Will We Still Care in a Week?

An angry post (and I’m preaching to myself, too).

The true test: Will you still care in a week?

In a week, most people will have forgotten why they raised their voices for “justice.” It’s trendy to appear socially aware instead of having social awareness. It’s the easiest way to get attention and look relevant and collect a choir. A post (like this one) which publicly announces a pseudo-rage against injustice often just adds to the neon circus carnival without actually engaging an important human issue. Will you really be “praying” for the families? Will you really send “thoughts and condolences” to them? I’ve quit declaring things like this long ago, because they’re too easy to regurgitate and don’t accurately reflect a furiously bruised heart.

If we must fight for justice, then don’t end it on your social media – but let it be everyday, on the streets and at the dinner table and for the neighbor you can’t stand. Genuine grief and anger doesn’t need to win points and debates with disembodied strangers online. The internet is necessary, but not sufficient. If we’re going to raise our voices, I hope we can push back our chairs and roll up our sleeves and call out injustice where we see it. That’s even if your voice trembles and even if you feel self-righteous and even if no one is looking and even if no one notices.

Everyone can talk about change. We’ve been talking about change for fifty years. Very few of us will be the active rogue elements in our respective communities that actually go upstream against the current. Only a few of us will quit caring how we sound. We will care about our human story without having to announce we care – for they will know by our rolled sleeves and shaking voices.


Finding Home in the Dark: A Fiber of Fine Light.

The hard part is that when you decide not to call on lesser idols to numb your hurt and you finally reach out to God, suddenly you’re inside the pain. It’s all there. You can’t do anything to hide it anymore. It seems like a terrible idea.

One of the toughest things about excruciating pain is that it’s embarrassing. There’s a humiliating stench of astonishment that this is happening to me. It’s malheur, or a pain about your pain. If you live with it long enough, you’ll begin to identify yourself by your hurt, as if this is your only value. It’s understandable, because it takes up so much space in your mind. It’s no wonder why we’re tempted to run to everything else.

The pain is blinding. But — blinding ourselves to the pain is even worse. In doing so, we erase ourselves down to the bottom.

So then: Calling out to God is remembering who you are.
Remembering where you come from.
Remembering what you were made for.
Remembering that you are not your pain.

Most of all, remembering who He is.

This will look different for everyone. It could mean taking a long drive to the shoreline. It could mean standing over the sea in total silence. It could mean opening your Bible to Isaiah 40 or Psalm 23. It means asking a friend to hot chocolate and hearing you out. It means actively seeking encouragement and community, because 1 John 4:12 says, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” It means journaling, or busting out your guitar, or crying for a long time, or having an intense conversation with yourself. It means finding a need and serving that need. It means finding an older brother or sister and asking for wisdom on what to do next. It means dressing your Sunday best and singing at church at the top of your lungs, in hot tears and laughter.

A lot of this might feel rote and mechanical. You might not feel like doing any of it, and I don’t mean to add another burden on your hurt.

I just know that for a moment, when I can trace the sunbeam back to the sun, I remember who I am. It doesn’t make me instantly whole. It doesn’t solve things today. It’s often just a brief glimpse. But when I return to the heart who made me, I momentarily find something stronger than my pain. It is stronger than everything else that calls my name.

This is a difficult thing to do. It’s not merely psychological re-arrangement, because it requires getting up. It requires tapping into a very fine frequency, which is there for a flash and gone. But it’s there.

You might have even been on the other side of this and helped someone else remember. Maybe you took someone to lunch and listened to them without interruption for an hour. You made actual eye-to-eye contact, and you never knew, but you changed the course of that person’s day from driving off a cliff. You randomly volunteered. You wrote a thank you note. You picked up a call from a distant friend. You wrestled with someone’s questions, maybe not even fully paying attention, but you stayed with it to the end.

You didn’t know, but you were part of the frequency.
Once in a while, God breaks in. He reminds us of beauty. The pain doesn’t stop, but there’s a joy in the middle of it, just loud enough to remember.
We can break in, too.
You can pray. You can sing. You can seek others. You can visit home in His Word.

It is painful, sloppy, and scary. It’s not easy to turn our internal axis to Him, especially in hard times. But by slow, stumbling degrees, I can breathe Him in — and He is the only air that fills these crumpled lungs.
I remember: we’re not home yet.

J.S. Park | Mad About God

Wonderful Quote Artwork

This is wonderful artwork from Cristina G., a quote from my book on getting through pain, Mad About God.

It perhaps encapsulates the entire theme of the book.
Thank you for the art, dear sister!
— J.S.

When I Ask If God Is Good

Photo & Art from hersoutherncharm

When I ask if God is good

I see a cross, an empty tomb.

What He writ large in the stars

is writ small for our wounds.

From the sky to my sin

He is re-making us again.

When nothing else is good,

He is the only one who is.

— J.S. from Mad About God

The Strength You Never Knew You Had.

Photo from Noel Shiveley

I know that not everything has a happily-ever-after. We do hurt, a lot. There are lifelong battles and unconquerable defeats and irreversible losses. There is, at times, unresolved tension that remains unresolved.

Yet our bold response to all these things can show a reservoir of strength we never knew we had. Our daily victories build scars that build stories that build bridges to broken hearts. Our boldness shows we don’t need to lose ourselves in loss, that we don’t need to fall apart when everything else does. The dark can make us more human, and not less. In our outright rebellion against apathy, we find a flash of divinity. We find a story better than the childish bleakness of tragedy, but instead the mature growth of comedy, where we have the humility to laugh at ourselves. We find hope in pain together. Maybe even the hope that there’s an ever-after. We don’t have to hope in solitude.

— J.S. from Mad About God

Does God Use Pain “For My Good”? Does Everything Happen For a Reason?

Is suffering a “part of God’s Plan”? Does God use trials to teach us a lesson? Does everything really happen for a reason?

A hard look at the Problem of God vs. Suffering, and why easy answers won’t work in the middle of the mess.

Get my book on persevering through trials & suffering, Mad About God.

— J.S.

Grace: A Galaxy in a Cup, a Memory of the Future.

I have a past that I’m not very proud of: and in a cafe, I saw someone from my past for just a flash of a second.

It was all I needed to remember. In that tiny compact parcel of a second, I replayed every terrible, awful, humiliating moment of self-indulgent excess in a nauseating loop, both the ways I used people and was used, and then: shame. Drowning shame. That awful sick-stomach feeling of tendrils racing up my gut, a stench that begins at the back of the throat to the tip of my nostrils, like choking in reverse.

A Christian might call this “condemnation.” I also call it “standing naked in town hall with every hurtful thing you’ve ever done on the wall, and also it’s very cold in there.”

Slipping, I reached for something in my head, fingernails scratching through a narrowing stone tunnel, spinning, up now down, the verdict pressing in, chains tightening. I felt like that guy on the news who has microphones shoved in his face after a scandal; you know, the carnival games were rigged the whole time, how dare you, you monster. Voices crowded in, the chorus shouting, “You’re not any different, you haven’t changed, I know who you really are”—and somewhere in that mess of lies, I found it.

Continue reading “Grace: A Galaxy in a Cup, a Memory of the Future.”

The Christian Life Isn’t a One-Shot Deal, But a Walk Painted by Steps

Anonymous asked a question:

I feel like I just keep failing God. I feel like I’m constantly disappointing him and that I will never get my walk with him right. I’m really starting to question and wonder if I’m worth the trouble I’ve caused him and if I matter to him. I didn’t know who else to tell but I’ve read your posts and you are so kind and respond so humbly so I wanted to ask for some help. I really just don’t know what to do anymore.

Hey dear friend, thank you for reaching out with such honesty. I’m very sorry for what’s happening and I’ve been there.

I think the main thing is that you cared enough to message a stranger like me, and that’s already awesome & commendable. I also think you’re being awfully hard on yourself. Our default setting is going to be messy, full of mistakes and outright sabotage —  so any kind of “right living” is a crazy miracle, as miraculous as birth. Please don’t judge yourself on an unfair parameter. God doesn’t, either.

I hope that instead of looking back over a “pattern” or anything like that, you might be able to tackle each day, as they say, a day at a time. It sounds like a platitude, but many of us grade ourselves on the last few weeks or months in a row — and if you self-criticize on such a myopic scale, you’re always finding that you “should be better” and “ought to know better” and “I used to be so much better.” It’s way too critical, and impossibly illogical.

Of course, we should do everything we can to stop certain things and start other things, but it begins by almost not paying attention to “how much” we’re getting better. We can only improve the moment we quit grading our improvement and simply move on with it. It’s as C.S. Lewis says, that to make a good impression or good art, you care less about making it good and simply get there.

Continue reading “The Christian Life Isn’t a One-Shot Deal, But a Walk Painted by Steps”

A Social Experiment: To Know We’re Not Alone.

I’ve recently been asking questions on social media to know we are not alone.

So far, I’ve received over seven-hundred responses from Facebook, Tumblr, WordPress, and email, privately and publicly.

They’ve been enlightening, encouraging, and have created great discussions.

Join the conversation on Facebook or with comments at the bottom:

Please respond however you like, whether visually, metaphorically, or personally.

– How do you act/think/feel when you know someone in the gathering doesn’t like you?

– How do you feel when someone compliments you or praises you or remarks you did well? And why?

– Let’s say an alien landed on earth and found you. The alien asks (by way of translation), “Besides physical sustenance, what is the greatest universal human desire?” How do you answer?

(Asked again here.)

– What is worse: Rejection or Failure? And why?

(Asked again here.)

– What’s the first thing you feel when you walk into a crowded room?

– How do you feel, think, or act when you fail?

– When you feel like you’re losing an argument, what is your go-to response and/or tactic? And why?

– Fill-in-the-blank: I feel insecure when _____ because _____.

– How do you handle the inner loop of self-condemnation? Like when you replay that voice of shame in your head, or that one event again?

“The Gospel in Real Life” – Messages for Students from Yale

Hello wonderful friends! This is a series of three messages that I gave to students of Yale University, about the relevance and reason of Christianity.

The first is called: How Christianity Breaks Us Open and Painfully Puts Us Back Together.

It’s about how the Gospel uniquely differs from every other kind of motivation and completely restructures us.

Some things I talk about are: A meta-deconstruction of the Sunday church service, how to bomb a TEDTalk, the last two things I hear from dying patients in the hospital, the haunting of l’esprit de l’escalier, de-romanticizing adoption, the list of my flaws I gave to my wife before we started dating, and how a nine-year-old showed me the heart of Christianity.
You can also download it here.

The second is called: The Eternal Itchy Longing Within Us: Jesus Is Complete Fulfillment.

It’s about how the Gospel solves for two universal human problems and the greatest human need.

Some things I talk about are: How to tell an alien about the human race, conclusions about humanity after a survey with 700 replies, the instant anxiety when you walk into a crowded room, the itchy self-conscious moment when someone is slightly more talented at “my thing,” that loopy moment at night with your best friend when you start confessing everything, two universal human problems and our greatest human need, and the absolutely most important linchpin verse in the Bible.
You can also download it here.

The third is called: Where We Come From and Where We’re Going: Red Sea to Redeemed & Free.

It’s about how the Gospel compels us into action, neither by guilt nor religion, but deliverance.

Some things I talk about are: How long it actually should’ve taken the Israelites to get to Canaan from Egypt (not forty years), the moment right after the wedding, how the grace of my first pastor completely tenderized and galvanized me, the Christian life beyond “overcoming-sin,” and seeing God in the Philippines and a homeless shelter.
You can also download it here.

More messages on iTunes here or my podcast page here.

Be immensely blessed, dear friends! — J.S.

Photo by Alex, CC BY 2.0

How to Support This Ministry

cobih asked a question:

How can we contribute to your ministry?

Dear friend, thank you so much for asking this question and for even considering how to contribute. I’ve never gotten this question before and I’m absolutely humbled you would ask.

– Please pray for me. Really. Even if it’s just a few seconds. I love the work I do in the hospital, but at times it’s extremely difficult. With my packed schedule, plus self-doubt and sudden bouts of depression and doing my best to be a good husband, it can be overwhelming sometimes.

– If you’d like to help in a tangible way, please consider buying any of my books here, and leaving a review after. I don’t make much off them, but I’m blessed to be a blessing in your journey. The ebook versions work on every device (you can read them almost the instant you buy them) and they’re super-cheap. The paperbacks are priced very low, too.

– Follow me on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, maybe? (In my best Zoidberg impression possible.) Also on Tumblr, why not?

– Please send an encouraging message once in a while. I’d love to hear from you. I get plenty of hate-mail and harsh comments, and I wish I could say I brush them off, but that’s not always easy. A little kindness is very helpful.

Love you and thank you, dear friend. — J.S.

A Video of My Wedding.

A short video of our wedding at the Rusty Pelican in Tampa, FL. Wedding photos here and engagement photos here. We just had our one year anniversary. I also proposed two years ago on Valentine’s Day. Quite an adventure, it’s been.

Blame, Accountability, and Addiction

Here’s an article I wrote that’s been published on X3Church, called:

“3 Ways to Stop Blaming Others and Finally Own Your Porn Problem.”

It’s about letting go of blame and receiving accountability for destructive habits, including porn and other addictions. It’s also centered around a talk by author and researcher Brené Brown.

Here’s an excerpt:

Our instant defense mechanism when something goes wrong is to say, “Tag, you’re it.” Our egos are constantly trying to protect us from feeling wrong, because we associate this with being unloved or unaccepted. All this makes a logical sort of sense, but it’s dangerous, because our initial instinct is to drag others down with us. This in turn only justifies and reinforces our cycle of destruction.

We feed our bad habits with blame. This loop can go on forever. Yet if we struck down this Hydra of Blame like a whack-a-mole before it got to others or ourselves, the inner monologue might change.

Thinking this way, as Brené Brown implies, suddenly lets go of control and creates a scary uncertainty. But it also exposes our blame-game for what it is: an excuse to use, stay mad, or stay withdrawn. When blame is named, it shrivels up and loses power.

Read the full post here. My book on quitting porn is here.

A Breath Called Grace.

Art from worshipgifs

The world says, “Clean up your mess” and suffocates us into conformity.  Jesus stepped into our mess and gave us breath called grace.

Everyone else is saying, “Catch up” and “Get over it” and “Not enough.“  God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love,” “I am close to the brokenhearted” and “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”

You will squeeze from people what only God can freely offer.  You will please people up to a point: but only God is truly pleasable.

Everyone is desperately racing to be accepted by incremental measurements: but at the cross, we are equally zero, and at the cross we are equally welcome.

When everyone else abandons you in your weakest vulnerability – God does not leave.  He cannot.  He is the endless constancy.  He is unconditional.  He is the one we’ve all been looking for.


I Love You Just Because


I love you just because I love you. It isn’t for anything else but you. Not for cash or status or my ego or an accessory, not because I’m afraid of loneliness, and it’s beyond the first bursts of chemistry. Love is hard work and it requires all of me, everything, with no guarantees, except the love in itself that’s promised and true. That’s just-because love. I love you for you.
— J.S.