I begin with a disclaimer: At 47 years of age and as a regular listener to talk radio along with a dozen or so podcasts, I am certainly no "Belieber" – a fanatical devotee of the Canadian mega pop music star.
But I enjoy watching and studying people, especially individuals like Justin Bieber, a young man whose been candid about not only his personal struggles with depression and childhood stardom but also his romantic relationships as well as his Christian faith.
I’ve never met the singer, but to paraphrase the late Will Rogers, who once quipped "All I know is what I read in the papers," even the most casual observer can learn quite a lot about the 25-year-old from reading his Instagram posts as well as the occasional media interview.
Take for example a raw post from this past spring, where Bieber confessed, "I haven't believed the truth about myself … I haven't believed I am loved … I haven't believed I am forgiven … I hang my head in shame and wallow in sadness about the people who have betrayed me."
He was even more open and graphic about his sexuality. In an interview with Vogue magazine earlier this year, Bieber revealed he had struggled for years with a sex addiction.
"I found myself doing things that I was so ashamed of, being super-promiscuous and stuff," he said. "I think I used Xanax because I was so ashamed."
That sexual struggle led the pop star to abstain from sex for over a year prior to his marriage to Hailey Baldwin, whom he married last November. His reasoning and conviction were rooted in his Christian faith.
"[God] doesn’t ask us not to have sex for him because he wants rules and stuff," he explained. "He’s like, I’m trying to protect you from hurt and pain. I think sex can cause a lot of pain. Sometimes people have sex because they don’t feel good enough. Because they lack self-worth. Women do that, and guys do that."
"I wanted to rededicate myself to God in that way because I really felt it was better for the condition of my soul," he added. "And I believe that God blessed me with Hailey as a result. There are perks. You get rewarded for good behavior."
Bieber’s candidness about his struggles is refreshing. It’s also convicting.
At first glance, Bieber’s penchant for working out his personal struggles so publicly is a bit jarring. Do I really need to know what’s going on inside his head and soul? A classic case of "TMI" – too much information?
We’re used to gossip writers and the paparazzi fanning or even fabricating controversy about celebrities – but the actual star airing their deep, innermost secrets and insecurities?
Maybe on the couch with Barbara Walters or Oprah Winfrey – but pro-actively on their own? I rarely see it, and when I do, I instinctively shake my head.
But if you ask me, Bieber’s candidness about his struggles is refreshing. It’s also convicting.
That’s because if I’m honest with myself, I prefer to conceal rather than reveal my faults and fears, especially those related to my marriage and faith. After all, I don’t want to be mocked or maligned. Unlike Bieber, I want everyone to think I have it together.
Yet, my Christian faith calls me to do the exact opposite.
According to the teachings of my faith, Christ’s power is made perfect in my weakness. In other words, God is glorified when I am minimized. By acknowledging my own imperfections and struggles, I’m inviting God to not only help me but also show others what He’s capable of doing.
I remember when my wife and I lost our first child just over three months into the pregnancy. The loss felt like a kick to the gut. We were so disappointed. But lots of people miscarry, I thought. Suck it up, buttercup. I shared the news with some friends, but soldiered on, stuffing the grief deep inside. I didn’t let them know how sad the whole ordeal made me feel.
After years of ongoing struggle, Julie miscarried again, but this time I couldn’t ignore the pain. I wasn’t just disappointed or brokenhearted. I was angry, calling out bitterly to God. All the usual laments rolled off my tongue – why us, why now and why not? I wept deeply for hours one Sunday afternoon in March 2005.
In desperation, I turned to one of my best friends, who listened, grieved and prayed with me. And then when the time was right, he asked me about adoption, which Julie had been suggesting for years. It was a path I had resisted out of pride and fear.
My vulnerability had invited the conversation and after praying about it with my wife, we were soon off on an adoption adventure that would eventually lead to three beautiful children. My friend with whom I had confided actually wound up introducing us to our oldest son’s birth family.
Few of us will ever live on the level of Justin Bieber, and for that I think we can be grateful. But like all of us, he appears to be on a journey of discovery, working out his salvation and finding his way through the joys and trials of marriage, not to mention his fame and vast fortune.
I’m still not a "belieber" – but I am a believer in sharing my struggles more openly because, "I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."