Everyone has their own unique story—a way of weaving together past experiences and relationships with current joys and sorrows to make sense of their lives. When we live our stories without looking to the master Storyteller, it’s easy to become lost and confused. In Restore: Changing How We Live and Love, pastor and author Robert K. Cheong helps readers reconnect with God and remember where their help and hope comes from.
Scripture describes God restoring the health, relationships, hearts, and souls of his people, and he chose an unexpected tool to make himself known and to show how he restores. He uses stories. He does the same for his children today, using our stories.
In this interview, Robert shares more about how God restores our stories and why it’s important for us to share them with others.
Q: Introduce us to your small group resource, Restore: Changing How We Live and Love.
You can view Restore as a discipleship resource that helps you to know how to abide in Christ as you live in a broken world. More times than not, we don’t realize how the fall impacts how we live and love. Restore uses God’s story to help you reframe how you see and understand life, how God restores your soul through your life with Christ, and how God redeems your story.
Restore will also equip you to engage in spiritual warfare and to encourage one another as we all struggle to live in the hard and harsh realities as we continue to live in the fall.
Q: What are the Spirit-dependent goals for readers to accomplish through doing the study?
The Spirit-led goals remind readers what God desires for all his people. We can often look at these goals as “out of reach” or “reserved for the spiritually mature” or “accessible only during a retreat.” Believe it or not, God delights when we:
- find rest in him
- remember he is our hope and help
- reframe how we see life and even ourselves with his eyes
- experience his comfort and love as he restores our soul damaged by evil
- regain confidence in him
- and grow in love for him and others.
Every time we draw near to God through his word, his spirit seeks to do these and other things. You will be amazed that God can accomplish all of these goals in one evening. Many people fear that if they experience these realities once, they may not keep experiencing these realities. That is why I call them Spirit-led goals because only God can bring these about, plus he promises to do these things in us.
Q: How do we begin to reframe our own stories and struggles as we start to see them in relation to God’s story?
Because of the fall, our tendency is to view every aspect of our life through the lens of our story, or the events and experiences that we encounter as we journey through life. Our reality becomes our reference point, or the filter through which we see and understand life.
But God begins to reframe how we see and respond to life as we look up and realize we live in a bigger reality—God’s Story—where Jesus is our reference point, as he serves as our way, truth, and life. As we experience God’s heart through his story, and his words saturate and satisfy our souls, God changes our perspective and posture in life.
Q: What do all of our struggles have in common?
Our struggles must be understood within the context of God’s story. Knowing that God didn’t create us to know evil, we can understand how our struggles flow from the fall. As a result, our struggles, though we experience struggles personally and uniquely within our own story, are common to all people who live in this broken world. We see these common struggles emerge from the Garden of Eden as the first man and woman rejected God’s word and disobeyed his command.
As a result of the fall, we all struggle in common ways, impacting our relationship with God and others. All of God’s creation has been impacted by evil’s destructive and deceitful nature. At the core of our struggles is our battle with self-love and self-glory.
Q: Even though faith struggles are common for all of us, why do we have to take them seriously and make sure that we don’t leave them unchecked?
Yes, we all struggle with doubt and unbelief, and when we do, it doesn’t mean we are not good enough as a Christian; it doesn’t mean that God is not good or unloving, but it does mean that evil continues to impact us as we continue to live in the fall.
Even though doubts are common, they aren’t harmless. Doubts keep us from knowing and experiencing God’s love, his presence, promises, and power. As you consider the armor of God, the shield of faith protects us from the fiery darts of the enemy. Doubts lower the shield of faith which enables the darts of the enemy to impact our souls.
Q: You write that a story doesn’t reach completion until it’s shared. Why is it so important to tell our stories to others? Isn’t that just focusing on the past and ourselves?
We share our stories as a way of helping others to understand who we are as a person. We also share our stories as a way to help others to know how they can encourage you and pray for you. When others share, we get to know them better and learn how we can encourage and love them.
If we merely share our stories because our stories have defined us or have imprisoned us, then we run the risk of focusing on the past and ourselves. But when we reflect upon and share our stories within God’s story and with his eyes and heart, we find hope and healing. As we work through our story in light of God’s story, He will help us to see how he is with us, how he is at work redeeming our stories as he restores our souls. God frees us from the past to live in the present and to continue our journey with him in the future. When we share our stories in this way, God is the focus, and he is glorified.
Q: Can you offer tips on how to respond when someone shares their story with you, especially in a group setting?
The Study Guide offers a section that offers a guide for how we can respond to one another when someone shares their story with us. As you listen to someone share their story, listen with your ears, eyes, and heart (unpack each aspect). Pray for them as they share. Weep with those who weep. Rejoice with those who rejoice.
After someone shares their story, thank them for their courage and faith to share, for entrusting a piece of their story with you. In the moment, don’t ask factual questions to find out more details, but offer loving encouragement centered on the realities of Christ. You can also pray for the person after others in the group take the time to encourage the person.
Q: What does it mean to have communion with God? What are the three aspects of a relationship with him?
God created us for communion with him, which simply means that he created us to enjoy the eternal fellowship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Communion with God describes how we know and experience our relationship with God. Our communion with God ebbs and flows given our struggle to live in a fallen and broken world.
Our communion with God has three “KEI” aspects—knowing God, experiencing God, and imaging God. Knowing God is essential since eternal life is knowing God (John 17:3). Experiencing God is foundational because God wants us to experience and enjoy his love found through his presence, promises, and power. Imaging God is crucial since God calls us to hear and do his word as we follow Jesus.
Q: If God created us to love, why can relationships of all kinds be so difficult?
Relationships are hard because each person has been seriously impacted by evil, which seeks to keep us from love. Even though we were created us for love, the evil within us causes us to love ourselves more than God and others. As a result, we struggle to see others more important than ourselves and fail to consider the interests of others before our own.
The Enemy seeks to divide us from one another, causing disunity and division in relationships. The Enemy also seeks to undermine how we know and experience God and his love, which can hinder the fruit of the Spirit in our hearts and lives.
Q: How does Jesus restore us with love?
Jesus restores our souls as we abide in his love. Through his loving words and by the power of his Spirit, he renews our thoughts, empowers us to experience his heart, and redirects our desires as he stirs our affections. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 tells us that when his love compels and controls us, we will live for him according to his word and how he created us to live.
As we live in God’s story of love, he reframes how we see and understand life as he redeems the hard and hurtful parts of our story.
Q: In what ways is Restore different than other resources on making life changes? How does Restore go beyond simply giving readers Bible verses and reminding them about Jesus?
Restore helps us to understand how our story distorts how we live and love; how evil damages our souls, and how our experiences can define their identities and story.
Restore then uses God’s story to reframe how we see our lives in a broken world, how Jesus restores our souls as we live in his love, and how God redeems the painful parts of our story so that we can live and love differently as we live in this broken world through our union with Christ.
Restore seeks to be a discipleship resource more than a counseling resource, since I believe God designed the church to bear one another’s burdens and to encourage each other to faith, hope, and love in Christ as we live in this fallen world.
At the end of each lesson, you will have the opportunity to abide in Christ through a passage that corresponds to the lesson. I believe that abiding in Christ is at the core of discipleship, care, and community.
Q: Tell us about how this study guide was designed to be used. What leader’s helps are included in the book?
You will get the most out of this Study Guide if you invite others to journey with you through God’s story. I believe God created us to live and learn in community with his people. Over the years, I have seen how God encouragers, comforts, loves, and confronts through his word and his people.
If you are married, I encourage you to go work through Restore with your spouse. As a husband and wife share their hearts and engage each other through the lessons, they will have the privilege to grow together in oneness with one another as they grow in oneness with God.
But, God will do amazing things if you work through this study on your own. If you do so, I would encourage you to share with others all that God is teaching, shepherding, and loving you through his story and word.
Q: What encouragement would you offer someone who is hesitant to do this study with a group because they feel uncomfortable sharing their struggles with others?
The hesitancy is natural. We all struggle to some degree with this issue. However, I have seen God work in beautiful and powerful ways as his people share honestly by faith, trusting God when he said there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. I encourage those who are hesitant to set your gaze on Jesus, like Peter did when he walked on water, trusting Christ for faith, courage, and strength.
I would encourage anyone who is hesitant to remember that God will grow and encourage them as they hear other people’s story and struggles. They will quickly realize that they are not alone in their struggles. Just as important, they will realize that God often reframes how we see and understand life, restores our souls, and redeems the broken parts of our story through the lives of others.
RESTORE: CHANGING HOW WE LIVE AND LOVE, STUDY GUIDE WITH LEADER’S NOTES
In Restore: Changing How We Live and Love, pastor and author Robert K. Cheong shows us that because we have been united to Christ, we can draw near to God, enjoy his love, and live with new patterns and life rhythms.