Taking a leave of absence

It’s been a great few years blogging but the time has come for me to continue my studies. I’m in my final few months and I have so much to prepare for. Perhaps next year I will find my own church and a congregation to shepherd.

The Lord is good all the time. All glory to the One who called me !

The Name of God

There was a moment when Moses had the nerve to ask God what his name is. God was gracious enough to answer, and the name he gave is recorded in the original Hebrew as YHWH.

Over time we’ve arbitrarily added an “a” and an “e” in there to get YaHWeH, presumably because we have a preference for vowels.

But scholars and Rabi’s have noted that the letters YHWH represent breathing sounds, or aspirated consonants. When pronounced without intervening vowels, it actually sounds like breathing.

YH (inhale): WH (exhale).

So a baby’s first cry, his first breath, speaks the name of God.

A deep sigh calls His name – or a groan or gasp that is too heavy for mere words.

Even an atheist would speak His name, unaware that their very breath is giving constant acknowledgment to God.

Likewise, a person leaves this earth with their last breath, when God’s name is no longer filing their lungs.

So when I can’t utter anything else, is my cry calling out His name?

Being alive means I speak His name constantly.
So, is it heard the loudest when I’m the quietest?

In sadness, we breathe heavy sighs.
In joy, our lungs feel almost like they will burst.
In fear we hold our breath and have to be told to breathe slowly to help us calm down.
When we’re about to do something hard, we take a deep breath to find our courage.

When I think about it, breathing is giving him praise. Even in the hardest moments!

This is so beautiful and fills me with emotion every time I grasp the thought. God chose to give himself a name that we can’t help but speak every moment we’re alive.

All of us, always, everywhere.
Waking, sleeping, breathing, with the name of God on our lips.

  • Unknown Author

Want to Survive College? Join a Church.

Excellent advice and article if you are attending a college. SEPTEMBER 30, 2022 | Shelby Abbott

Do you want to be a person who’s walking with God in 50 years? Then walk with him today.”

That’s what I say each summer to the group of college students who come to the mission project I lead in Ocean City, Maryland. And here’s how I follow up: “Your lifeline for walking with God today is community. Wherever you are, find and commit to a local body of believers.”

I always urge young people—and I’m urging all college students now—to be committed members of a local church. Why? Because it’s what Christ desires for us and requires from us (e.g., John 17:20–26). And because life is going to smack you in the face and you need people to help you endure and recover from the blows. Yes, hardships will come. Trauma may bombard you. Doubts may surface. But if you’re part of a community of believers with whom you’re vulnerable, self-sacrificing, and accountable, you won’t face hardship, trauma, or doubt in isolation.

I always urge young people—and I’m urging all college students now—to be committed members of a local church.

Strength in Numbers

Watch any nature show and you’ll learn predators set their sights on prey who aren’t part of the pack. It’s far easier to attack when the prey lacks protection or help. We can learn from this example. There’s a great deal of safety in godly community, providing those who struggle and doubt with guidance, counsel, empathy, and grace.

As you navigate your relationship with God, doubting well and coping with your problems require a great deal of intentionality. Many of us have a hopeful longing for God’s peace when we wrestle, but peace doesn’t mean the absence of challenge. The roads to unbelief can be clearly marked in college, so be deliberate about where you’re walking. Temptations to stray will be prevalent in every life stage—including now.

We are, by definition, blind to our blind spots. God helps us fill in the gaps through other people. We need church community in order to have our blinders removed, grow amid trials, and remain focused on Jesus.

The Bible tells us the story of a man—perhaps about your age—who was struggling on his own, although he didn’t know it. Apollos loved Jesus, loved the Bible, and had plenty of gifts. He was smart, well-liked, and confident. But he needed more than that. He needed the church.

Priscilla and Aquilla helped sharpen his understanding of Jesus (Acts 18:26). Christian brothers encouraged Apollos and instructed the disciples to welcome him when he wished to cross to Achaia (Acts 18:27). He was greatly useful to other believers in the church as it was going forward, and ultimately, Christ was glorified because Apollos had been helped by the church.

Apollos knew Jesus, but he didn’t know the whole story. The believers in the church were God’s tool to help him to see the whole truth about who Jesus is and what he does. It all happened in the context of the early church—community.

Speaking of seeing, Hebrews 12:2 summons us to fix our eyes on Jesus. If our eyes are fixed on something, our attention never moves from it. Much like Peter walking on the water in Matthew 14, we must remain focused. As long as the disciple looked at Jesus, he remained above the waves. The moment he became distracted, though, he started to sink. His gaze had wandered away from Christ. The winds and waves of trial can be intimidatingly powerful in school. Continue looking to Jesus for comfort, power, and peace in the context of community, even as the storms rage around you.

Real People, Right People

It’s always important to be reminded you can’t battle your struggles and doubts as an island—at least not with any sustained success. Despite what our individualistic culture may push, Christianity isn’t a solo sport. Yet in a world where people block out others with AirPods and custom-order everything from the privacy of their apartment, thick community can seem impossible. But I promise you it’s worth pursuing—especially when you’re going through hardships or doubts.

We are, by definition, blind to our blind spots. God helps us fill in the gaps through other people.

I also know it can feel like you’re in community simply because you’re surrounded by people all the time in the college environment. But real relationships require depth in a way that proximity alone won’t accomplish. Likewise, don’t assume that because you’re well connected via text and social media, you’re living in authentic community. Real Christian camaraderie happens in the context of face-to-face interaction. We don’t really know someone if we only know them through the curated veneer of posts and texts.

Sure, we can begin to understand people by seeing what they’re up to on Instagram Stories or TikTok, but it’s only part of the picture. You were created for something much deeper. The real you is the real you, and you shouldn’t want people only to experience your airbrushed avatar. When you struggle or doubt, do it alongside real human beings who love Jesus.

And when people do eventually see through the shine of your edited self, change and growth can happen. As my friend Keri puts it, “Social media shouldn’t be a substitute for relationships but a springboard for relationships.”

And because there’s no substitute for the real thing, find a church, commit to its people, and walk with them in good times and bad. And don’t be surprised when your affections for Jesus grow.

Parents Just Go to Church

By Cameron Cole, writer for the Gospel Coalition

At a Fortune 500 corporation, many interests and demands consume the company’s time and resources. How does an executive choose what opportunities to prioritize? The same is true for Christian parents. Tremendous resources exist for discipling kids: devotionals, catechisms, and guides for family worship. Parents are paralyzed when confronted with all the good options. Where do we start?

Hear me when I say this: start by going to church. Yes, I encourage you to pray with your kids. Read the Bible as a family. Attempt to have family worship. Use a catechism. These are all excellent disciplines. But if you can only choose one discipline, go to church. Make attending corporate worship the top priority for your family. There’s nothing more positive you can do for your children than to attend corporate worship at your church every week.

Corporate Worship Sets the Tone for Life

A parent in our church once made a statement that caught me off guard: “Corporate worship is crucial to my family. It’s the center of our family’s life.” I know this family. They do family worship as well, and they read devotions, but this father said corporate worship is the single biggest priority in his family’s life. Why?

If you can only choose one discipline, go to church. Make attending corporate worship the top priority for your family.

This dad’s mentality is consistent with how Scripture prioritizes corporate worship. God is the center of our lives. In corporate worship, we make this clear. We receive God’s grace through Word, sacrament, and prayer. We respond to God’s grace with praise, thanksgiving, and love. We fellowship with him under his Word and by his grace. We serve, worship, and flourish out of that communion. In these ways, corporate worship is the whole Christian life in distilled and concentrated form.

God commands his people to meet for worship weekly (Deut. 5:12; Heb. 10:25). It’s not optional or a matter of preference, and this is God’s mercy toward us. God knows how badly we need the benefits of meeting together. God doesn’t need our worship. We, on the other hand, desperately need corporate worship to center and order our lives around the Lord.

It’s Hard to Get to Church. That’s the Point.

Nothing can prepare you for the labor that is getting small children out the door to church on a Sunday morning. I don’t know if it’s spiritual warfare or whiplash from the weekend, but dressing small kids and loading them into the car is a grind. Even when your kids are teenagers, there are days they seem to resist just about anything you suggest. Getting to church is hard. But that’s part of the value of attending church every Sunday. It sets the tone for the Christian’s daily struggle to live in personal relationship with Christ.

Daily fellowship with and service to the Lord involve a purposeful, deliberate approach. Getting up in the morning to pray and read Scripture isn’t easy. Praising God in times of pain and sorrow can be a struggle. Entering conflict, repenting, and engaging in reconciliation requires effort, purpose, and patience. But however difficult these endeavors are, we find life and peace as a result. The intentional effort we make to attend corporate worship each week reinforces for our kids the patterns of intentionality and endurance necessary for a fulfilling and fruitful Christian life.

Model Unflinching Commitment to Sunday Worship

When I was a kid, we went to church every single week, even on vacation. I often complained about it (though I liked the donuts they served at Sunday school). I asked my father, “Why can’t we take a week off?” My old-school Dad would always reply in the same gruff Southern drawl, “Son, God gives us seven days a week. We can sacrifice one morning for him.” The only other “religious thing” we did in our household was pray at meals. Still, my Dad’s maxim and our consistent church attendance made a major impression.

Getting to church is hard. But that’s part of the value of attending church every Sunday. It sets the tone for the Christian’s daily struggle to live in personal relationship with Christ.

When I left for college, this pattern was deeply embedded in my life. I was usually the only person on my hall who attended church on Sunday, but I’d get up and go. When I traveled and missed Sunday morning church, I’d go to a campus service that night.

My family’s commitment to Sunday worship communicated major truths to me: God is the center of life. God is worthy of praise and worship. The Christian life requires sacrifice and discipline. My father rarely talked to me about spiritual matters; I don’t think he had a vast vocabulary for such conversations. Still, he modeled the Christian life well, largely through his unflinching commitment to go to church every Sunday.

If you feel inadequate to lead your kids spiritually, just go to church. If strategizing about your Christian parenting feels overly complicated, just go to church. If you’ve been taking a few too many Sundays off, just go to church. If all of this seems overwhelmingly difficult, ask God to give you the grace to have this consistent discipline in your family’s life. Faithful church attendance can have an eternal influence on your kids.

Jesus Saves Villains: Read Romans to Your Kids

Story by Joanna Kimbrel

Believe it or not, the elementary-age children you parent, teach, and care for are ready for the book of Romans. It’s true that Paul’s letter to the Romans is notoriously intimidating. It covers topics like sin, election, and justification that can be difficult to grasp and accept whatever your age. Even Peter said some things in Paul’s letters are difficult to understand (2 Pet. 3:16), and Romans is Paul’s longest and arguably his most theologically dense epistle.

But though Romans doesn’t seem kid-friendly, it tells an adventurous story of peril and rescue. The book of Romans is about a hero. But not just any hero—the greatest hero of all time. He’s the hero who frees people from slavery, defeats the Devil, and even brings the dead back to life. He’s a hero who came to save villains!

Though Romans doesn’t seem kid-friendly, it tells an adventurous story of peril and rescue.

Wait a minute. Save villains? Isn’t the hero supposed to fight against the bad guys? What kind of story is this! It’s the story your kids need. It’s the story we all need.

Still intimidated? Here are three truths you can point out to kids as you read the book of Romans together.

1. You might not think you’re a villain, but you are.

What if I told you you’re a villain? That’s right. You’re the bad guy, and so am I. Every person in the whole world has the same big problem—sin. In fact, this problem is so big that Paul spends chapters 1–­3 telling us about it. As you read, explain to kids that we sin when we disobey God. This makes us God’s enemies, the bad guys! We sin with our actions, our thoughts, and our hearts. We see our sin when we want to do things our way instead of God’s way. We see our sin when we want to hurt someone or take something that doesn’t belong to us. We see our sin when we’re unkind to others and always want to be first.

Why is sin such a big problem? Because in our sin, we love and worship things more than God. And sin has big consequences. The payment for our sin is death (Rom. 6:23). To live forever with God, we must become one of the good guys. We must be righteous—perfectly holy and right with God—but no one is righteous. Not one person (Rom. 3:10). This means every one of us deserves to die. Yes, that’s a big problem.

2. The good news is Jesus loves us even though we’re villains.

Instead of fighting against us, the greatest hero fights for us. He changes us from bad guys to good guys, from enemies to family. Jesus offers a perfect solution to our big problem. He offers himself! Even though we’re bad guys, he loves us and rescues us. Point out to your kids all the places in Romans that talk about the salvation we have in Jesus Christ (there are a lot of them). Remind the kids that Jesus was the only righteous person who never sinned. Tell them that Jesus didn’t deserve to die as we do, but he died in our place so we don’t have to. Jesus gives us his righteousness so we can live with God forever (Rom. 6:23).

Isn’t the hero supposed to fight against the bad guys? What kind of story is this!

How do we get Jesus’s righteousness? By trusting him (Rom. 1:16-17; 4:5). Explain to kids that having faith in Jesus means believing that he’s the Son of God who died for us and trusting him to save us from our sins. If we have faith in Jesus, he takes all our sin and gives us his perfect record. That’s really good news!

3. Jesus changes our villainous hearts and helps us serve others.

Jesus loves us when we’re bad guys and turns us into good guys. The gospel is the good news that those who trust Jesus will live with God forever, but it’s also the good news that Jesus changes hearts right now. Romans 12–16 tells how our lives should be different because of Jesus. Tell kids that when we trust Christ, he makes us new (Rom. 6:4).

Jesus saved us, so now we can love him and obey him (Rom. 12:1–2). When kids trust Jesus, it should change the way they obey their parents and teachers, treat their friends and siblings, and deal with disappointment. We can love others even if they act like bad guys toward us (Rom. 12). We obey God by obeying the people he put in charge (Rom. 13). We don’t always need to get what we want—we can give up things we want to show love to other people (Rom. 14). Jesus is the reason we want to obey, and he is the reason we can.

So pick up your Bible and read the book of Romans with the children in your care. Show them the Savior who saves even his enemies. And let God’s grace capture their imaginations and hearts. Help them to see their need for Jesus, the good news of his salvation, and the way he changes our lives.

Editors’ note: 

Read more from Joanna Kimbrel in her new kids’ book, The Greatest Hero: The Book of Romans(Kaleidoscope Books, October 2022).

Theodulf Alcuin 735-804

Alcuin became an architect in the Carolingian renaissance establishing schools and libraries that spread the literacy among the Franks and preserved important historic and literary documents.The following prayer reflects this Christian scholars devotion to God and desire for wisdom

Eternal Light shine into our hearts, Eternal Goodness, Deliver us from evil, Eternal Power be our support, Eternal Wisdom scatter the darkness of our ignorance, Eternal Pity have mercy upon us that with all our heart and mind and souls and strength we may seek thy Face and be brought by thine infinite mercy to thy holy presence through Jesus Christ our Lord Amen

From the book Turning Points by Mark A Noll , Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity

Is your device controlling you?

A great article by Jeff Mingee

Against the backdrop of God creating humanity to exercise dominion, consider the man who misses his son scoring the winning goal because he’s distracted by the vibrating phone in his pocket. Or the young employee who browses social media but with the mouse cursor hovering over the “x,” ready to close it should her boss walk by. Or the student who ignores his body’s cry for sleep and instead strains his tired eyes to scroll for a few more images. They are not in control.

Paul warned about those who weren’t in control. He described one controlling factor of enemies of the cross as “their god is their belly” (Phil. 3:19). Idolatrous passions or earthly concerns governed them. In contrast, Paul exemplified the importance of control in the Christian life (1 Cor. 9:27).

We’re to exercise control because we believe God deserves our active obedience and not merely our accidental praise. Yes, he will ultimately be glorified even if we rebel against him. But he’s worthy of our lives—even our digital lives.

God created you to have control over creation. He didn’t intend for you to be controlled by your device.

Rather than being passive, reckless, and undisciplined in our digital behavior, what if we exercised digital control in obedience to the greatest two commandments? What if you took control of your devices as an act of love toward God and your neighbor?

Digital Control and Love of God

Jesus said the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). If you want to process how to steward your digital devices in obedience to Jesus, this is a pretty good place to start. Take control of your digital devices because you love God.

Without digital control, we’re drifting—aimlessly scrolling and passively swiping. And no one drifts in the right direction. Rather than drifting recklessly, into behavior and words that can dishonor God, we practice digital control for the glory of Christ. In our actions online—as with every other sphere of life—we want others to see Jesus.

We exercise dominion ultimately to fill the earth with image-bearers and to glorify God. David Mathis explains, “Christian self-control is not finally about bringing our bodily passions under our own control, but under the control of Christ by the power of his Spirit.”

We’re not seeking control over our digital devices merely for productivity or for our own fame but to make much of Christ. Christian men and women are gladly under the rule and reign of Jesus. His commands are never burdensome (1 John 5:3). Obedience to Jesus brings joy, even in the digital world.

We’re not seeking control over our digital devices merely for productivity or for our own fame but to make much of Christ.

In Galatians 5, the apostle Paul lists evidences of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. Among this list he includes “self-control” (Gal. 5:23). Self-control is not mere effort. Christians, as we pursue self-control in our digital habits, recognize that such a fruit is a result of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. This affects both how we understand self-control and the means we use to pursue it.

Paul also directly ties self-control to our salvation. In explaining the gospel of Jesus Christ to Felix and his wife Drusilla, Paul thought it necessary to reason about self-control (Acts 24:24–25). Self-control is an essential part of us working out our own salvation. Like an athlete developing self-control in the pursuit of a win, Christians develop self-control in the pursuit of our ultimate salvation (1 Cor. 9:25). We cannot take our sanctification seriously while dismissing the need for self-control, not even in the digital world.

Digital Control and Love of Neighbor

What is your lack of digital control doing to those you love? Do your kids feel unheard? Does your spouse feel neglected?

If I want to love my wife well, I need to control myself. If I want to serve her by making her a smoothie before she heads to school with the kids, I need enough control to put my phone down. If I want to love my son by playing football or a board game with him, I must have the self-discipline to close the app or computer. Our failure to develop self-control stifles our love for others. Our digital devices are not helping.

Our failure to develop self-control stifles our love for others.

We’ve all felt the sting of neglect as someone chose to pay attention to a device instead of us. Perhaps they didn’t mean to hurt us. But we asked the same question multiple times and got no response—their face tilted down at a screen, lost in another world. We tried to move closer to them, but couldn’t get their attention. We sought intimacy, but only got isolation.

May it not be so with you. Develop control as an act of love toward others. Exercise digital dominion as a display of affection toward those you cherish. Don’t hand over control of your life to a digital device. Take control and love others well.

How to Help Teens Who Are Anxious and Depressed article by Jared Kennedy

In 2016, Susanna Schrobsdorff published an eye-opening article in Time that told us preteens and teenagers are more anxious, overwhelmed, and depressed than the generations before.

When her article was published, over 6 million teens in the U.S. had been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder—25 percent of the teen population. After several years of stability, Schrobsdorff reported that depression among high school kids was rising. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 4.6 percent of adolescents, ages 12 to 17, had at least one major depressive episode in 2006. That number was up to 12.5 percent by 2015.

Those numbers were reported five years before the COVID-19 pandemic. A more recent report by the Center for Disease Control found that 44 percent of the high school students surveyed said they’d “felt sad or hopeless almost every day for at least two weeks in a row such that they stopped doing some usual activities.” These numbers are higher both among girls and among teens who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual.

Preteens and teenagers are more anxious, overwhelmed, and depressed than the generations before.

Schrobsdorff observed that, while not universal among kids with depression and anxiety, non-suicidal self-harm “[appears] to be the signature symptom of this generation’s mental health difficulties.” She told the story of Faith-Ann, an eighth-grader who first cut herself in the middle of the night while her parents slept. She sat on the edge of the tub at her home and sliced into her ribs with the metal clip from a pen: “There was blood and a sense of deep relief.”

Youth ministry leaders in local churches know these stories all too well. Kendal Conner serves on staff at Redeemer Fellowship in Kansas City, Missouri. She says, “I’ve ministered to middle and high school girls after suicide attempts and cutting, through mental health crises and paralyzing anxiety. What once felt like an auxiliary part of youth ministry is now at the center of all you do.”

The stats and stories raise questions for parents and youth ministry leaders. Why has teen depression risen so sharply over the past decade and a half? What can we do to prevent kids from hiding depression? What should I do if I discover my child is cutting?

Mental Health and Technology

Schrobsdorff’s article focused on potential causes. She was particularly interested in links between teenage mental health and their use of technology: “Conventional wisdom says kids today are over supervised. . . . But even though teens may be in the same room with their parents, they might also, thanks to their phones, be immersed in a painful emotional tangle with dozens of their classmates.”

Getting your first smartphone is a rite of passage in our culture. Kids have them at earlier and earlier ages. Experts warn against the addictive distraction from schoolwork and the danger of exposing kids to online bullies, child predators, and sexting. Such realities call for the same vigilance with internet safety we’ve demonstrated in baby-proofing our homes. Parents should know how to set up a phone’s restrictions and find a plan that allows for monitoring text messages. And parents must teach skills for navigating the world of social media by first limiting access, then giving increasing freedom as their children demonstrate growing responsibility.

But even with these precautions, a subtle danger in children having smartphones is exposing kids to a deep experience of their own feelings before they have the skills to process them.

A subtle danger in children having smartphones is exposing kids to a deep experience of their own feelings before they have the skills to process them.

Teenagers are wired for stimulation. The emotional reactions of a teenage brain can feel urgent and overwhelming. With a rise in hyperconnectedness, even rural youth are increasingly exposed to what Schrobsdorff described as “a national thicket of Internet drama.” She wrote, “Being a teenager today is a draining full-time job that includes doing schoolwork, managing a social-media identity and fretting about career, climate change, sexism, racism—you name it.”

Conner says, “Students are giving the deepest parts of themselves—feelings, emotions, passions, desires, dreams—to thousands of people online who cannot offer much, if anything, back. This leaves them confused, tired, and with less to give to their closest relationships.”

Help Teens Work Through Their Feelings

It shouldn’t surprise us when kids who are more socially connected gain a greater awareness of the world’s brokenness and feel deeply about it. Brent Bounds, a clinical psychologist who served as director of family ministries at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, says it’s important to create a culture where it’s safe to talk about these emotions when they come. Parents and youth leaders can’t force vulnerability, but we can model it. And we can let kids know that it’s not wrong to feel deeply.

Our goal shouldn’t be to change how they feel but simply to recognize our kids’ emotions and affirm our love. Bounds told me, “Sometimes parents feel that they have to have all the answers to make their child feel safe. But one of the most freeing answers a parent can give their child is, ‘I don’t know. But I love you and I want to support and help you any way I can.’”

When conversation is open with a teen, parents can simply reflect back what their child may be feeling—“You seem really angry right now. I wonder if you’re angry with me and don’t know how to talk about it?” or, “Wow, that’s a really hard situation. I can imagine you feel overwhelmed.” Using this same reflecting technique, a parent can help build a child’s emotional vocabulary from an early age. This will prepare kids to face more complex feelings when they enter their teen years.

Helping our children grow in self-awareness about their emotions is a pathway to helping them grow in self-care as well. A teen must identify how social media triggers his anxiety before he’ll understand his need to manage that anxiety in a healthy way—perhaps by putting down his phone and going for a jog.

What If My Child Has Hurt Himself?

When a child does report he’s hurt himself, parents or pastors should first acknowledge the risk the teen has taken to be vulnerable. Acknowledge the teen’s courage and then listen. It’s hard to do. Bounds observes, “Most parents are understandably concerned when they find out a child is cutting, but they tend to react in ways that don’t draw out the teen but instead shut them down.”

Know that it’s not out of the norm for a teen to cut themselves at some point. The important questions to ask are, Where did he cut? (Alarming areas are inside wrists, forearms, and the inner thigh.) What did he use to cut himself? And how often has this happened? While we want to respect our child’s privacy, if you have knowledge that a child has been harming himself, take it seriously and seek help immediately from your local physician.

Most parents are understandably concerned when they find out a child is cutting, but they tend to react in ways that don’t draw out the teen but instead shut them down.

Sometimes self-harm comes from a sense of helplessness and a desire for control. Teens like Faith-Ann say self-harm relieves internal pain by “letting the feelings out.” The desire may come from a child’s deep belief that she’s not big enough to contain the feelings she is experiencing. The desire to cut may even be a deep emotional witness to the truth that growing social awareness or social advocacy will not atone for the world’s sins. Our brokenness is only healed with the shedding of blood (Heb. 9:22); but it’s the Savior’s, not our own.

Scott James, a pediatric physician and researcher, and an elder at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, cautioned me that it’s not absolutely necessary for us to come to a full explanation of why this is happening:

I’ve learned as a doctor that when it comes to mental health, I need to disabuse myself of the notion that I will always be able to pop the hood and get to the bottom of what a patient is feeling and doing. Empathy is important, but it’s hubris to think we should always be able to correctly identify and address the exact motives of each person.

Instead, we can confess, “I don’t understand where my child is coming from or why she is viewing life the way she does. But I’ll be here for her regardless.” That’s a position of compassionate engagement that puts aside trying to be the hero and savior. From that place of humility, we can point to Christ, the true comforter and healer. Jesus understands. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:15–16, NIV).

Editors’ note: 

An earlier version of this article was first published at The Ethics and Religious Libert