How You Can Use Your Pain To Your Advantage, with Dr. Derwin Gray

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

With so many people’s lives thrown into sudden disarray, some are examining what it is that makes life good in the first place. For author/pastor Dr. Derwin Gray, the concepts of happiness and purpose are intimately connected. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Gray and the Amen’s touch on why the good life is not about good things happening to you, but about finding your purpose to bring your own good into the world.

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Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years, using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit
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Tana Amen: Welcome back. We are still here with our friend, Pastor Derwin Gray. Welcome back, Derwin. I love your story. It's been several times I've heard it, but every time I hear it, I hear something new. It's just so inspiring, and so thank you for being here with us.
Pr Derwin Gray: Thank you.
Tana Amen: We want to talk about your new book.
Pr Derwin Gray: Yeah. Before we talk about our new book, I sense God wants to tell me something through you. What is it about my story that connects with your story that encourages you?
Tana Amen: First of all, the trauma. That's the obvious part is that it's ... The original title of my book was One Less Scared Child, and everything you say just resonates so strongly. I argued with God also.
Tana Amen: I actually told Daniel, the first time I had an opportunity to help, I said, "Nope. Not doing it. Not working with a bunch of drug addicts. I hate drugs, and I hate drug addicts." I said, "God picked the wrong person." He looked at me with this annoying smile that only husbands and psychiatrists, I think, have. He said, "God picked the perfect person."
Tana Amen: It was really difficult to do. I realized, I had this epiphany. I was standing on stage, still very angry, when I was about to speak to these people. I couldn't look at them as the people they were because of my anger. I had this epiphany. In that moment, God answered the prayer that I had spoken before I got on stage, because I prayed he would soften my heart. How am I going to help people I don't like?
Tana Amen: He softened my heart. In that moment, I saw these scared children. They were just like me. They were not drug addicts. They weren't criminals. They were just all scared children, just like I was growing up. They made different turns. They made different decisions. Somewhere along the line it got messed up. But we all started off the same, and if I could help even one of them, there'd be one less scared child in the world.
Tana Amen: When I hear your story, it reminds me of that. It reminds me of that scared child, and overcoming. You've just done so much to help so many people. It moves me. And you're so humble about it. I wasn't that humble. I fought it. [crosstalk 00:03:05]
Pr Derwin Gray: Thank you for sharing that with me, because that's helpful for me. One of the things that I love about God is that he doesn't waste any pain.
Tana Amen: Nope.
Pr Derwin Gray: He doesn't waste a pain. Like you said earlier, often in our pain, we find purpose. What the enemy meant for evil, God turns into good. For whoever is listening, your trauma just may be the trampoline that God uses to touch lives in ways that you can't even comprehend.
Pr Derwin Gray: If somebody would have told me I would be talking to you guys ... I mean, Dr. Amen, I pretty much have a bromance with him. I am a Dr. Amen fanboy. [crosstalk 00:03:57] I'm a fan of yours too. If somebody would've said, "Look. Dewey from the 'hood will be talking to the scientific cutting edge of brain scanning imagery," I would say, "I don't even know what that is."
Pr Derwin Gray: But God uses our trauma, and to see what you're doing. I know your next book is just going to be just epic, epic, epic, epic. Thank you for sharing that with me. That blessed me.
Tana Amen: Thank you.
Dr Daniel Amen: Talk to us about your new book, and why you wrote it, and what people will get out of it.
Pr Derwin Gray: Yeah. Way back in 2015, as a pastor, I'm doing counseling, I'm helping people, I'm trying to serve them, and I'm noticing, regardless if they're Christian or not, regardless of economic status or not, regardless of male or female, there's this theme of, "I want to be happy, but I'm not." They could be incredibly successful or frustrated, wherever it may be, teenagers, 70 year olds, there was this sense of, "I'm not happy."
Pr Derwin Gray: So I began to study the scriptures. When I got to the beatitudes, Matthew chapter five, verses 3 through 12, Jesus opens up the Sermon on the Mount with what's called the beatitudes, and he uses the word blessed. The word blessed in Greek literally is the word [Greek 00:05:26], and it means happy.
Pr Derwin Gray: Jesus says, "Happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Happy are those who lament or grieve, for they will become comforted." He describes eight characteristics of a person who is happy. These characteristics are exactly the characteristics of Jesus.
Pr Derwin Gray: The good news is God doesn't say, "I want you to go fix your life." He's saying, "I want to invite you into my life, into my story. Come as you are, but you won't stay the same. I'm going to make you happy." So happiness is not contingent upon happenings. It's contingent upon this intimacy, into me you see, this intimacy with Christ in which he says, "I'm going to mold you, and I'm going to shape you, and you're going to be someone that looks like me, and has a heart and a mind like me."
Pr Derwin Gray: It's very much a process. If I could say it this way, the good life is not about good things happening to you. It's about a good God making you good. So the happiness that we have transcends circumstances. It gives us an internal eternal happiness that fleshes itself out in the present. The way a theologian would say it is this way, happiness and holiness are two sides of the same coin. Holiness means to become a whole human being. That's what we're trying to invite people to experience.
Dr Daniel Amen: During this pandemic ... I love the beatitudes. So many people are suffering, where they've lost their jobs, they may lose their business, they've lost loved ones. My mom and dad actually ended up with COVID in the hospital, in the same room.
Tana Amen: 88 and 90.
Dr Daniel Amen: 88 and 90. My brain has gone to the dark place, but I have the discipline to at least question my own thoughts. The Orange County Register is now doing a story on them, because they survived. They beat COVID. Now they can do the shopping for us, right? They're the warriors. But there's so much grief, loss, stress. How can the beatitudes comfort people in this time?
Pr Derwin Gray: Yeah. I'm going to zero in on Matthew 5:4, "Happy are those who mourn. They will be comforted." If we don't grieve, we forfeit our growth.
Tana Amen: Yes.
Pr Derwin Gray: A lot of contemporary Christianity does not leave room for lament or grief. It's happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, but it's the wrong kind of happiness. Sometimes happiness is reflected in, "God, I wish things were not the way that they are. I wish that all sad things would become untrue, but even in the midst of this, I know you grieve with me. I know you weep with me, because on the cross, you experienced it. But you're comforting me, because of the resurrection power that gives me a future hope, but it's a present reality that I can grieve."
Pr Derwin Gray: I couldn't imagine my son or daughter's senior year of high school being wiped out, prom, sporting events. There is a lot to grieve. I know, as Americans, for the most part, we are first world people. We have a lot of comforts, but we still have to be honest about, man, this isn't what I thought it would be, and God is okay with that.
Pr Derwin Gray: Our happiness is not this always ecstatic, "I'm running around." It's a happiness that is rooted in this confidence in God. I like to call it God [inaudible 00:09:44], that even in the midst of grieving, there's a supernatural healing that takes place because we have solidarity with God. We have a God, literally, who grieves and suffers with us. But we have a God who gives us strength in the midst of it. That's the first thing.
Pr Derwin Gray: The second thing is I really sense that during this, not just in America, but worldwide, I feel like it's like we've built our lives on sand castles, and this wave called COVID just came in, and it just wiped it out. We're uncertain. The great American economy's been brought to its knees by a virus that's smaller than a grain of sand. 7 million people, jobless claims. We've seen over 10,000 people pass away. That's just in America. So there's this sense of our equilibrium is off. But I think our listening is on.
Pr Derwin Gray: I think it's a time for people to press the reset, and to seek Jesus afresh, because sometimes Jesus is presented as a political leader of a political party. Sometimes he's presented as a genie in a bottle. I think Jesus wants to meet us on his own terms.
Pr Derwin Gray: My doctoral work is in what's called first century, Second Temple Jewish context. What I try to do is bring people on a journey. Let's talk to Jesus on his own terms, where he is, and you'll discover he is more gracious, he is more beautiful, he is more life-giving than you think. And Jesus will jack up your life plan.
Tana Amen: Yes.
Pr Derwin Gray: [crosstalk 00:11:41] If somebody would have told me I would be a pastor ... You kidding me? If somebody would've ... Guys, the first wedding I went to was my own. No one in my family got married.
Tana Amen: That's funny.
Pr Derwin Gray: Jesus will jack up your plans, but it'll make our dreams look like mud pies compared to the difference he wants to make in people's lives. Now, listen, not everybody's going to be a power couple like you guys. Not everybody's going to lead a giant church. But everybody is a somebody that Jesus wants to use to influence someone's life. The good life is about experiencing life on Jesus's terms afresh, with his grace, his strength. The weaker we are, the stronger he is in us.
Dr Daniel Amen: Yeah. We need him now more than ever.
Dr Daniel Amen: When we come back, we're going to talk about more practical steps to lead the good life. You want to say something.
Tana Amen: Well, you asked me something in the beginning about what about your story resonated. There was one other thing that is so pertinent to what you're talking about now. That is you said that, when you were talking about your stuttering, when you were being called to speak, and you said, "God, why are you picking me? I stutter, and I have all of these ..." In your mind, you're going through the reasons why you shouldn't be doing it.
Tana Amen: I experienced that very, very same thing. There were so many times that I ... There was a point in my story where I wished that a truck would hit me. I literally was so depressed I couldn't get out of bed. My life had just gone so far off the rails, and I wanted to die. I thought, "If there is a God, he doesn't love me, so forget it." Like forget God. I was just so despondent.
Tana Amen: But there's no way I could have known that what I was going through then was going to shape who I am now. The strength, and my ability to speak, and writing books and helping people. I had to go through that grief to get the insight and the empathy and the strength to do what I do now. There's no way I could have seen that. Like you said, it's 20/20.
Tana Amen: It's so important for people right now, going through this process, this grieving, that they are able to have someone that's gone through this that they can watch and go, "Wait. They've been through a lot. What they've been through is now why they're where they're at."
Dr Daniel Amen: It's post traumatic growth, which is I believe there's going to be huge post-pandemic growth.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: If we pay attention to the pain and what we can learn, and not get consumed with ourselves, but look outward to help other people, then your level of stress will go down, and your happiness will go up.
Dr Daniel Amen: Stay with us. We're here with Pastor Derwin Gray. You can get a free chapter of his new book, The Good Life, if you go to Stay with us.
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