Two Questions to Transform Adversity

Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.

Napoleon Hill

We often personalize our problems. We claim them and make them our identity.

I am __________ fill in the blank.  Broke, stressed, heartbroken, hungry, betrayed, angry, etc. There is an important dividing line we must pull from modern psychology before diving deep into reaction.

There is the problem.–There is our reaction to it.

The thing, whatever it is, can be isolated.  We control our reaction and this post will look at that part of the equation.

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Two Questions to Transform Adversity

1-Who is this happening for?

Life has purpose. The shocks, the downturns, the unexpected changes all have meaning. Some of the richest people in the world grew wealth in the midst of the Great Depression by knowing how to handle fear and instability.

Step back, take a second and try to find the meaning. Try to go as deep as you can to understand what can be helped, who can learn from this, and how can it be moved to an asset.

The harder the situation the more resolve developed. The deeper the pain, the clearer the mirror when you look back on it.

2-How can this benefit someone else?

Ryan Holiday, in his excellent book The Obstacle is the Way, mentions this as a prime skill to handle problems. People need to hear your story. They need to know where you are coming from. They may be going through the same thing.

You may help someone see they are not alone.

The idea could be the first shard of hope they find in life.

Adversity breeds resilience if we take the time to frame it correctly. Don’t get mired in the pain and struggle. Shift your mindset to helping others and unlock the potential of the situation.

You’ll find community, hope, love and acceptance.  You’ll see others, and yourself, as better and the weight of the pain will shift.

It may take years to leave, but ask Martin Luther King Jr. Jail cells can’t hold the spirit. Letters can move through bars.

Freedom is a state of mind and its spark can be seen in the midst of the darkest midnight.

 

The First Stone

I am in the midst of reading Malcom Gladwell’s, David and Goliath.  The book, as you can imagine, is an examination of the perception of the underdog. Gladwell takes readers on a journey through places where disadvantages can become assets and strength can be found in weakness.

In one section, he writes about the Civil Rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. King, in Alabama, needed the notorious sheriff Bull Connor to show his hand and reveal his racist intentions.  The act of aggression would be enough to start a movement. It happened more than once, with Connor’s forces turning fire hoses and police dogs on protestors.

My friends, the enemy has shown its hand in one horrific moment inside a Orlando nightclub.

The question remains, how do we respond?

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There’s a scene in the Bible where a woman caught in adultery is taken in front of Jesus.  When you read the text, it seems like she was literally caught in the midst of it and dragged to a public street.

Jesus looks up to see an angry crowd.

They explain what happened and pick up stones to kill her, as with the legal penalty of the time.

Jesus states, “those without sin cast the first stone.”

There’s way too many stones getting tossed around. My social media feeds were political jabs all day from both the left and right sides; terrorism, gun control, mental illness, ISIS, LGBT hate and anger, etc.

This is the time for a response, as King had the right strategy.  The church needs to stand up in love and protect those targeted by terrorist forces. Doors, and arms, must open.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough.  Enough of the hate, anger, bickering and politicizing. Enough of both sides picking through the bones of victims to prop up their arguments.

I was listening to the end of Pastor Stephen Furtick’s podcast this week where he spoke about the book of Revelation. He stated that a seminary professor summed it up this way:

Evil is real. God is greater. We win in the end.

The Orlando community will recover. Families will ban together and churches, if they are truly standing on the words of Jesus, will step in and do their part. Conversations will happen about how to prevent another shooting and they must be led by love.

I believe the world can change, that we should not be surprised at the depth of evil and never forget the strength of good. We must grasp even harder to our calling, keep our eyes forward, and see hope in the faces of the generations to come.

~Matt

 

It is Okay to Believe

This post was building the last few weeks.  It took a video circulated by the Huffington Post to finally make it happen.  They took verses from the Bible, most out of context, and quizzed people on the street to see if they thought the verses came from it or the Quran. This was supposed to make some grand point and found its way passed around social media fairly quickly.

We are in the age of attack on faith.

Belief systems have faltered at times throughout history.  When governments or people grab hold of the divine and use it towards their own ends, darkness and persecution results. From the first nomadic tribes to the Romans, Crusades, Jews, Christians, Muslims, and others. When a charismatic leader rises up, they will gather the uninformed and insecure to form followers.  You get things like the Holocaust, Jonestown, and David Koresh. You get individuals willing to strap bombs to their chests and push the ignition switch.

You get a major New York tabloid publishing a headline saying God Will Not Fix This.

In times of chaos and tragedy, the tide and pointing fingers go against God.

Yet there are still reasons to believe.

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Faith provides a moral compass, it sends the line between dark and light, good and evil.  It provides meaning in tragedy, for if you remove God from the equation than it nullifies all the feelings of our righteous indignation. What value are we to this world in our eighty or so years of existence if there is nothing on the flipside? We place ourselves on a plane of morality because we understand the larger picture.  We feel we are right because divinity drew the map at creation.

Hear me out.

In the midst of this, there are good things emerging.  In a news release last week, more than 70,000 Muslim clerics banded together to denounce ISIS. There are still churches working to make change in their communities.  I think of the heroes of faith, back to Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, Ghandi and others that set their feet in a belief system working to change the world for the better.

I can tell you what Jesus did say in the Bible.

He said to love your neighbor. He said the meek were blessed. He called to those in pain and suffering to come and find rest. He turned the establishment of the day on its head by showing the true meaning of faith.

Tonight I want you to know it is okay to believe.  It is okay to pray before your meals and pass your faith onto your kids.  It is okay to attend a community of faith, be socially active, support those in need and love your neighbors.  Pray in your dorm room, read your Bible, download You Version’s Bible app on your phone and start a reading plan. If you are single, pray about the ideal person for you. Know that there is a plan for your life, meaning in your struggle, hope in your suffering, peace in the chaos, and hope for tomorrow.

If you don’t believe, that is okay too. The Jesus I follow tells me to love as he first loved me.  Know that a genuine community of faith in your area is always open to you, whether or not you ever walk through the doors. Know that you matter. Your words, feelings, and opinions count.  Your questions deserve to be answered and the answers are out there.

Pastor Erwin McManus, head of Mosaic Church in Los Angeles, said in one of his books that “Today’s atheists were yesterday’s children of the church.” I believe he’s right and I know the doors are still open.  The hurt, scars, and pain may be deep, but scars become maps to newer and greater stories.

We all need newer and greater stories.

~Matt

Can’t we all just get along?

I remember watching the footage of Rodney King getting beaten at the hands of four LAPD officers. I was young enough to know that it was wrong and shocked when the officers were acquitted.  The city of Los Angeles exploded with rioting and violence. King famously quoted the title to this post at a press conference.  It is a valid question

One of my favorite books is The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr. and it is an amazing read.  King had his troubles and his own struggles but he was the man God tabbed at the time to do one of the most important jobs in the history of this country.  He stood in Washington and stated his dream that one day children of all races could play together.  It is a valid dream.

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The events happening in suburban St. Louis have captivated the country and the facts of the shooting are disputed between the police and the friend of the victim, Michael Brown. At these moments I always think of my sons. We are still in a world of race relations and power dynamics.  Whatever you believe, me being a white male will get me more readily accepted in certain situations than a younger man or woman of a different race. This is a sad truth.  I pray for my boys and try my best to show them that all people are equal.  The hope lies with their generation. Grace is for everyone. Jesus offered perfect love.  The Cross eliminates power dynamics.

It is the final answer.

There will always be shootings and victims.  There will always be a need for peace. As believers, we must fight for this peace. We must radically love those who live on our block and in our city.   We are called to love those who persecute us. My friends span race, gender, and sexual orientation.  As I watch my sons at the playground, I pray they will be change agents and always hold on to that innocence and that drive to play with another kid because they are there and they want to be friends.

May we all reclaim some of that innocence.

~Matt