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Welcome back to Unfiltered Faith podcast with Meredith Armstrong. And today we have a very special guest. This is Ben coarsen you guys. He is amazing. He is the best selling author of book Optimist Fitz. He's the founder of Hope Generation and the senior pastor at AKF. And what's crazy and will then say hi. Say hi, Ben. Hi, guys.
Thank you. Thank you for having me. I'm really so that was that a good intro I was trying to like I was like reading your bios actually. You sound super professional.
Oh, good. OK, so basically Ben and I met a few years ago was probably twenty eighteen. Was it twenty eighteen or twenty seventeen.
I have know. I'm pretty sure we met three years ago. Yeah. Two years, three years ago. Something like that at a spa.
And Glenn Ivey, the Glenn Ivey Spa where if your listeners haven't gone they have to you if you want to experience a little utopian heaven on earth and go to Glenn Ivey, it's amazing.
It's probably closed right now, but.
Oh, yeah, that's the last thing to do in quarantine. Unless people are listening to this in like twenty, twenty three, you know, that will be open.
You I was in this mud mud bath and I hear this woman's voice behind me say, are you married? And I turn around and I see Cambria Joy. And I immediately recognized her because I grew up watching her videos and I love her. And so we started talking. And as we're all leaving the spa, we're all just kind of getting to know each other. And I followed Ben on Instagram, so I met Ben at this spot. And then through Ben, I met this family, the Germans, and that's how I met on a seizure.
And it's crazy because if I never met Ben, I would have never met my co-host, who was so basically basically I'm responsible for your part.
But Ben is just Ben is just amazing. Guys, like, please, please go follow his his Instagram with YouTube. Ben, I love your YouTube channel. Like, I remember when I first started walking with the Lord again, I would listen to your sermons and I was gaining so much knowledge. You just have so much wisdom. And I'm so thankful that the Lord has blessed you. And you've obviously worked so hard and you've studied and you've just done so much research.
But you have you've just been blessed by the Lord with just this amazing amount of knowledge. And so I'm just so thankful that our generation has someone like you to really shed light on so many subjects and topics that people are afraid to talk about and that people just don't know a lot about.
So we're just so coming from the YouTube queen herself, that means a ton. So thank you so much. I love you guys, too. I'm so glad that you're doing this and that you guys are using your your amazing personalities and platforms to just spread the message of the kingdom of God. Our generation needs it so much. So I'm I'm really, really pumped not just like mutual fan Girling, but I'm serious. Like, I really mean that you guys are crushing it.
I'm really excited. I think especially in times like this, I think God is building his like warriors, like his army of people that are going to be that light in this dark time, because as we see it get darker, us, the the believers and children. God, we're that light. We're that light that is is shining in the world. Yeah. And Jesus is our hope. And so for us to show that Jesus is the hope and people ask, like, will you have peace during this time?
How are you so like at peace and have this joint comfort? It's like, well, we're pointing to Jesus because that is our he is our hope, you know.
One hundred percent I like you said, like we're light in a dark time, which crazy as Jesus said, you're the light of the world.
And scientifically, here's what's crazy.
Did you know that humans literally are the light of the world? Like when it comes to the energy quanta of photons, we're we actually emit a glow due to metabolic reactions within our physiological constitution, which is just a scientific way of saying that our bodies literally glow. We're bioluminescent. The problem is the naked eye can't register this glow because our bodies glow is one thousand times weaker than the naked eye can actually assimilate. So when Jesus said you're the light of the world, thousands of years later, scientists are saying, yes, that's actually true.
You're the light of the world. So I think, like, even when we don't feel like we're the light of the world, we can live up to who we already are, knowing that this is like literally inbred in built intrinsically, inherently into our very identity. And what's also cool about that whole lite scenario that you're painting, like you said, you're the light of the world. You're a city on a hill that cannot be hidden like a city, a luminescent city of light is.
A lot of times I talk to people who are going through a lot of depression or suicidal ideation or body image issues or whatever it is. And I would like to tell people like there is always light, even if you can't see it. So scientists are now telling us Ostrove physically, that there is light in every square inch of the universe. Even a black hole is. Black holes don't destroy light, they just trap light. So basically there are there are four million photons per square meter.
Photons are energy quanta that make up light. So there's actually light your eyes can't see like infrared, ultraviolet. So out of the light around us, we actually can't see. And that's really how it works in our faith. The Bible says we walk by faith and not by sight. So even if you can't see the light, doesn't mean it's not there. And in these really dark times that, you know, whether it's civil unrest or racism or covid-19 coronavirus panic due to the pandemic crisis in the midst of the crisis.
And he really is the light, even though we can't see him. That doesn't mean he's not there. That is so good and it kind of I love that you're bringing science into it, because what I think a lot of people I just watched this documentary about how the Bible and science go hand in hand. People always try to separate. Well, like science tells us this. So how can the Bible be true? And there's all these, like, contradicting ideas.
But the Bible, like science and the Bible go together. And I think that that's such an important thing for people to kind of like study and research is because so much is true.
Like, well, you know what's wild, Merideth? A lot of people think this and I don't think right. And it's Anastasiya or and it's dodgy.
I'm trying to in the decision because you have so many names you have like Stoss on Instagram. And I don't know, I just you you have a very magical name. I will say that's a very logical but it's like it's like you come out of the Disney tales or something.
But what I do a lot in high school is to be and even then I was like, no, I like stocks better. And I like I like a lot identies, but I like a.D.A Aristos for sure.
Yeah. You're not going to go with any when you have Anastasiya, that's like it's like you're walking out of the Lord of the Rings or something.
But you know, it's crazy because a lot of people think in our day that science and the Bible contradict each other, which, you know, you know, the irony of that is it's not just that the Bible in science contradict each other. It's not just that that's not true. Did you know Christians invented the scientific method? So about eight hundred years ago, William of Ockham, you know, Ockham's Razor and Roger Brecon, they were monks who invented science.
In fact, did you know the universities? Cambridge, Oxford, Yale, Harvard and Princeton were all founded as Christian institutions meant to glorify God and train priests. So when people think you have to choose between God and science, that's like saying, do you have to choose between God in the Bible there, one in the same, so Christian so far, like historically from being against the scientific method originally, we're actually the ones who invented it. So I think that's really good because a lot of people in our day don't want to talk to God because they believe in the scientific method.
I believe in science and science. I think science and spirituality are are inextricably intertwined. And that really helps us to have not just like a wild faith, although we want that. It also allows us to have a reasonable and logical faith, too. Yeah, yeah.
So we want to talk to you a little bit about your testimony, because I remember when I first heard it and I think honestly might you don't remember. You don't have you ever heard Ben's testimony? Yeah.
So your testimony was that you were because remember now you were saying how you had ten years of depression and suicide. Right.
I believe people connect with our weaknesses. They might be impressed by our accomplishments, that they connect with our weaknesses. My brother was used to say, like I used to say, our scars become our stars. And I really believe that. So. So, yeah. Here's basically my story in a nutshell. When I was two years old, I gave my life to the Lord when I was 16 years old or pardon me, when I was in third grade, I gave my first sermon when I was six years old, I started I started a Bible study with my friends in Orange County where I lived.
And then I would travel around and speak at 16 and 17. And then when I was a senior in high school at 18, I became a pastor and started teaching at this megachurch here in Oregon.
And and then, yeah, in my twenties, that's when I started this TV show and radio show called Hope Generation and YouTube and all that. But I think sometimes people and you guys you guys are social media influencers. So you really know what this is like. Sometimes there can be this very beautiful exterior things looking really, really fun on the outside, but they they're not seeing what's happening behind the curtain. And for me, like my actually my therapist said, and I know it sounds pretty like pretty intense off the top that I do have a therapist, but that's been hugely helpful for me is she told me then your life is one of either epic wins or epic losses.
It's like either epic, amazing stuff or epic, terrible stuff. And there's not really any in between. Like is the Navy SEALs say anything worth doing is worth overdoing. And and so so anyway, you know, my family and my life, our story has been marked by a lot of trauma and tragedy and trial and trouble and tribulation and all this stuff. So basically, my sister, when I was in first grade, I remember I was pulled out of class by my principal and I went home.
I was taken home and like the blinds were drawn and it was really dark. And in fact, there might have been lamps on, but it seemed like the lamps were leeching light from the air rather than actually giving a glow to their. That's how dark it felt like there was just this oppressive air in the room. And and I found out that my sister had died in a car accident. And and this might be like just my subconscious. Glossing over any bad stuff, but I literally never got in one fight with my sister that I can ever remember, like we had this magical, enchanted relationship, she it's really wild because my niece, who I work with at church, my niece is like, I think 19, 18 or 19.
She's a lot like my sister Jessica was. And my sister Jessica died at 16. And what's what's really crazy is the night before she passed away, she was joking with my family at the dinner table because my dad said, you know, Jessica, you need to date somebody or marry somebody who's God earlier than you are. And then Jessica said, well, I'm going to be single the rest of my life because I'm the godless person. I know.
You know, like she was joking around.
And then and then the next day, when she passed away in her car accident, my brother Peter John delivered the news to my dad by saying, Jessica, she's found her man. She's found her man. So as the bride of Christ, she finally found someone God bigger than she is. And she's married to Jesus now. And they're having this marriage feast of the lamb, this wedding ceremony in heaven. And then so my brother who delivered that news, he he died a little over a year ago of cancer.
And I remember at his deathbed during his last two hours of life, me and my dad were sitting next to him. And this song came on the radio. That was a song from the 90s called Take My Hand and Walk from a Christian band called The Cry, like really obscure subculture band. And and I started crying even more. My dad was crying, too, and he said, Ben, do you know what song that is? And I said, That's the same song that played at my sister's memorial service.
And it just happened to come on the radio. Like, what are the odds that another random, not very well-known Christian ninety song would just come on the radio shuffle along with nobody planning it? That was one of the last songs my brother heard. It was the same song that played at my sister Jessica's memorial service. And and then my brother went home to be with the Lord. And the song was Take My Hand and Walk. And somebody messaged me on Instagram after my my brother went to heaven and said, Your brother has graduated like your brother graduated.
And I just picture that song, Take My Hand and Walk, one of the last songs my brotherhood heard playing at my sister's memorial service. And I just picture with one hand the Lord taking Jessica and walking her down the wedding aisle. She's found her man. And with the other hand, because Isaiah says he holds us with his hand, with his other hand, he takes Peter John down the graduation aisle and says, well done, good. And people servant like enter into the joy of the Lord by by grace, like you've received this diploma diploma.
And so now they're together in heaven. And but but what's crazy about that is like and I won't go like I won't I don't want to go be a sob story or anything, but basically I will say this, you know, my dad's first wife died in a car accident and one of my good friends, Jared Wilson, a little over a year ago, he's a pastor in Orange County. I was really talking to his family the day he died.
He committed suicide. I have a guy who literally this is true. He follows me. He looks at my travel schedule and he will he will call news stations and protest me like he'll literally call a news station and protest me and like has a sign and like tries to protest everywhere I go because he's had a problem with my family ever since I was a little kid. So, like, I literally have like a stalker who like the devil.
That's the devil. It's crazy. So so he'll like stalk me and it's pretty wild. Like he'll like protest. If you call news stations, it's pretty, pretty nutty. He tried to get me on TV. It's funny, he's never succeeded, but it's just it's crazy. You go through stuff and then basically on top of that and sorry I'm talking really long, but I'm glad you got to where you want to put it. But basically and then so I was I was in an eight year relationship and and heartbroken in a romantic relationship that left me blindsided.
Like, I maybe I have a very low IQ or something, but like, I did not see this coming. I just got a train wreck heartbroken in this relationship. And you know how you have had to deal with a lot of trust issues after that. But basically what I will say is that I got diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder. So it wasn't just like the regular kind, like the regular PTSD. I got diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder because of all this stuff that went on.
And so here's why I'm sharing that.
I'm sharing that to say God has healed my broken heart. God has given me hope. God has given me joy for the future. Like I can see a bolder horizon through this lens of joy. And this is what I tell everybody. If God could heal me, he can heal you. So. No matter what you're going through, whoever is listening to this, if God could heal me and I got diagnosed complex PTSD, I promise you he can heal you, too, because on your worst day with God, you're better off than on your best day without God.
And I promise you, when you're going through your worst, God is planning his best. I said, oh, my goodness, wow, that thank you for sharing that, Ben, and it paints such a beautiful picture, I think, too, because I think a lot of the times we we don't seem to look at the bigger picture. We see our circumstance and we don't see and remember God's promises for us. But his promises, he will keep them.
They'll never come back, boy. So I think you're just such a testimony to God's goodness.
And I mean, if you if you feel like you've found the cure to HIV or you found the cure to cancer, like you would tell everybody about it. And so I feel like I found the cure to depression. And I forgot to add that. I forgot to add that, like, that's a good point. I went through 10 years where I was suicidal. I forgot to have an adult like I would take so so I would take my friend's motorcycle.
This is a true story. And I take is rocket. It's called a rocket. It's a it's a ninja. And I would take his motorcycle and I didn't know how to ride it, but I wouldn't have a helmet on and I would just ride it as fast as I could, like like almost trying to court death.
I remember I would go up to like this. The closest thing we have to a skyscraper in Medford is this parking garage or one of the close things. And basically I would walk on the edge like a lethal tightrope. And like like if I fell, I could have met my death or one time even took up a knife to kill myself. And God, I'm so glad he stayed my hand. He stopped me. But after going through ten years of suicidal depression and being healed of that, like if you got healed from AIDS or cancer, you would tell the world, like if I got healed from depression, God did that.
Of course, I'm going to, like, tell everybody about it. So that's like everything I do is it comes back to hope. Like everything I do keeps coming back to hope because suicide was the second leading cause of death in our age group in twenty seventeen. I mean, there are one hundred twenty three suicides today in America alone and its presence is just increasing.
I mean, people commit suicide once every 40 seconds. Once every 40 seconds, someone will commit suicide. So. So like my whole mission in life is very simple. It's very simple. It's just to give hope to the world. That's all I want to do. I just want to give hope to the world and give hope to broken hearts. And I'm telling you, God brought me through that. And, you know, it's funny. It's funny because we have the same friend group.
A lot of our friends are the same. Yeah. I'll tell you this. My friends were some of the biggest instruments God used to get me out of depression. Like it wasn't long. Deep conversations about like, you know, here's here's Ben. Here's my ten step plan for you to get out of this. Or it wasn't it wasn't even getting on our knees together and praying. It was it was actually just like skating, you know, like I do.
It's just showing me that life could be fun. Again, you know how the Germans are like when Cameron gives a sermon, he'll literally be crawling on the ground.
Like while he's pretty sure he's like a slug crawling on the ground and like Sean going to Hawaii with me and just sending it, that was really, really influential in showing me that fun is fundamental and like fun ventures with God and squaddies where a lot of joy is hard and sometimes I good getting out of our head and getting into our heart is a good move.
Yeah, well, because God created us to to fellowship and have each other and it's it's not good for man to be alone. And that's especially when the enemy likes to come in and fill your head with your thoughts. And just you're right, it's crazy because and I definitely like we when we became friends, like we realized that we were going through a lot of the same things, like I struggled with depression. And then it also kind of manifested into an eating disorder.
And then Stoss is also struggle with depression and we've been able to talk to each other about it.
Well. So, Stoss, you went through that, too? Yeah, so last year I went through some serious spiritual work. I opened up a little bit online about it, but I had no idea what spiritual warfare was up until when my mom was, like, telling me everything. And I just I don't even know how I made it through school. Like, I was just it felt like a dark cloud came in over my mind and over everything.
And the worst part was was like, I just didn't know what was going on. And I never experienced mental health before in my entire life. Up until last year, I was very confused. I just had very dark thoughts of like feeling worthless, like I didn't want to shower, I didn't want to go to school. I skipped a whole week of school and exam because I didn't want to go. I don't even know high school high. I don't even know how to explain it to people.
Like, I was just a very, very dark place for about six months up until I felt like I woke up one day and I just felt like kind of like I just felt healed. And I don't even know how to explain anything but God that he just brought me out of this place of just utter darkness. And I just came out of the other side and my friends even saw the difference. Like, I I also had a friend that was with me during this dark time as well.
And when I came out of it, she was like, you look like a completely different person. And I was like, I can only give credit to God because no, no flash, no man can get me out of that know.
So yo, because because she hung out with you maybe three times or something. And every every time I've been around you, you have so much joy and so much hope.
It's crazy. I didn't realize you'd went through that. And Meredith, you're the same way like you have you you have this glow that emanates from you. But how long was your depression time, Meredith, and how did you get out of it?
Yeah, so and we talked about this. I remember when we hung out, we were talking about I was telling you about my story. And so I've struggled with this, I think, since I was actually very little and I just didn't understand. And I told my parents, I'm like, I just think I need to see a therapist. And I was so scared to go. I didn't want to open up to anyone and I never went. So I just kind of like, repressed everything and kept it to myself.
And it just built up over time these just really dark thoughts. And just because I was so alone and I and I just didn't know who I was. So once I like fell down this path of being around the wrong people and letting the influence of the culture really get to me. And I just went down this really bad path. It just started to get worse. And then it manifested into an eating disorder because that was how I controlled, like what I couldn't control around me and what I wasn't just giving to God.
I was controlling myself in the form of restricting food and overexercising. And what happened was, is because it got so bad and that's when I met you. I met you that day when I was probably at my lowest weight.
And really so it was so with me and Cambria met you. That was at your lowest point. That was like my I remember it was the darkest part of this whole thing. And I started to get into and there's nothing wrong with like enlightenment, enlightenment and obviously learning about crystals. But I was I was putting my faith in crystals, in the power, thinking that those could heal me and those things wrong. And I was just going down this very different path than what I knew was right.
And and when I met you, it started to flip because I started to, like, really get back into walking with the Lord.
But I started to see a therapist. And and I think this is where I also want to talk about this, because people, I think sometimes think, well, oh, like, you don't taking antidepressants is bad or God is going to do that. But see, I took antidepressants for I was on them for a few months and I remember asking, I was like, what are your what's your thought on antidepressants and should you be beyond them? And I think it really just it varies from person to person.
And for me personally, like, I'm not sure if it was a combination of the antidepressants and starting to walk with the Lord, that could have been the combo that really started to help me.
And and that could be it. Or maybe I just I don't know, like I really don't know because I started walking with the Lord and taking them at the same time. And I think and I wasn't on them for that long. I was only on them for a few months. And then I stopped. And I don't even remember why I stopped. But I knew that I didn't want to be on them for too long because I my dad was telling me stories of people that were just relying on them.
And then once they got off of them, they just kind of spiraled. And I just didn't want that for myself. And so I stopped them and I just trusted the Lord completely. And it was like, I'm just going to give you everything that I'm struggling with and and it's no longer my burden to carry. And so I just completely gave it to God. And yeah. And that was last that was like two summers ago that I really started to sell freedom and.
Yeah. Just freedom.
Yeah, because. Because. Meredith, ever since we've been friends, I've noticed that just liberty and freedom, yeah, that God has given to you. And it seems like our whole friend group is about this same thing. Like we want to give people freedom, hope. And I've seen so many people get excited about the Lord through this whole group of people that's showing the world that life can be so fun, it can be so deep, it can be so joyful.
And when you walk with the Lord, when I believe the meaning of life, like since we're since we're going here, we might as well plumb the depths. Like, I believe the meaning of life is to enjoy the joy of being enjoyed by God. Like I believe that is our sole purpose is just to go through life and say, my purpose today is to enjoy the joy of being enjoyed by God is just beautiful verse that says God rejoices over you with singing.
And the phrase in Greek is used as a spinning top, which means God's spinning and dancing over you. So and he sings over you like, isn't that beautiful? And God, yeah, he's dancing and singing. That's how stoked he is about you. So he doesn't adore you. He enjoys you. And also, Meredith, back to your thing with, you know, the antidepressants and stuff.
What's really fascinating is there's a story in the Book of Acts. It's so wild that where Paul the Apostle, the people in the story with his sweatbands and his apron's, it's just such a bizarre story. But basically he heals people with his sweatbands and apron's as if he's transferring his healing powers into them like Talisman or something. And the guy who wrote that his name was Luke and Luke, what he did for a living was he was a doctor, so a doctor, a medical physician, a scientific doctor.
He was the one recording a miraculous healing. And I think a lot of people think, is it about the homoeopathy of the east or the pharmacology of the West? Is it about like miracles or medicine? And in the Bible, it's actually about both. So, for instance, like Jesus, there's this story where he kills the guy by spitting in the dirt and then putting the spitting mud in the guy's eyes. And people like what's not about.
Well, Doc, in the 1st century, the Roman historian Tacitus writes about how the Emperor Vespasian healed the guy with his spit because they believe that spit was medicine. In fact, like if you get a paper cut today or you burn your finger on the stove, what's the first thing you tend to do? Like what's your instinct? It's the spit on it. It's like put it in your mouth. And so they believe spit was medicine. So when Jesus miraculously healed the blind man in the story by using spit, it could be that he was putting a stamp of approval on medicine and saying medicine and miracles can go hand in hand.
Yeah, I know. I need that. I can't. That can be for some people, truth, anti-depressants and prayer, you know.
Huh? Yeah, that's really good. I just. I'm sorry. I don't know why I just thought of this, but when you said I like that you spit on the blind. When I got stung by a jellyfish, I was told to pee. Yeah, no, I did.
It's not true. Did not yes or no. I mean, I remember doing it and I remember it like when I was really young. But that's just a funny remedy.
Stung by a jellyfish out of our friends. Wait, what? You know who else got stung by a jellyfish out of our friends short term? And I was thinking of a song that's so funny.
OK, so we meet me and Sean were in France and we were filming and we were doing these these these flips off of a off of a dilapidated building into the Mediterranean Sea.
And Sean gets stung by a jellyfish and he comes out of the water. No joke. He's cracking up. He's just cracking up. And I'm like, Sean, why are you laughing? You just got stung by jellyfish. And he basically said something, something to the effect of, you know, if I only have an hour left to live, I'm going to enjoy the rest of my life. And then sure enough, he was OK like an hour later.
But basically what's so cool about that is the Bible actually says a Mary heart does good like medicine. So so even laughing and having joy like science shows us that if you laugh a hundred times, that has the same effect on your body as being on a rowing machine for ten minutes or a stationary bike for 15 minutes. So you actually get like a stronger core by laughing. And so I just think like sometimes it's a matter of laughing with your fingers or praying to God.
And then and the jellyfish sting, the venom goes away. But other times it's no. You need to go to the doctor, you know, but both Yeah.
My God, I think that's so good. Wow. Oh, my God.
Do you like how I tied your jelly fish sting antidepressants right there, like made it through.
Oh, my gosh. And you're so knowledgeable. Yeah, you really are. And we don't want to take any more of your time, but it was so good catching up with you. And we. Are you in Oregon right now?
Yeah, I'm in Oregon, which is weird because when it's not happening every week or every other week, I'm in Southern California. But right now I've been stuck and I haven't been to Southern California in like two or three weeks. So, yes, I'm in southern Oregon. You guys you guys all need to make a road trip. I'm telling you guys, you guys need to send it, send a group up here and you guys will love it.
We'll have to make a trip sometime. Bury's. I can't wait. Yeah, can't wait. And I want to say, like, thank you for what you guys are doing in the world. You're there's this phrase in the Bible that I love it says the healing Bournemouth Gilliard. Like, that's what you guys are, your healing balm to the world. And like, when I listen to you guys do your podcast, I'm so encouraged. Like, it's a huge uplift for me, like, definitely put my stuff in the day and just has that encouragement, nourishment vibe about it.
And I'm so, so thankful for what you guys are doing. I'm so thankful for our friendship. So please don't give up on this because it's affecting a lot of people.
Thank you for that encouragement. Yeah, we're definitely thank you for all the all that you do, Ben, with everything that you do. And we appreciate you so much for coming on and sharing all of your knowledge and sharing just hope for everyone right now, especially.
We'll keep we'll keep going. You know, since we're on this motive of hurtling through a sunbeam at sixty seven thousand miles per hour, we might as well change it while we're here. That's what I always we're here on this planet. We might as well change it. So thanks for having me, guys.
Hey, Ben. Thank you, Ben. We'll talk to you soon. Bye bye.