Jump Start # 3502
1 Thessalonians 5:14 “And we urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men.”
I have a young friend who really loves Jesus. She is a disciple. However, she has a problem. She cuts herself. She knows she shouldn’t do this. It took her a long time to be able to tell me that. She has come a long way in this journey. There are weeks that she does great. Then there are times when she really wants to cut herself. We talk about this and I try to help her.
I have shared this Jump Start with her before I ever published it. I wanted her to read this first. She, as so many of us, have issues that we are dealing with. This journey with the Lord can be very long and hard. She has professional help, for which I am very thankful. I recognize that I’m just a preacher. Any counseling I give is from that perspective.
For a long time I have wanted to write about this. I believe she is in a place now where I can share some thoughts.
First, it is hard to know what each of us are going through. Most would be shocked to know. While one is dealing with cutting, there is another who struggles with porn, and another who fights the love of money, and another has real anger issues. We do a pretty good job of wearing masks and keeping these things hidden. We do this because we are ashamed. We do this because we fear what others might think. Often, we have had a bad experience with someone gossiping or instead of lending a listening ear, they used the moment to judgmentally point fingers at us. Like Job’s friends, they made things worse. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is. It could be that we have created an atmosphere of perfection within our congregations, even though no one lives up to that. And, that high standard that we don’t reach makes us feel that we are failures. We feel that we let God down. We feel that we are letting others down. All around us are people like us who are a work in progress, but they don’t seem that way to us. They seem perfect. The only one that is not perfect is ourselves. We are perfectly imperfect. In fact, if all the cards were on the table, many of us feel that if the shepherds really knew, they’d be talking about withdrawing from us.
In most situations, that is the last thing that would happen, but we have that fear. We struggle silently. This is where many of us are. Rather than in the fellowship of the godly, we’d put ourselves on the island of misfit toys. We doubt our salvation. We want to go to Heaven, but deep inside, we are not sure we’ll make it. We are good at putting on smiles, and telling others what they want to hear, but deep, deep inside we struggle. Anger. Fear. Doubt. Addictions. Troubles. When those things surface, we tailspin.
For my friend, it’s punishing herself by hurting herself.
Second, in our lowest moments, when we feel that we have hurt God so much, He truly loves us so much. It’s hard to understand. There are times when we don’t love ourselves, but God still does. Like any addiction, it’s hard to get off the merry-go-round. We sometimes feel that we have to get this all figured out before we can come back to God. But that is just what Satan wants us to believe. Get fixed, then come home to the Lord. But what we have found out, is that on our own, we are stuck on that cycle. We can’t get off. We must have the Lord’s help. His grace, His power, His promises, His expectations for us, His word, that’s what will bring about changes. That’s what will break the cycle. That’s what will help us.
Thirdly, cutting, porn, addictions, are really surface issues of something greater. We are looking for instant gratification. We want to punish ourselves for what we have done. We are looking at the moment and not long term. While we struggle and fight these surface problems, they remain, until we dive deeper and do some real surgery on our hearts. God created us for better. This is not the way God wants you to live. Shame, guilt and embarrassment are the way of Satan.
Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is yourself. If God will forgive you, then you must forgive you. The problem isn’t cutting, alcohol, pills, porn, gambling, but faith. When we turn to these things, we are looking in the wrong direction. These things will never last and never bring what we truly need. We must believe that we can break free from these habits. We must believe that God hasn’t and won’t give up on us.
Instead of trying to live an entire lifetime today, get through each day. Set specific goals. Change your environment, friends and culture that allows you to dip into these addictions so easily. Be accountable to someone nearby. Fill your heart with the word of God. Be led by the Spirit.
Find someone that you can trust that will guide you to God. Forget worthless friends of the world. They are no help. You need solid, spiritual disciples who will listen, be honest and not give you a pass because you complain. Not everyone is like that. Be careful who you talk to. And, if someone comes to you in such confidence, be a person of integrity and honor their request and help them. Don’t tell others.
Fourth, do not give up. Satan wants you to believe that this is just going to be your way of life. He wants you to accept that you cannot conquer your problems. He wants you to think that you will never please the Lord. Stop believing that junk. Listen to God. He believes in you. He knows you can do better. He is pleased with you and wants you to live a life of glory and honor. Hold your head up.
Satan won’t give up easily. He’ll fight you. He’ll throw everything at you. But greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. Believe that. Know that. One day, you’ll be able to help others. One day, you’ll be the one who understands, because you’ve been there. One day, you’ll be on the other side and you’ll be triumphant in the Lord. It will happen. Just stay with the Lord.
We are in this together and we need each other. As our passage says today, let us help one another. The unruly needs to be admonished. The fainthearted needs encouragement. The weak need help. And, we need to be patient with everyone. While today, you may be the one who is helping, tomorrow you may be the one who is in need of help. Remember that. As important as it is to help others, it is equally important to receive help. Drop the pride. Open up. Let others walk with you. Lean on them. As the Hollies sang, “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.” And, so we are.
We are in this together…and, together, with God’s help, we’ll make it.