Talking: One of Life’s Most Effective Medicines

 

Are you really struggling or know someone who’s struggling?  Struggles such as depression, anxiety, strained relationships, heartache, or just the little inconveniences in life?  One of the best medicines to cure a lot of that stuff is just simply talking to that person.

The very word ‘talking’ means something different to me now than it was several years ago.  When I hear the phrase ‘want to talk’, it resonates with me deeper.  Talking to other people about my personal problems was not something I did often a while ago.  I tended to keep a lot to myself, which I learned was damaging.  I’ve learned that being more open with the people you trust and being willing to talk about what’s on your chest relieves a lot of stress and helps you to feel better.

So I know what you’re probably thinking.  ’Gee Forrest, I never knew that before!’  So what am I offering that’s a little bit more fresh?  When you go to talk to someone, choose the people you talk to wisely.  It doesn’t just have to do with trust.  It also has to do with the experiences that the people you talk to have had and what they’ve learned from it.  For instance, if you’re going through a depressive cycle, it’s probably not a good idea to talk to someone else who’s going through a depressive cycle.  There’s nothing wrong with spending time with people who are going through similar struggles as you.  In fact, it’s a way that both of you can relate.  But if you want to talk to someone in the hopes that they can help you get through a difficult time you’re having, talk to someone who has been through what you’re struggling with and has been able to overcome it, at least to a point.  That way, he can help you overcome your struggles too and show you how he did it.

It’s also important to share your struggles with people that will keep it between the two of you unless you give him permission to do otherwise.  Nobody likes it when someone listens to your problems and then tells other people about it without you knowing.  Talk to someone who takes your struggles seriously and keeps it private.

Lastly, I believe I would be remiss not to mention that if you’re feeling really depressed, it’s vitally important to talk to someone you trust as soon as possible.  I know what it’s like holding things in.  Please talk to someone that you can trust like one of your closest friends, your pastor, a family member, or a teacher that you can entrust your experiences with.  Simply talking to someone that you can trust will help you a lot in overcoming obstacles and give you hope when you really need it.

What I Won’t Forget About my Youth Pastor

 

Okay, I know what you’re thinking.  What is Forrest about to say about his youth pastor?  Is it something good?  Something bad?  A little bit of both?  I can assure you that what I’m going to say is good.  In fact, it’s something that has impacted my life in very good ways.

I met my youth pastor Ron on October 2009, though I wasn’t going to his youth group at the time.  He was willing to take me to a Pastor’s Kids retreat that I had filled out an application for to go to.  To be honest, we didn’t really talk much.  The only thing we had established as a relationship at the time was that Ron was basically responsible for my own survival.  It was some time after the retreat that I went through some anger issues with my youngest brother.  It was decided that I should have someone as a counselor or accountability partner.  To this day, I’m still not entirely sure why, but I chose Ron when my parents asked me who I would like to talk to.

For a few months, me and Ron would meet once a week just to talk.  I would tell Ron what was on my mind and tell him of some of the crap I was going through or dealing with.  He always listened and was always very helpful.  Eventually, I started going to his youth group, and after about four years, I still go there to this day.  My times meeting with Ron once a week didn’t last a very long time, but there came a point where I just started calling him once in a while if I was going through a very difficult time.  I started calling a little more often when I began dealing with depression episodes that made me feel so helpless.  There was one time when I was going through a depression episode that was so bad I called him immediately after I got back home.  I felt like that was a course of action I needed to take and I’m so grateful that he was an option.  He answered and he was there for me.

To this day, he still prays over me if I ask for prayer, and he still listens to me and counsels me if I need counsel.  But there’s something that gives all of this a really powerful touch.  I don’t know if he’s aware of it, but there’s a certain look he has when I talk to him about things I’m going through.  It’s a look that shows genuine concern for me because he cares about me, but there’s also such a deep compassion there that I’ve seen in very few other people. Because of it, not once have I ever felt like he doesn’t care.  It’s one of the reasons why I continue to talk to him.  The look is something about him I will never forget.

He is one of the biggest reasons why I want to be a counselor for people who struggle with depression or heartache in life.  He has helped me more than he knows.  My youth pastor is a mentor, a counselor, and a friend that I can’t thank enough.

Finding Eternal Sunshine on a Complicated Mind

 

Last night, I watched for the second time the movie Eternal Sunshine on a Spotless Mind, a romantic fantasy about a man named Joel (Jim Carrey) who attempts to erase his memories of his ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) because the pain of having to move on from the broken relationship had been too much for him to bear.

I believe we’ve all gone through painful experiences that we wish we can just forget.  Things like a death in the family, breakups, bad fights, and mistakes with drastic consequences are all examples of experiences that we wish we can forget.  We wish that we can be strapped to a machine and have the memories of those experiences taken away from us so that we don’t have to deal with the pain and grief of the aftermath.  It’s difficult to move on, but what can we do if we can’t just have those memories erased like Joel in the movie?

1. It’s natural to feel sad –  First off, In no way am I implying that you shouldn’t feel sad about something that has happened.  It’s natural to feel this way.  In your sadness, you can find out where your heart is and it shows you some of your true feelings about something that you’ve lost and it gives you time that you didn’t have before to think about it.  It’s not a matter of how you feel right afterwards, it’s a matter of how you feel, for example, three months after.  After three months, are you still feeling just as sad or depressed?  What can we learn so that we don’t continue to feel this way long after the event?

2. Negative experiences can strengthen us - We can either continue to grieve for what happened, or we can look and see how the experience has changed us as a person.  Experience, regardless of the circumstances, influences the kind of person we become, but the kind of person we become is also heavily influenced by the choices we make to deal with it.  Are we going to continue to grieve for the past and do nothing to move on, or are we going to let go and come out of our sadness stronger than before, because we’re willing to learn from our experiences?

3. When we go through the same experience again, learning will help us become stronger for next time - Life is full of firsts, and we’re normally unsure of how to deal with them when they come around, but what about the second time?  We can’t allow those experiences to win over us again.  Instead, we take the opportunity to apply what we learned last time so that we’re stronger this time.

4. Remember the good memories, because they play a part in how you learn to move on - It also helps to remember the good moments that something brought before it passed away.  It gives you a sense of confidence and thankfulness, because you were blessed to experience moments that you will remember fondly for a lifetime.  With that confidence and thankfulness, you’re willing to open the door into the next thing that’s in store for you.  For instance, if you’ve experienced a death in the family, remember the good moments you got to share with that person.  That goes for relationships too.  Instead of continuing to feel sad when a relationship ends, remember the good moments you had with the other person.  Though this example doesn’t really have to do with good memory, if we make a great mistake, we remember what we did wrong so that we don’t make the same mistake next time.  We grow through our experiences both good and bad, and they make up the person we become, but ultimately it also comes down to how we allow them to affect us.

Measuring the Value of Your Life by the ‘Like’ Button

 

Aah Facebook.  You’re such a big part of our social life in the 21st Century.  I mean, what would we do without you?  You allow us to post pretty much every aspect of our lives for the world to see, including our own insights, opinions, and perceptions on pretty much everything.  We can also post a picture of our birthday cake if we want to.  Everyone needs to know that I love chocolate after all.

One big thing about Facebook to note is this silly thing called the ‘Like’ button.  Simply click it, and the poster knows that you ‘like’ whatever it is he posted.  Then the poster feels happy.  And if he’s happy, then all is well with the world.  If I post something, and no one ‘likes’ it, I’ll just ‘like’ it myself.  After all, if I post something, that means I like it in some way, so shouldn’t that justify me clicking the ‘Like’ button?

On Facebook, expectations are at a feverish all-time high.  We post stuff and hope that people will ‘like’ it.  It gives the person a sense of meaning and value if other people show any amount of interest in his life.  If no one clicks ‘Like’, then the person tends to get depressed or feel like nobody cares about him.  It has happened to me, and I’m pretty positive it happens to a lot of other people.

If you’re happy with your own life, who cares if someone else doesn’t?  Your life isn’t measured by the opinions of others, you yourself measure it.  At the end of the day, you yourself determine how valuable or important your life is.  Next time you post something on Facebook, don’t measure your value based on the number of likes.  Measure it based on how much you thought it was special.

Practice What You Preach, Or Don’t Preach

 

Let’s face it.  We’ve all told people how to do certain things right, but we don’t do that stuff ourselves.  We tell someone how he should treat another person, but we don’t uphold those values ourselves.  It then becomes a situation where it becomes ‘do as I say, not as I do’.

I myself have ‘preached’ to others and sometimes don’t practice what I tell others to do myself.  So it begs the question, who am I to tell someone how to do something right if I don’t do it myself?  Concern for others is admirable, but you need to be concerned for your own heart before you get concerned about someone else’s.

Sound hard?  Yeah, I bet it does, and I should know.  We typically don’t want to examine ourselves and figure out what has to be changed, but we want to examine others and teach them how they should change.  A bad preacher is one that goes up on the platform and tells the audience how they should live even though the preacher himself doesn’t live that way.  We have no right to dictate how others live, and at the end of the day, we have no control over them either.  We can only control ourselves.

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but you do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? - Matthew 7:3-4

1. Through our fellowship with God, and through our own self-examination, we can be more effective in helping others - God created us to have fellowship with both Him and each other, and we’re supposed to be there for each other, but why do you think God asks us to seek fellowship with Him above all else?  Because our fellowship with Him strengthens our fellowship with others.  

2. Don’t judge others, or you yourself will be judged - Even if we have a strong fellowship with God, it’s not our place to tell someone how he should act.  That’s God’s job.  Instead, be encouraging to others and God will handle the rest.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Over the next couple weeks I’m going to try getting some book reviews and analyses out there in the form of a series like pastors do in a four-week session to cover specific topics.  If anyone has any suggestions for book reviews, let me know in the comments section.  Thank you for reading!

Escaping the Repetition of Every Day

I hate to say this, but if you look at my own life, you might think it’s almost like an existential crisis.  I get up and almost always do the same stuff every day, especially on weekdays when I have school.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I get up between 5:45 and 6 in the morning, hop on the bus to get to English class, then after class I either go to work if I’m scheduled to or I hang out with friends at school or go home and do homework.  On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I get up and go to Biology class, then either go to work if I’m scheduled to, or hang out with friends at school, or go home and do homework.  I meet up with the same people on a regular basis, keep a loose schedule or a tight one depending on the day, and do the same tasks over and over again.

You might think I’m depressed because of this way of thinking.  I would like to point out that that’s not the case at all.  I’m not depressed, I just recognize the repetitive nature of life itself.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy doing most of the things I do day after day (I love talking and hanging out with my friends any time we can and I get to have a friend over on special occasions), it’s just that I recognize that I go through the same experiences day after day.  Get up, go to school, stay and hang out or go to work, and do homework at home or watch videos or read until it’s time you (finally) decide that you should go to bed.

Repetition in life actually does tend to make you feel depressed.  You can grow bored with all the same stuff you have to do to the point where you just don’t care anymore.  Despite this, it’s important to take a step back and look at what kind of special moments may be planted in your day that you didn’t really give much thought to before.

1. There are actually more little surprises and special moments during the day then you might think, it just takes a little bit of searching.  It could be a small moment that’s easy to miss or you don’t end up thinking about it much at all.  In my opinion, you can never stop learning something new about someone, and that includes friends.  Friends have the tendency to surprise you when you least expect it, and it deepens relationships and manipulates them in certain directions that God is in control of.  You may also end up learning something about yourself through experiences that you normally don’t go through…

2. …Which is important to remember, because no matter how much ‘sameness’ is in your life, you always have the ability to learn something new.  Whether it’s doing research on something that has piqued your interest, or learning new things about yourself or others, there’s always something new to learn.  This allows you to expand your horizons in life and make it feel a bit more interesting.

3. The little moments we experience in our day-to-day routine can prepare us for something larger that God has in store for us.  I’ve gone through experiences in the past that I believe I was meant to go through, and it’s all part of my growth and development as a person, and the most exciting part is that they can be helping me prepare myself for bigger things to come.  I know I like to talk a lot about ‘moments’ and ‘hope for the future’ in my articles, but these are things I tend to think about a lot, and they’re a great help in getting me through each day knowing that the best is yet to come.  One last thing I should mention is that a good suggestion is to ask God at the beginning of the day what He wants you to do that day.  What is His purpose for you on that particular day?  He might really have a great surprise for you if you’re willing to seek Him out.  What are some little moments you’ve experienced in your own life that separate themselves from your normal routine?

 

Loving Others Means You Have To Love Yourself

 

Now, I’ll be one to admit that I myself have a difficult time loving myself.  Sometimes I seem to only do the bare minimum for myself so I can just get by in life.  I want to talk about one of the most important things about life that you simply can’t live without.  You have to love yourself.  If you do, you will have the ability to love others.

I grew up making mistakes on a seemingly regular basis.  I wasn’t a straight-A student in school, in fact my grades were all over the place with not a whole lot of consistency regarding any grade.  I cheated in tests, lied about a variety of different things so that I can keep myself out of trouble (I wasn’t actually very good at lying in the first place, so I very rarely got away with it), and I picked fights with my brothers.  Today, I wish I had been a better ‘big brother’ to my younger brothers when I still lived with my family.  I wish I hadn’t lied and cheated and picked fights as often as I did.  I also seemed to have a bad lack of motivation when it came to school, and would only get really motivated if something I enjoyed was taken away from me as a consequence until I stepped up my game.

We all make mistakes.  That’s basic, common knowledge right there.  certainly made mistakes, there’s no doubt about that.  We’ve all done things that we regret, and then we punish ourselves or remind ourselves what we did, which prevents us from going far or adventuring out of our comfort zone.  We judge ourselves based on what we’ve done in the past.

A lot of us believe that we’re not worth loving, but God does.  And if God believes that we’re worth loving, shouldn’t we?  Your past doesn’t define who you are.  We’re all human beings after all.  Making mistakes is part of human nature.  God doesn’t care about that though.  He looks at the best in us and He loves us, flaws and all.

With that being said, if we don’t love ourselves for who we are, we’re simply incapable of loving others.  We need to accept ourselves for who we are, and we need to fill our own basic needs.  We need to have hope for ourselves, and pick ourselves up and push on after every mistake we make, because none of the mistakes we make are worth beating ourselves up over.  We are loved by God, so doesn’t that give us reason enough to love ourselves?

When I don’t love myself like I should, I normally find myself not loving others the way I should or the way God expects me to.  I can do nice things for people that would mean something to them, but it’s not out of genuine love for those people, it’s just a way to get appreciation or approval from others.  Even though you’re doing something to serve someone else, your motive is self-serving.  If we learn to love ourselves, we can have the joy that we need to serve others.  Loving others and serving them can be a rewarding experience, if you love yourself first.

‘Loving others as you love yourself’ is the second greatest commandment from God according to Matthew 22:39.  This commandment already assumes that you love yourself so you must love others too.  This speaks powerfully that loving yourself comes first.  How about this: If God found us worth loving enough to sacrifice His own Son, shouldn’t that give us reason enough to love ourselves?

The One Relationship That’s Forever

Another Valentine’s Day just recently passed by us.  I had a great time going with my girlfriend to ComedySportz, a comedy IMPROV show where nothing is scripted or rehearsed, but the cast is able to improvise the entire way through and still be funny and talented.  My girlfriend had a great time watching them and it was such a joy for me to know she had a good time.  She’s a great blessing in my life, and I’m so thankful to God that she’s a part of my life.

Lately I’ve been thinking though.  Relationships can always be great, as long they’re treated well and handled properly, and with God’s blessing, it’s one of the best experiences you can have in your life, but only one relationship is guaranteed and promised.  The world is full of heartbreak, division, and broken relationships.  Amidst all of this, what do we need to remember?  How can we find comfort or solitude if we have been dumped or betrayed by someone that we care about?

1.  Even when worldly relationships end, God never ends His relationship with us -  A lot of us fear that we might do something that could potentially ruin our relationships or that the other person might one day leave us behind, but there’s comfort in knowing that God will never leave me for someone else or decide that he can’t handle my habits.  He loves us exactly for who we are, scars and all, and there is not a single thing that we can do or say that will diffuse His passion and His love for us.  “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us.” (1 John 4:10)

2.  God gives us comfort even when no one else does –  We all try to find ways to fill our desires for fellowship or comfort from others, but there is only one that can promise the best fellowship and the best comfort, and the great thing is that it’s eternal.  He asks us to come to Him when we need comfort, because He can always give it to us.  His Word promises just that.  “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

3.  Not even the closest person in your life can top the sacrifice God made for you –  He created you, He made this beautiful world we live in, He comforts you when you’re hurting or lost, He loves you regardless of who you are, and He sacrificed His own son so that we can be forgiven and we can have an eternal relationship with Him that nothing, not even death, can separate us from.  His love is endless and His love for us is eternal.  Everything in this world is temporary, but His love for you is forever.  Trust God to take the reins in your life, because as long as God is in control, He will bless you even if you feel like you don’t deserve it.