After There’s Nothing Left: Feeling Like a Failure

my-failures    So many people constantly struggle with guilt. I am not one of them. Mostly. Through years of rejection, depression, trial & error, and simple stubbornness I have somehow overcome my sense of failure and risen to a place of significance. Well, in some circles.

  When I listen to people who constantly struggle with a sense of failure I can barely fathom the depths of their sense of worthlessness. It must be terrible to never feel good enough, to feel always judged and condemned by either God or others…, or both. I wonder how people live who struggle with guilt all the time; so little joy, so little lightness-of-being. Only weight. There was a time in my life when I made so many mistakes that I felt like I had perfected failure to an art-form. Not that I no longer made mistakes; only now I’ve learned from them; and I do not let them weigh on me as much.

      I’ve learned to distinguish between a sense of failure and real failureReal failure must be admitted and addressed, especially if you are the cause behind it. Personal failure in relationships is tragic. Most people find it quite difficult to own up to their complicity in the breakdown of a relationship. It is just too painful. Some people simply get angry and blame everything on the other person. (Isn’t that helpful?) Their insecurity leaves deep scars across far too many lives. Real failure requires fortitude and maturity to first acknowledge and then to correct if it is possible. In some instances, this is not possible: in others, it remains open to the one who failed to come clean and seek reconciliation and resolution. Real failure has consequences. Never doubt that: do something about it.  [Please note—you may need help.]

      A sense of failure, usually has its birth through multiple failures, real or perceived. Though it is possible to feel like a failure and withdraw into a shell from the very first moment, it is not typical; it takes at least two or three close-together events to drive a person into a personal cloister of private self-doubt. That’s the bad news. The good news is that a sense of failure is significantly different than actual failure. When I was in my teens I felt like a total failure. It didn’t matter that I was a fashion model and drove a Volvo; I felt undesirable. It didn’t matter that my SAT scores were 686 & 782; I never showed them to my parents because I thought they meant a D and a C. I felt stupid. I felt I was a failure and that is how I lived. I was an ugly, insecure, scrawny 134 lb. failure. Throughout most of my college career I continued in this vein until it dawned on me how much more the other guys were studying— and I wasn’t. Hummm!?! My sense of failure slowly turned into “Well, maybe not so much.” What a revelation!

      One of my seminary brothers, during lunch, in a conversation with someone else, simply remarked “God don’t make no junk!” he probably never knew I overheard his comment; but that comment mulled around inside me and took root. I wasn’t junk. The God Creator of the universe had made me. Therefore, I did not have to be a failure. Neither do you. Remember, FAILURE simply means you have not discovered what you are designed for yet. Remember— “The only BIG risk in life is not taking any.”

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— Resentment and Forgiveness…, on my part, pt.9

After There’s Nothing Left: Physical exhaustion, fear, deep wounding

isolation-1685765_1280 These next three causes of depression may not be as obvious, yet they are at least the most common. Remember, you do not need to exhibit all of these symptoms to be depressed.

5. Physical exhaustion

            A fifth obvious cause of soul exhaustion is physical exhaustion. When you have no energy for the simple tasks of daily living it does not take long for spiritual exhaustion to set in. This is true of me; this is true of you. When our strength is sapped, so also is our soul. The naïve solution of “Get some rest.” is just not enough. So much more is involved— exercise, diet, attitude, and plain old sweat & perspiration. Without physical strength and stamina, it is virtually impossible to prevent your soul from melting into exhaustion; and that leads to depression.

  1. Fear

Fear grips us. It transcends every other emotion and governs our lives. Severe fear immobilizes us. Momentary fear startles us and leaves us with a somewhat temporary (or not) sense of exhaustion. Long term fear dissipates our energies and leaves us in a state of anxiety about anything new. This is the worst kind of fear. Seek help from a professional counselor for this one. It is more than spiritual— it is truly evil. Prayer also helps. Fear is a major contributor to overwhelming depression.

  1. Deep Wounding

Unless you are an incredibly young child, there are probably none of us who have not been deeply wounded. It’s just life. Dating disappointments, family difficulties, teenage angst, husband/wife conflicts that get nasty, divorce destruction, judgment or dismissal from gainful employment, to name just a few. [Sadly, there is even betrayal within the Body of Christ.] But no matter the source, ALL cause deep wounds that take a great deal of time to heal— if at all, if ever. Deep wounding is one of the most devastating causes of soul exhaustion. It can fracture your soul for years, leaving you to carry on with little to no strength, causing you to hesitate in trusting God, who made you for sustenance, rejuvenation, rest, and restoration. This kind of depression can only be met with God’s help.

              If not addressed, these causes will turn your face away from God to focus on yourself. This, in turn, leads to resentment. You have to blame someone else. But our Lord is a source of recovery and deliverance. He offers life when all seems lost. Give God some room to work His miracles in your life, and in others.

Honour God, honour people, make a difference,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Starvation, isolation, unfulfillment.

After There’s Nothing Left- over Commitment and no Commitment

images (1)[Reminder: These are excerpts from a book I started writing in 2012 because it was the end of the world.  You do remember 2012?]

Building on my life experiences (see the last EMPulse) let’s start an examination of some of the causes of Depression.

Here are the first two—

  1. Over-Commitment.

Having multiple things going on in your life at any given period can lead to soul exhaustion. Granted, some of us can juggle more balls than others. Some of us have even acquired the knack of juggling a bowling ball with a flaming torch and an active chainsaw (mostly working mothers). But whatever your level of multi-tasking, we all are inevitably capable of reaching a point of over-commitment with too many irons in the fire. We DO so much that we have little time to care for ourselves, in body, soul, or spirit.

Do not take this cause of soul exhaustion lightly. Though you may pride yourself in your ability to multitask, it can leave a thorough feeling of left overs at the end of a day. Nothing left, for your family, for friends, for God, or for yourself.

Over-Commitment means nothing gets done completely right, let alone thoroughly. Not to mention the physical toll it takes on our bodies and the exhaustion it leaves behind. Over-committing ourselves has a way of bleeding us dry.

  1. NO Commitment

The other side of the coin that reads “Over-Commitment” is “NO Commitment.” Being uncommitted to anything is just as capable of deflating your soul as over-commitment. A lack of commitment denotes a hesitancy about life, about a timidity in relationships, that breeds some degree of mistrust in you as a person. In July 2012, I published an article with the seditious title of “Draw a Line.” It was seditious because it challenged people to “draw a line in the sand!” to “Take a Stand.” To let your yes be YES and your NO be no. Too many of us want to keep our options open, to hedge our bets, or to wait for the next best thing.

As a result, we shy away from commitment to, well, just about everything else; jobs, apartments, relationships, anything…, with the exception of our own individual wants and desires. I become the center of my universe! Everyone and everything is peripheral; it is there only for my utility and pleasure. Even you are tangential to my being.

It does not take too much imagination to see how no-commitment to anything except one’s self can lead to soul exhaustion and depression. If everything is a one-way street, with everything flowing into YOU, your capacity to remain self-indulgent will become satiated. You will grow fat with yourself and it will be quite difficult to shed the excess self-bloated baggage. Your soul descends into lethargy and languishes in a kind of affluent isolation. Dead, but not dead. Mostly.

Honour God, honour people, make a difference,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Imbalance & Deception

What’s happening to us?

paradigm-shift2

     If you haven’t noticed, the Western world is in the midst of another paradigm shift. This time from a modern, scientifically verifiable facts, to a  postmodernpostChristian view of reality that is not related to facts or history or consents to “Ultimate Truth.” They say there is no such thing. How can they know that?

     Of course, I truly hope the people who designed this 737, and those that built it, were not so inclined but adhered to the laws of physics and flight…, especially the landing part.

     Most of us live in a world that relies on the dependability of continuous change; that is, new things are usually predicated on earlier ideas or inventions. But in a paradigm shift we experience an occurrence of discontinuous change. The NEW things are not connected to the past in any way. The automobile had as much to do with horse transportation as our smart phones have to do with landlines.

     The expressions of the Christian faith are going through a time of discontinuous change in our society. Although we hear many Christians cry for the old-ways of the liturgical calendar and liturgical worship, the fact remains that the format of faith constructed in the 400s or 1700s is not designed to face the assaults of this postChristian sensibility in which we life.

     Still, other Christians today, decry the loss of our “old-time religion.” They tell us that today’s contemporary worship service, with its culturally affinitive music and come-as-you-are mentality is nearing its end. Really?!? Oddly, Paul in his missionary journeys never considered NOT adapting his style or methodology to each new situation. Read Acts! Read Paul’s Letters! Nor did the earliest missionaries to the Far East, or to the Vikings.

     The Christian message should always couched in the idioms and formats of the host culture. When we try to import 17th century European Christianity to other cultures if always backfires. And that includes the postmodern/postChristian landscape in which we find ourselves today.

     There was nothing particularly sacred about the 100s–400s. Although a lot of Christian beliefs and practices were established in that period. Nor was there anything sacred about the 17th century. Why do we constantly try to return to their expressions of faith as if they had something we do not!?!

     We have the privilege of formulating new, multifaceted expressions of our faith for this time, our peoples, and for a world more closely woven together. Let’s get at it!

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT disruptions & tenacity—  pass on, not out.

Tenacity and Disruptions – Getting Dirty

download    “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”  2 Timothy 2. [NASV]

     Farming takes up millions of acres across our planet. It also grabs the heart of many men and women who could not imagine living in a city. They love the early mornings, the hard work that leaves dirt under their nails and sweat on their brow. At the end of the day they rest with a sense of accomplishment. At the end of harvest they are rewarded with fruits of their labor being sold at markets around the world.

     The Christian life is much like this. There are seasons of intensity when we cultivate our world to make it ready for the return of the King. We study our Bibles with concentration, we learn the power in prayer, we give ourselves to those who have no idea of what the Christian message of live and forgiveness is all about.

     But we must also take breaks from our interactions to refurbish our souls. We need time alone with God, time alone with ourselves, those we love, and a mountain retreat or a sea-breeze blown beach. It is not wrong to rest from our labors. Our souls need it. It is wrong to rest when we have done nothing to extend the message of Christ in our world.

     Christians in other areas of our world have observed how lazy Western Christians have become; how much we are prone to entertainment worship and feel-good faith. It is time we examine ourselves to see if any of these accusations apply to us…, and then to correct it.

     Ask yourself— How much do I enjoy talking with God? Listening to Him? Am I a joyful giver? Do you give at all? Do I love normal people? (Read non-Christians.) How do they know I love them? What are their names? How many friends do I have who truly know me?

     Our salvation is NOT based on what we do. But if there is little evidence in your life that you are living up to the precepts of our Lord’s principles for living…, well?

     It’s time we get our hands dirty in the real struggles of life. Ours, and others. Farming is dirty work, but what it produces provides nutrients for us all.

Honor God, honor people…, get it done.
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT disruptions & tenacity— thinking, thinking, thinking.

Tenacity & Disruptions-Winning the Prize

Tom_Brady_and_his_offensive_line

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”  2 Timothy 2. [NASV]

     Winning. For some of us, Christian & otherwise, that’s all there is. In sports, business, the church, or everyday relationships. God knows this. There is nothing wrong with winning; but contrary to Vince Lombardi, it is NOT the only thing. All athletes know that winning must be achieved only when they abide by a set of common rules.

     The same is true of the Christian life. No matter your culture, the rules of the Christian faith apply to all. Simply stated— Honor God, honor people, make a difference. More specifically—

      There is a God in the universe who wants to give us everything He has. He simply asks us to give Him everything we have; all our self-centeredness, our rebellion, and our arrogance. He wants us to admit we’ve been wrong in our rebellion against His right over our lives. He’s even provided a resolution for the chasm we’ve created between us. The Person of Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our rebellion.

      Do you want to claim the death of Christ as the paid-penalty for your rebellion? That’s His question for all of us. If your answer is YES, then you get to live your life according to His rules, not your own. Then you get to win, guaranteed.

      Now that’s good news!

      If you are not so much into sports, let alone winning, then you are probably unconsciously living your life by your own rules. Learning to live by someone else’s rules may be a tough shift for you. But can you imagine that the God of the universe, who sets the rules, might know a little more about what they should be than you do? Humm.

      If each of us compete by our own rules winning becomes a matter of personal interpretation; but that’s not really winning is it? The God of the universe, our Father, wants us to live according to His rules, not our own. Remember, His rules are actually perimeters for our protection to live in this world the way He intended..

Honor God, honor people…, go for it!
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT disruptions & tenacity— get dirty

tenacity & disruptions: entangled

2957791455_5ef26bed52_bYou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. 2 Timothy 2. [NASV]

     Entanglements. We all have them. At work. At home. With kids. In church. In our neighborhoods. Life gets messy. Then it gets messier. After that, it unravels. Inner, and possible outward, chaos ensues. If you’ve lived long enough, your life can become a disheveled web of over-commitments.

     So what’s to be done?!?

     The image in our passage is that of a soldier becoming disengaged from all the entanglements of civilian life. He is in the army. The only one he must please is his commanding officer. Therefore all the commitments in his civilian life must go. That’s what the service is.

So, some questions—

  • What entangles you in your everyday life? How will you detangle yourself?
  • What must change so you will please our heavenly Father?

     We all have this tendency to over commit to too many things. All we seem to do is run, run, run. Some of us don’t have one night off a week. That’s too much. You need time to rest, to breathe, to sit down with your spouse, have a good glass of wine, and simply talk with each other.  R e l a x.

     As a side note, some of us are even to busy to pray. That’s too busy. If we are so over committed that we do not have time to spend with the One we love something is seriously out of kilter. God loves you and wants to spend time with you. And you’re going to say no time for you. Really!

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT disruptions & tenacity— winning the prize

tenacity & disruptions – pass it on

Passing-e1470776100537   You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. 2 Timothy 2. [NASV]

     Let’s move on to reflect on the ideas in verse 2. For one, Paul had a sense that it was his responsibility to pass on to Timothy what the Lord had taught him. Probably out of love for the boy (a young man in that culture) But also out of a sense that the message of Christ needs a community context. For we are called to learn from our Lord, through Scripture, about the ultimate realities of this universe and our role in how they play out. And we are called to make a difference, to entrust what we learn to faithful men who will be able to teach others.

     This process is a selective one. Sadly, it implies that we are not to waste our time with people who do not want to learn; nor do they want to pass on what they’ve learned to others, let alone others who can teach.

     You’ve met them, so have I. They just want more with no intent or plan to pass it on. I presented a series of lectures on Christianity & Culture at Columbia University in NYC some years ago. When I finished they were eager to have me return so they could hear more. I said no. Why? They hadn’t utilized anything of what I’d already taught them to make any difference in their surrounding university.

     It’s great to have friends! I love the ones who put up with me. J But I want to invest in people who will take what I have taught them, ponder it, and put it to good use.

     My ever faithful Problem Solver, Melanie Lamere, left a note on my desk reminding me that my legacy was the changed lives I had left behind me all over the world. “Forget your books and writings. It’s the people you’ve left in your wake who will make a greater difference after you’re dead and gone. Get over it.”

     So…, are you making a difference for Christ in this world? How? What are you passing on? What are you leaving behind?

Honor God, honor people…, pass it on,
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President
NEXT disruptions & tenacity—  suffer hardship

Tenacity & Disruptions

disruption_680  For some time now, since the mid-1800s, I’ve been immersed in the letters of Paul to Timothy; especially 2 Timothy. Ergo, we are going to enter into a series of considerations on 2 Timothy 2. I’ve titled this series Tenacity & Disruptions, for, as you know, we are often interrupted in our Christian journey by things that draw us away from our focus and our faith. So…, let’s get started.

     You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. [NASV]

     So, let’s get started. You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. It should be obvious that there is a prior relationship between the writer, Paul, and Timothy. It is a close one too. Son, Paul calls him. The first thing Paul directs him to do is be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Why? There are so many disruptions in the Christian journey that Timothy, like us, needed to be reminded to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

     Our tendency is to be strong in our own strength. One of the banes of our lives is that we are quite capable of getting things done on our own with little to no dependency on our Lord. We are perfectly able of operating on our own without any reliance on the grace God has provided. I, for one, am most prone to this weakness. If there’s one thing I don’t like about the Christian life, it is having to have faith.

     What about you? Is it difficult for you to find your strength in our Lord’s grace? Or are you quite capable? Is it possible you can handle everything in your world because you haven’t put yourself in a position where the only thing left for you is to rely on His grace?

     Too many of us don’t trust God with the BIG stuff in life. We’ve become calculating Christians, where we’ve counted the cost so many times that we miss opportunities to join God’s miracles of grace in everyday life. Try stepping out in faith a little more over the next few days. You’ll be amazed at how our Lord will surprise you as you live in His grace. Tenacity, remember?

Happy New Year!

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President
NEXT disruptions & tenacity—  pass on, not out.

Advent – LIGHT! The Christ Candle

Advent wreath      It’s Christmas Eve. Our family lights the fifth candle— the Christ Candle! It is known as the Candle of Light because of the light that Jesus’ birth has brought into the world.

      For Starr and me lighting this candle is the seasonal reminder that we are to be the light of the world, especially in this time of such spiritual darkness. We believe that Christ came into this world to restore us to God and to make us messengers of His grace, love and forgiveness.

      Too often in our witness we dwell on the darkness within us and our need to have it exposed to the light. We forget that the Light does its own illumination and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. We are simply to be messengers of the Light, proclaiming that we can be made whole again; we can be reunited with the God who made us to make a difference in this world for His glory. For Christmas IS all about Him.

      But in another sense Christmas is also about us. Christ came to this earth to pay the penalty for our rebellion against God and to make our restoration [read salvation] possible.

      What a great privilege we have!

      Take time over the next day and a half to reread the Christmas story. Try to place yourself in the troubled dark times that Mary and Joseph lived in. Feel the jostling baby in your womb (women only); feel the discomfort of the journey, and the disappointment of finding no rooms available in your own home town. Then, conceive giving birth in a family animal stall. A feeding troth for a cradle.

      And then all heaven breaks loose! The emotions Mary and Joseph must have experienced could barely be imagined.

      We live in the wrong kind of “light” this Christmas season; too many twinkling lights on our trees, too many festive decorations all around us. Wonderful though they are, they can distract us from the True Light that we celebrate at this time of year; all the more important that we become Light to those around us. Clarification is the natural companion of Light.

      So, if you can grab any moments of peace and silence in our noisy culture this Christmas Eve, remember why our Lord came in the fullness of time to bring salvation to all mankind. Maybe you will capture a glimpse of the role you are meant to play in this great scene.

Merry Christmas!
Gary

NEXT …on a personal note