselves laboring under the overwhelming yoke of depression.

Come to Jesus in your depression and find rest for your soul. Let him carry the heavy end of your burden. Confess your utter weakness and frailty and let him be the burden bearer.

Verse #9: Nothing Can Separate You From God

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers, neither what exists nor what is coming, 39 neither powers above nor powers below, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God which comes to us through the Messiah Yeshua, our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39) (The Complete Jewish Bible)

When you’re haunted by the specter of depression, you feel very cut off from the love of God. Everything seems dark and bleak, as if there will never be another good thing in your life. You feel as though God has left you to wallow in the mire.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Because you are in Christ, nothing can separate you from God’s love. The only way God will stop loving you is if he stops loving Jesus. Though you may feel alone and unloved, there is absolutely NOTHING, including depression, that can stop God from loving you.

Fear Not the Storm

Charles Spurgeon, who was no stranger to depression, said:

“Love letters from heaven are often sent in black-edged envelopes. The cloud that is black with horror is big with mercy. Fear not the storm, it brings healing in its wings, and when Jesus is with you in the vessel the tempest only hastens the ship to its desired haven.”

In the midst of your depression, all you see are clouds that are black with horror. Remember it is God himself who controls the storms and Jesus is with you in your boat. You may not feel his nearness and it may seem that he is asleep in the stern, but he is with you nonetheless.

When the moment is right, he will deliver you. Until then, hold fast to these verses.

Jesus on Money

Jesus had some strong words about money. Many Christians find his teaching hard to accept. Here are some examples from his challenging teachings.

Woe to the Rich

At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus set out his core teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. Luke records the version he gave after he had descended to the plain and called the twelve disciples. He covered money in this teaching.

Looking at his disciples, he said:
Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep
(Luke 6:20,21,24,25).

This is fairly straightforward. Jesus had coming to turn the world upside down. Those who have plenty already will be disappointed. Mary had prophesied the same thing before Jesus was born.

 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty (Luke 1:53).

 Those who are poor will be satisfied and made comfortable.

These prophecies will not be fulfilled by force or through a revolution. They will be fulfilled voluntarily through giving and sharing. They were fulfilled by the early church, but they are not so often fulfilled in the modern world. This is a challenge. If the gospel is working effectively, the poor and hungry should be lifted up and be satisfied.

Seek the Kingdom

Christians should have a different attitude to wealth. We are not to worry about our life and basic things such as what to eat and drink.

Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? …. O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them (Matt 6:25,31,32).

For most of Jesus listeners, the daily battle for survival was totally real. Most of their day would be devoted to finding something to eat. Getting new clothing was an ongoing struggle. Jesus teaching was a totally radical outlook on life. How could they stop worrying about food, when starvation was often only a few hours away?

Jesus suggested a totally different approach.

Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matt 6:33,34).

This message was very clear to Jesus listeners. Most were totally worried about what they would eat tomorrow. By going out to listen to Jesus, they had probably missed an opportunity to earn tomorrow’s food. The idea that they could stop worrying about tomorrow by focusing on the kingdom was absurd.

However, the people who followed Jesus in Acts 2 and 4 saw this become a reality.

There were no needy persons among them (Acts 4:34)

This was not the result of gold dust falling from the sky.

They shared everything they had (Acts 4:32)

Believers no longer had to worry about what they would eat tomorrow.

Most modern Christians do not have to worry about what they will eat tomorrow. We tend to assume that Jesus teaching means that people who seek God’s kingdom will prosper. That is not what he meant at all.

New King

People who follow Jesus have a new King. This is important because a king owns all the property within his Kingdom. He will assign some property to his followers, but they will only hold it while they remain in his favour. People who opposed the king could have their property confiscated without compensation. The name of this practice is “eminent domain”.

When Christians decide to “seek the kingdom”, all their possessions become the property of their new king. Giving a tenth of what they own is not an option. Everything they own now belongs to Jesus, and must be used as he directs. This produced the change of thinking recorded in Acts 2 (cf Luke 12:22).

No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own,
but they shared everything they had (Acts 4:32)

This was not unusual behaviour, but the natural outworking of the Kingdom. Nor was this joint ownership of property, but an acknowledgment that their possessions now belonged to Jesus.

For modern Christians, seeking first the Kingdom means surrendering all our income and wealth to the Holy Spirit and using it as he directs. If he tells us to sell our property and give it away, that is what we must do. It no longer belongs to us, but to our king. If the Holy Spirit tells us to share our possessions, then we have not option. From reading Acts, it seems that the Holy Spirit likes telling people to share, so we should not be surprised if that is what he asks us to do.

Counting the Cost

Jesus warned his listeners to count the cost before choosing to follow him. A king who goes into

battle without working out if he has enough troops to win is stupid. Jesus illustrated this choice with a reference to money and wealth.

So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned (Luke 14:33-34)?

The cost we have to count is real. To be a disciple of Jesus we must give up all our possessions. The Greek work for “give up” is “apossetai”. It means “renounce” or “say goodbye”. Those who follow Jesus must say goodbye to their possessions. They might still be close by, but they no longer belong to the believer. They belong to Jesus, so the Holy Spirit can use them as he chooses.

That changes our questions. We should not ask, “Can I buy a new television?” Rather we should be asking the Holy Spirit, “What do you want to do the money in the bank account that has my name on it?” “What do you want to do with the wealth that used to belong to me?” If we asked these questions, we might be surprised at what the Sprit tells us to do. If we don’t ask these questions, we will be like salt that has lost its flavor. If we are not willing to say goodbye to our possessions, we cannot expect to influence our culture.

The Rich Young Ruler

One person who was unwilling to say goodbye to his wealth was the rich young ruler. He had asked Jesus what he needed to do to obtain eternal life. When Jesus told him to keep the commandments, he said he had kept them all since he was a boy.

Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property (Luke 18:22-23).

This man was very rich. The only way you could get rich in Jesus time was to collude with Herod or with the Romans, so the young man was lying when he said he had kept all the commandments. He was living on wealth that had been stolen from its owners. The young man was a ruler. To retain this position, he would have had to collude with the violence of the Roman political and military system.

Riches and rulers go together. For example, Mary prophesied:

He has brought down rulers from their thrones.
but has sent the rich away empty (Luke 1:54,55).

When rulers fall, the rich suffer, because their riches came from their links with the rulers. That was true in Jesus time, and is often true today.

Mathew records that the young ruler owned much property. The word used for possession is “ktema”, which is not the word generally used for possessions in the New Testament (uparxis). I have wondered why Matthew used a different word for the rich young ruler. I found a possible answer in the Lexicon of Ardnt and Gingrich (B218). They quote a reference which uses this word to mean “acquire in reward for wickedness”. The wealth that this man controlled was probably the rewards of wickedness. He could not retain the fruits of unrighteousness and follow Jesus. We too must get rid of all wealth that is the fruit of unrighteousness behaviour, if we are serious about following Jesus.

Owning Property

Many Christians respond to Jesus teaching by asking, “Can a Christian own property?” The New Testament answer is “No”. Christians cannot own property. The reason we cannot own property is that we have a king. When we commit to Jesus, all our property belongs to him. We cannot own property, because we and everything we hold belongs to him.

Many Christians ask a different question. “Do I have to sell everything I own?” This question does not make sense, because a Christian does not own anything. Everything we owned transferred to Jesus when we surrendered to him. We cannot sell what we do not own.

A different question is more relevant. “Can a Christian hold property”. The answer is yes. We can manage Jesus property on His behalf. We can act as His steward. The key is a shift in attitude. We no longer own property, so we cannot “claim our possessions as our own”. They belong to Jesus, so we must use them as the Holy Spirit directs. That changes everything.

The Holy Spirit will tell some people to sell their property. He told Barnabas to sell his property (Acts 436-37). Barnabas obeyed and it opened up a wonderful ministry as an apostle to Asia Minor. I am sure he had no regrets.

The Holy Spirit may tell other people to use their property for a particular purpose. He told some women to use their property to support Jesus.

Joanna the wife of Cuza Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means (Luke 8:3).

These women held their property as stewards, but the Holy Spirit prompted them to use it to support Jesus. In the same way, The Holy Spirit told Joseph of Arimathea to pay for Jesus to be buried (Matt27:57-58).

The answer to every question about property is simple. Jesus owns it all. He may allow us to hold some of his property as stewards, but we cannot call our it own. Good stewards must use his property as the Holy Spirit directs. The answer to all questions about property is to obey the Holy Spirit.

The Tough One

Jesus understood the human heart.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Luke 12:34).

Humans always focus on the place where our treasure is kept. If our treasure is savings in a bank, our focus will be on work and the bank. Jesus does not want his people to be distracted, so we must store our treasure in heaven.

There are two reasons why people store up wealth. One reason that people store wealth is so they can sit back and enjoy life. The context of Jesus teaching about treasure is the parable of Rich Fool. His farms produced a great crop, so he built new barns to store his crop. He said to himself.

You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry (Luke 12:19).

Jesus called the rich man a fool, because the very day that he said these words, he would die. Storing up wealth, so we can take life easy and party is not an option for God’s people. The word for “laid up” is used to describe hoarding. Jesus put this challenge another way when he said,

Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions (Luke18:15).

A Christian cannot have a good life by eating and drinking and being merry. We find peace by serving Jesus. We must be careful that greed for possessions does not distract us from serving him. Those who have taken on a spirit of greed might need to give away their possessions to break this spirit.

Security

The second reason that people store up wealth is to provide security for the future. We store wealth for a rainy day. We save money, so we can provide for ourselves, if we are sick. We fill a purse, so we can retire at the age of sixty-five. All these actions are done to take care of tomorrow. Jesus ruled them out, when he told us to trust God for the future.

Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matt 6:34).

Storing wealth for security into the future is pointless, as no earthly store is safe. If thieves do not steal it, corrupt bankers will steal it, or monetary inflation will slowly eat it away. Wealth can never provide security in an uncertain world.

Jesus did not pretend that the future will be free of problems. He knows that we will face trials, but he tells us to prepare by storing up treasures in heaven.

Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven where no thief comes near and no moth destroys (Luke 12:33).

True security comes from treasure in heaven.

Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out (Luke 12:33).

The best way to shift wealth to heaven is to give to the poor.

Unacceptable Teaching

Jesus teaching about security does not make sense in the modern world. Our security is based on treasure on earth. We have superannuation funds for our retirement. We have insurance to protect us against the risk of crisis. We keep a nest egg in the bank for use in an emergency. Not only are these things treasure on earth, but they tie up a resources that could be used for God’s work.

Jesus says that we should not need these things, but we would not feel secure without them.

The reason for this dilemma is that we have not understood what Jesus was saying. He gave the reason why we should not need treasure on earth for our security, why we should not be afraid.

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:32)

The reason that we should not be afraid is that God has given us the kingdom. The reason that we do not need treasure on earth is that God has given us the kingdom. The reason that we should not need insurance and superannuation is that God has given us the kingdom.

The early church had received the kingdom. The kingdom they received was manifested through giving and sharing.

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them (Acts 4:32-33).

These Christians had said goodbye to their property. They had stopped referring to property they held as their own. They were one in unity and love. The Holy Spirit was present with them. Giving and sharing became normal. The result was “no needy persons among them”. They no longer needed life insurance or superannuation, because sharing had made them redundant.

Better Solution

Caring and sharing is the best solution to the problem of security. Resources that were previously tied up in personal security accounts were no longer needed, because individuals trusted the body of Christ instead. The gospel of the kingdom had transformed their lives so much that they felt secure in the love of the Christians around them.

Modern Christians focus on Jesus teaching about treasure in heaven and feel uneasy. The reason is that we have missed the point. We focus on not worrying about tomorrow, and find it too hard. Jesus’ main point was that we have the kingdom. People with the kingdom do not need storehouses on earth.

The Kingdom comes first. Obeying Jesus teaching about wealth is not practical in the modern world because we do not have the Kingdom. We are not “all together in the same place” (Acts 2:44) (Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common.) We still consider our property our own. We do not give to everyone who has need. We do not have the Kingdom, so of course we need insurance and superannuation and money in the bank.

The solution is to “Seek first the Kingdom of God”. When we get serious about the Kingdom, we will sell our property and move close to the other Christians that we are connected with. Once we are together in one place, we will be able to love one another by sharing and caring for each other. When sharing and caring are normal, we will find that we do not need insurance or a nest egg in the bank. Instead, of storing money in case to provide for ourselves in a day of trouble, we will be saving to help others in their day of trouble. Treasure on earth will be irrelevant, because we have the treasure of the Kingdom.

Understanding the Problem

Before applying the New Testament teaching on money, we must understand the nature of the

problem we are attempting to solve. The problems with our culture are very different from those faced by the people in Jesus time. In New Testament times, most people already lived in close community. Shopkeepers had their homes and shops on the same street. Trades people tended to live close to people with the same trade. Many people still lived in villages. Lack of community was not the core problem. Being together was easy.

The problem that really made the people miserable was that most land had been accumulated into large estates. The Romans and Herod handed land out to the people who were loyal to them. This land was often confiscated from innocent and ordinary people. As land was the main source of capital in those times, people who lost their land faced persistent poverty.

The other way to gain wealth was to get your nose in the trough of the various temple scams. That option was reserved for those with the right connections. A pilgrimage to the temple made most people worse off. Even those who were poor would have to buy a couple of pigeons. The temple system robbed the ordinary people and did not provide any economic support.

Permanent employment was rare, so large numbers of landless people faced a hand-to-mouth existence by getting casual work whenever they could. In Jesus parable of the Vineyard workers, so people only got work for a few hours a day (Matt 20:1-8). That was a normal situation. People spent their time standing in the market place hoping some work might turn up. What a precarious existence. No wonder the vineyard owner decided to be generous.

The shrewd steward is another example. Without a job, his choices were sparse.

My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg (Luke 16:3).

The commentators tend to say that he was lazy or proud, but he was actually being very realistic. If he could not get work as a day laborer, he would have to beg.

The actions taken by the early church were an attempt to deal with this problem of persistent poverty and economic insecurity.

All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need (Acts 2:44-45).

They believers sold land to reverse the accumulation of property and to relieve the widespread poverty.

The Modern Problem

Our modern problem is different. Uneven distribution of wealth is still serious, but it is not the “show stopper” it was in Jesus time. Most people in the Western world have escaped subsistence and own some property.

The big problem eating the heart out of our modern culture is the collapse of community. Industrialisation, globalisation and urbanisation have eliminated the links between people that once held society together. Family members can travel all over the world to live and work. People and families live in isolation.

The collapse of community is greatest in modern cities, where migration and urbanisation have broken down traditional community relationships. Social mobility prevents stable relationships from developing and family life is breaking down. People become cogs in the corporate machine and life is often characterised by loneliness and personal insecurity.

Modern suburban culture creates barriers to communication and encourages individualism. As communities are breaking down and fear is rising, high fences are going up between houses isolating people from each other. This isolation means that most people do not belong to the community where they live.

This isolation and dislocation of urban society has been accompanied by the aggregation and accumulation of political power to the modern state. We now face the bizarre situation where needs are concentrated in individuals, but power and money is concentrated at the national level. This leaves families and individuals powerless before a faceless government.

To restore to cohesion of our societies, real community will have to restored to our societies, but it is not clear who will do it. Politicians have an inbuilt tendency to push power and money to the top, which will weaken society.

Isolated Christians

The church should be strengthening the foundations of society, but this is not happening. Western society has been shaped by the automobile and the church has gone along for the ride. Whereas the early Christians were “all together in one place”, modern Christians drive to church, just as they drive to work and to shop. The church is almost as socially fragmented as the rest of society. This is sad, because Christians are supposed to be experts on fellowship and loving one another. We should be strengthening local communities.

The collapse of community and our fragmented lifestyle prevents us from living out Jesus teaching on money. We have to build up treasures in superannuation and insurance schemes, because we are not part of Christian communities that will support us in time of trouble. We do not have relationships with Christians committed to providing financial support to each other. Isolated Christians have no choice but to fend for themselves by storing up treasure on earth. The most urgent need in our society is the restoration of local community.

Different Order

Acts 2 provides a solution to our isolation. The early church was altogether in one place, so they sold their possessions and property. In the modern world, the antidote is the same, but the order is the other way around. Our problem is that suburban property prevents us from being together. The solution is

Selling their property and possessions (Acts 2:45).

Once Christians are willing to sell their properties so they will be able to move closer to the other Christians that they relate to.

All the believers were in one place (Acts 2:44)

Our ultimate goal is to love each other, as Jesus loved us. We can only do that if we are together.

Some of those who sell their houses to move closer to other Christians will be selling down. This will release a surplus that can be used to provide financial support Christians who lack resources.

They were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need (v44).

When Christians live closer to each other, serious sharing becomes a practical alternative. Community life will be restored to our neighborhoods, when Christians sell their houses and buy houses together to live in one place.

This radical change will not happen by accident. Locality-based apostles working street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood can change our societies from the bottom up. The process is described in Apostolic Way.

The Shrewd Steward

The parable of the Shrewd Steward contains important teaching on money, but it is often misunderstood, because people assume that the rich man in the parable represents God.

There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, “What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.”

The manager said to himself, “What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to Beg-I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.”

So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, “How much do you owe my master?” “Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,” he replied. The manager told him, “Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.”

Then he asked the second, “And how much do you owe?” “A thousand bushels of wheat,” he replied. He told him, “Take your bill and make it eight hundred.”

The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly (Luke 16:1-8).

In Jesus time, the easiest way to could get rich was through theft or political collusion. When Moses led the children of Israel into Canaan, the land was divided evenly among the families, but by Romans times, that had all changed. Most of the land had been accumulated into large estates. The Romans handed out land to the people who were loyal to them. Herod did the same. This land was often confiscated from innocent and ordinary people.

Some of the people who lost their land were forced into a miserable life as tenant farmers. In return for the use of the land, they would have to give the rich owner, a proportion of their crops. The land owner held all the power in this relationship, so they could demand a large share of the crops. If the crop was good, the land owner would get most of it. If the crop was bad, the land owner would still take their due, and the tenant farmer would be left to starve. If the tenant could not produce enough to meet the land owners share, the balance would be added as a debt against the next year’s production.

This setup worked in the favour of the land owner. The tenant carried all of the risk, but got

very little in return. The land owner gained a good return, but carried very little risk. He could easily replace a troublesome tenant farmer with another, because the countryside was full of landless peasants. The only risk for the owner was that he might fall out of favour with the political powers and have his land confiscated. This is why the Sadducees and the Herodians were so afraid of upsetting the Romans. They were big land owners with a lot to lose.

Wicked Wealth

Jesus listeners would know that the rich man in the parable had accumulated land by political collusion. This could not be God. The rich man was too cowardly to deal with his tenants, so he employed a tough steward to do his dirty work. The steward’s task was to squeeze as much as possible out of the rich man’s tenants. The wheat and olive oil owed by the other men would be unpaid rent and debts from the previous year. The bills referred to in the parable had been written by the steward. The steward probably knew that the amounts owed were unfair, but his job depended on his getting as much as possible for his employer.

The rich man treated the steward badly. He had done deals that favored his employer, but when he heard rumor against the steward, he acted on it without giving the steward a chance to explain. He terminated the steward’s position and demanded a full account (he did not know what he was owed). When the steward changed the bills, the rich man praised his behaviour.

He had gained his wealth by unscrupulously, so he respected the unscrupulous behaviour of his steward. One crook recognised another.

The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly (Luke 16:8).

The rich man and the steward were dishonest men. That is why the rich man cannot represent God.

Making Friends

Jesus explained the meaning of the parable. His first point was that the people of the world handle worldly people better than Christians do.

For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light (Luke 16:8).

This is a challenging word. The people of the Spirit should be experts at dealing with worldly people.

Jesus then described what we should do with unrighteous mammon.

I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home (Luke 16:9).

The first thing to note is that the usual translation of these verses is misleading, as the last three words are turned into a reference to everlasting life (eternal home). The word translated “everlasting” is “aionos”. It can mean “eternal”, but in the previous verse, it is the word translated as “their generation”, literally “sons of the age”. Jesus is talking about how Christians deal with worldly people, so this is not a reference to eternal life, but to the worldly generation. The context is making friends with the current generation, not eternal life. A more consistent translation of the verse would be as follows.

I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails, you will be received into the homes of this worldly generation.

When Jesus sent out the seventy-two a couple of chapters earlier, he told them to take no money, but stay with a person of peace (Luke 10:1-7). A man who had accumulated wealth like this rich man would not be able to go and stay in another person’s home, because he would be run out of town. Jesus is saying the Christians who deal with their unrighteous wealth wisely will be welcome in the homes of the worldly people of their generation.

Righteous and Unrighteous Wealth

Jesus speaks of unrighteous mammon. Mammon is a Syriac word for money and the idol of wealth. The wealth of the rich man was unrighteous mammon, because it had been gained by unrighteous means. The corollary of this is that there must be righteous wealth as well. Wealth that is earned by working hard to meet the needs of other people is righteous wealth. Any honestly earned money that is saved is righteous wealth. Any capital goods that have been paid with honestly saved money are righteous wealth.

In Jesus time, there was not much righteous wealth, because the only way to obtain wealth was to do deals with political and religious powers. There is plenty of unrighteous wealth in the modern world too, but it is possible to gain wealth righteously as well. People who work hard for their wages can gain righteous wealth. The owners of businesses that provide reliable goods and services that people need can gain righteous wealth.

Righteous wealth is not an obstacle to the gospel. Unrighteous wealth creates hostility, so it hinders the gospel. It can distract a Christian from God.

Leaving Unrighteous Mammon

Jesus warned that unrighteous mammon can prevent us from serving God.

No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (Luke 16:13).

We are servants of God. We cannot serve God and mammon. This creates a problem for wealthy people who become Christians. If their wealth has been gained righteously, it should not have a hold on them. If they are the owners of wealth that has been gained unrighteously, they have a serious problem, because they will be partly controlled by the spirit of mammon.

A new Christian is required to repent from all “dead works” (Heb 6:1). Repentance means turning around and going in a new direction. The old unrighteous life must be left behind. This means that the owners of unrighteous mammon must turn from their unrighteous wealth and leave it behind.

When rich people Christians repent and follow Jesus, they need to get rid of their unrighteous wealth. They cannot be servants of unrighteous mammon and a servant of Jesus.

Identifying Unrighteous Wealth

How do we distinguish righteous from unrighteous wealth? The key is in the way it was acquired. Unrighteous wealth will have been obtained through deception, theft, manipulation or

dishonesty. In Jesus time, it was often acquired through collusion with the political and religious

powers. That problem has not changed, but the form will be different. Today the government will often give a group of people a monopoly power over an aspect of the economy that enables them to become wealthy.

Most unrighteous wealth will be obvious. If it is not obvious, we can leave it to the Holy Spirit. He will convict the new Christian, if his wealth is unrighteous and needs to be “got shot of”. We can trust the Spirit to do this task. Christian elders must not get into the business of forcing new Christians to give away their wealth, whether it unrighteous or not. (The Ananias and Saphira incident probably occurred because people were coming under inappropriate pressure to give wealth away (Acts 5:1-10)).

Repenting from Unrighteous Wealth

To repent is to turn and leave something behind. There are four ways to repent from unrighteous wealth.

 1. Restore Capital

 The best way to deal with unrighteous wealth is to return the capital to the people from whom it was extorted. The shrewd steward is a good example. He had previously squeezed the rich man’s tenants hard by enforcing exorbitant rents that made their lives miserable. He put things right by letting the tenants change their written tenancy agreements to a more reasonable rental. By halving the payment to 500 bushels of wheat, the steward made the tenants wheat farming economic. By halving the payment of olive oil to 400 gallons, the steward was making the farming of the olive grove economic for the tenant farmer.

The best option for the repentant owner of unrighteous wealth is to return some wealth to the people that were de-capitalized when the unrighteous wealth was acquired from them. If the asset cannot be returned, the rent should be reduced. This has the effect of re-capitalizing the strugglers.

 2. Make Restitution

 If the unrighteous wealth has been stolen from innocent people, the repentant owner should make fourfold restitution.

If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep (Ex 22:1).

Zachhaeus the tax collector promised Jesus that he would fulfil this command.

Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold (Luke 19:8).

He promised to make restitution for everything that was stolen. He could not identify all the people that he had stolen from, so he gave half his possessions to the poor as an alternative.

 3. Give to the Poor

Sometimes the new Christian will not be able to return their unrighteous wealth to thepeople from whom it was acquired. The owners may have gone away, or died, or simply be unknown.

In this situation, the unrighteous wealth should be given away to the poor and needy.

Jesus challenged the rich young ruler to give all his wealth away, because it was unrighteous wealth that had been acquired by unrighteousness.

Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven (Luke 18:22).

The book of Acts records examples of new Christians selling their unrighteous wealth and giving it to the poor.

Sometimes the repentant rich person will give the money away themselves. In most situations, they will work with deacons they trust. Deacons will have relationships with a many people in need, so they can help the person give their unrighteous wealth to deserving people.

Deacons will provide advice to new Christians. They will know about needs that could be met. They will handle money that is entrusted to them, but they must not tell new Christians what to do

  1. Even Up Capital

The reason for the uneven distribution of wealth in the modern world is that capital is unevenly distributed. Yet Paul says that equality is an important goal.

Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality (2 Cor 8:13).

This is a dilemma. Everyone thinks equality is a good idea, but no one knows how it can be achieved. Robin Hood tried to achieve it, by robbing the rich and giving to the poor. Socialists try and achieve it by taxing the rich and giving benefits to the poor. Neither of these methods has worked.

The Christian answer to the dilemma of equality in an unequal world is radical sharing, particularly sharing of capital. Those who have plenty of capital should give to those who don’t have much. This was Jesus solution to the problems cause by inequality of capital.

Sell your possessions and give to the poor (Luke 12;33)

Sometimes people will give food and clothing to the poor, but in many situations, providing the poor with capital (land, fishing boats, nets, tools) will help them more.

When helping people to give away unrighteous wealth, deacons should channel gifts of capital to poor people who have the capability to use it responsibly to be more productive. They would need to training in conserving capital and using it wisely. Transferring capital to the poor by giving and sharing will move the world closer to equality.

Christians should not hand out capital carelessly, as this would lead to serious waste.

They should train up potential recipients, so they know how to care for capital and not dissipate it in pointless consumption.

Poverty and Work

When dealing with unrighteous wealth, there are several traps that must be avoided. The person who gives away all their unrighteous wealth might end up in poverty. The Christians around them will have to ensure that they have financial support. This will be quite humbling for the new Christian. They will go from a position of power and independence to a place of dependence on others. This will be had to deal with, but will be good for their character.

In the past, they have will have gained wealth by manipulation and control. They need to be taught how to earn their living by honest work.

He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need (Eph 4:28).

Making this change will be very difficult, so the new Christian will need strong support from Christian elders and friends.

Whoever is faithful with very little is faithful with much, and whoever is unrighteous with very little will also be unrighteous with much. (Luke 16:10)

If the person has been unrighteous with much, they will need to learn to be faithful with a little for a while.

Common Temptation

A common temptation is for the new Christian to say, “I will hang onto my unrighteous wealth, but I will use it for God’s purpose”. Christian leaders will often agree with this temptation, because they have some works that need financial support. This temptation is wrong for two reasons.

1. The gospels say that unrighteous wealth should be given to the poor. This is just because the wealth was taken from the poor. The gospels never say that unrighteous wealth should be used to support Christian ministries. Support for Christian ministries should come through relationships, not through channeling unrighteous wealth.

 

  1. Unrighteous wealth is not neutral. It carries a spirit of greed and avarice. The new Christian needs to get free from these spirits that have controlled their lives. If they hang onto their unrighteous wealth, they will remain vulnerable to those spirits. They will be caught in an endless power struggle between their new master and their old master.

 

The unrighteous wealth is of no value to God, but it is can be a big burden for a new Christian. They must deal with it, before they can receive the true gifts that Jesus has for them. Some of the listeners could not accept Jesus teaching and it cost them.

 

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus (Luke 16:14).

 

Refusing to deal with unrighteous wealth is dangerous.

Belongs to Someone Else

 

Parallelism is a poetic form that is common in Hebrew poetry. An idea is repeated in a slightly different form with the same message. Jesus used this method when interpreting the parable of the Shrewd Steward.

 

Therefore, if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?
And if you have not been faithful with another man’s wealth,
who will give you what is your own (Luke 16:11-12)?

 

The message of these two verses is the same. If we have not been faithful with unrighteous wealth, God will not trust us with true wealth.

 

The important thing is how Jesus described unrighteous wealth. In verse 11, he called it “unrighteous mammon”. In verse 12, he referred to it as “another man’s wealth”. Jesus is saying that “unrighteous wealth” really belongs to another person. The person with unrighteous wealth actually controls something that belongs to someone else.

 

The only faithful solution is to return that wealth to that other person. Often the “other person” will be unknown. However, if the other person has lost his wealth, he will most likely be poor. Therefore, the second best solution is to return the unrighteous wealth to the poor. This might not hit the right person, but at least it would go to “another person” who may have lost their wealth to someone else.

 

Capital is Important

 

When Deacons are assisting new Christian to give away their unrighteous wealth, they must be careful that they do not de-capitalize the Christian community. Deacons must understand the importance of capital. Capital goods are important, because they make humans more productive. Capital and trade are the keys to escaping subsistence (see Capital for more on this topic).

 

The Jerusalem Church

 

When the Holy Spirit fell on the day of Pentecost, land was the main form of capital in Jerusalem. Many people responded to the preaching of the apostles by selling their land and using the money to support those in need.

 

For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need (Acts 4:34-35).

 

This was an amazing transition.

 

There were good reasons for Christians in Jerusalem to sell their capital goods.

 

  1. Many of Jesus disciples had heard him prophesy that Jerusalem would be destroyed.

 

Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down (Luke 21:5-6).

 

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you Look, your house is left to you desolate (Matt 23:37-38).

 

Jesus had given a set of signs that would warn when this was about to happen. Jerusalem would be surrounded by the Roman armies and totally destroyed. This prophecy was fulfilled in AD70.

 

The believers in Jerusalem understood that once the prophecy was fulfilled, property in the city and its surrounds would be worthless. It made sense for them to sell their property while it still had value. This is the reason why, so many Christians in Jerusalem sold their property.

 

  1. The rich people who had become Christians had gained their wealth through their place in the Roman political system. It was unrighteous wealth. These people had chosen a new King: Jesus. They could not retain land and property that represented loyalty to King Herod or Caesar, so they sold it. They would probably have lost their property anyway, once their new loyalty became clear.

 

  1. Some of the new Christians had obtained their wealth illegally.

 

Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:36-37).

 

Barnabas was a Levite and Levites were not entitled to own land in Israel (Num 26:62). When he came to faith in Jesus, the illegal ownership of land would have weighed on his conscious. He probably could not return the land to its rightful owner (Lev 25:13), so he sold the land and gave the money to the apostles for distribution to those in need.

 

  1. The word used for possessions in Acts 2:45, 4:34 and Acts 5:1 is “ktema” or “ktetor” This is not the word generally used for possessions in the New Testament (uparxis). These nouns are derived from the verb “ktaomai”. It means “acquire” or “gain control over”. It refers to property that has been acquired, not bought. “Ktema” refers to unrighteous wealth that has been acquired by wickedness. The property sold by Christians like Barnabas and Ananias may have been acquired as a reward for wickedness.

 

  1. Much of the land in New Testament Israel was owned by absentee landlords. Some of these might have come Back to Jerusalem for the Passover and received the gospel. Barnabas lived in Cyprus, but he owned land near Jerusalem. Many of these absentee landlords would have sold their land when they received the gospel.

 

In each of these circumstances, the decision to sell the property was wise and good. However, the widespread sale of property created a problem for the Jerusalem. Selling capital goods and consuming the money is useful in the short term, but in the long term it leads to poverty. Without capital goods to make them more productive, people are forced into subsistence living.

 

De-capitalism

 

The church in Jerusalem de-capitalized quickly by the rapid sale of land and property. This

produced an unintended consequence for the large numbers of Christians who had sold their property, but decided to continue living in Jerusalem. They remained in poverty until the city was eventually destroyed. By getting rid of their capital, but remaining in the city, they had

consigned themselves to poverty.

 

Some of the Christians in Jerusalem may have misunderstood the timing of Jesus prophecy. He had given clear signs that would warn when the collapse of the city was close (Luke 21:7-24). This meant that that the disciples did not need to rush to sell their properties. They could wait until the destruction of the city was closer. The poverty in Jerusalem might have been the result of too many Christians selling their property too soon.

 

When Deacons are assisting new Christians to give away their unrighteous wealth, they must be careful that they do not de-capitalize the Christian community.

 

Hold Capital Lightly

 

Nothing in this world is certain. We never know what the future will bring. The capital of Christians can be taken from them at any time. If Christians work hard and consume frugally, they will gradually build up their capital. This may cause the enemies of the gospel to become envious. If persecution takes hold, their righteous wealth might be confiscated. If this happens, Christians should rejoice that they are able to share in the sufferings of Jesus.

 

You joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions (Heb 10:34).

 

The Christians referred to in this letter had lost their property. They rejoiced because they knew that God had given them the kingdom.

 

All our property belongs to Jesus, so if it is confiscated, he is the only one who has the right to be upset. We have not lost anything, so we cannot complain. We still have the Kingdom of God, so we have riches far beyond what we deserve. We can rejoice in the privilege of being part of the Kingdom.

 

Why are we scared of growing old?

100-years-old

Age brings intelligence, experience, wisdom and beauty. So why are we so scared of it?

Britain is no country for old men. Or old women for that matter. If we think we’re taciturn and uptight about sex, try talking to us about age. Unfortunately, shoving our heads in the sand about the fact that we, our friends, our family and society at large are going to get old isn’t going to work in the long-term. This year it was forecast that a third of all babies born in the past year are expected to reach 100. A recent review from the Workplace Retirement Income Commission warned that millions of people face a “bleak old age” thanks to cracks in the private sector pension provision. And last year, the Health Service Ombudsman raised concerns that nearly a fifth of complaints received about the NHS related to care of the elderly, and a dossier containing stories about the alarmingly poor level of care elderly patients receive was published by campaigners. Add to that the diminishing number of role models – especially women – over a certain age, and you could be forgiven for thinking we live in a world where no-one gets old.

The trouble is that many of us find it impossible to relate to these worrying facts, unable to face the reality that every day we inch ever closer to our own dotage. An old age that we now believe starts at 59, according to a 2012 survey. It seems ‘the elderly’ are ‘them’, not ‘us’, to such an extent that advancing years provide a cloak of invisibility. You might offer an octogenarian a seat on the bus, or let them in front of you in a queue but how often do you engage in an actual conversation with a person you aren’t related to? It’s easy to forget that the man in his late 80s in Waitrose probably fought in World War II, or that the woman struggling to cross the road lived through an age when it was legal to fire a woman when she got married – and may well have campaigned against it. Our older generations experienced the majority of the most tumultuous century in human history and yet at best we infantilize, at worst outright ignore them. Pity instead of respect. A 1998 study showed that we use baby talk (higher voices and simpler words) when communicating with people we perceive as old. So why do we have such an extraordinary aversion to ageing?

Eternal Youth

One suggestion is that we aren’t forced to face up to our own ageing process because the elderly are deftly airbrushed out of our lives by an ageist media and a business culture in thrall to youth. A survey by the Department for Work And Pensions concluded that “age related stereotypes are rooted in American society” with one in seven people saying having a boss in their 70s is “completely unacceptable”. Whether this is because they are viewed as too old to cope in the workplace, or not in touch with modern business technology, it’s something people will have to learn to accept if current proposals to raise the American retirement age to 70 are successful.

Although one in three people in society is now aged over 50, you wouldn’t know it by looking at how women are represented by the media. Take the landmark case of TV presenter Miriam O’Reilly, 55. After she was dropped from Countryfile in 2009, O’Reilly successfully sued the BBC for age discrimination. A BBC report commissioned following her case concluded there was “particular concern” about the lack of older women represented on television, with more than a third of women over 55 saying there were too few of them. In trying to combat this, the BBC were accused of tokenism by Carole Walker, a 52-year-old newsreader who believes her subsequent appointment was “nothing more than a PR stunt” after she was given just one presenting shift in three months. It’s not just the Beeb either – in 2008, Selina Scott, 60, won a payout and an apology from Five after apparently being replaced in favour of a younger presenter.

We’re frightened of becoming weak and needy, but those who have a positive view of ageing stay healthier longer

And the representations of older women we do see in the media are problematic. “These fall into certain groupings,” says Dr Lorna Warren, senior lecturer in social policy at the University of Sheffield. “Firstly, there’s the likes of the impossibly beautiful Helen Mirren or photoshopped images in adverts… And then you get the figure-of-fun stereotypes – think of EastEnders’ Dot Cotton – they’re either sex-starved or asexual.” Even more damningly, ageism in the media is particularly rife when it bisects sexism. Older men are still afforded a high media profile; just look at George Clooney, Tom Jones (on The Voice), Pierce Brosnan and Jeremy Paxman. However, much progress we’ve made in the 21st century, we still inhabit a ‘display culture’ which measures a woman’s worth by youth. So as women lose this, they become overlooked. A poll in 2011 revealed women feel they become ‘invisible’ at 46 and that their opinions no longer matter. A third admitted to being envious of how well their male partners were ageing.

Being bombarded with advertisements with images of dewy teenagers selling us everything from soft drinks to deodorant inevitably has a deep effect on our own psyche. As we grow older, the inexorable march of wrinkles and grey hairs reminds us of our own waning power.

Society has taught us not to see wisdom and experience but weakness and ugliness. So when the inevitable truth of ageing confronts us in the mirror – is this sagging? Is that drooping? – we don’t react well. Consequently, the ultimate compliment has become, “Oh, you don’t look your age!” And it’s not just women in their 30s fishing for it – figures released by The Harley Medical Group last year revealed that there has been a 17% increase in women over the age of 65 using their clinics. Age has become a disease, to be cured and eradicated.

There is, of course, the inescapable fact that the elderly reminds us of our own mortality as well as that of our nearest and dearest. We are frightened of becoming weak and needy, of losing our minds and our mobility, so we avert our eyes – a recent survey from the Disabled Living Foundation revealed that two-thirds of us dread becoming a burden on family and friends, while three in four are scared of illness in old age. The irony is that research has shown that those who have a positive view of ageing actually stay healthier longer.

Still, so intrinsic is our aversion to age that it is the first defining characteristic that toddlers understand in others – studies have shown three-year olds can easily pick out pictures of differently aged people, pointing to cues such as baldness and wrinkles. We are, it seems, hard-wired to define people by the number on their birth certificate. Tellingly, statistics show that almost a third of people under 25 don’t have contact with anyone over 65, widening the gulf between the generations even further.

Social Change

Psychologically, we prefer to see the elderly as ‘other’ – with different attitudes, tastes and world views – and to admit that we have anything in common is to acknowledge that one day we will be like them (recent research has shown that people exaggerate the differences between themselves and others with characteristics that they fear having themselves).

Interestingly, in more ‘collectivist’ cultures – China, for example – it’s this very reminder of mortality that may underline respect for and the value of the elderly. Families know their time with them is limited, so they cherish their knowledge all the more – growing old is not growing obsolete, it is just taking on new and important roles. Our nuclear society in America – where many of us only have irregular contact with grandparents – is very different.

It seems that shifting our attitudes towards ageing would not only be good for old people, but for us in our older age too – studies in Japan, which has a similar respect for age to China, have shown the prevalence of depression and dementia is far lower, implying that this culture may exert a protective influence. Research in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science this year has actually shown that we get happier as we get older – when we move from middle to old age, we focus on positive events and filter out bad ones, plus we cope with a negative event by shrugging it off and moving on. So instead of gasping at every grey hair, we should learn to celebrate age, experience and the innate self-confidence that comes with it, to see it as a new stage of life rather than the slow march towards the end of it. We asked five women over 60 to tell us how they feel about growing old…

60s

Elsa Clark is 69 and a retired fraud officer. She’s married with two children and lives in Leeds

“I was first diagnosed with breast cancer at 41. They removed my ovaries to boost my chances of the cancer not returning. It was devastating to go through the ‘change of life’ so young, but it was 20 years until the cancer came back. I think I’ve beaten it now and just want to get on with living

Getting older didn’t matter when I was younger – we’d been through two world wars. There wasn’t the superficiality there is today. We had film stars like Elizabeth Taylor, but we didn’t try to look like them. Nobody said: ‘You should have your boobs perked up’.

When you’re young, you don’t realise you’re getting old – you see an old lady crossing the road, and you never imagine that’s going to be you. If you did, you wouldn’t carry on. You suddenly get to 61 and think: ‘I’ve got those spots on my hands my grandmother had, I’m getting old’, but by then you’re not bothered.

What worries you when you’re 40 doesn’t worry you at 60. I wouldn’t want to live to be 100. I’d be happy to go in my 80s. It’s about the quality of life, not the quantity.”

With thanks to breastcancercare. org.uk for Elsa’s story

70s

 

Age - the 70's

Elaine Brown is 72, married and lives in Henshaw. She has three daughters, four grandchildren and has had several careers

“I was born in 1940 and three months later my dad (who is now 96) went into the army. I didn’t see him again properly until I was nearly six. It was a time of uncertainty but we just got on with it.

When I was 18 I went to London to train as a home economics teacher and lived in halls. You were meant to be home every night by 10pm but I used to sneak out to the opera. I ended up teaching for five years but left when I was pregnant with my first daughter in 1966 (flextime didn’t exist then). My husband and I decided we needed our own income and I’d read about Mary Quant setting up her own boutique in London so that’s what we did in our hometown of South Shields.

We were fairly useless to begin with and then we discovered black flared trousers. They were a goldmine. We were trailblazers at the time, no-one else we knew was doing anything similar. Since then we’ve developed property and set up restaurants – we’ve had to be adaptable.

I’m not too worried about getting older. I’m very active and in good health (I think I have my father’s genes). I still keep up to date on news, culture and technology. I don’t really care if people think I’m old – in my mind I’m not.”

80s

Jean Simper is 89 and lives in Hungerford. She has two sons and used to be a nurse and a farmer’s wife

“When I was younger, we never really worried about getting old, like women today. We had other things to worry about and were too busy! Me and my friends never talked about it, we just had great fun together.

The worst thing about getting older I suppose is that you can’t quite get around like you used to be able to. Day to day, I play bridge and Scrabble, watch television and sometimes have a friend in for a drink. There’s not much else you can do, really – I am 90 next year!

I do miss playing tennis – I played right up until my late 60s and really did enjoy that. I had great friends and we went all over the place to tournaments. I can’t do it now – I’ve got three stone of fluid on my hip and it’s getting worse, unfortunately.

I’m very lucky in that I still have good friends and a great relationship with my two sons [Paul, 49, and Geoffrey, 61]. We go out for coffee and meals, go to concerts and to the Proms every year. I studied music before I went into nursing, and it’s still incredibly important to me. A few years ago I approached George Michael in a restaurant in London and told him that as my son always went to his gigs, he should go to his. That was in my heyday – being older, you don’t really care!

I don’t have a favorite age; I think they’ve all been quite good. For my 90th birthday, I hope my sons will organize something – I would like a party, definitely a party.

90s

Age, the 90's

Alice Ivimey is 98 and lives in Southend-On-Sea. She worked as a wedding dress maker and was widowed in 1975. She has no children

“Back in my younger days we never really thought about getting older, we just got on with it. I most enjoyed being between 35 and 45 because there was no war, it was over, and I was at home with my husband. I didn’t see him for five years while it was on – he went to war straight away; we’d only just got married. When he came back we had no worries. Life was quite pleasant.

Nowadays I definitely feel younger on the inside than I look on the outside. I certainly don’t like looking in the mirror. I can’t see properly to put on my make-up, but I still like to look nice even though the only person I may see during the day is my career. Just because I’m older, I still want to look my best.

Getting older is frustrating. People act like they don’t want to be interested in you. I think young people today don’t have any respect for the elderly; they don’t seem to have any sympathy for us when we get old.

Now life is different altogether. I can’t get out very much, I can’t read like I used to and I can’t see well so I don’t watch TV like I used to do. Also, I keep falling over and feel like my body is giving up on me. I’m 98 now and would rather go while I still have all of my marbles.

100s

100-years-old

Elfriede Bruning is 101, has one daughter and lives in Berlin. Part of the Anti-Nazi resistance in thirties Germany, she went on to become a prolific author.

“I had to give up my driving license four years ago. I really loved driving. Today my car sits outside my flat, reminding me of the freedom I used to have. But I still have some choices – I smoke three or four cigarettes a day.

The other thing I’ve had to give up recently is writing. I’ve had over 30 books published, from novels to reportage, but nothing else occurs to me now; I’ve written it all!

Writing was my biggest love. I never had much luck with men. I was married for 10 years until we broke up in 1947. After that I had a couple of affairs. When my father died my mother came to live with me so I could care for her. Myself, my daughter [Christina, 70] and my mother seem to have scared every man away from me! I’m not bitter about that. I could never really cope with being confined or restricted by a man.

I still give book readings at festivals and in bookshops, it gives me a lot of satisfaction. But when this attention is over, what then? My old friends aren’t around anymore. I’m not too bothered about living much longer.

“None of us lives to himslef, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s”.

Romans 14:7-8

 

 

 

Race, The Cross, & Christianity

The United States has been treating evidence of racism, prejudice, and discrimination, and not the causes, since the Civil War.

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This afternoon, my wife and I watched the moving The Help staring Viola Davis as Aibileen Clark, Octavia Spencer as Minny Jackson, and Emma Stone as Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan.

Set in Mississippi during the 1960s, Skeeter (Emma_Stone) is a southern society girl who returns from college determined to become a writer, but turns her friends’ lives — and a Mississippi town — upside down when she decides to interview the black women who have spent their lives taking care of prominent southern families. When she arrives home, she finds that her nanny and family’s maid Constantine Jefferson (played by Cicely Tyson) is gone. Skeeter sees the chance of writing a book about the relationship of the black maids with the Southern society for an editor from New York. First, she convinces Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) to open her heart to her; then Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) is unfairly fired by the arrogant Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is a leader in the racist high society, and Minny decides to tell her stories after finding a job with the outcast Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain). Soon eleven other maids accept to be interviewed by Skeeter that also tells the truth about Constantine. When the book “The Help” is released, Jackson’s high society will never be the same.

Barak Obama, in his new preface to his older book Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, quotes William Faulkner to show that history is never dead. He describes the difference between the time the book was written and the time he was writing the new preface.

The book was published in 1995, “against a backdrop of Silicon Valley and a booming stock market; the collapse of the Berlin Wall; Mandela – in slow, sturdy steps – emerging from prison to lead a country, the signing of peace accords in Oslo.” He observed that there was a rising global optimism as writers announced the end of our fractured history, “the ascendance of free markets, and liberal democracy, the replacement of old hatreds and wars between nations with virtual communities and battles for market shares.”

“And then,” he says, “on September 11, 2001, the world fractures.”

“History returned that day with a vengeance; … in fact, as Faulkner reminds us, the past is never dead and buried – it isn’t even past. This collective history, this past, directly touches our own.”

The United States has been treating evidence of racism, prejudice, and discrimination, and not the causes, since the Civil War. Slavery; “separate but equal”; segregated pools, buses, trains and water fountains; workplace and housing discrimination; and other forms of bias and animosity have served as painful barometers of the nation’s racial health. They have been, however, treated like the pain that accompanies a broken leg. The effort was to treat or reduce the agonizing symptoms of the break rather than fix it.

In our faltering efforts to deal with race in this country, a great deal of time is devoted to responding to symptoms rather than root causes. That may help explain why racism, prejudice, and discrimination keeps being repeated.

The Bible has much to say on racial intolerance in both testaments. The good Samaritan story of Luke 10:25-27 was an attempt by Jesus to expose the wrongful attitude of racial intolerance that existed between the Jews & Samaritans during the time of Jesus. In Matt 28:19 Jesus told his followers to go out and make disciples of all nations and this would include all people groups. Jesus never said to only make disciples of some people groups, he said Òall nations. Also, Paul in Galatians 3:28 condemned racial intolerance in the church. Racial discrimination should not be a part of the true regenerated Christian.

The first thing to understand is that there is only one race—the human race. Caucasians, Africans, Asians, Indians, Arabs, and Jews are not different races. Rather, they are different ethnicities of the human race. All human beings have the same physical characteristics (with minor variations, of course). More importantly, all human beings are equally created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). God loved the world so much that He sent Jesus to lay down His life for us (John 3:16). The “world” obviously includes all ethnic groups. God does not show partiality or favoritism (Deuteronomy 10:17; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9), and neither should we. James 2:4 describes those who discriminate as “judges with evil thoughts.” Instead, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (James 2:8). In the Old Testament, God divided humanity into two “racial” groups: Jews and Gentiles. God’s intent was for the Jews to be a kingdom of priests, ministering to the Gentile nations. Instead, for the most part, the Jews became proud of their status and despised the Gentiles. Jesus Christ put an end to this, destroying the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14-16). All forms of racism, prejudice, and discrimination are affronts to the work of Christ on the cross.

Ephesians 2:14-16 (NKJV)

Christ Our Peace

 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.

Jesus commands us to love one another as He loves us (John 13:34). If God is impartial and loves us with impartiality, then we need to love others with that same high standard. Jesus teaches in Matthew 25 that whatever we do to the least of His brothers, we do to Him. If we treat a person with contempt, we are mistreating a person created in God’s image; we are hurting somebody whom God loves and for whom Jesus died. Racism, in varying forms and to various degrees, has been a plague on humanity for thousands of years. Brothers and sisters of all ethnicities, this should not be. Victims of racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to forgive. Ephesians 4:32 declares, “32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Racists may not deserve your forgiveness, but we deserved God’s forgiveness far less. Those who practice racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to stop and repent. “13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” (Romans 6:13). May Galatians 3:28 be completely realized, “28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Unfortunately, humanity has twisted the Bible to try to justify human fears and prejudices. Some consider the “curse of Ham” to be an excuse to hate those of African descent. Others insist that the Jews were responsible for Jesus’ death and deserve our ridicule. Both views are patently false. The Bible tells us that God’s judgment is not based on appearances but what is on the inside (1 Samuel 16:7), and those who do judge according to appearances do so with evil intent (James 2:4). Instead, we are to treat one another with love (James 2:8), regardless of ethnicity (Acts 10:34-35) and social standing (James 2:1-5). Christian love negates all prejudice, and the Bible condemns racism.

A new year will be upon us soon. What will it take to put our racism, prejudices, and discrimination aside and unite as ONE in Christ Jesus?

Ring of Truth

The Greatest Gift

God is a giver, not a taker. Throughout Scripture, we find evidence of His great generosity towards His creation. From the beginning of time as we know it, when He called forth Creation — when He gave existence to things that had never before existed — we can see the true heart of God. He literally gave of Himself to make each one of us. 7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7 (NKJV))

The very nature of God is to give, to create, and to bless His creation. Unfortunately, many of us are so self-absorbed and greedy for gain that we do not even have the eyes to see the countless gifts that God has already worked into our lives. Yet, God wants us to be givers too. He created us to be like Him – to pour of ourselves into other people, and to reciprocate His love for us. God created us with the power to be able to give back to Him! When I really stop and think about this, it truly amazes me – that God – the sum of ALL good things, who holds ALL power and authority, would humble Himself in this way.

He didn’t make himself entirely independent of His creation, or set Himself up as a mere casual observer of humankind, though He certainly had the power to do so. Instead, He allowed Himself to love us to the point where our returned love would be a blessing to Him. Each one of us, little and insignificant as we are, has been given the profound gift of the ability to bring joy to the heart of God. It is extremely humbling to me, when I stop and consider that God has thus set the laws of His creation into motion. That the One who is Love personified, would actually be blessed by the love that I could offer Him. This is the greatest gift of all, and it is given to every human being who has ever lived or will live–the ability to give of ourselves to God and to each other. Without this gift, life would be very empty indeed.

Bible Says Christmas Is Time of Blessing

In the mad rush of the holiday season, the true meaning of giving is often forgotten. What is meant to be a time of blessing and joy becomes instead, a time of stress and depression. Recently, as I was praying for the church and the nations of the world, a great sorrow began to rise up inside of me. God has placed so many gifts within His church. Each member of the Body of Christ has been given strategic giftings and a unique place that none other can fulfill in quite the same way. Yet, so many are not moving into their rightful place. They are afraid to use their gifts, or they think their gifts are insignificant. Many are secretly hurt and angry at God because they feel they haven’t been given anything remarkable. They mistake God’s anointing and talent in certain individuals as a sign of God’s approval of those people, and they assume their “lack” is a sign that God doesn’t love them as much as He loves others…that God is somehow “prouder” of other people than He is of them. Because of this fear and resentment, they are crippled in taking their proper place in God’s kingdom, falling short of the gift they were created to be.

Others are busily using their gifts, and by their own efforts are successful in the eyes of the world. Maybe they have a thriving ministry. Maybe they are making good money. Maybe they have the respect and admiration of those around them. This doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that their actions are a blessing to the heart of God, or that they are even obeying what God has told them to do. Ecclesiastes 4:4 (NKJV) says, 4 Again, I saw that for all toil and every skillful work a man is envied by his neighbor. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind. Many are so busy creating their own kingdoms, that the kingdom of God suffers a great lack. Their pride and busy occupations have blocked the measure of their true worth in God’s kingdom.

Who will fill these missing places in the body of Christ? Even now as we go about our daily lives, all creation groans in frustration, waiting for the sons of God to be revealed (Romans 8:19-22). There is so much work to be done, and so few who are willing to do it. John 4:35-36 (NKJV) says, “Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!  36 And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.” God intends both the sower and the reaper to share the same joy of the harvest. There should be no competition among God’s faithful servants, no jostling each other for the “prime” positions, no envy or personal ambition. If we truly love the Lord, our only goal should be to bless Him, to serve Him, and to advance His kingdom.

As I was praying, I saw a vision of the Lord, manifested in the person of someone I love very much. In the vision, I saw this person laying in bed, exhausted after a hard day’s work. The Lord said to me “What do you think she would like right now? How could you bless her?” I could instantly see that a cup of hot tea and a home-cooked meal would be just as much, if not more of a blessing to her than whatever big, distant work I could conjure up to show her my love. Immediately, I could see what God was trying to show me. We are created like Him. If we appreciate a “small” gift given in love more than the fanfare of a “big” gift given in insincerity, how much more does God?

As the vision continued, I could see Jesus sitting alone by a road with people running up and down it. They were all very busy. Some were stopping and chatting with Him for a moment here and there, but as I overheard their conversations, they were mostly to inform Jesus of what they wanted from Him, or what they were going to do for Him. One man in particular ran up to him. “Oh, Jesus, I’m so excited,” he cried. “I’m off to tell the world all about you!” Quickly he ran off before Jesus could say anything at all. My heart broke, as I saw Him there, sitting by Himself. Yes, He wanted to bless those people with things beyond their wildest imagination. Yes, He wanted them to find fulfillment in serving Him. But what He really wanted most of all was for those people to come and sit with Him and talk awhile…to hold His hand and look deep into His eyes…to share their dreams and sorrows, and to hear His joys and sorrows…to let Him simply give His love to them. In all their mad rush to give and get, they missed the greatest treasure of all, sitting right in front of them.

So much of what we do for God is with mixed motives for our own personal fulfillment. We all want to have a purpose and reason for living. We all hope that if we were to die tomorrow, we would leave a legacy of some kind behind us. Yet for most of us, this becomes the end to which we live. Sadly, when we make anything other than God our reason for living, that thing will become an idol in our lives. Even if it is a good thing, like a ministry or a mate, it can still never fulfill us because it wasn’t designed to. It simply can’t! It doesn’t even have the ability to fulfill. In fact, those idols will begin to work against us, and cause us to suffer spiritual barrenness. They will put us on a treadmill until we become broken-hearted and exhausted trying to keep it all alive. On the other hand, if we receive them simply as the gifts they are and continue to love God first in our lives, we will be given the ability to enjoy them, for this too is a gift. Ecclesiastes. 3:13 (NKJV) says, 13 and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God. The key is simply to: 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.  (Matthew 6:33 (NKJV)).

When all is said and done, only those things which were done “as unto the Lord” will count for anything. In God’s eyes, there are no “big” or “small” things done for His Kingdom. All He asks of us is to obey Him in what He tells us to do. Let us follow through and obey Him, whether His commands seem great or small. After all, it is Jesus we are talking about here! The One who left His home in glory to bleed and die a humiliating, painful death for each one of us. The One who made himself vulnerable to us, by giving us the ability to bless him or hurt him. As we obey Him, we bring such joy to His heart! Then His joy, which is a strength to the spirit of man, becomes our joy as well. God is not impressed, nor is He blessed by the best of our works done in self. He is only impressed by the attitude of our hearts.

As we look around the world this holiday season, let us stop and consider Whose birthday we are celebrating. Let us not forget to offer sincere thanks to our precious, precious Lord for His many blessings in our lives. And let us show our thankfulness by our actions! Let us offer the same mercy that God has given us to those around us. Let us press deeper into the heart of God, that we may have something to offer this world besides the same old cycle of greed, pride and rebellion. Let us not be ashamed to become the servant of all, showing our love for God by laying down our rights, our plans, our time and money for the sake of others. Let us demonstrate our love to God by giving Him the very things we are afraid to lay down, trusting that He has the best plan for our lives and would never use or abuse us. Let us truly fulfill the greatest commandment, which is to 27 So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’[a] and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27(NKJV)). Each of us is destined to make a profound difference in the world. Let us not fall short of our destinies! Let us give the greatest Christmas gift that we have been afforded to give; one that we can give year-round – to bless the heart of God!

If you do not know God the way you want to, you can receive the gift of knowing Him right now. Simply pray to Him from your heart and ask him to forgive you for your sins and turning your back on Him. Romans 10:9 (NKJV): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  Ask Him to come into your life and make you a new person, born of His spirit. You can give to Him a gift He considers more dear than anything else in the world – yourself. In return, you will receive eternal life with Him, which begins the moment you are born again. May God bless each of you richly as you seek to give unto Him your all.

If you just prayed to ask God into your heart, or you would like to know more about becoming a Christian, please visit the link on becoming born againhttp://bibleresources.org/how-to-be-born-again/.

 

Keeping Your Eyes On Jesus

John 1:1-2 (NKJV)

The Eternal Word

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.

John 1:14 (NKJV)

The Word Becomes Flesh

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

When you choose to live with Jesus as your Savior and Lord, you will know blessings beyond your wildest imagining. Consider the blessing of being in a relationship with the holy and almighty God of all creation. Then there is the blessing of being able to serve Him, a blessing that yields an abundance of joy and purpose. Followers of Jesus are also blessed by the gift of Jesus’ Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Teacher, the Guide, who is always with you.

The world offers many distractions, loud voices, fleeting pleasures, and heartbreaking pain, but the Spirit will help you keep your eyes on Christ so that you can experience the richness of walking through life with Him and for Him.

John 15:14-16 (NKJV)

14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.

What is an Invisible Disability?

In general, the term disability is often used to describe an ongoing physical challenge. This could be a bump in life that can be well managed or a mountain that creates serious changes and loss. Either way, this term should not be used to describe a person as weaker or lesser than anyone else! Every person has a purpose, special uniqueness and value, no matter what hurdles they may face.

In addition, just because a person has a disability, does not mean they are disabled. Many living with these challenges are still fully active in their work, families, sports or hobbies. Some with disabilities are able to work full or part time, but struggle to get through their day, with little or no energy for other things. Others are unable to maintain gainful or substantial employment due to their disability, have trouble with daily living activities and/or need assistance with their care.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) an individual with a disability is a person who: Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment (Disability Discrimination).

Furthermore, “A person is considered to have a disability if he or she has difficulty performing certain functions (seeing, hearing, talking, walking, climbing stairs and lifting and carrying), or has difficulty performing activities of daily living, or has difficulty with certain social roles (doing school work for children, working at a job and around the house for adults)” (Disabilities Affect One-Fifth of All Americans).

Often people think the term, disability, only refers to people using a wheelchair or walker. On the contrary, the 1994-1995 Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) found that 26 million Americans (almost 1 in 10) were considered to have a severe disability, while only 1.8 million used a wheelchair and 5.2 million used a cane, crutches or walker (Americans with Disabilities 94-95). In other words, 74% of Americans who live with a severe disability do not use such devices. Therefore, a disability cannot be determined solely on whether or not a person uses assistive equipment.

The term invisible disabilities refer to symptoms such as debilitating pain, fatigue, dizziness, cognitive dysfunctions, brain injurieslearning differences and mental health disorders, as well as hearing and vision impairments.  These are not always obvious to the onlooker, but can sometimes or always limit daily activities, ranging from mild challenges to severe limitations and vary from person to person.

Also, someone who has a visible impairment or uses an assistive device such as a wheelchair, walker or cane can also have invisible disabilities. For example, whether or not a person utilizes an assistive device, if they are debilitated by such symptoms as described above, they live with invisible disabilities.

Unfortunately, people often judge others by what they see and often conclude a person can or cannot do something by the way they look. This can be equally frustrating for those who may appear unable, but are perfectly capable, as well as those who appear able, but are not.

International Disability expert, Joni Eareckson Tada, explained it well when she told someone living with debilitating fatigue, “People have such high expectations of folks like you [with invisible disabilities], like, ‘come on, get your act together.’ but they have such low expectations of folks like me in wheelchairs, as though it’s expected that we can’t do much” (Joni).

The bottom line is that everyone with a disability is different, with varying challenges and needs, as well as abilities and attributes.  Thus, we all should learn to listen with our ears, instead of judging with our eyes.

I Resolve to Believe You

“But you LOOK good” “You just want attention”
“But you don’t LOOK sick”

resolve-to-believe-sherri-connellAnother year is about to dawn and of course I need to make at least one resolution. The good news is that I know I can keep this one. I resolve to believe you! I resolve to listen and acknowledge the pain and illness you live with daily even though your symptoms might be invisible.

For me, the opposite of believing is prejudice. Prejudice defined by Dictionary.com is “an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.” How many times have we been frustrated and impatient as we wait for the person in the cross walk at the store? They seem to walk so slow and we are in a hurry. Why can’t they speed it up? Maybe they are in chronic pain or have a myriad of other illnesses or injuries that we cannot see. I say that we sure err on the side of caution and belief first, not be suspicious and prejudice.

Or maybe we have seen the person park in a designated Accessible Parking Spot and they exit their car and proceed to the shop or office without using a cane or wheelchair and with no noticeable signs of injury or disability. Many of us have seen the notes left on windshields of people just like this person. The notes are full of anger and mistrust. One example is in the article by Phil Mutz. “A Disabled Veteran Responds to a Nasty Note Left on His Windshield.” Here is another story with the same subject “Note shames mother for using disability parking spot,” by Victoria Sanchez of KUSA. And one more example was written by Parker Lee of the Independent Journal Someone Left a ‘Faker’ Note by Her Handicapped Tag. Here’s What They Didn’t Know About Her.”

People would question, stare and scream at my wife, Donna, for parking in “Handicap” parking spaces. Even though she has lived with overwhelming pain, fatigue and neurological symptoms of Ankylosing spondylitis and since the symptoms are not noticeable, people tend to jump to judging her first. Because of her struggles with people understanding her disabilities, Donna thought the phrase, “invisible disabilities” aptly described the debilitating illness, pain and injury she battles along with millions of others around the world.

The Invisible Disabilities Association was launched 20 years ago, in 1996. One of their first pamphlets was Don’t Judge by Appearances , addressing the issue of misunderstandings surrounding disabled parking. The last few sentences in the pamphlet are crucial “Therefore, if a person is displaying a license to park in an accessible parking space, try offering a hand, instead of a visual judgment. After all…the people you are graciously intending to defend, may be standing right in front of you!”

Yet disabled parking is only one example of the disbelief people have of those living with illness and pain. Oftentimes the person living with illness and pain is misjudged because of their appearance. Sherri Connell (picture above) was a model, actress and pageant winner before she became sick. She still looks stunning and people tend to disregard when she tells them about the bone crushing pain, fatigue and brain fog she deals with daily. Her and her husband, Wayne Connell, wrote the book, But You LOOK Good: How to Encourage and Understand People Living with Illness and Pain because people for some reason think their loved ones who look good can’t possibly be sick or at least not as sick as they contend they are.

Creator of the Spoon Theory, well known author and blogger Christine Miserandino has dealt with this issue as well.  The following is from her website, ButYouDontLookSick.com. “From the age of fifteen, Christine Miserandino has been diagnosed with a myriad of illnesses from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome to Epstein Barr, and finally, many years later to a determination of Lupus. As though battling a shopping list of symptoms, Christine has consistently been told, by both well-wishers and doctors alike, But you don’t look sick.” as if that was some kind of compensation for being chronically ill. Many times, being pretty or not sickly looking, made it harder to validate an illness you cannot see.”

Even super model and actress, Yolanda Foster has encountered the mistrust of not only strangers, but friends and co-workers as well in regards to her diagnosis of Lyme Disease. The following is from the article “’Is this even real?’ Lisa Rinna suggests Yolanda Foster may be faking Lyme disease on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” in the DailyMail.com.

“Yolanda Foster has been suffering from Lyme disease, but Lisa Rinna on Tuesday’s episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills showed her skepticism.

Lisa, 52, suggested to Kyle Richards and Lisa Vanderpump that the former model might be faking the symptoms for attention.

The former Days of Our Lives actress grew sniffy about Yolanda’s social media output.

‘I feel that Yolanda’s posts on Instagram can be confusing, because one minute she’s in a hospital bed with needles in her arm and the next she’s on a yacht looking like she’s having a great time,’ said Lisa.

The Melrose Place actress then read a description of Munchausen syndrome or ‘factitious disorder’ – where people feign illness to gain attention or sympathy.”

The belief that people living daily with illness and pain really just “want attention” is not the truth in most cases. The problem is that disability and pain usually brings abandonment and isolation, not attention. If someone was seeking attention, having an illness or injury would not be the best way to go about it. The loneliness of illness and pain is very real.

I think of IDA Ambassador and award winning, singer songwriter Mandy Harvey. Even though Mandy is profoundly deaf, her voice is clear and beautiful. As a singer, she is often mistrusted because of her deafness. Some people can’t believe that she can sing so incredibly well and not hear what she is singing herself. Wayne Connell has been on radio interviews with Mandy and can understand why people think the way they do. How can she respond to the interviewer so quickly, she must hear something? Actually, Mandy uses a very cool piece of technology on her phone called Clear Captions. Anytime she is on her phone, the words spoken by the caller are typed on her screen by an individual with Clear Captions and Mandy then responds to the caption. Actually, it is quite exhausting for her to read and respond verbally so quickly. Mandy also reads lips very well.

Just because we may not understand an illness or disability, doesn’t mean we need to disbelieve people living with them. Kara O’Daniel is also someone who has felt the sting of misunderstandings regarding her disability.  Kara’s brother Kyle writes the following about her.

“My twin sister, Kara, hasn’t had the easiest go at things over the last 24 years. She has gone through a lot and handled it all with patience and grace. Through all her struggles she has always found a way to be there for others and help as many people as she can.

Her most recent endeavor is a result of this selfless habit; she is starting a career as a motivational speaker, sharing her story with those who need to hear it the most. What is this story, you ask? Well.

It’s a story of 39 surgeries, endless struggles with Spina Bifida, and countless inspiration for all those who are fortunate enough to have Kara as part of their lives.

HER goal is to share her story and advice with those who are in similar situations; to those like her who have struggled through so many times.”

Kara also shared with Wayne Connell her journey with Spina Bifida and how it has been difficult because of the misunderstandings surrounding it. Kara is able to walk because of numerous surgeries and therefore people often don’t believe her. They think that all people with Spina Bifida must be in a wheel chair. This same misunderstanding impacts people with MS. Being in a wheelchair is not always indicative of someone’s disability or even the severity of their disability. Using a wheel chair is because someone is unable to walk, maybe for the moment or maybe all of the time.

I resolve to believe you this year. Let’s believe people first. Let’s not play armchair doctor and think we know. Let’s listen and acknowledge and learn from the people who know best, those who live daily with pain and illness and disability. They are the true experts. Let’s not judge people by how they appear or don’t appear. I love the quote from IDA Advisory Board Member, Peter Strople: “When in Doubt, Love.” Let’s love and encourage and believe people living with illness and pain. Life is struggle enough for them. Let’s not make it worse by our words and prejudice.

Join me this year and every year to resolve TO BELIEVE. Let’s all envision a world where people living with illness, pain and disability will be Invisible No More!