Weaponizing The Gospel

Podcast Version: http://www.wednesdayswithwatson.com

In her 2020 song “My Weapon” Natalie Grant beautifully sings about the presence of God being her weapon, I believe it with my whole heart, the presence of God is a weapon and this is demonstrated all throughout the gospels. Here is one of my favorite lyrics from the chorus:

“Your presence is my greatest weapon, pushing back the darkness, breaking every chain, my worship opens up the heavens, crushing every strong hold when I speak Your name, because Your presence is my weapon.”

In Mark’s gospel, Jesus repeatedly lives in community with people who appear to be mentally ill. To name a few: the man in the synagogue possessed by a demon (1:21-28), the Gerasene demoniac (5:1-20), and Bartimaeus, who was screaming at Jesus at the side of the road (10:46-52). We can imagine Jesus interacting with other people – including the apostles – who may have be suffering from depression, anxiety, or PTSD and all their friends. In each case, Jesus approaches these people and treats them with dignity. He refreshes their souls. He simply provides His presence first and then whatever else they needed. No name it claim it stuff from Jesus.

Lifeway Christian conducted a poll that demonstrated that almost half of evangelical Christians believe that they can overcome their mental illness with Bible study and prayer alone. I am so excited when God chooses to deliver a person from depression and its friends. But we all know it doesn’t always work that way. I was at church the other day and as a woman was getting baptized she declared her depression gone, and part of me cringed because I knew there were people whose internal dialogue told them “but that didn’t happen for you”, my internal voice was probably the loudest.

Just a few months ago a pastor, author and mental health advocate, Steve Austin, who had championed mental health being highlighted in the church, completed suicide. I didn’t know him, but it set in motion thoughts of “we have got to do better” repeated over and over in my mind. I thought about how we get it wrong. This is not a podcast to chastise anybody, rather to exhort a community of people who are either hurting or live among those of us who are. I want to exhort you to use scripture responsibility, understanding that there is an enemy who is the greatest of all time at using scripture against us as we see in the temptation of Jesus in the desert.

Buckle up guys, we worked hard on this episode, and know that I am speaking to you community—those of you who do life with others like me. This is Wednesdays With Watson Podcast: PTSD, Jesus and You: Weaponizing the Gospel.

Did the title get your attention? Good, if you clicked play, you are my people. Before we get too far into the podcast I want to encourage you to doo something so that we can continue the conversation on IG for the next 10 days, while you are listening open your app and click on the first link you see, that is my IG account. We are going to keep talking about this in short 30 second videos, and I will provide some real- life examples of when the greatest scripture twister of all times has harmed real people. I am looking forward to interaction there as we continue this important conversation. This will especially be advantageous as we move into the season finale where we begin to dive into Faith and trauma.

Before I proceed let me be very clear that I believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God and is the authority by which I attempt to live my life. We know that the Bible tells us in 2 Tim 3:16-17 all scripture is given by the inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” So the purpose of this podcast is not to take away from the authority of scripture, but rather to attempt to shed some insight on how we often use scripture out of context, in an untimely manner and dare I say, almost use it against those of us who struggle with anxiety, depression, PTSD and all of its friends. Scripture is a weapon, but it is to be used against the ruler of this world, removing his ability to seek, kill and destroy us.

He will use scripture to destroy us, if we let him, and this is why it is so important to be careful about when we use scripture for hurting people. Notice I did not say IF we use scripture to minister to hurting people, but WHEN.

When I was in the children’s home, we traveled almost all year and sang in churches to raise support for the home. It was not unusual for us to have sung 8 times in 7 days. You can also understand how many sermons I have heard in my day, and for the most part I am grateful for that experience, but there was one wounding message from the pulpit, where Luke 9:62 was preached completely out of context, and the decades that followed were driven my misunderstanding of that scripture—that was taken completely out of context. As the years went by, my misunderstanding of that scripture would be reinforced as I would also see it on cute little posters on youth room walls and so I began to take the scripture to heart, exactly as it had been preached. I do not remember hearing about the entire story of the passage, not the one before it or after it. I locked in on not looking back.

“No Man who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” Luke 9:62.

You see, the preacher man told us not to look back, or we would not be good enough for the kingdom of God. He didn’t preach the verse in context or explain that these red- letter words of Jesus in Luke 9 were meant for those who made excuse after excuse as to why they could not drop everything and follow Jesus. And so the production monster of Amy Watson commenced at the tender age of 15 or 16. Trauma wasn’t done with me just because I was at the children’s home, and the years that followed found me not looking back and definitely not seeking help, I wanted to be good enough to be fit for the kingdom of God. As I look back now, with every gut punch in my boxing ring of life, I kept my hand on that plough, I did not look back and with each layered trauma came a distance between God and me, and somewhere along the way I lost who I  was and by the deeply in the throws of a DV marriage wondered. I wondered, often, if God even existed. There were plenty of reasons for my crisis of faith, including my own standoff with God, but that scripture just ruled me, and I didn’t even understand it. I have paid for this thought process in spades over the years. I kept putting my hand to that plough and not looking back until I couldn’t and that fall out is well documented on this podcast, season one Hospitals and Courtrooms.

As I processed the completed suicide of Steve Austin,  I feel now more than ever that my voice must be among those that begs a community of well -meaning believers to simply proceed with caution with us. As I mentioned, I believe the Bible is Absolute Truth, and so as I wrestled with the loss of a mental health advocate and the memory of this scripture creating a performance monster, I knew I had to get behind this microphone and talk about it. And not unlike any other episode, I went to the scriptures, because I really want you to know the power of the presence of God, living and active in you, and sometimes, in the triage stage of helping us, that is what we need. I landed in one of my favorite scriptures in the entire Bible, and probably my favorite gospel, the gospel of John.

He wept. The tears of Jesus are documented in the shortest verse in the Bible, John 11:35. Some have different speculations about why Jesus wept but one thing for certain Jesus heard both Mary and Martha when they said “Lord, if you’d been here our brother would not have died” Jesus didn’t throw down more red letter words– not like he could have, instead, he seemingly absorbed the pain of those around him and he responded like I hope you and I do when there are those among us who are hurting –he joined them in their sorrow as he was either sad that they didn’t have faith in him or he was sad because they were sad –my point is he didn’t throw any number of scriptures or even chastisements at them. Instead, he wept!  He got in the trenches with his community and he wept.  Jesus’ response to Mary and Martha is a beautiful example for us to follow as we do a life with the hurting broken and bruised– 100% of your community falls into that category at any given time, so as we do life together what is our responsibility to our tribe?

Remember that Natalie Grant song? Certainly, Mary and Martha were comforted by the very presence of Jesus, albeit a few days too late. And so Mary and Martha had a weapon in the presence of Jesus Who got in the trenches and he cried with them. And, so I ask again what is our responsibility when we walk with those who are hurting broken and bruised?

It is to weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. So often we want to fix people and so we use our perceive expertise to help solve a problem instead of jumping in the trenches with hurting people who are sometimes in the war of their lives. Wars need weapons and so we wield these weapons freely with clichés, motivational quotes and yes scripture. It is this you got a problem I got a Bible verse thought process that harms people and maligns the very gospel we say we love! Of course there’s a Bible verse for every problem but when doing life in the trenches with the trauma victim often times you are the Bible verse, your life where the word of God is living and active. You may be the only Bible verse they can handle at the greatest moment of pain.

The first chapter of John talks about how Jesus is the word and how he was there from the very beginning. But that scripture also says that the darkness cannot see the light test because it could not understand the light. I think that is often the case with people in pain, the depths of their darkness is so intense they can’t receive scripture, they cannot understand it.

So, let’s have a talk. What do I mean by weaponization of scripture?  Today it’s just my mic a few hundred friends and me, so let’s chat about how instead of using the Bible as a weapon against our real enemy we pick and choose verses that have somehow been badly passed down through the ages and at times serves to harm a trauma victim particularly a PTSD patient. I can’t tell you how many times well-meaning people quoted Philippians 4:6 to me: “be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication let your request be known under God” I can’t explain the shame I felt before I understood PTSD, depression and anxiety. I finally took a deep dive into that verse and the Greek connotation of the word anxiety is more to meditate or renumeration on something– that is a much different description of what it feels like to have a panic attack or to live in the deepest parts of depression so we throw that particular verse out there people like me feel gut punched by the Holy Bible.

It was never the cliches, cute memes or locker room scripture posters that led me towards healing—instead, God used people who just did life with me, they were His presence and that was my weapon.

These people do not judge me. I remember a time when I must have taken too much Xanax. That was frequent in the days before that hospital stay. It was the middle of the day one friend I was texting called another friend and before I knew it there was a knock at my door there they stood both of them ready to settle in and watch me until the meds get out of my system their response to one of my darkest hours is the reason I’m alive and behind this microphone. Just like Jesus could’ve said 1 million things to Mary and Martha but chose compassion so did my friends. Instead of throwing down red letter words at me they demonstrated the love of Jesus by their actions to this day neither of them have ever spoken of the time they dragged me to a Mexican restaurant are we waiting for the Xanax to wear off.

I am looking at you today—community. We preach it all the time on this podcast. We have encouraged community, but we have never exhorted you or given you something tangible to do when you are doing life with us.

Today, I am here to do that. I want to encourage you as you love those among us like me who have survived or is surviving the fallout from decisions of another. I have made my position clear that I believe that the WHOLE Bible is Absolute Truth and is appropriate for every situation, and we should use it as such too. It is a gift, it is a GOOD gift, and I am so thankful for it.

But just like with all good gifts it matters how you deliver it and it matters how you treat it. The good news of the gospel is the only answer I believe that. But I also stand with my trauma tribe as we love a mysterious God Who for some reason has allowed us to survive trauma. Delivery of the good news matters and my friends said more with that taco dinner  than anything else they demonstrated  the gospel by their actions, they reminded me why I love Jesus because I could see it in them. 

I am still talking to you community. Your involvement with us can’t be shallow, we need you in the trenches with us. You will get dirty, you will get hurt, so decide before you dive deep with us if you really want to fight with us.

When you are constantly in the trenches with somebody you won’t be there long before you have earned the right to begin using scripture– because you have remained a steadfast trench mate. This is true of another friend who picked me up for work the day after I totaled my car during the darkest time of my life, it was the final straw. I remember it like it was yesterday she turned on the light in her van on one dark October morning and she held her own copy of Ken Gire’s book “The North face of God”—“for when you’re ready” she said.

 I was ready and that book, steeped in scripture changed my life forever and is still one of my favorite books on my bookshelf. I have my own copy now and have given away countless copies of it. It is still so often picked up when it gets dark.

I know what you’re thinking hey I clicked play on this podcast because of the title Weaponizing the Gospel what does that even mean? Well I’m glad you asked! Weaponizing the Gospel is opposite of what my friends did. You might also be asking yourself who weaponizes the gospel? Even though I want to raise my own hand because it is easier to send someone a quick Bible verse as a text or card and not get dirty that way, but the reality is I don’t have the power to weaponize scripture neither are you, or do we? It is something to thing about for sure.

But there is one that is the greatest of all time using scripture against us, and he has been given dominion over the earth and using scripture against us– like the anxiety verse that I stated earlier is it not new to Satan as we read in the gospels and the temptation of Christ –what did satan use? SCRIPTURE! Looking at you again, community, let me encourage you that as you compassionately began to use scripture make sure you’re using in context, don’t cause the cautionary tale that I experienced, living decades of my life thinking I couldn’t get help or even revisit the past trauma or I would not be good enough for God. Remember that darkness can’t understand light, so be patient when you utilize scripture to help us. And finally remember that scripture is living and active in you, and as you do life with us, you usher in the presence of Jesus, the Star of the story. His presence is our greatest weapon, and so many of you can be the person that ushers in hurting people to Jesus; we just have to be responsible with the greatest gift of all time, the Absolute Truth, the authority by which we live.

So, what am I saying?  I’m begging those of you who love people like me to remember compassion leads the way. Living in the trenches with us gives you the right to bring scripture and God into our pain, and we will receive it because you have demonstrated your desire for us to get better, just by your steadfast role as a trenchmate.

 Also, remember, the way you deliver the gospel matters. It doesn’t look like cute Memes and name it claim it Bible verses. Finally, we need to remember the power of our words and so when we do use scripture we need you need to use it properly I’m still tearing down walls getting back to that little girl who thought that she could never look back.

I am so grateful for my community and given the proper time they aren’t afraid to throw down some red little words at me. If you are under the sound of my voice and are without a community I urge you to find it somewhere. It only takes one trench mate sometimes, and once you are there with us, as a light, dividing the darkness, scripture will come alive in us too.

It has been my hope that you feel encouraged as a community, and that we all realize the power of the gospel and not ignore the greatest liar of all time who cannot stand against it, but he can weaponize it, and he often does, through us, without us even knowing it. I went to the streets while writing this episode and I asked a group of people to share with me a wounding message they received from some well- meaning person that all but threw a Bible verse at their problem. There were many, but about 10 verses that were mentioned to me over and over, and this is where the conversation will continue on my Instagram. I will post one verse a day for the next 10 days and those posts will be in the highlight portion of my IG for those of you listening to this later. You will learn how oft missed Bible verse are wounding to those of us living with trauma, and for that matter those of you who aren’t. So, make sure you are following us there and I can’t wait to dialogue with many of you in the static post (will put in stories and as a post).

Guys, the word of God is divisive and sharper than any two edge sword. Use it responsibly lead with compassion, don’t let the best news ever get twisted and then never reach the hearts of people that need it the most! Do life with people, then they will want your Jesus.

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