May 9, 2023

Why the fortune of brokenness can enhance your relationship with God

Why the fortune of brokenness can enhance your relationship with God

In my conversation with Reverend Matthew Hogan today, we explore some themes about Christianity that exist, but aren’t the things Instagram posts are made of. These are hard and heavy topics, but important ones as we fully explore the faithfulness and love of God, especially outside of our American perspective. 

Reverend Matthew Hogan has over 30 years of experience in ministry and counseling, having worked as a pastor, interim pastor, and counselor. He is a Certified Temperament Pastoral Counselor, Licensed Pastoral Counselor, and is a member of the National Christian Counselors Association. Currently, he runs Grace for Individual and Family Therapy (GIFT) through which he provides faith-based therapy for individual clients, couples, and groups of any faith background online. 

We discuss:

  • The Christian "elephant in the room" and what it is
  • The fortune of brokenness Matthew and his wife experienced in early adulthood and how that impacted his relationship with God
  • God’s faithfulness and presence even as we weave in and out of our focus on him
  • Encouragement for the person who things  “I’ve been away so long I don’t think God would want me to come back”
  • Authentically rejoicing even when we don't feel like it

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Why the fortune of brokenness can enhance your relationship with God with Matthew Hogan

Amy: [00:00:00] Hey there, I'm Amy Connell. Welcome to Graced Health, the podcast for women who want simple and grace-filled ways to take care of themselves. I'm a personal trainer and nutrition coach who wants you to know your eating movement and body don't have to be perfect. You just need to be able to do what you're called.

To do now here on the podcast we have grace filled conversations about physical, mental, and spiritual health, and I am thrilled to have Dr. Reverend, I'm sorry, Reverend Matthew Hogan on the show today. Let me tell you a little bit about him, Reverend Matthew Hogan has for over. 30 years experience in ministry in counseling.

Having worked as a pastor, an interim pastor and counselor, he has a certified temperament pastoral council. I don't know what that is. I'm so sorry. But it looks, it sounds, it sounds good. He's a licensed pastoral counselor and is a member of the National Christian Councilors [00:01:00] Association. Currently, he runs Grace for individual and family.

Therapy through which he provides faith-based therapy for individuals, clients, couples, and groups of any faith background online. Matthew, welcome to the show.

Matthew: Thank you. I'm so honored to be here, Amy.

Amy: Well, I'm thrilled to have you and I do, I know I kind of asked you this on the online form, but would you prefer that I call you Reverend or Matthew or Reverend Matthew?

Matthew: Any of the above.

Amy: Any of the above. Okay. Well I'll probably go in between in, in between all of those. So you have written a very interesting book and it was a great book and all of a sudden I am, the name is blanking for me. So go ahead and tell me the name of the book and give us a little bit about what, what it's about.

Matthew: The book is called How to Be a Christian. In today's world,

Amy: Yes.

Matthew: shame or Fear of Failure [00:02:00] versus Living confidently in God's Love and. Honestly this is a message that has developed over maybe as many as six years. As my, my wife who is, whenever I'm talking ministry, I say we, and nobody knows who I'm talking about, but it's my wife.

She is my confirm. I get, I get confirmation from her all the time and, and messages like this book in many of my sermons. She's developing the, the idea on her own and what needs to be said at the same time I am. And, and so this book came about because we've seen, first off, the first world versus the third world.

That was, that was my first real. Intent was that our culture is such that most of us don't realize our [00:03:00] need for God.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Matthew: Because need more money, work, work some overtime, you know, whatever. Our society doesn't realize the, the drastic need for God. But then. As I was writing it and as I was researching it, God took over.

I have to say, because I had no idea where the book, where the book really was gonna go. But there's different groups of people that struggle with, with knowing God's love. And, and one of those is, is people that have made a mess of their. People who've, who've done bad things. I don't think God can love me because I've been so bad.

Then there's those who had horrible childhoods and, and, and horrible fathers. And, and so the, the thought of a father God and love, and it doesn't, it just doesn't compute. I had another one, but I forgot who it was. 

Amy: My [00:04:00] guess is, I don't wanna put words in your mouth, but my, one of my thoughts is those who have, who physically have enough, right? We, we have our physical needs met, our, we have enough water, we have enough food, we have a shelter over our head and

Matthew: that's the first world problem.

Amy: Right.

Matthew: Oh, I, it what, what it was is, is it sometimes I, I've dealt with Christians who've, who've been Christians. 40, 50, 60 years, you know, and they've, they've faithfully warmed a pew all that time and given their tithe and whatever, but they've completely forgotten about the excitement of, of meeting the Lord and, and coming to a point of his grace and love. 

Amy: And the, just the ritual of it, maybe rather than letting it Soak into us. I, I had to write down faithfully warming the pew. That's fantastic. That's great. Okay, so I [00:05:00] want to back up just a little bit, and sorry to put you on the spot there, and I'm horribly embarrassed that I couldn't remember the name of your book and I'm so sorry about that.

Matthew: It's a long title.

Amy: it is a long title, but you have, you use a lot. Impactful words in there. I mean, talk you, you mentioned shame, the S word, fear of failure. There's a lot of things in there that I think reach people. So those are good words to use for sure. Now In speaking with so many guests here and just in my own life and talking with others about their relationship with God everyone kind of has their own unique story that impacts their relationship with Christ, and some of them you already touched on, depending on how we grew up or what we may have and what we may not have.

 Can you share. Some about what your story is about how that impacted your relationship with Jesus.

Matthew: I went to v b s as an eight year old. My, my brother had passed away when I was six. And, shortly after that, my dad decided he wanted [00:06:00] to be self-employed, which meant that my mom and dad were always busy. So as, as a young person, I was pretty much on my own. And at eight I went to vbs and. Vacation Bible skull for anybody that doesn't know what VBS is. And there I, I'm, don't remember it well, but I know that I accepted Christ. Now if you ask my father, I grew up in a Christian home. I don't say that because my dad would say things like, we believe this because we're Christians, but I never saw the inside of a church unless I was Christmas or Easter at my grandma's house.

So I didn't grow up in a home wi with that coming in, that being put into me. But in high school my best friend came to me and he said, Hey, two girls invited us to youth group.[00:07:00] 

Amy: Ding, ding, ding.

Matthew: So we went. But that really kick started faith for me and after high school I, I lived in, in Europe for a year. And. The gal that that drove us all to youth group was sending me, oh, I don't even remember what the magazine is. Some, some Christian teen magazine that had ads for colleges.

I thought, you know, I, I probably had to go to a Christian school that it'd be good for me. And I often say, if I'd realized how good it was going to be for me, I wouldn't have gone because I had my life plan. Well, God changed that by calling me into ministry. That was nowhere in my, life plan.

But I grew up very poor and when we got married or when I got married during my internship so it was very quick and not something I recommend. A as a marriage counselor, it's [00:08:00] definitely not something I recommend, but. We were poor for many years and, and, and it, it was a beautiful thing because we knew we had to rely on God, and I also wouldn't want anybody to.

Know what it was like for us to be married because it was absolutely horrible. Neither one of us knew what we were doing and we were both living out of our own, our own pain. But God was the one thing that, kept us together. And the problem is that as life went on and I, I finally started, I fell backwards into a career.

And it was a very good career. I didn't necessarily enjoy what I was doing, but I was making good money and I was very good at it. So as that happened, I lost the need for God, like we talked about first world, you know. If you had asked me, I would've said, [00:09:00] yeah, I trust God. But it wasn't until I was laying in a hospital bed in 2016 And my social security disability had been denied. Okay, no problem. It, everybody knows, it happens the first time. And then I, within a couple days, the, my wife and daughter bring me a letter from the long-term disability insurance company and they say they're dropping me

so now I've got both of those and I just had this image of my paralytic wife, paralyzed wife, and my dog and I living out of our car. And I figured my dog and I could handle it. But how do I, how do I care for my paralyzed wife and Some friends I had or a pastor couple, they weren't friends yet. They are, they're different now. But then I had met in trying to share my counseling ministry with, with local ministers I called them and they, rushed right up to the hospital.

And [00:10:00] in that conversation, I don't remember what happened, but it just clicked that I didn't need to worry about.

Amy: You know, you mentioned earlier about relying on God and you had to learn how to rely on God. And having read the book, I know that you had some friends. Really show up in incredible ways for you, and you just finished with that as well, with people just showing up I think to me I always like to have applicable takeaways when I read things and learn from things.

And to me that. Is a great reminder to literally, I mean, to be the hands and feet, which I know is, those words are used a lot, but sometimes relying on God manifests itself in friends showing up and helping and. Listening to those prompts when we get them of, Hey, reach out to someone, do this.

And it's a good reminder for me. My son has a [00:11:00] teacher who's very ill right now, and I'm like, I have been struggling with what to do, and I'm like, I just need to do something. Right. I just need to do something to show, to show his love. So you open this book and very quickly you say, all right, I'm gonna address the elephant in the room, which is very brave, by the way, as an author, because you just never know how people are going to take about that.

Talk to us and share what you meant by the elephant in the room and why that's so hard to reconcile for so many.

Matthew: If we sleep eight hours a day, Okay. In a week, we have 122 hours left over. Now if we are really avid churchgoers and we're doing small groups and whatever, we might spend as many as four or five hours in church related events. Right? 

Amy: That's a lot.

Matthew: a high number. I'm being, I'm being very generous

Amy: Yes, you are.

Matthew: And at five [00:12:00] hours, that's 4% of our awake. And I'm not including personal devotions, bible reading, because I'm talking about what we're getting into us from the outside, the, the external messages. Okay. So 4% might be godly because there's other idiot humans in the church just like us.

But, but it might be Godly messages. And, good, things. But that other 96% of the time, who knows what we're taking on in the world. And God, the standards and everything are at odds with each other. And so the elephant in the room is what do we even believe? Do we even know the truth?

Do we know God? Because what is being put into, 

Amy: I know you're responsive. A lot of us are gonna be like, yeah, of course I know God. Of course I believe in God. Of course, I believe in Jesus. So what's [00:13:00] your response to that?

Matthew: Well, like me, okay. I, would've said or, and did I trust God?

Amy: Right.

Matthew: But when I needed God, I found out, wait a minute, now I'm scared. I was terrified until I really crossed the threshold of trusting God.

Amy: Wow. Okay. Yeah,

and you know, it's, it's funny, it, there's no one defining moment for any, I mean, it's, it's not like you as a pastor or I mean, I certainly have no. Place in giving out biblical and spiritual wisdom. But, you know, we can read a book and like when this happens, you have crossed the threshold.

Right? And so it's, it's different for all of us and I think it's scary [00:14:00] because we're human to release that and adhere to our needs and trust god in the process when we don't know what is gonna be the next step or the next thing that comes, and I don't know if that makes any sense or not. I'm just speaking from , my own internalization of what you just said.

Matthew: One of the things I think for for many of us is it's hard to be vulnerable enough to really let God reign.

Amy: Yes, that's a better way of saying it. Absolutely. Okay. Another thing that you talk about in your book is the fortune of brokenness. Now, you know, again, going back to these first world that most of us are living in, many of us are living in, I do have listeners all over, but you know, if you are.

Someone who has a roof over their head and [00:15:00] you have clean water and you have food in the refrigerator. I mean, there's a good chance that you have enough and you have enough for your physical needs. Brokenness sounds scary and. It sounds like we're not doing something right, and yet you give us a different perspective about that and saying that's actually a, the fortune of brokenness.

And this was something that you shared with your story more in early adulthood, but talk to us some about how you would define this fortune of brokenness and how that impacted your relationship with.

Matthew: Fortune of brokenness is, is, you know, like I talked about, my wife and I, we were poor. And, and I mean, there, there was a time where, where she had had a surgery and was actually able to go to work and, and I was [00:16:00] working and we had two incomes all of a sudden this was amazing. And then we both got hurt and all of a sudden I'm, I'm getting work comp, but they were denying her work comp.

So we went from two incomes to two thirds of. And we had no running car. We cut off our cable, we cut off our phone, we cut off, you know e everything we could, and, and we still were, were basically squatters for, for months because we just couldn't pay our, our bills. In that time we, we knew our need.

We were aware of our need and, and being aware of your need allows you that, that trust God thing again if I need him, I'm, I'm more likely to be able to be vulnerable and, and I'm more likely to be able to rely on him if I know I have needs. So, the [00:17:00] fortune of brokenness , and you said something about, Blame or responsibility or something when you were asking the question. And that goes back to, okay, yeah, we can do stupid things to put us in, in bad positions. Right. One of my pastor buddies,, he got saved sitting on the floor of a jail cell. So, so yeah, we could do dumb things that put us in those positions, but very often it has nothing to do with us scripturally.

If you were sick, somebody sinned. That was the cultural, not, that wasn't God's way of thinking about it, but it, but it was what was cultural. And we talk about the man born blind who sent him, him or his, his parents. So there, just because life stinks at the moment and, and we're not getting what we want and need and it's [00:18:00] scary, doesn't mean it's on us.

Amy: That's great. Yeah. That's a, that's a repeatable thing. I mean, because it, it's not always on us. You're so right. Thank you for that. Okay. So, God is faithful through everything, right? It doesn't mean that it's always easy, and it doesn't mean that there's clarity on our end.

There's always clarity on his end. He's always present even though. We will kind of weave in and out of our focus on him. And, and I say we, I should just put this all in first person. There are times that I am and I am fueled and I am on fire and there are times that I am not investing the time that I need , to grow my relationship with God.

 Sometimes when that happens. And I, I would not put myself in this category, but [00:19:00] it's easy to just say, you know what, I've just been, I've been gone. I've been gone. And, and then, and it's like, you know what? Why bother? I've been gone from God for so long. I don't even think he'd want me to come back. Talk to the person who is, may be feeling that right.

Matthew: We know that God says I was. I'm the same yesterday, today, and forever. We may lose track of God, we may lose track of, of where we fit in. Right? We, we, we may lose sight, but if he's the same continually, then nothing has changed on his end. He still wants us. I'm actually gonna, Toby Mack from an old [00:20:00] DC talk concert.

I I actually met them in 1989. I'm, I'm dating myself.

Amy: Oh no. Oh no. Let me, let me, Rand raised right here. DC talk in the News boys.

Matthew: yep, yep. The News Boys opened for DC talk. And, and I got to meet DC talk. Of course they wouldn't remember it, but I do. But in, in one of their concerts, you know, he's doing a monologue and, and he's talking to, to people that are struggling and, and, and what he says is all that stuff, all that muck, all that, all that garbage.

You don't have to walk back through that to get to God. All you have to do is turn

which is, which is the truth. I mean, he's always there waiting. I, I stand at the door and knock.

Amy: So if they're thinking, if you're listening, I guess I'll [00:21:00] say that, and you think, gosh, I've just been away for so long. Then your response to that, reverend, is just turn around and God's still.

Matthew: Amen. That's it. You,

Amy: What about women and men too, but women who have grown up with an less than desirable relationship with her earthly father?

Matthew: boy, you're being gentle.

Amy: there's a lot of different circumstances out there and. You know, there's, there's a lot of different things. I was fortunate to have a tender and loving father, so it's very easy for me to equate that to a heavenly father. But I know that there are women out there who have been abused physically mentally, spiritually, I mean, I'm sorry, sexually, spiritually, too. [00:22:00] And, and it's hard to, it's hard to even comprehend a heavenly father when you're earthly one has not loved you in the way that God designed you to receive love. So I'm, I'm curious what kind of encouragement you would give to, I mean, my, my community is mostly women, but women or men who just can't look at their father their biological father or the man who raised them as an example of God's love.

Matthew: You said it without saying it that historically At least, I don't know any statistics, but from, from my comprehension, my understanding, what I've seen women do seem to have a harder time with that than men. Going from a neglectful, abusive father to, oh, a father that loves me, that just doesn't compute.

Amy: Mm.

Matthew: [00:23:00] But what we've gotta realize, and it's d. But what we have to realize is that right off the bat, husbands, because Christ is the husband to the bride of the church husbands, fathers and marriage are all three prominent themes scripturally and yes on Earth, hopefully. Those things allow us to get an idea, an image of what God means.

I mean, a good marriage, a healthy marriage, and the connection between two people is as close as we can get to understanding what it's going to be like to be the bride of Christ. But those are shadow. They're not the real thing.[00:24:00] And we've gotta remember that, that, just because my marriage is bad, my, my husband is bad, my father is bad. That's a human in a broken world. God is outside of the broken.

Amy: Yeah.

Matthew: And that's hard to get. And, and the harder thing I think really is actually being aware of it. That, that, that's part of the problem.

And, and I told her I was gonna, I was gonna share this without naming her obviously, but one of my counselors it took us a while to, to. For me to ask the right question to find out that, for her to figure out really that she's been serving in the church for years active and doing everything and had no clue that God loved her. [00:25:00] She didn't even know that right away. We had to find it. As I continued counseling, I had to read my book. It took the combination. The book might not have been enough. Counseling might not have gotten there as quickly as we could have, but between the two she's really latched onto it. That may be part of what some of these people, especially women may need is, is not only reading my book but, but they may, they may need some counseling and, and some help getting through that because it, it's tough.

Amy: Of course you would recommend that as a pastoral counselor, but I think that that is a great reminder that those can go hand in hand. Counseling 100% can support our spiritual growth and development and. [00:26:00] Understanding God's love for us, you know, that it's, it's not necessarily just because, you know, we're not doing it right or we're not reading our Bible writer, we're not doing the Bible study writer, we're not serving enough, or, I mean, fill in the blank.

And I can, I can so relate with the, the counsel you were just speaking of, because I think many of us have grown up. Not intentionally, but equating works in faith. And if I want to show that I am a Christian, I need to be doing all of the things at church. And you're laughing if

Matthew: Because you just opened a big can.

Amy: because why?

Matthew: You just opened a big can of worms.

Amy: I know I didn't prep you with that question, but it's true. And I, and I think it's, it, that's a hard thing to get out of our head. And for those of us, and, and again, I've got my hand raised over here who feel like, well, I need to [00:27:00] do things to show my love to God and others. That that's hard. That's hard.

Matthew: So, I mentioned Matthew 25 in the story of the sheep and the goats, and, and I'm sorry, off the top of my head, I can't come up with the, the verses, the specific verses for that passage, but he's separating those that did and those that didn't do. You know, you're talking about your son's teacher and, and needing to do something to reach out to her.

 He says, you visited me when I was sick. And that gives us the impression that, that yeah, we're supposed to do. And, and first John, I always struggle with this first John four, I believe, verse 20. As matter of fact, I actually wrote it down

Amy: By the way, this is really affirming to me because I can name just a few Bible verses, so I'm really thank you for not knowing everything right [00:28:00] off the top of your

Matthew: I believe it's first John four 20. But he says, if you say you love God, but hate your brother, you're a liar . one of my best friends, he was a pastor for 25 years he would talk about how, how Jesus with the if you hate somebody, you've already murdered. You know or he says, I've got that on one side. I've got, I've got big brother on one side. And then, and then James said something similar on the other side.

He says, I can't win. But the thing is, the verse right before that, that verse I mentioned is we love him because he first loved us. Part of the point of the book, one of the things that, that I'm trying to get people to understand is quit working so darn hard. Quit trying to be Superman as a Christian and, and doing it out of your own strength.

That's not what it's about. If you really [00:29:00] dive in the vine, in the branches, if you abide in me, then. He will, his love will just ooze out of you. And I firmly believe, that passage in first John, that the, the sheep in the goats in Matthew 25, you know him, I think when, when he says, You didn't do these things depart from me.

I never knew you is because we never allowed him to know us. We didn't embrace his love and let it fill us to the point of overflowing,

Amy: Yeah.

Matthew: is what it should be. And, and then we'll love our brother.

Amy: Too busy doing things to let his love fill us up sometimes. Okay. [00:30:00] So I have a few, as we wrap up, I have a few questions that I ask all my guests and I would definitely would love for you to share or tell everybody where they can connect, where they can get your book. So first say it again.

The the title and where they can go to purchas. 

Matthew: How to be a Christian in today's world. And then the subtitle is Shame or Fear of Failure versus Living Confidently in God's Love. It's. Everywhere. It's, it's on Amazon. It's on Barnes and Noble. Going through my webpage, you can get to links. My webpage is rev, r e v Matthew, m a t t h e w Hogan, h o g a

And I also have there. An offering because it's, this is all ministry. This ministry to me is serving and loving much like I, I see [00:31:00] you doing. And, and congratulations for that because I, I think it's beautiful. But I have on there an offer of 30 inspirational memes in 30 days. So if you, if you sign up with your name and email address, you'll automatically get.

30 days worth of memes. You're also gonna get my periodic at, at least weekly and sometimes in the middle of the week if something really hits me blog or, or a link to the blog anyway so that, that will also come. I, I won't flood anybody. I won't spam anybody. But you can go to my website again, rev matthew and, and sign up for that.

And then there are links to the book from there.

Amy: Perfect. Yes. Thank you. Yeah, I think we all love memes too, and as, as much as we've gotten a little. Deep in this conversation. Sometimes just a nice a nice meme is helpful as well, right? Reach it all in different ways. Okay. So one of my [00:32:00] favorite questions to ask, surrounds tattoos. I love learning about people's tattoos because I have found that often when people choose to put something on their body for the rest of their life, We'll have a meaning behind it.

Not all of them, but a, a lot of them do. So I was wondering if you have any tattoos, if you would be willing to share one of them and what it means. And if you don't have any but you had to get one, what would it be and where would it go?

Matthew: I have been thinking about getting a tattoo for probably a decade. Will I ever do it? I have no idea. However it's very specific. My wedding band and my wife's. Have a piece of scripture from Song of Solomon. I am my beloveds, my beloved is mine. Now that's not, I mean, those are our wedding bands and we're, we're talking about each other, but the scripture is of [00:33:00] course, God. And so what I've kind of would like to do is get. A text rap around my upper arm, but because it's for me, not for everybody else, I would, I would have it done in old Swedish script because that's, my other language is Swedish. But I would have it done in in old Swedish script. I am my beloveds and my beloved is,

Amy: Oh, that's super cool. I love it. I love it. Okay, now that leads into the next question I have, which maybe that's the answer, but do you have a meaningful Bible verse you would like to share?

Matthew: Well, no, it's not, but that is a good verse. Philippians four eight is something that I teach everybody because we're so filled with anxiety. I believe that most people are, are up to here and don't even realize it, which is why. Angry blow ups and Wow, where'd that come from? And things like that are, are so common. Philippians four [00:34:00] eight is an instruction on how we should be thinking, and the word says as a man thinks so he is. So what we think about is obviously very important in Philippians four, eight, is whatever is true, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable. Yeah, different, different variations depending on the translation and worthy of praise is, is how it ends.

And so what I teach people is, first off, learn the verse. And I, I have all my counselors put it on the home screen of their phone. I ask 'em all to, to find a, to find a meme and or an image and, and put it on their phone and read the list every time they open their phone so that you get used to it.

Hand hint, I'm having a memorized scripture without telling them that. But if you know the list, then when you're struggling, ask yourself, what am I [00:35:00] oh, I'm thinking that, well, is it true? And most of what bothers us isn't, I know my wife's gonna be mad at me when I get home. Maybe she won't. So it's not true.

So use that as a litmus test, right? So go through with what we're thinking and is it true? Is it pure? Is it lovely? And if, if at any point in the list we get to know, then guess. That's not what we're supposed to be thinking about.

Amy: That is a great reminder and I know personally I have been in I've been, my girlfriend calls it swirling of just getting in my head. So thank you for that little personal encouragement to remember to ask if it's true and praiseworthy and all of that, cuz that's, I I think we all. Again, I can only speak for myself. I know. I needed that. I need those, I need that scripture for sure. Okay, I am going to let you [00:36:00] close us out. What is the one simple thing that you would like the listener to remember from this conversation? It can be big, it can be small, but just, just anything we've talked about.

One simple.

Matthew: That God made you, God knows you. He made you knowing how bad you were gonna screw up, and he still bothered to make you. And he loves you with a furious, overwhelming love. And if we. Accept that it changes everything.

Amy: Amen. Thank you for that. Okay, that is all for today. Go out there and have a Grace Day.