Navigating a Season of Depression

Depression.

We’ve all been there. Whether we’ve lost a loved one or suffered another kind of loss or setback, most of us know what it is like to struggle with feelings of depression. But depression affects us all differently and to varying degrees.

I’ve been reading Rev. Carlton Coon’s book Light in a Dark Place: Encountering Depression, and I wanted to share some important points with you from Encountering Depression that may help you or someone you love learn how to navigate depression.

1. There is significance in variety.

As I stated in the intro of this post, depression affects us all to different degrees. Reverend Coon references everything from mild seasons of depression or grief to Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), which we used to call clinical depression (Coon 21). Below are some examples of the common ways depression affects people:

  • Increased isolation
  • Disinterest in normal activities
  • No appetite
  • Brain fog
  • Increased tiredness
  • Decreased sense of self-worth
  • Anger
  • Suicidal thoughts

There are many more ways depression can affect a person’s mood or lifestyle, but the variance in how we experience depression is significant. We in the community of people who want to increase awareness of mental health issues and help others understand them may forget that there are people out there who still dismiss mental illness and believe depression to be a figment of the imagination. Those who have experienced depression or have a loved one or friend who has know otherwise.

No two people are exactly alike in every conceivable way, and depression’s different effects on us are proof of that. You may become angry and lash out at others when suffering from depression, but someone else might feel intensely sad or simply numb. These different experiences further prove that mental health and mental health issues need to be discussed all the more so that everyone can recognize whether they or someone they know is experiencing a serious mental health problem and find healthy solutions to get through it. The differences in how depression affects everyone who suffers from it do not take away from the seriousness of this disease but instead show that no person’s experience with depression should be dismissed or belittled.

2. There is healing in simplicity.

Just as there is variety in how depression grips each person who experiences it, there is also variety in how a person should respond to and navigate this difficult season. In Encountering Depression, Reverend Coon emphasizes balance and simplicity. If a person is emotionally balanced, then depression is less likely to overwhelm them (Coon 62). Too much on one’s plate is often a recipe for becoming overwhelmed, which is why simplifying one’s routine may prove beneficial. As Coon states, dealing with too much “leads to exhaustion, which is a fertile field in which depression often takes root” (Coon 82).

Consider the following tips for simplifying your routine and engaging in activities that may help you navigate depression:

  • Remove yourself from non-essential projects and activities.
  • Get yourself outside and go for nature walks.
  • Take a break from social media.
  • Set a simple daily routine.
  • Take time to rest.

There is a reason we need rest so much. As imperfect humans, our minds and bodies can only take so much before we become weary. An overloaded mind and body often results in burnout and feeds depression. We must take time regularly to unplug, get outside, remove ourselves from activities that may be weighing us down, and give ourselves time to breathe, pray, and repeat.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.“

Matthew 11:28 KJV

Just breathe. Just pray. Rest. Read the Word. And repeat the process.

And we know that getting through a season of depression is a p r o c e s s. But it is doable by learning how to understand what we’re experiencing and why, finding healthy ways to get through it, and finding rest and strength in God’s presence.

“To God, who divided dark from light, the darkness and light are both essential to His creation. Endure the darkness – in time the dawn will come.”

Reverend Carlton Coon, Light in a Dark Place: Encountering Depression

Reference:

Coon Sr., Carlton L. Light in a Dark Place: Encountering Depression. 2019.

The Freedom We Take For Granted

Today marks 246 years since the signing of the Declaration of Independence when America declared its freedom and independence. Since that day, the United States has stood as a beacon of liberty and hope for people across the world. We’re a blessed nation with countless freedoms many other nations don’t have the privilege to enjoy, but one of our most important freedoms is often taken for granted—the freedom to live for God.

The U.S. has religious liberty, so we can choose to serve and worship however we want. There are many different observed religions in America from Christianity to Catholicism (yes, they’re different), from Judaism to Islam. We are free to worship as we please, which has, however, created a society that takes this freedom for granted.

Too many people are lazy and refuse to come to church every week. Too many people take the freedom to live for God for granted when there are many countries that do not allow its citizens to worship freely. Churches in many countries do not have the freedom to meet in public, and people are persecuted and murdered for worshipping Jesus Christ.

In contrast with persecuted Christians across the world, there are too many comfortable Americans who give God half-hearted worship. These people run after the world rather than God. Many Christians today think of church as a social club instead of the body of Christ. They disregard the mission to save souls, they use ministry as a launching pad for their carnal desires, and they participate only to perform rather than to serve.

Church has become a concert.

Servanthood has become an act.

What happens when the American society doesn’t take advantage of their God-given freedom, a freedom that men and women have fought and died to preserve? A 2020 Gallup poll revealed that only 47% of Americans said they belong to a church, and another poll revealed that the percentage of Americans who believe in God has dropped to 81%. This may still seem like a high percentage, but it is down from 87% in a 2017 poll, and it is the lowest number of the past 80 years.

Young people are leaving church left and right. Adults get offended and quit church. The online church culture has seeped in and created a group of so-called Christians who take advantage of online services every time they are tired, had a long week, stayed out too late on a Saturday night, or simply just don’t feel like going to church.

If you don’t fight for freedom, the enemy will defeat you. We have to fight our flesh to exercise the freedom to worship and live for God. We cannot procrastinate on living for God.

Don’t let freedom to live for God make you a lazy Christian. Don’t let laziness rob you of a relationship with God. Don’t let comfort keep you from pursuing God. Don’t let convenience prevent you from being active in the Kingdom of God. Don’t let procrastination pull you from your purpose.

Instead, let freedom embolden you to dive deeper into your relationship with Jesus. Let the ability to meet in a church building every Sunday and Wednesday compel you to be more active in ministry and servanthood. Let the opportunities and resources that God has given you drive you to reach others with the Gospel.

In Galatians, Paul spoke of not being entangled with the yoke of bondage but instead of standing fast “in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free” (Galatians 5:1). Many Galatians wanted to return to the Mosaic Law. They preferred tradition—comfort or convenience, if you will—over following Christ’s teachings. The Law did not make them righteous or justified, however. It is only through Christ and His death and resurrection that we were justified and made free, and we cannot take this freedom we have in Christ lightly.

“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”

Galatians 5:13 (KJV)

Not only is it our God-given right to serve Him freely, but it is our duty to use the liberty that we have to love and serve others and to reach them with the Gospel of Christ.

Today, more than ever, we must take advantage of the freedom we have to worship God and give Him everything we have because He’s given us as Americans everything we need—a path to salvation (see Acts 2) and a free country. We as a nation must turn back to God and grow the Church.

May God bless you and your family and church, and may God bless America!

Happy Independence Day!

4 Tips to Thrive in God’s Kingdom: Notes from Missouri Youth Camp

Photo cred: MO Youth Facebook page

Missouri Youth Camp ended last week, but I’m still thinking about the powerful services we had. In every service, there was a heavy spirit of expectancy, depth in every message, and an outpouring of the Holy Ghost in every altar call. It was without a doubt one of the most incredible weeks I have experienced. Mike McGurk, the morning speaker, taught one message in particular that detailed a few tips that, if applied, can help each person (and each young person, especially) truly thrive in the kingdom of God. For today’s post, we’re going to go over these tips again.

1. Transparency

Don’t keep the things you’re struggling with to yourself. This one’s actually hard for those like me who prefer to “suffer in silence.” It’s the noble, mature, strong thing to do, we tell ourselves. But actually, keeping deep struggles to yourself makes you more vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks and makes it harder to overcome those struggles.

“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”

Proverbs 28:13 (KJV)

Talking to a trusted spiritual leader, such as your pastor or youth pastor, about something you’re struggling with gives you a source of support and guidance. Openness and honesty are underrated qualities in any relationship. How are you to develop a working relationship of trust and transparency with your leaders or even colleagues or friends if you do not let them in if something is going wrong? The more you keep things to yourself, the more time you give to the devil to mess with your mind and bring confusion.

Bro. Mike McGurk spoke of self-destruction. If you keep things to yourself, then the lies of the devil can cause you to break down and self-destruct. There is strength in going to a trusted spiritual leader like your pastor with your personal struggles with sin or an emotional or spiritual issue.

You do not have to be perfect, for as we know, there is none perfect save for God.

We are incapable of perfection, and your pastor knows this. Because of our human nature and constant struggles with our flesh, we will always need encouragement, correction, independence, and guidance. We need encouragement for our self-esteem, correction to overcome our weakness and mistakes, independence to allow us to make our own decisions, and guidance to lead us in the right direction.

“Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (KJV)

You’ve heard the saying that no person is an island. Learn to be transparent and trust your pastor to help you and pray for you when you’re struggling.

2. Influence

Be careful with the people and things that you allow to influence your thoughts, feelings, and actions. You’re heard “love the sinner, hate the sin” and the fact that Jesus ate with the sinners and publicans. This is true. However, Jesus called us to be separate from this world.

As another common saying goes, we are in the world but should not be of the world, meaning that while we are in the world, we should do the things we must to survive, build relationship, families, careers, etcetera, but we should not conform to the lifestyles and beliefs of the world. Bro. McGurk explained in his message that when it comes to those you may be around at work or at school who live like the world, you should love them and eat with them, but do not live like them or let them influence how you live. For example, if you’re out to lunch with your coworkers, but they talk about going out later to drink and party, don’t let their lifestyle choices influence yours. The sign of a confident Apostolic Christian is one who influences their friends and coworkers and draws them toward God, not one whose friends and coworkers draw them away from God.

There is one saying my Bishop used to teach about that some might take issue with, but I’ll mention it here and then explain: if you can’t change your friends, change your friends.

If the people you hang around are becoming negative influences in your life, then you should not spend time around them anymore. For example, if you have a teenage son and he starts hanging around kids who do drugs behind the school every day, you would want your son to stop hanging around those kids. That doesn’t mean he should be rude to them, condemn them, yell at them, or throw the Bible at them. It does mean he should set healthy boundaries in his life so that he can maintain a strong walk with God and show others that he is committed to living for God and not like the world. Having strong principles, convictions, and morals is a good thing, not something anyone should be ashamed of.

Lot allowed his surroundings to influence him, and it led to his wife’s demise.

“And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other. Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.”

Genesis 13:10-13 (KJV)

The appearance of the land was pleasing to Lot, and so he allowed what pleased his eyes to influence his actions. He pitched his tent toward a place that was filled with wickedness. Much can be said and written just from this account in Genesis (and indeed much already has), but just six chapters later, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed with Lot barely escaping with his daughters. His wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt. Most of us know this story, but its message will forever ring true.

Want to know the direction your life is taking? Look at the things you allow to influence you.

The problem with influence is appetite. What you consume is what you put on display through your words, actions, and thoughts. In order to walk with God, you must change your appetite so that the things of the world – entertainment, personalities, trends, money, attention, etcetera – no longer influence you.

3. Pursuit

If you pursue God and allow the things of God to influence you, then you will thrive in His Kingdom. This point goes back to the previous point about influence. Your life will go in the direction of the things you pursue. If you pursue fame and attention and money, then your life will be filled with self-absorption and materialism. Pursuing God means putting God and a godly lifestyle above everything else.

You should get a job. You should make an income. You should try to have and raise a godly family, but those things become idols when you pursue them above God. So, how do you pursue God?

Read the Word. After all, the Word is God (see John 1:1). The Bible is His Living Word, and if we want to get to know Him more, we should read it every day. Don’t just read it, though. Study the Word. Pray the Word. And while you read the Word, journal. I have a journal set aside for Bible journaling, and when I open up the Word to begin my study time, I have the journal in one hand and the Bible in the other to write down thoughts, revelations, or specific verses while I’m reading. This is a pretty common and simple concept, but it is vital to understanding His Word more and committing key scriptures and biblical principles to memory.

When you pursue God, He will open up His Word to you and welcome you into a deeper relationship with Him.

“Draw night to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”

James 4:8 (KJV)

4. Purpose

“Your hands need to be so full of purpose that you have no room to reach for anything else.”

Mike McGurk

We exist to worship our Creator, have a relationship with Him, and reach the lost. When we make living for God and growing His kingdom our purpose and top priority in life, then we will be too busy to become enamored with the distractions of the world. We will struggle with our flesh every day, but there are things we can do to become purpose-driven in the kingdom.

Be involved in your church. Help with the media team. Be part of the music team. Teach Sunday or Wednesday school. Clean the church. Contribute to your church’s social media page by taking pictures. Help in the kitchen. Go to outreach functions. Invite your friends and coworkers to church and special events. Go to special events yourself rather than skipping them because it’s your Friday night. Teach Bible studies. (Lord knows, we should all be doing more, especially on that last one, including yours truly.)

Whatever it is, be active in your church and be active in the kingdom of God. We find our identity in Christ, and when we make His mission ours, then our purpose will become clear.

Each of these four concepts is essential to thriving and growing in God’s kingdom. So, in order for you to apply these to your life, here are some questions you might ask:

  • Out of these four points (transparency, influence, pursuit, purpose), is there one or more that are lacking in my life?
  • What am I doing or what can I do to address this issue?

2 Ways to Boost Your Mental Health

Mental Health Awareness Month is over, but we’ll be discussing mental health throughout the year (and past that, of course) here on BPR. Even with all the attempts across social media to talk about mental health and discuss ways to treat and overcome mental health struggles, there are still many within society who often dismiss it as a serious aspect of our lives that needs to be addressed. When we talk about boosting mental health, we often refer to activities we do for therapy or mood boosters like going for walks or listening to music. But there are other aspects of our own mental health, such as thought patterns, that require behavioral changes.

Here are 2 ways I have found to be helpful in improving my mental and spiritual health:

1) Be self-aware.

We must be aware of why we think and feel the way we do about people or situations in our lives. As an introvert, I tend to spend a LOT of time inside my head. It comes naturally to me to put my emotions under a microscope and figure out where they’re coming from.

Being aware of the causes behind our own emotions and actions can make us aware of things within us that need to be addressed. For instance, if a person who constantly says nasty things in anger does enough reflection and examination, then that person may find out that the reason they lash out verbally is because of a situation in their past in which someone may have betrayed them. Every time I make a mistake or say something I shouldn’t, I think of when Jesus says in Matthew 12:34, “…for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” If it’s not in the heart, it won’t come through the mouth.

“But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.”

Matthew 15:18 (KJV)

Taking time to examine yourself, especially through prayer, can help you better understand yourself and work to overcome damaging behavior or thoughts.

Jodie Smith, a pastor’s wife with a degree in counseling who has written on mental health from a biblical and spiritual perspective, said in her book Bursting Alive: Healing Your Damaged Emotions Through Your Miracle Journey to Wholeness, “A healthy person lives in a world of honesty and reality.” Working to be more self-aware in order to improve our behavior and mindset requires honesty, which brings us to another way we can improve our mental health.

2) Admit when you’re wrong or made a mistake.

I know, this one can be difficult for those who have the need to always be “right.” Y’all, I will admit that as a strong-headed, knowledge-loving, youngest child, the need to be “right” or have the “right answer” all the time has been a lifelong struggle for me. Learning to become more self-aware can lead to recognizing and understanding our own faults and flaws. When we do, people tend to split off into one of two categories: hiding and denying mistakes or admitting and trying to overcome them.

As Smith writes in Bursting Alive, an unhealthy person who is in denial of their own flaws lives in an invented reality. They shirk responsibility, and they may often try to hide their pain or guilt through addictions or unhealthy behavior (Smith, Bursting Alive, 21-24). Whereas a healthy person is willing to accept responsibility, wanting only the truth.

Sometimes, the truth is that we have made a terrible mistake. Sometimes, the truth is that the reason we’re struggling so much is because we’ve got some cleaning up to do in our hearts. Maybe it’s bitterness or idolatry or addiction or another form of sin. Maybe it’s a weight or burden that we need to let go of and surrender to God.

Being honest with yourself is the first step to healing.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Psalm 139:23-24 (KJV)

Once we become self-aware and admit our own mistakes, then we can move forward with repentance, opening the door for God’s grace and mercy to deliver and heal us.

That is when God can move and do a work in our lives.

And so I encourage whoever is reading this to take some time and examine yourself. Be open and honest with yourself about the things you’re struggling with. And then find a place to pray so that God can help you heal.

How to Help Each Other Heal

Photo courtesy of the Help Me Heal Ministries Facebook page.

Healing should not be a solitary process.

Can you think of a time when you were healing from a difficult experience and managed to go through that process alone with no outside help? Whether it’s the prayers of others, financial or emotional support, or having a group of friends to find comfort in, we need each other to help us through the healing process.

Last week, I attended the Help Me Heal Conference in Springfield, Missouri, in which there were many lessons and sermons on the various aspects of healing, taking care of your physical and mental health, and dealing with different kinds of trauma. It’s an important annual conference that you should certainly attend if you’re in the greater Springfield area! We all have trauma in our lives and difficult circumstances that we’ve had to face. No one has experienced life without having to go through some kind of grief, loss, trauma, or physical or emotional issue, and we are all in need of healing.

Reverend Carlton Coon, who has authored many books one of which is titled Encountering Depression (which you should definitely check out!), spoke about healing and its connection to the members of the church on the first night of the conference. He explained that helping each other heal “is the ministry of the saints.” Indeed, as the body of Christ, we are to help each other along the healing process. None of us are scar-free, sadly, and we all have some healing to do.

So, why not help each other during this process? The church is meant to be a place where the hurting can go and find healing in the presence of God and comfort among the people of God. Often, we let our flesh and personalities get in the way of what the church is meant to be. Rather than help each other heal, we tend to tear each other down, criticize, or dismiss each other’s backgrounds and experiences altogether. Something I’ve become more aware of as I’ve gotten older and experienced more difficulties in life is that you simply may never know what someone else is dealing with or has gone through. Kindness and a smile can go a long way in helping comfort someone who is in need of healing.

How can we truly help each other heal?

1. Be mindful of the things you say to each other.

We’ve all been on both the receiving and the giving end of helpful “advice.” Sometimes, though the words may be well-intentioned, one’s “advice” to someone going through a difficult time can do more harm than good.

The following sayings are often used as advice to the hurting:

“Just move on.”

“Get over it.”

“It could be worse.”

The first two statements imply that healing is easily achieved by making a single decision, as though that decision is also easily made. There are things in my life that have caused my family and I to experience a great deal of emotional trauma, and to this day, we are in many ways not “over” it. How can one simply move on from loss? How can one simply get over a traumatic experience?

Healing is not simple, and we must rely on a close relationship with God to give us strength to navigate each day and each part of the process.

The third statement dismisses a person’s feelings and belittles his or her experiences as though they are not as bad as they seem, and this may be true. However, if someone is going through depression because they lost a loved one or a job, for example, telling them their situation could be worse may indicate to them that you are judging their reaction to their situation.

There is a right time to remind a person of the things they still have to be grateful for and a wrong time. If a woman suffers a miscarriage, it would not be wise to say, “Well, at least you’ve got another child. It could be worse.” But there may be a moment when this woman is ready and able to find comfort in her other children during the healing process.

This is why it is essential that we give careful thought to the impact our words may have on someone who is trying to heal.

2. Don’t underestimate the importance of your prayers for the hurting.

It is a great comfort to know people are praying for you and truly care for your emotional well being. When my grandmother passed away last year, although I was of course saddened from knowing that I would not see her again in this life, I remember feeling a sense of peace and comfort that I couldn’t explain. Somehow knowing that there were people out there praying for my family and I helped us heal.

It’s easy to say that you’re going to pray for someone and then never do it. You get busy, you forget, and maybe you later mention them in passing in your prayer time. But how much more impactful would your prayers be if you really spent time lifting up the name of someone in need of healing to God in prayer?

You may never know the comfort these words can bring to someone in pain: “I just want you to know that I am praying for you.”

When someone has ever said this to me, it reminds me that someone out there does care and that just maybe I’m not alone after all.

3. Don’t judge someone stuck in the healing process.

Everyone handles difficulties and different emotions, well, differently. Two people may go through the same experience and be in different stages of the healing process. Person A may have been able to accept the situation while Person B may still be angry about it. It wouldn’t be helpful or very understanding for Person A to say, “Why hasn’t Person B moved on yet? What’s wrong with her? I’ve moved on. Yesterday she was fine, and now she’s upset about it again. She needs to let it go.”

And then out come the unhelpful bits of “advice” that people tend to give.

Healing is not linear. It’s not a ladder but rather a circle, and you may go back and forth between anger to sadness to acceptance to denial to sadness to acceptance to anger over and over and over again. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to healing, and there is no easy solution.

It is true that you may never truly get over or move on from a loss or from trauma, as though all that is required to “move on” is the passage of time. We often expect that after a few years or so, a person should just magically be able to move on now.

“All right, Bob, it’s been four years since your wife died. You should be over it by now.”

Not exactly the right mindset when it comes to helping others heal or understanding how someone may struggle with healing. You’ve heard the saying, “Time helps heal all wounds,” and that is partially true. But I’ve found that time sometimes only gives a person distance between them and the moment of trauma, and all it takes for their scabbed over wound to bleed again is a memory or seeing someone tied to that situation again.

The passage of time does not guarantee healing.

We have the responsibility to help each other heal.

We can pray for one another, point others to The Healer, spend quality time with someone who is hurting, or give them needed space. And we must let them have time to heal.

We are all in need of healing, and it is God’s plan for His church to be the place where the hurting can find the healing that they need.

Will you stand in the gap for the hurting and be the person who helps others heal?

2 Principles of Spiritual Growth

Where do we grow from here?

This was the title of Rev. Victor Jackson’s Friday night message at Missouri Youth Convention a couple of weeks ago. At every youth convention, congress, or camp, there are always powerful messages from anointed preachers. Through each message, God ministers, and He moves. But there is always at least one message in particular that stands out. Everyone has their own “favorite” message that spoke to them in particular. Well, ever since the Friday night service of Missouri Youth Convention, I’ve been thinking about Bro. Jackson’s message on growth.

Growth has been a topic I’ve thought about often over the years as God has helped me navigate various life struggles and situations. So, for today’s post (which I know was supposed to go live yesterday—my apologies for the delay!), I wanted to share with you an extension of some of my notes from the message “Where Do We Grow From Here,” highlighting two principles of spiritual growth. Also, I do share post updates and topic ideas on my Instagram, so please be sure to go ahead and follow me there if you aren’t already so that you can find out when posts may be delayed or about upcoming topics. (You can find my Instagram account by clicking here.)

Without further delay, here are two principles of spiritual growth.

1. Don’t make a small start your identity.

Everybody’s gotta start somewhere, right? Whether it’s in your ministry or personal relationship with God, you must begin small. In order to grow your prayer life, for example, you may begin by praying 15 minutes a day consistently and extending that over time. As Victor Jackson said, however, “It is a blessing to begin small. It is a curse to end small.”

We should all start out at small beginnings, but that isn’t where we should end up.

“If you’re not growing, you’re living outside of God’s purpose for your life.”

Victor Jackson

We are meant to be producing spiritual fruit. An apple tree will not produce apples if it stays in the state of a small seed or the size of a twig. When we grow, we become stronger and produce spiritual fruit. The righteous man experiences spiritual growth like what the beginning of Psalms describes when comparing the godly versus the ungodly:

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

Psalms 1:3 (KJV)

2. Don’t put limits on your elevation.

People often limit how you can grow. As soon as God starts using you more and growing your ministry, there are people who judge you. They place limits on how much a person can grow in his or her walk with God. We may even fall privy to the idea that we should only grow to a certain extent and no further so as to prevent others from believing we’re trying to make everything about ourselves or to try to prevent ourselves from becoming prideful. So, we stay small and claim it’s out of humility.

Humility is an essential attribute of a true Christian character, but Bro. Jackson pointed out that we are not meant to use our humility as an excuse to remain small and refuse to grow into what God wants us to be.

“Humility is not a destination; it is an attitude,” he explained. “If you don’t want to grow, your humility in remaining small just became disobedience. Obedience is a pathway. You’re supposed to be going and growing. Get to growing and knowing this is what the kingdom is.”

Indeed, spiritual growth is about letting God use you more in the ways that He wants to so that His Kingdom can grow through each of our efforts. That’s why we should teach more Bible studies, pray more, fast more, become more involved in ministry, and do all that He asks us to do. As we mature in Christ and grow, we become more well-rounded Christians and more effective in ministry and in the Kingdom.

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:5-8 (KJV)

Follow after God’s direction in your life, and you will grow. Spiritual growth is stunted when you stop putting effort into your ministry and walk with God. A lack of effort leads to a lack of growth, and a lack of growth leads to spiritual death.

“You were destined to grow. You were destined to go beyond.”

Victor Jackson

We must always be striving to do more for the Kingdom, more for God, more for others, more in our ministry, and more than we’ve done yesterday and ever before in order to reach this lost world and get closer to Jesus. We cannot forsake the importance of growing in every aspect of our lives.

We were destined to grow.

Understanding Weakness: On Mistakes, Perfection, and Forgiveness

You’re going to make mistakes. God doesn’t hate you for that.

This is what I should have told myself years ago when I was starting out in college.

It was the spring semester of 2016, and I was taking a mix of online and seated classes at a community college while working part-time as a tutor at the writing center. One of my online classes was a world history course with my history professor from the previous semester—Mr. Z we called him. He was the fun, quirky professor always eager to chat with his students. I met with him multiple times to discuss my papers and upcoming exams, and during one particular meeting, we discussed a paper I was writing for another history class that he was helping me perfect.

As I settled into my seat across from him, I gazed in horror at his marked-up version of my draft on his desk. How could I—I have made that many errors?! Mr. Z sensed my panic and quickly explained.

“Relax, it’s not terrible,” he said with a chuckle. “I’m pushing you harder because I know you’re at the level where you can handle it.”

It wasn’t much of a comfort. I wanted my work to be near-flawless, and he knew that. I always wanted to know all the answers, and if I didn’t, I didn’t want anyone else to know it. When I explained my (admittedly) flawed mindset, Mr. Z said something to me that I’ve never forgotten.

He said, “You don’t want people seeing the chinks in your armor.”

“No, I don’t!” I said (a bit surprised that he hit the nail dead center). You see, I believed that if people saw the chinks in my armor, it meant they would see me as weak, vulnerable, incapable—human.

Sometimes, you just don’t want to be that real with people. You’d rather just go through life with no one knowing anything about what you’re going through or how you feel deep down. That way, when you mess up, there’ll be no one to judge you and no one to know that you don’t always make the right choices.

Making mistakes is for weak people, I told myself, and weakness is wrong.

Yes, weak people make mistakes, but as humans, we are all weak by nature, having an imperfect and sinful nature by default. Weakness isn’t necessarily wrong. It’s just natural. That’s why we need God. Through Him, we receive strength to overcome our flaws. What I failed to understand then was that it is OKAY to admit that you’ve made a mistake. You are only human, and God doesn’t punish you for that.

Our sinful nature and inclination to make mistakes doesn’t give us license to make whatever mistakes we want just because, but it does mean that our mistakes should come as no surprise to ourselves. God isn’t surprised that we fall and fail and make bad choices, and He doesn’t expect us to be perfect. There is none perfect but Him. He doesn’t beat us up when we make a bad choice, and neither should we condemn ourselves.

No matter how many times we mess up, if we truly repent and seek forgiveness, then God is faithful to forgive us of our sins (see 1 John 1:9).

When you realize that God’s grace extends to you no matter how many mistakes you make, then you’ll be able to extend that same grace to others.

It was when I learned how to release the self-condemnation that I felt for the mistakes I’d made that it was easier to forgive others for the things they’d done wrong. They were only human like me, after all. I could see my own flaws, my own imperfection in others and knew that if God didn’t hold my mistakes against me, then I shouldn’t hold others’ mistakes against them.

If you don’t forgive yourself, how can you truly forgive others?

You are not perfect. You will continue to make mistakes. But guess what?

It’s not the end of the world if you do. God’s grace is sufficient to cover your sins (see 2 Corinthians 12:9), and His strength is more than enough to help you overcome your weaknesses.

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the tempation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (KJV)

There is a way to escape the consequences of our weak nature—salvation in the name of Jesus and doing our absolute best to live as He has instructed us to live. God created us to be imperfect beings in need of our perfect Creator.

Lean into that.

Give your flaws, mistakes, and all your baggage up to Him.

It’s okay if you fail. Just remember that God never fails.

It’s okay that you’re not perfect and what you do isn’t perfect. Just remember that His love is perfect.

If you fully surrender to God and trust Him with all you have and all you’ve done, He will take care of you, and you’ll be closer to Him than you were before.

5 of My Favorite Things

Head on over to my Instagram (@caitlinhale_bpr) for more Christian lifestyle and modest fashion content!

It’s Friday, it’s almost spring, and in southwest Missouri, we’re having the last night of our annual camp meeting services tonight, so today’s post is going to be a fun one! 

If you all like this post, I may be posting a few more fun ones throughout the year. Don’t forget to stay tuned for the next BPR post on March 4th where we’ll be talking about perfectionism, mistakes, and the background of my creative post from last time!

People often ask each other questions from what I like to call “The Favorites Game.” What’s your favorite song? What’s your favorite color? What’s your favorite ice cream flavor? It can get monotonous at times — especially when you’re an introvert and you have to try to think of your answers quickly in order not to look like an idiot in front of your history class on the first day. Case in point:

Mrs. Teacher clasps her hands together and asks, “So, Caitlin, what’s your favorite color?”

“Uh…” I say, scratching my head. 

“Yes?”

“Cheese.”

“Cheese?” Mrs. Teacher takes her glasses off. 

“Yeah.”

“You mean yellow?”

“Yellow?” Now, I’m confused. “That’s not a pizza topping. Yellow what?” Bell peppers maybe?

“Pizza topping? We’re on colors now.” 

“I thought we were on pizza toppings.”

“But that’s not even on our questions list.” She flips through the pages on her clipboard. “Where did you—?”

“Chocolate.”

“Chocolate isn’t a color! Well, it could be…” She pushes her glasses back up the bridge of her nose, glancing over her notes.

“Oh, are we not on ice cream flavors now?”

“No, no,” she says, rubbing her forehead with two fingers, still clutching her pen in hand, “we’re still on colors.”

“Oh.”

“Now, Caitlin. I’ll ask you again. What is your favorite color?”

“Uh….” Beads of sweat begin to trickle down my hairline. 

“Yes?”

“Hmmm.” Could she be staring at me any harder? 

“Go on,” she says, leaning over her desk, with a bit of a break in her voice that suggests she’s either about to cry or lunge over her desk and strangle me. 

“I…don’t think I have one.”

Mrs. Teacher throws up her clipboard, ripping her glasses off again. 

The above example may be fictional, but suffice it to say, The Favorites Game was a nerve-wracking game to play in person when I was in school, and I much prefer it in an online forum! Below are five of my favorite Christian-related things. Read through the list and think about what your answers would be!

1. Who is your favorite person in the Bible (other than Jesus)?

I know. This is a hard first question. 

There are so many great people written about in the Bible that’s it’s hard to choose just one, but I’m going to go with Esther.

She risked her life for her people, and her story is an example of a true, godly woman. What’s the thing the young kids say these days? “Go, Queen?” Well, it so applies to Queen Esther!

2. What is your favorite Christian music genre?

Worship. 

Yes, that sounds vague. But I’m not talking about contemporary, radio music, Christian rock or rap, or sleepy, lullaby songs.

I’m talking old-fashioned, hair-pin flying, shoe-kicking, tie-swinging WORSHIP songs where all you want to do is throw up your hands and surrender everything to God. The kind of music that makes you want to jump or shout, dance or cry, and just give God the glory. The kind of songs that you don’t care who’s watching you when you sing along and worship our King!

Songs like “I Give You Glory,” “Jesus Said It,” “He Made the Difference,” “Shake The Foundation,” “But God,” and a medley of “I’ve Got It,” “Bless That Wonderful Name,” “He Brought Me Out of the Miry Clay,” and “Joy Unspeakable.” 

(For the record, though, I do love a ton of other Christian songs and genres!)

David danced and worshipped unashamedly before the Lord, and we ought to, too!

3. What is your favorite book or Scripture in the Bible?

This is a two-for-one question. One question, one possible answer to either of the two parts of this question. 

My answer is Psalms and Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (which you can read a post about here). 

4. What is your favorite Christian song?

This one is a bit of an extension of question 2, and it’s also a hard question for me to answer. So, I’m going to go with one of my classic favorites: Eddie James’ “Breakthrough.” 

With scriptural lyrics like “You are the undefeated one/My light and my salvation/When the wicked, my enemies and my foes/Came upon me to eat up my flesh/They stumbled and fell!” and powerful lyrics like “Breakthrough in my weakness/Breakthrough in my struggle/You are the God/You are the God of the/Breakthrough!” this is a classic praise and worship song! Plus, it brings back memories of being out-of-breath on the praise team as we would take off our shoes and jump and shout in worship while singing this song!

He is the God of the breakthrough!

5. What is your favorite Christian-based film?

Amazing Grace is hands down the best Christian-based film ever. You’ve got a historical drama with enough humor, romance, action, legal drama, and history to satisfy, well, anyone! It’s such a stirring, moving film about the true story of William Wilberforce’s part in the movement to end the slave trade in England. Plus, it also features the true story behind the classic hymn “Amazing Grace!”

It’s truly a top-notch film that you can and should watch with your family again and again. Aaand now I may have to go rewatch it soon!

Honorable mention: The Prince of Egypt. Another stirring and beautiful film based on the biblical account of Moses! Love this one, too!

All right, I’ll stop babbling now (insert goofy face emoji here).

If you have any favorites in these categories, let me know what your answers are in the comments!

“Are You Invulnerable?”: A Brief Essay on Flaws and Expectations

Last month, I asked through a poll on my Instagram stories who might like to read more of my own creative work and hear more about their background and topics related to the content within my past writings. The response was a unanimous “yes,” and so for today’s post, I’m sharing with you all one of the short essays I wrote for a nonfiction writing class in 2020. I’ll be sharing a bit more in the near future about the story behind this particular short essay and delving into the topics of perfection, expectations, and imposter syndrome. Let me know in the comments or on Instagram what you think of this essay and what you think it means!

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You don’t want people seeing the chinks in your armor.

Chinks. What does that mean? A weak point, a place of vulnerability, an opening for an attack from the enemy. A minor flaw, so says the online dictionary, or weakness in a plate of armor. A detrimental flaw. A special flaw. There’s an interesting phrase. A special flaw. It’s a special point of weakness that directs the enemy where to attack an otherwise invulnerable person. Are you invulnerable?

You’ve held a coat of chainmail—last fall in your history class on the Spanish Conquest. The professor brought in a bit of chainmail for everyone to handle so you all could know how hard the stuff must have been for Europeans to fight in and wear in the heat of Mexico over their wool clothes while holding heavy swords and lances, that is if they could get their hands on one. You put the chainmail on your arm and held it there for a minute. It was a bit like when you stuck your finger in the bowl of cold ice water that the Titanic Museum in Branson, Missouri had cooled to 28 degrees Fahrenheit—the temperature of the water the night the doomed ship sank. You held it there when you were about 14 to see how long you could last.

About 30 seconds.

You lasted with the chainmail on your arm about that long, too, because it started to get heavy, and your wrist started to twitch, and the classmate behind you wanted a chance to hold it, so you passed it on.

(Picture courtesy of Dr. John Chuchiak.)

It was a small section of a coat of chainmail—perhaps about 12 inches wide and long. Dr. Chuchiak lectured on how the Europeans manufactured it while they rested between battles. A blacksmith would take thousands of tiny metal or steel rings and carefully interlink them by hand. A single coat of chainmail could take months to finish if a skilled blacksmith worked 10-hour days.

You imagine the misery of knitting steel for a living in 90-degree weather with 60 percent humidity in the Yucatan Peninsula, trying to get a piece of chainmail done for a hotshot conquistador so he’s a little more likely to survive the arrows or stabbing spears of the Mayans than the footman who came over for gold and glory with only a helmet and a crossbow because that’s all he could afford and figured the gold he’d take from the natives would make him rich enough for 20 crossbows, 50 horses, and a land grant. You imagine the fever of smallpox getting to you while linking those steel rings and skipping a section right where the coat will slip over the conquistador’s left shoulder. If the Maya or Aztec crossbowmen spot the opening, the glory-seeking conquistador won’t last long. One small missing chink in his armor, and the obsidian arrow blade will tear through the chainmail as though it were linen instead of steel. A special weakness in an otherwise invulnerable person.

No.

You don’t want people seeing the chinks in your armor, but it’s not because you’re afraid they’ll attack you. You don’t want to let them down or let them see you’re just as human and weak as they are. You’d rather not cry under pressure or in front of others. You say you’re like a machine, doing what you’re supposed to.

But machines break down, and sooner or later, you’ll crack, too.

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Stay tuned for more posts like this and a special study on depression and mental health coming in the near future. Be sure to follow along with the counterpart to this blog on my Instagram for more Apostolic lifestyle content!

Don’t forget to share your thoughts with me on this post in the comments! I’d love to hear from you!

How to Overcome a Victim Mentality: A Guest Post by Kayla Carmichael

(Photo courtesy of Kayla Carmichael.)

The sad part is this: not everyone actually wants to be healed.

Some are okay remaining exactly who they are and the way that they are. A victim mentality has stolen more lives than I believe we would like to admit. It takes work to heal, it takes work to work through our own dysfunction, it takes work. Thankfully, we are not alone on our journey, but we do play a part in it.

There was a time in my life not too long ago that I was a victim to my own story, to what happened to me, to the pain that people had caused me. It is so easy to become a victim, and when we have been hurt, we often can have a longing to feel justified for being a victim. I mean, we are hurting, after all.

Does anyone see me? Does anyone care about me? Does anyone know that they are the reason why I am the way that I am?

I learned one morning as I began to speak to God about some things that had happened to me. I was just so sad. I simply did not understand why this happened to me. I then remember feeling this thought of, “Kayla, do you realize that you do not have to feel this way? You do not have to remain in this mindset. Do you realize this? It is time to close the doors to your past.”

Now, this does not mean that we are not to deal with what has happened to us accordingly. We do not dismiss our pain, but we release it to the Lord, and we become vulnerable in His presence. We decide that we are no longer going to be a victim of what has happened to us. Of what someone has done.

Victory is a choice.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. If I am not walking in victory, it is because I have decided not to walk in victory. However, walking in victory does not mean I am now “no longer hurting.” It simply means I am going to pick my head up and yield completely to the Lord as He heals me and as He restores me.

So, what will I decide? Will I decide to continue to worship my pain, or will I decide to worship my God? The God I choose to worship is the God who will determine my outcome.

Every. Single. Time.

You are a victor, not a victim.

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Kayla Carmichael is an Apostolic writer and a great example to younger generations of what it means to love and live for God no matter what. Moving from Ohio, she came to Urshan College in Florrisant, Missouri and is now in her senior year, majoring in Christian ministry. Her goal is to pursue a master’s in counseling. Between devoting her time to school and church, Kayla is also writing her first book. Be sure to follow along with her insightful posts on Facebook and Instagram (@k.carm12)!