Turmoil. There's a seemingly endless list of potential hardships in this world. The death of loved ones, the loss of a home, the car breaking down, the annoying neighbor, personal attack, a nagging past…
For any person these things can feel like too much. For some of us it feels like a never ending tornado of blow by blow action. The more Christian you become or the deeper your fight to improve the world, the worse the tornado can get. Sometimes such an invasion can go deep enough to drive a person into the loony category.
Where does the turmoil come from?
As I said in my video “Why God Why?”, these things are not brought into our lives by God. Worldly damage comes from another source, one that has vowed to show all of us his anger.
The enemy has had thousands of years to practice a war that each of us has only had, at most, decades to work with. Evil understands the mechanics, chemistry, blind spots, etc, that allows it into any and every place they don’t belong. And they use that collective knowledge to work their way into every corner, every crevice, every covert or overt space on Earth.
You can safely bet, if you’re striving to get to God, whatever space you occupy, whatever roads you travel, whatever you “own”, the Devil and those who’ve been tricked into doing his work will do their best to invade them.
Fortunately there’s a part of us that cannot be decided by others and cannot be invaded. It’s the only space where we can truly regulate our thoughts, feelings and actions, no matter what is going on elsewhere. It’s who we really are… the driver inside the machine… the spirit.
For just about all of us there either have been, are, or will be periods of time when personal peace seems impossible in this world. This is where Christ’s ultimate sacrifice comes in. He overcame this world and its pressures. He spent his life using unique gifts to resist the temptations and influences that get to most humans. Jesus was like the sensor embedded in the machine, gathering information and processing it. And the most beneficial part was that he shared with us the ways we can also get through.
The easy part is that we only have to follow his words and actions. The hard part is making his example into a reality. Fortunately, along with my own that I will share, there are many tricks that can help us with this.
At one point in my Christianity, I used to feel this sort of push-pull effect. Activities like attending church, prayer, being social, etc would help me improve any mood. But then after disengaging, what I had accepted as reality would set back in. I felt like, even though I had this partial spiritual life, most of it belonged to the rest of the world.
Then I read something that helped me change that. Someone wrote about how every moment we spend in worldly practice, like habits, addictions, Earthly activities and the like, is a moment we’re not spending with The Holy Trinity. Around that same time, I heard a friend say “This world is not reality, it’s just the dream we live in.”
I had already been working on flipping everything around, but the two above statements gave me a big push. And in spending much more time in my Christian practice, that practice became my reality and the rest is just the rest. So now I feel the opposite of I used to. I often spend time in the world, but then I come back to the reality of who I am, a member of God’s family. And as quick and fleeting as this life really is, it only makes sense to concentrate on forever and make this world secondary.
Ways to nurture that safe space
As the ways the world can affect us are virtually endless, so are the ways we can counter such effects. Sometimes we have to get specific, countering a blow with a defense. See The art of Calm (on my photography site). But to start we have to have a foundation and that goes back to the words of God and Christ. Those words can be found in the Bible and they do so many things, like:
Bring comfort in darkness. For most of life’s modern tragedies, there were Biblical equivalents. We can actually learn how to cope with today’s hardships by taking examples from thousands of years ago.
Giving us the power of discernment. Knowing how to tell the difference between what’s good and what’s evil, it not only helps us deal with existing turmoil, it helps us avoid upcoming dangers.
As I said in my video Looking Out, an my article Being a Conduit, we don’t really own anything. We don’t have a true ability to decide what resources and actions go where. It means every time we think we’re smart about who gets what, we’re not. Any bit of everything we tend to think is ours, it’s not. That includes our own bodies. That may be tough to hear because the body is a very personal thing, but, as much as we want our things to be ours, the enemy and much of the world will never see it that way.
The possession of stuff is often an arrogant game, definitely one that is highly valued by those who actively, deliberately engage in evil behavior. So as in any battle, when you’re grappling with an opponent over something, letting that thing go may cause some loss, but can also give you a huge advantage. You can detach from the self-inflicted attitude of “mine!” and turn focus toward what really counts, the more long term goals, in this case God and your path to him.
It’s like two angry animals fighting over a bone. The one who lets go can walk away and continue its quest. The one who refused to let go is left snarling and chewing on its prize, sustained by the false satisfaction of being the bigger bully.
Those who are driven by evil act like this constantly. They’re pushed onward by a false sense of control (not understanding that their looming consequences will ultimately gain that control). So as long as you’re engaged in the same way the enemy does it, even if you're trying to fight for the right side, you run the same risks as the opponent on the other side of the bone.
There’s only one reasonable way out… let go. Accept that the flesh you kick around in is not made of materials that you own. The stuff you own is not yours. It's all built from elements that belong to God. It’s all gifted to us. Accept that the battle ground we’re in does not stop at human made property lines or even clothing.
Everywhere on Earth is a danger zone. Our homes, our relationships, or families, even our bodies, they're all subject to attack. We can be affected by mental and physical illness, environmental contaminates, slander, crime and much more. Everything about us is vulnerable save one thing that is truly ours, the soul. And this is the only space you can put a bubble around.
Some of my best ways of plugging leaks where the world and evil seep in are:
I don’t just read the Bible. I use it. By reading it every morning, I get the word of God into my system before the rest of the world tries to claim space in my life. That sets up a barrier, not impenetrable, but highly beneficial. Even more importantly, I read every night just before going to sleep. It never fails and the data is absolute. I sleep worse when I don’t do this. But every single time I close my eyes with the word of God in my head, I sleep much better. And if I wake in the night from whatever used to keep me up for hours, I read the Bible again and it puts me back to sleep. Sometimes I have to try a few times, but it never takes long to work (yes, I've dealt with serious insomnia).
Meditate on the word, “on the word” being the most important part of that statement. Meditating into blank nothingness, yes, it helps bring calm, but it also opens us up to unwanted contact. So I repeat statements that come from the bible the entire time I practice this. One example is “I was Crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Jesus lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loves me and gave himself for me”. I will be writing an article about this practice later.
Meditative exercise. I love to get on an elliptical machine or a treadmill, put on headphones, listen to God-centered music (like this, my playlist), close my eyes and tune my movement to the musical rhythm. Usually it only takes a matter of seconds for the rest of the world to start melting away. It only takes minutes to feel the benefits.
Routine prayer. Every day in the shower I pray, mostly for the benefit of several other people, sometimes for what I need, often to express gratitude to God. I also pray many times throughout the day and night. Any prayer helps, but the more the better.
Follow the words of Christ. I’ve tried all different ways to deal with life’s best and worst. I’ve tried them both the world’s way and by the ways of Jesus. I can tell you from personal experience, the world’s corrupt ways only make everything worse for everyone, even the one using those ways. The examples Christ set; empathy, forgiveness, inclusiveness, etc, those always bring results that are good for everyone.
Avoiding the most common trap, the details
We’re often left concentrating on each, individual blow struck by the world, trying to defend every hit while losing sight of the task of strengthening our own foundation. To evil this distraction is a beautiful and very useful thing.
Trust me on this, this is one of the Devil’s greatest tactics and I’ve seen it work on many people including myself. We can get so entangled in each blow we receive, that we work unimaginable amounts of time on how to counter every singe one. It causes us to lose too much time for building a relationship with God, who happens to be our best defense to begin with. I believe this is one of the many reasons God tells us to leave the vengeance to him.
So cut to the chase. Instead of the endless race of trying to lock down every detail of the fight, just put God first in your life and everything else will fall in line behind that. For all of my own attempts to dodge and resend bullets in the battle, nothing ever worked as well as bringing God to the gunfight, hence the following statement made by Christ:
"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." - John 16:33 (KJV)
Want more? More is gooooood!
Content mentioned above
The art of Calm (article) - Habits you can build to birng more calm into your world (on my art/photography website).
The Bible - What is it and how do I Read? (article) - The Bible is, by God's design, the manual to life.
Being a Conduit (article) - In order to create the systems that run a universe, the one in charge has to have the ultimate view of what pieces fit where.
Putting God first (article) - I fear almost nothing in this life, but definitely for the loss of such a relationship with my little girl.
Looking Out (190 second video) - What is made by God is here as long as he chooses. What is made by humans decays as soon as our hands are removed.
The playlist It's taken us months to put this list together. And while some of it just barely passes, some of it is just plain "Wow!".
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