Can God Really Fill My Loneliness?

Anonymous asked a question:

As a christian how can we be intimate with God so that he fills the void of companionship?

Hey dear friend, I’m afraid that this might be a false dichotomy. In other words, intimacy with God and companionship with people are not two separate things. Jesus told us the Greatest Commandment is (paraphrased a bit), “Love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength … and love your neighbor as yourself.”

To quote Timothy Keller:

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.

Loneliness is not a sin, but points to a very real need that we’ve had since the very beginning. Certainly, if our loneliness leads us to idolize others or people-please or squeeze unhealthy expectations, then we will be crushed. On the other hand, if we only “rely on God” in a sort of monk-like asceticism, then we will either grow resentful of “these worldly people” or we will never participate in the stream of God’s loving activity, which involves people.

Continue reading “Can God Really Fill My Loneliness?”

“3 Reasons a Journey Is Never Better Alone”


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

3 Reasons a Journey Is Never Better Alone.”

It’s about our need for tough accountability and joy-driven community so we can become the people we were meant to be, and how we live that journey together.

Here’s an excerpt:


“I can do it myself” is one the of the biggest lies we’ve perpetuated today.

It’s easy to get why: because we love independence. We’re threatened by losing our autonomy. The most triumphant modern narrative is, “I’m my own person and I call my own shots.” And certainly there’s great truth in valuing individuality.

But just as much as complete dependence on others is a dangerous trap: so complete independence is a romanticized fairy-tale.

No one is meant to do life alone.
Life alone isn’t life, but merely survival.
Life together is thriving, to truly be alive.


Read the full post here.

J.S.

“3 Quick Tips to Handle the Truth About Yourself”

3 ways handle truth x3church JSPark


Here’s an article I wrote that’s been published on X3Church, called:
“3 Quick Tips to Handle the Truth About Yourself.”

It’s about three ways to handle the hard truth about yourself from a friend’s honest intervention. No one handles “rebuke” very well because accountability is painful and messy: but it’s necessary for growth and progress.

Here’s an excerpt:


When you hear the truth about yourself, the person who tells you the truth isn’t perfect and probably won’t say it perfectly, but that’s no excuse not to consider their words.

The temptation when we hear criticism is to use the Mirror Defense, which is saying, “Well, what about you?”

We want to discredit the source of the truth, so we drag up old history and the other person’s weaknesses for self-preservation. Or we say, “I don’t like your tone” and use their voice against them.

The problem is, two wrongs can never make a right. In other words, someone else’s bad thing doesn’t cancel my bad thing. Even if the other person is a hypocrite, it doesn’t magically erase my own hypocrisy. And no one in the history of accountability has ever used perfect intonation and the perfect wording to tell the hard truth. If you find yourself saying, “If only she had said it like this” or “If only he had not said this” — then chances are that you’re trying to wiggle your way out of truth by a technicality.


Read the full post here.

— J.S.


Holding On or Letting Go: The One Friend I Want to Help, But Can’t Anymore.

Anonymous asked a question:

For a while now, my best friend has been struggling with depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts. I am the only one that knows this. She takes a lot of her issues out on me … But I can’t take the emotional abuse anymore. It’s an unhealthy relationship that has stopped being a friendship.

I have been asking God what to do. I have sat with her in her mess. In her screaming. In her crying. In her hopelessness. I have tried to give advice. I have prayed for her. I have been patient and worried and angry all at once. I have been bitter because everyone else gets to experience the side of her that I used to know, the happy, loving girl that puts on a mask to hide her pain.

I have decided to tell her that I can’t be the person she needs me to be for her. That she needs to seek professional help. This is going to be a really hard conversation … If you have any advice, I’d love to hear it.

Thank you so much for your honesty and for reaching out to me. I’m also very sorry about the heartache that you’re experiencing; I absolutely know how hard it is to decide between holding on and letting go.

I have to say this upfront, and it’s going to be a wildly unpopular opinion: You’re on to something that most people won’t admit, that “love” and “friendship” do not mean exhaustively giving ourselves out to the point of toxic self-harm. That would be unfair to you and enabling and coddling to your friend, which would end up destroying everyone involved.

Here’s something even more unpopular, and please believe me that I have a hard time writing this. I think that most of us have been bombarded with the Hollywood idea that if we help someone enough, that person will eventually get to an “epiphany” full of high fives and hugging, and that their recovery will get on some upward trajectory. You’ll also be demonized if you “leave someone behind,” especially if you’re considering to possibly “leave behind” someone who is depressed or suffering a mental illness (and I’ve suffered from depression for as long as I can remember, so I’ve been on both sides of this).

Most of us hate to admit when we don’t have the qualified “training” to help someone, and there’s a secret guilt when we simply don’t have the energy or time. So we almost force ourselves to help everyone, which can be good, because most people simply need encouragement and listening, but there’s a very small percentage that need something way beyond us. By now you’ve seen how truly difficult it is to bear with someone who might be beyond your “ability.” What you’re going through is commonly known as secondhand trauma, like secondhand smoking.

The truth is, most of us are unequipped to fully help someone who is suffering from an overwhelming mental illness. In fact, social workers and psychologists tend to get cranky about people who think they’re doing “hero work” by helping the mentally ill. It’s basically like a painter trying to perform open heart surgery. I know that even the best of my friends are limited when it comes to dealing with my own depression. I don’t hold that against them. What I see is that you’re not so much asking for permission to give up, but for permission to rest and to have a wise distance.

And I’m here to tell you, keeping a distance even from your most well-adjusted friends is not “leaving behind” your friend, but simply a necessary rhythm of friendship. Of course, I absolutely believe we’re meant to be there for someone, that no one is excluded from our love and company, and that we must move towards people who are hard to love. I’m not at all saying that it’s okay to give up, or that it’s okay to cut someone off at the earliest convenience. Yet there must be a point when we recognize that someone is abusing our trust, and that professional counseling is not only an option, but a very real next step.

I advise two things.

Continue reading “Holding On or Letting Go: The One Friend I Want to Help, But Can’t Anymore.”

Friendship Is Born.


“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'”
— C.S. Lewis


Navigating The Labyrinth.


Occasionally we let someone in, we open the folds of our insecurity and give access to the darkest parts of us. We hand over the key, and it’s terrifying. And sometimes they bump into a raw nerve, they say a callous insensitive remark, they ridicule a strange notion we have, they poke at our dreams just a bit. It hurts pretty bad and we push them out and fold up fast. We remind ourselves, “This is why I don’t let anyone in.” And we run.

It’s right here that most people apologize like crazy. They feel terrible. They were trying to figure out how to navigate the labyrinth of your wonderful story. It’s like holding a tiny flash light in a cave of a new world. They didn’t mean to provoke those old wounds. They didn’t mean to poke fun at your dreams. They considered it an honor that they held the key, even for a few frenzied moments.

Intimacy takes work, trust, wounds, hurts, sculpting in the dark: and that takes time. It takes more than a single chance. Of course we can close the doors, at any second, when we know it just won’t work. But there are many opportunities if we had trusted a little longer, reset the tempo, and spoke up louder: it would’ve been okay. Bridges would be built. New stories are made. You find your hand closing around theirs. They begin to traverse the folds of your heart with ease, and they learn to say those things which give life, which give freedom, which grow dreams. Intimacy is formed out of stumbling, but further down the path: there is so much light, so much laughter, so many steps to the horizon together.

— J.S.



Impossible Fruits: Completely Jaded About The Unchanged

It happens to all of us: you pour out your heart and life and hours and pockets and energy into a fresh-faced person, hoping to see them out of the miry pit and into victory — when the end result is cataclysmic disappointment, worse off than before, down the spiral of prodigal wastefulness, a bitter mess of nuclear ground zero.

I keep thinking of them, You could be more than this. You were almost there.

Years and years of ministry has jaded me about how people change. In the jailhouse and the homeless shelters, it’s not so bad: people know they’re at rock bottom and there’s a fervent dependency on God you don’t see in your superstar theologian. They have little excuse. Their faith has been chiseled into its rawest form, a pure reliance on God’s power, and their life everyday is, Only God can do it now.

But people who can fall back on rationalizations, chemicals, alcohol, ex-boyfriends, more money, and mindless luxury never hit that rock bottom. Oh, they think they do. The people who claim, “I really want to change” will cry those big effortless tears and make their own sob-story so unique. But around the corner is some justified defense for their actions, a simple twist of words that makes sense in their mind, a little bottle of distraction to numb good senses, a secret silent motto of I can do this myself.

Or they will make you the bad guy, you’re the one with the problem, your truthful words are unhelpful criticism, your help is just a nuisance, and you’ll be the one person they cut out from their life.

I’ve learned over and over that no one — I really mean no one — can handle rebuke. None of us are good at this, and you can add me to that list. The second you tell someone the truth about themselves, it’s very rare when you see humility, conviction, and repentance. It’s either a total emotional meltdown full of self-guilt-tripping despair (no matter how nice you were in your rebuke), or it’s an insane explosion of throwing-things, kicking-doors, punching-walls, and all sorts of childish temper tantrums.

People are comfortable with the lies they’re living in. Ripping the roof off the lie is a dangerous move, like getting near the den of a bear. I keep saying the phrase, “You know you’re better than this.” But the more they keep doing that stupid thing and believing that dumb lie, the less this is true. We eventually become the lie we’re living.

As I’ve heard before, when you confront a friend: you’ll either get Real Grown Folks Time or Senseless Drama. It is now the minority exception to see grown-ups working together to work through real issues. People would rather deny their sin all the way to Hell by paying the price of their own souls. Satan is cracking up at us. I’m just grieved, tired, and jaded. I wish I wasn’t.

I would like to be gracious every time, the patient pastor who listens and nods and understands, the dude anyone can talk to. At times, I am, by the good grace of God. But most times I want to grab someone by the face, shake them half to death, and yell, “Stop it man, just shut up and stop.” I’ve done almost that a few times, and it worked for a little while, but shame never really changes anyone. It’s a short-term band-aid for a deep soul-wound.

It’s a serious calling to be the guy who unravels the lie and tells the hard truth. It demands your whole life.

Continue reading “Impossible Fruits: Completely Jaded About The Unchanged”

Four Things To Remember When You Rebuke

Rebuking is one of the hardest things to do. We’re either too soft or too strict, and for most of us polite church people, we would rather go on a mission trip to a war-torn third world country than speak truth to our neighbor.

But once you’re ready to pay the cost of awkwardness, there’s some things we need to know.

Continue reading “Four Things To Remember When You Rebuke”

A Relational Quandary: When We Find Out Who Our Friends Are, aka Why Jesus Is More Like My Unbelieving Friends

The other day I pretended I had cancer. I don’t do this a lot. Tuesdays are typically not Cancer Day (that’s Ebola Virus Day).

I went through my phone to see who I could call about it. Out of so many numbers, I came up with just a few names. Everyone else: too dramatic, critical, self-centered, unhelpful, unpleasant. Maybe I was being harsh. But still, no thanks.

I imagined other scenarios. God forbid I had just cheated on my future wife, let’s say. Or caught with porn at church. My future kids run away from home. Unforeseen debt. Got into a fight at the bowling alley. Wife miscarries. Doubting God again. Miserable about family, life, faith. Wanting to quit ministry.

Again: only a few names from the phone. Everyone else: too judgmental, snappy, quick to fix, short tempered, too religious. Was I being just as critical?

But an even weirder, troubling truth was that I felt safer talking to non-believers like my mom and brother instead of good old-fashioned church people. Because they wouldn’t be so fast to throw a Bible at me, or spiritualize everything, or connect it to the mysterious sovereignty of God.

I was sure they’d talk to me like a human being, with grace and dignity, capable of seeing past my poor choices.

No, they couldn’t offer Bible verses or Christ-centered counsel. But they wouldn’t look at me like some anecdotal success-story waiting to happen. Not just some damn discipleship project they could brag about at church like God would turn it around by the end of the episode.

And I knew then that something was wrong with this.

Continue reading “A Relational Quandary: When We Find Out Who Our Friends Are, aka Why Jesus Is More Like My Unbelieving Friends”