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How Passion and Purpose Bring Joy

I have struggled on and off with depression for a long time. Thankfully, God put several people in my life that showed me how to have passion and purpose in my life. Having passion and purpose in my life has motivated me to work harder and with more joy than ever before.  This has caused my depression to dissipate significantly.

However, lack of passion and purpose can exacerbate the symptoms of depression. I see many people in today’s society just going to work to pay the bills, and for not much else. Consequently, when they have to do something they don’t like or when a co-worker or client really pushes their buttons, they become angry and/or miserable.  The same goes with students who are in school only because “their parents or guardians forced them.” They typically don’t have motivation to work hard and be the best they can be.  Moreover, their attitude shows that they can’t wait to graduate or somehow get out of school.

When I was in elementary school, I had to complete an assignment that I loathed. At the time, I had the attitude of many of the students who feel forced to go to school and do homework.  Basically, I refused to do the assigned work until my grade for the class would suffer if I didn’t. So, finally, I had to force myself to do the work. Miraculously, I was able to pass the class! After that, I learned a major life lesson that I have strived to carry throughout my life—Sometimes you have to do work you don’t like. Do not try to procrastinate or avoid doing it. Do it first and well enough so it’s out of the way.

When I was in a Bible Study group several months ago, I learned another lesson of passion and purpose that has helped me maintain joy at my job. The lesson can be summed up in this quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Learn to love what must be done.”  That is, find joy in the work you are doing now.  Several days ago, I was initially perturbed and not very happy because they had assigned me to down stack totes, and I thought I was assigned that because I was not performing well at work.  Also, that was my least favorite part of the job. However, after one of my managers assured me that I wasn’t in trouble, I decided to find joy in this task by doing the best I could do.  This motivation to do well eventually made this task a bit more joyful and motivating to me! 

Some people may think to themselves, “Why should I do my best if I don’t get a tangible reward for it?”  First of all, even if you do get a tangible reward for good work, it will eventually disappear in some way, whether it would be consumed, stolen, broken or spent (as in the case with money). Nothing tangible or material will last forever.  Second of all, when you know you have done your best, you can acknowledge that fact within yourself. Don’t listen to people who try to criticize your best efforts, especially if you know they are unwarranted.  Finally, when you consistently do your best job, your work quality will eventually improve and you will be more respected, if even only for your work ethic.  This happened to me at a job many years ago before I had to quit. Even though the manager wasn’t pleased at how slow I was going, he did acknowledge that I was still working hard.  Many years later, I am motivated to work hard because I know it will eventually  lead to my work quality getting better.

Another way to find passion and purpose in your life is to have a thirst for learning. Beware of jobs where you are not allowed to even learn new things within your own department.  If you are having trouble at school in a certain class or at work with your performance in a certain area, learn as much as you can about that area or subject in order to improve your work.  For instance, one of the areas I had struggled in retail is cashiering. A couple years ago, I decided to train as a backup cashier, as maybe I would improve in this area.  After several months of training, I became confident enough to cashier on my own, and became one of the few registered trained associates, aside from the regular cashiers, in my store!  This brought me so much joy and a sense of accomplishment, especially since not everyone believed I was able to handle that job!

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, find a purpose that drives your entire life. Make sure that purpose will bring you lasting joy and fulfillment.  My purpose in life can be summed up in the Westminster’s Confession, which says,” Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”  Glorifying and enjoying God has brought me much joy, not only in my job, but also in my interactions with other. Glorifying God has freed me up to love others as He has loved me, without having to work so hard to impress other people to get them to like me.  Enjoying God has helped me trust in His love more and to appreciate all that He has done for me and all that He is to me.  Most importantly, my purpose in life has helped motivate me every day to continue to persevere in life even when I am tempted to give up.  Eventually, this perseverance reaps its rewards and brings me joy.  When we have that kind of passion and purpose in life we will yield great joy.

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay
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How to Help Someone With Depression or Anxiety (including what NOT to say)

I have had struggles with depression and anxiety for many years, but during the past five years things have really started to improve dramatically, despite some challenging circumstances, such as having to move out of state for the first time in my entire life!  I would like to thank those people who have stuck by me through my life’s journey and encouraged me to never give up.  These same people have also taught me how to encourage, validate, and strengthen others who also, like me, struggle with depression and/or anxiety. 

I am a born perfectionist, not so much for others, but definitely for myself.  I broke down in tears the other day at work because the pressure of performing at a certain rate and the anxiety of not meeting the goals I (and, I thought, the managers) set for me at the time.  I dreaded disappointing them. I was afraid that they would think less of me as a person, or think that I wasn’t trying hard enough. The truth was that I had become so fixated on performing that my drive was starting to suck out the joy and motivation to even work!  Anxiety was starting to take over even before I clocked in to work.  However, one of my managers, Jim,* validated my presence and my character.  He made it clear that he did not expect me to perform at that rate every day, and it was OK to have bad days sometimes.  When someone is anxious, especially about not doing or being enough, a good way to calm their anxieties is to reassure them that you value them no matter what they do.  Also, validate something in their character that has nothing to do with what they are anxious about. For instance, Jim complimented me on how I make people joyful inside. 

However, I know from experience that there are things that you should never say to someone struggling with depression and anxiety. I had someone tell another person trying to calm my anxieties and depression not to “baby” me.  Never disparage someone struggling as “weak,” “babyish,” or “silly.” They already have low self-esteem, and may even have suicidal thoughts.  If you feel emotionally overloaded trying to help someone with depression and/or anxiety, don’t. Instead, enlist the help of another person who is better able to help them. 

Another way to help someone struggling with depression and anxiety is to invest in them and believe in their abilities. When someone is clinically depressed, they feel like they are in a deep, dark tunnel with no way out.  They don’t typically see their God-given abilities and talents. If someone is anxious about themselves, they may think that trying anything new or that they haven’t done in a while will result in catastrophic failure, so why try? My mentor J saw that I was depressed and didn’t want to get out of the house much.  I did not believe that I would ever get a job or do anything worthy in my life.  Thankfully, she saw a way out of my deep, dark tunnel of doubt and despair, and walked me through the long, but worthy process of helping me gain independence and be employed. She invested in me and believed in my God-given abilities.  When we take the time and effort to invest in someone struggling with depression and anxiety, we will most likely see a slow, but steady growth in that person.  They will be able to have hope and joy again. I can’t speak for J, but her investment has made a huge impact on how I view life and my challenges.  So far, even though I still get anxious and depressed sometimes, my episodes don’t last as long and are not as severe as before I met her.

Sometimes, the best way to help a depressed or anxious person is just to be there for and listen to them.  One of my online friends did not think she was doing much because she felt that she wasn’t able to completely get me out of my depressive episode.  She did more than many people offline I know. She didn’t have to say anything. She did not make things worse by offering unsolicited and unhelpful advice.  She just listened. Sometimes that is all that the person struggling needs at the time—someone that will care enough to listen and to be there for them, when no one else seems to be there.

Finally, we can pray for those struggling with depression and anxiety. We can pray for God’s presence to flood them. We can ask God to help them see His sovereignty and caring hand in the situation that they are in so their anxieties would be quelled.  We can ask God to help them see the hope and joy that awaits them if they put their trust in Him and do not give up on their lives.

If you are struggling now, there is a way out even if it doesn’t seem that way right now.  Don’t give up. If you are recovering, make it a point to help others out of the tunnel of darkness and help them see the Light of Joy and Love.  There is always hope when you are alive.

*=not his real name

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Power of Belief: How Positive Influencers Helped Me Achieve the Impossible

Being on the autistic spectrum, I knew full well my limitations. For many years I had struggled to find a permanent job, a problem all too common for autistics like myself.  In fact, according to an article by MoneyWatch, a whopping 85% of college graduates affected by autism are unemployed!  (1)Many people who knew me well thought that it would already be good if I found a part-time job, though I had wanted to work full-time.   Some people thought I would also never be able to drive myself places, and achieve many of the goals that I wanted to accomplish. 

However, that all changed when I met my mentor Jill* and a couple years later, my then-manager Elizabeth.*

When I first met Jill, I really didn’t think anything would change in my life, but, at the same time, I unconsciously hoped that life would get better for me. I was also going through some changes in my life of which I was still trying to adjust, as change is especially difficult for those on the spectrum who need more routine. However, Jill kept insisting that I learn to drive myself and that I could eventually find a job that would suit me.  I did not believe her. Even my parents thought I needed a job that I had minimal interaction with people, and that even those kinds of jobs would be very difficult to find!  I eventually did learn to drive myself a few months after I met Jill, but I still did not think I would ever be able to find any job—part time or full time.  Jill then helped me to find an employment agency that would assist me in finding a job.  After climbing through many hurdles to find an agency willing to work with me, we finally found a friendly and determined person from the employment agency that would work with me to help find me a suitable job. About six months later, I finally got a call to get interviewed at a thrift store.  Because God was with me, He helped me to be confident enough to make a good impression on the interviewer and I got the job.  I worked very hard there, but I did not know if I would last long at the job.  Fortunately, I was able to be there for two and a half years before I sensed in my spirit that God wanted me somewhere else.  I was ready to take the next step in my employment journey—finding a full time job.  However, some of the people at the agency thought it was already good that I was even employed, since it is difficult for people on the spectrum to even find any type of jobs! However, Jill was confident in my ability to find a full time job.  So, we pushed through and the same person from the agency that worked with me last time was willing to work with me again to find me a full time job. It took several months before we found anything.  Then, one wintry February morning in 2016, God intervened and I got interviewed at a store in the company I am with now. Though at first I was part time, about six to seven months later, I was instated as full time. The day I got promoted to full time, I  was overjoyed.  (To see more details on how I got my first full time job, please see this link:  (https://placeinthisworld224.wordpress.com/2017/07/21/a-godsend-my-current-job/).  If it were not for Jill always believing in me and never giving up on me, I do not know where I would be today. 

About a year later, I met Elizabeth. When I first met Elizabeth, I did not know how much she would change my perspective on life and the trajectory of it.  Like Jill, she always believed in and never gave up on me, even when other people around me did.  For instance, when I approached her about wanting to learn the register, she immediately suggested that I could train for twenty minutes each week until I felt comfortable enough to be a certified backup, which was my goal, but I did face some backlash from others.  My now ex-friend told me not to continue training for cashier because she thought  I couldn’t handle it when there were difficult customers and that it would be too stressful for me. Another manager commented, “ A CSM [customer service manager] would never call you up to ring.” Thankfully, I listened to Elizabeth instead of the people around me, and a month before Elizabeth left our store, I was instated as a backup cashier.  Moreover, the customer service managers called me quite often, and as the number of register-trained associates dwindled, I became one of the few who were register-trained.  Most customers were satisfied with my speed and efficiency in my service to them at the register.  Elizabeth also believed in my abilities so much that she trained me on some of the things that a department manager, and not a regular associate like me, does.  With her, I not only continually learned new things in my work; I gained more and more confidence in my God-given abilities.

I learned from Jill and Elizabeth not to doubt my own God-given abilities and to not listen to the naysayers who doubt that I could achieve my goals.  Jill and Elizabeth instilled the power of their belief in me into my life, which motivated me to prove the naysayers wrong and to realize the dreams that I had held inside for so long.

Sources:

  1. Pesce, Nicole Lyn. “Most college grads with autism can’t find jobs. This group is fixing that.”  MarketWatch.  April 2017. Republished  2 April 2019. Retrieved 30 July 2020. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/most-college-grads-with-autism-cant-find-jobs-this-group-is-fixing-that-2017-04-10-5881421.

*=Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals mentioned.

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Faith’s Role In Beating Depression

Recently, I had an epiphany! I was complaining to my mom about something so minor that I can’t recall what it was right now, and she said these words that had a profound effect on how I saw God and my situation: We accept what God gives us.

Not only did those words convict me of my complaining, but they also gave me a new perspective on how I could choose to view the trials and cares of my life.

I have been struggling on and off with depression for more than twenty five years now and have just recently begun to realize that most of the triggers that fueled my depression stemmed from some type of discontentment that I was feeling , whether it was dissatisfaction with some aspect of how God made me (Why am I so short? Why did He make me have this type of personality, rather than someone more agreeable? ), my situation (Why am I experiencing this? Why don’t people like me? Why am I so burdened by “X” problem or problems? ), and so on.

One good example of me being depressed (or, in this case, more upset and anxious) because of discontentment was in my work relationship with one of my bosses I had.  I had prayed for one and half years for the relationship to be repaired and/or improved. I was so faithless that I couldn’t imagine anything good coming out of my problems with this boss! One day I was so upset that when I went to church on my day off, I was visibly distraught about this situation and felt like if I didn’t have help soon, I would blow up and totally lose my cool in front of my boss. Thankfully, my pastor made me look in the mirror and see how I contributed to the problems I had with my boss.  The Holy Spirit ended up prodding me to write a note to my boss apologizing for the anger and bitterness I had held against him.  From that day on, our work relationship dramatically improved. Now, I am happy to say that he was one of the best bosses I have ever had! Had I accepted that God gave me my boss for a reason and how God was working, I would have probably enjoyed a better work relationship with him much earlier!

God also helped me see why I should accept what He gives us in life. He gives us the answer in Romans 8:28(KJV) – And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

How do we know that all things work together for good to them who love God? Because God is always good!  

This is where the devil tempts us to doubt, and thus sprout seeds of discontent in our lives.  He has been doing this ever since Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, with the forbidden fruit.  The devil tempted Eve by saying to her, “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5—KJV).  In other words, Satan was saying to her that God did not have her best in mind when He forbade her and Adam to eat of the fruit—that God was withholding good (“ye shall be as gods”) from her and Adam for His own benefit. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Satan does the same thing with us!  

For instance, when I complain about how God created me, Satan has successfully convinced me of the lie that God made a mistake, that He did something wrong and bad in the way He created me!  When we complain about a situation or a person that God has put in our lives that we don’t particularly like and it seems that either the difficult situation will never end or the difficult person hangs around in our lives forever, we believe the lie that God is trying to make us “suffer” or maybe that God does not have our best interests in mind when He allows the situation or person to linger more than we’d like.  We fail to realize that maybe God wants to teach us something through that person or situation, or that He wants to use them to refine our character and make us more like Himself! We also demonstrate lack of faith that God can make something good come out of that situation and person.

However, I find that when I trust God completely and when I accept what God has given me, I feel much more content in my life.  God then opens my eyes to see all the ways He has blessed me, and I begin to realize just how blessed I truly am! I begin to see how God is working in my life, and how I can reflect His light.  In contrast to the hopelessness that depression often brings, having faith in God’s goodness and plans for us gives me great hope. Faith has helped me to learn to trust that everything God does is for my good, even the trials in my life. No wonder Jesus says in Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (KJV) I find that when I start to get burdened by all that is going on in my life, but then come to Jesus for rest, I find that I am significantly less depressed and anxious.  In that I find great hope for my life!

Image by skeeze from Pixabay
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Light of Hope

written June 3, 2020

This world is dying

People are crying

Lives are being taken

God is being forsaken

By much of mankind

Darkness surrounds me

Pain envelopes me

But I remember you

And I cry out for you

Because you hold light

When you are in sight

And in my deepest soul

Making me again whole

So I know there is hope

When I’m on my last rope

Because you are with me

Even when you I cannot see

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All You Need

All You Need— written on : 7/29/19

You have been searching all your life

For a hope—lasting and real

To fill your empty and hollow heart

Before you fall completely apart

 

All the glory in this flawed world

All the things money could buy

Will never fill your God-sized hole

With what would make you whole

(image by Robert Allman)

But I have found that lasting hope

When I was on my very last rope

My Savior filled my lost, weary soul

With everlasting love and hope

 

He is all the love I truly need

Because He is always good indeed

I pray you taste and see His love

And see your life filled with joy and hope

 

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My Journey to the Light: Lessons Learned in the Dark

Also appeared in Persevering Hope, October 2019.

DISCLAIMER: Triggers for mention of suicide.

 On April 9, 1999, I had penned these words, ““I wish I could be more […] effervescent (lively). I feel dead without being physically killed. I hope I don’t die emotionally, but I am dying. If I could only find that zest, that greatness life is supposed to hold. But where is it, at least in me?”  Though I had been already battling depression for over five years at that point, that month was one of the lowest for me.   I had few, if any, friends, and I felt those closest to me could not relate with the emotional anguish and sickness that I was going through.  School was very stressful for me, as I endured a difficult class with an even more difficult teacher, who was verbally abusive to me and others.  Thankfully, God, in His mercy and grace, met me where I was at, a little over a year later, and did not allow me to give up on myself or on life.

I continued struggling through depression through my college years, and even still struggle occasionally now. However, I can attest that things have been much better now than they were that April day, twenty years ago!  In the deep darkness of my battle, I have learned so much that has enabled me to help encourage others who may feel that they are in the deep pit of despair and hopelessness and who are close to the end of their ropes.  Here are some of the lessons that I learned along this journey from the darkness to the light:

  1. Never give up! There is always hope when you are alive. Always! —I have wanted to give up more times than I could count, but God, in His sovereignty and love, never let me get that far.  I remember having symptoms of depression since I was ten years old.  When you are battling something that seems chronic or suffering for a long time, it is very tempting to give up on life and on God. However, perseverance is always worth it in the end.  For instance, when I was the most depressed, I thought no one would understand or even care about what I was going through. I hid the pain and the fears of having been bullied and rejected by some peers when I was growing up, and thought if I just tried to forget about it, the pain would eventually go away. However, when it manifested in increasing discouragement and an insatiable hunger for the desire to be accepted and love, and deep despair when my desires were not met, I thought more and more about ending my life.  Thankfully, God eventually took a hold of my life, and I began to see the purpose of my life. I also began to be increasingly motivated to spread God’s love to others.  Never would have thought then, that I would be surrounded by so many loving and supportive family and friends that I have today. I am truly blessed.  Had I taken my own life then, I would have never saw the light God had prepared for me today.
  2. Be compassionate and caring to those who are in pain, either and both physical and emotional. —I wish the people in my life now were there when I was struggling to see my value in this world and if there was any hope left in my life.  I find that when I am able and willing to even speak a word of encouragement to those who are stressed out at work, that their countenance begins to spark and brings them hope. When you see someone visibly upset and in pain, never stare judgmentally at them, but try to comfort them and offer them words of encouragement.  Nothing irritates me more than those judgmental, cold stares and comments from people when I am upset! I’m sure that upsets others in pain as well. When you take the time to care for and encourage those in pain, you bring them the hope and love that they have needed all along. Yes, sometimes caring for people is hard work, but you can possibly save a life when you take the time and effort for them. It is also so worth it!
  3. I learned that there was a purpose to my pain. — I have to admit—I have an intense phobia of suffering. Not only do I hate when I suffer, but I also detest when my loved ones and friends have to suffer as well.  However, when I am able to see the big picture of why God allowed me to go through the struggles and battles of depression and anxiety, I see that He was shaping my purpose to be able to help others who needed hope as well.  Had I not struggled with depression, I would not be able to relate to, on more than a superficial level, with the intense struggles that the people around me have had to go through. This truth is also emphasized in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (KJV), where it says, “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” So, when we go through trials, God will comfort us, both so we can endure the trial successfully, and for us to be able to then comfort others.

So, as I continue to apply and review the lessons that I learned in the dark and afterwards, I taste and see that the Lord is good.  Because God did not allow me to give up, I am able to see the bountiful blessings that He has given me, the opportunities He has given me to care for others who are in need of hope, and I learned that I have a calling in life that required me to go through some pain in order to be able to fulfill it.  Do you feel aimless or in despair?  There is purpose to your life, and God can use you to help others in their pain if you don’t give up.  There is always hope when you are alive— and my journey to the Light is a testament to that fact!

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Looking Back the Past Decade, Looking Ahead

This past decade has been a flurry of changes and growth. I am not the same person I was ten years ago. God has taught me so much about how to deal with difficult situations, and He is continuing to grow me into the person I was made to be. Sometimes, I feel that I have been through more in these past ten years, than in the previous twenty or so years of my life. However, all these experiences have made me into the person I am today.  I am currently working on writing a memoir called “Becoming a Butterfly,” which really symbolizes my life’s journey in this past decade.  

What happened this decade?
Ten years ago, I was unemployed and the church I was attending at the time was still in process of finding a new pastor.  I was far happier than I was before I became a Christian, but far more depressed than I am now.  My brother was still living with my parents and me, and he was trying to find a full time job.  I could count on my hands the friends that I knew back then that I am still in contact with now. 

In the past three years, I have become a full time sales associate. I have learned how to cut fabric, do online orders for customers (OGP), take calls in the fitting room, and be a registered back-up cashier at my store.  As of right now, I am still the only associate in my department, not counting my immediate supervisor, that is a register trained cashier at my store, thanks to my now-former supervisor, Elizabeth* (*=not her real name).  

I am a blogger. I have made about 300 posts on my blog since December 2015 when I started this blog.

My brother moved away to another state, where he is currently employed full time in a much more satisfying job than he had ten years ago.  He also adopted a cat.

At about the same time when my brother moved, I moved to a different church. This turned out to be one of the best decisions that I have ever made, not that I didn’t like the people at my old church. I loved (and still love) them! However, at my current church, I am able to grow as a Christian and as a person in ways I thought I never would or could. I have two godly pastors, who not only actively serve people in our church, but also the community at large.  In my church, I have met some of the godliest and most compassionate people in my life that are also very committed to following Christ. They aren’t perfect, but they always strive to follow Him as wholeheartedly as they can.

What were the best parts?

The best parts of this decade were gaining full time employment , meeting  many amazing people at work, some of whom changed my life for the better, and finding a good church home where I have felt loved and valued. God has also used people there to help me grow in my faith in Him.

What were the worst parts of this decade? 

Since he moved away, I haven’t been able to see my brother face to face as much.  We Skype regularly with him, but it is not the same as having him here in person.  There have been so many changes in my life since ten years ago; it has produced some anxiety in me.  Thankfully, most of the changes in my life have been good, however.

What did I learn and how did I grow?

As I said before, I learned how to be a backup cashier.  I never thought I would be able to run a register (till), much less be a backup cashier that is called up to ring semi-regularly!  I learned how to deal with different types of people, which I didn’t do so well growing up.  For instance, I learned (and still am learning) how to be less self-centered and more compassionate towards others and their needs.  In the past, I thought no one would truly love me, if they really knew who I was.  In this past decade, I have learned over and over again, that if I just strive to be my best, authentic self, most people will appreciate me and love me for who I am. And the people who don’t? They can get out of my life, or at least stay far, far away from me!

How has your decade been?

My decade truly has been an adventure!  I am indebted to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for construing all the blessings that I currently have in my life!  I pray that I will continue to grow in my faith and impact the world for the better.

What are your plans and dreams for the future? I hope to continue serving God, no matter where my life takes me.  Soon, I am going to move out of state—something I have never done before in my life! I am going to have to leave almost everyone I have ever known behind, but God will be with me.   At work, I want to learn how to mix paint and make keys for customers.  If God wills, I would like to share my life with a guy who values similar things that I do, and who serves others, works diligently, is responsible, cares for me, and above all, follows Christ, wholeheartedly, as his Lord and Savior.  I would also like to become a published author and complete a memoir that will inspire people never to give up on themselves or others.  I count it a privilege and a blessing to have known so many great people in my life thus far, and hope to know many more

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Qualities of my Closest Friends We Should Strive to Have


Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

I am willing to be friends with almost anyone, but every person that I consider to be my close friend embodies these characteristics. No, they are not perfect, and may fail at times, but they have consistently embodied these traits. Not only do I prefer these following character traits in close friends, but I think, everyone, me included, of course, should strive to embody these traits every single day, so we can make a true difference in this world:

  1. Authenticity
  2. Servant’s Heart
  3. Vulnerability
  4. Thoughtfulness/Care
  5. Depth

The most important trait that my close friends all have is authenticity. This means they always present themselves as honest, trustworthy, and genuine.  They do not act one way towards others, and another way towards you. They don’t do things with ulterior motives. All my close friends do not do things for people just to get something from them, but because my friends really want to help and bring joy to their lives.  Also, another part of how they are authentic is their honesty.  For instance, when one of my close friends gives me her wisdom, she always tells me the truth, even if it hurts. Some people have been afraid to tell me truth because they are scared that I will get upset at them and they will be looked upon as harsh or mean. Nothing could be further from the truth!  I appreciate this about my friend because her honesty shows that she values me and having integrity—a rare, but needed trait in our society today! By telling me the truth, she is inadvertently telling me that I am worth what is true.  Sure, some of the things she has said may “sting” a little bit, but I appreciate that because it shows that she values honesty.

Another trait that my closest friends all have is a servant’s heart.  All of my close friends have lived in one capacity or another to serve the Lord and to serve others.  Some are serving the Lord as missionaries. Others are serving their families when everyone else has abandoned them.  Still others are serving their community through their resources, gifts, and talents. I strive to do the same. When we have a servant’s heart, we emulate Christ, who went so far as to die on a cross for us, and to wash every one of His disciples’ feet, even those of the one who would eventually betray Him!  They are constantly thinking of others above themselves, working to make the world a better place for everyone.

Image by Manfred Richter from Pixabay

Also, another trait that my closest friends all have is the willingness to be vulnerable.  I define vulnerability as being willing to share openly not only one’s triumphs and victories with a trusted person, but also one’s trials and struggles. When I see someone that is unwilling to admit to me or to the world that they are not always “perfect,” I feel like they are lying to me in a way, because I know no one, except God, is really perfect.  Mark Hall, of the contemporary Christian band, Casting Crowns, once said, “[I]t doesn’t bother the world that we sin. It bothers the world that we act like we don’t.” (CBN.com) One of my friends, Veronica,* is so passionate about being vulnerable, it saddens her when others are not willing to open up to her.  In years past, I admit I have struggled with being vulnerable because I did not want people to judge or ridicule me.  However, I have realized over the past five to ten years or so, that being willing to be open about one’s struggles opens up other people to not be afraid to share their struggles. It shows unity in our human-ness, and creates a deep bond between people who are like-minded in their willingness to open up to each other.  It also enables others to help us through our struggles, and us to help in theirs, so we will not feel alone in our pain and struggles.

Another ultra-important trait my close friends have is thoughtfulness and care towards others.  Along with having a servant’s heart, they are truly intuitive to the needs of others.  One of my close friends, Erica,* knowing that I have struggled off and on with the loneliness that comes with long term singleness, gave me a book that she thought would help me (as it has helped her as well) with my lonely and unfulfilled feelings that I sometimes struggle with, for my birthday.  I will always treasure the thoughtfulness of that gift and her friendship, even though we are not able to see each other very often right now. A few days ago, when I was distraught and anxious about several events that were going on in my life, my friend *Bonnie was willing to take time out of her busy life to answer my texts and encourage me, as she sensed that I was hurting and sad.  I aim to do the same for her, when she has issues, and also for anyone else who wants moral support in a time of need.   All my close friends are willing to take the time to attend to others’ needs and to give them the encouragement they need, especially in a tough time.

Last, but certainly not least, all my closest friends have spiritual and emotional depth in them. This is what I aim to have in my life more and more, though it is often a struggle for me, as it is even for these friends. This does not mean they shut themselves off from the world around them. However, this does mean that they are able to relate on a deeper level with people. For instance, when I want to discuss why there is injustice in this world, they can give me spiritual insight in wisdom into why God allows this and how we can remedy it. In contrast, some people either don’t care about these things or aren’t able to understand these things. For believers in Christ to have spiritual depth to them is an essential ingredient in being able to relate to others in their church and to get others, even those who don’t go to church, to think about their purpose and goals in life and how they can relate better to the world around them.

I’m so thankful to have these great, close friends—you know who you are—who embody these characteristics.  I pray that we all would strive to embody authenticity, a servant’s heart, vulnerability, thoughtfulness, and depth to our lives so we can bring love and joy to others, and lead them to freedom from their pain and fears.

Source: “Casting Crowns: The ‘Lifesong’ of Mark Hall.” Accessed 12 May 2019. < http://www1.cbn.com/music/casting-crowns:-the-‘lifesong’-of-mark-hall>.

*=names have been changed for privacy reasons

anthem, community, emodiversity, eternal matters, genuineness, God, hiding, illness, joy, life, life lessons, pain, purpose, rejection, stories, suffering, truth

On Vulnerability, Depression, and God’s Sovereignty

No one knew.

Growing up, I seemed this bubbly, albeit, times, hyperactive little girl who got decent grades at school. I seemed to have it all—two parents who loved me, a cute little brother, and stability. 

What they didn’t know was that inside I was being tormented by thoughts about never being “good enough” to the outside world.  Unfortunately, many of them confirmed my fears.  Most of my peers didn’t want to know me on a level deeper than “acquaintance”.  I was bullied by several of them for any quirks that they saw in me. There also were some racial and cultural prejudices that I had to endure. 

I remember at the tender age of ten when the word “suicide” first entered the recesses of my mind. The demons in my mind deceived me into thinking this was a way out of all the pain I held inside for so long, laughing that they were going to somehow get me to ruin myself.

However, God in His sovereignty didn’t let that happen. I am still here, more than twenty five years later. 

Though God saved my life through Jesus’ shed blood on Calvary seven years after I first battled depression and that ugly word crossed my mind, it wasn’t until about seven years ago today that God revealed to me that I had indeed another weapon in my arsenal to defeat the demons in my head that had harassed me for so long. 

My voice.

However, I was terrified to be vulnerable (i.e…open up) to others about my struggles. I feared rejection, ridicule and condemnation, which I believed would kill me emotionally and spiritually, if not, physically as well.  In fact, in high school, I was voted “Most Paranoid” because I trusted so few people.

But through the Spirit’s promptings, I obeyed Him, and began to share my story and my struggles to others—first just to close friends, then more publicly in my blog.

The rejection and ridicule I feared receiving was few and far between.  Most people instead either related to me about their own similar struggles with depression or said that they would use my story to help their loved ones who were struggling similarly. 

The more I opened up about my struggles, the more I saw people around me, both online and offline, the more I realized that my story needed to be told.  God, in His sovereignty, had a reason for allowing me to go through these trials. He needed to use my story to give people His hope and love that He gave me so many years ago, when He first came into my life and saved me.  God saved me from more than hell—He saved me from giving up on myself and those around me that needed to hear my story, as much as I needed to hear theirs.

Image by Vicki Nunn from Pixabay