Posts Tagged ‘How Christian Community Helps Us Face Challenges’

For Us

Once after a speaking engagement, someone asked me if sharing hard stories helps me. I was puzzled because I ordinarily share because I want to help others know they’re not alone in the hard times.

As one who has a public dimension of speaking and writing it is an interesting question. I know that it does help me to think out loud or on paper about the hard times–but these are very private processes, usually involving tears, many, many tears. The outpouring itself is cathartic.

The public sharing though, that brings its own kind of difficulty. The choice to make the private thoughts public has to bear up under scrutiny: Does this even make sense? Does it really have the chance to help someone else? Does it make me look bad, and if so, how bad? And if it makes me look bad, what might be the costs of looking bad in that way?

After all that, then I weigh the question, am I looking for sympathy? And usually the answer involves a recognition of what a wise Deaconess once said, “There is no such thing as a truly pure motive.”

I would love to be able to stand behind my original sentiment–that I share to help others. Yet I know my altruism isn’t pure. And I wouldn’t do this public bearing of my soul if it didn’t come with at least some kind of benefit to me.

Even now I am aware of the way in which sharing here about my aimless aching just a couple of days ago has given me strength to move through this weekend. It didn’t make the ache go away–that would be far too much to ask. But pouring out the thoughts was the catharsis I so appreciate about writing. And sharing here has helped me because of the feedback from readers who have told me that I am not alone in the aching.

Does sharing help me? I have to say, yes. Does it help others? It seems to. What I’m realizing is that it doesn’t have to be one or the other. It can be both. I hope it is both.

I think what I hope most of all is to deepen community–for you, and for me, for us together–as we share, honestly share, the hard times.

Christian Community Saved My Faith

whatsavedmyfaithI’m joining the synchroblog for the release of A Christian Survival Guide: A Lifeline to Faith and Growth by answering the prompt: ‘What saved my faith?’

One of the darkest times in my life was before I had my son and I wrestled with God about my infertility. What saved my faith in that time were my faith communities. I wrote more about that in an older post about coping with infertility. Here is an excerpt:

Even when I’m mad at God, I need the support of my faith communities.

It was a big turning point for me before we had our son when I finally asked to be added to the church prayer list for my infertility concerns. I had told one or two people in the church, but most people had no idea. When I asked for prayer it became public. I was nervous at first, but my church family at the time held my prayer need with utmost respect.

When I am struggling in my faith I am particularly glad for corporate worship and liturgy in particular. Even if I can’t pray, the community of faith carries me through their prayers. Churches who do liturgical worship are accused sometimes of “just going through the motions.” I have to tell you though, when infertility plunged me to my lowest point, those “motions” were all I had. Reciting liturgy that I have memorized, that I know by heart allowed me to pray when I would not have otherwise been able to pray.

One thing that helped me also was when my congregation and other supportive faith communities became aware of the pain of infertility. Due to awareness about infertility, my church family prayed for couples who cannot have children on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Before I had my son, fellow members of an online discussion group for Pastor’s Wives made a point to show sensitivity when sharing about baby news.

What saved your faith? Write your own post answering that question and then visit http://www.edcyzewski.com to learn how you can join the synchroblog or to read additional posts to celebrate the release of Ed’s book A Christian Survival Guide, which is discounted on Amazon this week.

P.S. I got to chat with Ed Cyzewski about A Christian Survival Guide for the Life & Liberty podcast. Listen to our chat here: http://www.davidhousholder.com/a-christian-survival-guide-ed-cyzewski/

How I am Fallen, Yet Bold to Stand

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My mind is cluttered today with a burning issue. A clever thought would be to write about what is burning on my mind, right?

Except, no.

You see, I keep putting myself out here online and I try to be honest and vulnerable, but there are still things I hold back.

Dear internet, I don’t tell you everything, but I hope we can still be friends.

Maybe I could trust you with this but I’m not ready yet.

And maybe one day I will tell you more.

Then again, maybe I won’t.

You see, there is this thorn in my side, my besetting sin, my great downfall in life, that I don’t dare bring to the bright lights of the big internet. I don’t dare.

I alluded to it in my The Home of the Brave post at Life & Liberty. And, as noted there, I have people in my life that I can talk to about it. So, I am not alone in facing this demon.

But this is an awfully ugly demon. I would say it is even uglier than my pride, about which, dear internet, you were very gracious when I admitted to it.

But the costs of sharing about this one are too great. I find it wisest and best to keep this one more guarded.

And it all sounds so horrifying to say it like this. Oh internet, there’s this one thing that I won’t tell you because it’s so awful—because I’m so awful.

And I do often feel like if people really knew this about me then I would lose a lot of respect.

But here’s the thing, even this, my greatest failing, this does not define me.

I don’t say that cavalierly, as if, hey, it’s no big deal, I’m not that bad.

Because I am that bad.

It’s just that I know, I trust, I believe that my God is bigger and better than all the bad I am.

One of the times I come back to again and again in my spiritual life as proof that God is bigger than my mess is the time God was with me in the muck. I was waste-deep in my own folly, but God was there when no one else could hear. God got me out of the muck when no one else could help me.

And I know, I trust, I believe that his goodness in and through me is my true destiny.

And so, I talk with my God and those trusted others about this great struggle. And with God’s help, I work through it, sometimes around it, and I hope to grow from it over time.

Meanwhile, I yield to God’s love for me, I receive his goodness, and I live into my belovedness. I come to him, feeling flawed and fallen, and I let him lift me up.

He sets me on my feet, bold to stand, bold to speak and write and serve and show his love to others.

And I pray this for you too, that whatever drags you down in life, makes you feel scared to even mention, I pray that you will experience God’s bigness and goodness and your forgiveness and belovedness in him.

What an Active Listener Does & Doesn’t Do

When we need to talk with someone we trust about a situation that is beyond our control, we need someone who will engage with us in active listening mode. First I’ll review what I mean by a situation beyond our control and then I’ll explain a little more about active listening.

In a previous post titled, 3 Different Challenges and the Types of Responses Needed, I defined “situations beyond our control” like this:

This can include anything from a major crisis (like the loss of a loved one) to an everyday emotional blow (like getting overlooked for something we really wanted to do). When things happen that we cannot control, oftentimes our emotions are high. Because we may not even know what all we’re feeling or why we’re feeling it, it is not a time for decisions.

Now, I’d like to spend some time talking about the “active listening” that often helps in these situations. Since we may sometimes be the listener and sometimes be the speaker, I am going to write about both listener and speaker in the third person.

What is an Active Listener?

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As the term “active” implies, the active listener is engaged deeply in listening to the speaker. A completely passive observer is not nearly as helpful as an active listener.

In addition to the Essential Traits of a Trustworthy Friend I posted previously, here are some important observations about what an active listener does and doesn’t do:

  1. An active listener asks clarifying questions when something is unclear. This can help the listener understand the speaker better, but can also help the speaker process the thoughts and emotions involved.
  2. An active listener takes care to key into important details about what the speaker is sharing. This requires a high level of attention to the speaker.
  3. An active listener observes verbal and non-verbal cues beyond the words used to more accurately interpret what is being expressed. Observing the speaker’s body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice can all help the listener understand the speaker.
  4. An active listener shows empathy and concern but does not have to adopt the speaker’s emotions about the situation. Simply acknowledging and helping to name the speaker’s emotions can help the speaker process the situation.
  5. An active listener avoids solving the problem for the speaker. The active listener does not try to “fix” the situation or the speaker, but gives the speaker the room to thoroughly process the situation at the speaker’s own pace.
  6. An active listener avoids judging the speaker for negative or extreme emotions expressed. The listener recognizes the extremes as part of the speaker’s way of processing or coming to terms with the situation.

As you can see “active listening” is a more than just sitting idly while someone rambles about a problem. Rather active listening is a dynamic process that can help when situations are out of control.

Note: much of what I have learned about “active listening” has come from my training as a Stephen Leader by Stephen Ministries of St. Louis.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like these other posts about “How Christian Community Helps us Face Challenges.” (Please click the titles below to go to the posts.)

4 Simple Reasons Talking About Hard Stuff Can Enhance Your Life

Essential Traits of a Trustworthy Friend

3 Different Challenges and the Types of Responses Needed

3 Different Challenges and the Types of Responses Needed

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When you’re facing a challenge and are ready to talk about it with a trusted friend, it can help to be clear about the kind of challenge you’re facing. Identifying the type of challenge can also help you be clear about the kind of help you’d like.

A classic dilemma in my life has been when I’m dealing with a disappointment and what I really need is just a listening ear. But if I’m not careful, all of a sudden I will get unsolicited advice from a well-intentioned friend who is in problem-solving mode.

I’ve identified at least three different major categories of challenges that we may face and the types of responses that are most likely to be helpful for each. I will deal with each of these in more detail in future posts, but briefly these are:

  1. Situations beyond our control: This can include anything from a major crisis (like the loss of a loved one) to an everyday emotional blow (like getting overlooked for something we really wanted to do). When things happen that we cannot control, oftentimes our emotions are high. Because we may not even know what all we’re feeling or why we’re feeling it, it is not a time for decisions. When we share about these types of situations, we most need someone who will engage with us in active listening mode.
  2. Sin issues: Unfortunately, sin is real and we’re all guilty of it more often than we like to admit. But sins that we hide have a way of compounding, increasing temptation and causing even more harm. When something we have done or something we have failed to do is holding us captive, we can always talk directly with God about it in prayer. Still, talking about it with a fellow Christian can help us unburden our hearts and minds. When we need to share in this way, it is most helpful to have someone who is willing to fully hear our confession and remind us of God’s love and grace.
  3. Practical dilemmas:If a challenge doesn’t fit the other two types above, it may be something for which advice is appropriate. Sometimes the challenges that we face in life are “nuts and bolts” issues that we cannot seem to resolve on our own. Sometimes we’re too close to a project or task and we need a second opinion. When we share these kinds of concerns what we most need is a friend with experience or expertise in that area who can enter problem-solving mode with us.

The more aware we are of the kind of challenge we’re facing, the better we can get the kind of help we need when we share. Hopefully these descriptions can help you direct how and with whom you share about particular challenges.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like these other posts about “How Christian Community Helps us Face Challenges.” (Please click the titles below to go to the posts.)

4 Simple Reasons Talking About Hard Stuff Can Enhance Your Life

Essential Traits of a Trustworthy Friend
What an Active Listener Does & Doesn’t Do

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