September 7, 2023

Telling Better Stories About Suffering with Psychiatrist Curt Thompson

Inside This Episode

If God is really good, why does life seem so unfair? If He really loves us, why doesn’t He do something about our suffering? Renowned psychiatrist Dr. Curt Thompson teaches us how to find and maintain hope in the face of immense personal and global suffering.  Also, Maybe God host Eric Huffman opens up about the very recent and devastating loss of his mother. 

Read Dr. Thompson’s latest book: “The Deepest Place: Suffering and the Formation of Hope”

Listen to Dr. Thompson’s first Maybe God interview: “Should We Get Naked Together?”

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Julie Mirlicourtois: Hey Maybe God family. Welcome back. Before we get started, we've got a special invitation for all of our Washington, D.C. area listeners. On Wednesday, October 4, the National Association of Evangelicals is hosting an exclusive screening of Maybe God's first documentary called Across, followed by Q&A with producers, cast, and immigration experts.

The event will be on Capitol Hill at the Historic Miracle Theater, and Pastor Mark Batterson from National Community Church will be there to introduce the film. We hope you'll come out and join us for this free Washington, D.C. premiere of Across. It would mean so much for us if our Maybe God family was there with us in person. And if you're not in the area, don't forget that you can stream Across anytime. Just head to

Now, on today's episode of Maybe God...

Curt Thompson: The question, "Why, God?" is really a doorway that allows me to enter into my suffering where God already is waiting for me. Because at the end of the day, just asking that question is only speaking to my left half of my brain that likes to have all the things lined up logically, linearly, and so forth. But that's a very different thing than being with me, with my suffering, which is what God wants to do. I can find myself keeping God at arm's length by asking all kinds of questions like that so that I don't have to actually experience the grief of my suffering.

Julie Mirlicourtois: Renowned psychiatrist Dr. Curt Thompson teaches us how to find and maintain hope in the face of immense personal and global suffering. And Maybe God host, Eric Huffman, opens up about the very recent and devastating loss of his mother, Kathy.

Curt Thompson: There's a blank space on the school forms I filled out this year: "Who do you authorize to pick up your children?" The first name I would have written, you know, it's hers. And yet I had this sense all summer, even through it all, of a sort of imperishable hope. For the first time in my life, I think I really understood what Paul was trying to help Christians understand when he said, "We are pressed, but not crushed."

Julie Mirlicourtois: That's today on Maybe God.

[00:02:40] <music>

Eric Huffman: You're listening to Maybe God. I'm Eric Huffman. Hey there, and thanks for tuning in to this episode of Maybe God. People usually think of summertime as a season of rest and relaxation, those glorious few months when all of our worries and cares melt away under the summer sun.

For me and my family though, the summer of '23 couldn't have ended soon enough. And not just because Houston suffered through the hottest summer on record, but also because on July 11th, my family experienced the tragic loss of my sweet mother, Kathy Ann Huffman, at age 65.

Needless to say, this experience of losing my mom has led me to think a lot about suffering. I found myself asking a lot of the same questions that so many people have asked me over the years: If God is really good, why does life seem so unfair? If He really loves us, why doesn't He do something about our pain and suffering?

Questions like these have literally been keeping me up at night. So when I found out that one of my favorite Maybe God guests of all time was releasing a book about suffering at the end of August, I just knew that we had to have him back on the podcast.

Dr. Curt Thompson is a brilliant psychiatrist and expert in the field of interpersonal neurobiology. He was with us back in 2019 for a great episode called, Should We Get Naked Together?, in which he enlightened us about shame and its connection to the stories that we share about our lives. If you haven't already listened, I can't encourage you strongly enough to check out the link in our show notes as soon as you're done listening to this episode.

Dr. Thompson's latest book is called The Deepest Place: Suffering and the Formation of Hope. Not only has he spent years helping people heal from their deepest suffering, but Dr. Thompson is no stranger to suffering himself.

He was raised in a very small evangelical Quaker community in Ohio and lost his father at age 17. In the years following, he lost all three of his older brothers to cancer. My interview with Curt Thompson was scheduled for just an hour. We ended up talking for more than an hour and a half. This might be the longest conversation that we've ever aired, but I encourage you to listen, even if it takes a few sittings to do so because everything that Dr. Thompson shares in this conversation is absolutely vital for each one of us to hear.

Curt Thompson: Eric Huffman, dude, so good to be with you, man. I've been looking forward to this for a long time.

Eric Huffman: Same. I really have been looking forward to this. You are the easiest person to interview because you just go for it, man. There's no pretense. There's no falsity. There's no beating around the bush. You just go right for it.

But let's talk about your work a little bit generally, and we'll get into the new book in a second, because I do want to talk about that. So, you have a couple of real passions in your professional life, as far as I understand. I mean, first and foremost is just this commitment to Christian spiritual formation. But you're also, obviously, a professional and an expert in your field of interpersonal neurobiology, which is something that not a lot of people think about on a daily basis. But how have you found the two fields that you spend your life sort of dedicated to intersect? Where do those two fields come together?

Curt Thompson: Yeah, thanks, Eric. You know, I think that it's not like from the time I was in undergraduate or medical school I had some vision for this. My experience is that Jesus has found me in a number of different moments in new, fresh ways, beginning when I was a teenager, and then multiple times since then. I think he found me in psychiatry when I was in medical school.

And then with the emergence of this particular field of interpersonal neurobiology, it's kind of fancy-schmancy language for these different disciplines in the field of science that all have a stake in understanding the nature of the mind. What does the mind mean? What does a healthy mind look like?

You know, you can't help but notice that when it comes to this question of the mind, it's not just my brain. It's not just my thinking. It's what I sense, and image, and feel, but it's also that which is being shaped by my relationships. Even like right now with you, the joy that I feel is not just in my brain. It's happening because I get to see my friend Eric Huffman on my screen. So something's happening with me, but it's really between us.

Eric Huffman: Sure.

Curt Thompson: So this whole notion of who we are becoming is the primary question of the biblical narrative as it turns out. So we have this field of psychiatry, this field of interpersonal neurobiology, this neuroscience, that is sitting within the crucible of what I would call a Christian anthropology. What I mean by that is just it's how we come to understand what does it mean for us to be human living in the real world, in this world?

Eric Huffman: I'm wondering, as you talk about it, sort of chicken or the egg, which came first, was it your fascination with your scientific pursuits, or was it your faith in the biblical God that led you to pursue that field?

Curt Thompson: Well, I think, as is often the case, you know, if you find yourself being run over by cyclists in the middle of the street, you say, well, who got there first? Well, we all kind of showed up at the same point at the same time, and then something happened. I mean, I would say I had this capacity, this curiosity from the time I was young, this curiosity about... like I was intrigued by science and the way the world worked just materially.

But I was even more intrigued by this question of how do we operate as people. Like, why do we do what we do? And a lot of that is just like, well, why the heck do I do what I do? Mostly because what was going on in my head was driving me nuts, right? I mean, I begin my psychiatric rotation in medical school, and it's as if I walk through a door into a room in which I did not expect what I saw.

You know, it's kind of like walking into a house that some master craftsman designer has designed, and all you know is that there's a house. And you open the door, and you walk in, and you see the kitchen, and you can't even believe what you're seeing, what has been designed. And someone says, here, this is for you to now steward.

And so it is this... I would say, like, I have a hunger for understanding myself because I want to know what does it mean for me to follow Jesus? I want to be loved by Him. I'm pretty aware that I don't let Him do that very easy. I'm not very good at that.

And moreover, this intrigue of seeing how the neuroscience that we read about, like, you take a step back, and you're like, holy cow. Like, our friends at the Bible podcast say, everything you need to know about human beings, you can figure out by reading the first six pages of the Bible. Right? The first six chapters tell you-

Eric Huffman: Everything you need to know.

Curt Thompson: ...everything you need to know is right there. It's also quite striking how that maps onto the neuroscience about how the mind operates, and so forth and so on. And you track that throughout the biblical narrative, and you discover, oh, my goodness, the things that we read about in the text and the way that we were called to read the text and the way that we live in the body of Jesus is really expressed in the neuroscience that we read. And all these things come together in a beautiful matrix. So it gives me a great deal of joy to be able to be part of that.

Eric Huffman: Well, and it seems like that joy comes through in your work. And you seem to be knocking out one major theme of the human experience that's on the first six pages of the Bible, as you described. It's just one theme after another.

The first theme that I remember finding you through was the theme of shame. That's really where you sort of burst onto the scene as sort of a, I know you're going to hate this, an influencer. And you just seem to have a motor that's a nonstop sort of engine for this hunger, as you would say, a hunger for more of this. I mean, that's a Hamilton shirt you're wearing, right?

Curt Thompson: Yeah.

Eric Huffman: It reminded me of the line that Eliza says, "Why do you write like you're running out of time?" Because you've just been-

Curt Thompson: Dude, oh my God.

Eric Huffman: You've just been crushed in advance. And most recently you built on that foundation of your work with shame to this new theme of suffering. And man, book writing is hard, book selling is much harder. Bookselling or selling a book about suffering has to be the hardest.

You go to the Christian section of Barnes & Noble and the books that are flying off the shelves are not, why does life suck? The books that are flying off the shelves are like, this is your best life now or whatever. And it's like, we don't want to read about suffering. Why did you choose or feel called to write about this topic of suffering?

Curt Thompson: You know, Eric, I'll have to say, I think I wrote this to honor the suffering that we experience. My sense is, in the most recent book that I wrote, The Soul of Desire, in it, at one point, we explore these four questions that God or Jesus asks of the conversation partners He's trying to have a conversation with.

The third question is Jesus asking James and John, can you drink the cup? And His implication is a reminder that He said, the gate is narrow, the road is narrow. He did not say, come pick up your Tesla and drive with me. It was, come pick up your cross and follow me. That if, as Tozer said, to a world that's running away from reality, those of us who are running toward it, will seem like deserters.

This withering experience of running into the light is necessarily going to require me to throw off, to peel off my addictions, to resist my compulsions, to do the hard disciplined work of being vigilant about the presence of evil in my own life. It's also going to require me, in addition, to take stock of the suffering that I have experienced because of things that have happened to me.

The suffering I've experienced, and much of our suffering is about what we do to ourselves unwittingly. The vast majority of my suffering is because of what I do to myself but I don't know that that's what I'm doing. But in all these cases... you know, we live in a world in which suffering is understood to be completely wrong and we want to do everything we can to either get rid of it or to hide from it or to bury it.

The cross is about God's declaration that not only is He willing to be with suffering, but He's going to name it as the thing that He's going to use and transform it in His using it through resurrection. But this doesn't happen just because I get rid of it in my head, I don't pretend it doesn't exist. I actually name it, I look it square in the eye, but I do so not by myself. I do so in the context of community, which is what I'm trying to get at. My recognition of what we're doing in this passage in Romans that we explore in the book.

Eric Huffman: The whole book is basically based on the first five verses of Romans 5, which if you're unfamiliar with the Bible, it's a really beautiful, almost poetic passage about suffering and sort of the outcome of suffering when it's embraced rather than avoided. And the result ultimately is hope, but you have to go through a couple of steps to get there. And that really means sort of running toward the pain and not away from it.

I guess when we think about like Maybe God, our podcast has a mission and it has to do with helping people ask better questions. And the question that often comes up about suffering is, why does God allow it? And your book continually pulls us into a deeper questions. That's a pretty shallow question to ask. Not just why does God allow it, you want us to ask something else. Like, why has God chosen to use it, to employ it, to even redeem it? But why is this a channel or conduit through which God has chosen to work?

And I've heard you say like, if I were God's advisor, I would have totally offered an alternative plan, but there's something about suffering. It wasn't His original idea, but He's chosen to use it.

Curt Thompson: Well, I think, to ask why does God allow suffering, why does God allow evil is commensurate to why does God allow gravity? I mean, gravity is the reason that when I trip, I fall and break my hip. That's why I fall and break my hip. If I fell on the moon, I don't break my hip because it's only got a sixth of a gravitational pull of the earth.

Eric Huffman: Right.

Curt Thompson: But we don't ask the question, why did God allow gravity? We ask, why did I fall and break my hip? But we have to recognize that I break my hip because of something else that is just materially true about the world. But suffering in many respects to me is the expected response of the creation to what we have done to the intended beauty of the creation by handing our responsibility over to the evil one.

We hand our responsibility of stewarding the earth over to the evil one. This is what our first parents do in Genesis 3, and then we just all repeat it. The consequence is that I suffer. So asking the question, why does God do this, is like asking, why does He allow gravity?

The other thing that it does is that it helps distract me from me. Asking the question, why did God not bring my son home from Iraq? there's no answer for that question. You could tell me, and it doesn't do anything for my grief.

The question, "Why, God?" is really a doorway that allows me to enter into my suffering where God already is waiting for me. Because at the end of the day, good, bad, or indifferent, just asking that question is only speaking to my left half of my brain that likes to have all the things lined up logically, linearly, and so forth. But that's a very different thing than being with me, with my suffering, which is what God wants to do.

I can find myself keeping God at arm's length by asking all kinds of questions like that so that I don't have to actually experience the grief of my suffering. But what I discover is that if I'm willing to go into the room where my real life is, where my suffering exists, and discover that Jesus is already waiting for me, this is what Good Friday is about, that He's already waiting for me to join Him in that space, that becomes the moment that my redemption of my suffering begins.

Paul is writing this letter to a community of people. He's not writing it to a single individual. I can easily read this and think, oh, we go from suffering to perseverance to character to hope, and somehow Curt is going to have to... I got to figure out how to do that. But Paul's not writing to Curt as an individual. He's writing to Curt and Eric and Sarah and Phyllis and Andrew and Wendy and all of us, that we are going to be Jesus for each other, His voice, His sight line, His gaze, His embrace, His empathy, His tears, His encouragement, His conviction.

We are going to be this in embodied ways such that in my suffering I come to know I am not by myself. So much of my suffering, as we talk about in the book, is first and foremost primarily about us not paying attention to the very first not good statement in the Bible on the second page when God says, it's not good for the man to be alone. We are not okay with him being alone like this.

And my being alone is the primal source of all anxiety, that I'm going to be left alone. And it then becomes what the isolation of my experience of my pain is the primary material feature of how pain gets turned into suffering in the first place.

Eric Huffman: To me, that dynamic that you lift up is probably for me personally, the strongest point in the whole book, the effect that isolation has on our pain and on our minds when it comes to dealing with our pain and convincing us that, well, this pain will be forever. And in our loneliness or isolation, we can more easily become convinced that there is no hope for deliverance from this pain.

That's precisely perhaps what the enemy wants. And it's the last thing that God wants for us, because that's why He said it's not good for us to be alone. And you know how lonely pastors can secretly be sometimes, right? I found that personally revealing and convicting in a very, very healthy way. So thank you for that.

You know, I am thinking about this and thinking about the people I've known and walked with as they have chosen to walk away from faith and to walk away from the church. Eight or nine times out of 10, it seems like someone who walks away walks away for reasons related to pain and suffering.

And I just wonder, given what the Bible says so clearly and how often the Bible speaks about pain as a reality for us, and that God has chosen nearly from the beginning to use our pain for our good, how did we get to a point where people who are Christians walk away because they experience God to be sort of unwilling to cooperate with what we think is right?

Curt Thompson: That's a good question. You know, I think that the insights that Tim Mackie provides at The BibleProject I've found to be really, really helpful. He points out rightly that, you know, once you get past the second page of the Bible, God doesn't really do Himself, doesn't do anything missional apart from human beings. Human beings are involved in everything, which is crucially important because it's easy for us to blame God when really it's human beings who are doing things.

So when people walk away from the church, walk away from faith, the question that I would want to ask is, what happened to you? Not just like, what are you thinking about suffering? I want to know, like, what happened to you and who are the people? I want the names of the people who have wounded you. Like, we're not wounded by ideas. We're wounded by people.

Now, people may convey ideas, but these ideas come, and then we make up stories about things, and we make up all the... and then we make up stories even about God. But we do so because we've had interactions with other human beings that have left us feeling wounded and for which there has not been repair. So God becomes an easy abstraction for us to kind of like toss all of that onto.

We do the same thing with our suffering. We can blame God for our... we can blame Christianity, we can blame Christians, we can blame the church, all these abstractions that we want to create because it's far easier to do that than it is for us to have a real confrontational conversation with someone who has hurt us. Because the fear is that if I actually have that conversation with someone, it's only going to get worse, which is why I do everything I can to distract myself from my suffering in the first place.

So in some respects, leaving the church, leaving God behind is... and we dress it up in all kinds of, you know, ideas. You know, it's an intellectual pursuit. It's a this or that and so forth. And as we say, like, at the end of the day, human beings don't ever make any choices because they make sense. Because the way the brain works, first we sense, and then we make sense of what we sense. And the thing I'm making sense of is the thing that I'm sensing.

I make decisions by making up stories about what feels right because the brain's doing this all the time. So I do the same thing with my suffering, which often includes my perception that my suffering is so overwhelming that I can't tolerate it, and hence it's far easier for me to distract myself from it. My supercomputer that I walk around with, that I carry in my pocket, right? That's a great distracting capacity. I bury these things.

When God, on the third page of the Bible, comes walking in the cool of the day, He wants to have a real conversation with Adam. And Adam can't do it. Adam's making up stories in his head about what's about to happen. Cain, one page later, he's making up stories about what God... like, he's making stuff up because his own suffering is too much. So it's easier to kill my brother than it is for me to deal with me.

Eric Huffman: Wow. He's rewriting his own story. I mean, there's another Hamilton quote there if you want me to just...

Curt Thompson: Please, remind me.

Eric Huffman: Well, it's something about history is written by the one who tells the story. So whatever story you want to tell, you can write and rewrite your own history. And that's why telling the right story about yourself is so important. Or believing the right story about yourself.

Curt Thompson: Exactly. This whole notion that... You know, we read in the first letter to Peter, when Peter talks about how Jesus preached to the dead. And you're like, "Okay, what are you? Come on.

Eric Huffman: I need more information, Peter.

Curt Thompson: "It's 2023. That's some ancient, mythical... they don't know what they're talking about." And dude, I'm telling you, that tells us how far God is willing to go. God is going to the deadest places in our own lives. The problem for us is not that we don't know of a God who will go there. The problem is we're too afraid to go there.

This is the woman in Mark 5 with a bleeding problem. Everybody's urgently rushing to Jairus's house, and she's got a plan. She's, like, commando healing is on the brain, right? I'll get in, I'll get the job done, I'll get out. Nobody will see me. And then she touches the hem of His garment because this is her understanding of her problem. Her understanding of her problem is I have a bleeding problem. It is the most visible, most present, most acutely available symptom of her life.

She touches the hem of His garment, and she feels like, Okay, great. And then He stops the audience, and He says, "Who touched me?" And the text reads she doesn't say, Oh, it's me, it's me, it's me." She's not like blind Bartimaeus on the side of the road. Dude! Hey!"

Eric Huffman: "I'm over here."

Curt Thompson: Right. "With fear and trembling," the text reads, "she came out from the crowd." This notion that he wanted to go to the places where her suffering was, that she wasn't even paying attention to because it's too much to imagine. The suffering of, I don't have a family, I don't have a husband, I don't have children, I don't have a community.

Eric Huffman: I'm invisible.

Curt Thompson: Heck, even the doctors that are trying to help me ostensibly are just problematic. And Jesus' relentless pursuit of the parts of us that are so ancient that we don't even remember them, but that we are still burning energy having to manage. It's not those who are well who need the doctor. It's not the parts of me that function perfectly normally. It's the parts of me that I have worked really hard to pretend don't exist.

The Psalms are replete with lament. And you figure, why do they need so many Psalms of lament? Why can't just one do the trick? And you think, because God knows we carry oceans of grief. And if you don't think you do, then say, well, how is it that Russia is invading Ukraine? How is it that Blacks and Whites are at war with each other on the streets of our country? It's everywhere. We're just happy to paper mache over it because it feels too much.

Eric Huffman: What does it do to us when we do that? We're so adept at burying it, you know, like it's some archaeological ancient site buried under layers of dust and ash. What does it do to us over time?

Curt Thompson: Well, I mean, we might say it's not just an ancient city that we bury. It's more like a nuclear waste dump that we bury because at some point that is going to start to seep into the groundwater. You're going to have radioactive plant life above the surface where that's coming from. And it's how people end up in my office. It's how we do what we do in churches. It's how we have become on the internet, on social media. It is how, as David Brooks has recently written, we become so mean. It is how we become politically and racially and all the things. And the more we become that, the more then we have to appeal to our addictions to cope with the fact that our tactics for taking care of our suffering still aren't working.

Eric Huffman: Sure. So it's going to come to the surface eventually. In some ways, I think we're getting better at, or more adept at, and maybe we just have more resources to cover up that toxic nuclear waste dump that you referred to. But that's also the worst thing about us now. It's the worst thing for us to get better at that because our capacity for self-deception just increases as that toxicity seeps into the water, as you say.

Curt Thompson: Yeah. Yeah.

Eric Huffman: Gosh, there's a couple of things I want to talk about here. First, let's just sort of talk about the different kinds of suffering that people endure. The first kind of suffering that you describe or the first category has to do with the stuff that happens to us that ought not to have happened to us, or the things that didn't happen that should have happened to us. So what's an example or two of that category of suffering?

Curt Thompson: We can have things as serious as a person who's sustained some kind of emotional or physical or sexual abuse, for example. That would be one form of it.

Eric Huffman: Sure.

Curt Thompson: Or I met a young woman a couple of months ago who, not that long ago, was in a boating accident and lost her right leg at age 19. So there are things that happen to us acutely, like single large events. There are things that happen to us over the course of time. People who have illnesses. I have someone that I know who's very dear to me whose child, a young child, is a type 1 diabetic. And it didn't just happen to him a year ago. It continues to happen to him. He's a very brittle diabetic. So there are all these events that continue to happen when his blood sugar skyrockets or drops out of sight and is worried. Is he going to live in the next six hours?

This is an ongoing thing that is happening to us where we suffer with our fear of anticipation. I think of our son... I can talk about our son who's 30, who I loved to the moon, like three years ago, like had his own mental health crisis. And there was a stretch of several weeks where we were kind of with him and around him.

There were several weeks where there would be nights my wife and I would go to sleep and we didn't know he'd be alive in the morning. And what made the difference for us even then was that the family of God came out of the woodwork for us, came for us.

So this is the first major category. The question, though, is like when these things happen, what then do I begin to do with those things? What is the story that I begin to tell, which quickly moves us into the second category?

But before we even get there, we would say it's easy for us... This is the other thing we do. Look, if I can look at somebody else whose suffering appears to be greater than mine, then it's easy for me to say, Well, my suffering isn't really anything. Like, I just deny that I have any suffering at all because I can look around at all these other people whose suffering is so much greater than mine. All of which is category number one. And then we get to the second category of what is the story that I then tell about myself in response to the things that are happening to me?

Eric Huffman: So self-inflicted suffering in a way.

Curt Thompson: Yeah. Well, we see it in the stories that say, "I've had four miscarriages. I'm never going to have a baby, and therefore, I'm not really ever going to be complete as a wife, as a mother, as a daughter."

Eric Huffman: Wow.

Curt Thompson: What happened to me when I was in high school forever has me believing that my body is a usable, discardable rag. So having a body is really just tantamount to always carrying cancer around with you, despite the fact you don't have it. But this is a story that people will tell.

Eric Huffman: Sure.

Curt Thompson: I have an injury, and I have low back pain. And that low back pain, my doctors tell me will probably be with me indefinitely. Or I have rheumatoid arthritis, and the condition is only going to get worse. Or I have ALS, or my father has ALS, and I don't know how long it's going to last.

There's a story that I'm going to tell about myself that says, I am not okay in the middle of this thing. And if I am left alone to the privacy of my own mind where shame can have its way, where evil will wield that, I then compound my suffering by telling myself a particular story about my life experience. And the voice of Jesus is completely outside the room. It is when we allow others to come into the room, Jesus Himself and those who are part of His body to both, first of all, be empathic with me about the pain that I carry.

You know, we talk about suffering being my response to pain over time. And if my response includes you being in the room with me, where you say, tell me where it hurts, where you say like, gosh, this cannot be easy. And my first temptation will be to say, Well, Eric, look, it's not that bad. Because like, look, my friend Joe down the street, he's got so much... it's so much more difficult, you know, for him. At which point you'll say, "You know, Curt, thank you, but Joe's not in the room. I'm not talking to Joe right now. I'm talking to you. And of course, there is the shame that accompanies my story of somehow this shouldn't bother me. But it does.

Eric Huffman: Sure.

Curt Thompson: But if you are in the room then you're going to invite me to turn my vision to you and to Jesus and to resist telling the story. And so that begins this third, which is the process of running to the light.

Eric Huffman: I think one of the reasons people leave the faith after sort of being all in, one of the reasons is because we don't process or think about this third form of pain. We think Jesus should end our pain in this life and should end our suffering and deliver us from it. But you suggest in the book that there is this third category of pain, which is the suffering that we endure as we run toward the light of Christ. I think the first place your mind goes is persecution, but it's not just about persecution from the world. It's more than that, isn't it?

Curt Thompson: It is. I mean, and this is where the picture of, in C.S. Lewis's Narnia series, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and the character Eustace, who at the beginning of this book is brought to the attention of the reader and the reader very quickly understands Eustace is to be somebody you really want to just beat the living crap out of. Like he's the guy that you love to hate.

Eustace has this encounter. He becomes like a dragon and is suffering because of this. And he meets the lion at this pool and the lion asks him if he may undress him. And by this means that he's going to take his claws and he is going to peel the scales off of Eustace. It's just that what Eustace doesn't recognize at first is that he's got multiple layers of scales. And it's one and then another and then another. And each one is painful as the lion undresses him.

Anybody here who's on our listening audience who has ever decided, Heck... if you decided, I'm going to try fasting, like it's painful to give up the Oreo cookies. It's painful that the process of giving up pornography, giving up adultery, giving up envy, giving up any of those things, giving up deceit, giving up my self is this is a painful process.

This is "Jesus, can you drink the cup?" We paint Jesus to be this guy who's all about love and all about kindness and all about accepting whatever it is that we bring to Him and that's going to be okay, and so forth. And then He turns and it is like, dude, I'm inviting everybody as long as you're willing to take it once you get to me. I will break no bruised reed and I will be more demanding than anyone you've ever met because I have this vision for who I want you to become. And that requires that you not live fearfully of me. Because you suffer, you have all these articles, all these articles of clothing you've wrapped yourself in that are your addictions. I invite you to take it off.

Eric Huffman: I think there's another layer to that, too, which is not just the pain of letting addictions go, which seems impossible when you're in it, but it's also dealing with having broken God's heart for so long in so many ways. Like dealing with the grief that comes from that, not shame necessarily when you're in Christ, but grieving the ways you've broken God's heart.

That was maybe the most intense suffering I've ever experienced. You know, I've had my fair share of real-life suffering. And when I came to faith in Christ, dealing with the heartbreak that I caused was part of my... it was a good thing. I'm not saying it was a bad thing. It drove me toward the light, not the darkness. But I had to deal with that and not just gloss over it.

But as I hear you talk about the three categories of suffering, it really struck me. And I've never thought about it this way, how those three categories work together in my life and how sort of one leads to the other, and then it's sort of a full circle thing. But I've talked a lot about my struggles with lust and pornography, and I think that's been a good thing to talk about. But the more I think and reflect on that. The more I realize that that conversation is so surface level. Like that's the self-inflicted portion of my suffering story, right? Like that's the part two.

But there was a part one that I don't talk about that sort of was a precursor to this self-inflicted suffering of that attachment to pornography and lust. And that had to do with things that happened to me that shouldn't have, that I frankly had blocked. I've always heard people say, well, I just blocked that memory and it came back to me decades later. And I sort of was skeptical about that oftentimes, but I know exactly what it means now. Because I never connected the dots from being sexually exploited in my childhood, not abused, not molested or raped, but sexually exploited in terms of seeing things I shouldn't have seen and having access to things I wasn't ready to have access to, being left alone with an older babysitter who had a real infatuation with me, my body.

Then one other thing that I won't get into, but the exploitation in my childhood opened doors that should not have been opened and set me up for what came in that second phase of self-inflicted pain. And then coming to faith in Christ, walking toward that light was the most painful kind of suffering of the three, because I had to deal with the things I had done, the things that had been done to me. And at the same time, I had to let go of the addictions that had formed during that time, which is only by the grace of God, right?

Curt Thompson: I think too, Eric, even as our listeners are with us in this, listening individually, it would be tempting to imagine that in the same way that it's tempting for me to imagine that when I read Romans 5:1-5, that I'm just reading it by myself, and so therefore I somehow on my own have to appropriate this. But I would want our listeners to know that this process that you and I, Eric, are talking about, this process of honoring our suffering on the way to forming hope, I mean, that is actually the good news of this book. The good news is the book is not just about suffering. It is about how suffering becomes the hard deck, the context in which hope is durable, is formed.

Eric Huffman: Durable hope.

Curt Thompson: But I don't ever do that on my own. The brain is not capable of forming hope by itself. It forms hope because of how we are aware of our being with others and others being with us in the middle of those hardest places. So, for that reason, I'm really longing for our listeners to be curious about who are the people, the one, the two, the three people with whom you will share your suffering in order for hope to be durably formed.

Eric Huffman: I love the image of durable hope because it flies in the face of the fleeting hope that we try to cling to, you know, the momentary hope of something like pornography or alcohol or whatever other escape we might pursue.

Curt Thompson: In the beginning of our conversation, you were asking about the work I do and the combination of science and faith and so forth. Like this would be an example of the way neuroscience teaches us about the mechanics of the mind is really useful when it comes to paying attention to what we're doing here in forming hope. This notion that hope is not a thing that falls into our laps. I hope that I could be hopeful. Maybe it'll happen. Maybe it won't happen. It doesn't happen like that with the mind. In that, if I want my capacity to durably recall the first psalm over and over again or durably recall...

I have a friend who told me of the story. He went to church one day and the sermon was and it was basically a guy who was they had been invited. And he stands up and he just begins and he just from memory quotes the book of Mark. So if you want to be durable, if you want the book of Mark to be durably embedded in your soul, you have to practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice. It's not because this guy was a savant. It's because he had verse after verse, day after day, week after week, eaten, ingested, digested, metabolized the text.

If I want to have hope become durable, I have to practice allowing myself to expose my suffering in the context of other people who will meet me with mercy such that my suffering is transformed in my experience of it. It doesn't get rid of it. It doesn't.

My rheumatoid arthritis is still here. I may still die from my pancreatic cancer. But the story that I am telling about my pain that I am responding to over time is going to be categorically transformed because I am being loved in that context in a way that requires practice. I have to practice allowing myself to be loved. We're not very good at loving one another. We look around, that's obvious.

Eric Huffman: Sure.

Curt Thompson: I'm even less good at allowing myself to be loved-

Eric Huffman: Oh, yeah.

Curt Thompson: ...because I'm well aware that the reality of being loved at the end of the day is the most terrifying thing I can encounter. And if I'm going to practice allowing that to happen in the very room where my suffering lives, over time I begin to hope in the experience that I'm having right here now when I'm being seen and soothed, made to be safe and secure by Eric, my friend, in this moment of suffering. And if I come back tomorrow or the next week and we're going to do this again and again and again, I begin to experience an awareness of what I can anticipate.

And hope is that. It is my mind's future state. Hope is a word that speaks to the future, whether it's five minutes from now or five years from now. I'm anticipating, I'm constructing the future based on my memory of the present moment's experience.

So if this is what I'm practicing, if I am practicing being in the presence of others in the presence of our suffering, we come to discover what the Holy Spirit is doing in that space. And if I commit that to memory, and I do it again and again and again, this becomes the thing I begin to anticipate. That when my suffering comes, I will not be alone with it, which means that I can be hopeful in my suffering.

And of course, this all is predicated. All this process, suffering, perseverance, character, hope, it's all predicated on the first two verses of the text in which we are reminded that Paul's experience is one in which glory is this experience of being the complete object of God's delight.

Eric Huffman: Curt, let me read this passage for our listeners, and then you can pick up right where you're leaving off. This is Romans 5:1-5. Paul wrote, "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character: and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."

There's so much about this passage that I love as I hear you talk. It's like, not me, not you, individually, us, as a community. And then obviously, these big words, suffering, perseverance, character, and hope culminating in hope as our future destination.

Curt Thompson: Yeah, no, it's beautiful. And this notion that... you know, it all begins, therefore since we've been justified by faith. Faith really pointed to this question of secure attachment. Faith is about trust. I trust you. And to trust is about attachment. Trust is not just this abstract thing that we call trust or faith. It's not just about theology.

It is a thing that I actually have to do in an embodied fashion. If I trust that my computer is going to stay upright on this desk, it's trust in the material world and the people who have built it. Ultimately, trust rests in, am I able to have connection with other humans? What's my attachment like with God? That's the question.

Paul is saying, because of Jesus, our attachment to God can be secure. And this ultimately means that we're not just at war with God anymore, despite the fact that lots of us have parts of us that believe that we still are. If we take this process seriously, we discover that, therefore, we are hoping to share in the glory of God, not just that we will be bright and wondrous and powerful.

Those are elements of God's glory. But we're really talking about, again, this glory that Lewis writes about, that an animal, a creature's greatest glory, a dog's greatest... I don't know about cats. A dog's greatest pleasure is being aware that he is the object of his master's pleasure.

Eric Huffman: Sure.

Curt Thompson: That's a dog's greatest pleasure. Our awareness, our becoming aware that we are the object of God's pleasure, if that is what I am soaking in, the pleasure of a God who also places great demands on me, He's like, yeah, now we're going to peel off the next layer of scales. Yep, now we're going to put on the next piece of weight on the bar that you're going to press on the bench. I'm turning you into My daughter and My son because your job is going to be to rule the world. If you're going to do this, I got to get you ready for this.

In that delight, we start to run to the light. When we do, we discover that we're living in this world. We're not living in some fantasy world. We're living in a world in which spiritual realities, evil, they have no intention of going quietly into the night. It is still their intention to devour us and devour the world. They haven't gotten the message yet. They're not convinced that God is in the end going to consummate everything, but they're going to do everything they can in the meantime.

There will also be my old parts. Dude, in the last six to eight months, I have become... the curtain has been pulled back, and God has invited me to look at the fact that envy is shot through my entire character. I'm not just envious about a particular thing. It's in every room in my house. I'm envious if I don't get invited to speak where somebody else gets invited to speak. I'm envious if somebody gets a bigger book advance than I get to write a book. I'm envious if I'm not the most interesting person in the room. It's just everywhere.

I can imagine Jesus saying, Yeah, I know, and you weren't really ready to hear this before. No. And now you are. And we don't want you to be ashamed, but now we got to go to work. And you're like, the work feels overwhelming, but the work is not confusing. It's clear where it is. This is the next piece. There's a certain suffering that takes place, but that suffering in the context of community where we're all going to say, yeah, we're all going after envy. We're all going to go get it.

The brain can do a lot of hard things for a really long period of time as long as it doesn't have to do it by itself. And God knows this on the second page of the Bible, and He knows that even when you get to the third page of the Bible and all the wheels are starting to come off, that His continuing to come for us even in our suffering is going to be.... like His withness is the antidote for all of it.

And then He sends His Spirit at Pentecost in Acts 2, and He says, "Now y'all do for the world what I did for you with Jesus. And we're going to do this together, and we're going to do this until it's done. And you don't have to worry about how long that's going to take. You just keep doing it because I'm really serious about being thorough about this." So it's not just thorough like preaching throughout the world or each person hearing. That's part of it, but it's also the whole thing about being thorough about each of us as individuals, the whole notion.

If you'd said to me a year ago, Curt, I think in about six months, you're going to discover that envy is going to be the work you're going to have to do for about the next five years. I'm like, what are you talking about? And there you have it.

Eric Huffman: Well, it's hard for me to describe the conflict I'm sensing as I hear you, because on the one hand, it's like you're describing the bar Jesus sets as impossibly high, the demands He sort of imposes on the lives of His disciples as just overwhelming. On the other hand, Jesus is always saying things like, "My yoke is easy, my burden is light." And is the explanation for those seemingly contradictory ideas, is the explanation that, hey, yes, it's hard to fight the good fight with Christ and behind Christ, beside Christ, but that is ultimately, infinitely better and easier than trying to do the opposite, which is slowly die forever.

Curt Thompson: Right. What I would say, Eric, is that we have an entire human history's worth of practicing what was initiated in the Garden of Eden. And that is this: the snake's... his tactic was he didn't come to the woman and say, Hey, I have a conversation I'd like to have. And when God comes around this afternoon, let's the four of us have that conversation. He isolates her. He says it in such a way that he's making sure he's not including the man in the conversation. Adam could have done something.

But the point being that isolation. It's not good for the man to be alone. Again, we cannot overestimate how big a deal this comment is. I am so practiced at assuming that I am living in the world on my own, that the moment I even hear, a moment one of our listeners hears you and me talking about Jesus' demands, we assume that he's demanding of me and it is me by myself in the world having to respond to this.

But yes, He is demanding it of me and he's demanding it of my friend, Jerry and John and Lonnie, that we were the four of us meet together on Tuesday mornings for prayer and confession. Jesus is placing demands on me as an individual in the context of placing that same demand on all of my friends. This is who He was. He didn't speak abstractly to the world. He was speaking to a world of disciples, this intimate group of people saying, this is what I want you collect. The world will know that you are My disciples by the way you love one another. We're going to do this together.

And this is what happens in these confessional communities that have gotten established. We come to discover that, oh my goodness, when I am continually practicing this in the context of a community that continues, which nobody's leaving the room, no matter how tough the suffering gets, we come to understand, we come to expect the demand. But we know now we have the practice. Now we have the experience of knowing that when the demand comes. When the ask comes for me to put more weight on the bar, for me to peel off one more layer of scale, I'm not going to do this by myself. So I'm willing to take the risk to do this.

In that practice, what's also interesting, I think, that when it gets to the piece about character as well. Character is this durable sense of who I happen to be in the world. And it's like, if you were to decide, gosh, I really want to work on... I want to work on my envy. The envy is just everywhere. Over the course of time... I'm super familiar with how much envy is within me. And because I'm working in the context of this community, you find then that people will start to say things like, Gosh, I see you as just the opposite.

You start to work on patience, you start to work on kindness or on goodness, and suddenly you discover, I am not a kind person. I have all these places where I'm not very kind. So you get in the weight room and you start to work on it. The more you work on it, the more you discover how not kind you are. And this is the spirit. You know how this works. And as this happens, you are super aware of how unkind you can be. And all around you, people are going to start to see like, Gosh, have you met Eric Huffman? Oh my gosh, what a kind dude.

Eric Huffman: Yeah, no doubt.

Curt Thompson: You're going to be like, "Thank you. Let me correct your understanding of who I am." So character becomes something, not so much that I'm trying to become or that I know that I can become. Character becomes the thing that I become, but that is shown to other people who then have to speak back to me about what they see and about what's impacting them.

Eric Huffman: So character is sort of the durable foundation out of which hope grows. I sort of want to back up too and talk about that. Suffering produces perseverance. That phase of it, I guess, is what you're referring to as practice. I think about the guy memorizing Mark, you know, the gospel of Mark, painstakingly reading Mark and memorizing it instead of watching Game of Thrones or the news or sports or whatever. Like he had to say no to a million things to say yes to Mark, right?

Curt Thompson: Totally.

Eric Huffman: And that's the discipline of the perseverance portion of this whole equation. And then that over time lends itself to this development of durable character that is sort of your newfound identity in Christ that others see in you and read back to you. And it's not an act. It's not a show or a performance. It's just who you are. And it's sort of you are changed in such a fundamental way that you don't even know you're changed.

Curt Thompson: Exactly.

Eric Huffman: Because it's inside-out change that the spirit of God works in us. I experienced that myself and the hope that springs from that. Six weeks ago my mom passed away. My mom and I have always been very close. She's the person I've been closest to in my family. She's the person my kids are closest to on either side of the family, the only one that we really called upon regularly to sort of be there for us, you know, from our family. And so massive, massive loss.

And not only that, but it was awful how she went. I don't need to go super into detail. I'll just say I've been with a lot of people as they went, and most people these days can be sedated and comforted with medicines or whatever to where there's not a dramatic scene at the end. And this was not that unfortunately, it's a long story, but it was just awful. I was there and my sister and dad were there.

So the things you see, the last memories you have of someone so precious to you are so... they gut you. I'm gutted by it. I'm gutted by the memories. And I have to force myself to think back and remember what I went through and what she went through.

And then she was gone. And I still see her on Facebook and stuff, which is really weird. People still talk about her and I still miss her. There's a blank space on the school forms I filled out this year: "Who do you authorize to pick up your children?" The first name I would have written, you know, it's hers. And yet I had this sense all summer, even through it all, of a sort of imperishable hope.

For the first time in my life, I think I really understood what Paul was trying to help Christians understand when he said, "We are pressed, but not crushed." Because I felt the pain every bit as much as I would ever have in my life before Christ or after. But I wasn't destroyed by it.

And I think a lot of us are destroyed by pain. Even Christians can be destroyed by suffering because we haven't integrated Christ and our faith into the deepest place. We're disintegrated and we're disintegrating because of it. We compartmentalize ourselves to death so that we keep Christ on the surface of our lives in one little room, and we don't let Him into the dark room where the suffering lives. But thank God I had, by His grace, let Him into that room already. He knew where to find it. And I knew to leave the door open.

And this summer, it's just like, even at the funeral and everything, I was so filled with hope in spite of, and during the deepest suffering of it all. And I have no explanation for it other than what Christ has done in me and the community Christ has brought around me that just went out of its way to make sure I and my family knew we were not alone in that dark place, made all the difference, continues to make all the difference in the world.

Curt Thompson: You know, Eric, I'm acutely aware of the sacredness of this moment with you. And I want to say to you what was said to me by a good friend now 20 years ago when my own mother passed at 86, when he said that even when people die aged, it's not the way it's supposed to be, let alone when they die in a way that creates so much suffering in those who witness it.

And I want to say to you first that I'm just really sorry. And I want to say it's not the way it's supposed to be. We have a King who knows that it's not the way it's supposed to be. And He knows what it's like for us to have to wait for Him to come and make it right. He knows that part of the suffering involves waiting. He knows this is hard. It was hard for Him.

Eric Huffman: Right.

Curt Thompson: It's been hard for Him from the third chapter of Genesis forward.

Eric Huffman: I just kept thinking about how your book pointed us to stop only asking whether God knows what it's like to be me, but instead open our eyes to the reality that throughout the scriptures, throughout the story of God, His desire is also for us to know what it's like to be Him. That has resonated so deeply with me, Curt. So I thank you for that and for the book and what it's spoken to me in particular during this season of life.

You offered this quote in the book, the book, which by the way, according to Amazon is the number one bestselling book. Wait, that's not right.

Curt Thompson: That can't be true.

Eric Huffman: Number one. Yeah, it is. Number one bestselling book in medical neuropsychology. So, I don't know how many books are being written on medical neuropsychology, but congratulations on that. I pray for continued success. But in the book, you offer this beautiful, powerful quote.

You wrote, "I make no promise that we will suffer less, but I am confident that we will suffer differently and will become even more durably hopeful as a result. Primarily, I expect us to come to see that hope is actually a word that in the world of interpersonal neurobiology serves as a proxy for an ever-deepening attachment love with Jesus and the commensurate awareness of God's relational presence of loving kindness." Bro, that's anointed. Scientists shouldn't write like that, man. Where does that come from? Praise God for it. It's so good.

Curt Thompson: Thank you, God, for the spirit.

Eric Huffman: Thank you. Thank you, Curt. So, let's talk about the proper Christian response to suffering because we have a problem in our culture. Thank God we have a church here that is gritty and willing to get its hands dirty, but I know maybe most churches are superficially pleasant places to be such that people who aren't feeling pleasant don't feel comfortable being unpleasant and muddying the waters, let's say. So, what do Christians and churches need to hear relative to this conversation about suffering?

Curt Thompson: Well, you know, Eric, I would say... this is an observation that I make and that is a reflection of... a comment that just tagged me in Leslie Newbigin's commentary on the Gospel of John when at the end of chapter 10, Newbigin writes, "And so we see...Because Jesus starts in chapter six with the feeding of the 5,000 and just this sifting. More and more and more and more people leave. It culminates with Jesus asking the disciples, "Do you also want to leave Me?" And Peter says, "Where else would we go? You have the words of life." And Newbigin says, "And so therefore we see that the preaching of the gospel leads not to church growth, but to its opposite."

And I remember reading that for the first time many, many years ago, and it just hit me that the first thing I would want us to hear is that Jesus is acknowledging that following Him... Like there's a reason why it's not like the Caesars. It's a reason why crucifixion is at the center, why we say that the cross is at the center of following Jesus. That this is hard to do. I want to acknowledge this.

I also want to say this is the most beautiful work that we will ever do in our lives. It's the most beautiful work we will ever do. And it's equally true that we live in a world, the world, the flesh, and the devil that are committed to training us to believe that life should not be this difficult. So it's important to recognize that we are either going to be formed by Jesus or something else.

It's not if I'm being formed, it's who's forming me. And it's not a what. Because even if I talk about what being Amazon or Google or, you know, the Oreo cookies, Nabisco, whatever it is, there are people behind this. There are spiritual entities behind this. There are living, breathing, intentional beings that are behind this, that are pushing against this. So this is challenging. Don't be surprised that it feels like it is the hardest thing that you will do, the most frightening thing that you will do, more so than bungee jumping. I can guarantee you.

What I want to invite us to consider is that we don't have to start down this road in one fell swoop. We don't have to take this meal of suffering and eat the whole meal in one bite. We can just take one bite of green beans. We can start with that. We can start with one friend. We can start with one person. We can say, would you be willing to listen? Would we be willing to partner and talk to each other about our stories for real?

In pulpits, I would invite pastors to consider doing what you do, which is approaching the work, the public work of preaching the gospel as one of wise and discerning and appropriate self-disclosure, right? As we like to say at the end of the day, if it is true that I am like Christians, right? Christos, Christianos, right? We are little anointed ones. Which means that if the spirit of God is indwelling when I speak, like it is the gospel. We are the gospel.

But the gospel means I am telling the truth about my experience. And my experience is first that I got an entire... I have an entire house full of envy. I have an entire house full of suffering. I have rooms of suffering that are dedicated to that. And when I start to talk about Jesus, I don't lead with, we're all sinners. I lead with, I'm afraid. And Jesus met me. And in His meeting me, I discovered my sin, of course. But I discover that He's coming for the parts of me that nobody else comes for.

And then He starts to place demands on me. Demands like, I want you to be kind. I want you to be loving. I want you to be good. I want you to be patient. These kinds of demands, which of course, when the demand comes, I discover I'm not very patient.

So for our church, I would want Christian education primarily to be about the question of not what are we getting done, but who are we becoming? And I am only able to become that, whatever it is that I want to become, to the degree that I have addressed my suffering.

Eric Huffman: Sure.

Curt Thompson: Because if I'm not. I'm going to be burning a ton of energy, containing, packaging, keeping it in the basement. And that will be energy that will not be available to me when I want to be patient, when I want to be kind.

Eric Huffman: Yeah. And I think it's a very simple reminder, rule of thumb, but one that we mostly avoid as pastors, I think, which is simply, if you as a pastor, the leader of a Christian community, if you're up there projecting perfection, then that's what you're gonna teach and lead your congregation to do as well: project false perfection and talk about the sins. Before you knew Jesus, I was a sinner, but not anymore.

The harm that we do when we create that plastic kind of environment is probably immeasurable. And the power that lies in one leader of a church or a family or a small group or a Sunday school class, one leader honestly confessing their sin, being vulnerable and real, it just opens the door for everyone else to do the same. So I think that's where sort of servant leadership begins, is that, as you said, appropriate self-revelation or self-disclosure.

Curt Thompson: Which is exactly what Jesus does on Good Friday.

Eric Huffman: Yeah, in the most dramatic way possible.

Curt Thompson: I mean, He's naked. And it is the cross that saves us.

Eric Huffman: Right. One more question. For the person who's watching or listening now, who gets tripped up on the first step, which is, as you said, healthy, secure attachments, because they never knew it in their early lives, let's say, they never knew that, they never trusted anyone, and they still don't, but they're intrigued. So that's why they're listening to this Christian podcast, but they're still wondering whether any person can be trusted to that extent. What do you say to them if they're feeling a little left out or left behind as we talk about secure attachment being the beginning of durable hope?

Curt Thompson: Well, I would say that if someone is listening to us, like they started to listen to us and they're still listening to us, it's because there is some part of them that does trust.

Eric Huffman: Right.

Curt Thompson: If there's no part of them that trusts, they stopped listening, they've not signed on to the podcast. This is the father in Mark 9, I believe, with 5%. Help thou my unbelief, the 95% that doesn't, that is too afraid yet. So I would say, okay, they're attached enough to listen.

And then I would invite them to be curious. Without condemnation, I want them to be curious. What would it be like for you to get a journal out and write down the parts of you to whom something has happened that has caused those parts of you, your 10-year-old self, your 15-year-old self, your 25-year-old self, your 40-year-old self, that caused those parts to be afraid?

And if you were to have a conversation with that 15-year-old self part of you, what would you want to tell that 15-year-old self? Would you want to tell them, yeah, you can't trust the church? Is that what you would want them to hear? Or would you want them to hear that you're gonna be kind to them?

And then, imagine this. You read the chapter of Mark 5, or you read Matthew's words where Jesus says, all of you who labor, come to me. Come to me. Imagine that Jesus having a conversation with your 15-year-old self. What do you begin to notice in that conversation? And when you notice the conversation, what do you then begin to notice in yourself?

And then, I would say, what would it be like for that person to imagine having a conversation with Eric Huffman? Like this guy who's just... he's working to get after it, and who knows that he's imperfect, and his being imperfect does not keep him from getting after it. Like, what would it be like to imagine having a conversation with Eric? And we'll come up with all kinds of excuses. Yeah, but Eric doesn't live in my town. We can have all kinds of reasons that will come into our mind that we will use as ways to protect us from being vulnerable.

Eric Huffman: Right.

Curt Thompson: And then, the last thing I would say is this, if taking any or all of these steps lead to more trouble, or if you're too afraid to do it, then I would say, okay, I wouldn't long for this for you, but it's okay for you to remain in your frightened life. It's your choice. I don't want that for you.

I want you to learn to become comfortable and confident. I want you to learn to become a professional human being. I want you to learn and to awaken to the reality that you are called to be a daughter and son of God, that you are a younger sister and brother to the High King, and that when heaven gets here, you're going to have work to do to rule and have dominion over a particular domain of the new creation that is coming. And the question is, when it gets here, will we be able to step into the roles that God imagines for us to have that He has been imagining from beginning?

Eric Huffman: Wow. Amen. Curt, it's almost like you do this for a living, bro. That is a powerful word, and it's a good place to end this conversation today. I can't thank you enough for being with me, for being with us. I don't have a therapist at the moment, but anytime we talk, I feel like I do. So, I'm grateful for you, brother. Your fellowship in the gospel and your friendship, it means the world to us. So, thank you for being with us on Maybe God today.

Curt Thompson: A pleasure.

Eric Huffman: Best of luck with the book, The Deepest Place. Y'all go pick it up wherever books are sold, and you'll be blessed. So, thank you, brother.

Curt Thompson: It's great to be with you. Thanks so much, Eric.

Julie Mirlicourtois: If you were moved by today's episode, please consider supporting future episodes with a one-time or recurring donation to Maybe God. Our work wouldn't be possible without listeners like you. Just head to today to find out more.

This episode of Maybe God was produced by Julie Mirlicourtois and Eric and Giovanna Huffman. Our associate producer and social media lead is Adira Polite, our editors are Shannon Stefan and Justin Mayer, and the director of our full-length YouTube interviews is Mark Calver. Thanks for listening, everyone.