How Is God Enough Through Loneliness? 9 Truths for The Lonely

– In the book of Genesis, there’s a verse where God said that it was not good for man to be alone so He will make a helper for him. I think this extends even beyond marriage to say that we were made to have close relationships in our lives. What’s confusing is how this applies when we feel lonely? It’s not all about us & what we want but, how do we cope with loneliness when we were made to have those close friendships to walk through life together but also know that God is all we truly need?

– Hi, I have struggled with loneliness for a very long time. God has been healing me but I still have problems with it. During my lonely times, I would listen to sermons, sing praise songs, or just do activities I enjoy but sometimes, I just get wrecked and end up sinning. I belong to a church and try to catch up with friends but because relationships are like revolving doors- they come and go, it doesn’t really help. How can I trust God when I am an emotional wreck.

Hey there dear friends: thank you for trusting me with such a huge important issue.  I think it’s very rare that we get to hear about a theology on loneliness and companionship, and while I know I can’t possibly remedy all your concerns today, we can chip away a few layers of this together.

Please first know that loneliness is part of who we are and is not wrong or bad or sinful.  In other words, being lonely actually shows you’re human, and not anything else.

To quote Timothy Keller, he says:

Adam was not lonely because he was imperfect. Adam was lonely because he was perfect. Adam was lonely because he was like God, and therefore, since he was like God, he had to have someone to love, someone to work with, someone to talk to, someone to share with.

All of our other problems—our anger, our anxiety, our fear, our cowardice—arise out of sin and our imperfections. Loneliness is the one problem you have because you’re made in the image of God.

But of course, it’s not just as simple as walking into a party or a college campus or a church and suddenly finding all you’re looking for.  While I’m not sure I can hit everything you’re thinking, here are a few things to consider.

Continue reading “How Is God Enough Through Loneliness? 9 Truths for The Lonely”

“9 Tricky Defense Mechanisms That Are Ruining The Communication In Your Relationship”


Hey friends, I was published on Thought Catalog! It’s a post called 9 Tricky Defense Mechanisms That Are Ruining The Communication In Your Relationship. It covers defensive tactics like rationalizing, deflecting, blame-shifting, gaslighting, and other easy-to-spot moves.

The original post is herehttps://jsparkblog.com/2017/03/13/9-tricky-self-deceptive-defense-mechanisms-that-completely-undermine-dialogue/

Here’s an excerpt, the one I’m most guilty of:

6) Value Judgment / Moralizing. Measuring a person’s inherent value as inferior, especially when their preferences or personalities are different than yours.

The way you think is not how things are. Can I say that again? The way you think is not how things are. It’s simply how you think. Your personality and preferences are not the barometer by which the world turns. I struggle with this one the most; I’m always tempted to mold someone into my own image. Even when there are healthy standards to abide by, it becomes a problem when we grade someone’s value based on how well they’ve caught up to them. And surprise!—we rationalize or blame-shift or deflect when we ourselves don’t measure to our own standards. To truly understand another person requires knowing the whole story, and not just a tiny slice of their life.


Read the rest here. Love y’all, friends! — J.S.

A Story to Tell.


You still have a story to tell.

Nothing about you is over yet.

Tell it well.

Finish strong.

Don’t look in the rearview too long.

No matter what’s been done or done to you,

you can still be you, truly.

No one else can write your story.

Live it well.

J.S.


Photo from Image Catalog, CC BY PDM

What Breaks My Heart Is When You Don’t Hear Mine

I’ve always had trouble approaching someone with a fragile ego, because I know if I say anything disagreeable or honest, they’ll defend themselves like crazy with a million excuses or throw insults or throw things off the desk or make ugly-cry-face and cut me off for a month.

I know this because it’s me too.  It’s hard to hear the truth about yourself.  It’s hard to confront the ugliness inside.

But confronting yourself is the only way to be truly liberated from the lies we believe.  Without rebuke, we’re left sauntering in an unseen momentum of darkness that threatens to destroy us by a gradual downhill fade.  The most dangerous way to die is slowly, unaware, in descent.

A few years ago, one of my best friends was messing up with something.  No one else knew but me.  It probably wasn’t a big deal, and no one would’ve been hurt if he continued, but as a friend I had to bring it up.  I really didn’t want to, but I couldn’t just sit by.

My friend is the coolest guy in the world.  I’ve never seen him rage out or say a harsh word in his life.  He was the kind of guy who would walk away from a group the second they began to gossip, who wouldn’t hesitate to break up a street fight on his way home.

But even when I bring the truth to the coolest people: I’ve seen the worst come out of them.  There’s always a mirror-defense where they decide to bring up your grievances, or a lot of casual dismissal, or loud angry hostility.  Honestly, I was jaded to this sort of thing whenever I tried to confront someone, and I expected it to go bad just like with everyone else.

Continue reading “What Breaks My Heart Is When You Don’t Hear Mine”

9 Tricky, Self-Deceptive Defense Mechanisms That Completely Undermine Dialogue

If you’ve ever been in an escalating argument, you’ll always notice how it becomes a “meta-argument” about unrelated things that are not really the point. The dialogue gets further and further away from the main thing, until you’re both screaming out your lungs and throwing appliances at the ceiling. Arguments, in hindsight, often look embarrassing, full of cringe and regret and wreckage like an irreversible radioactive wasteland.

When conflict comes around, everything feels like it’s at stake: your value, your truth, your work, your very life. So understandably, we resort to self-preserving mechanisms to scratch and claw for our very lives. Here are a few defense mechanisms that get us stuck, and how we can get un-stuck.

Continue reading “9 Tricky, Self-Deceptive Defense Mechanisms That Completely Undermine Dialogue”

Editors’ Picks: Frontpage of WordPress



Hello friends! I’m on the frontpage of WordPress by Editors’ Picks for a post called:
When Do Politics Decide Friendship?

Join the conversation. Be blessed and love y’all! 
J.S.


When Do Politics Decide Friendship?


lovelyishe asked a question:

 What is your opinion on the stance that you should end a friendship because of differing political opinions? Is there a time when you believe it is best to drift apart from them or no?

Hey dear friend, this is certainly a difficult, relevant question today, as it seems political differences more than ever are not merely a disagreement of opinions, but becoming an aggressively different opinion of human value, with all kinds of dangerous implications.

I’m fortunate and blessed to have friends with a wide range of political beliefs who are open to discourse or even changing their minds. Not every person on the opposite side of politics acts like the caricatures you’ve seen online. There are many, many thoughtful people across the spectrum that do not fall easily into our biased categories.

My concern is not that everyone has to agree a particular way. My major concern is that our beliefs have sound reasons behind them. When I hear the stories of enlisted soldiers, military veterans, the mentally ill, the desperately poor, victims of racism, both pro-life and pro-choice advocates, immigrants (like my parents), and abuse survivors, I can begin to see why their experiences have shaped their positions on specific issues. The more stories I hear, the more I can understand. I can become a student instead of a critic. I can more easily reach across the aisle, not necessarily to change minds, but to build bridges where our stories are respected in the overlap.

Of course, this bridge-building cannot happen with everyone. Sometimes a person’s politics are so explosive and divisive that it seems they only want to watch the world burn (or as it’s said, it’s a zero-sum game). There really are people who cannot be engaged with, no matter how gracious we approach. But unlike the terrible circus we see online, on Twitter or Facebook or Tumblr, most people are way more three-dimensional than that. It’s only ever a last, last, last resort that I would ever break off a friendship because of politics.

Continue reading “When Do Politics Decide Friendship?”

Note to Self: How to Apologize


Note to future self:
When you don’t get it right —
Apologize quickly and let go.
Don’t beat yourself up or defend yourself too long.
Humans are squishy with small brains. We don’t get it right every time.
And that’s okay. Being wrong is not the end of the world.
Learning this now.
J.S.



Photo from Image Catalog, CC BY PDM

Does Your Theology?

Photo by Lindsey Noel


Does your theology drive you to your knees to weep for people who disagree?

Or does it provoke a surge of self-righteousness and increased volume and overpowering tactics to prove your point?

Does your theology allow room for growth and imperfection and an eye-to-eye understanding of the whole story?

Or does it imprison a person into a one-dimensional caricature who must think exactly you like do, or else?

Does your theology look for ways to love and engage and move in? Or does it look for permission to cut off and shut down and divide?

Does your theology have grace for people with bad theology?

Or did you read this thinking “This is for them and not for me” …?

Without grace, our theology is only posturing, and that’s not what Jesus came to die for.

J.S.


“If You’re Friends with a Christian Introvert, Keep These 14 Things in Mind”



Hey friends, I was published on Thought Catalog! It’s a post called If You’re Friends With A Christian Introvert, Keep These 14 Things In Mind.

The original post is here: https://jsparkblog.com/2012/12/13/14-ways-to-handle-a-christian-introvert/

On the third day of a church retreat or when it’s five in the morning at a lock-in, the inner-beast might be unleashed. But it’s not very cool and calculated and witty like an extrovert. It’s all kinds of nerdy and neurotic with a shaky voice and twitchy flailing, as if we’re learning to use our bodies for the first time: and in a sense, we are.

When that happens, please don’t humiliate us. Roll with it, laugh with us, and endure our horrible dance moves and bad impressions.

If you do, we are loyal to you for life.

Read the rest here. Love y’all, friends!

J.S.

When People Wait For You To Fail: Let Them Wait

There is a list of people in town who are waiting for you to fail.

There are people who are waiting to say, “I told you so.  You had it coming.  That’s what you get.  You deserve this.”

There are people who time-stamp you, who think you haven’t really changed, that you’re still the same person because “I know how you really are.”

There are experts who will tell you it can’t be done.

There is the constant loop of self-condemnation, second-guessing yourself, holding yourself back because you think others will scoff at your newfound sense of confidence, the perpetual eye of criticism on anything you do outside the box you’ve been put in, that feeling the universe will somehow pay you back for every wrong thing you’ve done.

Continue reading “When People Wait For You To Fail: Let Them Wait”

You’re Never Getting This Time Back.


We often waste an incredible amount of time wanting to be somewhere else, someone else. Our head-space gets clogged with compare, contrast, what if, why can’t, I should. But you’re never getting this time back. You can’t borrow tomorrow. Please don’t save the best for last. The best is all of you, here, where you are, brightly lit and painfully now, in this breath you’re leaving. Each second dies as it is born; every hello must say goodbye; all is fading in the collapsing hallway of a fragile hourglass, a grain at a time. You are here. The best is you, now.
J.S.



Photo by Stefan Lins, CC BY-NC 2.0

11 Blogs I’m Unfollowing Immediately

[Disclaimer: Angry post. Sorry.]

Once in a while, I do a “spring cleaning” of social media by unfollowing a ton of stuff. Not things I disagree with (we need disagreeing points of view) and not because I’m better than anyone (my insecurity would immediately banish the thought), but because it’s simply better for my mental state. It’s never a hasty decision. But where I’m going, I can’t take every voice with me. If you must, please discern wisely to unfollow me, too.

Here are eleven kinds of blogs or social media I’ll be leaving behind.

Continue reading “11 Blogs I’m Unfollowing Immediately”

Say the Whole Thing, Fully Everything

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If you express a strong opinion and get attacked for it, please don’t backpedal with “I was only trying to say” or “What I really meant was.”

Of course we want to be humble and teachable. There is always room for criticism and dialogue. It’s good to say you’re wrong: but don’t apologize for being strong. Please don’t hold back on your heart to look more rational than you really are. You can’t always be so cool and calculated. The strength of your voice is necessary in a nervously muted world.

Your expression is who you are in the heat of the moment, fully imbued by your wild strokes of passion and personality, and no one should be sorry about that. Don’t minimize your own humanness by trying to appeal to everyone’s civil sensibility. You might need to examine your content, but don’t let it shrink your character. In a silent world of jaded conformity, we need more of your voice and not less.

J.S.


Photo by TOM81115, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Tell Me Your Story.

I was nearly an abortion. I was an unplanned accident, born out of wedlock, and the one before me was aborted.

I was born to immigrant parents, who naturalized and met in New York. They started with nothing, working as many as 100 hours per week, slowly and painfully saving money until they could open their own businesses. They believed this was a great country, and still do. My father served alongside the U.S. in the Vietnam War, and he is a proud veteran of this nation.

Many of us have these sorts of stories; they inform who we are, what we believe, and what we fight for, and so we are a myriad of uniquely shaped stories, each giving rise to a different voice in the world.

The really tragic thing is when we superimpose a particular idea on someone without attempting to hear their story first, and their voice is then stamped and smothered. We can too quickly assume a person is only their picket sign, their political party, their social media feed, or a cartoonish, dogmatic, one-dimensional archetype sensationalized by a grab-bag of Hollywood images. We predict what they might or might not believe without asking, without listening, without understanding.

A person’s voice is always built from their stories, their experiences, their very real pains, and it’s this blend of blisters that has brought them to stand on their particular hill. It is a hill, whether rightly or wrongly, that has been reached by a stream of forces that no two individuals can fully comprehend in each other.

So we can only try. Patiently, graciously: to hear their story on the hill.

Continue reading “Tell Me Your Story.”

Jesus: For Them


The entire Bible goes out of its way to lift up the widow, the orphan, the foreigner, and the poor. God loved the “inconvenient.” If you’re not for them, you’re certainly not for the Bible, and the whole irony of it is that I’m pretty sure Jesus died for both them and for you, too.
J.S.



Photo by Demi Brooke Kerr

“How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?” — Five Difficult Truths About Heaven and Hell

Photo from his-desert-rose

colvmbiana asked a question:

I love God very much. But I recently saw a post on my dash that said, “How can a loving God send people to Hell?” and now I can’t stop thinking about that. How can He?

Hey dear friend, I truly struggle with this doctrine too, and if it were up to me, I’d be done with the whole idea of hell in a heartbeat. But I do want to consider the question, “How can a loving God send people to Hell?” — and examine the words loving, send, and hell.

First I have to say: I’m not sure that any Christian is irrevocably bound to believe the doctrine of hell. I know Christians who believe it and some who don’t. I love them both. We must not make the ancient mistake that 1) our theology is only about “consequences,” because it’s primarily about intimacy and oneness with God, and 2) to bicker over such dogmatic differences. Too many people wrongly emphasize the doctrine of hell as a motivation for Christianity, and that’s a false phantom motive that boils down to, “Date me or I’ll punch you in the face.” If there really is a place called hell and people are going, then 1) no one would become a Christian just by trying to “avoid” hell, and 2) the devil would love to have us arguing about it instead of loving on people towards God.

The following are some thoughts to consider. Please feel free to disagree, to fill in, to discern and to question and to dismantle. I recognize that many of us are appalled at the idea of hell and find it atrocious, and I’m with you: I hold the same feelings, while pondering the gravity and depth of its possibilities. There are no easy, satisfying answers here, but only ruminations, in which you and I must land on a conclusion, however differently.

1) Hell couldn’t be just for anyone. No one could be “sent” there. It would be hard work to get into hell.

C.S. Lewis says, “The doors of Hell are locked on the inside.” What he means is, getting to hell takes a massive amount of effort over a lifetime.

I think it’s a lot harder to get into hell than we think. A prison, at least in its original intentions, isn’t meant for someone accidentally wandering in without effort or knowledge. Hell is designed for the unrepentant, remorseless, unconscionable person who is deliberately dead-set on chaos and sadism. “Some men just want to watch the world burn.” That sort of person is rare, but they exist.

In tiny blips throughout history, someone will perpetually abuse their own singular life to the point of irreversible perversion, and very consciously choose everything against God’s design of love, compassion, and generosity. I believe that the idea of hell, in its purest conception, is a place exclusively reserved for that kind of cruelty. I might even replace the word “hell” with justice, or safety, or balance.

Of course, anyone can be rehabilitated. I will always believe that. I would never ever be satisfied at anyone going to hell, not even at the worst sort of criminal. Anyone who relishes the thought of someone going to hell must really re-think their own sanity. I believe that God gives a billion chances, over and over, all throughout Scripture. Many of our “Bible heroes” were murderers and tyrants and cheaters who reformed. Yes, there is grace even for child molesters and kidnappers. That’s the craziness of grace. If you care even the slightest about God’s divine heart for the world, then no, I highly doubt you’ll fall into hell.

Continue reading ““How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?” — Five Difficult Truths About Heaven and Hell”

Quit Self-Shaming and Move On


I was a college drop-out with a 0.9 GPA who lost a scholarship and took seven years to graduate after going to two community colleges. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, everyone blooms differently. Setbacks are not failures and you are more than yesterday. Own your mistakes, quit the inner-loop of shaming in your head, smile big, move on.

— J.S.



Photo from here

Love Is a Fighting Word


Love is not passive,
kindness is not silence,
and compassion is not quiet;
sometimes it means we raise our voices
to fight for our very lives.
J.S.



Art by 1of1doodles

Let’s Have A Conversation.


Let’s have a conversation.

I’m very much okay with disagreement, discussion, debate, questions, challenges, and stretching each other towards new ideas. I’m okay with wrestling in our misunderstandings and our blind spots. I’m fine with a loud voice when it means passion and conviction. I’m open to you teaching me something I never thought of, or to help me think in a new direction, or to correct an obvious error.

This means you want dialogue. I can see you want a conversation when you see the person, not just a problem. Then you’re respecting my willingness to learn. You’re building a bridge towards mine, and even if we disagree in the end, we valued each other’s dignity: not perfectly, but with the open arms of possibility.

I’m not okay with obnoxious arrogance, smarmy diatribes, condescending, one-sided soapboxing, black-and-white pigeonholing, hyper-sensitivity, a persecution complex, yelling “fallacy” or “heresy” or “blasphemy,” dogmatic lecturing, automatic defenses, blanket statements, unequivocal language like “always” and “never,” putting words in my mouth, or assuming I stand for the opposite of some angle I didn’t cover.

This is not passion, but insecurity, projecting, and gaslighting. It’s not conviction, but condemnation. Your goal isn’t a conversation, but winning a conversion. It means you love the sound of your own voice, and there’s only room for one person on that platform. Yet you wouldn’t even listen to someone who talked the same way as you. I will hear you, I will even read your picket sign and your angry blog post, but don’t expect much else.

— J.S.



Art from f5quotes