As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another,
as good stewards of God’s varied grace:
whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God;
whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—
in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.
To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.
1 Peter 4:10-11 ESV
A few days ago, I had one of those afternoons when everything seemed to go wrong. You know: one of those times when you don’t know what one thing precipitated every thing but some thing did? More on that later, though.
His Own Heart Ministries is so glad you’ve joined us for Part 2 of The Chaos Chronicles!
Last week, we ran the first installment of our three-post series on dealing with cultural chaos from a Christ-oriented perspective. We looked specifically at how love, in its most Christ-centered state, creates boundaries that aid in keeping us a safe distance away from the eye of chaos. In other words, we looked at ways the Christ-follower can set said boundaries in a way that allows him or her to function lovingly amidcultural chaos without being consumed by cultural chaos.
We also established the fact that – while the chaos has gotten so exhaustingly out-of-hand, no one system or denomination or group or whatever shoulders the blame. We’re all in this mess together. The great news in today’s otherwise bleak list of current events – at least for followers of Christ – is this: the Holy Spirit gladly equips us with the necessary tools for dealing with even the worst of chaotic messes. You and I just need the knowledge – and a God-given dose of gumption – to use them effectively.
That’s where pursuit of a close personal relationship with Christ comes into play for His followers. And that’s where this week’s post is prayerfully headed. It may help, as you read Part 2, to this of it as a bridge of sorts. From an application standpoint, you really can’t transition from Part 1 to Part 3 without crossing Part 2. If we’re going to beat this chaos thing – and we are going to beat this chaos thing – the love we discussed last week has to morph into the God-given authority we’ll discuss next week. And it can’t morph without the discernment for seeking the wise support system we’re discussing this week.
We serve an all-knowing, all-powerful God who never – never – fails to make His presence know in our lives nor fails to strengthen us for all these chaotic messes; the ones we know about as well as the ones headed our way. One of the most beautiful ways He loves to reveal His presence and minister to us in those times is through the people we know, those with whom we spend our time.
That’s why it’s of dire importance that we carefully monitor and protect our inner circle of friends and colleagues – those Christ-followers often put there by Christ Himself – who know us best and sincerely have our best interests at heart. Those who at times seem to know us better than we know ourselves; those who love us enough as brothers and sisters in Christ to give us the biblical truth we needto hear, even if it’s not the biblical truth we wantto hear.
Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend, developers of the internationally-recognized set of Christ-centered GrowthSkills Workshops, reference the above-mentioned inner circle as an individual’s network of safe people. Further information regarding this organization is available on its website, and while I highly recommend visiting it, I’d like us to focus this week on the following outline. It’s the third section of Cloud and Townsend’s intricately-detailed definition for building one’s own network of people, a network in tune with the presence of Christ as well as becoming such a person oneself.
I encourage you, then, to use their information as a measuring tool of sorts to evaluate the extent to which you are served – and to which you serve – as a source of support in culturally chaotic situations. Please note that I have added scriptural references to underscore the principles discussed.
- What are safe people? [Ecclesiastes 4:9-12]
- They draw us closer to God; draw us closer to others; and help us become the real person God created us to be.
- Dwelling – They have an ability to connect with us.
- Grace – They treat us with unmerited favor. They are on our side…they are “for” us. Grace implies unconditional spiritual love.
- Truth – They care enough to provide honesty to us, to be real with us, and support us as we live out the truth of God.
- Why do we need safe people? Good human relationships are one of the primary ways that God changes our lives and heals us [I Peter 4:10]. He uses:
- The Church as we relate to each other in spiritual activity;
- Fuel that replenishes our spiritual, emotional and physical energy;
- Strength in setting boundaries – the ability to say no to evil, even when this evil comes from hurt people;
- Foundation for aggression – We often think of aggression as something negative. But aggression can be good, helping us achieve our purpose in life. Passive people do not know how to use their God-given aggression to go out and attack life and accomplish the goals that God has put before them;
- Encouragement and support – “Fighting the good fight” is discouraging, and we often need direct encouragement from God and His Word. The encouragement and love of others keeps us going through difficult times. We are never so “spiritual” that we do not need the encouragement that God provides through other people;
- Modeling – God gives us the Body of Christ to parent us and other people to teach and mentor us;
- Healing – One of the major pieces to healing emotional pain is grief. Healing without grief does not happen, and grief without support and new regeneration does not happen either;
- Confrontation and Discipline – We must love enough to confront and tell those we love where they need to change. The areas we usually most need to change are those we are unaware of; those we know, but resist owning; or those we know and openly rebel against. This process of “intervention” can be very painful and conflictual, but it is so important for us to save each other from ultimate spiritual destruction;
- Good deeds or serving others;
- Rooting and Grounding – We need to be connected somewhere, grounded somewhere, in times when everything in life seems to have disappeared. We need to remember that we still have God and godly friends to depend on and that, in those relationships, we can find the grounding and stability that we will need to put it all back together;
- Love (through the collective body of other believers. The church is not a perfectly safe place. The church is not a totally safe place, and it does not consist of only safe people.
- Where are the Safe People? — Idealism versus Reality [Proverbs 12:26]
- Reality as People Find it – In the Body of Christ, we find some harsh realities: judgment, pride, self-centeredness, manipulation, abandonment, abuse, control, perfectionism, domination, and every kind of relational sin known to humankind. To further complicate matters, church by its very nature as a family of God activates our most primitive and dependent longings because we want a perfect family; however, the church can be a healing place, a place where lives are transformed and where powerful love and healing can take place.
- Reality as the Bible Describes it – Our ideals for the church do not reflect biblical reality either. We think that the Bible promises a church where we find only safe people, but the Bible says that the church is full of wolves as well as sheep [Matthew 7:15]. In the church, we will find both tremendous healing and potentially tremendous hurt.
- Wisdom and character – The church is full of safe people, unsafe people, and hurtful lingerers. We have to work to find safe people, using our wisdom, discernment, and character. We gain wisdom and discernment through knowledge and experience. But if our own character problems get in the way of using our knowledge and experience we will make poor choices. We need to make sure that we are facing our own weaknesses inside and dealing with them, becoming people of character who can choose other people of character, with a knowledge of what they look like.
- Learning How to be Safe [Job 16:20-21] – We can take action to become more familiar with the character of people around us. These actions lead us into wisdom and deeper connections with God’s people, which then sustain us for life and growth.
- Learn to ask for help
- When we ask, we develop humility;
- When we ask, we are owning our needs;
- When we ask, we are taking initiative.
- When we ask, we are developing a grateful character.Work through resistances amid chaos. Resistance is our tendency to avoid growth. It’s our drive to keep the spiritual and emotional status quo. It’s our inclination to move away from God’s provisions for our growth. Many of the dynamics which drive us to choose unsafe people and no people are resistances.
- Learn to ask for help
- Identify your resistances
- Bring them into focus.
- Do the opposite of what the resistances tell you to do.
- Give Something Back – There is more to life than being helped. Establishing relationships with people who offer respite from chaos is a reciprocal process.
- Understand the value of what these relationships offer.
- Learn your friends’ “need signals”.
- Ask to help;
- Be there.
- Tell the truth.
While Cloud and Townsend’s information may at times seem technical or tedious, the suggestions posed here as well as in the remainder of their outline is dire to the Christ-follower’s well-being and ability to navigate his or her way through the chaos of life. So I’d like us to end this week’s post with a real-life illustration of that importance.
Which brings us back to the subject of the chaotic afternoon last week when everything seemed to inexplicably go wrong. The what’s, when’s and how’s don’t matter. I’m not even sure I remember them all anyway. What does matter is this: in what felt like the lowest point of my afternoon, my phone signaled an incoming text message.
A friend – I’m not even sure how she became a safe friend, but God brings people together in some of the most seamless ways – this friend was sending a text about a recent magazine article I had written. She complimented it – even went to the trouble to snap and send a photo of it – all in the name of encouraging me to “keep doing what you’re doing.”
It wasn’t so much the compliment that bolstered me; she could’ve just as easily told me a camel could’ve done a better job loping its way the eye of a needle in a Sahara sandstorm and I would’ve heeded her words. She fits the Cloud and Townsend mold that well.
The kicker? This friend had no idea that I had been nervous about reader reception of the article’s content before it was published. I’ve never been the best person at mincing words, and the topic was a bit touchy.
The other kicker? To be honest, I was so exhausted in that moment the text signal came in that I considered waiting awhile to look at my phone.
But Someone prodded me not to wait.
So I didn’t wait.
And I’m glad I didn’t wait.
Because I could have missed God’s gentle touch when I needed it most amid the chaos.
– Copyright 2019, Carole Anne Hallyburton. All rights reserved.