This week on the blog, we’re changing course a bit. For the last couple of months we’ve been working with the Deep Water topics from the videos on our YouTube channel, but there’s another series I do on that same channel called the New Jesus. For the immediate future, I think the best discussions we can possibly have will come from there.
The name probably merits a little explanation. I grew up in a fairly strict religious environment. Even though my parents were wonderful, and my childhood was pretty much idyllic, I still couldn’t escape the idea that God was nothing but a sort of mean stickler, just waiting for me to put a toe out of line so He could whack me for it. It’s a disturbing way to live—as I’m sure many of you know—especially if you’re like me and put more than just a toe out of line pretty frequently. Eventually, I met my spiritual mentor, who showed me the version of God that I believe in today, one who is characterized by love and compassion, rather than by rules and vindictive cruelty. I remember saying it was like finding a whole new Jesus.
I’ve realized since then that a whole lot of people—both believers and not—have the same problem with God that I did. No matter what your personal beliefs are, I would urge you to give it a chance. Because even though what we’re about to talk about is informed by my own beliefs, the real subject I want to address is not religious, and I sincerely believe you can take away something useful to your happiness and wellbeing, regardless of how your own differ.
Enjoying adversity seems like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Well, in our New Jesus videos we’ve been building toward this concept for a while, and I believe it could be one of the most miraculous adjustments you ever make in your life if you’re able to really commit to it.
The heart of this concept is in 2 Corinthians 4:10, “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” As a follower of Jesus, this is an old concept, and part of it is a matter of perspective. We’ve all heard the phrase, “my cross to bear,” and if you believe in what was done on our behalf and think of your own pains and problems in that context… well, most of the time they seem pretty minor in comparison.
But it’s also much more than that. What absolutely floored me about that verse when I started to really reflect on it recently is that it’s speaking literally, not metaphorically. The verse seems to indicate that His life can be really, physically manifested in our actual bodies. So what in the world does that actually mean in practical, physical terms?
Here’s a place to start: you can break down beliefs into three basic types called placebo, nocebo, and Defacto. Placebo, as most of you know, means believing something that isn’t true. The curious thing is that just believing it is often enough to have a powerful effect. Sugar pills, for instance, have a comparable effect to actual medication in about one-third of cases, though it is usually short-lived. Nocebo is just the opposite—meaning a refusal to believe something that is true. Just as placebos can create a limited form of relief and even healing, nocebos can be very destructive, creating physical issues where none existed before, and also serving as a barrier to healing.
Then there’s Defacto, which of course means believing the truth and is easily the most powerful of the three. Almost any medical doctor will tell you that even when there’s no substitute for professional treatment, a positive outlook can make a huge difference. That’s essentially what I’m talking about, just adding on that a positive and truthful outlook makes the biggest difference of all.
I often repeat the truism that pain demands a response. The primitive, survival-oriented part of our brain has some pretty strong ideas about what that response should be: get out, get away, stop the pain. Good advice if you’re being chased by a bear, if you’ve been in a car accident and broken a bone, or if you’re stranded someplace without food. Less so in a career or relationship. See, our brain tends to always interpret pain as danger, as a threat that needs to be eliminated. But as mature adults, we learn that pain is sometimes—quite often, actually—a necessary part of living a good life. It might never be enjoyable in the way that ice cream and jet-skis are enjoyable, but it can be a profoundly meaningful part of a healthy life. So how do you get to that place?
By changing your beliefs. For me, as a believer, that means saying as Oswald Chambers once did, “Lord, I am delighted to obey you in this.” For others, it might simply mean finding something worth that level of commitment and making a sort of vow—which I sometimes call making a request of your heart. If that sounds a little woo-woo, all I’m really talking about is making a statement to your unconscious mind. That’s where this sort of thing is mostly decided, and when the unconscious mind clashes with the conscious mind, the unconscious wins every time. Fortunately, it’s possible to get it on your side.
Unfortunately, it’s never an easy task. What all of this comes down to, really, is changing your beliefs. Lots of people go their whole adult lives without ever changing any major beliefs, and a lot of the time even when they do, it’s the result of some sort of external stimulus—a near-death experience, for example. There’s only one way I know to do it on purpose, and that’s to conduct an exhaustive search of your own beliefs.
For me, that meant throwing out everything I’d been brought up to believe. When I did this, I researched pretty much every spiritual belief system I could find, from atheism to Christianity to Buddhism and many, many others. I think the most important thing is that it was an honest search. I was willing to give up everything I’d been raised to believe in favor of the truth, whatever I found that to be. That’s the kind of belief that has real power to change how you live your life and to make even the adversity a chance to do something meaningful.
Have a blessed, wonderful day!