Confused Christian Communication

Noise fills the air but nothing makes sense. Sometimes we focus on our message and tune out others. At other times we fit their words into our expectation of what they mean. Often we simply wait for them to be quiet so we can continue our message. Just because two people are talking together, it doesn’t mean they are in the same conversation.

I’ve been in arguments where the person insisted that I meant something I did not say. They twisted my words to fit their preconception. I left those arguments.

Spiritual conversations often become confusing because two people are talking but not communicating. Sometimes they assign different meanings to the same words. At other times they ignore what is being said because it doesn’t fit their view of the scripture.

This happened often in the life of Jesus. Consider these conversations from the gospel of John:

  • John 3: Jesus discusses the spiritual birth while Nicodemus is thinking of the impossibility of physical rebirth. In time Nicodemus comes to understand the words of Jesus.
  • John 4: Jesus discusses spiritual nourishment while the woman at the well is focused on her physical needs. Eventually she and Jesus are talking about the same topic.
  • John 6: Jesus teaches the multitude about the bread of life and the crowd is focused on bread for their stomach. Eventually some get frustrated and quit following Jesus.
  • There are numerous instances of the disciples being confused about the sayings of Jesus or focusing on earthly things and worldly power instead of spiritual things. In time they were in the same conversation with Jesus.
  • Ultimately the gospel of John is a conversation taking people from a view that Jesus is a good man and a great teacher to seeing Him as the Son of God and the true light and life for humanity.

Knowing this about human nature, it should not surprise us that we can have confusing conversations. This should encourage us to be more humble and patient with others. If people talking to Jesus had a hard time understanding spiritual things, we will probably have similar challenges.

Evangelism

We should not be easily frustrated when teaching the gospel to someone who has no background with the Bible, Jesus, or spiritual things and they don’t grasp what we are saying. Some people see the truth immediately as it shines bright in the darkness of their ignorance. Others are confused by false teaching and worldliness which clouds their minds which must be un-learned before they can receive the truth. 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 reminds us that the gospel can be covered (veiled) to the lost because of the work of error. Be patient and help the person clear the rubble of confusion and error to uncover the truth.

Relationships with Other Christians

1 Corinthians 2:14-16 tells us that non-Christians will not understand the spiritual things of God immediately and may think it is foolish. New Christians who have immature Bible knowledge will not immediately understand spiritual principles and we must be patient as they grow in understanding. (Ephesians 1:15-18).bigstock-Businessman-42201676

When a church has people who are spiritually minded and some who are focused on worldly things, there will be confusion, division, and strife (1 Corinthians 3:1-4).  Each Christian should strive to grow in knowledge and maturity into the fullness of Christ, Ephesians 4:12-14 to prevent such problems and deal appropriately with those who though ignorance or arrogance are not acting with the mind of Christ.

Personal Growth

We must also be patient with ourselves. As we grow in the knowledge of God and His will, we may struggle with our immature understanding and the truth of God’s word. We must trust God and continue to study and grow. We will not learn everything at once but it creates a lifetime of joy as we “grow in the grace and knowledge” of God’s will. Spend time with God’s word daily even if you don’t always grasp what you are reading. It may be that, like the apostles, woman at the well, and disciples of Jesus, you are missing what God is saying. If you continue the conversation you will eventually understand what is being said.

Regret 5: I Wish I Had Let Myself Be Happier

Several years ago, a former palliative care nurse, Bronnie Ware, wrote a widely circulated article, based on her discussions with dying patients, describing the regrets they shared with her in their final period of life. The top five were featured in an article on her site and she has since turned the article into a book.  Last week the web site addicted2success listed 10 Regrets In Life By Those About To Die. This week I am discussing five of those regrets.

I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have sillyness in their life again. When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

As Ware observed, “happiness is a choice.” This is wisdom that is often overlooked. We cannot control the situations in our life but we can control how we react to them. I wrote another post on how we can find blessings in adversity. We can choose to see the good or bad in our lives but we must remember that it is our judgment of the events and that the events themselves are neutral. A person may lose their job and consider it a bad event but find an even better job so that the event that was initially considered bad (losing the job) became a great blessing. I take comfort that God makes all things work together for the good for His children, Romans 8:28. Even in the time of darkness we can find sunlight and comfort when we realize this work of God in our lives.

Consider the sadness described in Ecclesiastes 6:1-9:

There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind: a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous evil. If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life’s good things, and he also has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. For it comes in vanity and goes in darkness, and in darkness its name is covered. Moreover, it has not seen the sun or known anything, yet it finds rest rather than he. Even though he should live a thousand years twice over, yet enjoy no good—do not all go to the one place? All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied. For what advantage has the wise man over the fool? And what does the poor man have who knows how to conduct himself before the living? Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the appetite: this also is vanity and a striving after wind. (ESV)

There was a sight that depressed Solomon and was a burden for men: people blessed by God who did not enjoy or appreciate what they had. It was considered a great thing to have many children but if one had a hundred children and lived a long life but couldn’t be happy with the simple joys of life, a child who was born dead was better off than him! Some work hard but do not appreciate what they have because they are always wanting more. Some cannot appreciate the wisdom they have and so a poor man who knows what is important, who knows how to live life, is better off than the scholar.

We must learn to be happy and content with what we have instead of constantly wanting more. Such is an empty life. Remember the words of 1 Timothy 6:6-10:

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (ESV)

Happiness for Young People

Remember what we observed earlier from Ecclesiastes 11:9-10:

Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity. (ESV)

Allow yourself to be happy. Don’t worry about what others think of you. If you are pleasing God and not sinning, do what you enjoy. Enjoy the simple things around you: the warmth of the sun on your face, the smell of a cooking meal, the smile of a friend, the hug of a loved one, time spent doing what you enjoy with people you like, and a hundred other things you can list. Ecclesiastes 3:4 says there is a time to laugh and dance. Take the time to be happy.

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Other posts in the Series:
Regret 1: I Sacrificed My Dreams to Please Others
Regret 2: Missed Much by Working Too Much
Regret 3: I Wanted the Courage to Express My Feelings
Regret 4: I Miss My Friends

Regret 4: I Miss My Friends

Several years ago, a former palliative care nurse, Bronnie Ware, wrote a widely circulated article, based on her discussions with dying patients, describing the regrets they shared with her in their final period of life. The top five were featured in an article on her site and she has since turned the article into a book.  Last week the web site addicted2success listed 10 Regrets In Life By Those About To Die. This week I am discussing five of those regrets.

I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships. (Ware)

When I was in middle and high school I thought that my friends would be friends forever. Even in our yearbooks we would write that a person is “too good to be forgotten [2good 2b forgotten]”, remembered always, or that we freindswould be friends forever. Yet, with the exception of some I also went to church with, I have no more close contact. I have been reacquainted with some through Facebook, I am not close to them like I was in school. These were people that I spent years of my life with but we pursued different paths in life and grew away from one another. This is an extremely common experience which should encourage us not to sacrifice our values to impress our friends at school because they will probably have little place in our lives even a few months after we graduate.

Occasionally there are friends that mean so much in our lives. We endure much together and have great memories together. However, circumstances or distance may keep us apart. We are blessed with so much technology to stay in touch so maybe this will not be a regret that people continue to have. Even with the many ways to communicate, we must still make the effort to stay in touch with those that we love so that we may remain an important part of each other’s lives.

Value of Friends

The Bible speaks to the great value of friends. Proverbs tells us that a friend loves at all times (17:17) and that there are friends who are closer than relatives (18:24). According to Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 friends have good reward for the work they do together, can lift up the one who falls, and can protect one another. If one has more than one friends he is blessed with even more strength. Proverbs even encourages us to respect the friends of our parents who can be a strength to us and that friends can be more valuable than family at times, Proverbs 27:10.

Take time today to build up the relationships with your friends. Reach out to a friend you have not talked with in a long time to refresh the love between you. Those who are about to leave the earth regret that they do not have a close relationship with those who meant so much to them. As Ware observed, in the final stages of life you do not take comfort in your possessions, you are comforted with relationships.

Other posts in the Series:
Regret 1: I Sacrificed My Dreams to Please Others
Regret 2: Missed Much by Working Too Much
Regret 3: I Wanted the Courage to Express My Feelings
Regret 5: I Wish I Had Let Myself Be Happier

Regret 3: I Wanted the Courage to Express My Feelings

Several years ago, a former palliative care nurse, Bronnie Ware, wrote a widely circulated article, based on her discussions with dying patients, describing the regrets they shared with her in their final period of life. The top five were featured in an article on her site and she has since turned the article into a book.  Last week the web site addicted2success listed 10 Regrets In Life By Those About To Die. This week I am discussing five of those regrets.

I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result. We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win. (Ware)

 Fear of Feelings

Sometimes we live in fear of how others will react to our feelings and so we hide them instead of sharing them. Sometimes wise to restrain our lips (Proverbs 10:19) and a foolish person lets his annoyance be known at once (Proverbs 12:16). However, there are times when we need to speak up to let our voice be heard and to express our feelings. We may need to express our feelings to protect ourselves from the purposeful or accidental actions of others. Sometimes people are anxious to know what we are really feeling, who we really are, and what we think even if it conflicts with their position.

Feelings are part of what makes us human. Feelings are given to us by God as natural expressions of our inner thoughts and desires. Our feelings must be united with our mind to achieve balance in our lives but we should not consider our feelings wrong or evil. We should not trust our feelings completely but also not deny what they are trying to tell the mind. We must exercise wisdom when we reveal our feelings (Proverbs 13:16) and do so in a way that is productive and helpful (1 Corinthians 8:1). We should not fear what we feel and how others will react.

You Cannot Control the Reaction of Others

An important principle I have taught my children is that you can control what you do but you can’t control how others will react. Someone may react negatively to something you did with a positive intention. You are not responsible for how they react. Likewise, expressing your feelings, your reaction to what they are doing may encourage them to change their behavior so that their actions or words are not destructive or hurtful. You are able to express the respect you expect from others and what behavior you will not tolerate. I have had people start yelling in a discussion and I tell them, “I will leave (or hang up) if you do not change your tone and we will have to talk later but I will not allow you to yell at me.” At times I have had to act on that threat and resume the discussion later but it is necessary to tell others what behavior you will not accept.

Words Unsaid

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It is extremely sad to hear someone standing over the casket or grave of a loved one expressing regret over something they didn’t say. Pride may keep us from saying we’re sorry. Some people have difficulty saying “I love you,” “I appreciate you,” or “Thank you.” Simple words that would mean so much to the people in our lives remain unsaid when we do not have the courage to speak these precious feelings. We do not know when we or our loved ones will die. Having lost a lot of special people in my life when I was young, I learned to tell people what I appreciate about what they do or what they mean in my life. Most of all, let people know that you love them. Right now, someone wants to hear that you love them and appreciate them. It might be that elderly person at church, your grandparents, parents, or a friend who is feeling down. If you have such encouragement to give, why not take the courage to do it? Both you and they will feel better for it. Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 tells us that love and hate perish with us so leave the love behind with others!

A post I shared on Facebook spoke to taking advantage of the opportunities to express love today and it resonated with a lot of people:

There are many places I thought I’d return to or people I’d see again. If I didn’t think I’d see you again I’d have lingered a little longer, hugged a little tighter, and left a little slower. Enjoy the moment, the places, and people. Things change. The journey continues. Make the memories worth reliving.

Other posts in this series:

Regret 1: I Sacrificed My Dreams to Please Others
Regret 2: Missed Much by Working Too Much
Regret 4: I Miss My Friends
Regret 5: I Wish I Had Let Myself Be Happier

Regret 1: I Sacrificed My Dreams to Please Others

Several years ago, a former palliative care nurse, Bronnie Ware, wrote a widely circulated article, based on her discussions with dying patients, describing the regrets they shared with her in their final period of life. The top five were featured in an article on her site and she has since turned the article into a book. Last week the web site addicted2success listed 10 Regrets In Life By Those About To Die. This week I’m discussing five of those regrets.

This week I want to look at each of the regrets and some lessons we can learn from them. I would urge you to read the full length article on her site for additional information.

I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people have had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. (Ware)

Disciples of Christ live a life that follows His teachings and example, reflecting His glory, which includes loving and serving others. Either through guilt or misunderstanding, we can sometimes allow others to have unnecessary influence in our lives or we yield to what they want in our lives instead of what we want. As long as we are following God’s commandments we have great liberty to choose what we will do in life and how we will live. Parents and friends may have ideas on how we should live our lives, where we should live, what career we should pursue, and other matters. We must not forget that our lives were given to us by God and we can make the choices on how to live. Even people who love us dearly may give us terrible or outdated advice.

Career Choices

For example, a young person may say that they want to pursue a particular type of career. Often the reply will be, “You can’t make money doing that” or “You may have a hard time finding a job doing that.” I’ve told young people going into unique careers that older people often respond this way when they don’t know anyone who does that type of job or do not know much about it. In fact, I have heard older people give young people advice to go into a certain career field that was undergoing massive job layoffs! In the past they knew that this kind of job paid well and was stable but their information was outdated. I’m not saying don’t listen to the advice but take it as advice, not the absolute truth. Investigate career paths for yourself. Learn what you have to do to make it succeed and pursue your dream. Perhaps your dream job doesn’t pay a lot but if you can conform your life to live within that pay then you will be successful. There was a career path I would have loved but didn’t pursue it because I listened to the “experts” in my life telling me that it wouldn’t be a good choice. Sadly, I listened to them and gave up something I would have really enjoyed instead of trying to see how I could make it work.

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Sometimes parents will drive their children to live out the dreams they didn’t pursue. A father may have been a good athlete but didn’t play at the college or professional level but pushes his child to do this. The child may want to please his father but does not have the heart for sports that his father did and will be miserable playing. Some people, following the dreams of their parents, pursue careers as accountants, lawyers, business owners, or other high profile jobs and are miserable in those jobs because they wanted another career path. If you are in this situation, discuss your dreams with your parents, be prepared to deal with the objections mentioned in the last paragraph, and share the career path you want to pursue.

Personal Dreams

Sometimes we do not fulfill our dreams because we are so busy trying to please others. We can help other people carry their burdens but each of us has the responsibility to carry their own burdens, Galatians 6:1-5.  Some people will let you carry all of their burdens: do their work, make lots of demands on your time, etc. They might try to make you feel guilty for not doing more but remember they are responsible for their own lives. Many years ago I spent several hours at the house of a husband and wife with marital problems AND problems raising their kids. I gave them some practical things to do to help in both situations. A couple of weeks later they called during the middle of some family time saying, “You need to come over here. We’re having problems.” I asked if they had followed the advice I gave earlier. They said “no.” I told them to discuss these things because I wasn’t going to come over repeat the advice they ignored. I didn’t feel guilty because they had ignored my help before. I would have sacrificed precious time with my family because these people were making poor decisions in their family and until they made different choices they would continue to have the bad consequences.

Your dreams may include time writing, drawing, performing music, gardening, sports, etc. but you are denying enjoying those dreams because of the demands others are putting on you. You need to feel confident telling people “no” so you can tell yourself “yes” to enjoy this life. This is a life in balance that serves and honor others but also honors yourself and your dreams. A quote attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes (and Benjamin Disreli…but I think it is Holmes) says, “Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out.” You do not know how long you have to live, enjoy today. Serve God, serve others, enjoy life yourself.

The Will of God: Pursue Your Dreams

Perhaps you think that wanting to fulfill your dreams is selfish and you must always do things to please others. A comedian once asked, “If we are to serve others, what are the ‘others’ supposed to do?” It is not selfish to pursue the desires of your heart, but it is the will of God. Consider this wisdom from Ecclesiastes 11:9-10:

Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity. (ESV)

The inspired wisdom of Solomon encourages the young to pursue what is in his/her heart as long as they are not sinning in pursuing it. If the ways of our heart and what we desire with our eyes is not evil, God says to enjoy it, not to stress about it, and to pursue it while we have the health to do it. In the next chapter he says we are to “fear God and keep His commandments,” reminding us that our desires must be good.

God has blessed you with special characteristics and gifts and you are unique of all people who have ever been made. Follow your dreams and glorify God in your life. Some will rejoice in the life you have chosen and some will never understand. One lesson you must learn early is that anything worth pursuing will have its critics, in achievements you will have people who are jealous, and some will never understand. Let them misunderstand and be critical: you do not have to please them. Ultimately you only have to please God and the person in the mirror.

Do you have regrets for dreams you didn’t pursue or success stories where you pursued your dream even when others could understand? Share those stories or other observations in the comments!

Other Posts in this series:

Regret 2: Missed Much By Working Too Much
Regret 3: I Wanted the Courage to Express My Feelings
Regret 4: I Miss My Friends
Regret 5: I Wish I Had Let Myself Be Happier