Podcast #033: Practical ways to find joy through disappointment

Disappointment. We all experience it. We all know what if feels like. We have all at some time or other said and done things when disappointed with our circumstances or other people that we have later regretted. But what are healthy ways to handle disappointment in our lives?

On this podcast I continue my conversation with the author John Hindley on his book, "Dealing With Disappointment: How To Know Joy When Life Doesn't Feel Great". (Our earlier conversation at Podcast #032 is here).

Disappointment can so easily come to dominate life - the nagging thought in the back of our minds and the constant "yes, but..." colouring all our pleasures.

Do join us as we discuss practical ways to find joy through disappointment. In particular we discuss:

  • Disappointment with my circumstances.
    The power of a different perspective rather than relying on the stoicism that we tend to default to.
    Or, in other words, how to defeat those painful things that are true by looking at things that are more true.
    Finding a balance between working too much or too little.
  • Disappointment with people.
    How do I decide if it is something I should forgive and move on from or something I should forgive and then talk with the person concerned about?
    For more on this also see: Podcast #025 Is There A Difficult Person In Your Life?
  • Disappointment with my success.
    John and I confess personal examples of how easy it is to tie up our meaning and identity with things that are actually quite trivial.
    How the good things of life are a signpost to a far greater work and person we should be enamoured by.
    How "the fuel for living a truly successful life is to know that you will one day live it perfectly, and with perfect satisfaction."
    For more on this also see Podcast #002 Success.
  • Disappointment with myself.
    How facing up to the painful reality that I am not the person I wish was can be not the last word in our lives, but part of our story to greater wholeness.
    The freedom that comes from understanding, as John writes, "Your purpose in life is not to be perfect. Your purpose in life is to showcase God's grace to the imperfect."
    Balancing in my life God's gift of forgiveness with the gift of integrity.
  • Disappointment with God.
    For people of faith, this is probably the hardest disappointment to face up to. As John says, "If God is in control - and He is- then behind all your disappointments with your relationships, your circumstances, your ministry and yourself must lie disappointment with God......God could have, should have, might have....and didn't. So often, in so many small and serious ways, it feels as if God doesn't come through."
    For more on this also see Podcast #028 The God I Don't Understand.

 

If your life isn't perfect..... you need to listen to this podcast!

How a higher perspective empowers you to handle disappointment

One important way to get a handle on disappointment in our lives is to be able to take a higher perspective. Somebody who understood this well was the author C. S. Lewis. In 1942 he wrote the book The Screwtape Letters that has since then been continuously in print. It has been adapted into plays, made into a comic book, and recorded as an audio drama by the actor John Cleese. The Hollywood Film company Fox owns the film rights, and Ralph Winter, best known for blockbusters like “X-Men” and “Fantastic Four,” has said he will produce it.

The novel is a fictional account of a series of imaginary letters from a senior demon called Screwtape to a junior demon, Wormwood. It is a powerful perspective on the real life challenges of faith in God and handling disappointment. In the novel, God is the enemy. We eavesdrop on the schemes and strategy of  two devils in the mind of a human being, described as 'the patient'. While being fiction, it provides piercing insight into the challenges we face in day-to-day life while pointing us to a higher spiritual perspective.

Modern 21st century secular thinking tends to have no place for the realm of a higher order of evil let alone for the existence of God. However, it is worth reflecting on that most of mankind has believed in the supernatural power of evil for much of history. There is also little else available to explain the power and rise of evil regimes and forces during the course of human history from the rise of Nazi Germany to the current horrors of North Korea.

The following short excerpt provides a powerful insight into disappointment:

Is ego getting in your way?

I don't know who originally said it, but I've often laughed at the saying "If I could kick the person who has caused me the greatest amount of headache and heartache in my life then I wouldn't be able to sit down for a week!"

Marshall Goldsmith is arguably one of the most insightful and successful business coaches in the world. In this short 4 minute video he touches on the important subject of ego and how it can get in the way of us living truly satisfying and fulfilling lives. It is short, punchy and profound.

His provocative point is that everyday we make ego and pride (putting myself and my desires ahead of anyone or anything else) more important than our health, our safety and even more than the people we claim to love.  In many ways pride is the ultimate form of selfishness. That selfishness is the worst part of our human nature, or as Tim Keller has vividly described it, " a ruthless sleepless unsmiling concentration on the self." This is no small or trivial issue. It is a blind spot that affects all of us in some way or another. It has destroyed individuals, families and even nations.

From the video, taking the example of surgeons not allowing nurses to ask a series of simple questions such as 'Did you wash your hands?"  and  simply systematising this into a simple checklist has, according to Dr Atul Gawande, contributed to more deaths than the Vietnam War, Afghan War and Iraqi War combined!

The positive way forward advocated in the video is to appeal to enlightened self-interest. So in the case of a pilot it is seeing that being asked simple questions from a checklist by a junior such as "How much fuel do you have?" is vital to prevent not just needless passenger deaths, but also the death of the pilot himself. When I let my ego win, ultimately I and everyone else loses.

The vast majority of us are not surgeons or pilots, but how can we be better armed against the dangerous self-sabotaging effects of our egos? Perhaps the best way is to recognise and be aware of the early warning signs before they cause irreparable and lasting damage. Here are four to consider:

Podcast #031 How can I live with hope today?

Psychologists, psychiatrists, politicians and theologians may differ in their opinion on many things, But one thing they would all seem to agree on is the importance of hope.

“Human beings can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air…but only for one second without hope.”

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Do join my co-host Andrew Horton and I as we discuss:

  • Why hope in the true sense of the word is much more than wishful thinking, but instead a joyful expectation about the future.
  • How we can view hope as "not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out." (Vaclav Havel)
  • The dangers of basing my hope on a particular outcome that I want.
  • How the attempted suicide of a friend taught me the dangers of a secular hope.
  • 4 core beliefs in developing hope
  • A Biblical perspective on hope.
  • The forgotten part of the serenity prayer and what that teaches about hope.
  • What to say to someone who is struggling to have hope about the future.

What questions, thoughts and comments does our discussion raise for you?

You may also find of interest:

How Can I Find Hope In My Darkest Days?

Do You Need Hope Today?

Why Understanding Easter Brings Hope.

Podcast #003 Stress

Podcast#007 Religion

Podcast #013 How To Grow In Resilience

Podcast #017 The Last Taboo Subject?

Podcast #020 Baroness Caroline Cox

Podcast #021 Grit

Podcast #022 The Stories We Tell Ourselves

 

 

 

Podcast #029: The literal end of the world?

A discussion with Chris Wright on what the Bible actually says

What will happen at the end of time? How will the world end? How will our lives end? Where is history heading to? Is there any sense or coherence in this increasingly complex and challenging world that we live in? That is the subject of Hollywood movies and popular science fiction novels down the ages. Popular movies and novels can be great fun and escapism, but then you have to get on with the rest of life with all of its predictability and mundaneness.

Could there be another narrative? Indeed, what does the world's best selling, and also arguably often least read and understood book actually say about the end of the world?

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On this podcast I have a fascinating conversation with Bible scholar Chris Wright on a subject that is often not given much serious consideration, at least not in popular culture. Is it a subject we can give sustained deliberate thought to in a world of such diverse views and opinions? There is certainly much mystery, but understanding 'The End Times' has profound implications on the way we live our lives today in the here and now.

Do join us on this podcast as we discuss the seven last things, according to the Bible, of this life and universe:

Death and resurrection: how the end of the world is actually a new beginning and how Jesus' bodily and physical resurrection points to a new level of life and existence.

How the metaphor  of sleep describes the interim state between the physical death of our bodies and the end of the world.

The return of Christ at the end of history as an integral part  of the Bible narrative and its implications for us.

The resurrection of the dead and what that actually means for our earthly bodies. Do listen out for the analogy of twins in their mother's womb!

Why the day of judgement and hell is actually a good thing in a world where so much evil and wrong-doing appears to go unpunished and unresolved.

What the Bible actually reveals about what heaven and the new creation will be like. It is so much more than sitting on a cloud, playing a harp, endless singing or even one long holiday! Heaven is not even my final destination when I die! It is only, as it were, a transit lounge for the new creation. In fact, the Bible makes clear that we don't even go up to heaven! The new creation is actually heaven, at the end of time, coming down to earth.

Quoting from Chris' book, 'The God I Don't Understand':

"The new creation will start with the unimaginable reservoir of all that human civilisation has accomplished in the old creation - but purged, cleansed, disinfected, sanctified and blessed...... Think of the prospect! all human language, literature, art, music, science, business, sport, technological achievement - actual and potential - all available to us. All of it with the poison of evil and sin sucked out of it forever...... Whatever it may be like, we can rest assured that, for those who are in Christ, anything that has enriched and blessed us in this life will not be lost, but infinitely enhanced in the resurrection and anything that we have not been able to enjoy in this life (because of disability, disease or premature death - or simply through the natural limitations of time and space) will be amply restored or compensated for in resurrection life."

So how should we then live?

"We are to live then as people who not only have a future, but know the future we have and go out and live in the light of that future, in preparation for it and characterised by its values."

What questions, thoughts and comments does our discussion raise for you?

The link to Chris' book is below.

You may also find of interest:

Podcast #028: The God I Don't Understand

Podcast #007: Religion

 

Why Easter should be for everyday

The Easter holidays have come and gone. But what is Easter really about? Hopefully much more than chocolate eggs and bunny rabbits! In fact Easter has a lot to say to us in what can feel like an increasingly challenging and hostile world.

The following 3 minute video was part of a series made by my church, All Souls Langham Place in Central London.  In it I explain what Easter means to me. I set out to make a case why Easter should be celebrated not just once a year, but actually has implications and ramifications for every day of the year!

Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. That death, according to the Bible scriptures, was not an unintended accident. It was prophecised and planned as the central act of history.

Here is what Eugene Peterson, scholar, and author of the widely acclaimed modern paraphrase of the Bible scripture, 'The Message,' says about the cross of Christ:

"The single, overwhelming fact of history is the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. There is no military battle, no geographical exploration, no scientific discovery, no literary creation, no artistic achievement, no moral heroism, that compares with it. It is unique, massive, monumental, unprecedented, and unparalleled. The cross of Christ is not a small secret that may or may not get out. The cross of Christ is not a minor incident in the political history of the first century that is a nice illustration of courage. It is the centre.
The cross of Christ is the central fact to which all other facts subordinate."

That's a bold assertion to be made!

But what does that mean personally for me and for anyone else who chooses to bring the implications of Easter into their own life?

It is that as death has been conquered through the cross of Christ, then our bad experiences can turn out for good; the good experiences of this life can never be lost and the best is yet to come! My best days are not behind me, but in front of me!

Also there is the security that comes from knowing I am loved as I am. I have nothing to prove. I am completely accepted by God, not because of my goodness or attempted goodness (which fluctuates and is so fickle), but by the perfect life and obedience of Christ. And in addition to all that, the living presence of God through the Holy Spirit means there is the potential to live life with confidence and joy, no matter what the challenges and setbacks that come.

I need to remember that every day! How about you? What does Easter mean to you?

We explore that more in last week's Podcast #028: The God I Don't Understand

 

Podcast #028 The God I Don’t Understand

Discussing tough questions of faith with Christ Wright

Religious faith. That is certainly a subject that can polarise and divide opinion between different people! 

Screen Shot 2017-04-01 at 17.40.54We live in a world where it seems as though the more committed someone is to their particular faith view, then the more certain they seem to be about life and what others should or should not do.  That is often the impression that comes through much of the popular media's analysis of faith and life issues. But does that really help to make sense of life in all its mystery and complexity?

Why do terrible things happen in our world and why does it so often appear God is silent and not involved?

Chris Wright is a scholar of the Old Testament of the Bible who has written a number of books on knowing and understanding God. He is someone who has a life long passion for knowing God through the Bible scriptures and communicating that clearly to others.

It is somewhat surprising then that Chris has also written a book called "The God I Don't Understand". Here is what he writes in the introduction:

"It seems to me that the older I get the less I think I really understand God. Which is not to say that I don't love and trust Him. On the contrary, as life goes on my love and trust grow deeper, but my struggle with what God does or allows grows deeper too."

On this podcast we have the privilege of interviewing Chris about the book he has written and exploring this tension between living a life of faith, loving and trusting God, while at the same time being honest enough to admit there is often mystery and much we do not understand about life.

Do join us in this fascinating conversation as we explore:

How anger and frustration with what God allows and does not allow in our world is nothing new. Indeed an author like Richard Dawkins writes in his book 'The God Delusion':

"The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser, a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filiacidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

How Psalm 73 written 2,700 years ago by someone called Asaph dealt with similar anger and frustration with God's dealings with the world, but came to a very different conclusion.

Why the question of evil and suffering is a specific problem for people who have a Biblical faith, compared to those of other religions.

Why the Bible says we should not bottle up our feelings and be stoical when suffering and evil comes into our lives, but actually to be angry, lament and protest.

Why Chris surprisingly says, "Of all the things that lead me to speak of the God I don't understand, the cross is top of the list."

Why was the death of Christ necessary?

What did God actually accomplish through the death of His Son?

How did it all work? Or to be even more specific: How did one man's bleeding body stretched on two pieces of wood for six hours of torture and death on a particular Friday one spring outside a city in a remote province of the Roman Empire change everything in the universe?

How can it be possible for God to be both loving and angry?

What comments and questions does this discussion raise for you?

You may also find of interest:

What Is So Good About Good Friday?

How Can I Find Hope In My Darkest Days?

Why Understanding Easter Brings Hope

Is This The Best News You Have Ever Heard?

4 Personal Implications Of The Resurrection

A Day That Changed The World

When is wife-beating just a cultural issue?

The dangers of culture

No you haven't misread the title of this blog post!  We have talked about how culture is much more than the food we eat and the clothes we wear. It profoundly affects the way we look at life and in turn the way we live. Everyone likes to think their cultural way of doing things is the best or even the only way. That brings us to the example of wife-beating.

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Should it be a crime for a husband to beat his wife? Or is wife beating just a cultural issue? That’s not as crazy a question as you might think.

In the United Kingdom during the 1800s, a time of widespread professed Christian faith, wife beating was extremely common and only caused outrage if it was exceptionally brutal or endangered life. There was a widespread belief among ordinary people, both male and female, that it was every man's 'right' to beat his wife so long as it was to 'correct her' if she did anything to annoy or upset him or refused to obey his orders.

In 1853 a British newspaper remarked that wife-beating was 'being accepted as the habit of the nation'. The church by and large in England at the time saw nothing wrong with it. (For more on this see here).

That was the 1800s. How about more recently? I remember speaking with surprise and shock to some Punjabi Christian men and women in England in the late 1980s and 1990s and hearing how wife beating was an acceptable thing to do. The only question was how much pain and damage you caused........

When life just doesn’t make sense

Joseph is one of my favourite Bible characters. The story has been well known over the centuries, and more recently was the subject of a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Who was Joseph? He was the favourite son of Jacob. Jacob in turn was the grandson of Abraham, greatly revered in the three great monotheistic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Joseph was given the famous multi-coloured coat and also had the ability to interpret dreams. However, he went through a series of unfortunate and undeserved betrayals and tragedies.

Joseph was betrayed by his brothers to be sold as a slave to Egypt. In Egypt he began to prosper as slave to a rich official in Pharaoh's court called Potiphar. However, Potiphar's wife persisted in making sexual advances towards him, which because of his faith in God he refused to succumb to. Even so on one day when they were alone she attempted to grab him with the intention of seducing him. Joseph had no choice but to run away, leaving Potiphar's wife to claim that he had tried to rape her. Thus started a long and undeserved 13 year prison sentence.

The short video above is from the film 'Joseph, King of Dreams'. Yes it is a cartoon, and there is artistic licence, but don't let that deceive you into thinking it is simplistic or childish.

I think the movie clip powerfully conveys something of the confusion we all at times struggle through when life does not go the way we intended or hoped for.

Here are the words of the song to ponder and reflect on:

5 lessons I’ve learnt from burnout

Looking back I have burnt out at least three times in my life. The first two times were at the end of my first and third year at university, studying medicine. The challenges of moving away from home, being out of my depth academically, feeling isolated and alone all gradually took their toll.

The third time was around 2009. I was juggling being on the leadership team of a church with all its demands while having a growing family and working as a psychiatrist. It  all became too much for me to take. Something had to give. I wasn't liking the person I was becoming. I could sense a critical and discontented spirit growing inside of me. It was time to step down from church leadership and re-evaluate my priorities.

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In all three cases, there were significant learning opportunities and growth from these experiences. However, at the time it felt very different to that! For more on the first experience see here. After the second, I found a greater purpose and direction to stay in medicine and begin to focus on psychiatry; while as for the third, it lay the foundation for this blog and subsequent podcasts!

Burnout is a state of chronic stress. It gradually develops over a period of time and leads to:

Both physical and emotional exhaustion.
On each occasion I gradually found myself lacking energy, sleeping poorly and not able to give proper attention to what needed to be done.

Feelings of cynicism and detachment.
I became quick to focus at the negative aspects of my life, as well as feeling disconnected from others. I found myself often attributing unnecessary ulterior motives to others and putting myself in a victim mindset.

Feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.
I struggled to find meaning and purpose in day to day activities that became more and more burdensome. What I previously had been able to do with ease felt like an upward struggle with no apparent end in sight.

So what have I learnt from these experiences?