Steps of Healing: Friends

What are friends there for? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As I sit down to write this, I think about Saturday morning cartoons. Mainly, I think about when I was growing up I used to watch Garfield and Friends. What was the theme song of it? Friends are there. You can see it here. (On a side note, once when my mother was watching Rhoda, I recognized the voice of Carlton the Doorman as that of Garfield.)

As a gamer also, friends have always been an integral reality of that world. Every Final Fantasy game has a main protagonist, but that main protagonist would not have a chance of saving the world from the evil if he didn’t have his friends with him. In most RPGs, friends are part of the party and they are absolutely essential. Friends are the ones that come alongside and join you on the quest and risk death itself for you.

Friends are very different from family. I expected my family to be there for me in the divorce. It was not a shock that they were. I realize not all families are like that, but mine is. Family are sometimes thought of as people that you really like because they’re family. If you didn’t know them, you probably wouldn’t care.

Friends are different. Friends love you by choice. Some friends are closer than others. Sadly, social media has really lowered the term. I have nearly 4,000 friends on Facebook. Many of them I do not know at all. Sometimes people will ask me if I know someone and if I say no they can say, “You’re friends with them on Facebook.” That doesn’t mean much.

However, friends have been invaluable in this journey. Many have come alongside me and said that they have gone through a divorce or are going through them. I have had so many requests that I haven’t had the time to talk to all of them.

Some of them due to location have been of greater benefit to me. A friend around here that I can go out to eat with or go to a movie with can help me in ways that a friend hundreds or thousands of miles away can’t. I have one in particular like this that I have really got to bond with in this time.

Friends have been such a great help to me in that they give me someone I can be weak around easily. You could say I can with my family, but it’s just different. They love you in a different way and in many cases, my family wants to take care of me in a way my friends don’t.

I have said before that things like a game night can mean so much. When I play a game like Final Fantasy XIV, I’m able to forget about many of my problems for awhile. I have a different goal I can focus on. Now I am trying to level up my character and get through this dungeon.

I remember one friend gifting me a game around the time of my birthday. That was really nice to have. Some people have joined me on Patreon which is also awesome. It tells me I’m not walking alone. Many people just have sent me messages and sent me their phone numbers and said they’re available to talk.

It is why I have ended my blogs talking about fellow travelers. I’m not walking this road alone. That doesn’t mean there aren’t times that I am lonely. When I go to bed at night, it is very lonely. It’s my hope to soon be earning enough through Patreon and a job to move into an apartment and be able to be social and hopefully also start doing the podcast again.

So maybe you’re someone close and you’re there and we can do things together. I’m thankful for you. Maybe you’re at a distance and offer me your phone number and want to talk. I’m thankful for you. Maybe you have sent me a gift or provided for me financially. I’m thankful for you. Maybe all you have been able to do is pray for me. I’m thankful for you.

I have also been pleased as well to see my non-Christian friends show up in support. I hope you will come to Christ, but I also hope that in my life and handling of this, I have been someone who you see as a true Christian handling defeat and still trying to treat my ex-wife honorably, which I fully intend to do. I am thankful none of you have also used this as an opportunity to go after my Christianity. I am happy to debate its truth with many of you, but a thread about divorce is not the place for that and that has been recognized.

I said early in this blog that Final Fantasy games for the most part would be impossible without the party. Many of you have been my party members joining me to fight in this battle. I want to be clear the battle is not against her. It’s against the pain and rejection of divorce and against evil in general. Thank you for coming alongside me in the battle.

Thank you, fellow travelers.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

Be Of Good Cheer

How do you help your brother in need? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I appreciate the concern for yesterday’s post. I am in a better place today. It had been a time of a lot heading at me the day before that it had just been overbearing and now things are doing much better after making some necessary changes.

Still, I am usually a moody and quiet individual. Last night while out in public, I encountered two ladies and one of them said that she hopes I’m in better mood tomorrow and to smile. After all, God loves you.

Now that stuck with me. It’s not because I was overcome with sudden joy. It’s not because I question the claim. It’s because as I heard it, that claim was extremely shallow. Let’s do this by putting in some other situations.

Imagine if this lady had met someone whose son had just died in a car accident or whose husband had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. How would that have come over? It would be true, naturally, but it wouldn’t really address what the person is going through.

As I thought about it, it got me thinking of James 2.

“15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,

16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?”

Charles Schulz once did this comic that shows what James has in mind.

So how is Snoopy better off after this? Not a bit. If anything, he has less care for those who came over to comfort him. He’s cold in the snow and has just been given a feel-good saying.

By contrast, I remember encountering someone who I could tell was going through a hard time yesterday and did something radical. I asked what was wrong. I then listened and gave a comment of support back. This is someone who knows me so I told them I would pray for their situation as I had to go and it was appreciated.

Notice that first part. What is wrong? That was actually asked. It wasn’t just “Cheer up, buttercup.” Scripture tells us to do this. Mourn with those who mourn. If James is concerned about physical needs, could he also be concerned about emotional, spiritual, mental, situational, etc. needs?

Sometimes, that could require a time investment. If you don’t have it, it could be best to not offer anything. Keep in mind also some of us with personalities are very different anyway. Normally, I do not smile a lot and I do not talk to people I don’t know a lot. That can be even if I am in a good mood.

Let’s also keep in mind that I am sure that Jesus in the Garden knew that God loved Him and knew that on the cross, but Jesus is not happy at those points. Jesus is a sad Jesus. He says His soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Knowing God loves you does not mean you will always be happy.

I cannot explain why that is, but we all know that it’s true. Now consider that I am a Christian hearing this saying. What happens if you are not a Christian? How do you see Christians then? Could you not be more like Gideon who is told “The Lord is with you?” and be wanting to say, “If that’s true, then why XYZ?”

Some non-Christians could be hardened against God.

So what do you do with the sufferers? You actually enter into their suffering. You try to understand where they’re coming from. That does require work and effort and you have to determine if you can do that at the time. If not, maybe don’t say anything and just pray on your own for the well-being of the person and help for what they are going through.

God loves you, but sometimes, you do need to just be heard and listened to. Sometimes it can help a person even if you don’t even say anything back. If they just know you’re listening, that can be enough. Platitudes though are looked down on for a reason, whether they’re true or not. The intent may be good, but it doesn’t come across well.

Try entering into the suffering instead. It’s definitely worth it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

More on the Sadness of Jesus

Why do we not talk about the sadness of Jesus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Within the past month, I have written about the sadness of Christ. I was pleased to see that article linked to on a popular apologetics website. However, after seeing that, I started to ponder. I have written many blogs including on the historical Jesus. Why this one?

Could it be that this one resonated? This one did hit something and it at first doesn’t even seem to be something related to apologetics, but I think it is. Could it be that maybe we talk so much about the joy of Christ that we don’t know about His sorrow as well? Could it be that we ourselves don’t really know much about sorrow either?

Now that last one might be a surprising statement. After all, look at how many people in our country struggle with depression. Look at how many self-help books we have out there. Our people have experience with sorrow so surely they know a lot about it.

It’s not hard to figure out the error in this statement. Our people also debate politics and economics regularly, but most of us think that our fellow Americans are clueless about both of them. This is especially so since you can find quite sincere people and quite intelligent people on both sides of any debate. We have had the sexual revolution going on, but I contend that our culture is one that knows very little about sex.

One of our problems with sorrow and depression is we really don’t know how to handle it. We often act like we’re not supposed to have any depression or sadness at all. Sadly, the church is one of the worst at this. We often pay lip service to the idea of mourning with those who mourn and Jesus weeping in the garden,

For us, if you have depression or anxiety, then there is something wrong with you. Christians are supposed to be people of joy and so if you have depression or anxiety, there is something wrong with you. This can lead to being depressed about being depressed or anxious about being anxious.

Being a fully functional human being means experiencing the full gamut of human emotions and sometimes you will have anxiety or sadness. That is okay. If you start saying you shouldn’t, then what are we to mourn for?

This also leads to a false pollyanna world that skeptics don’t believe in. They don’t want us to act like life is always great. They want to see how we will handle it when life is hard. Will we be realistic or will we be living a life of total denial?

I also don’t believe in that world.

We also then treat suffering like it is something foreign to us. The suffering that we cannot bear often times would be nothing to our ancestors of the past. These were people who were willing to go to the death for their faith. They also didn’t only exist back then. They exist in the world today where real persecution is going on.

Why do we not talk about it with Jesus? Maybe because it doesn’t seem to give us something to aspire to. It’s easy to want to live like Jesus when He is being gracious to His enemies or outwitting them in debate or showing outstanding love. However, to aspire to be like Jesus in His sorrow will mean experiecing that sorrow as well, and we don’t want that.

But that is part of pollyanna thinking. The sorrow will come. We treat pain and suffering like they are something foreign to us. In reality, they have been promised to us.

The question is not then will suffering come, but how will we handle it? We are not to act like it is all good and wonderful. Sure, we are to count all things joy, but that does not mean that you always put on a happy face since Jesus didn’t do that. We can need help on the journey, and that’s okay. That’s why there are friends and therapists and yes, even medications.

Sorrow in Jesus I think resonates with us because deep down, many of us know that it is a reality and we want something in our lives. Yet still, the only book I found on a general search on Amazon on this topic was about 500 years old. Who is writing about this today? If any New Testament scholar is reading this, consider this a challenge to write a book on the sadness of Christ. To any pastor, consider preaching a sermon on Jesus being sad. It would be refreshing in some way. If anything, that could help many in your audience who do struggle with depression and anxiety. They could actually really resonate with Jesus.

I continue to think on this and learn about the topic. If we want to know Jesus as He is, we have to know all sides of Him. We have to have a Jesus who is not just fully God, but also fully human. That includes not just being hungry, thirsty, and tired, but also, sad.

Nothing short of a real Jesus will do.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge: The Giver

What do I think of Lois Lowry’s book published by Laurel Leaf, Paperback? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I had an old neighbor post on Facebook about how she was concerned that her son is being told in school to read a book called The Giver. I talked with her a little bit, but I didn’t do anything beyond at that point. Then I saw one of her neighbors post something about the book asking if anyone remembered being asked to read it.

So at that point I decided I would see what I could find out. I went to Libby and managed to borrow the book for free on Kindle. I had been told that there was a lot of dark stuff in the book and I do know that there is a lot of garbage being shared and taught in schools. When a book is mandated, I don’t know what to expect so I started reading this one and I will try to avoid spoilers.

The story deals with a sort of dystopian society in the near future. The oddity is that this dystopian society on the surface looks like a place that you would want to live. People seem to get along well and everyone has their job. People are not rude to each other and do not live with great pain. Suffering is dealt with very easily.

The story centers around a boy named Jonas. He lives in a society where he and his friends have their names, but I noticed that adults are never named. Their parents are referred to as Father and Mother. That’s it. I cannot remember a single adult that was named in the book.

In the society, it is unclear how the children come to be. After all, as Jonas is coming of age, he starts to have what are known as the “stirrings” In this, he has a dream where he wants another girl in the community to take off all her clothes and get in a tub. The mother starts telling him to take a pill every day.

In this society, rudeness is rebuked at every chance and everyone has to be precise with their language. Children grow up with a discipline wand and get smacked if they do something out of line until they learn the rules. People apologize at the slightest possibility that they might have offended someone and every evening, they share their feelings time where they talk about their feelings.

Children are also divided by their ages. At the start, Jonas is an eleven and his sister Lily is a Seven. It is unclear to me if all these kids are said to be born at the same time so that they come of age at the same time. Children are not really born in the family but more assigned in the family. It’s unclear how this works, but it is a book for youth.

At each age, the way the children behave change. Lily at seven is still allowed to have a comfort object which is a stuffed animal and she looks forward to being a nine when she gets her own bike. The big age is twelve when each person gets their assignment and role in the community.

As you go through the book, you also learn that animals don’t really exist in this society, aside from apparently fish. Jonas starts noticing some items in his society changing and he can’t really explain it and the reader is unsure what is happening. As the story progresses, you learn what the society is missing.

Jonas is assigned a role to be the keeper of the memories of the community and works with the person called the Giver. I really don’t want to say much beyond that except Jonas starts seeing that what his life is is largely a facade. The people are living in a society where their major life choices like spouse and work are made for them by the leaders all because if the leaders don’t, the person could make the wrong choice and that could hurt.

That doesn’t mirror anything in our society at all does it?

We don’t live in a society where we try to do anything we can to avoid someone suffering. We don’t live in a society where everyone’s feelings are put in the place of utmost importance do we? Nope. Not us.

But the problem is, this society has to eliminate a lot of good to protect everyone from pain. Medication is there to make sure no one really experiences deep pain. Love is not a word that is used because that could lead to rejection. I suspect this is also why “the stirrings” are eliminated because sexual attraction and relationships can lead to a lot of pain. Again, how the kids come about is not entirely explained.

And there are even darker things underneath the surface of this society. That gets into a lot of spoilers so I don’t want to go into it. Still, learn that this society is one that has a lot of evil going on and it is treated as if it is normal.

So now, is this for kids, such as pre-teens or young teens?

I think it’s obviously not for kids in the single digits. These kids need to be old enough to understand the birds and the bees. Now it is true that this book has a lot of darkness in it, but the good reality is that this is presented as evil.

It’s another lesson that we really can’t create a perfect utopia society. This might be a society without pain and suffering, but it is not a society you should want to live in, especially when you see all that is missing in this world as everyone tries to achieve “sameness.” Any time people try to create a perfect society, it only ends in tears.

Suffering is a part of reality this side of eternity and doing everything to avoid it will in the end only lead to more suffering. A good society will not try to eliminate suffering ruthlessly, but will realize that you can learn through the suffering on the path of being good. A good society will also celebrate childhood. It will accept children playing and coming into adulthood on their own.

In the end, I did enjoy the book. I am considering if I want to read the rest of the series. It’s just that I have so many books that I am reading right now and I spent a lot of time recently because I had to go through all six books of the Hitchhiker’s Trilogy. (No. That is not a typo or ignorance. Fans of the series understand six books in a trilogy.)

So while children I think should read this, it would be good for their parents to be there to discuss evil and suffering. Frankly, most of us grow up not knowing how to explain evil and too often we just take an often easy answer. “There’s no God.” Okay. That doesn’t really deal with the problem. As I have said earlier, if you take this route, then you still have the problem and you eliminate the solution.

In the end, this is an interesting book and a good one to introduce children to the idea of a dystopian society. I also hope our society will learn from it. Trying to protect everyone from any suffering will not end well. Teaching people how to deal with it is a lot better.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

The Sadness of Christ

Why was Christ sad? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

There have been some snafus with the blog lately. I hope that’s worked out. I do have a new laptop now and I tried to make YouTube videos of the blog for that, which apparently also had some problems. I was going to work on that some today, but really, things are extremely rough right now.

I don’t want to go into everything going on, but let’s just say that yesterday, I had the perfect storm of depression and anxiety come based on so many situations. Much of it I still want to keep private, but I can assure you it’s real. It has been so real I called to have an emergency session with my therapist and I am trying to reach out to other friends who I know can do some counseling.

So yesterday, I started wondering about the sadness of Christ. Go on Amazon and you can find plenty of books of Christ offering hope to those suffering. Wonderful. You can hear about Christ speaking to your sadness. Excellent. You can hear a lot about the promises of Christ and what He went through for your joy. Great.

And right now, I don’t really care about it.

Right now, I want to know about Christ Himself. What about His sadness? For some of us, it seems shocking to talk about such things, yet at the same time so many refer to Isaiah 53 as a prophecy of Christ that describes Him as a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering.

Yes. That’s what it says.

Jesus is not referred to as a man of joy. He is referred to as a man of sorrows. He is not described in ways that glorify Him. He is someone despised and rejected. There was no reason to desire Him. Nothing. Let us not color it over so much saying it was Jesus that we miss something.

This is in many ways a very depressing chapter.

Consider the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” How many of us have sung that at church? What a wonderful encouragement! What a blessing it is to us! How good it is to know God is faithful! That passage is in the Bible? It must surely be in a book of joy. It’s a Psalm of praise. Right?

Think again. It’s Lamentations. The entire book of the Bible that is just that, a lament.

So if you hold that Isaiah 53 is Jesus, this is really Jesus. When I talk about wanting Christ, I want to know just what He will do for me when I have sadness. I want to know what He did for Himself. I want to know why He was sad. I want to know His experience.

The number one place is in Matthew 26 when Jesus is in the garden praying and fortunately, I found one book on the topic by Thomas More that is over 500 years old called the Sadness of Christ and it is looking at the Passion. Jesus tells His friends that He is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Jesus turns to His friends.

Let’s get rid of some bad theology with this.

Some people will tell you that if you have God and you know His love, you should always have joy and happiness. If you are depressed then, there is something wrong with you. You need to repent.

I defy you if you are a Christian to find one human being you think has better theology than Jesus.

Was there something wrong with Jesus that He was sad? Did Jesus have a deficient theology? Did Jesus just need to repent and find joy in the Lord?

If your theology contradicts Jesus, your theology is wrong.

Jesus was sad. We could say it was because of the sins of the world and the pain of the people around Him, but could we consider something else? Maybe, Jesus just didn’t want to go to the cross. Hebrews tells us that He went despising the shame of the cross for the joy set before Him. He knew this was the path to the greatest joy so He went for it.

He went to the cross because He wanted to save the world and bring glory to God. He didn’t want the cross for the sake of the cross. He would have preferred another way.

Yet Jesus was sad.

If that’s the case, then we can dispense with this idea that if you have God in your life, you should always have joy and living abundantly. Dare I say it, sometimes you should be sad. If you have a loved one who dies on you and you are not sad, you are not exhibiting great strength. You are being actually deficient as a human being.

1 Thessalonians is a passage I am discussing in eschatology right now, but while we disagree with many Christians on the eschatology, let’s speak about one thing we should agree on. The text says we mourn. Paul never says “Cheer up guys! No need to mourn! These people will rise again! Celebrate!” No. He says mourn. In Romans, he even tells us to mourn with those who mourn.

Paul says he had no rest at one point until he found his brother Titus. He talks about how thankful he was to have someone come to him so he could have less anxiety in Philippians, the very book where he tells us to be anxious for nothing. It could be Paul was also preaching to himself there. How many of us know what it is like to give advice some one and yet struggle to follow that same advice ourselves?

But to get back to Jesus, Jesus definitely did have sadness. When we talk about the incarnation, we understand He was hungry and He slept and was thirsty and could experience pain and even die, yet talking about sadness seems taboo. Jesus as a human being had emotions and surely those emotions always had to be joy.

No. Not a bit. He experienced the full gamut of emotions. When my soul is also overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, in some ways, I am in good company. Jesus’s was too.

What did Jesus do? He needed what we need then. He needed His friends. He didn’t just turn to God. He turned to others. I am thankful I have God to turn to, to be sure, but there are ways that another human being can connect with you that God can’t always. This evening I am planning on visiting a friend to have a gaming night. Sorry, but God isn’t going to sit on a couch with me playing Smash Brothers or something.

Sometimes, you need a touch too. Now Jesus could appear and do that, but it’s not likely. I am not a touchy person, but sometimes, it is nice to have.

In all of this, I am not saying prayer and good music and Bible study and similar things have no place in this. They are good. I also say good music because sometimes it’s not just Christian music you need. When I heard Nabeel Qureshi had died, I was one of the first. Mike Licona was there when it happened and his wife called and told me and said not to tell anyone. I was in a Wal-Mart shopping at the time and having to put on a brave face even though inside, I was falling apart. What did I listen to driving then?

World of Ruin from Final Fantasy VI.

Sometimes in my own pain nowadays, I find myeslf listening to A Place To Call Home from Final Fantasy IX. Different music will resonate with different people. Some will find themselves listening to the classical composers. Some might want rock and roll or even heavy metal. If it is not sinful and it helps you get through it, go for it.

But I don’t want to overwhelm you. For now, I just want us to think about the sadness of Jesus. We have a Lord who was sad and had to deal with it. We do nor honor Jesus when we turn Him into a superhuman who never had sorrow and sadness in His life. That should be a comfort too. If our Lord had it, we should not count ourselves exempt from it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

When I Don’t Trust God

How do you handle a lack of trust? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I could have easily titled this “When You Don’t Trust God”, but I know you have that struggle if you’re a Christian already and I think it’s good for you to know that I do. Sometimes in the Christian world, those of us in ministry can sometimes be seen as if we are above the day to day struggles. We have the answers to the questions and we have the good theology. Our lives work out well.

That is a lie.

John Piper is well known for his Desiring God concept, but he also wrote “When I Don’t Desire God.” It’s a personal book. I haven’t read that yet, but I don’t deny for a moment it’s true. There are times that John Piper does not desire God. So it is that there are times I don’t trust God.

And folks, this is what faith really is. I am not for one moment doubting His existence. If people say I believe in God for emotional reasons, they are entirely missing the boat. I am convinced because of my rationality which makes the emotional struggles all the harder.

I am not even questioning His goodness. I do know God is 100% good. The problem is that doesn’t bring me comfort at times because there’s a part that wants to say, “If this is what goodness really looks like, then I could do with a little less good in my life.” As C.S. Lewis wrote in A Grief Observed after the death of his wife

“Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and
I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me
about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect
that you don’t understand.”

Lewis has much to say about the goodness of God. He talks of people who say they are not afraid because God is good. Have they never been to a dentist before? I had a surgery job done in my teenage years by a good doctor, the one considered the godfather of scoliosis surgery. I am sure the staff at the children’s hospital consisted of good people. I still struggled for a year with walking on my own for a good operation done by good people.

There are times you look at what’s going on in your life and wonder “How did I get here?” A lot of the self-help people will say “You are responsible for your own life and your outlook on it.” We are told that in groups like AA, nothing can heal until a person accepts responsibility, but after that everything can heal. Therefore, for your life, you need to accept responsibility.

That can be good advice, but it really only works insofar as you are directly responsible If you tend to take good care of your body and you get cancer, are you to take responsibility for that? If your child is killed in a car accident by a drunk driver, are you to take responsibility for that? If you lose your home in a sudden natural disaster, are you to take responsibility for that?

Now keep in mind that in all of these disaster scenarios, I am not at all you saying you don’t own your responses to them. Some people beat cancer and some don’t and one of the #1 reasons for who does and who doesn’t is often attitude. There’s the old saying that one person says “I can” and the other says “I can’t” and both of them speak truly. Even if you physically can’t beat cancer, as sometimes the best attitude in the world won’t overcome, you can still choose how to live the remainder of your life.

There is a sense in which our struggles come from within in what we tell ourselves of the things around us, but do they not play a role? Suppose I am walking down the street on a daily walk for exercise. Now I am a typical guy with my book and playing some Pokemon Go as I travel and I turn to walk down the street and way off at the end of the street, I see a bear.

Rest assured, that never happens here, but this is a big for instance. Am I going to suddenly have anxiety? You bet I am, and while we can say that that can largely come from what I tell myself about the situation, there is no doubt the stressor is there, such as if the next thing I saw was tranquilizer guns shooting the bear and knocking it out and Animal Control coming and putting the bear in the back of a secure vehicle, I would have some aftershock anxiety, but I would be a whole lot better off.

In these times, people come and they mean well but they often say things that are so mundane. They’re true, but not helpful. You are told “You need to trust in God.” Wow. What a great idea! Why didn’t I think of that? Yes. And when you are rolled into that operating room and going under the knife and don’t know what will happen, just trust the surgeons. You can be told that all you want, but it won’t change the reality. When your walk with God is going well, it’s easy to tell someone else to trust in God. No. I don’t want it to be that while I’m in the foxhole and the bullets are whizzing over my head that someone from HQ messages me and says “Trust in God.” No. Come and really get in the trenches with me and I will better hear what you say.

The reality is we know we ought to, but we are majority blind fools in many ways. Yes. We know God works all things for good to those who love Him. Yes. We trust that if God allows it, He does so for our good as well. Here’s what that doesn’t change. It hurts. It hurts and when we look at where we want to be, where we want to be seems so far away we don’t know how we can ever get there.

Let’s also keep in mind none of us trusts God entirely. If we did, we would never sin. We do. We fail every day. I would certainly hope my Catholic and Orthodox readers would have understanding of a great quote of Martin Luther. The gospel is just one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread. We’re all wounded on the journey in some way and we’re traveling with other people who are wounded. Maybe right now you’re in good health. That’s great, but remember as you tell me about the joy of Christ that I know somewhere is true, but rings hollow now, that sometime in the future if we both are living, there will come a time when you are in the valley of suffering and the last thing you will want to hear about in some ways is the joy of Christ because it is not resonate with where you are.

In an odd way, what is comforting to hear about now is not joy, but suffering. Tell me about Joseph being in prison and telling the cupbearer and baker, “Please tell Pharaoh about me and get me out of this prison.” Joseph had found favor with God and was serving well and the warden had put him in cause, but he knew he was there wrongfully and while conditions could not have been better for him than they were, he still wanted out. Tell me about Daniel being thrown in the den of lions when his only crime was being faithful to His God. Tell me about Jesus begging to go to the cross. He had prayed “If there be any other way, let this cup pass through me.” Do we not think the Father would have loved to have been able to say “Actually, there is another way we can bring salvation to the world. The cross is not necessary.”

You see, the future is a place that is far off and distant. As a child, my family and I used to go to Myrtle Beach on vacation. It was in South Carolina and we started in Tennessee. At four in the morning when we’re heading out, the beach seems like an eternity away. You want to get there and we know the constant refrain of children. “Are we there yet?”

The children are realists though. They trust that their parents want to get them to the beach and to do so safely and know how to get there, but the child only sees miles and miles of interstate that look exactly the same. Telling them about the pleasures of the beach on the way sounds distant and hollow. It is the same way as when Peanuts refers to Christmas as being on top of a steep hill. The closer you get, the steeper the hill gets.

We often say that God is there when you are suffering, and it is true, but it is often still not much consolation in honesty. Lewis again writes that when life is good, God seems to be everywhere to the point where He can practically seem as if He’s so overwhelming you that you don’t enjoy your life. However, when you are in need and when you want to experience Him the most, the door is slammed in your face it seems. Being told God is there is no more a comfort than the child being told Christmas is coming or that they are on their way to the beach. It is met with a “Yes, but” and that is not helpful.

There’s a story that the great composer Beethoven had a friend who had suffered a great tragedy. The musician went over to his house and rather than see the friend, sat down and played the piano for half an hour and then left. The friend regarded that as the most helpful visit of all. Somehow, the music Beethoven played shared his longing and sympathy for his friends. As we often say, talk is cheap. Show me your actions instead.

At times like this, it is hard to trust God, but at those times, what reveals us most is not really our words but our actions. Everything I am writing in this post goes with what I am going through right now. Some of you know what’s going on. Some don’t. I don’t want to say here what it is. Either way, to quote the common saying, “The struggle is real.”

The actions though are still where it’s at. If you meet someone who is still trying to serve and do the right thing for the Kingdom even when it is hard, be thankful, though I would say at the time inwardly. There are many times for all of us it would be easier to throw in the towel altogether and give up. Go ahead and lie in bed all day and do nothing. Close the windows and curse the light.

Again, we have to refer to Lewis. Those Christians that still get up and serve regardless are the ones facing the struggle the most. It is easy to serve the Kingdom when everything is going your way and you’re prospering in all or most areas of your life. When you have struggles with God and you still serve, that is the hardest.

And maybe in reality, is it not entirely a lack of trust of God. I could just as well argue it is the pain and suffering that is trusting the most. Who would we say would be trusting God the most? A Pollyanna Psalmist who only wrote Psalms of praise and thanksgiving, and there is a time for such Psalms, or one who writes also the Psalms of lament and suffering. This is the Psalmist who trusts God with what he really thinks about this world. The Hebrews writer tells us to boldly approach the throne of grace, and it is the true person who knows that God is real and comes to help that feels safe enough to boldly come to that throne to register a complaint. Job had his own accusations against God and even though he darkened God’s knowledge without counsel, he was declared in the end to be the one who also spoke rightly, unlike Job’s friends.

As I think, it could be that you could say I am not trusting in God when I worry about the future, and that is true, but that doesn’t mean I’m not trusting in God at all. I’m still trusting in Him that I can go to Him with my complaints. I’m trusting Him that I can go to Him and tell Him what’s wrong. I’m trusting Him that I can go to Him and tell Him that I don’t like the way things are. I can even go to God and trust Him when I want to outright accuse Him of some statements. I can do this knowing they are not true, but still saying “This is how I really feel at the moment.”

To my atheist readers also, this is what faith in God means. Let’s drop this nonsense that faith in God means knowing that He exists. James dispels that one easily in his epistle. Faith in God is trusting Him and in that case one could say in spite of the evidence, because of the wrong evidence. It is not the evidence of simply present reality. It is the evidence of all that He has done in the past and the character of who He is. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where faith takes place. Faith is a willingness to follow God and His commands even when for the time being, it appears to profit you nothing. It’s easy to follow your commanding officer when you think he’s ready to send you back-up at any moment and you only need to hold off the enemy for a short time. It’s hard to when you can’t reach him and you don’t know where he is, but it is the true person who trusts his officer who still keeps firing away at the enemy regardless.

Thus, there are times I don’t trust God and what am I to do? Act. Act accordingly anyway. I have learned in all of my emotional struggles, that they don’t really last a long time. There are many times that I am in the valley and each time I think, “This is the worst valley I could ever be in!” and at the time, I think I am right, and a few years down the road, I find myself in a worse one. Every time I have been brought through. Sometimes, I have been brought through kicking and screaming and not wanting to trust the hands that want to carry me through, yet still I make it a point to go on. Where else will I go?

If anything, I think it would also be good if we Christians often dropped the spiritual platitudes we still too often share. We often act like intense struggle is the exception in the Christian life. It is not to be. It is the rule. It is how we handle those sufferings that will reveal who we are and the world will see us. It’s easy for the world to know we are Christians by our love if we rejoice and love when everything is good. They do that as well! It’s how we will handle the crucible of pain that will reveal our love the most. If we are showing love, it is to people who need that love the most intensely. They may even as we do with God at times smack our hands away in anger and want nothing to do with us, but we still love.

If you are also in the time when you are not trusting God, you are not alone. Trust if anything requires it being difficult to trust. It is easy to think about how the laws of science work so well when you are going about your day to day mundane life. If you have to get on a space shuttle and fly out where everything you do, including your return to see your loved ones on Earth again, depends on how well people are calculating the laws of science and how well they work, it could be different. I cannot speak on that, but it would be interesting to ask an astronaut someday if I could. Maybe I will see if I can track one down. Actually, I’m doing that right now. Perhaps that’s a future blog post.

And also if you are there, I am not going to give you platitudes. Just know that in my own way, I am also walking through it. None of us are where want to be entirely yet. All of us are still works in progress. When you meet me on my journey, it might be best to not talk. Just grab another sword and walk alongside me together. Even if we walk in silence, at least we walk together facing the next day.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Trust Can Be Hard

What do you do when it’s hard? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Sometimes, it’s really hard to be a faithful follower of Christ. Yesterday for me was one of those days. In the middle of playing a favorite online MMORPG, I had a number or rude comments made about my gaming ability that I can still remember. Normally, I would write those off fairly easily, but with other events going on in my life, it was partially Queen Jezebel’s sniper bullet to Elijah.

Fortunately, to help with that, a couple of good friends of mine assured me jerks exist everywhere even in the gaming community and they had encountered them as well. Most players are nicer than that, but sometimes a few bad apples spoil a bunch. I’m not talking about when friends get together and as friends play a game against each other and give friendly insults. I’m talking about real ones that take place.

Then as I go to bed last night, it was one of the hardest times I had getting to sleep in a long time. I’m still not sure how I did it. I found myself wrestling with various fears about my future, uncertainties, and temptations in the present. I look and wonder what my future really holds with so many what ifs. Already, I hear Gary Habermas now in my head telling me as he has before “What if it’s not?”

But trust can be hard sometimes. I use trust because I prefer that word to faith since I think trust is a better translation of faith. It’s really hard because I know through my own studies the goodness and love of God, and yet in my own life at the time, He doesn’t seem good and loving. My head knows he is, but when the anxiety is gripping you, that can be extremely hard to realize.

As I ponder it this morning, I wonder if sometimes our expectations can be too high. After all, a favorite prophecy of Jesus is Isaiah 53 where He is said to be a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. Even if you don’t believe in Jesus, you can see in the Gospels the sadness of Jesus. Jesus is sorrowful over Jerusalem not repenting and weeps at the grave of Lazarus.

A passage I find most revealing is in the Garden before the crucifixion where Jesus is said to be overwhelmed with sorrow, even unto the point of death. That’s some intense sorrow. It’s not just Jesus. Paul himself had the sorrow as well. Consider Philippians 2:

25 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. 26 For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. 28 Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety.

This is a letter about joy, but I wonder how many times we just read through this section. Paul is talking about anxiety and having sorrow upon sorrow. How many times was Paul lying in a jail cell and wondering about the church that he loved? He was in a position of sorrow and yet had more sorrow possibly to come.

And he was in a jail cell. Talk about being in a place of uncertainty. Paul certainly knew what this was like. The same thing happens in 2 Corinthians 1. This is a passage that mentions comfort so many times. However, right in the middle, what do you see?

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.

And this morning for my morning reading I read Joshua. Many of us know the common saying in Joshua 1. “Be strong and courageous.”

You don’t need to say that to someone who is feeling strong and courageous.

I can’t help but think too often in Christianity we often think we can’t be candid so much with our struggles. Now I am not sharing everything here because I do save many struggles for people I do know personally, but the struggles are real, which is even harder when you’re involved in apologetics and try to be a man of reason as much as possible.

As someone told me last night, it’s not that time heals the wounds you have. It doesn’t. You just get more used to the terrain so you can better navigate through it. Nothing will erase the past after all. All I can do is hope fore the future.

There will also always be suffering and something I can turn to for depression. In turn, if I can turn to it, there will always be something good. I was trying last night to be thankful for things, but it was honestly difficult. It was one of the first nights I had had like that in a long time. They happen every now and then.

Why say this? Because I also think it’s important for you to know that in many ways, I’m just like you. Too often leaders like to act like they have it all together and they really don’t. I can’t help but wonder if this could have contributed to the fall of Ravi Zacharias or anyone else.

This is also something the church needs to improve on. We can be so busy in wanting to hold up a persona that really, the church is one of the last places people who are hurting really want to go to. Consider this. Sinners and people suffering were not afraid to approach Jesus. If they are afraid to approach us, we are not being like Jesus.

So right now, things are hard and there are a lot of struggles, but I am determined to make it through matters. I am dealing with fears and temptations, but so is everyone. We can look at Jesus and how He faced it and said “But He’s the Son of God.” Sure, but Son of the same God that we serve. He is just as much working in us and for us.

In the meantime, I do appreciate any prayers and encouragement. Many of you have no idea how far it goes. Thank you for all you do for me and Deeper Waters.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
Support my Patreon here.

Angels and Death

What happens when someone dies? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In Final Fantasy X, when a person dies and doesn’t want to go to the realm of the dead, they interact with beings called pyreflies and become fiends. This is a common motif in many Japanese stories involving those who don’t want to go on and become a whole new creature. Many Christians might look at that and think that that is a creative story, but too many will believe something similar.

I say this because recently, my mother’s brother passed away. Today, there is to be a graveside service and many times, I can anticipate really bad thinking going on among people at Christian services about what happens when people die. One of the common beliefs is that people become angels.

This is not to say that the dead don’t remain in service to God in some way. There are many people who have NDEs who claim that they have encountered loved ones on the other side who have kept them from passing a boundary that would put them in eternity forever and saying it is not their time. I have no problem with such a thing happening.

However, when people die, they still remain being people. Humans are a species of a type that are meant to be embodied, although I think Scripture and NDEs both show that there is reality outside of the body. We are creatures that are naturally at home within the body.

Angels are beings that were created most likely at the start of creation and they are not meant to be embodied beings. They can assume a body if need be, though there is no evidence of demons doing so, but that is not how they naturally exist. Angels are by nature immaterial.

When a person dies, they do not become anything else. They remain fully human. It’s worth noting this is what happens with Jesus as well. Jesus to this day remains fully human as well as fully God.

Whenever we are in eternity, there will always be a distinction between humans and angels. Meanwhile with unbelievers, unbelievers do not become demons when they die. There will always be a distinction between unbelievers and demons.

Also, let’s dispense with ideas that are damaging to those left behind. Sometimes people say God needed another angel, which is especially damaging to children who lose a parent. After all, “Why did God have to take my Mommy like that?”

In the same way, people do not die because God needs them in His service in eternity. Why people die is part of the problem of evil and another question altogether that won’t be addressed here, but for now, I am focused on something else. While the question needs a good answer, let’s make sure at least we don’t give it a bad answer.

People have enough to grieve with when a loved one dies. We might want to say something comforting to those left behind, but let’s not say something that’s false and in the long run, won’t comfort, especially as I said, when children are concerned. Also, for those in apologetics, this is also not a time to discuss the problem of evil. Save it for when someone is not in the midst of the pain.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
Support my Patreon here.

When Your Enemy Dies

How do you respond when your enemy dies? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I remember several years ago I was on the program PALtalk and the news had just broke that Saddam Hussein’s sons had just been found and killed. Someone messaged me saying “Isn’t this such great news?!” I told them it was great that they would no longer be inflicting evil on the Earth, but as a Christian, it was also sad because they passed into eternity without Christ forever.

Even earlier when I first started doing apologetics, I remember being in a chat room on AOL with several young-earth creationists (And in saying this I realize not all YECs are like this, thank God) when the news came that Stephen Jay Gould, the evolutionary biologist had died. Immediately, there were people chatting about what it must be like for him in Hell right now. I remember also the same happening with some Reformed people (and again, thank God not all are like that), when a Pope had died and how he had “busted Hell wide open.”

I understand that for some people directly involved, it is good for them to know justice has been served, but many of us are not in that position. In the cases I described above, I found myself appalled at what I was saying. If you really think someone is in Hell, why should you celebrate? It’s not like you avoid it because you’re just so awesome.

So yesterday I finished listening to a book on my Amazon Tap and was playing a game where I couldn’t pause so I just switched to talk radio. Then I hear about the legacy of Rush Limbaugh. Legacy? That’s what you say when someone has died. I ask Alexa if that had happened and yes, that’s the news I get immediately.

Now as a conservative, I found the news saddening, but what didn’t surprise me was the images that I saw going on on Twitter after that. I have been just as appalled. You might want to make a statement about the character of your opponent, but those who celebrate in that matter are really revealing more about themselves.

What really amazes me is also that these are the people who often talk about being the people of love and compassion and tolerance and unity and being so opposed to any kind of hate. I would think that for all the time preaching this gospel, it might be practiced. It looks like it’s not really the case.

In a time like this also, we should also remember that eventually, death is going to come for all of us unless the return of Christ occurs first. Will we be ready? What are we doing with our lives right now?

If we’re Christians, we should definitely not be celebrating in this way. We should remember that this is a sign that our world is fallen. Also, keep in mind as much as you might not like it as a Christian, Rush Limbaugh and many others did say that they were Christians and if they were right, well, you get to spend eternity with them.

If you are hearing that and saying “I hope not! I don’t want to spend eternity with them!” then it is definitely you that has the problem. Eternity is to be where forgiveness and love definitely reign supreme. On a blog post I wrote years ago asking if your murderer will be in Heaven, someone in the comments said that right now in eternity, Stephen and Paul are together.

That’s really something to think about.

And yes, in eternity if forgiveness has taken place, people will be with those who murdered either them or their loved ones. Skeptics will be tempted to see that and think that that must be an awful place then. No. It’s a wonderful place because even something as horrendous as murder will be forgiven. We could also say if the criminal has repented, someone will be with their rapist, and there will be love and forgiveness.

All my secularist friends who believe in the goodness of man should be willing to see this as a good thing as well as man will be able to love someone who has hurt them so greatly. If you’re a Christian, realize that however you might not care about that person, you are called to love your enemy. You are called to want what is good for them.

During the Trump administration, if you had asked me who I wanted to meet if I got the chance to meet one famous person, I would have said Donald Trump. Some might say I’m a conservative so of course I would say that. Not so fast. I was asked that just recently and said still “The president” and when it was Obama in office, it was still “The president.” Why no matter who it was? Because I would want to go and talk to them about Jesus and let the message of Jesus impact them whoever it is, even if I thought that person was already a Christian.

To those celebrating, you’re revealing more about yourself and the people that you would hope to persuade are being given more reason to not listen to you. If this is the kind of person your side produces, then I want nothing of it. The side that produces those who love even their enemies is the one I wish to be on and I hope when my personal enemies die, that I will more respond the appropriate way as well.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
Support my Patreon here.

Is God’s Goodness Always Good?

What happens when good doesn’t seem good? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Christians hold that God is good. We also hold that there is real evil in the world. It’s not an illusion. It actually happens. There are things in this world that are unjustifiably evil.

Let’s understand if skeptics see a problem here. I understand logically things work out, but emotionally, evil is a real problem. I’m wanting today to write about when the idea of the goodness of God is hard.

It’s easy to say God is good when things are going fine in our lives. That’s not a problem. However, as soon as we start having problems that are serious, many of us start to wonder about the goodness of God. Besides, isn’t it so obvious what should be done in this situation? Surely God who is all good and all loving and knows all would agree with what needs to be done and do what we ask. Right?

Not necessarily.

That’s when the goodness of God gets really difficult. If anything, it becomes more painful to believe in the goodness of God. You have to accept that what is happening is not necessarily good, as evil is never good, but that God is not doing anything wrong in allowing this evil to occur, whatever it is.

Do you still believe in the goodness of God?

If you don’t, you don’t really believe in the goodness of God. You believe in it only if God is doing what you think is good for you. God is subject to what you think. If you do believe in His goodness, then you believe in it regardless. That is the real test of belief in God’s goodness.

This is what happens in the book of Job. The book of Job is not about the problem of evil. You can look high and low and you will not find the answer to why good people suffer. It is also not God making a bet on a whim. It is asking why does Job serve God?

Does Job serve God because life is going good for Him and He gets all the goodies? Well, congratulations. Anyone can serve under those conditions. If you were a Christian and one of the wealthiest people if not the wealthiest in the world at the time and had a good family on top of that, it would be really easy to talk about the goodness of God.

Can you talk about it when things are rough?

What if Job lost everything? Would he still serve God? If he doesn’t, then he only serves God for the goodies. If he does, then he serves God because of who God is and it’s the right thing to do.

This is not to say Job can’t question and complain. He does. So do we. We can do that also. The Psalms are full of such cases. You are allowed to talk to God. He’s a big God. He can take it. You’re still supposed to trust Him in it.

C.S. Lewis said years ago this is the kind of Christian that puts the cause of evil in a panic. If a soldier looks up for a God who he feels abandoned by, asks why, and still obeys, then that soldier will serve through anything. That is a position we are all to take.

God’s goodness can be hard, but it is the best hope that we have. When things are rough, God is still good. He is still in charge and it is His story, not yours. Trust the author to work it out.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)