The fear of growing older is known as gerascophobia. In December of 2016, a YouTuber named Sarah who is currently twenty-nine years old and has over 400,000 subscribers, published a video on the platform with the title “My Extreme Fear of Aging.”
In it, she discusses how gerascophobia has impacted her life, such as how she rarely leaves the house, how she worries about her body getting weaker, and how she received a gallon of sunscreen for her birthday to stave off the appearance of wrinkles.
There were 759 comments left on the video by people in their twenties and thirties who shared the sentiment that they were terrified of getting older. One of the comments says, “The day I turned twenty-seven, I had to leave work early because I couldn’t stop crying about getting older.”
The fear of getting old is old itself.
In a 1979 experiment in New Hampshire, psychologist Ellen Langer of Harvard University put a group of senior citizens in a kind of time machine that was set in 1959. The time machine was a renovated old monastery that was furnished with items from 1959, including books and newspapers from that year, a vintage radio, and black and white television. The volunteers were told to act as if they actually lived in 1959, not just enjoy the setting and the items there.
The purpose of the experiment was to determine whether their perception of their physical health and youthfulness (as in 1959) would have any physiological effects on their bodies. Langer and her students met with the men every day to discuss topics and themes pertinent to that era to accomplish this. The psychologist noticed that the volunteers’ memory, vision, hearing, and even physical strength had improved after a week of testing total immersion in the past.
Participants in the control group, on the other hand, continued to exhibit the same traits as at the start of the research because they were not required to behave as though it were 1959. We can infer from Langer’s experiment that how we feel has a significant impact on how we age.
The fear of getting older is not something novel, but it does seem to be increasing in intensity preoccupation for younger people in today’s society. According to a report that was published in 2018 by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), millennials are the generation that has the most negative attitude toward getting older. Many millennials see getting older as a steep decline and assume that dementia and loneliness were unavoidable consequences of getting older.
Vanity, phobia, or rational fear?
As a part of the report, the RSPH also called for an end to the use of the term “anti-aging” within the beauty industry, noting that it could be putting pressure on women to view aging as something that needs to be resisted. This call was included in the report. Even more alarming, a study conducted in 2017 found that thirty percent of women under the age of thirty-five regularly used anti-wrinkle products.
Sarah’s concern about getting older is not so much about how she will look as it is about whether or not she will have lived her life to the fullest. “It is unavoidable that everything in my environment will alter at some point, and I worry that I will not be ready for it. My parents will pass away, and I may lose relationships as well as friendships.”
“Even thinking about the possibility that I won’t be able to cope with the passing of my cat gives me anxiety, let alone the prospect of losing my own life. Will the sacrifices I make in my life ultimately be worthwhile in the end? Will people’s lives have been improved as a result of my actions? Have I been able to accomplish everything I set out to do?
The comparative nature of social media platforms, which many of us feel adds to the ongoing pressure we feel to have completed everything by a certain age, does not help. According to the research conducted by the non-profit organization Flawless, sixty percent of young adults believe that social media is to blame for their irrational fears regarding growing older.
“In my experience, people who are concerned about getting older generally feel dissatisfied with how far they have gotten so far in life,” Dr. Rose Aghdami, a consulting and coaching psychologist, says. “They feel like they haven’t accomplished as much as they had hoped to by this point. This is a very personal choice. Everyone will use their own internal barometer to determine whether or not they believe they are succeeding.”
According to Dr. Aghdami, “Social media offers a daily potential for comparing oneself with others, and I believe this can have a negative impact for some people, increasing self-criticism and self-doubt, concerns about time running out, and a feeling that one is inadequate.”
Over time, Sarah has developed the perspective that the archiving of our lives by social media can be viewed in a positive light. “I am able to see how much time has passed, and while that can, of course, send me into a downward spiral, if I compare myself to where I was just two years ago, it is also a reminder of how much can actually happen in that timeframe.” The passage of time seems to quicken with each passing year, which can feel terrifying. On the other hand, a great deal can be achieved in the space of a single year.
Most of us are concerned about getting older. But worrying about getting older becomes a diagnosable condition called gerascophobia only when it begins to have a significant negative impact on one’s health.
People who suffer from gerascophobia have very frequent thoughts about how they will look different because of aging and how they will gradually lose control over their life as they get older. “These thoughts cause panic attacks, which are characterized by shortness of breath, excessive sweating, and trembling,” explains Dr. Aghdami. “Their behavior is also affected because they frequently avoid certain activities that remind them of getting older. Additionally, they withdraw from social contact and become more isolated.”
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which helps individuals retrain their thinking about aging, is an effective treatment for gerascophobia. Take a deep breath and try not to worry so much about the passage of time just because you are getting closer to a significant birthday such as your thirtieth. It won’t be a problem at all.
Because of the internet, everything seems to be moving at a faster pace. It can feel as though we are never truly present in any given moment, but rather are always hurtling toward some catastrophic event. As a culture, we need to be less condescending about getting older and have more open conversations about all aspects of getting older, including the many benefits that come along with it.
Sarah has finally come to terms with the fact that she is getting older and considers it to be a blessing in many respects. “My thirtieth birthday is coming up in one month, and I literally could not be more excited about it at this point. Even though I’m already one-third of the way through my life, I still have the opportunity to make the time that I have left meaningful. This fear may have dominated the majority of my twenties.”
Are you struggling with gerascophobia?
If gerascophobia or the fear of dying is interfering with your quality of life, don’t hesitate to reach out for help from a qualified Christian counselor. There may be other issues underlying your fears of aging, and your counselor can help you uncover them and deal with them.
“Working”, Courtesy of TheStandingDesk, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Elderly”, Courtesy of Getty Images, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License; “Hike”, Courtesy of sk, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Tubing”, Courtesy of Sandra Seitamaa, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License
We’ve all had those days when things don’t go our way. Anger is a common enough reaction in those situations where our expectations are disappointed, our intentions are frustrated, we feel like we’re under threat, or we find ourselves with our backs against the wall.
Bible Verses About Anger
Anger has its uses, but it’s also a powerful emotion that can cause untold damage. In that way, anger is a little like fire, in that it can be used to keep you warm on a cold night or to cook up some steaks, but it can also burn down a house or cause life-threatening injury if it isn’t handled well.
Is It Wrong to Get Angry?
Negative experiences with anger can make one leery, just as getting burned will make one cautious around an open flame. If you had a parent or another loved one that said or did harmful things to themselves or others when they were angry, or if you are that way, then you can understand why it’s risky to trust your anger or to automatically see it as a positive thing.
This is especially so for Christian believers because of the many warnings in the Bible about anger. And so, the first important question to ask is whether it is always wrong to get angry, or if there is more nuance to the situation.
Certainly, the Bible does say that anger is wrong under certain conditions. It can be unjustified, uncontrolled, or simply unrighteous, and that is when it becomes problematic.
Whether its Cain becoming “very angry” (Genesis 4:5, NIV) because God didn’t look with favor on his sacrifice, leading him to murder his brother Abel, or Jonah saying, “I’m so angry I wish I were dead” (Jonah 4:9, NIV) because the Lord showed grace and had mercy on Jonah’s enemies, we see how when uncontrolled, it can be deeply problematic.
In the two examples given here, anger is wrong because it is for the wrong reasons, and leads both Jonah and Cain into sinful behavior and attitudes toward others. Instead of the compassion and right behavior that God desires from people, anger can lead us into callous behavior and hatred toward others.
James writes, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-21)
It can also be sinful if it is allowed to linger and begins to undermine the integrity of relationships between people. The apostle Paul spoke to this, writing “‘In your anger do not sin.’ Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26)
Unresolved anger sits at the root of resentment, which destroys relationships from the inside out. Instead of using our speech to build others up and to work toward their good, anger would have us hold a grudge and act in ways that undermine the well-being and flourishing of its object.
The book of Proverbs contains many observations about human life, and how certain actions and attitudes tend to result in particular outcomes. Anger is part of human existence, so it’s not surprising that the book of Proverbs touches on it. One passage reads, “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.” (Proverbs 29:11)
Being a “fool” in Proverbs is not just about not thinking through the consequences of your actions; the “fool” is a person who doesn’t know God and isn’t living well in light of the reality of who God is. Giving full vent to rage is foolish because of how it damages relationships, and this is contrasted with the wise person who brings harmony into situations and relationships.
Another gem from the book of Proverbs reads, “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly” (Proverbs 14:29, ESV).
The writer and poet Ambrose Bierce never spoke truer than when he said, “Speak when you are angry, and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” Anger can overwhelm our ability to control what comes out of our mouths, and that’s why it pays to be calm so that your rational faculties remain in charge of your responses when aggravating circumstances arise.
This isn’t the whole story, though. We encounter many other references to anger in the Bible where it is not cast in a negative light. Even in the Ephesians passage quoted above, there’s a nuanced and important distinction made between getting angry and sinning.
So, on the one hand, being angry and sinning aren’t necessarily the same thing, because the emotion and the actions it inspires are separated by the decision to follow through on the anger in an ungodly way. On the other hand, anger can itself be appropriate and godly, or the response of a prideful and foolish heart.
Sometimes the Bible speaks of righteous anger, and this is the kind that God displays. For instance, Jesus gets angry at the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and unwillingness to admit the truth; they would ratherremain silent than acknowledge the truth and thereby lift burdens off the shoulders of others.
We read, “He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored” (Mark 3:5, NIV). In the Psalms, we encounter many passages like this one: “God is a righteous judge, a God who displays his wrath every day” (Psalm 7:11, NIV).
How Can You Deal Effectively With Anger?
To handle anger, it’s helpful to acknowledge that it can be problematic and prevent us from receiving the best that God has for us. Without this acknowledgment, we wouldn’t think there’s an issue that requires attention. Uncontrolled anger is a serious problem, and it can speak to one’s character if anger is left to run riot.
Without self-control, a person is like a “city whose walls are broken through” (Proverbs 25:28, NIV). The healthy perspective to adopt is that losing your temper isn’t a sign of strength, but weakness. The Bible reminds us that “Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32).
The appropriate response to the recognition that our anger is out of control is to confess it as a sin before the Lord and to make things right with those that have been hurt by it. We don’t do ourselves or others any favors by pretending there is no problem, by shifting the blame for our behavior onto others, or by minimizing it. It’s also important to deal with anger by addressing its root causes as early as possible.
One of the causes of anger is injustice or poor treatment by others. How are we to deal with such treatment? On the one hand, speaking truthfully and boldly about the harm others have caused us may allow us to set clear boundaries and express that anger effectively.
However, sometimes it’s best just to let our anger drain away and overlook other people’s offenses. As Proverbs 19:11 teaches us, “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”
Whether we choose to confront or overlook someone’s sin against us, another part of our response should always be to allow God’s wrath to deal with people on our behalf. Psalms 37: 8 (NIV) urges us to “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret – it leads only to evil.”
Dwelling on what others have done to us will usually serve to stoke the fires of our outrage, and that usually doesn’t end well. Rather than giving in to our own wrath which can be tainted by selfish interest and pride, the Bible reminds us to not play God and leave room for God’s wrath (Romans 12:14-21).
Instead of paying others back, we can deal with anger by returning blessings for curses, as the passage in Romans 12 above urges us to do. This is only possible if God has so transformed our hearts that we trust that God will do what is right. We must truly believe that God will ultimately triumph over displays of power and arrogance through the cross of Christ.
Sometimes, the best way to deal with anger is to walk away when you start to feel the heat. There’s nothing wrong with leaving the room if you feel yourself getting angry. Excuse yourself, then take a few deep breaths.
“Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out” (Proverbs 17:14).
Counseling for Problems With Anger
Aside from the fact that anger may be sinful, the problem with anger is that it can break down communication and tear apart relationships. We ought to take responsibility for our anger, and thankfully there are various ways to handle the anger that are pleasing to God. Apart from the Bible verses about anger and principles suggested above, one way to begin dealing with anger is through Christian counseling for anger management.
Anger is a multifaceted emotion, and it will often have physiological and spiritual dimensions. One’s anger is often rooted in pride or poor self-discipline, but it can also be a symptom of depression or dementia. A mental health professional will help you understand the root of your anger and begin walking with you as you deal with it.
In counseling, you can learn several things, including:
Being accountable for your actions and learning how to control your temper and overcome unhealthy anger.
How to handle anger better by learning how to communicate honestly, attacking the issue and not the other person. You can also learn how to deal with issues sooner than later so that they don’t escalate beyond control, and by learning to listen well so that you’re acting and not simply reacting in an ungodly way.
How to set and maintain healthy boundaries so that you aren’t taken advantage of by others
If you struggle with anger, and if you’ve damaged relationships and your health due to anger, know that there’s help available to overcome that anger and begin living out of God’s peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). Reach out today and make an appointment with a counselor who focuses on anger management to begin letting go of anger. Your counselor will partner and walk alongside you on this journey.
“Woodworking Tools”, Courtesy of Barn Images, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hand Tools”, Courtesy of Louis Hansel, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Cordless in Holster”, Courtesy of James Kovin, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Grinding”, Courtesy of Christopher Burns, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
Death is a reality that we all must face, in our lives or the lives of our loved ones. The feelings of anger, confusion, anxiety, and grief that death engenders can be overwhelming, and so we need a place to stand as we work through them. Whether you’re reflecting on death, wanting encouragement as you deal with the loss of a loved one, or are looking for words of encouragement for someone who’s lost a loved one, turning to Bible verses about death can give us much-needed perspective.
Bible Verses about Death
Grief is an appropriate response to death
As much as death is a fixture of our lives, it is also an intruder in God’s creation. We rightly feel that death takes something precious from us. Grief is the right response to death, whatever shape that grief takes. Within the Christian community, we aren’t meant to grieve by ourselves; our community is meant to come alongside and grieve with us.
If you’re wondering whether it’s appropriate to grieve with someone even though you aren’t the one who’s lost someone, it is. We may not know the person who died, but we know the ache, fear, confusion, and jumble of emotions that death brings. Standing with others in solidarity is how it’s meant to be. The following verses speak to grief as an appropriate response to death and call us to walk with others who are grieving.
Jesus wept. – John 11:35
Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. – Romans 12:15
The last enemy to be destroyed is death. –1 Corinthians 15:26
God desires to rescue us from death
Death entered the world because of what our first parents Adam and Eve did. We, their children, are caught up in the vortex of the consequences of their actions. Though all of us now die, God intervened to give us life and rescue us from death and separation from him. Jesus’ mission was to bring light and life to us in abundance and to make a way for us to be rescued from death.
…it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment”. God’s desire is to rescue us from death and final judgment, and he calls us to believe, as some of the verses below indicate. – Hebrews 9:27
The people who lived in the dark have seen a great light, and a light has come upon those who lived in the region and in the shadow of death. – Matthew 4:16
I assure you that whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and won’t come under judgment but has passed from death into life. – John 5:24
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” – John 11:25-26
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him. – John 3:16-17
Because of our God’s deep compassion, the dawn from heaven will break upon us, to give light to those who are sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide us on the path of peace. – Luke 1:78-79
But now that you have been set free from sin and become slaves to God, you have the consequence of a holy life, and the outcome is eternal life. The wages that sin pays are death, but God’s gift is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:22-23
But if we died with Christ, we have faith that we will also live with him. We know that Christ has been raised from the dead and he will never die again. Death no longer has power over him. He died to sin once and for all with his death, but he lives for God with his life. – Romans 6:8-10
I assure you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. – John 6:47-48
As for you, what you heard from the beginning must remain in you. If what you heard from the beginning remains in you, you will also remain in relationship to the Son and in the Father. This is the promise that he himself gave us: eternal life. – 1 John 2:24-25
Death won’t have the last say
Is there more to life and death than what we see? Human beings have long speculated whether there is life after death, and what that existence looks like.
Jesus’ resurrection, and the hope of eternal life that is held out for us, demonstrated that there is a new kind of life that awaits God’s people in the new world God is bringing to pass. Our physical bodies will be renewed and raised to new life.
When that will happen, and what that looks like are questions others have also asked, and we have some answers from the Bible. The Bible makes it clear that even though death is an enemy and a reality we all must face, in Jesus, people can have confidence that death won’t have the final say in God’s creation. The following verses draw us to look forward in hope that death isn’t the last word.
If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to God. – Romans 14:8
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. – Romans 6:5
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. – Psalm 23:4
In Jerusalem, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world. It will be a delicious banquet with clear, well-aged wine and choice meat. There he will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mockery against his land and people. The Lord has spoken! – Isaiah 25:6-8
For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. – 1 Corinthians 15:53-58
My sheep listen to my voice. I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life. They will never die, and no one will snatch them from my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them from my Father’s hand. – John 10:27-29
I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created. – Romans 8:38-39
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. – Revelation 21:4
I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! – Job 19:25-27
If you’re dealing with the loss of a loved one, you don’t have to do so alone. Others have experienced loss, and though everyone’s journey with grief takes a unique shape, there is value in leaning on and learning from them.
There are groups that meet weekly and are led by trained therapists; these focus on a variety of concerns, including grief and loss. Consider group therapy, or if you want to work through your grief on an individual basis, one-on-one therapy with your therapist is also an option you should pursue.
“Hand Beneath the Veil”, Courtesy of Ellery Sterling, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Holding the Bible”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Open Bible”, Courtesy of Aaron Burden, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “The Pages of Holy Writ”, Courtesy of Timothy Eberly, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
Most of us need a little practice to get good at something. To get that batting average up, perfect that smoky-eyed look, lay brick evenly, or run that perfect mile, you need to work at it a bit until you get better. What applies to our day-to-day work and pay endeavors also applies to our spiritual lives as well. To develop spiritually and become the people God intends for us to be takes a bit of elbow grease. You’re not going to know what the Bible says without picking it up and reading it for yourself. You won’t understand how prayer works from the outside, without doing the work of praying for yourself and others. You won’t know how generosity works unless and until you practice and receive it in your own life. Our spiritual gifts need to be developed in the same way our muscles need to be developed, through practice, trial and error, and growth over time as you consistently apply yourself to the task.
What are “spiritual gifts”?
When we talk about spiritual gifts, what exactly do we mean? “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change,” as James reminds us (James 1:17 ESV). Everything good that we have in our lives comes from God. So, things such as our ability to work, be creative, and produce wealth all come from God.
Our children, light, laughter, and everything else that we have come from God. People may not acknowledge where these gifts come from or use them as God intended, but that doesn’t alter the reality. Recognizing it, though, can bring immense freedom and flourishing for ourselves and other people.
Spiritual gifts, however, point to something more specific. Though all gifts come from God and are in some way “spiritual.” When the Bible talks about spiritual gifts, it is speaking about gifts that are given by God for the specific purpose ofbuilding up the Church. Each person who places their trust in Jesus is given a gift by the Holy Spirit “for the common good.”
As Paul reminds believers, we are all like the different parts of the body, but they all work together for the sake of the body’s flourishing (1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4). Spiritual gifts are the gifts that God gives people who trust in Jesus for the sake of the broader community of believers. These gifts come from God, they are for believers, and the individual believer is meant to use them in service of others within the community of believers and beyond.
Different kinds of spiritual gifts
One point to make about these spiritual gifts is that there are different kinds. In some communities, certain gifts are emphasized over others, but the idea is that each gift has been given for a purpose and each contributes to the flourishing of the community of believers. In the community in the city of Corinth, the believers were making two main mistakes when it came to spiritual gifts.
The first mistake they made was in emphasizing certain gifts over others, to the extent that some were choosing to abandon their own gifts to pursue the ones held in high esteem in the community. Paul had to remind them that just as a body couldn’t just be an ear, because it needs a sense of smell and sight, so the community of God’s people can’t be built up using just one gift, as important as that gift may seem.
So instead of trying to get and use someone else’s gift, they should rejoice in and use the gift they were given. And instead of thinking themselves important, they should recognize that all gifts have their place in the community, including those we might not esteem. As Paul puts it, the parts that seem less honorable may be indispensable. You don’t realize the value of a colon or a kidney until it starts acting up.
The second mistake the believers at Corinth made was that they assumed that their gifts were given for them, and it was causing a lot of friction in the community as they jockeyed for position and used their gifts to promote themselves. Instead of serving the community, they were using their gifts to advance their own agenda and status in the community. This caused divisions, pride, and dysfunction.
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, from speaking words of wisdom or knowledge to gifts of healing, the ability to distinguish between spirits, prophecy, tongues, the interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians 12), teaching, service, encouragement, generosity, leadership, acts of mercy, and so on (Romans 12).
As you can see from this list, some of these spiritual gifts aren’t necessarily something you can’t find outside the community of God’s people. However, the gifts are given by the Spirit and intended to be used for the community.
Every believer has gifts – find yours
Each believer in Jesus has a spiritual gift, and the key to developing your own is in discovering, valuing, and using it. What brings you joy and energizes you when you’re serving in the community of God’s people? That is often a good indicator of the type of gift the Spirit has bestowed upon you.
What are the areas of excellence in your service? Those things that you are good at also point you toward what your gifts are. You can find out what your gifts are by doing an internal inventory of yourself through journaling or making use of spiritual gift surveys. Beyond that, you can speak with the people in your community and have them discern with you what your gifts are.
Remember, these gifts are meant to be used within a community, and it is that community that can help you see clearly what your gifts are. Individuals such as a life coach or therapist that uses a Christian framework as part of their process can also assist you in identifying your spiritual gifts. As every believer has a gift, it’s a matter of patient discernment that will help them to find their gift.
Growing by doing
The believers in Rome were reminded, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:6-8 ESV).
If you’ve identified your gifts, the way to develop them is by using them. Spiritual gifts are meant to be used in the service of others in the community of God’s people so that the community is strengthened.
So, as you exercise your spiritual gifts, remember three things: the primary place where these gifts are meant to be used is within the community of God’s people; the purpose of these gifts is to build up the community of God’s people; the attitude with which we use our gifts is with humility and assurance.
Humility, because we are meant to serve others with our gifts without lording it over them or using them to gain a position for ourselves, and assurance that whatever our gift, it is essential to the community, and that’s true even if the community doesn’t honor that gift.
When we remember the place, purpose, and perspective with which we use our gifts, that positions us to use them for their maximum potential and in line with what God intended for those gifts. That brings glorious freedom with it. Like finding the right equipment in the gym to work a particular muscle, the only way to develop your spiritual gifts is by using them in the way, place, and for the purpose for which they were intended.
“Gift”, courtesy of Antonio Janeski, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Gifts”, Courtesy of Simona Sergi, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Gift”, Courtesy of Freestocks, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Gift”, Courtesy of Y Tink, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
A lot of things in life are good for us, but they require a bit of work for us to attain them. That hard work shouldn’t be a barrier to us attaining those things. It’s simply part of the process that makes accomplishing those goals that much sweeter a victory. One of the things that are good for us that we still struggle to do is working out.
For some, we just can’t get started – we don’t know how. For others, you may have started but hit a barrier of some kind – you got injured and just haven’t gotten your groove back, or you hit tough times and couldn’t renew your gym membership, or you moved and couldn’t find a new community to come alongside you, or it just got tough, and you couldn’t push through.
Whatever the reason, working out can be difficult. However, the benefits of working out still vastly outweigh choosing not to, so it’s important to remind ourselves what we gain if we choose to work out, and what we’re missing if we decide not to.
Below are a few benefits of working out. Hopefully, seeing them listed will motivate you to try one more time, to set that alarm for an early start, and keep going.
Emotional benefits of working out
Exercise lifts your mood. One of the main benefits of working out can be reaped in how it makes you feel better. When you exercise, your body releases several neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are the chemicals through which messages are sent by your brain to other parts of your body.
Endorphins are one type of neurotransmitter released during exercise, and they aid in the relief of stress and pain. Other neurotransmitters that are released during exercise are serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These ‘feel-good’ neurochemicals are like a natural high that helps to lift your mood.
Mental benefits of working out
A positive impact on conditions such as anxiety and depression. Due to the brain chemicals that are released during physical activity, exercise can assist in stimulating parts of your brain that aren’t responsive when you’re experiencing a condition like depression. By boosting levels of brain chemicals like serotonin, your appetite may be improved, along with your sleep cycle.
Exercise can thus help with the relief of some symptoms of depression. Additionally, anxiety adds stress to your body with elevated levels of adrenaline which can damage your health. Exercise helps to balance out the levels of stress hormones to reduce the impact of anxiety on your body and mind.
Physical benefits of working out
Reduces stress. Stress harms our bodies. Too much cortisol, the stress hormone, in your body can disrupt most of your body’s processes, leading to sleep problems, an increased risk of weight gain, and anxiety. Exercise helps to reduce the amount of cortisol your body is producing and increase the production of neurotransmitters that elevate your mood.
Makes you feel good, energetic. As we pointed out earlier, exercise leads to the release of ‘feel-good’ neurochemicals that elevate your mood. This ‘runner’s high’ also helps to make you feel energized.
Keeps you fit. One of the more obvious benefits of working out is that it can keep you physically fit and able to use your body in ways that improve your sense of well-being and ability to participate in life. If you’re older, working out enables you to do things like play with your kids or grandkids.
At a certain point, doing ‘simple’ things like bending over or crouching down start to feel like Olympian feats. Exercise can help to reduce cramping and joint pain, and it helps to keep you flexible, strengthening your muscles and making physical activity a little easier.
Helps your overall health. Exercise helps many of your overall health outcomes. It can reduce the risks of developing issues later in life such as heart disease. Physical activity strengthens your heart muscle, and it can help you to keep your weight under control.
It can help reduce high blood sugar and high blood pressure which can result in conditions such as a stroke or heart attack, and it can keep artery damage from high cholesterol at bay. Doing resistance training, such as lifting weights or using resistance bands in combination with aerobic exercise can help to lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol.
Social benefits of working out
In addition to the mental, emotional, and physical benefits of exercise, there are social benefits too. Humans are social animals. We were made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), and that means we thrive best in relationships with others because God is relational. If we feel healthier, are in a good mood, and can participate more in activities with others, that can afford us more opportunities to connect with other people.
Also, being in shape can help boost your social confidence, which can allow you to be more outgoing and willing to socialize with other people. If you choose to work out using a team sport such as playing tennis, touch football, or frisbee, that allows you to socialize and create relationships with others. Other forms of exercise such as walking, cycling, running, or jumping rope can also be great ways to meet and connect with people.
There are many benefits to working out, some of which we may not have mentioned here. If it’s been a while since you worked out seriously, one of the first things to do is see and talk with your doctor about what you can do. Not all forms of exercise will work for you because of past injuries or other limitations.
While aerobic exercise of about thirty minutes each day for five days a week will work well for most people to improve their circulation, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, and improve overall heart health, it may not be for everyone.
Or in your specific case, some forms of exercise such as swimming may work better than running because of the pressure running exerts on your joints. Whatever the situation, talking with your doctor will give you a clearer picture of what exercises will be best suited to you.
For those with limitations from their doctors, and for those without, it’s important to find what you love within the options available to you. One of the main challenges to working out is that it can be hard. If you don’t like the sort of exercise you’ve decided upon, you may be making it unnecessarily hard on yourself.
Exercise can be hard, but it can also be fun. Find what works for you, not what’s popular or what you feel compelled to do because it’s what you know. Feel free to explore and try new things. When you do, get started. You only get the benefits of working out if you’re doing it.
Even a minor change will go a long way. You can start small and work your way toward your goals. So instead of working out five days a week for the full thirty minutes, you can start with a couple of days and work your way up. The important thing is to get going and to keep going.
Lastly, you can start working out on your own, of course, but it’s important to find a community that shares your same love and to help keep you accountable. If you find other people that love the type of workout you’re into, that helps to keep you motivated.
The remarkable thing about living in our time is that we are so well connected to other people through apps and online forums. Whatever you’re into, from spelunking to brisk walking, other people in the world are just as much into it who are willing to share stories, tips, and encouragement.
“Jogger”, Courtesy of Alex McCarthy, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Stretching”, Courtesy of Scott Broome, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Resting”, Courtesy of Evan Krause, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Workout”, Courtesy of Karsten Winegeart, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
There are very few sure things in this world. Much that offers us promise disappoints when we need it most, leaving us high and dry. We are imperfect beings living in an imperfect world, and that produces a lot of heartache. We are responsible for some of that heartache if we are honest with ourselves.
We are aware that none of us is perfect. When that reality hits us, and we are confronted by it, we have the choice to pick up where we left off and try to do better, or we can give up on making the world and our lives a little bit better.
As we ponder our imperfections and shortcomings, it is important to keep our eyes and hearts on God’s forgiveness. While making us aware that we have not arrived, that we are not the people we are meant to be, God’s forgiveness empowers us rather than leaving us feeling paralyzed. It matters to know what God’s forgiveness means to us and how that can transform our lives.
God’s open arms
One of the most powerful stories Jesus told is the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. This son, who demanded his inheritance from his father and then squandered it, brought shame upon himself and his family. Having become poor to the point of eating pig feed, he nonetheless plucked up courage and decided to go home, planning to beg for forgiveness and work for his father as a servant.
As a mostly westernized audience, we here in the United States often miss what’s going on here. The son had well and truly cut himself off from his family, showing arrogant disregard for his father, and there was no way his father could accept him back – it would be too shameful within that community.
The best he could hope for was to become a servant. The father, however, ran to him with open arms (casting aside any sense of decorum in doing so), and welcomed his son home, ordering servants to dress him appropriately as a son and to begin a feast in his honor.
The father in this story represents God, and Jesus told the story to let us know how abundant God’s forgiveness and grace are. The son is welcomed home, despite everything he had done. God comes to us with open arms, willing to forgive us and embrace us, to set a feast to welcome home a child who was lost and thought dead, but who now has been found.
Nothing unforgivable before God
The context of the story of the lost son is that people were grumbling against Jesus for eating with tax collectors and sinners. These were people that were considered disreputable and the lowest of the low. Why was Jesus, the holy teacher, eating with them? Jesus was showing them how God welcomes all people, and that there is nothing unforgivable before God.
Human beings may struggle to forgive certain things, but God is willing and able to forgive all things. In Psalm 51, David asks the Lord to forgive him for having committed adultery and then killing the woman’s (Bathsheba’s) husband to cover up his sin. This grievous sin is forgiven. We encounter people caught in adultery (John 8), thieving tax collectors (Luke 19), and many other people whom God forgives.
In Jesus, God can forgive us without being unjust. On the cross, Jesus took the sin of His people upon himself, dying to pay the penalty of our sins. If we trust in Jesus, all our sins are placed upon him and dealt with, and he gives us his righteousness. Nothing is unforgivable because Jesus took every sin upon himself. All God asks us to do is to trust that what Jesus did for us and on our behalf is enough.
No one is beyond God’s forgiveness
Just as there is nothing unforgivable, there is no one who is beyond God’s forgiveness. We often create any number of barriers in our relationships with others. We accept some people and reject others. This may be because they belong to the “wrong” race, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic bracket, etc. We reject them and build roadblocks and walls between ourselves and them.
God, on the other hand, is about building bridges and breaking down walls. “For he (Jesus) himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility” (Ephesians 2:14-16).
No one is kept out of God’s new humanity – the divisions that kept us apart, the “dividing wall of hostility” has been demolished. All are welcome in God’s kingdom; all can be forgiven. Another famous verse says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). If you are part of ‘the world’ then this Scripture is also for you.
Even as God’s people, we don’t automatically stop sinning. God’s forgiveness remains open to us. The generosity shown us at the first continues to be available to us. He simply calls on us to own our mistakes and ask to be forgiven. 1 John 1:8-9 says “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
When God forgives us, He cleanses us from our sin. He does not hold it against us, and we do not have to wallow in our past mistakes. “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:11-12).
Once forgiven, our transgressions are removed from us; they don’t stick to us, and we don’t “run out” of God’s grace. Instead of remaining immobilized in our past mistakes, we are challenged to, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11)
God’s forgiveness leads us to be forgiving
One thing that becomes clear as we read the Bible is that the people who encounter Jesus do not leave as they came. They are transformed, they have a new life, and those new lives are oriented toward loving God and others. When God forgives us, and we encounter his grace, it changes us, too. In some people, the change is profound and immediate. In others, it may be slow and imperceptible at first, but their lives do change.
In Jesus’ teachings about prayer and one of His parables, we see that if we are truly forgiven and have known God’s forgiveness, it changes us and makes us more forgiving of others.
In teaching his disciples to pray in Matthew 6, Jesus said, “Our Father in heaven…Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” and he goes on to say “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Reflecting on these verses, one author wrote, “We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves.”
In the parable of the unmerciful servant, Jesus told a story about a servant who incurred a huge debt from his master but could not pay it back. The master took pity on that servant, forgave the debt, and let him go. “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a small sum. He grabbed him and began to choke him. “Pay back what you owe me!” he demanded.” (Matthew 18:28).
He refused to hear the plea of his fellow servant, throwing him in prison until he could pay his debt. The master heard of it, and the servant who had been forgiven was taken into custody and held till he pays what he owes. “You wicked servant,” said the master, “I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?”
God’s forgiveness and mercy toward us change us and challenge us to extend that same forgiveness to others. God’s forgiveness becomes a model for us in how we relate to other people – “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32).
God’s arms are open to us, and he is willing to forgive us no matter what we’ve done. No one is excluded from God’s forgiveness, and that forgiveness is transformative. By his Spirit, it changes us, drawing us into a relationship with God and making our hearts more like God’s own.
“Hiking the Rolling Hills”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Out in the Fields”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Riding the Bus”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “The Long Desert Road”, Courtesy of Brian Wangenheim, Unsplash.com, CC0 License