To Be Happy

Once again we have been reminded of the desperate need of the human heart to be happy.  The death of Robin Williams is a particularly tragic event in our culture.  There have been many others who have ended their own lives because of depression, addiction, or pain; but Williams was a man who seemed so widely accepted and loved.  For forty years he made us laugh.

By now we should understand that there are those who seek to find their own happiness in the happiness of others.  The comics among us have so often been tragic characters.  Perhaps they think that if they can make us laugh, they will find joy for themselves.  I won’t pretend to know Robin Williams or understand his demons, but I know that seeking health by making others laugh is a losing proposition.

I write about some negative things, particularly narcissism and legalism.  Both are attempts to find personal health by controlling or manipulating the feelings of others.  Both fail to satisfy the needs of the heart.  The narcissist, like the comic, can make those around him laugh, and the legalist can give sacrificially; but neither will find joy or freedom or peace from their efforts.  The darkness within is not overcome by their gifts.

There is a need for us to be accepted and loved for who we are, rather than for what we do.  There is nothing we can do or produce to fill this need.  That love and acceptance must come from the free choice of another, someone who knows the truth of our hearts and still chooses to love us.  Many have found that the love of the people around them, no matter how sincere, is still not enough.  I believe there is a core need for the love of God in our hearts.

It is a particular offense to the gospel of Jesus Christ to make it about sin and wrath and measuring up.  The real message of the gospel is exactly what the human heart needs—love.  Instead of telling people that they have sinned and must find the way to being accepted, we must tell them that they have sinned and God loves them.  We do not bring a message of rejection!  The gospel is a message of love and acceptance.

You have sinned and God loves you.  You cannot save yourself, but God—in Jesus—will save you.  You are broken and hurting and Jesus offers health and peace.  The darkness pulls you to addictions and despair; Jesus calls you to eternal love and freedom.

In your own dark days, remember the love of One who truly knows you.  He knows your doubts and fears and compromises and He finds great joy in knowing you.  No matter how bleak or depressing your life becomes, you can never fall further than His arms of love.

When a friend or family member is going through the dark days, love them and tell them of this greater love.  Tell them that Jesus loves them.  Whatever they have done, whatever thoughts have gone through their mind and heart, Jesus loves them.  He is quick to forgive, powerful enough to heal, and steadfast in His love.

The message of grace is that love is already there for you.  You don’t have to earn it or deserve it or even seek it.  The tiniest glimmer of faith is enough to begin welcoming and receiving that amazing love.  Just the desire, the willingness to take what is offered, is enough—and that’s already in you.  That longing finds its fulfillment in Jesus, the love of God.

The lie says that if you can make enough others happy, you will find happiness.  Parents look to find their happiness in the happiness of their children.  Givers look to the happiness of those who receive.  Workers look to those who are served.  And then there are those who take a broken route, the narcissists who manipulate the feelings of others to create their own peace or the legalists who seem to seek to destroy the happiness of others to make themselves feel better about their brokenness.  But it doesn’t work.  None of it works.  We cannot take our happiness from others.

My prayer for all of us is that we would no longer seek to find our happiness in the looks or lives of those around us; but that we would find our joy in Jesus.  May that always be the place and beginning of our health.

42 Comments

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42 responses to “To Be Happy

  1. Susan

    I don’t entirely disagree, however I would encourage everyone to see what the gospel accounts say with respect to the words of Christ and His apostles in placing a call on others to be saved. (Saved from what? God’s wrath.) Their message wasn’t “God loves you,” but “Repent and believe.” Certainly the Father’s great love was to give His Son to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. Our testimonies of what God has done for us bears witness to this truth. I merely want to encourage others to not present an unbalanced message of that includes only love. When we die we will all be in the hands of a JUST and merciful God. Without the message of justice and what that means, there is no mercy or love. There can be no mercy without justice. Both sides of the coin need to be presented.

    • Anonymous

      Susan – you stated this very well. Thank you. There must be a balance.

    • Susan, I am grieved at your request for balance. With what can I balance the love God has for every person? Ultimately, it is all about His love, isn’t it? If I tell a hurting person to measure up, how does that help? Wouldn’t it be better to tell the person that Jesus measures up for him? I could tell a depressed woman about God’s anger over her sin, but I would be misrepresenting God. Instead, I would tell her how Jesus accepted on Himself whatever anger God ever had toward her. I could make an assertion about the eternal fate of a famous person like Robin WIlliams, but I don’t know what to say because I didn’t know him. Instead, I just want hurting people to know of the hope Jesus came to give them. I try to speak of what I know and I know God loves them.

      Balance is a disagreeable word. It suggests that two perspectives are equal. Would you balance your love for your children with your anger toward them? Would you balance your devotion to the Lord with your rejection of His will? Nothing is as powerful or as real as the love God has for all people. I believe, like you, that not all will be saved; but it isn’t because God’s love is too small. In fact, I think it is a particular testimony to His love that He allows people to reject Him. There is no balance to find here.

      There are not two sides to present. There is only love. Some will receive it and all the benefits it brings. Some will reject it and suffer the pain of remaining separate. There is no other gospel. Jesus came to show all people that God loves them. He paid, in His own body, the full price of our salvation. He asks nothing of us except that we turn to Him and receive what He offers. The difference between the message of grace and the message of legalism centers on the place and power of God’s love.

      • Susan

        Hi. You write: ” With what can I balance the love God has for every person? Ultimately, it is all about His love, isn’t it? ”
        It’s not a balance that measures God’s love as in weighing it. It’s a balance between why that love is necessary (judgment of sin and justice for it) and what mercy truly is (giving a sinner what s/he has not merited, has not and could never earn). Mercy is when God doesn’t give us what we do deserve (hell). Grace is when He gives us what we don’t deserve (His love). We are not deserving, yet He is merciful and loving.
        Without the full picture, mercy doesn’t make sense. Neither does love. It’s not a gift that came from our merit. It’s not a gift we earned. It’s freely given in spite of ourselves and our nastiness. The Bible is chock full of how our best efforts are as filthy rags and how man’s heart is full of deceit since his youth. It is not a pretty picture of man.
        Ultimately, the picture is not fully painted without God’s wrath, which is what God tells us and Jesus speaks about quite frequently (more than any Old Testament writer) in His descriptions of hell. If we avoid that judgment, there is no need for God’s mercy.
        That’s not to diminish His great and amazing love. In fact, it elevates that love to a higher level and makes His grace all them more amazing and praiseworthy.
        You write: “If I tell a hurting person to measure up, how does that help? Wouldn’t it be better to tell the person that Jesus measures up for him?”
        I never said that a hurting person needs to “measure up.” Of course Jesus did that for all who are given to Him by the Father (Jesus’ own words). Yes, by all means, speak of Jesus and His great sacrifice on account of all who come to Him. No one, hurting or otherwise, can ever measure up. God’s Word makes that clear.
        You write: ” I could tell a depressed woman about God’s anger over her sin, but I would be misrepresenting God.”
        I never said to tell a depressed woman about God’s anger over her particular sin (although I don’t think you would be misrepresenting God if you did). I said to appropriately witness there needs to be a balance over our sin and His mercy. When one is in sorrow, we too are in sorrow. We come alongside as comfort. There is a time and place for the words to speak and/or not speak. Sometimes silence is the best shared comfort. I was merely offering that Jesus is our best example of what to say – and He doesn’t speak words like “God loves you.” Study His own words and those of His apostles. Many of them aren’t easy, but all are “repent and believe,” and this is offered to everyone, but timing is important.
        All my point was is that it’s not just love and compassion. There’s justice and judgment and they should not be neglected in the message, but that doesn’t mean that when one is suffering greatly that you need to come down hard with the justice message. Yet it can’t be neglected from the entire message otherwise mercy is meaningless. Mercy for what? Saved from what?
        You write: “Balance is a disagreeable word. It suggests that two perspectives are equal. Would you balance your love for your children with your anger toward them? Would you balance your devotion to the Lord with your rejection of His will?”
        I respectfully disagree. There is nothing disagreeable in the word balance. The greatness of His love is not out of place with the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Fear Him who can cast your soul into Hell. That goes beyond respect. That’s fear. But perfect love casts out fear. Yet fear still appears in the sentence. Take out the fear and the sentence makes no sense. It’s balanced. That doesn’t mean that the fear is out of place. It means the fear is necessary to place proper perspective on how great the love is. Take out the balance and there’s no measure of that greatness. How deep is thy love, Oh Lord. Without perspective, depth has no meaning.
        You write: “There are not two sides to present. There is only love. Some will receive it and all the benefits it brings. Some will reject it and suffer the pain of remaining separate. There is no other gospel. Jesus came to show all people that God loves them. He paid, in His own body, the full price of our salvation. He asks nothing of us except that we turn to Him and receive what He offers. The difference between the message of grace and the message of legalism centers on the place and power of God’s love.”
        There are two sides. Without hell and judgment, where is the love and mercy? There is not only love. “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What do you do with verses like that? And Romans 9. “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” The gospel is that God grants mercy. And saving faith. And repentance. And eternal life. But mercy from what? If you don’t say from what, then mercy is pointless. There is no message of legalism in what I write because there is nothing I nor anyone can do to earn their salvation. It is all a finished work in Christ. In Him and Him alone. And to God and no one else be the glory. It is not of works than any should boast. It is all about Christ. But to take away the message of why He died – to save us from hell and eternal damnation for sin and what sin is and that only He can save us from our own sin nature and ourselves – is to minimize the gospel and reduce it to only love, which, without justice, is without proper perspective. Mercy loses meaning if there is no judgment against sin.

  2. Karen Field Carroll

    Most of the time, Pastor, I agree with you 100%, but this time, I don’t just disagree, I do so with outrage and vehemence. As someone who has battled depression her whole adult life, I know well the demons that Robin Williams faced. Suicide is a symptom of severe depression. Period. You imply that Robin Williams’ amazing life ended because he tried to find his own happiness in making others happy (and that he was not a believer). His life ended because he lost the battle with a debilitating disease. It is no more about a failure of the spirit to find happiness than is the death of someone who dies from ALS or cancer. In this post, you employ what I consider to be evangelicalism’s most destructive practice: Co-opting an event that should evoke nothing but compassion to make it about the victim’s lack of character. God help you.

    • Jennifer

      Karen, I can understand the difficulty of depression as I have a spouse that struggles and have lost a close family friend to suicide for the same reasons. Yet, as I read the pastors post…I agree with him. I fail to see where he insinuates lack of character? What I do see is that he meant a lack of understanding of who one TRUELY is in Christ. What he said is that mear man can not satisfy the longing for love and acceptance in our hearts that only God, our father and our creator can fill. Looking anywhere else is futile. Where did you see him say anything about a lack of character or compassion? He states:” When a friend or family member is going through the dark days, love them and tell them of this greater love.  Tell them that Jesus loves them.  Whatever they have done, whatever thoughts have gone through their mind and heart, Jesus loves them.  He is quick to forgive, powerful enough to heal, and steadfast in His love.” I can understand why one would be touchy on this subject. It’s a tough one, yet all things considered….knowing who we truely are in Christ is the only answer in a world full of heartache and pain. He is love…That’s what I read.

      • Karen Field Carroll

        Jennifer, this entire post, which at a minimum uses Robin Williams’ death as a springboard for the pastor’s topic, implies that RW lacked faith or self-will. Specifically, this paragraph is where the pastor really went off the rails: “By now we should understand that there are those who seek to find their own happiness in the happiness of others. The comics among us have so often been tragic characters. Perhaps they think that if they can make us laugh, they will find joy for themselves. I won’t pretend to know Robin Williams or understand his demons, but I know that seeking health by making others laugh is a losing proposition.” The pastor’s statement, “I won’t pretend to know Robin Williams or understand his demons…”, is self-contradictory. If he won’t pretend to know RW or his demons, why did he write a post that uses his death to expound upon the idea of “finding happiness in making others laugh”? This very post is evidence that the pastor thinks that RW tried to find happiness by making others laugh. Depression is not about “happiness” any more than cancer is about “thinking positively.” In depression, the brain cannot regulate mood adequately. With high blood pressure, the body does not regulate blood pressure. Diseases are complicated processes; the church so often fails its most wanting members–and flaunts his breathtaking ignorance–when it implies that illnesses such as depression are under the sufferer’s control. I sincerely hope the pastor will clarify his thoughts or reconsider what he has written.

      • TTC

        I really felt this belonged right in the N files. And ties to the Why, Being trapped, you name it. In my case my big Why may be Why do I care? So In this article that I know exactly what the Pastor is saying. I am married to a man that needs to be the center of attention. Whether it is being acknowledged for his great feat or being a comedian, certain people look to the outside for that fulfillment. I have been devastated by an N and it is hard to remember this is one person rejecting me. God loves me, many people love me, my children love me. When Dave says Love and acceptance must come from the free choice of another, someone who knows the truth of our hearts and still chooses to love us. That speaks to me. I spend time trying to figure why someone would after a year and half decide I am no longer worth talking to, not just not talking but shunning, and their is a difference. But to step back and know God loves me, people love me. But in this instance what Dave is saying about Robin I think is true of many in the theater field. They seek an outside validation. A peace with themselves. Yesterday I said I feel at peace. Peace with myself, the world. It can be some people never find that peace. Thank you Pastor Dave. Well said. And to Robin Williams may he rest in peace. We loved him. Nanu Nanu.

    • Karen, I am so sorry this post offended you. I can see where you have a heart connection to a loss like this and I can see where my words could bring offense. I think we may disagree about the causes of depression, but I assure you that I had no intention of minimizing either the reality or the effect of depression. While I certainly agree that depression has a physical/medical component, I do not think that is the limit of its definition. Nor is that limitation widely accepted in our culture.

      My concern was for the many people who would look at the wonderful and generous life of Robin Williams and say, as many already have, that it is sad that a man who gave so much to the rest of us could not find happiness for himself. The logic suggests that acts of love and service should earn at least what the person has given. That is often not the case.

      I readily admitted that I do not know the details of Williams’ life and I expected that this statement would communicate a forthcoming general assessment of what I consider an erroneous idea. Obviously, that statement was not enough. I believe that each person’s struggles are his or her own, that we can only come alongside and never fully understand. Again, we may disagree on this. I find it very hard to believe that you actually know the demons against which Williams struggled, unless you also are generalizing.

      An event like this moves our hearts. We struggle to find answers. Sometimes we make connections that are not correct, but which at least attempt to offer something of value to our own pain. For you, Williams’ depression is apparently more evidence that the medications and health systems are still inadequate. For me, his loss is something that will touch the hearts and lives of many people who may need a word of encouragement. I make no assumptions about him personally, only assumptions about the ideas I have already heard expressed.
      So, yes, I have used this opportunity to express my faith. It is the good word I have to give to those who are hurting. There is hope in me today because of Jesus and I wish for others to have that same hope.

      Whatever you may assume about my motivation for writing this post, I will simply say that my own heart was moved. I am personally grieved to see a man like Robin Williams suffer in the ways I am hearing about. I felt the same way when I heard about Owen Wilson and his struggle. I feel the same whenever I hear of someone in so much pain that suicide seems like a positive choice. Many of us have been through depression and seek to understand the pain that we have felt. To know that there are those who continue to go through it, even to the point of suicide, is heartbreaking.

      I know you feel the same way. Thank you for your honest statements here. There is a certain irony in the fact that the first comment on this post accused me of too much compassion, while the second accused me of too little. Perhaps this is evidence of how strongly we all feel right now.

      • TTC

        My two cents. Your post was perfect. You added your disclaimer front end and you have an opinion. I applaud you for trying to put a why to such a tradgedy. I believe we take what we need and leave the rest. Reality is perception.
        Rock on Pastor Dave 🙂

      • Susan

        I’m sorry if my comment came off a bit strong that it was viewed as an accusation of too much compassion. That’s part of the difficulty of the medium in which we communicate – isolated behind keyboards without the benefit of real-time face-to-face expression. I certainly didn’t intend to be accusatory. I desired to offer balance that when we offer our testimonies and witness to others that we model ourselves after Christ as did His apostles. Their message was repent and believe, not God loves you. I’m not saying we shouldn’t ever say God loves you, but that there needs to be balance. Judgment and justice are not out of line in the gospel message, and in fact, I would offer that without judgment and justice, there is no compassion or mercy because without the need for justice, there is no mercy. The latter depends on the former. There’s no mercy if there’s nothing to be merciful aboutt. Peace to you, my brother in Christ. May God continue to richly bless your ministry here.

      • Karen Field Carroll

        Pastor, I appreciate your thoughtful reply. I would like to point out, however, where you make assumptions that are not accurate. First, I am not generalizing. I understand the demon of depression. I lived it for 15 years before I got help. I was suicidal several times but was saved by God’s grace–yes, his grace–through medication and therapy. Any person who has struggled with depression grieves the suicide of another who suffers. It’s a reminder of what a formidable foe we face. Because of my illness, I never take a moment of contentment for granted; I know that it is medication, therapy, and faith that help me live the wonderful life today that I could not have imagined 20 years ago. I don’t know why those things could not help Robin Williams; But I know that it was not his fault that they didn’t.

        Second, I think are you are confusing the causes of depression with the illness itself. I agree that depression does not always have a root chemical/physiological cause. In my case, I was emotionally abused by a narcissistic father. That, in combination with my sensitive personality and my predisposition to depression, is what I believe brought on the full illness. But once the illness takes hold, the brain does not regulate mood well. It can and is often fixed by medication and therapy. It is, at its heart, an illness.

        You say that the description of depression as an illness is not widely accepted in our society. That is true. But if it were, if people understood depression to be the illness that it is and not a failure of spirit, as you imply it to be, people with depression would find the help they need much more quickly.

        What I want to correct again, however, is your assumption that Robin Williams’ inability to find happiness led to his suicide. Depression is not the inability to find happiness; Depression is the inability, through no fault of your own, to see the joy in the happiness you’ve found.

      • Karen, I find these back and forth exchanges to be less than helpful, particularly when I am being told what I think. Let me simply say that I do not think depression is a “failure of spirit,” as you say that I imply. Nor do I think it is simply a medical condition, as you implied earlier. I appreciate your understanding that clinical depression can have emotional roots. Those roots, as well as the manifestation of the depression, are different for each person.

        Frankly, I suspect that you expect the “depression is the result of sin” assertion from Christians and have found it many times. That is not what I think, nor what I wrote. I am ready to admit that my perspective may be incorrect, but you do not present my perspective accurately. Somehow, we are not communicating. It may be best to leave it there.

  3. Kathy

    Hmmm….For God so LOVED the world — that He did not hold back from giving His only Son. That’s a HUGE love. Me? I wouldn’t sacrifice my own child. Not going to happen.
    Jesus said if He be lifted up, He would draw people to Him. If He was crucified. If He bled and died for me and you. That is what would draw people — His sacrifice of love.
    I think for the most part it is His love that draws people, not the fear of hell, I think after we are saved we become more aware of what we avoided and more aware of God’s unfailing love.
    I appreciate that you said “in your own dark days.” It’s an acknowledgement that we do indeed have dark days — even Christians. We are not immune from personal pain in this world. But Jesus said He has overcome the world — and He is not man that He should lie. Our feelings are not indicators of our salvation or of God’s love. That’s so difficult to grasp at times — we often feel forgotten by God. But, if we are honest, we know that our feelings on different things can change. Why is today’s “feeling” more valid than yesterday’s? It’s not.
    But God doesn’t change.
    Yes, when someone is in the deepest despair, deepest depression, we must reach out with love and remind them of God’s love. That is not the time to berate someone or scare them about the consequences of hell if they don’t, while in despair, also not take into account God’s wrath. I think that would drive many over the edge.
    We all seek happiness in other things very often. None of us are so spiritual that our focus is on God’s love at all times — and that’s why we need reminding.
    And medication is not a bad thing at all.
    Some people do ultimately take their own lives. I can’t imagine being so depressed as to do that — but I don’t mean that in a disparaging way towards those people. God is merciful and knows their pain and heartache. I would not pretend to be more merciful than God. I believe He comforts them and wipes away the tears of those believers who take their own lives.
    God loves the victims of cancer. He loves the victims of ALS. He loves the victims of Huntington’s disease. He loves the victims of depression. He loves the victims of suicide.
    God loves. God is love.

    • Karen Field Carroll

      Kathy, I can only say “Amen.”

      • UnForsaken

        Karen, when people like me trying to say something tactfully, they often cannot see how someone will read it. I’ve said many things that sound contradictory when making a special effort not to hurt someones feelings. ( Huge sigh.) After reading the “heart” of Dave’s other articles and kind letters, I think he doesn’t condemn anyone and certainly wouldn’t wish to distress you/us . Please allow me to send you a Big hug!!!

        Kathy is so right. It would be a Horrible generalization to claim that all depression is because of wrong thinking. I have relations who suffer from depression and without doubt know that it’s physical…..But even if they chose to be, I am still no better than they are! God’s love is for us all and we are equal in His sight. 🙂

        I’m also quite sensative to personalities being used as illustrations, because it is easy to assume and we cannot really know them as individuals. Pictoral illustrations all really break down and don’t make sense at some point – esp. when talking about people’s lives . I agree that many Evangelicals are well known for sweeping statements that ‘forget’ to add affection and caring. It should make us feel ill. But Hopefully we are not condemning anyone in simply using the picture ( as a for instance, not fact) ?? Perhaps it comes down to what that person really meant by it. I do not believe it was the Intent of the author to shame RB or us… Please know that there are many here who, like myself, feel the pain and know the injustice of being condemned.

  4. Reception Deleeuw

    Thank you! I love your letter!
    Was with a man for two and a half years and all of a sudden he drop me in basically one months time. He don’t want to see me, text me, call me……………………..I started reading about Narsist and Psycopaths. He really is between this 2 personalities. He was lying to me! He told me he is divorce and than I realize he is still married. I broke up with him, and than he started crying and beg me to take him back cause he really like me and for 2years he was carrying me on his hands. Now this year he started beating and swearing at me like mad!!! I’m still in shock! H e once threatening me to kill me!!!
    I don’t know if there’s another girl in the picture or whats wrong with him? He is still married. I thought to send all the photo’s and stuff to her or maybe just tell her. But I’m a child of God and think about the children and her!!!

    I don’t know what now from here??? My life is really a mess! I thought this is the man from God!! I met him on my birthday!!! SAD!!!!

  5. Ella

    How can depressed people take comfort in God’s love if they cannot relate? To them it sounds like you are talking about your imaginary friend or Santa Claus. How can we reassure those who do not have the gift of faith?

    • Kathy

      Ella,
      I don’t know. But perhaps that is the job of the Holy Spirit. Someone may be able to argue against faith, but they can’t argue against our own testimony. We could tell them what God has done for us, how He has shown His love. We can encourage them to seek Him, talk to Him. What do they have to lose? We can tell them it’s okay to be angry with Him IF He exists. We can tell them to share their deepest pains with Him. We can tell them that we care about what they are experiencing.

      • Susan

        I agree with you wholeheartedly that it is a job of the Holy Spirit. We do not save, but God does via the work of the Spirit. Also, amen to the fact that no one can dispute your own testimony. What He has done for us. Encouraging them to talk with God is a great idea, but I would never tell someone it’s okay to be angry with Him. I think that’s a contemporary cultural thing (“God is big enough to handle your anger”). Sharing pains and suffering with the One Who suffered for us and Who understands our pain intimately is the right direction in which to point someone – and/or to pray with them.

  6. Trying To Understand

    Hi David,
    I’ve been reading your website and find it comforting, as a woman who left a narcissist man for the sake of my wellbeing. I have a few questions and would like your opinion: If narcissism is caused partly by neurobiological factors – damage to the brain amygdala – and party by childhood trauma, can we hold narcissists responsible for their behaviour?
    What is a narcissist supposed to do for friendship and companionship? You might say they should do us all a favour and become hermits but are they not allowed a little human comfort the same as the rest of us? I know they have to con people to get it but I see their dilemma.
    I wish my narc ex well but I worry about those he will damage in future. I feel sorry for him as well. Where is God’s will in all of this? Is it part of a greater plan or is it just a random sadness?
    Thank you for your help.

    • Trying to cope

      TRYING TO UNDERSTAND. I TOO HAVE ASKED THAT QUESTION BUT DON’T KNOW THAT I SAW A RESPONSE. My question was more do they even know they are harming others. I read they don’t care and they have no empathy. But are they really even cognizant of what they are doing? If they have no empathy, do they have feelings. without feelings you would not have empathy. In my experience it seems to only be part of a well scripted play. The n i know apologized to me once for being rude. it was however well after that fact, I have hunch someone that witnessed his rude behavior probably told him to apologize.

      Can we hold narcissists responsible? Good question. We are out of the N blog it may be good to redirect this question tomorrow for Narcissist Friday.

      • Susan

        I too have had that experience (over and over) where my narc husband would “apologize” or acknowledge his behavior. I’ve even seen him wipe his eye in some shedding of (crocodile) tears. I used to believe it was sincere. I’ve seen it enough times, however, to recognize that it’s all part of the game. If it were sincere, it would come from a repentant heart that you would hear. I don’t hear the real heart when I get these apologies or acknowledgements. In fact, I’ve come to believe they’re actually still part of the confusion game. I’ve gotten these things months past the actual infraction or betrayal. And it’s all part of keeping that wound open or keeping the victim (object) in confusion. I believe that now with my whole heart. I’ve just lived it too long (20+ years) to know otherwise. It never changes. Unless it pleases God to give my husband a new heart, this behavior that my husband chooses will remain, and part of that behavior is that appearance of “I’m a good guy. Look, I admitted something.” When I’ve engaged him in discussion about whatever that something is, there usually aren’t any more words on his part about it. Certainly never ever about me or how what he did affected me. It was all him-centered. Notice that with your N? It was about how he was rude. Not about what that rudeness did to you. Also, you don’t know that someone else witnessed his behavior. I would suggest to you that it’s more likely he noticed he didn’t have your attention and that “apology” gets your focus back on him. It’s part of the game. Don’t play it. Do what you can to take your mind off the narc. That’s where he wants it, and you’re just the fly in the spider’s web. Take it back a few frames in your mind and be that fly approaching the web and choose to turn from it and head off in your mind in another direction. Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, not to the best interests of your narc spider.

  7. Kathy

    Then, Susan, we will agree to disagree 🙂 I do think it’s okay to tell God you’re angry with Him. If you are, He already knows it anyway!! My husband was able to tell me he was angry with me, and vice versa, because we trusted each other. We trusted that the anger would not change the relationship. Of course, if there is no relationship for an unbeliever with God, more the reason to get that unbeliever talking with God no matter what is said. The Holy Spirit will soften the heart. God is very mindful that we are but dust. God bless you 🙂

    • Susan

      Indeed, we will respectfully disagree. I look to the very Word of God as to how I should address Him, and therein I do not see that it’s okay to be angry with God. I look at God’s own response to Job and others. I don’t look at how I can speak with my earthly husband as the same way I would address God. Yes, God is a friend in Christ, but He is also the very Creator of the universe, and there is a respect for Him that demands I dare not shake my fist in anger at Him. Even if I (or someone – this imaginary someone we’re referring to) were angry with Him, yes, He knows, but that doesn’t make it acceptable to go ahead and speak to Him in anger. At least not that I see in His own Word. And that’s what counts to me as far as how I am to address Him. I agree that getting an unbeliever to talk with God is important, but I would never counsel that person to do so in anger. In anguish, yes. But not anger. God bless you too, sister. ❤

    • Susan

      Another way of looking at it. Is it okay to address any head of state, say, the President of the United States in anger? We may be angry at him or another leader, but we never address them angrily. How much more the Creator of the universe. That is how I see it. But again, it’s not even how I see it as much as how the Word of God says we are to do it. I look to the words of Christ as He told His disciples to pray – and any other prayer of any other saint in Scripture. Also God’s response to Job as Job cried out to Him in anguish. God’s reply wasn’t “I love you, Job. Rest in that.” How much more a reason then to not address my Lord and my God angrily.

      That said, I have told God that I’m very angry, but it’s never been angry at him. It’s been angry about situations and the hurt brought to me by another. I can express anger. God even says in His Word “be angry, but do not sin.” (There I think he’s referring to Godly anger which is over transgressions related to His Word and His glory.) Anyway, I just don’t see in Scripture where God says it’s okay to address Him in anger. We can discuss our anger with Him, but I wouldn’t do so angrily. KWIM?

      • Kathy

        I don’t know. We haven’t defined “angrily.” It may be that what I’m thinking of being angry with God is not the same as what you’re thinking. The written word is never the spoken word 🙂
        Be blessed.

      • Susan

        Kathy, May I inquire further then so as to be clear? What does it mean to be angry with God? How do you see that? And if you speak to Him and you’re angry with God, are you not speaking to Him in that anger (hence angrily)? And is it appropriate to be angry with God? I guess I just don’t see that in His own Word. Thanks for talking this through with me. 🙂

  8. Penny

    For Karen, Pastor Dave & all who visit here: at the risk of being too vulnerable & exposing myself, I too suffer from depression. I also never speak of it publicly for several reasons, not the least of which is that most people who know me would never suspect that I suffer from it. I suppose in that way I am similar to Robin Williams, who altho he effortlessly made people laugh & brought much happiness, he was hurting & felt desperately alone. I do know that scary place where I feel so trapped, so hopeless, so alone that suicide is calling my name; it is powerful & horrible….and it is a lie. I also know the pain of being a survivor of suicide, having seen my sister bury her son & the palpable, unrelenting pain that it brought to her & her other children. I will never recover from the moment we all got that news, or the moment when my sister first visited his lifeless body…& perhaps that is what keeps me from doing that myself. I do not want to inflict that much pain on others. And yet–the pain & despair of feeling trapped can be overwhelming. I once wrote to Pastor Dave about the prophet Elijah, who fled from Jezebel & hid in a cave, begging God to take his life. Elijah, of all people! The same prophet who performed miracles & did not see death. It was then I began to realize what a spiritual battle I was facing, b/c it was not God who wanted me to take my life, but the Enemy. We live in a fallen world, where “the prince of darkness” is allowed to roam, & I have come to view suicide as part of the enemy’s fight against life, happiness, wholeness & love. It is the enemy who destroys, who takes life, & who delights in doing so. Depression is a formidable enemy, & while I believe there are now good treatments & medicine, I also am reminded of Jesus Himself saying “this kind only comes out through prayer” (speaking of the suffering boy, Mark 9:29). This is where Pastor Dave helped me so much, b/c he pointed out that Elijah’s fear of Jezebel is what drove him to despair & to that cave, but (here is the key) Jezebel was NOT his problem, Jezebel was GOD’S problem. Elijah’s “job” did not include Jezebel, & God was not asking Elijah to do anything about Jezebel. Furthermore, Elijah said “I alone am left” (depression makes you feel alone & desperate) yet it was not true: Pastor Dave reminded me there were 100 prophets hidden & 7000 in Israel who had not “bowed to Baal”. Depression leads to darkness & distortion, God leads to light & clarity. God came to Elijah in that cave, but not in the tornado, nor in the earthquake, nor the fire, but in His gentle voice. This is why Pastor Dave calls this blog “Grace for my heart”, and what I have come to know & appreciate about Dave is the focus on God’s grace. I cannot “unknow” what I know to be true about Dave, & in this post he was consistent in saying that we find our joy, our rest in Him. I do not believe he was minimizing the struggle at all, but rather was recognizing it as the spiritual battle we all face, some fiercer than others. There IS suffering in this world, & sometimes there is relief from suffering found in gifted hands of doctors or therapists….but it is not enough. In the end, we DO need His love & grace. I am comforted by Elijah’s story in 1 Kings, & am encouraged to know God does not ask me to fight HIS battles. I do have certain “jobs” but have come to know what they are and also what they are not. I can finally rest knowing His grace. I am amazed that Elijah is the prophet remembered at the Passover Seder, the one for whom a place is set, anticipating his return; Elijah is the one who appears with Moses at Jesus’ transfiguration. Elijah is sometimes referred to as the “depressed prophet”, yet God in His wisdom included Elijah’s depression for a reason, and His reasons are always good. His “secrets things belong to Him, but the things revealed belong to us” (Deut 29:29). Dave is not denying the complexities of this life, “the secret things”, but rather recognizing there is “a core need” for the love of God in our hearts. Whether we die by accident or by illness, we all need Him. We desperately need Him.

    • Kathy

      Please please please understand that I am NOT being flippant at all. But the story of Elijah in the cave, after a spiritual high of calling down fire on the altar of Baal, is a story I think of when I am down and depressed. And, although this sounds silly or as if I’m not appreciating the seriousness of depression, when I do think of that story I often think that God is whispering to me “For now, you just need something to eat and to take a nap.” I’ve never had ravens deliver food, and it’s not a longterm cure, but sometimes I just need to eat and take a nap.

  9. Kathy

    Susan,
    Sometimes when an unbeliever is hurting, they’re angry and rightfully so. I’ve witnessed to people who have said “If God is so good, then why all this suffering” or “why did my dad molest me” or “where was He when I was being abused?” They have legitimate questions.
    And, as believers, we sometimes tend to say “Well, we live in a fallen world and when sin entered the world….” And I don’t think that helps.
    I’d rather say “Go ask Him. I don’t know. Scream and yell and let it all out.” I think many times what starts out as anger melts into sobs and tears and then God can comfort — but first they need to be honest with Him.

    • Susan

      Kathy,
      It’s not only unbelievers who are angry when they are hurting. I’ve been abused, lied to, manipulated and am now dealing with the seduction of our 11-year-old daughter at the hands of my narc husband. Have I been angry while a believer? You betcha. But it’s never been anger at God for why. My brother was run over by a garbage truck while on a bicycle back in 2008, just around the corner from his house before his then 14-year-old daughter got off her school bus. My mom asked those very questions, including “Where was God?”
      I never tell anyone to just state as a response, “Well, we live in a fallen world.” Frankly I would do more listening than talking. These kinds of situations require relationships – developed over time. That daughter to whom I referred (my niece) is now in a rehab center. Long story but her narc mother (my husband’s sister, as it so happens) kicked her out of the house after taking in a live-in lover, within a year of my brother’s death. When Carly (niece) came to visit me once, I listened. More than I talked. I did speak of Jesus, but not preachy. I may have talked about sin. I don’t recall. I know that I reached out to her. I listened. And over the past two years she and I have developed a relationship through letters back and forth during jail incarceration periods and rehab centers.
      I didn’t say that people shouldn’t be honest with God. What I said was that I’d never encourage anger at God for anything that happens in life. It’s not appropriate. Whatever happened is not His fault. He is holy, and as I see it, we need to encourage communication with Him, but not anger with Him.

      • Kathy

        God uses each of us and our personalities differently in different situations. Some sow, some water, some reap. Some of us are soft-spoken, some of us are not. But the head can’t say to the foot “I don’t need you.”
        God is clearly using you with the situations you have come across. All for His glory.
        Gotta’ get to work. 🙂

      • Susan

        I guess I don’t know why you’re saying that the head can’t say to the foot, “I don’t need you.” No one has suggested such a thing as appropriate. Sounds like we’re more in agreement than not. To God be the glory. All the best to you, sister. 🙂

  10. Karen Field Carroll

    Pastor Dave, I want you to know that I mean absolutely no disrespect. I think you are a Godly man and a significant writer, and I think God is using you on this blog, especially on your posts on narcissism. I’m so sorry if I’ve upset you in any way. If you think I am overly sensitive about this illness, you are right. (It is compounded by the fact that we lost Robin Williams to it, a man so talented that “talented” isn’t even the word for him, and who, according to friends, had a humble spirit, too.) It’s just that, as you said in your last reply to me, I and others with mental illness have suffered mightily at the hands of Christians who are ignorant about mental illness. I did not mean to say that you are one of those Christians, although I see why I came across that way. In my fervor, I wanted to help you and others understand how misunderstood this disorder is. Again, I am so sorry for being so harsh. God bless you.

  11. Fellow Survivor

    Karen, Pastor Dave encourages all of us to speak from our heart as long as it with honesty and respect, and you have been both honest and respectful. Your original post has provided for a lively debate and discussion that most likely has enlightened and educated many on the subject of “Depression”, at least I know it has for me.

    As a reader of your posts and responses I have total empathy and understanding of your understanding about this horrible disease that affects so many for so many different reasons.

    Please don’t hold back from writing about whatever is in your heart. We are all hurting here from various life experiences and we came to this site for it’s Christs centered focus and on trying to understand and make sense about why we are hurting.

    I would suspect that Pastor Dave is neither offended nor upset by your honest expression of what you have written, because what you have written has come from your heart.

    • Fellow Survivor,
      Thank you so much! What a healing reply. While I remain true to my posts, I readily admit that I have streak of vehemence about certain things and can come across as, shall we say, dogmatic? Or worse. For that I did owe Dave the apology. Your post, however, helps me close this chapter. In this post, you have embodied to me Jesus’ healing, forgiving, reconciling spirit. Thank you again.

      • UnForsaken

        Karen, thank you for your attitude. Although debates usually make me uncomfortable, I love it when people are able to genuinely shake hands at the end because communication and mutual respect has been accomplished. But it rarely happens that way. It’s a joy to see another believer actively seeking understanding in Christ.

  12. Struggling tonight with my own depression, and I can see all the perspectives in my own situation. Yes, part of it is chemical and out of my control. Yes, part of it is choice. Yes, part of it is wanting some external affirmation. Yes, part of it is emotional dampening of faith because circumstances don’t line up with what I think a life of faith should result in. But the head doesn’t rule the heart, and all my head knowledge tonight can’t override the darkness completely. It takes time to pass through this storm. I can see how a person can battle the storm for so many years and just become depleted. I think there is something positive to be said when a person makes it through 63 years of the fight. That’s not nothing! I’m almost 20 years onto mine. It’s not nothing! That’s a long time to hold on, to keep returning to God, crying out for his presence and deliverance to me made known. It’s a lot of dark, long, lonely, empty, and yes (even for the faithful with depression) hopeless, despair- filled nights. A LOT of them. Tonight is one of those nights.

    • UnForsaken

      Repol, many hugs to you! You know you are not alone, and focus on the right things and ‘distract’ yourself with the positives in life, like your kids, music, scripure, fresh air, etc. You are right , but there are always these times that last a long night. Sigh…..Knowing is not feeling. :/

      What helps me the most at times like that is to do everything I can to remember that He has Already accomplished what He wills, only it hasn’t come to fruition yet. I can’t see it or feel it, but He has already done it. His time is not like ours, so we have to ask Him for the faith to wait. It’s not about fixing how we feel right now. It’s about letting go with trust. If only I could remember that all the time!! I firmly believe that in waiting for Him He gives greater joy .

      Blessings ! 🙂

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