On Loneliness and Love

Mother Teresa once said, in her book, A Simple Path: Mother Teresa,

“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.” (source: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/139677-the-greatest-disease-in-the-west-today-is-not-tb)

And I totally agree with her. I am not discounting the pain and suffering felt by people afflicted with physical ailments or who are starving for food. However, if you are surrounded by a group of people who love and care about you during that period of suffering, you will most likely come out of the situation much stronger and be able to endure anything better, than if you have no one.  Also, if everything else is going fairly well for you, but you have no one with whom to share these accomplishments and triumphs, then you may begin to think life is pointless.

Loneliness and the feelings of being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for are the worst situations any human being or even animal can ever have to endure. This is because loneliness and feeling unloved, uncared for, and unwanted cut to the very depths of one’s soul. Here’s how we can combat these feelings if we feel them ourselves, and how we can help others who feel that way:

Combating loneliness and feeling rejected:

  1. Do something kind for someone else.—Often when I feel lonely or rejected, the best thing for me to do is to go out and do something kind for someone else. Usually, not as a means to an end, but as a kind of “side-effect” to our good deeds, when we do something kind for someone else, and they appreciate us in return (and sometimes, even when they don’t but you know in your heart you did right by them), we feel more connected to the recipient of our kindness. We open doors for people to want to get to know us better.
  2. See rejection, not as a personal failure on your part, but a chance to learn from mistakes and others.— For instance, when I was rejected for the chance to work at that bookstore, I learned quickly that this wasn’t where God wanted me.  Though I was discouraged for a long time because many people in my life had rejected me for even a friendship and found me difficult to get along with, God taught me through those painful experiences that a.) He was there for me and b.) To be more compassionate and loving to others who may also feel rejected and unloved by others (or even me).
  3. Get involved in your community, or even online.–To combat loneliness, do not become a hermit 24/7. Engage with others, and get involved in getting to know people around you. This could be the neighbors you live with, people who live in or near where you live in the greater community,  people at the religious institution where you worship,  or even people you interact daily with at your job, or where you most frequent outside your house.  Even though it’s not exactly the same, you can also get involved in online communities and form online friendships there.  It may be difficult to get initially involved.  For instance, when I switched church communities last year, I didn’t know many people there and I felt a bit uncomfortable at first. However, as time went on, I started to feel more at home and found that this was a good change for me. So, don’ t give up on a new community just because you feel uncomfortable or anxious at first.

Helping others who feel lonely or unloved:

  1.  Never give up on them.–Some people are difficult to handle. I get it. However, these same people may be reacting out of fear and anger at the larger society around them that has callously rejected them for something they can’t control such as their ethnicity, disability, or any other human identifier.  Understand that such people actually need extra love, not less of it.  I know sometimes investing in those people gets exhausting and tiring, but if you strive never to give up on those who hurt the most, most people will eventually see you as a friend and confidante, as opposed to an enemy.
  2. Intentionally reach out and care for them.–At work, sometimes I give encouraging notes to people who may need them. This is partly so that the people I work with will know that they are not alone and that someone out there gives a care and appreciates what positive things they have done. We should apply the same principle to those around us who feel lonely or rejected.  If they need to vent, listen with validation and compassion. You don’t need to “fix” their problems, but just listening to them can go a long way into showing them love and care. If the lonely person in your life needs help with something, offer to help whenever possible.  Be there for them, both in their trials and their triumphs. Be a friend.
  3. Always strive to be kind to them.--Be kind in your interactions with them by making them feel valuable and less alone.  If you fail to do this, be quick to apologize and make amends.  Include them in your interactions with others whenever appropriate.  Encourage them to cultivate the good personality traits that you find in that person or persons.  Try to prefer them over yourself.

There are many people in our lives who may feel lonely or unloved. Some of them are apparent to us, like someone who always sits alone at lunch.  However, some of them may seem to be surrounded by many people, but they feel empty inside and only have superficial interactions with others.  We need to be able to reach both groups with our love and compassion. If we do, we may just start a chain reaction. My wish and hope for this world is that eventually no one on this earth would ever have to feel alone and unloved again.

A Letter to My 15-Year Old Self

DISCLAIMER: No negative comments about me allowed! This was mostly written three years ago, with some obvious recent edits. This is a very raw post for me, so please be sensitive in your comments. Thank you.  Also, this post deals with issues of depression, Eating Disorders and verbal abuse, so if that triggers you, please feel free to skip and read another post.

 

To my 15-year-old self:

 

Dear me,

I know you feel depressed and lonely. I know you feel that there is no hope for your life anymore. I know the bad memories of four years ago when you almost destroyed yourself by half-starving yourself and when you had no friends still dog your mind and soul.  I know that guy that told you recently that you would never drive, never amount to anything at all etch in your very soul.  I know you don’t have many people that you would consider a “friend.”  You see your immediate family (your dad, mom, and sibling) seemingly joyous and glad. But you wonder where “that zest, that greatness life is supposed to hold” is for you.

But please don’t despair. Don’t give up! I know you only have a handful of people that even want to talk to you at school at length and that you consider your buddies, if that. But you want a friend, a real friend. A friend that will give more than just an obligatory card or present on your birthday or on Christmas! A friend that will invite you to things and make you feel included. A friend that will not leave you even if you tell him or her all the sordid details of your past, even if you’re being selfish or just not being a good friend to them in general.  But, you know that teacher that is sometimes saying “hi” to you in the hallway and has a reputation for being nice? Well, she will become one of your good friends in the future.  Also, you will meet a better friend than even her in the future. His name? Jesus Christ. He will not only be your friend—He will be your Lord and Savior! He will never leave you. He will always be with you. He will forgive you for even your worst mistakes and moral failures. Because of your relationship with Jesus, you will have a loving and supportive church family (friends, if you prefer) and even many other people of all ages that will want to get to know you. The REAL you.

And your driving? You will be able to drive on your own to and from work with your car (which by the way won’t be your dream job and it will be rather far away from where you’re living now, but you will be content even in that job). You will be able to drive with confidence!  So, don’t listen to or take to heart what that guy that told you that you would never amount to anything and that you wouldn’t be able to drive. He’s not god and he’s not your future! Please don’t give up on your dream that one day you will be able to drive alone, and be joyful and fulfilled in life. Because though it seems out of reach, miracles can and will happen!

More importantly, because of Jesus, you will have purpose and meaning in your life that you never had before! You will love and serve Him! So, I urge you to keep searching for “that zest, that greatness that life is supposed to hold.”  Because you will find it!

Love,

Me (at 34)

 

Afterword: (to the readers): Please call 1-800-273-8255  (Suicide hotline) if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts. It can save a life.  Also, if you are feeling depressed or don’t know where your life is headed, please know that there is always hope as long as you are alive and you try your best. I hope my story will inspire you to not give up when things get tough because your pain will not last forever (even though it may seem that way) and joy and hope will once again permeate your life if you persevere.

How to Help Someone Who Feels Depressed or Anxious

This has been one of the toughest two days of my life. I was about to give up on almost everything I believed in. I felt no one cared about me, except maybe God and my family.  However, just reading through other people’s blogs, gave me a renewed sense of purpose and passion that I hadn’t felt during that time.  So, a special thank you to my blogging community to give me the strength and the drive to keep on keeping on!

Since there is much stigma and misconceptions in the general society today on what to do (and what not to do) when someone you love or care about feels depressed or anxious, here are some tips that have helped me and many people I care about who get depressed and/or anxious. (Also includes what not to do and/or say to someone who is depressed and/or anxious):

1) Validate what they are going through.– This does not mean always agreeing with them about the lifestyle choices they made or sounding like a parrot to them. That does not help them either! This does mean to listen attentively and offer compassion and love to them. For instance, if the anxious person tells you about what they really fear, instead of ridiculing them or telling them to “toughen up. It’s only_______ (fill in the blank with what they fear),” thank them for having the courage to tell you about their deepest feelings and being vulnerable, because, as I (and many others) can attest, it takes a LOT of courage to be vulnerable like that. Don’t ruin their trust in you!  If they are depressed, a good thing to say to him or her is, ” Your feelings are valid. I am sorry that you are feeling that way. Know that you are not alone though. I care, and is there anything I can do to help you?” This statement does several things: a.) Shows that you care about how the person feels, not just caring about your own feelings. b.) The open-ended question lets the person know that they are allowed to make their own decision about what you can do to help them, and makes them feel less controlled and trapped in whatever situation or situations they may find themselves.

2) Make every effort to be there for them during this difficult time.—It is understandable to be busy with life’s responsibilities, and there is a certain point where it can be too much for one person to be responsible for another’s happiness and comfort. If that is the case, find several other people who can care for or talk to the depressed and/or anxious person during this time. Also, recommend and/or find a licensed counselor or therapist to help them. This way a.) The person knows that they don’t have to fight their illness alone and that several people actually care for them.  b.) The responsibility of being there and helping the person does not fall on only one person, which if it were, would cause compassion fatigue.  However, if that is not the case, make every effort to be there for the person suffering and to care for them, even if it is just offering a listening ear.

3) Do not tell the anxious or depressed person, to “get over it” or “toughen up”. –Many people (including myself) who struggle with depression or anxiety problems are already doing the best they can to cope with what they are dealing. Again, telling them to “toughen up” or “get over it” only invalidates what they are going through and implying that they are not trying hard enough to cope with their illness. A better thing to tell a depressed or anxious person is, “I will help you through whatever you are going through. You are not alone,” and then commit to being there for him or her.

4) If the depressed person is having suicidal thoughts, do not accuse them of being selfish or uncaring.–While that may have a grain of truth (or not), accusing the depressed person of being “selfish” or telling them to “think of others first,” does not help them at all! It actually makes the depression worse because a lot of people who are that upset or sad a.) already don’t feel good about themselves. b.) aren’t usually in the mindset where they can think about others right now.  Also, someone with those kinds of thoughts often does think about others, just not in a way that makes sense to us.

5) Help them find their purpose and passion in life again.—DISCLAIMER: This may not be a viable option for everyone, but it CAN work for some people. Use your own judgment. This applies to loved ones with people who suffer from anxiety and those who suffer from depression.  This can be a simple as having joy and purpose in your own life and/or caring enough to let the person who is suffering participate in the joys of your life. For instance, if you enjoy cooking for others, you can encourage the person who is suffering to participate in what you are doing. It can also be encouraging them in the positive qualities and abilities you see in them and helping them find the motivation to cultivate them again. For instance, if you see that he or she is a normally very generous person, you can encourage him or her to give away some things he/she no longer needs but that can be useful to others in need. If he or she likes to write, encourage them to cultivate that interest again. Remind them of the positive impact they already have on others, and encourage them not to give up.

6) If they are anxious, help them gradually overcome their fears.—For instance, if the anxious person is afraid of socializing because they fear what people may think of them,  encourage them to meet one trustworthy person. If they do well in that situation, bring several people to hang out with them. Then, take them to a restaurant or some other venue with more people.  However, don’t rush them into interacting. Do it slowly.–This may take a few months or even years to accomplish.  Be patient with them, and reassure them (with both your words and actions) that they can trust you.

7.) If you are religious or spiritual, pray for them.–I personally believe in the power of prayer.  If you do too, I would suggest fervently and regularly praying for the depressed or anxious people in your life. Pray that they will be surrounded by people who care about and love them genuinely. Pray that they will find joy and hope in their lives again, and not be riddled with anxiety, depression, anger, and/or hurt.  Pray that they will be delivered from their illness and find wholeness again.

What do you suggest in helping encourage an anxious or depressed person? What do you suggest we not do? Why? Please feel free to comment below.  Please no disparaging or disrespectful comments, or they will not be approved. Thank you.

 

 

Why God Allows Suffering

*triggers* : Mentions suicide

Suffering can be described as the gift no one wants, but it comes anyway. It teaches us lessons we never wanted to  learn (or not).  I (personally) have often wished that God didn’t allow suffering and that we could learn life’s lessons some other way. Sometimes, sadly, I have even doubted God’s goodness and justice when I was suffering. However, when I study passages in the Bible like John 9 (about a man born blind and Jesus heals him), I begin to understand WHY  God allows suffering and what we can learn from God’s character and how we should care for those who are suffering.

Reasons God allows suffering

  1. To refine our character- Some of you know that I experienced bullying in various forms when I was going to school, and I felt like no one really accepted me as I was or wanted my company.  Also, I have had experiences with being jobless and other various trials. I’ve had to deal with difficult people (as I’m sure all of you have), and felt like I was being abused and/or discounted as a person. I tell you this not so you will feel sorry for me, but to explain to you that God has used all these experiences to help refine my character. I believe that as a result of these experiences that God has worked through me to be a more compassionate and caring person, and less my selfish, sinful self.  Before I became a Christian, I was an extremely selfish person, but God has used these trials even before I was a Christian to help break down these walls of self-indulgence and self-absorption. Maybe there have been trials God has used in your life to help refine you and help others who are going through the same or similar things you are going through.
  2. To alert us to the fact that we need Him-If I didn’t go through some of the unpleasant things that I have, I probably would have never been a Christian or known how much I needed God.  I know people who have gone through very little trials in their lives that don’t even know they need God, or feel that God is not that important in their lives.  It is true that some people who go through stuff feel the same way about God, but it probably has to do with the fact that they don’t understand why God would allow them to suffer, rather than the suffering itself.  But when you suffer, it is often in these times when you grow closer to God and realize that you have needed Him all along.  In fact, in my testimony, I mention how I felt depressed before and felt that there wasn’t much meaning in my life. It is in the depths of my despair when I was in tenth grade, that God found and rescued me.
  3. To allow God’s glory to shine through you– When we suffer, especially as a Christian, we are able to use these experiences to glorify God. For instance, if someone is dealing with a difficult person but still tries to be kind to him or her, God can use this experience to bring him or her (i.e..the difficult person) into a relationship with Himself.  Or if a person is going through a physical illness, God can use that experience in his or her life to bring about miraculous healing or for that person to heal others. This is also why God allowed the blind man in John 9 to be born that way. God knew that allowing blindness into this man’s life, would bring about later, not only physical healing for that blind man, but spiritual healing as well.  Though he was kicked out of his religious community, the blind man thought it was worth it because he knew he could trust Jesus and thus followed Him.
  4. To alert us to what’s really important– Often when we are in trials, God uses these to alert us to what is really important, so we stop being distracted by minutia. For instance, if you are going through the trial of losing a loved one or a loved one is sick or in the hospital, a reaction that you may have is to spend more quality time with them or with the people who remain more. We become more intentional about doing the Most Important things with God and others, and leave the Less Important things to the side, which is how we should do things.

How We Should React to Another’s Suffering

  1. NEVER EVER discount what another person is going through! Everyone does not react the same way to suffering and it affects each person differently and to a different degree. For instance, when a person is being treated unfairly, one may react with anger or rage, while the other person may become despondent or feel hopeless.  Don’t call the despondent person “weak” for feeling the way they do. Always validate the person suffering.  It may help them see that you care about them and make them feel less alone.
  2. Be kind– Along with validating the other person’s suffering, ask how you can help them through it. Be there for them.  Tell them that they are NOT alone. Go out of your way to be kind and appreciative of them in a genuine way. Show you care for them. One thing I did was to send them a card to show them how much they are loved and cared for not only by God, but also by me.
  3. Don’t assign blame or rejoice in their suffering– Never assign blame for a person’s suffering, even if they are at fault. Now is not the time to revel  in their suffering or beat someone down either! Instead, be willing to be there for them and mourn with them in their pain.  If you are willing to mourn and be there for them, they will know that someone out there cares for them and for what they are going through.
  4. Listen to them– Listen to them attentively in their suffering. Offer words of validation and comfort. Don’t offer unsolicited advice. Only offer advice to them if they are willing (i.e.. ask for it) and are ready to receive it. Otherwise, it just leaves both parties frustrated.

If you are suffering right now, I want you to know that I care for you and that I am willing to listen to you.  If you are suffering so much that you are considering ending it all, please see this  before you do anything drastic and/or call 1-800-Suicide. There is always HOPE for you, but only when you are alive.   If you are not, and are happy with your life right now, please be willing to reach out to someone who is suffering so that they know that you care. It can save lives!

From Ignorance To Faith: My testimony

Disclaimer: This is my personal testimony of how I became a Christian. Please no judgmental or disparaging comments about me or anyone else I write about here, or your comment will be deleted. Thank you. Also, I have written and re-written my testimony over many years, to make it more current and add things God has been teaching in my life. The most recent revisions I made was yesterday (April 5, 2017), with a few tweaks here and there today. Enjoy!

Before Christ : Life had no meaning. I was bored, and because of that and other reasons I wanted to end it all. Schoolwork was piling up, and I felt like no one really cared about me, except maybe my family. In one of my diary entries that I wrote when I was still in high school, I had written: “ 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?”
God didn’t really have a place in my life. My schoolwork and my grades were my idols with what I was trying to fill up that God shaped hole.. I never went to CCD or any other religious class, so I also held the commonly-believed notion that I was a good person and that because of this, I would automatically go to heaven if I died. My family and I rarely went to church, although I wanted to go more, but generally I felt I was okay spiritually. But in Jr. high school till my sophomore year at high school, I felt more and more depressed. After that, I felt a little happier and found solace in music, but after awhile I just knew that wasn’t going to really satisfy me for long.
Bible Study: When a friend invited me to a bible study, I decided to attend just to see what would happen and to make her happy. When I went into the Bible Study at school, I felt stupid for not knowing what the others had already known. I knew then I had to know more about Christianity and if I wanted to really know Jesus Christ.
“Legalism” Problems: While I started to listen to Christian music, I began to have a legalistic attitude towards things. I began to judge those who listened to explicit music and ‘nsync as “bad” and “against God and all things good.” I became very hypocritical online and started cursing and swearing to those online (especially the ‘’NSYNC fans and those that made fun of Christianity and Christian music. NOTE: I don’t do that anymore, nor do I care one way or another about other people’s music tastes). Worse yet, one of the bad messages I wrote at the site became a featured message on that site. I don’t really think I was a Christian at the time, or I was still very young and uninformed in my faith.
The Happening-This, by far, had the biggest influence on me when I was still young in the faith. I learned how to really love and show compassion to others. I learned that the type of music a person listens to is not reasonable grounds for judgment or condemnation. I learned it’s the personality and the godliness of a person that really matters. God led me to be actively involved in Happening activities, and later, at school, with aiding for a teacher and disabled students. It was during these times that I felt I really accepted God’s gift, Jesus Christ into my life, accepted His forgiveness for my wrongdoings, and grew in my faith.
The fall: My first semester at my college was almost a disaster. I felt like I had no friends and that I should maybe drop out of school.. People who were friends with me before (I felt) were slowly distancing themselves from me. They got tired of me because I was always depressed and sick. I threw up the cafeteria food, but I wasn’t bulimic. I felt sick and utterly hopeless except that God was with me. I thought I had not really accepted Christ. I felt alone.
The rise: When I went to Praise and Worship the next semester, I felt a renewal in my faith and in Christ. Again, I started to realize I needed God and to take him more seriously, instead of going to self-pity or self-centeredness. I gained interest in knowing about Catholicism. I enjoyed talking about my faith with others.
Dave Burchett: I accidentally went across his book “When Bad Christians Happen To Good People” one day when I was looking in the SWAN catalog (An online search catalog that enables one to borrow things from other libraries in a certain area), but, as it turned out, it was the best book I had ever read, aside from the Bible. God has taught me a lot through this book. His book taught me what genuine Christianity really was, and why forcing faith on or ridiculing non-Christians never works.
While I was growing in my faith outside of a formal church service, I felt I wasn’t really growing in the church I went to. Also, I felt I really didn’t know as much as the others at church. I felt bored and cynical towards the church because of this. I felt most people (including me) were only going to go through the motions there. Despite my friends’ urges that I stay in the Catholic Church (and I respect their beliefs), I didn’t feel like it really fit me.
Evangelical Church– I went to an e-free church for about three years. At first, I really liked it. But as time went on, it was apparent to me that this church wasn’t a good fit for me. Also, I didn’t feel the sermons challenged me enough anymore.
New Song Church-Then I went to NewSong. I think they emphasize the need for salvation from our sins, and the cross which in my previous two churches was not emphasized as much. Pastor Marty and his wife Stephnie left New Song to pursue church planting and other ministries in 2008. We had THE BEST interim pastor the church could have had at the time- Pastor Marty Voltz. He and his wife Shari really helped New Song through a particularly trying time and imparted his wisdom to the pastor at the church at the time, Pastor Frank Taylor. At first I didn’t trust Pastor Frank, but as time grew, he and his wife Stephanie proved to be not only very trustworthy, but also one of the most humble and genuine Christians I had ever met in my whole life! However, he left after being called to be a pastor in Maryland…and New Song became absorbed by my previous church I attended, and many people (and I) felt it was time to leave. I left after about 10 years being there. It was very painful and trying for me, as I had to leave a lot of people, but I felt that God had other plans for me.

Epiphany of grace -Though I have been a Christian for awhile, it has only been recently that I finally understood some part of what grace was. I knew intellectually that it was unmerited favor given by God to save us from Hell via His sacrificing Jesus on the cross. However, I didn’t know how it was supposed to impact one’s life very well, that is until I watched the movie “The other man” which showed me the consequences of idolatry, and especially when I read the book “Jesus +Nothing=Everything” by Tullian Tchvidijian. I realized I needed to forgive people that I felt hurt me in the past. More than that, I realized I was free. Free of the worry about what other people thought of me because His is the only opinion that matters above all else. Free of the worry about my future because I know God will take care of me. Free of bitterness and unforgiveness because I know God will make things right in His perfect timing and that He will heal all my hurts.
Tullian Tchividjian says in his book Jesus +Nothing=Everything- “Because of the gospel we have nothing to prove or protect. We can stop pretending. The gospel frees us from trying to impress people, to prove ourselves to people, to make people think we are something that we are not.” This is because I have security in that God still loves me even when I miss the mark (ie.. sin) and even though I know I don’t deserve to enter heaven or even His presence. God doesn’t love me more or less depending on how “good” I am to Him because He doesn’t see my imperfections, but Jesus’ perfection! I am free to be me without reservation! I don’t need to worry about earthly things so obssesively anymore because I have an even greater better life waiting for me on the other side with Him and because even here He is still with me. That is the gospel!

Independent Baptist Church– Now, I go to Independent Baptist Church. It’s very different from New Song was, but still good. I have met some very good people here, and Pastor David Shoaf’s (as well as the other pastors and speakers) sermons and bible studies are very good and biblical. His son (also a pastor at the church) helped me to have a more fulfilling devotional time with my God. God is also using people at my current church and my time with Him (God) to help serve people at my job as a sales associate.

However, I’m still not perfect, of course-just forgiven. I still battle pride and occasional thoughts of revenge-particularly against those I hear on the news that abuse children. However, I also learned that the world is not my real home and how to be more caring and compassionate to those who feel lost, alone, rejected, ridiculed, and abused as well as to everyone else.