Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: success

On suicide and despair

This past week, a news story caught my attention.  A young New York dietitian committed suicide.  By most people’s standards, she was successful and in the prime of her life.  She had earned her Master’s degree and was working in her chosen field.  She had friends and co-workers that valued her.  Her Instagram pictures showed her enjoying a wide variety of food from places all over the world. 

And yet, she felt empty.  Here’s part of the note she left behind:

I have written this note several times in my head for over a decade, and this one finally feels right. No edits, no overthinking. I have accepted hope is nothing more than delayed disappointment, and I am just plain old-fashioned tired of feeling tired. 

I realize I am undeserving of thinking this way because I truly have a great life on paper. I’m fortunate to eat meals most only imagine. I often travel freely without restriction. I live alone in the second greatest American city (San Francisco, you’ll always have my heart). However, all these facets seem trivial to me. It’s the ultimate first world problem, I get it. I often felt detached while in a room full of my favorite people; I also felt absolutely nothing during what should have been the happiest and darkest times in my life. No single conversation or situation has led me to make this decision, so at what point do you metaphorically pull the trigger?

Her words ooze feelings of despair, bleakness, and hollowness.  Usually it takes many years on this earth before we reach a point with this level of emptiness – but most, if not all, of us feel like this at some point.  We look around at the state of the world and find ourselves agreeing with the writer of Ecclesiastes, who calls himself “The Teacher”:

Ecclesiastes 1:2-4, 8-9, 11
Absolute futility,” says the Teacher.  “Absolute futility.  Everything is futile.”  What does a person gain for all his efforts that he labors at under the sun?  A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever…

All things are wearisome, more than anyone can say.  The eye is not satisfied by seeing or the ear filled with hearing.  What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun…

There is no remembrance of those who came before; and of those who will come after there will also be no remembrance by those who follow them.

These musings are real, the emotion behind them should not be simply dismissed.  They may hit us in a moment, or they may linger in the back of our mind for years.  If life is only made up of what we see in front of us, then the feelings of despair are accurate and we should do our best to eat, drink, and enjoy our work as best we can for as many trips around the sun we can manage. 

However, there is a flaw to this kind of thinking…what we need to recognize is the limit of our own perspective.  It’s hard to see beyond what is directly in front of us, but that is exactly what Jesus calls us to do.  When He spoke to the woman at the well, Jesus made this incredible statement:

John 4:13-14
Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again.  But whoever drinks form the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again.  In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up in him for eternal life.”

The world’s water never satisfies – it always leaves us thirsty again.  But with one drink from Jesus, our thirst for fulfillment can be satisfied.  And it doesn’t stop there – a full, abundant, eternal life begins at the moment we believe in Jesus.

Walking with Jesus ensures that our perspective contains more than the unsatisfying things in front of us.  This doesn’t mean we will never experience the pain of despair or that we will never feel empty.  But we will know the truth of our place in God’s larger story.

If you are feeling bleak and hollow, turn these over to Jesus.  You don’t have to be afraid, He can handle your feelings.  Also be sure you’re talking with fellow believers about these feelings and your perspective.  We are to carry one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), and know that you’re not alone.  Your family is here for you.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

A warning for the young ones

Success at a young age can have its downfalls.  We see it often in the entertainment industry, when a child star has national fame and an unending flow of fans…and then, as soon as their voice begins to crack, the public focus shifts away to the next young talented person.  The starlet usually doesn’t handle this rapid change in fortune very well, either.  Our news feeds are full of sad ‘Where are they now?’ stories.

I think a large reason why these starlets begin to flail and eventually fail is because they are not receiving sound advice as they navigate their early success.  Their manager’s (and oftentimes, also their parents’) ambition is to take advantage of every opportunity to keep the starlet’s name in front of the public.  Whirlwind tours, constant events, and deceptive sweet-talk convince the child that he or she really is the center of the world.  When the starlet begins to believe they are the reason for everything going so well, they think that they actually deserve the spotlight.

As Paul explains to Timothy which characteristics either seek out or avoid for someone to fill the overseer role for the local church, he includes this warning:

1 Timothy 3:6-7
He must not be a new convert, or he might become conceited and fall into the condemnation of the Devil.  Furthermore, he must have a good reputation among outsiders, so that he does not fall into disgrace and the Devil’s trap.

Paul’s concern is that a “young one” in the faith will not be ready to handle either the rapid success or flattery that could come their way in an overseer role.  An overseer’s job is to leading people toward God, helping them avoid personal pitfalls, and instructing them on how to navigate cultural issues.  However, if an overseer doesn’t keep his focus on God, if he begins to dwell on all the compliments that come his way…then he might become conceited and think that he is reason for his congregation’s success.

It was pride that cost the Devil his position as an archangel.  Likewise, if an overseer becomes conceited in his position, God will remove him. 

Satan is more than willing to use his experience to lay a trap for the overseers in God’s church.  Therefore, overseers must be vigilant in protecting their reputation among those in the larger community, and especially among non-believers.  The world loves to point out the stories of when Christian leaders fall into disgrace.  If an overseer is a new convert, then the risk of being caught in these traps goes up significantly…so it is better to let the young one develop a blameless reputation on his own before he carries the burden of representing a larger Christian community.

Paul doesn’t gives Timothy these guidelines so individuals will be excluded from doing the noble work of an overseer; rather, Paul wants to protect the individuals who do lead, the church, and most importantly, God’s reputation among unbelievers.  We need competent, mature leadership within our church family. 

This is why Paul mentored Timothy.  Now it’s Timothy’s turn to mentor others.

Keep Pressing,
Ken