The Blog: On Second Thought

Closeup portrait angry young Unhappy boy, young student displaying Loser Sign on forehead, pointing at you with disgust isolated grey wall background. Negative human emotion, expression Body Language

(Source: Dollar Photo Club)

“Doesn’t being ‘second’ just make you ‘first loser?’” a smiling barista at an airport Starbucks asked me, after noticing my I Am Second hoodie.

As I took my red coffee cup (no, it didn’t have any holiday decorations) I asked, “Actually, what do you think our world could look like if we all made the choice to put God and others first?” The barista’s face lit up and he reached out to give me a high-five.

“I totally get it now! I love that!” he said.

Isn’t it funny just how counter-cultural it is to say “I Am Second”? It’s an upside-down way of choosing to live that isn’t typically embraced. This reminds me of a new documentary on HBO called “Trophy Kids.” It follows parents around as they involve their kids in competitive sports, revealing the darker side and high cost of what striving to always be first demands. It reflects the larger narrative of what our culture says about the insatiable need to be number one: You are nothing unless you’re first. This idea implies that somehow living second means you’re “second rate.”

But the truth is, living second doesn’t require the absence of excellence or achievement. In fact, a proper understanding of living second involves using what we’re good at to benefit others.

So, here are a couple of ways to consider how living second isn’t about being a “loser,” but rather the best way to approach life.

THINK ABOUT THE “ME FIRST” PEOPLE YOU KNOW: Think of the “me first” types at your school or work and ask yourself this: “Do the ‘me first’ people in my life make the world better or worse?” Can anyone make the case that the world needs another “me first” type person in it?

In most examples, “me first” people leave us uninspired, and, in some cases, can leave us feeling used, unimportant and devalued. Now, think of those that inspire you to be a better person just by being around them. Chances are, they not only draw out the best in you, but they also invest and inspire you to fulfill the potential they see in you. Simply put, “me first” types are normally their own biggest fans. Those who choose to live second are typically big fans of others, and the type of people that others want to be around.

HUMILITY: Unfortunately, this word has been hijacked and is often translated into “doormat.” Humility isn’t about allowing others to walk over you and abuse you. Humility, by definition, is simply “having a modest view of one’s own importance.” Humility helps us see beyond ourselves in order to consider those around us. So, humility, as it relates to living second, isn’t the absence of self-confidence, but about recognizing the value and potential in others and genuinely looking out for them. It’s valuing people because they’re people, not as means to get what you want.

SACRIFICE: Living Second requires sacrifice. There’s no way around it. To live second means finding ways to sacrifice our time, money, status, or talents for the sake of someone else. Think of those who’ve helped you get to where you are today. Chances are, it was someone who chose to live second and made the sacrifice to invest in your success. Living Second is about “paying it forward.”

Jesus — who is the ultimate example of living second — explained it this way: “…whoever wants to be first among you must become your [servant]. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” He gave the best of himself for the benefit of us all.

So, what would you say if you were asked “What does ‘I Am Second’ mean?” It’s more than a slogan; it’s a life-long pursuit in joining a counter-cultural movement committed to making the world a better place, one person and life at a time.

In the comments section, share with us some ways you can influence culture by choosing to “live second.”

At age 19, in one fell swoop, my life changed forever. In a matter of minutes, I went from being an average teenage girl to being crowned Miss America 2008 onstage in Las Vegas in front of a crowd of thousands, not to mention millions watching at home.

While seven judges decided I was “America’s ideal woman,” there was something I wanted the country, the world, and especially every little girl to understand about me: I wasn’t perfect. In fact, I grew up hating my body and nearly destroyed it.


Kirsten Haglund in one of her final photo shoots as Miss America. She won the title at age 19, which was only her third pageant ever. And while to many she is the face of a “perfect” person, her teenage years were far from it. She was at “war” with her body, suffering through years of an eating disorder. (Photo source:

My journey to becoming Miss America wasn’t like a lot of other beauty queens’. I entered a local pageant a year and a half earlier on a whim in order to earn scholarships for college. I accidentally won the pageant, then won my state pageant (Miss Michigan), and then found myself competing at the Super Bowl of pageants, never dreaming I would make it into the top 10 much less win the entire competition. I was far from what is considered the typical “pageant girl.” I wasn’t perfectly coiffed. I didn’t have the perfect body. I didn’t have perfect confidence. And I certainly didn’t have perfectly timed smiles and tears. I was just me. I was just Kirsten.

But I won.

That’s when I realized I needed to combat that “perfect” stereotype, which is a crushing constraint that we all face.

See, the truth is I grew up with very low self-esteem. As a young ballet dancer, I severely struggled with an eating disorder (anorexia), anxiety, and depression. I spent most of my teenage years at war with myself.

I spent most of my teenage years at war with myself.

But I found hope. I found that in God, who eventually brought me to a place of peace, healing, and a proper understanding of perfection. A place where, with His help, I could use my struggles to help others.

Here’s what I learned in those struggles.

1. There are basic truths you need to realize

During my recovery from anorexia, I had to realize some basic truths. The first being: I’ve got only one body from birth until death. One! Most characteristics of that body — how much muscle I’ll be able to put on, my set weight, whether my skin is acne prone, how wide my hips are, or how big my breasts are — are pre-determined by genetics. There’s only so much you can change without going to devastating extremes (which I tried, and it’s an awful life; it doesn’t work, and “being thin = being happy” is a big, fat lie).

I had to learn to love the body God gave me. He loves it and he gave it to me! In fact, God loves our incredible bodies so much He calls them “temples.”

When I came back to a saving faith and realized God was a loving father who created me as unique and exquisite, I suddenly realized hating my body was hurtful to Him. With the help of scripture, my friends, and counselors, I decided to work on loving my body for what it does for me: its strength, movement, and utility rather than seeing it only as an aesthetic object.

2. Practice acceptance

Cultivating a healthy body image takes work. It does not happen overnight.

My ballet teacher used to say, “Practice makes permanent, not perfect.” And she was right. Monitor your self-talk (which is the words you say to yourself about yourself). Is it negative? Are you constantly putting yourself down? If you practice those thoughts, they’ll become a dangerous habit.

When working toward constructing a positive view of myself, I had to monitor the negativity, and practice replacing lies I believed about myself with truths. The glorious realization came after months of practice: I could change my self-talk to more positive, affirming messages.

You know what else I learned? Comparison is the thief of joy. Never once did comparing my body, my accomplishments, or any other trait with someone else make me feel better. It only made me feel worse. It can be hard in a world of hyper-connectivity and social media to stop comparing yourself to others, but I encourage you to be a trailblazer and put positivity out into cyberspace. I promise it’s freeing and amazing! And better yet, it’s contagious.

3. It’s about more than you

Finally, I learned during my year as Miss America that God brought me through the dark clouds of anxiety, self-hatred, and anorexia not only to grow my faith and dependence on Him, but also to help others.

Before the job, I had no clue how many people struggled in silence, how many people appreciated public figures opening up and talking about these things, saying it is okay to reach out for help and that they’re are not alone. I realized my story was about much more than just me.

I realized my story was about much more than just me.

If you’re struggling with identity, self-doubt, or anxiety, to try to get out there and be a part of something bigger than yourself. In my recovery, I started to volunteer at church, I got more involved in the arts and service societies at school, and I started sharing my story with others, trying to be a good friend and a good listener. It helped take the focus off of me and my “issues.” It taught me gratitude and humility.

Through service and vulnerability I learned that it is okay to be flawed and imperfect, because that is what connects us to others and connects us to God. He loves us no matter what brokenness we’ve been through and that is really all that matters.

Yeah, I was Miss America. But at times in life, I have been a broken mess in need of God’s grace just as much as the next person. Even though I have come to love and appreciate my body, skills and abilities, I still have bad days and still have to work on silencing my inner critic. That is because I’m not perfect and never will be. God uses our imperfections and we are all works in progress. Life is not about the destination, it is about the journey – which is a lot less scary when we realize the God of the entire universe created us, loves us, and is walking alongside us the entire way.

(Source: Dollar Photo Club)

(Source: Dollar Photo Club)

Belief is a powerful force. Think about it: You have the ability to choose to think something is true without even having the evidence to back it up in that moment.

Just that description kind of concerns me. What if I decide to believe in something that isn’t true? If I publicly announce that I believe my favorite sports team is going to win, but they end up losing, it’s going to be embarrassing.

If I believe that I’ve met Mr. or Mrs. Right and I end up getting dumped, it’s going to hurt really bad. People like Hitler and Osama bin Laden got people to believe they should take drastic, violent action.

But before we swear off belief all together based on these examples, we have to remember that we have modern medicine because scientifically-minded men and women believed they could find cures to polio and smallpox. We believed it was possible to go to the moon. We did.

I’m writing this article and you’re reading it because we believe our conversation is valuable.

So belief can be good or bad.

One of the biggest questions in life involves belief: What do you believe about God? Does he exist? If he does, is he good or bad? People have been asking these questions for a very long time.

When you add in all that talk of eternity and destination of your soul that most religions deal with, it sure puts a lot on the line. I gotta tell you, I really don’t want to screw this one up.

So how do you decide what to believe about God?

Do you accept what your parents taught you? Do you hold onto what you hear in houses of worship like church or synagogue or temple or mosque.

This seems like a really important decision. One that you shouldn’t outsource to anybody else.

This seems like a really important decision. One that you shouldn’t outsource to anybody else. I mean, come on, if you’re not really convinced, then what good is saying you believe something? Let me take a minute and explain one of the reasons why I have decided to believe in Jesus as my answer to the whole God question.

C.S. Lewis (writer of the Narnia book series) was a scholar of Greek and Latin literature. Based on this, he had read a lot of mythology — think the Greek and Roman gods. He was also an atheist. He decided to read the New Testament in order to disprove the claims it held.

See, Lewis was used to reading eloquent and poetic and dynamic writing by myth makers, but what he found in the Bible’s writings, according to his story in the book “Surprised by Joy,” were poorly written, sometimes confusing accounts of a man claiming to be God.

Accounts that you would expect from people who were not professional writers, but rather fishermen or tax collectors.

After much consideration, Lewis decided they must be telling the truth and accepted their eyewitness accounts.

I’m with Lewis on this. I believe that the Hebrew scriptures are genuine and that they point to a fulfillment which only the first hand accounts of the life and times of a man named Jesus from a place called Nazareth can be considered to have fulfilled.

If a man can predict his own death and resurrection, I’m willing to ride with him. And I don’t think he was just a good teacher. Lewis explained why, really, that’s just not possible:

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

But even in the midst of my belief in Jesus, I gotta tell you that my beliefs keep developing and changing. If I met me from five years ago, we’d disagree on a lot of stuff.

But my overall belief that Jesus is who he claimed to be, and that the things he says about God are true — those beliefs are at the basis for all the other figuring out I’m doing.

I hope that when you hit a point when you’re deciding where you anchor your beliefs, you’ll explore Jesus.

The very fact that most of us search for something bigger than ourselves is certainly very telling. As Lewis himself wrote, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

Thomas Christianson is a pastor, professor, and writer in Baltimore, Maryland. He’s the author of a new ebook, “Making My Faith Practical,” as well as a graduate of Regent University with a master’s degree in practical theology. He blogs regularly at

(Source: Dollar Photo Club)

(Source: Dollar Photo Club)

If our culture was asked to define happiness, it wouldn’t be strange to hear answers like “money,” “nice clothes,” “popularity,” or “having my eyebrows on-fleek.”

At this point, you’re probably expecting me to tell you why that’s wrong. Guess what: I’m not. But I am going to tell you how to find lasting happiness — or what’s better described as “joy.”

By definition, happiness is dependent on “happenings.” Meaning, happiness is based on circumstances setting the stage for happiness to, well, “happen.”

The problem with our culture’s definition of happiness is that much of it is focused on immediate gratification.

The problem with our culture’s definition of happiness is that much of it is focused on immediate gratification. Kind of like drinking a Red Bull and enjoying the rush it gives — and then it’s gone.  It’s temporary.

But the better way to think about it is by asking this question: What’s the difference between temporary happiness and lasting happiness? These two forms of happiness are wildly different from one another and come from two very different places. Lasting happiness isn’t situational. It’s the kind of happiness that allows you to find comfort and a positive outlook when something bad happens.

While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the simple things that give us temporary happiness, the problem is, we just can’t trust them to stick around very long. As C.S. Lewis — the writer of the Narnia series, as well as countless other books — said, “Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.”

So here are three ways you can move from the endless pursuit of temporary happiness to a lifestyle of lasting happiness.


GRATITUDE: Many studies have shown that those who’ve discovered lasting happiness were those who learned the art of being thankful.  What if, in our pursuit of happiness, we began to be thankful for what we have, instead of allowing what we don’t have to dominate our view on life? It’s easy to focus on the negatives, but taking time to be grateful for the positive things each day can shift us into a new way of discovering lasting happiness.

It could be as simple as taking the time to text and thank someone who has had a positive effect on your life.  Gratitude is a happiness generator.

GIVING: One of the central ideas behind the statement “I am second” is the idea of putting God and others first in our daily lives.

G.P. Palmer says, “Happiness is a by-product of an effort to make someone else happy.” Practically speaking, consider what it would look like to find a way to give to those in need in your school, work, or community. Consider giving your time, talents, and resources as an investment into someone else’s happiness that will inevitably return with interest.

LOVE: When it comes to the connection between love and happiness, a guy with a lot of wisdom on this subject named Professor Arthur Dobrin nails it.

“Whichever way you find happiness, it is always accompanied by love, for happiness is ultimately the love of life, the celebration of living,” he writes. “The mark of happiness is that you are sensitive to the world around you, that you acknowledge your dependence upon your surroundings and that you are filled with loving-kindness.”


So did you notice a common theme? All of the ways I mentioned require you to give something. Think about that. Lasting happiness isn’t found in what we can get but in what we give away.

See, the problem is not enjoying things. The problem is holding on to them too tightly.

In your pursuit of happiness, what have you given away today?

David Martin is the youth culture strategist at I Am Second. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram (@realDavidMartin).



That’s how many points Meredith Hamlet scored during her career at McBain High School in McBain, Michigan, a small town “under the knuckle” of the ring finger, to use Michigan “mitten” terms. That’s 232 points more than the previous record, which was held by two people — her sisters, Annemarie and Elizabeth. She scored the only quadruple double in her school’s history. She was an Associated Press all-American three times and was offered a scholarship…during her freshman year of high school. She’s good.

But none of those accolades or numbers mean as much to Meredith as the single digit on her back when she hits the court. Hamlet, now a freshman at Valparaiso University in Indiana, wears her lifestyle on her sleeve. Or rather, her jersey.

“I wanted a number that means something to me in college,” she told I Am Second while balancing classes and practice. She saw that the number two was free and picked it.

(Meredith Hamlet, a freshman basketball player at Valp, decided to pick the number two as her jersey number in honor of her faith. Credit: Valpo University)

(Meredith Hamlet, a freshman basketball player at Valp, decided to pick the number two as her jersey number in honor of her faith. Credit: Valpo University)

“That means something to me because my relationship with God is something that I treasure and has made me who I am today. So I was like, ‘I’ll pick number two and therefore I am second.’

“Every time I put on the jersey that means I’m telling everyone that I’m playing for God first,” she said.

So far the response has been great. She’d be lying if she wasn’t expecting some sort of negative reaction. But it hasn’t come. She’s gotten encouraging text messages from back home and her current coach even told her she shared Meredith’s reasoning for choosing the number two with her children.

“The key is not about the number of likes I get,” she said, a reference to an Instagram post she put up explaining her jersey selection.

“I think to me it’s about spreading the word, especially in today’s society when it’s not the norm. For me, I feel like God has given me that platform of playing Division I sports and I want to do something with that. I want people to know I play for God and that I live for God on the court and off the court.”

(The post Hamlet put on Instagram explaining her jersey decision. Source: Instagram)

(The post Hamlet put on Instagram explaining her jersey decision. Source: Instagram)

Still, Meredith’s faith doesn’t mean she doesn’t have struggles. She’s positive when you talk to her and you can practically hear the smile on her face, but there’s something going on.

“Few know the inner struggles that plague me,” she admitted.

“On a daily basis, and sometimes hourly, I deal with anxiety and worry since I was little.”

It’s her faith that actually helps her deal with it.

“I’ve realized through my worry that the one who I always turn to is God. I can testify that faithfulness brings blessings beyond measure,” she said. “I would not be the same person, nor would I have the personal relationship that I do with Him if it weren’t part of His plan for me.”

She’s also found strength in knowing “I am not alone, nor am I abnormal.”

(Meredith Hamlet, a freshman basketball player at Valp, decided to pick the number two as her jersey number in honor of her faith. Credit: Valpo University)

(Meredith Hamlet, a freshman basketball player at Valp, decided to pick the number two as her jersey number in honor of her faith. Credit: Valpo University)

And that’s her message to others: “I would say to those who are struggling to find their purpose in life — you are not alone.”

“I often felt like I was the ‘weird’ one for wanting to live out my faith,” she said. “But God had put it on my heart to do so and the reward is peace.”

Now she’s doing so on one of the biggest stages. When the Crusaders open up their season at Butler on Friday, there’s a chance Hamlet could be starting (she’s already started in an exhibition game). Either way, she’ll play. When she steps on the court, the crowd will merely hear a name and see a number. But for Meredith, it will be a declaration. A declaration that she considers more important than anything she will do in the game: she’s second.

And if her college career goes anything like her high school one, it will be a declaration that a lot of people hear.

We can’t say we ever expected this.

Seconds like you send us a lot of pictures of where you spot I Am Second wristbands, decals, and even tattoos. We love it. And we post a lot of them. But when Stuart posted a screen shot from his computer onto our Facebook page, it’s safe to say we were pretty surprised. That’s because it showed an Amazon search for a Polo Ralph Lauren v-neck t-shirt, and in one of the pictures the model is clearly wearing an I Am Second bracelet.

Here it is:

(Source: screen shot)

(Source: screen shot)

(Source: screen shot)

(Source: screen shot)

Now that’s something we haven’t seen before!

(Source: Starbucks)

(Source: Starbucks)

If you’ve logged on to Facebook, checked your Twitter feed, or read the news in the last week you’ve probably heard the latest decisions Christians are supposed to be outraged over: Starbucks’ new red cups. Yes, their cups. But they shouldn’t be, according to one popular Christian.

See, every year Starbucks changes their cups before Christmas to mark the season. But this year, instead of having any sort of festive design, the coffee company went with plain ol’ red. It was a move meant to be more inclusive.

“In the past, we have told stories with our holiday cups designs,” Jeff Fields, the company’s vice president of design and content, said in a press release. “This year we wanted to usher in the holidays with a purity of design that welcomes all of our stories.”

“We’re embracing the simplicity and the quietness of it,” he added. “It’s a more open way to usher in the holiday.”

Cue the outrage.

Those who go to Starbucks are “being told/reminded that this time of the year is no longer about Christmas,” wrote Raheen Kassam. “It’s about the colour red, or something. It’s a ‘holiday season.’ Don’t say Merry Christmas. It’s offensive.”

“Do you realize that Starbucks wanted to take Christ and Christmas off of their brand new cups?” That’s why they’re just plain red,” ranted someone else.

Except not everyone agrees.

Enter Candace Cameron Bure, also known as DJ Tanner from “Full House.” She’s the sister of Christian movie icon Kirk Cameron, a host of “The View,” and a staple on the Hallmark Channel for, fittingly, Christmas movies. She’s a Christian, too.

She took to Facebook on Monday to tell Christians to stop being so upset about the cups:

Starbucks War on Christmas?

It’s a red cup, folks.

[When] Starbucks puts a baby Jesus or nativity scene on the cup while saying Merry Christmas, then pulls it because they say it’s offensive, let’s talk. I don’t remember Starbucks ever being a Christian company, do you?

A Santa, a snowflake, some holly, a polar bear, some jingle bells or plain red cup don’t define Christmas for me as a Christian. My relationship with Jesus does.

So, I will joyfully sip on my Starbucks coffee, in a plain red cup, and instead of complaining about the lack of decorations, I will lovingly share the good news of Jesus Christ with friends and co-workers or anyone who’s willing to engage in conversation.

Merry Christmas to all!

As AOL pointed out, “Looking at past cups, it’s not as if they featured openly religious symbols before. A Christmas tree seems to be the most explicit Starbucks got.” And guess what: Customers can still purchase a Starbucks “Merry Christmas” gift card and buy Christmas Blend coffee.

There’s also this from Jared Wilson:

But back to Cameron Bure. She seems to be touching on something plenty of Christian thinkers like Gabe Lyons and Russell Moore have come to understand: America is not a blanketly Christian nation.

So maybe Christians should stop expecting everything to look Christian and getting outraged when it’s not. Instead, they should be working to restore brokenness in a broken world, building relationships with their hurting neighbors, and changing people’s perceptions of what it means to be a Christian.

“It’s not Starbucks’ job to share the love of Jesus. It’s your job.”

The subtitle to Ed Stetzer’s post on the topic is blunt: “It’s not Starbucks’ job to share the love of Jesus. It’s your job.”

As Lyons said when talking about a new generation of Christians:

Instead of discovering something new, they’ve actually recovered a key understanding of the Gospel that has largely gone missing in many parts of Christian teaching and doctrine in the last century—the idea of “restoration.” They believe that part of their responsibility in following Jesus is to lead lives that are prioritized around restoring broken people, systems, schools, neighborhoods, marriages and a variety of other things to reflect God’s original intention for his creation. They emphasize seeing the image of God in every person they encounter, even if that person wouldn’t acknowledge it. They don’t only care about social good, but see that as part of a holistic faith that naturally opens the door to much deeper conversations with their friends about the meaning of life, who we are as human beings and what God’s best is for his creations.

A boycott of a red cup isn’t going to do that.

Got you thinking? Now read, “Stop being so offended.”

(Source: Dollar Photo Club)

(Source: Dollar Photo Club)

Our world has billions of people in it. That makes it easy to feel anonymous and valueless. As a result, we’ve created scorecards so that we can determine who has more worth than others.

Some of the scorecards we use refer to looks, athletic ability, and popularity. One of the biggest scorecards we use is money: The person with the nicest and newest gadget, car, or house scores high in this area.

Failure to score higher means there’s some deficit within us. We see ourselves as somehow less valuable human beings. But one of the most twisted results of these tests is that when another person experiences success, we feel it pushes our rating — our worth — lower. And we can’t stand that.

I want to genuinely be happy for my friends when good things happen rather than silently counting the ways their success makes me look bad.

When our friend or facebook contact shares some great news about getting accepted to a great school, or getting the perfect job, or meeting an amazing special someone, we may tell them how happy we are for them, but inside we’re dealing with frustration and pain that comes from having someone score higher than us. We’d secretly rather see the breakup post.

At least, that’s the way we tend to think. And society keeps telling us to. Companies broadcast how incomplete our life is if we can’t purchase their product. Books offer to instruct us how to win friends and influence people. Social media lets us compare our numbers of friends and followers against others, not to mention the opportunity to rate others.

We’ve bought into the ideas that the scorecards are necessary, because they allow us to compete against others. Our life runs on them, because without them, how would we understand our value? If we’re not rich, but we’re fairly popular, we’re able to derive our value from our popularity. In our minds, we don’t have to feel the pain of losing if we have an area where we are winning. A society where everyone had equal value would rob us of the satisfaction of being better off than others.

It’s exhausting, and there’s got to be a better way. I want to genuinely be happy for my friends when good things happen rather than silently counting the ways their success makes me look bad.

Here’s what I know to be true, even if I don’t always practice it: There’s an old quote that says, “The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.”

If we take this idea seriously, it means that there’s only one scorecard for all of us that matters; one that doesn’t derive our value from any of our own attributes other than the fact we are utterly and unconditionally loved by God.

My favorite thing about this scorecard is that not only does it give everyone equal value, but since God is unchanging, we don’t have to worry about our value ever diminishing or being lost. It’s not about what we do, but what God has done.

We are unable to change that value, and therefore, we can never be more or less valuable than we are at this moment.

Now, if we decide to take God seriously, he calls us to lead healthier lives. He says crazy stuff like don’t lust and don’t worry and even love your enemy; but this is important to understand — God doesn’t say these things so we can make our score higher. God says these things because he loves us completely and wants to help us avoid pain.

God isn’t a jerk boss. He’s a loving father.

If you can be happy for others, you’ll never be at a loss for good news.

Mother Teresa said this, “God does not demand that I be successful. God demands that I be faithful.”

God wants relationship with you. Not because of what He can get out of you, or what He can get you to do. God wants that relationship because He loves you. Your value never fluctuates to Him.

Whether you accept that God feels this way is up to you. Nobody can force you to do so. But man, I hope you’ll toss away those other scorecards so you don’t have to feel worthless when somebody else finds some success.

When we all have equally high value to God, we can celebrate the success of others instead of feeling threatened by it.

I can want the best for my friends instead of worrying what it will mean for me.

Next time you’re feeling threatened or worthless, try to open yourself up to the idea that God’s love is not affected by any of our scorecards, and see if that changes how you connect with others.

If you can be happy for others, you’ll never be at a loss for good news.

Thomas Christianson is a pastor, professor, and writer in Baltimore, Maryland. He’s the author of a new ebook, “Making My Faith Practical,” as well as a graduate of Regent University with a master’s degree in practical theology. He blogs regularly at

“I’m ugly, I’m worthless, I’m nothing.”

That’s one of the most heartbreaking sentences I’ve ever read. You want to know where it came from? Our app. Someone wrote it in the “purpose in life” category of the talk section.

Those are the kinds of real and raw conversations happening there. And it’s exactly what we hoped would happen. domain data . So we thought it was time to talk about it.

That’s why we decided to dedicate episode two of our new Just a Second podcast to talking about the app and the types of conversations that are happening here. You can listen to Joe Hamm (who so many of you met on Warped Tour), Brandon Ricks (who heads our radio and music outreach), and me discuss not only the “I’m worthless” post, but others as well. We share our thoughts and even a little advice.

In the end, this is what I Am Second is about: real, raw, restorative conversations that are messy and far from easy. Take a listen, follow along (make sure to download the app), and then add your response to the podcast below. If you have any thoughts about the topics we talk about, make sure you add your comments to those specific posts. They need you.

(Of course we also have a little fun: In this episode you’ll also get to hear Brandon sing and Joe talk about his old ponytail.)

(Source: Dollar Photo Club)

(Source: Dollar Photo Club)

Why isn’t life easier?

I follow Jesus. I try to be kind to others, I read my Bible regularly, I give to my church and charity, yet I often feel like life is a boxing match where I’m in the 12th round against a heavyweight.

Doesn’t God — I don’t know — kind of owe me? At least a little?

I mean listen, I know Jesus went to the cross for me and I can never pay him back for that. I get that and I’m so grateful. But shouldn’t I get to avoid some of the issues other people deal with because I’m on board with what God asks me to do?

Have you ever thought something like this? Even if I say that God doesn’t owe me one, I often act like it when something less than perfect happens in my life.

I know that Jesus said in this world we will have troubles, but shouldn’t that just be stuff like occasionally somebody tells me I’m dumb for believing in Jesus? Something manageable, something that doesn’t really hurt?

I’ve been a pastor at a mid-sized church for the last three years and we’ve had tons of people dealing with illness, financial problems, addictions, and everything else you can name. We’ve lost several people to cancer. I’ve had to do a funeral for a 2-day-old baby.

Doesn’t God — I don’t know — kind of owe me? At least a little?

I also have challenges in my own life that just make life hard. My wife and I are still dealing with the financial fallout from the failure of a business we believe God told us to buy several years ago. Having a child with special needs is a never-ending battle in numerous ways. My wife and I occasionally talk about whether we’ll ever get to a point where life isn’t just so dang hard.

Shouldn’t we get off better than the rest of society because we’re working to be obedient to Jesus? Shouldn’t the abundant life Jesus talks about in John 10:10 be a little more cushy?

I’ve prayed about this as I really explored the depth of my self-centeredness (it was ugly) and I feel like there are two reasons why this completely selfish disposition of mine is off base.

God is looking for faith

Listen, if everybody who decided to follow Jesus got a Cadillac, lost 30 pounds and found their dream job, who wouldn’t follow Jesus? And how would it be possible for anyone to be a genuine disciple of the man who told us to pick up our cross and follow him?

Here’s the thing: When everything is going well, I actually have the hardest time getting closer to Jesus.

I feel like he occasionally allows my life to devolve into some chaos to help me remain engaged in discipleship – the process of getting closer to him.

The abundant life Jesus is referring to involves so much more than money and possessions. It’s about a life of more meaning. It may not always show up on a bank statement.

Are we willing to trust God to bless us, even when it’s not in the manner we would request? Or, are we only in this thing for what we can get out of it? The scriptures repeatedly affirm that we are called to patiently have faith in the face of doubt or unfulfillment. (James 1:12, Revelation 2:10, Matthew 25:1-13)

Will we trust that God will fulfill his promises to us when all the evidence we see points to the contrary? If so, then that’s raw faith.

There’s evil in this world

In Matthew 13:24-30, there’s a story about a man who planted some seeds. You can read the whole thing for yourself, but the summary is that Jesus tells of a farmer (representing God) that plants his fields with good seed.

In the night, though, an enemy plants weeds among the crops.

By the time the farm workers figured it out, they couldn’t do anything about it. Pulling up the weeds would damage the crops, so the farmer tells them to let the weeds grow. At harvest time, they will separate the weeds from the crops.

In “Strength To Love,” Martin Luther King Jr. breaks down this story. King notes that Jesus never disputes the reality of evil. He does not say that the weeds were an illusion or a state of mind. He says that the weeds – evil – are real.

The other thing Jesus tells us is that God is going to deal with evil once and for all when he harvests the crops.

In the meantime, Jesus calls someone else “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31).

The kingdom of God is here, and it is yet to fully arrive. We cannot expect a world that is not paradise to treat us as though it were.

We cannot expect a world that is not paradise to treat us as though it were.


When I keep these truths in mind — that God is looking for faith and that there is evil in this world — it helps me approach life more prepared.

God has promised abundant life and he’s going to deliver it. But who am I to define exactly what’s best for me?

Thomas Christianson is a pastor, professor, and writer in Baltimore, Maryland. He’s the author of a new ebook, “Making My Faith Practical,” as well as a graduate of Regent University with a master’s degree in practical theology. A version of this post originally appeared on, where he blogs. It has been published with permission.