We are just coming down from a powerful weekend in Missoula. Watching God work in people’s lives’ through the gospel message never gets old — there is nothing like it. It has been two years since the last time we had a Skull Church event here and it felt great to be back. The Wilma Theater has a lot of character. It has hosted every kind of concert imaginable — from Skrillex and Macklemore to Smashing Pumpkins and Marilyn Manson and everything in between. The last two nights it was a platform where people met Jesus.
Our team did such a great job. Every last one of them. Raul and the entire team at Fresh Life Missoula got after it in a major way, putting many, many hours in before and during the event. One of the highlights of the weekend for me was getting to go to church at our campus here yesterday. Partnering with John Mark McMillan and The Afters was a huge honor. All of the guys in both bands were so kind and excited to be a part of the event.
Missoula is a one of a kind city. It is weird, proud of it and has no intention to change. I love this city and it’s eclectic, eccentric vibe. It is a very different place — you have the whole “A River Runs Through It” vibe mixed with a kind of Seattle-type mindset found in many college towns. I believe with all my heart that Jesus has huge plans for this place and all the people who call it home. It has been and is a genuine joy to love and serve God here.
We have one more Skull Church event this year. We are going to be going to Helena in October. Helena is the state capitol and we have never done ministry there and I can’t wait to see what God will do.
This weekend we will be at the Wilma theater in Missoula for a two night Skull Church event. We will be joined by John Mark McMillan and The Afters. I have been wanting to bring John Mark and his band in for some time. His music is powerful. He is the one who wrote that song, “He loves us” that has wrecked many people in the best possible way. The Afters we have used before and they were such a blessing I couldn’t wait to get them back.
This is our second time doing Skull Church in Missoula. Back in 2011 it was the first place we had ever done an event outside of Kalispell. Now Skull Church has been to Billings, Bozeman, and Albuquerque and we are stoked to return to the Wilma. Both Saturday and Sunday night will be webcast live at 7pm MST at skullchurch.com so even if you can’t make it out you can watch, spread the word, and pray! Details here.
We can’t help but evaluate the difficult things that we go through and assign to them a value for how bad they are. Like the pain assessment chart hanging on the wall at the doctor’s office where you choose a level ranging from the yellow smiley face to a red face with x’s for eyes, we are constantly ranking the emotional trauma we experience in real time. The problem is we don’t stop with judging our own trials, at times we do this for other people as well.
I’ve had people say things to me like, “I know just what you are going through, my grandmother died last year.” A statement like that assigns a level to their experience and mine. Benign as it might be they are effectively saying our pain is the same — which can make you bristle a little bit on the inside. How can they compare losing a daughter to a grandmother? Old people die. That’s what happens. Not kindergarteners. That’s not the same. Intentional or not it belittles what I have gone through by forcing an unnecessary comparison.
Another person recently told me, “We have had to face the loss of my dad this year, but it’s nothing compared to what you’ve gone through.” Although this certainly didn’t hurt my feelings as they said it, I still found myself disagreeing with them. It was kind of them to acknowledge how unnatural it is for a parent to lose a child, but that doesn’t mean losing a parent is nothing. In this instance they minimized their own pain. What they have walked through isn’t any less difficult for them because of what I am facing. The fundamental problem is that this is still thinking based on comparison.
What I have discovered is that pain is extremely personal. It is impossible to feel anything except for what you are going through. If you have a finger chopped off it doesn’t matter if having your whole hand cut off hurts more — it is going to hurt like crazy for you right then. It’s the same way with all suffering. All we can know at any given moment is what we are experiencing. Until you go through something worse, the most difficult thing you have ever faced is the most difficult thing you have ever faced. At each new level of suffering it can be easy to think nothing could ever hurt more because it is the most you have ever hurt. Or to look at those facing “smaller trials” as though they are less painful than what you have gone through. As a result it is easy to inadvertently make people feel worse about what they are going through when you are really just trying to help.
Jesus is the only who fully understands anyone’s pain. As His agents of compassion our hearts desire should be to give people grace and room to hurt in their own way and pace. Making sure a person in trial knows you have felt just what they are feeling (and you haven’t, even if you have gone through nearly the exact same thing) isn’t as important as just being there for them. Sharing lessons you learned in pain are fine, but insisting that you know exactly which face on the chart they are at isn’t helpful. Attempts to empathize can backfire and come across as patronizing. We should try as much as possible to strip our words and our thinking of language that tries to force trials into bins and levels. Pain is personal.
Hebrews 4:15–16 “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
My little Daisy Grace turns three today! She is such a funny, sweet, and sensitive little girl. Of all our kids she is the most independent. She doesn’t need other people around her to keep herself busy, amused or entertained.
She is incredibly smart and has a great memory. I love going on walks with her and holding her hand. It is a huge honor to be Daisy’s daddy. I can’t wait to see what the Lord has in store for her life.
This weekend we are very excited to have Pastor Greg Laurie speaking at Fresh Life! It is always a huge honor to have him out, and I am especially excited for our Missoula and Billings campuses since this is the first time he has come to preach since those two locations began. Join us on the Internet no matter where you live on Sunday for our two online worship experiences! Details here.
This summer we went to six different cities on the most aggressive O2 run we have ever undertaken. God did amazing things in the lives of many, many people. This video captures some of the excitement and energy of these events.