The Melancholy Prophets: A Study in Extremes

prophets

Of all the redemptive gifts, the prophets are the hardest to live with. They can be hard on both themselves and others. In my experience, most people have three giftings that look like two primary and one less prominent. For me, I operate mostly in the mercy and exhorter giftings. But I have enough prophet in me to get me into trouble regularly. And of my children, I have at least two who fall into this category as a primary gifting. And believe me, they can be a challenge to raise.

The difficulty in locating your redemptive gifts is that wounding can really mask who you truly are. I thought I was a servant for many years. But after I got a lot of counseling and some real healing from my marriage to a narcissistic abuser, I found out otherwise. I became a servant because I was forced into it for survival. Now that I am no longer primarily motivated by fear, I am free to serve but it is not my primary modus operandi. I am much more interested in helping others help themselves than I am interested in taking care of them.

Sometimes people think they are prophets, when they are not. One of the false positives that cause many to think this is that in every list of the attributes of a prophet, black and white thinking is listed. But black and white thinking is also characteristic of arrested emotional or intellectual development. For a teenager, life is lived in those extremes of good and evil, light and dark. And because trauma can freeze us in a life stage, any trauma experienced in childhood or adolescence can keep us in all good versus all bad thinking.

Another trait that is often mistaken for the gift of prophet is emotional reactivity. Prophets, it is said, have extreme emotional reactions. For instance, think of Jeremiah, the weeping prophet. Or Elijah, terrified of Jezebel just after his incredible triumph over the priests of Baal. But this too, can be indicative of trauma. Or even a mood disorder. In fact, trauma is increasingly linked to mood disorders. If you ping from happy to sad, angry toprophets euphoric, then chances are you are injured. You may also be a prophet, but get healthy first before you try to assume that identity.

So before anyone thinks I am suggesting that prophets are traumatized emotional junkies, let me reframe the redemptive gift just a tad. The prophetic gifting is about the visionary, the creative. The redemptive gift of prophet is a bird’s eye view of the world. I don’t know if Elon Musk is a Christian, but I am pretty sure he operates in this gifting.

The healthy prophet feels deeply and hates injustice. He or she is obsessive about what is true and right. The emotional part comes from the ability to see the harm evil can do. And this can make the prophet very opinionated and prone to assume a place of judgment. You know an immature prophet by their compulsive need to tell everyone what is wrong with them and then get offended if they refuse to change. After all, the case for their error has been made and won! Why wouldn’t anyone change when confronted by such an eloquent case for the need to repent?

But before you get the idea that prophets are mean-spirited, you need to know that they are capable of great acts of mercy. The Old Testament prophets, and the New Testament ones too, often gave their lives for the people they wanted to reconnect to God. I read Isaiah and understand the heart of God. And his brutal death was a direct result of his dedication to truthfully representing who God is to Israel.

I think many of the great scientific minds are prophetically gifted. They spend their lives searching out the mind of God (even if they don’t believe in Him). Some are teachers, I am sure, but invention and discovery are the products of a prophet’s call. In fact, the prophet is called to build and re-build. They can solve problems if operating at full throttle. And that call sometimes comes at the cost to personal relationships.

Immature prophets never call you back. In fact, they are really hard to get ahold of. Maintaining relationships is not their strong suit. Prophets need their creativity time and a lot of time to process and refuel. It is the idea that thrills them, sometimes over the relationship.

I believe my father’s primary gifting is prophet. He is a well-known physicist who has invented some great things. In fact, the auto industry couldn’t figure out how to do passenger side airbags. So they asked him. Three months later problem solved. But getting to know my father as an adult has taken a lot of effort. Prophets live in their heads. Interrupting their inner dialogues can take some real work.

And because they can see things others can’t see, prophets struggle. A lot. They tend to harbor bitterness against those who don’t understand them. prophetsSometimes they tend towards a victim mentality (see Elijah). And often they go through deep hardships because of their stubbornness. Prophets are world-changers, but God cannot work with an obstinate heart. The question is not whether a prophet will change things up, make things happen. The question is whether they will do more harm than good if they are operating from judgment rather than love.

But man, a mature prophet operating from love has an incredible depth of faith. And they are drawn to people that are rejected by others. When a prophet comes to their fullest identity as a son or daughter of God, they can bring truth to the darkest parts of the world. A fully surrendered prophet will hang on until the battle is won or they are dead. Wilbur Wilberforce was such a man. He fought slavery in England for decades at the cost of his health and happiness. But he won.

The last trait of the immature prophet is the inability to forgive their own failures. Because they see right and wrong so clearly, they are deeply aware of their own shortcomings. It is not until a prophet reconciles with his or her self that they can truly come into their destiny. Grace cannot be extended towards others unless it has first been extended to oneself. One of the basic rules of the universe is that we can only sow the seed we have.

So I encourage everyone to take a number of tests that reveal redemptive gifts and over many years. Our gifts change and grow with us. If you are prophet, seek out relationships. Ask the ones who love you how you can improve. And believe them. You may be injuring your loved ones without realizing it. And if you are, try to release everyone, including yourself, from any artificial standards of perfection. Make sure you understand how to have relationship, not just the principles of relationship.

Lastly, make sure you pursue those ideas, those creative concepts and notions. People may call you crazy, but they have called a lot of our visionaries crazy. Your calling is to bring into reality, the things that are on God’s mind. Whether those things are new sources of energy, a new book, a piece of art, or new ways to understand the divine, don’t let naysayers distract you. This is your purpose. This is who you are.

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9 Replies to “The Melancholy Prophets: A Study in Extremes”

  1. This was SO good and very helpful!! I know that this is one of my redemptive gifts! And being an introvert & peaceful phlegmatic makes sense in operating in this gift!

  2. Such an interesting topic, Alice! I like how you mentioned why someone may not be a prophet but who could *think* they are. One of your points is one that I’ve thought of before, too and that is of the black & white thinking. Yes, black and white thinking can be indicative of a mental health disorder, so it shouldn’t be assumed that simply because someone is a black & white thinker, they’re a prophet. Also, I’m glad you mentioned some areas of positives as well as some flaws. I’ve seen the thought arise at times, “Since I have the spiritual gift of prophecy, I’m just blunt.” It can be easy to say we’re off the hook from growth development when we take on this line of thinking, but none of us should be off the hook from growth. It’s important to recognize where we’re weak, not so we can justify our weakness, but so we know where to ask the Spirit to help cultivate growth. Thanks again for sharing this thoughtful series with us, Alice– I’m enjoying it!

  3. hisdearlyloveddaughter says: Reply

    Loving the redemptive gifting series. So much to learn!
    I see aspects of myself in many of the gifts, and like you, I’ve thought myself a servant for many years, but upon further examination, I’m not so sure either. The one thing I know for sure, though, is that I am, without question, a bearer of the gift of prophet. I love how you have pointed out so many things to watch out for, and I think each and every one is absolutely spot-on! I pray God molds me into a “mature” prophet in time and by His grace.

  4. So much to learn here! Thanks for sharing this info and for the encouragement, especially right at the end with not letting naysayers distract you. I often can let others get in my head, and although I don’t consider myself a prophet, I think that point can relate to any gift given my God.

  5. Prophets see things that other people can’t see. When we try to explain the truth to someone, it’s like there’s a sound-proof glass between us, where they can’t hear or understand what we are saying. It’s extremely frustrating when you have something vital to say, and no one can understand or change their wrong behavior.

  6. I love how you pointed out that prophets are called to build and rebuild. This is quite a treatise on the gift of prophecy. Thanks for all these insights.

  7. I’m enjoying this series! I’m sure I’m not a prophet but what interesting points you have raised about them!

  8. Leigh Powers says: Reply

    This is interesting. I resonate with some of this in that I often see what needs to be and struggle with the tension of how to birth it into reality. You make an interesting point that wounding often masks who we really are–I can see how that is true. Enjoying this series!

  9. I love this! I personally am not gifted with prophecy but this sentence really resonated with me. “Grace cannot be extended towards others unless it has first been extended to oneself.” I feel like most of us can relate to this when confronted with some difficult relationships. Thanks for sharing!

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