Doug Bender

1. You are the only one who thinks you have weird elbows

Yup. You read that right. I had issues with my elbows. I used to wear oversize t-shirts to ensure that no one caught glimpse of my knobby elbows. I avoided shorts for the same reason. I’d suck in my bottom lip so people wouldn’t notice how fat it was. I huddled along the edges of rooms to hide my backside. My hands never knew where to go. And whenever I walked, I knew everyone secretly snickered at my funny stride. Turns out, the only people who ever really think these things of others are those who think even worse about themselves. Knowing how insecure we all are, somehow, gives me security in knowing that I’m not so bad and neither are you. Maybe I could have said that to people a bit more back then.

 

 

2. Even the cool kids need a friend

I was lonely. Deeply and severely. I just wanted a friend. I remember even buying a book one time entitled, “How to Make Friends.” There’s my nerdy side coming out. I’ve since learned that everyone is lonely. Everyone wants a friend. Our coping mechanisms look different, but we’re all lonely. The shy kid (me) coped by withdrawal, the popular kid by overconfidence or people pleasing. But we all did what we did with the sole hope that someone would like us for it. But the best way to make a friend is to be a friend because we’re all looking for one. Knowing this about the people I meet has turned everyone into a potential new friend. And that’s a lesson, I wish I knew a lot sooner in life.

 

3. You’ll miss your family

Someone once told me that when we are young, our parents know everything. Then, in our teenage years they seem to forget it all. But somewhere around our mid-twenties they remember it all again, and we are amazed at all our parents did for us. That’s how it seems looking back. But I now live a thousand miles from much of my family and there’s no going back to when we’d play football in the back yard or make cheesy popcorn for movie night. I just wished I’d appreciated my family more before we all moved away and learned the hard way that our parents weren’t so bad after all.

 

4. Grades are good, people are better

I never got straight A’s, but I tried. I worried about grades, tests, and college applications. But success, in all its forms, has always overpromised and underdelivered. I wrote a national bestselling book once, and I had a lot of old classmates call up to congratulate me. They asked me to come speak at their schools, make a video for their organizations, or post something on behalf of their causes. I made it to the top, I’m a bestselling author. But I’m no happier. I found some cheap friendships along the way, made some money, but, in the end, none of it really mattered. It’s not what makes me happy. Knowing I’m loved is all I need to be happy. Knowing that God loves me, my wife loves me, my friends and family love me, this is what gives meaning to life. Grades, career, and money never earned me any love.

 

 

Doug Bender is an I Am Second writer, small groups coach, and author of I Am Second: Real Stories. Changing Lives. and Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First.


More from Doug Bender

Why your life motto can’t just be a wristband It’s a thing, nowadays, to wear your cause on your wrist. It’s a way to define yourself, to differentiate, and express yourself. It’s a way to shout to the world your life motto. But I want to push you to go beyond inspiration and interest.

13 Reasons Why NOT: an Open Letter to My Friend Who Committed Suicide- I was the last person you ever called and I missed it. I’m still not sure how it happened. But you took your life before I could call you back. I remember calling the next day. Your mom answered and said they couldn’t find you.

The Sad Reason I Only Wear Brand Name T-Shirts– I find myself leaning on money and stuff for happiness. I haven’t learned to beat it yet. I’d like to be perfectly content with any financial situation. I’m not.

Courtesy of the San Angelo Standard-Times

Years ago, a friend of mine had on her I Am Second wristband. She went to the airport. I can’t remember where she was going. She got her boarding pass, checked in her bags, and proceeded to the security lines. She got up to where you pile all your stuff on the conveyor belt to run through the scanners. And a TSA agent happened to glance at her wrist.

“Don’t let anyone tell you you’re second, girl!” she said. “You’re first. Don’t be put down like that.”

At first, my friend didn’t understand what the agent was even talking about. Usually, the TSA folks are about excited to be doing their jobs as we are to be standing in their lines. Interactions are mostly limited to them ditching the half empty water bottle you forgot in your backpack. But this lady was so shocked that someone would proudly claim second place, that she stepped away from her screen and spoke up. She feared for the emotional well being of my friend.

But, that’s when my friend got to explain what the wristband really meant. It’s a thing, nowadays, to wear your cause on your wrist. It’s a way to define yourself, to differentiate, and express yourself. It’s a way to shout to the world your life motto. And for my friend, that motto was simple:

“I Am Second.”

God above all and others before herself. She is Second. Not first or third, fourth or seventeenth. It’s a statement of both humility that life is not all about ourselves and our own self interests. But, also of pride and purpose, that we aren’t some insignificant peon for the universe to expend.

And, if you’re reading this post now, you understand what I’m saying. You’ve been inspired, or at least intrigued, by this philosophy of life to wind up here, reading the stories of people who make it their aim to live Second.

But I want to push you to go beyond inspiration and interest. I want to challenge you to live Second. If you’ve ever worn an I Am Second wristband or T-shirt, if you’ve ever volunteered at an event, shared a video, or claimed to be Second, then I’m talking to you.

You’ve seen it in your social media feed and on the news. Right now, an entire city is under water. The people of Houston, TX, even as we speak, are watching as their homes, livelihoods, and cherished possessions wash away in the deluge of hurricane Harvey and its tropical storm remnants.

We recently launched a simple and practical way for you to live out the motto stamped onto your wristband or tattooed on your forearm. Second Helping brings practical household help to veterans, single parent families, seniors, and those experiencing financial difficulty. It’s a simple, effective, and real way to put your money where your mouth is.

We’d like to send in armies of handymen to help piece together the lives of those affected by this storm. But that will only happen if you step up. Whether you’ve got $5 or $5,000, you can bring the real help people need. Right now, people there are fighting for survival. But soon it will be time to rebuild. And when that time comes, we want to be ready.

Stop reading the news and start making some. Step up and give. You have an opportunity to fix what’s wrong with the world. And you can do it, one small household project at a time. So give, live Second, and change a life.

Click here to step up and give or text HelpingHouston to 555888.

 

 

Doug Bender is an I Am Second writer, small groups coach, and author of I Am Second: Real Stories. Changing Lives. and Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First.

 

 

Follow On Second Thought Blog

We tell messy stories. We do. I know that. Most of the storytelling coming from faith backgrounds obsess with the happy ending. The prince always gets the girl. The villain always gets his due. But I Am Second tells messy stories. They don’t all end clean. All of them, even the ones that do end happy, have just a ton of mess and a ton of pain.

I’ve written for I Am Second since two months after it launched. And much of the written content that’s flowed through I Am Second has come across my desk at some point. And people have asked me, “Why are your stories so dark? Why do you spend so much time talking about the painful parts of life?”

I’ll tell you why we tell messy stories. It’s because life is messy. People are messy. The world is a mess. To tell a story, any story, about real people apart from this mess is just inauthentic. It’s fake.

Bono, from U2 fame, gave an interview with David Taylor a while back that struck a chord with me:

As I look through the Scriptures, I just see a bunch of the dodgiest people ever collected in one place. Murderers, adulterers, ego-maniacs. I mean they sound like most of my friends. They sound like me. I mean, David’s treatment of Bathsheba’s husband, it’s mind blowing. He had such darkness in him. He murders [her husband], gets him sent to the front line to take advantage of [his wife].

Bono references one of the Bible’s biggest heroes, King David. But you can’t tell David’s story without telling how he had an affair with Bathsheba and then murdered her husband. And this is one of the good guys!

We know God doesn’t have favorites, but if he has, you think it might be David. You think how? It’s revealed through the psalms of David: honesty. They are marked by honesty.

David’s honesty has long inspired Bono. Through David’s many psalms and poems preserved in the Bible’s Book of Psalms, you see a rawness and vulnerability too rarely heard.

I want to argue the case for artists who might be listening in to our conversation and are not giving expression to what’s really going on in their life because they feel it will give the wrong impression. We don’t have to please God in any other way than to be brutally honest. It’s the root, not just to a relationship with God, but it’s the root to a great song. In fact, it’s the only place you can find a great song, only place you can find any work of art of merit.

He listed out many of the darker, more painful, and raw themes found in the Book of Psalms.

I would really like this conversation to unlock some artists. I think they’re trapped artists. I’d like them to be untrapped.  Getting it out in the open is very very important. I’m just starting to realize that the only real problem that God can’t deal with is the problem you don’t know you have or that you’re lying to cover up.

One of the hidden treasures on our site is the story of David McKenna. I remember when we brought him in to share his story, he was just so open about his struggles. He actually emailed us the next day telling us that he wasn’t sure if we’d want to really feature his story. He told us he was still in the middle of it all. He was still fighting his addiction. The battle wasn’t yet won for him.

David Mckenna was trying to protect our reputation. He feared that when he messed up again, as he knew he likely would, we would look bad for having featured his story. But that’s just it. We are all a mess. That’s the human story. That’s the story we are trying to tell. That’s my story. That’s your story. That’s all our stories. We want to tell that beautifully broken human story.

There’s great hope in the broken story. Hope is faith in the unseen. It’s realizing the mess we are and trusting, hoping that God is the type to still love us despite the mess. The stories we share, even the stories I’ve told about myself (see below) are meant to share that hope, demonstrate it through all the broken lives that God cared to put back together.

But as always, I think David said it best in one of his psalms:

Into the hovels of the poor,
Into the dark streets where the homeless groan, God speaks:
“I’ve had enough; I’m on my way
To heal the ache in the heart of the wretched.”

 

Doug Bender is an I Am Second writer, small groups coach, and author of I Am Second: Real Stories. Changing Lives. and Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First.


Want to read more about my mess?

13 Reasons Why NOT: an Open Letter to My Friend Who Committed Suicide- I was the last person you ever called and I missed it. I’m still not sure how it happened. But you took your life before I could call you back. I remember calling the next day. Your mom answered and said they couldn’t find you.

Friend or Foe: My Brain Can’t Tell the Difference- That moment sent me on a dizzying journey that eventually led to the discovery that I have a defect. My brain isn’t normal. I lack the mental ability to identify people by their face. It’s an actual thing, face blindness, they call it.

The Sad Reason I Only Wear Brand Name T-Shirts– I find myself leaning on money and stuff for happiness. I haven’t learned to beat it yet. I’d like to be perfectly content with any financial situation. I’m not.

 

Willis Johnson founder and owner of Copart and Takl with his wife Joyce Johnson.

We recently launched Second Helping, an I Am Second initiative with the help of Takl, that brings practical household help to veterans, single parent families, seniors, and those experiencing financial difficulty. But I was curious about the backstory of Second Helping. How did something like this come to be?

It turns out, that the man behind Takl, the impetus for Second Helping, is as fascinating and surprising as the company he started. Takl has figured out how to find someone to mow your lawn within the hour. My wife hasn’t even figured out how to get me to do it that fast. Willis Johnson has a full head of peppered hair, with none of the pomp you’d expect of someone who started from scratch the leading company in his industry. But bored with retirement, he launched an app that’s mobilized an army of handymen to fix almost anything around your house.

So I got him on the phone to hear his story, starting with how he married his wife, Joyce.

“About ten days after our first date, I went over to her house. It was real early in the morning. She had those big round curlers in her hair. I had a ring in the glove compartment. I brought her to the car and asked her to marry me. And she said, “Yes.”

“We got married and bought a house. But I decided I didn’t need to get a job, my dad always worked for himself. I learned from him. I could work for myself. So, we sold our house and moved into a junkyard. I started my own wrecking yard and I grew it from there.”

Within the first minute of our interview, I discover a man willing to take risks. You don’t ask your girl to marry you ten days into the relationship or sell your house and move into a junkyard without some seriously big, uh…well, let’s say he’s a bold man.

“Our company ended up having a number of locations and I decided to go public with the company. From there, I started acquiring or building a new yard every six weeks for the next eighteen years. Copart is now the largest salvage auction company in the world, today.”

Willis Johnson started Copart from a single location in Sacramento, California. Today, Copart has 190 locations in 12 countries and sells a car, on average, every three seconds, making Copart the largest salvage auction company in the world.

“I retired seven years ago, but I’m still chairman of the board of Copart. But, I got bored not being involved in business. I happened to be in New York City for a dedication involving an Orange County Chopper I repaired for the Statue of Liberty. I had not been traveling for a while, because I had been retired. Instead of getting in a cab, we got into an Uber.

“Prior to Uber, coming into New York City, you had to get in a cab. You wait in line. You could hardly get one. They were dirty. It was kind of neat just getting into this nice black SUV from Uber. I thought whoever dreamed that up was a genius. I kept jumping in the front seat giving my drivers the third degree asking how this works. What a cool thing, that you can run your own business without an accounts payable, accounts receivable, you work for yourself.”

I guess that’s why I don’t run a billion dollar, multinational corporation. The last time I got in an Uber, I took a nap. I flew into JFK airport in New York and needed to get to New Jersey. I hopped into an Uber, gave my driver the address, and promptly dozed off until about Manhattan. Never did I think that this could be a life changing experience or a ride that could launch my next career.

When Willis returned to his home in Nashville, another piece of the start-up puzzle fell into place.

“Well, I met with my friend Greg and he wanted to build a company for handymen. I said good for him. But I didn’t want to start up a business. Remember, I was retired. I went online looking and found that just about every town in America has a handyman. We combined this idea of a business for handymen and overlaid that with the on-demand concept.

“We thought, let’s think about a gig economy business that just does small jobs, handyman type stuff. We ran with that concept and started Takl. Most of the jobs are around $100. These are small jobs, ones that don’t require a permit or anything. Usually, providers show up within the hour to do whatever project you need.”

I have to admit, before I met with Willis Johnson, I had the picture of a middle aged Silicon Valley type guy, some fake glasses, and a V-neck. Instead, I met a man who grew up on a dairy farm, spent his life in junkyards, and only recently came out of retirement to start a company based on an app.

I had some practical questions about Takl. Like, how do you know what price to set for cleaning out the gutters?Or how do you estimate the time for trimming the hedges and painting a wall? Well, because he’s done all that himself. Long before he ever joined NASDAQ, he worked for his dad in one of his many hands-on type businesses or tore apart cars in one of his junkyards. Even more recently, he told me the story about fixing up an Orange County Chopper. Takl isn’t just some idea he had, it’s part of the life he’s lived.

A large part of his life has always been about giving back however he is able.

“So, we are doing all this when I Am Second, comes to me with an idea. People can use Takl to get just about anything done around the house. What if I Am Second helps people who couldn’t afford to pay for these jobs? They wanted to help people in the community using Takl. That lead to the creation of Second Helping. 

“Now, after doing a job with Takl, when you checkout you can make a donation. That money will help a single mother who can’t work, an elderly couple or a veteran. People can donate money and that pays for a job at someone’s house.  Individuals, churches, organizations can go through Second Helping to help people in their community.

“I’m a firm believer in giving the maximum. Some people can’t afford to give money, but they can give their Saturday. They can become a provider with Takl. And the money they earn can go to Second Helping. A lot of people can give money or time. God wants that. I hope to see people help their neighborhood, all over the country, through Second Helping.”

Takl is an app that helps with small jobs around the house. Second Helping uses that platform to assist people who need the help but struggle to pay the light bill. I’ve been with I Am Second since before Twitter. I’ve had the chance to be a part of a ton of awesome events, initiatives and projects. But Second Helping is in a whole different category.

I just want you to think about it for a second. You’re working two jobs struggling to pay the bills or you’re a single mom just trying to keep life together, and you just can’t get the lawn mowed. It’s a simple thing. It’s really not that big of deal. But you just can’t get it done. You need someone to help you out for an hour to mow your lawn. Where are you going to find that someone? Now, you can find that someone through Second Helping. If you’re the type that wants to give some help, you can either come mow the lawn yourself or pay the guy who will. That is a revolutionary concept, the kind of thing that can change the world.

You want in? Here’s how you can get involved:

GIVE- your donation will provide veterans, single parent families, seniors, and those experiencing financial difficulty with needed household projects, free of charge. Click here to give.

APPLY-  if you are a veteran, single parent, senior, or are experiencing financial difficulty and need help with a chore around the house, apply here.

EXPLORE- Learn more about Takl or Second Helping.

 

 

Doug Bender is an I Am Second writer, small groups coach, and author of I Am Second: Real Stories. Changing Lives. and Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First.

Lamar Odom and Khloe Kardashian. Image shared from www.facebook.com/reallamarodom/.

Most of us saw the headline, even if we pretend that we don’t keep up with the Kardashians. Lamar Odom, with claims to two NBA championships and a much-publicized marriage and divorce with Khloe Kardashian, just penned a public confession. He tells of the wild path that led to him lying in a hospital bed for four days in a coma and his regrets along the way.

(Read it yourself here, but be warned, it’s not PG)

Maybe it’s the whole reality TV craze, but it’s become common practice for the famous to spill everything out into the public. Every time I watch one of these shows, I always say to myself, “Don’t they know people are watching?” And how do they expect to get away with those snarky side camera comments about so-and-so, when surely so-and-so will be watching this episode in a month along with the rest of us.

But it’s just this type of let-the-world-see-my-mess attitude that I find so intriguing. What compels a person to let the world watch as they tear up their marriage or verbally stab their friends? What makes a person want to strip the peel off their life, so we can all tweet out our judgements?

There’s a quote from the letter of 1 John in the Bible, written by one of Jesus’ closest followers. It says:


“If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. On the other hand, if we admit our sins…God won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God.” -1 John 1:8-10


Unlike every other religious book on earth, the Bible is full of messed up heroes. All the great names cheated on their wives, murdered, lied, doubted, failed in big ways. John here summarizes the main theme of the book, that we’re messed up and in need of forgiveness.

Lamar Odom recalls in his letter something his grandmother used to say, “What’s done in the dark, will come out in the light.”

And this letter was his admission to that truth.


“If it’s not in the public light, it’s in God’s light.”


“I think of all the sneaky s%#t I tried to get away with,” he says. “All the times I did wrong. All the stuff I tried to hide. If it’s not in the public light, it’s in God’s light.”

I think somewhere deep inside of us, we all know this to be truth: we are messed up and in need of forgiveness. Reality TV is like pro-wrestling, we all know it’s staged, but it’s a staged truth. It still reveals something real, something deep about ourselves, the things we really want, really care about. And one of those things: that despite our mistakes, we want love and forgiveness.

Props to you, Lamar Odom, for admitting your wrongs. I’ll be praying you find God’s path for your life and the love and forgiveness your seeking.

 

 

Doug Bender is an I Am Second writer, small groups coach, and author of I Am Second: Real Stories. Changing Lives. and Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First.

 


More from Doug Bender

I can’t believe you’d go there- So why do we show up at unexpected places, places like Warped Tour. It’s simple. Jesus didn’t come for good people. He came for people who knew they weren’t. He came for broken people.

Katy Perry: Witness for the darkness- You read this song and you keep waiting for God to show up, for the ending to turn happy, but it never does. But that’s why I love it so much.

 

 

 

Every year we show up at Warped Tour, a massive summer concert tour with the biggest and newest names in music. We have a booth and we ask people to tell us their stories. We get stories like this:

People ask us why we go to these kinds of events. This is why. It’s these stories. We go to hear people’s beautifully broken, human stories. We want to engage people with their story, listen to them. We do this because we care. And we do this because we too have a story to tell.

Hope happens when you believe in a different story, a different telling of your purpose and place in life. We believe we tell that different story, the story of hope. It’s one that plays out through the dozens of raw, diverse, human stories represented on our website. But we don’t get to tell this story of hope unless we care enough to listen to another’s story first.

One of my all-time favorite stories in the Bible is the one about Matthew. This guy was despised by the religious establishment, hated and judged. He was after all a traitor to his country and his God. He took a job working for an enemy nation to collect taxes for them from his own friends, family, and neighbors who’d been conquered by this enemy nation.

But one day Jesus came to his town and walked right up to where he was collecting taxes and invited Matthew to follow him. He didn’t call him names, judge him, shout out all the terrible things he’d done, or even demand that he confess his wrongs and return all the money he took. No. He just gave him an invitation to follow him. Jesus then shows up for dinner at Matthew’s house and the religious leaders in town have the predictable reaction of judgment.

“Why does he eat with such sinners?” they ask. It was one thing to talk to Matthew, but a whole different thing to go and hang out with the guy at his house.

But Jesus turns the tables on his critics and says, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I’m not here for good people, I’m here for sinners.”

Pause just for a second and think about what Jesus just said. The only people who get to see the doctor are those who know they are sick. 

There’s so many times when I go to bed at night wondering why I said whatever I did to my wife, why I yelled at my daughter, why I wasn’t kinder to my neighbor. It’s frustrating that I seem incapable of being the man I want to be. But it’s stories like this that remind me of the hope that Jesus came to give. A hope for messed up people like me.

So why do we show up at unexpected places, places like Warped Tour. It’s simple. Jesus didn’t come for good people. He came for people who knew they weren’t. He came for broken people. And that’s why we go to these places.

We don’t go because we think we are better. We go because we know we are not. We’re not there on some humanitarian mission to help the poor souls at rock concerts. We go because we’re all poor souls in need of help. We go because this is where we keep finding people looking for hope. And we want to have that conversation.

 

 

Doug Bender is an I Am Second writer, small groups coach, and author of I Am Second: Real Stories. Changing Lives. and Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First.

Katy Perry’s new album “Witness”

Say what you will about Katy Perry, but I love her honesty. The title track for her latest album, Witness, is a soliloquy of doubt and loneliness. I won’t name names, but these dark themes fail to surface on the “positive and encouraging” genre of radio stations that are out there. And it’s why you’ll find me listening to some of the less “encouraging” musical artists on occasion.

See, great music, great lyrics puts sound and words to feelings. Sometimes, I doubt. I have fear and anxiety. I wonder if I’m alone in the world, if anybody cares. And I crave music that can put words to those parts of my soul. Words like Katy Perry’s:


If I lost it all today, would you stay?
Could my love be enough to stimulate?
If s*^t hit the fan, grenades got thrown
Would you still show, oh?
Could you go down with me to the mat?
Could we get back up and eventually laugh?
Roll eyes at highs, cheers in the lows, and stay in the flow.


There is a song in the Bible by the Sons of Korah called Psalm 88 that’s a pure cry into the darkness. It says things like:


You have put me in the lowest pit,
in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily on me;
you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.
You have taken from me my closest friends
and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
my eyes are dim with grief.


And other lines like:


From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
I have borne your terrors and am in despair.
Your wrath has swept over me;
your terrors have destroyed me.
All day long they surround me like a flood;
they have completely engulfed me.


 

And if that wasn’t dim enough, the song ends with this:


You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
darkness is my closest friend.


You read this song and you keep waiting for God to show up, for the ending to turn happy, but it never does. The song ends with a God that didn’t show up. It ends in darkness and loneliness. But that’s why I love it so much.

I’m a believer. I know that in the end God is going to be there for me. I know that. But when I can’t pay my bills, a friend betrays me, or I lose a child, I don’t feel like he’s going to show up. I feel alone. I feel that “darkness is my closest friend.” And for some reason, knowing that someone, anyone, has also felt this despair makes it all a little less despairing. In some strange way, I find the dark and lonely songs by Katy Perry and the Sons of Korah oddly encouraging, precisely because they offer no encouragement.

Now, some of you are already crafting an angry comment about why I shouldn’t write about Katy Perry. So, I’ll just end with this: she’s looking for a connection, someone to get her through whatever she is going through, maybe you can be a witness instead. Besides, who doesn’t need a witness?

 

 

Doug Bender is an I Am Second writer, small groups coach, and author of I Am Second: Real Stories. Changing Lives. and Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First.

(Photo source: https://www.facebook.com/JustinBieber/)

I am a Belieber.

I’ll just say that upfront.

I don’t have the T-shirt. I’ve never seen him in concert. But I’m a fan of Justin Bieber. I remember watching the YouTube videos that launched his crazy rise to fame. It wasn’t some marketing firm or record company rep that got his music out there. It was him on a crummy camera blasting us away with his vocals. Thankfully, the production quality of his music has improved with time.

Now, I say all this, not to endorse everything he’s ever done, said, or sang about. Let’s be honest. I wouldn’t endorse everything I’ve ever done, said, or, well, attempted to sing. I say this because love him or hate him, he’s got some truth we all need to hear. And some of these truths we don’t hear nearly as often or as loudly as we should. Here are a few of those truths:

 

1. “God is in the midst of the evil”.

On May 22 of this year, a suicide bomber killed 23 adults and children and injured another 119 following an Ariana Grande concert. So, Justin Bieber and others joined up for “One Love Manchester,” a benefit concert for those injured or killed. Justin got on stage and said this:


“God is good in the midst of the darkness. God is good in the midst of the evil. God is in the midst. No matter what’s happening in the world, God is in the midst. And he loves you and he’s here for you.”


I recently shared about the suicide of my absolute best friend from childhood. I remember just searching and struggling for answers. And the only answer I ever really found came from a line in a song written by a man named David in the Bible. He wrote, “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you are with me.”

I haven’t really told this story much in public, but, more recently, my wife and I had a still born child. And there is absolutely nothing you can say to comfort that or to wipe away that pain. You just have to be in the sadness and know that God is sitting next you. That’s it.

 

2. “What a better way to fight evil…with good.”

At that same concert, Justin challenged us to fight evil with good. He said,


“Love always wins in the end. What a better way to fight evil…with good.”


That doesn’t seem like anything big or shocking on the surface, but think about it for a second. Some group of people just set off a bomb, killing and maiming innocent men, women, and children. Children! And Justin Bieber challenges us to fight this gruesome and terrible violence with goodness and love. That’s bold.

Jesus taught that when someone hits us in the face, we should turn our head and let them hit the other side. That’s insane, that’s bold. But that’s Jesus. And according to Jesus, love is our weapon. I don’t hear this near enough in my circles.

 

3. “We have the greatest healer of all and his name is Jesus Christ.”

I’m not even going to give you commentary here. Just read what he said in an interview with Complex magazine:

“If you believe it, he died for our sins… What Jesus did when he came to the cross was basically say, ‘You don’t have to feel any of that stuff.’ We could take out all of our insecurities, we could take away all of the hurt, all the pain, all the fear, all the trauma. That doesn’t need to be there. So all this healing that your’re trying to do, it’s unnecessary. We have the greatest healer of all and his name is Jesus Christ. And he really heals. This is it. It’s time that we all share our voice… I’m at a point where I’m not going to hold this in.”

 

4. “None of us can handle this world, dude! It’s eating us alive.”

Pick up the Bible and read any story out of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, and you’ll find a theme. There was one group of people that just really got to Jesus. Seriously, you can tie Jesus down and whip him to within an inch of his life and then string him up on a cross to die and he’ll say, “Forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” But this group of people ticked him off so bad that he got out a whip, flipped tables, yelling “Get them out of here!”

And what is this group, you may ask? Religious people. Hmm. If you are a church going person, beware.

Too often, what I hear is there is this magic list of bad things that you need to avoid, usually all the sexual stuff, drugs and alcohol, and maybe a few others. Do these things and you are out. And of course Christians like to shout out how good they are at avoiding this list. But this list is the same list religious people had in the time of Jesus. And it didn’t work for them. And in walks Justin Bieber:


“If we can understand that we’re all imperfect, let’s come to God and come for his help. You’re not weak by doing that. I think that’s a common misconception of Christians, that you’re being weak because you can’t handle it. None of us can handle this world, dude! It’s eating us alive.”


 

So there it is. I’m a Belieber. I’m not asking you to convert. I just want you to hear him out. He’s speaking some truth here. We need a little less pride in ourselves, a little more pride in Jesus, and we need to stop running from sadness and grief and just know that God is in the midst of the evil.

 

 

Doug Bender is an I Am Second writer, small groups coach, and author of I Am Second: Real Stories. Changing Lives. and Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First.

 

 

More on Justin Bieber

You need to read what Justin Bieber just said about Christianity–because he’s right- I never thought I’d say this: Justin Bieber understands Christianity better than a lot of people I know. And there’s a lot about Justin Bieber’s Christianity that I want.

Justin Bieber nails it regarding God and faith…again- I mess up; I disappoint people; I’ll always disappoint people; but God still loves me and that love is unconditional.

 

More from Doug Bender

13 Reasons Why NOT: an Open Letter to My Friend Who Committed Suicide- I was the last person you ever called and I missed it. I’m still not sure how it happened. But you took your life before I could call you back. I remember calling the next day. Your mom answered and said they couldn’t find you.

Friend or Foe: My Brain Can’t Tell the Difference- That moment sent me on a dizzying journey that eventually led to the discovery that I have a defect. My brain isn’t normal. I lack the mental ability to identify people by their face. It’s an actual thing, face blindness, they call it.

(Photo source: pexels.com)

I can still see the sales rack in my mind. I can hear the hangers clanking as I fingered through the T-shirts. I can even tell you exactly where in the store I stood staring at the bright yellow and blue “3 for $18.99” sales sign.

All my clothes came via my older brother, thrift shops, or family friends. Well, except the clothes my mom made herself. So, maybe I wasn’t the most stylish kid on the block. Obviously, this sales rack meant some desperately needed style in my life. No more handmade clothes and no more hand-me-downs. This was a shot at the real thing. My homeschool co-op was going to think me the hottest kid at the science fair. Yes, I was homeschooled and my mom made my clothes. I know. I know.


This was a shot at the real thing. My homeschool co-op was going to think me the hottest kid at the science fair.


Never mind, that it was a discount retail store where I stood staring at the rack. Mom told me I could pick from that rack any three T-shirts. Three! Can you imagine that. I’d never had three new shirts ever. I could only pick from that one rack, but who cares. They were new and not made by mom. I love you, mom!

Twenty years later, I can still feel the emotional rise and joy of the moment. I touched and examined every one of those shirts. I was there for at least an hour engulfed in decision making. Looney Tunes were cool then. Well, at least I thought they were, but we’ve already discussed my level of style at the time. I got one Tasmanian Devil shirt with some sassy saying, a Daffy Duck shirt, and a Looney Tunes compilation shirt. And I wore those things for years, and I do mean years. Of all my early childhood, those shirts rank top four possessions along with a Styrofoam plane, Mario Brothers, and a Mickey Mouse that read books to me.

I’m now married, have kids, a good job. And I don’t shop at that store anymore. A class thing, I guess. Somehow, it feels below me. I’m embarrassed to even say that. I erased this paragraph like five times trying to decide if I’d even tell you this. But there it is. I think I’m too good to shop at that discount retailer.

What happened? Those shirts brought me years of joy and pride but now I’ve got a brand name shirt on. And the thing is, I’m no happier than I was twenty years ago wearing those Looney Tunes T-shirts.


The problem isn’t that I don’t have a nicer shirt, because I got that. The problem is I think that nicer shirt will make me happy.


There is a name for this. It’s called materialism. Sometimes it’s called the love of money, greed, or discontentment. Whatever we call it, I’ve got it. I find myself leaning on money and stuff for happiness. I haven’t learned to beat it yet. I’d like to be perfectly content with any financial situation. That’d be just plain contentment. I’m not. I find myself at a place I call happy discontentment. I don’t spend crazy or have a house full of stuff I don’t use, but I do carry with me this itch for more. I don’t need more, but something in me wants more. I’m happy with my life, but carry with me this discontented itch. So, I find myself at happy discontentment.

No matter how many shirts I buy or how much money I spend on those shirts, I’ve never been happier than when I got three terribly 90’s Looney Tunes T-shirts. The problem isn’t that I don’t have a nicer shirt, because I got that. The problem is I think that nicer shirt will make me happy.

 

Doug Bender is an I Am Second writer, small groups coach, and author of I Am Second: Real Stories. Changing Lives. and Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First.

 

 

More from Doug Bender

13 Reasons Why NOT: an Open Letter to My Friend Who Committed Suicide- I was the last person you ever called and I missed it. I’m still not sure how it happened. But you took your life before I could call you back. I remember calling the next day. Your mom answered and said they couldn’t find you.

Friend or Foe: My Brain Can’t Tell the Difference- That moment sent me on a dizzying journey that eventually led to the discovery that I have a defect. My brain isn’t normal. I lack the mental ability to identify people by their face. It’s an actual thing, face blindness, they call it.

How Ashton Kutcher Saved Me from Growing a Beard- I didn’t have a topic, experience, training, or any actual plan to make this happen. I just thought one day inspiration would strike while I sipped a macchiato at some sidewalk café and out would pop a book and my hairy face would be on the back cover.