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Archive for the ‘Healing’ Category

6 Prayers for Marital Intimacy After Sexual Trauma

SOURCE:  Jennifer Greenberg/The Gospel Coalition

“Can I ask you a personal question?” she said.

“Of course,” I replied. I already knew what she was going to say. Many before her had already asked, but I was still grappling with how to answer.

She hesitated, as if bracing herself to speak words physically painful to pronounce.

“Did your dad’s sexual abuse negatively affect your romantic relationship with your husband?” she asked. “I’ve been married for 20 years, and I still can’t shake this feeling of shame and anxiety. Every time we’re intimate, I feel sick. I’m afraid something is broken in my mind. I’m afraid my trauma is hurting my husband and destroying our marriage. What should I do? How can I heal from this?”

If you’re a pastor or counselor, you’ve likely encountered similar questions. If you’re a survivor of abuse, you may have asked them yourself. The devastating trauma of abuse is incalculable. Its pervasive pain affects the most intimate aspects of life.

And it’s not just women asking these questions. Men and women have confided that, while they desire intimacy, they can’t imagine feeling secure in a relationship. They fear their marriage is doomed to misery and divorce, or that they’d make terrible parents. Husbands and wives of survivors have asked me how they can help their traumatized spouse feel safe, loved, and attractive.

Part of the reason I struggle to answer such sensitive and complicated questions is because I’m still experiencing and working to understand my own recovery. I know from experience that these injuries are raw, painful, and personal. I don’t want to give superficial advice, or weigh survivors down under works-oriented to-do lists.

Thankfully, God has blessed us with therapists, physicians, and medications that can help us manage depression, anxiety, and other emotional injuries resultant from trauma. Ultimately, though, only God can heal the soul.

With that in mind, I’ve composed a series of prayers, in hope that you’ll be able to adapt them to fit your own situation, pray them for a loved one, or share them with a friend in need.

1. God, help me understand that you made sex.

Lord, in the beginning, you told Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28). You designed Adam to be attractive for Eve, and Eve to be attractive for Adam. You said, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18).

It’s not good for me to feel alone. It’s not good for me to feel ashamed, embarrassed, or fearful of my own sexuality—you made it, and you designed it for me to enjoy. The pain of my past and the evil of others has clouded my perception of what you have made; yet I know everything you do is good.

Please help me to understand that sex is not sinful, degrading, or harmful. Free me from anxiety, humiliation, and dark memories. Let me feel the peace and love that you intend for me. Let me rest in the knowledge that you are my Creator and every part of my body—from my figure to my hormones—was designed by you.

2. Show me that sex is pure.

In Song of Solomon, the bride exclaims, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for your love is more delightful than wine. . . . No wonder the young women love you! Take me away with you—let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers” (Song 1:1–4).

Lord, I can’t imagine feeling the way this bride does. I can’t imagine viewing sex or sexuality with such innocence or confidence. She is bold. She is unabashedly desirous and flirtatious. She finds her fiancé attractive, and she can’t blame all the other ladies for thinking so too. She is eager to express her love physically.

I was taught by experience to be embarrassed and fearful of sex. Ungodly sexuality distorts my understanding, inhibits my expression, and weighs down my soul.

Lord, take away the confusion caused by abuse, betrayal, injustice, and other people’s evil. Help me to see sex as you see it: a pure gift from a holy God. Help me to realize that—though my abuser is guilty—I am innocent. Though my abuser expressed sexuality in heinous, distorted ways, I can express mine in righteous and loving ways. Because of your work in me, I can desire my spouse without shame or reserve. I can express the longings you gave me in holiness and healthiness.

3. Show me Jesus in my spouse.

Lord, you have blessed me with a godly spouse. They aren’t perfect, but they love me. They sometimes sin, but they aren’t abusive. Lord, teach me to view them how you view them. Let me see Jesus working in them. Let me seek and treasure the fruit of the Spirit in their words and actions. Lord, empower me to me see my spouse as you see them; someone you are conforming into the image of Christ.

Lord, free me from associating our intimacy with abuse, or their motives with my abuser’s motives. Instead, allow me to associate their good character with the Good Shepherd. Grow me in faith to adore my lover with unabashed passion and grace. For you did not give us a spirit of fear and embarrassment, but of power and love and self-control (2 Tim. 1:7). Free me to love fearlessly.

4. Bless my spouse.

God, it’s hard to trust that you’re good and faithful. It’s even harder to believe that my spouse really loves me. My abuser betrayed me. Those who should have intervened abandoned me. I expect disappointment and rejection, because that’s what I’m used to. But you, God, are unchangeable, righteous, and true. You are sovereign over my spouse’s heart. Fill me with such certainty of your devotion that I cannot doubt your work in my heart or theirs.

Help my spouse to forgive me when I’m wrong and be patient when I’m weak. Help me to forgive them when they’re wrong and be patient when they fail. Bless them with wisdom, Lord. Give them the clarity they need to help me navigate these challenges, and the wise advice to support my healing. Bolster them up behind and before. May my recovery be such a miraculous work, that their faith is strengthened because of it.

5. Show me how you see me.

Before your face, God, my value is not defined by what’s happened to me, or even by what I have done. Rather, my value is defined by what Jesus has done for me.

Teach me, Lord, to see myself as you do. Help me to know myself as your perfect, spotless, beautiful child and cherished heir of heaven. If I truly grasped in my heart of hearts how treasured, lovely, and pure you consider me, I’d never be ashamed again. Scatter the shadows that haunt me. Lift the veil that shrouds my face. Let me see myself as loved and accepted by you.

6. Take my heart and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee.

Jesus, I cannot overcome my pain. There is too much fear, sorrow, anxiety, and confusion for me to untangle, let alone fix. But you are the Great Physician. You are my Wonderful Counselor (Isa. 9:6). You carried my sin to the cross. Jesus, you can carry my trauma, too. Bury it far from me. Let it weigh me down no more.

You are the Redeemer who made the lame walk and the blind see. By your power, the sick are healed and the dead raised to life again. You can heal my broken heart.

My recovery isn’t a to-do list. My happiness isn’t a standard I have to live up to, or a goal I must struggle to achieve. When I rely on my own efforts, I rely less on yours. Fix my eyes on you, Lord. You are my joy. You are my peace. You are Love. You knit me together in my mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13); knit me whole again now. Heal me for your glory, Lord. Empower me to love you better, not because I deserve your love, but because you deserve mine.

In Christ’s name I pray,

Amen.

Family Wounds Are Slow to Heal

SOURCE:  Max Lucado

Family wounds are slow to heal.

I hope your childhood was a happy time when your parents kept everyone fed, safe, and chuckling. I hope your dad came home every day, your mom tucked you in bed every night, and your siblings were your best friends.

But if not, you need to know you aren’t alone. The most famous family tree in the Bible suffered from a serious case of blight. Adam accused Eve. Cain killed his little brother. Abraham lied about Sarah. Rebekah favored Jacob. Jacob cheated Esau and then raised a gang of hoodlums.

The book of Genesis is a relative disaster.

Joseph didn’t deserve to be abandoned by his brothers. True, he wasn’t the easiest guy to live with. He boasted about his dreams and tattled on his siblings. He deserved some of the blame for the family friction. But he certainly didn’t deserve to be dumped into a pit and sold to merchants for pocket change.

The perpetrators were his ten older brothers. His brothers were supposed to look out for him. Joseph’s next of kin were out of line. And his father? Jacob was out of touch.

With all due respect, the patriarch could have used a course on marriage and family life.

Mistake number one: he married a woman he didn’t love so he could marry one he did. Mistake number two: the two wives were sisters. (Might as well toss a lit match into a fireworks stand.) The first sister bore him sons. The second sister bore him none. So to expand his clan, he slept with an assortment of handmaidens and concubines until he had a covey of kids. Rachel, his favorite wife, finally gave birth to Joseph, who became his favorite son. She later died giving birth to a second son, Benjamin, leaving Jacob with a contentious household and a broken heart.

Jacob coped by checking out. Obstinate sons. Oblivious dad. The brothers needed a father. The father needed a wake-up call. And Joseph needed a protector. But he wasn’t protected; he was neglected. And he landed in a distant, dark place.

Initially, Joseph chose not to face his past. By the time he saw his brothers again, Joseph had been prime minister for nearly a decade. The kid from Canaan had come a long way.

Joseph could travel anywhere he wanted, yet he chose not to return to Canaan. He knew where to find his family, but he chose not to contact them.

He kept family secrets a secret. Untouched and untreated. Joseph was content to leave his past in the past. But God was not.

Restoration matters to God. The healing of the heart involves the healing of the past.

So God shook things up.
All countries came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, because the famine was severe in all lands. — Genesis 41:57


And in the long line of folks appealing for an Egyptian handout, look what the cat dragged in.

Joseph heard them before he saw them. He was fielding a question from a servant when he detected the Hebrew chatter. Not just the language of his heart but the dialect of his home. The prince motioned for the servant to stop speaking. He turned and looked. There they stood.

The brothers were balder, grayer, rough-skinned. They were pale and gaunt with hunger. Sweaty robes clung to their shins, and road dust chalked their cheeks. These Hebrews stuck out in sophisticated Egypt like hillbillies at Times Square.

They didn’t recognize him. His beard was shaved, his robe was royal, and the language he spoke was Egyptian. It never occurred to them that they were standing before their baby brother.

Thinking the prince couldn’t understand Hebrew, the brothers spoke to him with their eyes and gestures. They pointed at the stalks of grain and then at their mouths. They motioned to the brother who carried the money, and he stumbled forward and spilled the coins on the table.

When Joseph saw the silver, his lips curled, and his stomach turned. He had named his son God Made Me Forget, but the money made him remember. The last time he saw coins in the hands of Jacob’s older boys, they were laughing, and he was whimpering. That day at the pit he searched these faces for a friend, but he found none. And now they dared bring silver to him?

Joseph called for a Hebrew-speaking servant to translate. Then Joseph scowled at his brothers.
He acted as a stranger to them and spoke roughly to them. — Genesis 42:7


The brothers fell face-first in the dirt, which brought to Joseph’s mind a childhood dream.

“Uh, well, we’re from up the road in Canaan. Maybe you’ve heard of it?”

Joseph glared at them. “Nah, I don’t believe you. Guards, put these spies under arrest. They are here to infiltrate our country.”

The ten brothers spoke at once. “You’ve got it all wrong, Your High, Holy, and Esteemed Honor. We’re salt of the earth. We belong to the same family. That’s Simeon over there. That’s Judah… Well, there are twelve of us in all. At least there used to be.
The youngest is now with our father, and one is no longer living. — Genesis 42:13


Joseph gulped at the words. This was the first report on his family he had heard in twenty years. Jacob was alive. Benjamin was alive. And they thought he was dead.

“Tell you what,” he snapped. “I’ll let one of you go back and get your brother and bring him here. The rest of you I’ll throw in jail.”

With that, Joseph had their hands bound. A nod of his head, and they were marched off to jail. Perhaps the same jail where he had spent at least two years of his life.

What a curious series of events. The gruff voice, harsh treatment. The jail sentence. The abrupt dismissal. We’ve seen this sequence before with Joseph and his brothers, only the roles were reversed. On the first occasion they conspired against him. This time he conspired against them. They spoke angrily. He turned the tables. They threw him in the hole and ignored his cries for help. Now it was his turn to give them the cold shoulder.

What was going on?

I think he was trying to get his bearings. This was the toughest challenge of his life. The famine, by comparison, was easy. Mrs. Potiphar he could resist. Pharaoh’s assignments he could manage. But this mixture of hurt and hate that surged when he saw his flesh and blood? Joseph didn’t know what to do.

Maybe you don’t either.

Your family failed you. Your early years were hard ones. The people who should have cared for you didn’t. But, like Joseph, you made the best of it. You’ve made a life for yourself. Even started your own family. You are happy to leave Canaan in the rearview mirror. But God isn’t.

He gives us more than we request by going deeper than we ask. He wants not only your whole heart; He wants your heart whole. Why? Hurt people hurt people. Think about it. Why do you fly off the handle? Why do you avoid conflict? Why do you seek to please everyone? Might your tendencies have something to do with an unhealed hurt in your heart?

God wants to help you for your sake. And for the sake of your posterity.

Suppose Joseph had refused his brothers? Summarily dismissed them? Washed his hands of the whole mess? God’s plan for the nation of Israel depended upon the compassion of Joseph. A lot was at stake here.

There is a lot at stake with you too. Yes, your family history has some sad chapters. But your history doesn’t have to be your future. The generational garbage can stop here and now. You don’t have to give your kids what your ancestors gave you.

Talk to God about the scandals and scoundrels. Invite Him to relive the betrayal with you. Bring it out in the open. Joseph restaged the hurt for a reason.

Revealing leads to healing.

Let God do His work. The process may take a long time. It may take a lifetime.
Family pain is the deepest pain because it was inflicted so early and because it involves people who should have been trustworthy.

Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. — Romans 12:2


Let Him replace childish thinking with mature truth (1 Corinthians 13:11). You are God’s child. His creation. Destined for heaven. You are a part of His family. Let Him set you on the path to reconciliation.

Joseph did. The process would prove to be long and difficult. It occupies four chapters of the Bible and at least a year on the calendar, but Joseph took the first step. After three days Joseph released his brothers from jail. He played the tough guy again. “Go on back. But I want to see this kid brother you talk about. I’ll keep one of you as a guarantee.”

They agreed and then, right in front of Joseph, rehashed the day they dry-gulched him:
Then they said to one another, ‘We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us’. — Genesis 42:21


Again, they did not know that the prince understood Hebrew. But he did. And when he heard the words, Joseph turned away so they couldn’t see his eyes fill with tears. He stepped into the shadows and wept. He did this seven more times. He didn’t cry when he was promoted by Potiphar or crowned by Pharaoh, but he blubbered like a baby when he learned that his brothers hadn’t forgotten him after all. When he sent them back to Canaan, he loaded their saddlebags with grain. A moment of grace.

With that small act, healing started. If God healed that family, who’s to say He won’t heal yours?

For Reflection

Listed below are several words and phrases that characterize some of the hardships and dysfunction evident in Joseph’s family. Which issues have marked your family?

❑ abandonment
❑ troubled marriage(s)
❑ premature death
❑ hatred
❑ sibling rivalry
❑ favoritism
❑ severe grief
❑ disregard for others
❑ parental abdication
❑ guilt
❑ deception
❑ betrayal
❑ infertility
❑ resentment
❑ abuse
❑ extramarital relationships
❑ harsh treatment
❑ brokenness
❑ self-absorption
❑ secrecy
❑ neglect

Part of the healing process includes unearthing the details — the specifics of how you were hurt — and inviting God to relive those experiences with you. What help do you need from God? How do you want to experience His presence, comfort, or guidance?

Coming face-to-face with old hurts can be disorienting. When Joseph first encountered his brothers again, he withheld his identity, spoke harshly, made false accusations, jailed them, released them, put conditions on their departure and return, held one of them hostage, concealed powerful emotions, and was secretly generous to them (Genesis 42:6-28). What conflicting thoughts and emotions surface when you consider the possibility of engaging old hurts and the people connected with them?

Joseph’s path to reconciliation with his family was long and difficult, but it began with a small act of mercy and grace — he loaded his brothers’ saddlebags with grain and quietly returned the silver they had paid for it. A gift, free and clear.

What small act of mercy and grace do you sense God inviting you to extend to someone in your family?

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Excerpted from You’ll Get Through This by Max Lucado, copyright Thomas Nelson.

Strongholds of the Mind VS. Divine Weapons

SOURCE: Taken from an article by Rick Thomas

  How do you take every thought captive–the battle for your mind

Have you ever had someone accuse you of something that was not true?

Have you ever accused yourself of something that was not true?

Either way, whether from you or another, any false argument launched against you can turn into a stronghold in your mind that will spiritually debilitate you.

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (ESV)

We all are susceptible to false arguments that control our minds.

There are recurring thought patterns, if left unchecked, will become the dominating argument of a person’s mind, to the point where they become what the argument says they are.

To continue reading, please go to this link:  

https://rickthomas.net/how-to-take-every-thought-captive-the-battle-for-your-mind/

 

Brain Health: It’s Essential To Everything You Do

SOURCE: American Association of Christian Counselors [AACC]

Your brain is an essential part of everything you do… without our brains, we could not function! Yet, when we think about keeping our bodies healthy, we rarely consider brain health. Unfortunately, in today’s fast-paced, high-stress world, we rarely stop to think about what we truly need to do to keep our brains healthy. Ask yourself these brain-health questions:

  1. Do I get enough sleep?
  2. Do I discipline myself to live by healthy eating habits?
  3. Do I exercise at least twice a week?
  4. Do I seek to challenge my brain by learning new things?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, it’s time to start thinking about your brain health! The decisions we make today will impact our brain health for the rest of our lives. Because of the brain’s remarkable neuroplasticity, it’s not too late to start making positive changes… and once you do, you can help others implement healthy brain habits as well! Let’s start a brain health revolution!

BRAIN HEALTH STATISTICS
Alzheimer’s

  • Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in U.S. adults.
  • Out of the 10 leading causes of death in the U.S., Alzheimer’s disease is the only one that cannot be prevented, slowed, or cured.
  • 10% of adults over 65 and 32% of adults over 85 have Alzheimer’s dementia.
(Alzheimer’s Association. 2017 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. Alzheimer’s Dement 2017; 13:325-373)

Mental Illness

  • 44.7 million people in the U.S. live with a mental illness (approximately 18.3%).
  • 49.5% of adolescents in the U.S. live with a mental disorder.
(National Institute of Mental Health. 2017. Mental Illness Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness.shtml#part_154788)

Parkinson’s Disease

  • One million people in the U.S. live with Parkinson’s disease.
  • Parkinson’s disease affects 1.5 times more men than women.
(Parkinson’s Foundation, (n.d.). Statistics. Retrieved from http://parkinson.org/Understanding-Parkinsons/Causes-and-Statistics/Statistics)

Mood Disorders

  • At some point in their lives, approximately 21.4% of U.S. adults will experience a mood disorder.
  • 14.3% of adolescents will experience a mood disorder during their adolescent years.
(National Institute of Mental Health, n.d. Mood Disorder Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-mood-disorder.shtml)

BRAIN HEALTH RESEARCH
Alzheimer’s Association
The Alzheimer’s Association offers 10 ways to love your brain:

  1. Exercise
  2. Don’t Stop Learning
  3. Stop Smoking
  4. Keep Your Heart Healthy
  5. Wear Your Helmet
  6. Eat Right
  7. Get Enough Sleep
  8. Stay Mentally Healthy
  9. Find Social Support
  10. Challenge Your Mind

Harvard Medical School
A study done by Harvard Medical School found that adults who maintained a healthy lifestyle with healthy habits had a reduced risk of cognitive decline. These habits included exercise, eating right, socializing, getting more sleep, managing stress, ceasing to smoke, and treating underlying health conditions.

QUOTES

  • “A healthy body is a guest-chamber for the soul; a sick body is a prison.” – Francis Bacon, English philsopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, orator, and author
  • “Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.” – John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States
  • “There is no scientific study more vital to man than the study of his own brain. Our entire view of the universe depends on it.” – Francis Crick, British molecular biologist, biophysicist, and neuroscientist
  • “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” – Benjamin Franklin, leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, humorist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat
  • “In a disordered mind, as in a disordered body, soundness of health is impossible.” – Cicero, Roman politician and lawyer
  • “A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.” – Irish Proverb
  • “A sad soul can kill you quicker than a germ.” – John Steinbeck, American author and 1962 Nobel Prize receipient in Literature
  • “Every man can, if he so desires, become the sculptor of his own brain.” – Cajal, Spanish neuroscientist and pathologist
  • “Your brain controls everything you do, feel, and think.” – Daniel Amen, physician, best-selling author, television personality
  • “Your brain is the hardware of your soul.” – Daniel Amen, physician, best-selling author, television personality
  • “God hates sin like doctors hate disease. Doctors hate polio. But, doctors love patients with polio.” – Timothy Jennings, speaker, author, Christian psychiatrist, and certified psychopharmacologist
  • “We aren’t just thrown on this earth like dice tossed across a table. We are lovingly placed here for a purpose.” – Charles Swindoll, evangelical Christian pastor, author, educator, and radio preacher
  • “The converted person begins exercising self-governance and restraint and avoidance of previous destructive behaviors.” – Timothy Jennings, speaker, author, Christian psychiatrist, and certified master pyschopharmacologist
  • “Those who do not find time for exercise will have to find time for illness.” – Edward Smith-Stanley

SCRIPTURE

  • “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2
  • “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” – Philippians 4:8
  • “The steadfast of mind you will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in you.” – Isaiah 26:3
  • “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”– 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
  • “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every through captive to the obedience of Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:5
  • “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” – Colossians 3:2
  • “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”– 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
  • “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” – Proverbs 17:22
  • “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.” – Psalm 139:14
  • “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31

Don’t Hide Your Hurt, Heal Your Marriage

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Mark Merrill

Wounds in a marriage, big or small, can be difficult to deal with. During a recent conversation with a friend who has been navigating through some painful things in his own marriage, I realized that there’s an important choice that faces every man and woman when dealing with these wounds in marriage. Every husband and wife can either choose to cover festering wounds in their relationship and prevent healing or choose to expose those wounds and promote healing.

There are several reasons why a spouse or couple might try to leave untreated, or even hide, the hurtful wounds in their marriage instead of exposing them. Here are just a few:

Pride – They refuse to admit to their spouse that they’ve done anything wrong in the relationship to contribute to the hurt. Or, they worry about being embarrassed and what a spouse, family, or friends would think if they really knew what happened to them.

Fear – They fear what they might lose if the hurt is exposed, and that loss seems to outweigh any good they might gain from getting healthy.

Shame – They already feel guilty about some of the things they have done or have been done to them, and don’t want or need anyone else to pile on.

Pain – Maybe the pain is all they’ve really ever known and so they just live with it because it’s tolerable.

Hopelessness – They think, “What’s the use. We’ve talked about this over and over, but the same hurtful things are still being done. My spouse is never going to change. Things are never going to be different.”

In one of my posts, “Confession: My Wife and I Struggle Too,” I shared some challenges we’ve had in our marriage. Fortunately, they are all fixable issues we’ve worked through or are working on. What did Susan and I do to address these struggles and the ways we’ve sometimes hurt one another? We looked for credible, encouraging, experienced voices in books, other marriage resources, and seminars. We worked hard to identify problems, confess them, apologize to each other, and commit to working through them–together.

We also recognized that sometimes we needed an outside perspective. We have found those perspectives in places like a marriage class at church, a close, trusted couple we’ve known for years, and a marriage counselor. Yep…Mark and Susan Merrill have needed to lean on a professional counselor a time or two. And we wouldn’t change a thing. Read my previous blogs on 4 Ways to Know When It’s Time for Marriage Counseling and Finding a Good Marriage Counselor: Stacking the Deck in Your Favor. Here are some more steps on How to Heal a Wounded Heart.

So today, instead of ignoring or hiding your hurt, open it up and start treating it. Only then will the healing begin.

10 Things You Must Know About Infidelity and Cheating

SOURCE:  Michele Weiner-Davis, MSW

I can’t tell you the number of people who tell themselves early in marriage, “If my spouse ever has an affair, I’m outta here.” And then it happens. Their spouse was unfaithful.

That’s when reality sets in. It’s easy to think you will leave if your spouse betrays you, but when confronted with the reality of divorce and dissolving your marriage, the stakes are really high. It’s not that overcoming the devastation of infidelity is easy, it isn’t. But it can be done.

In fact, believe it or not, most people decide to stay in their marriages after infidelity. The important thing is to address the issues that might have led to the infidelity and get the necessary help to recover.

Divorce isn’t the solution, particularly when the unfaithful spouse is remorseful and devoted to changing. Here are some things you need to know if you are dealing with the fallout of infidelity in your marriage.

1) Betrayal is in the eye of the beholder.

Many times people want to know the definition of betrayal. To some, it is about having intercourse and other sexual contact with another person. To others, betrayal is more about one’s spouse feeling emotionally connected to someone else — late conversations of a personal nature with a co-worker, or an on-going, intimate friendship with another person.

To others, it is secrecy. This may involve secret email accounts, cell phones, Internet behavior, or an unwillingness to share information about whereabouts, spending habits, or life plans.

The fact is, there is no universal definition of betrayal. When two people are married, they must care about each others’ feelings. They don’t always have to agree, but they must behave in ways that make the relationship feel safe.

Therefore, if one person feels threatened or betrayed, his or her spouse must do some soul searching and change in ways to accommodate those feelings. In other words, betrayal is in the eye of the beholder. If you or your partner feel betrayed, you need to change what you’re doing to make the marriage work.

2) Infidelity is not a marital deal breaker.

Many people think that affairs signal the end of a marriage. This is simply not true. Although healing from infidelity is a challenging endeavor, most marriages not only survive, but they can actually grow from the experience.

This is not to say that affairs are good for marriages — they aren’t. Affairs are very, very destructive because the bond of trust has been broken. But after years of working with couples who have experienced betrayal and affairs, I can vouch for the fact that it is possible to get marriages back on track and rediscover trust, caring, friendship and passion.

3) Most affairs end.

It’s important to know that, while affairs can be incredibly sexy, compelling, addictive and renewing, most of them end. That’s because after the thrill wears off, most people recognize that everyone, even the affair partner, is a package deal.

This means that we all have good points and bad points. When two people are in the throes of infatuation, they are only focusing on what’s good. This is short-lived, generally speaking. That’s because reality sets in and infatuation fades. If the betrayed spouse doesn’t run to a divorce attorney prematurely, it’s entirely possible that an affair will die a natural death.

4) Temporary insanity is the only sane response.

Because betrayal is so threatening to marriage and so devastating, many people feel they are losing their minds when they learn that their spouses have been cheating. They can’t eat, sleep, work, think, or function in any substantial way. This causes another layer of concern and self-doubt which often leads to depression and anxiety.

It is important to know that finding out that one’s spouse is cheating can be extremely traumatic. In fact, current research suggests that betrayed spouses exhibit symptoms similar to Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. It is a major loss and as with most losses, betrayal is intensely disorienting and distressing.

5) You are not alone.

When infidelity occurs, the betrayed spouse feels alone and lonely, but it is essential to keep in mind that countless people have experienced the same problem and have felt the same way. This offers little consolation when one first learns about his or her spouse’s affair, but over time, it can take the sting out of feeling so out-of-sorts.

It would be wonderful if everyone upheld their marital vows, but the truth is, that doesn’t happen. It should, but it doesn’t. The good news is that there is a great deal of support available because many people have walked in your shoes and can be empathetic to your feelings.

6) It helps to get help.

But beyond talking with those who have experienced infidelity in their own marriages, it helps to get professional help. Feelings that surface after the discovery of an affair are often so overwhelming that it is difficult to know what to do to begin to get one’s marriage back on track.

A good marriage therapist or a marriage education class can help lead the way. But be certain to seek help that is “marriage-friendly.” Some therapists believe that infidelity destroys the fabric of a relationship which cannot be repaired. These therapists declare marriages dead on arrival. It is essential that you get a good referral if you want your marriage to recover.

7) Healing takes time.

Although people naturally want to be pain-free as quickly as possible, when it comes to healing from infidelity, it just isn’t going to happen. In fact, if things are “business as usual” too quickly, it probably just means that intense feelings have been swept under the carpet.

This will not help in the long run. In order for a marriage to mend, it takes a great deal of hard work to confront all the necessary issues. This takes time — often year — to truly get things back on track.

When couples enter my office and they’ve been dealing with the aftermath of infidelity for a year or so and they are still struggling, they think something is wrong with them. When I hear that, I tell them that nothing is wrong with them because the pain is still fresh and the news of infidelity is hot off the press. Yes, even a year after learning about betrayal isn’t a very long time.

Healing from infidelity is a slow process for most people.

8 ) Count on ups and downs.

One of the most frustrating and confusing aspects to the healing process is the fact that just when people think things have improved and are resolved, there is another major setback. This is not surprising at all.

That’s because the path to recovery is not a straight line. It is jagged and beset with many, many ups and downs. I tell people that it is two steps forward and one step back. Unfortunately, when people have a setback, they believe that they have slid back to square one. This is not the case. Every setback is a bit different.

And as long as there is a general upward trend, progress is being made. Maintaining patience is difficult, but it is absolutely necessary. Don’t give up when there has been a relapse. Just get back on track.

9) Don’t be quick to tell friends and family.

It is important not to be too quick to tell friends and family about the problem of infidelity. If everyone in one’s family is apprised of the infidelity, even if the marriage improves, family members may not support the idea of staying in the marriage. They may pressure the betrayed spouse to leave.

So while emotional support during this rough time is absolutely necessary, it’s important to get professional help or talk to friends or family who will support the marriage and be less judgmental. Those people should have the perspective that no one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes and as long as the unfaithful spouse takes responsibility to change, marriages can mend.

10) You won’t forget, but forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.

When there has been infidelity, people just don’t forget about it. In fact, they don’t ever forget it. What does happen is that memories of the discovery and the pain tend to fade. The thoughts about betrayal become less frequent and less intense over time. In fact, people should NOT forget because we all learn from our experiences, both good and bad.

And although people don’t forget betrayal or affairs, forgiveness is still mandatory — not to let the unfaithful person off the hook, but because holding a grudge shackles people to the past. It is bad for one’s health, both emotionally and physically. There is no intimacy when there are grudges. Life is painful because there is a wall separating people. When betrayed spouses allow themselves to have feelings of forgiveness, life lightens up. It is freeing. Love begins to flow again. Letting go of the past begins to make room for happiness in the present. Forgiveness isn’t meant for the unfaithful, it is a gift betrayed spouses give themselves.

The Scientific Case for Forgiveness

SOURCE:  MIKE MCHARGUE/Relevant Magazine

Holding a grudge hurts us physically and psychologically.

The Bible makes me think Jesus was obsessed with forgiveness. He never stopped talking about the need to forgive others. His parables spoke of a God who was forgiving, and expected His creations to be forgiving as well.

Jesus portrayed forgiving others as essential to living life abundantly.

Jesus and science are in complete agreement on that matter, as studies have given scientific evidence for many of the things the Bible tells us about forgiving others.

When You Forgive, You Heal Faster

Scientists have found that victims of severe abuse who forgive their abuser receive measurable improvements in psychological and physical health. When compared to control groups, the forgivers healed faster and more completely.

But there’s a catch—forgiveness isn’t a one-time, leave-it-all-behind moment. It’s a continual process.

Specific techniques vary across practitioners, but the basic model is the same. Scientists shows us that our brains can’t forgive people who’ve hurt us until we grieve the pain we’ve experienced, work to understand the perspective of our abuser, decide to forgive them and then work toward some level of acceptance or compassion toward the one who wounded us.

You can’t forgive and forget—our brains don’t work that way. You can only learn to move on without wishing harm on the one who harmed you.

Unforgiveness Physically Limits You

Have you ever been hurt so badly by someone who you can’t stop thinking about them? People who’ve hurt us live in our heads rent-free, showing up in our mind’s eye when we have coffee with friends, enjoy nature or spend time with our family.

Sadly, research suggests that holding a grudge against one who wounded us doesn’t affect them, but instead impairs us. This impairment can manifest itself in surprising ways.

Ruminating over the one who hurt us takes cognitive energy, and affects our brains and bodies. It raises the levels of stress hormones in our bloodstream, and can elevate our blood pressure and contribute to weight gain. It even affects our ability to focus and form new memories.

Holding onto hurt creates a fog around your mind and a weight on your body. This is less of a metaphor than you’d think, because in one study scientists found that people could actually jump higher after consciously forgiving someone. Another study showed that people who thought about a grudge viewed physical tasks are more demanding.

When we don’t forgive others, we put ourselves in mental, emotional and physical bondage. The person who hurt us may have put us in a cage, but we’re the only ones who can set ourselves free.

Forgiving Doesn’t Mean You Accept Further Harm

Studies have shown that forgiveness is effective and beneficial even in the most severe cases of abuse, trauma, oppression and neglect. Both our faith and modern science emphasize the importance of forgiving others for transgressions—no matter how badly we were hurt.

But, it’s important to define forgiveness well. Forgiveness is accepting what happened and moving on without wishing harm on the one who hurt you. It is not placing yourself in situations where you will continue to be hurt or abused. You can forgive someone and still maintain necessary boundaries in a relationship. In cases of severe abuse, that boundary may need to be no further contact.

When Jesus spoke of “turning the other cheek” to an “evil one,” those words weren’t just an admonishment to non-violence. Jesus quoted the law, and then described radical submission to possible legal interpretations. This approach revealed personal and systemic brutality for what it was, be it physical, economic or legal.

“Turning the other cheek” is not an admonishment to stay in an abusive situation.

As science shows, it’s good for you to forgive an abusive parent or spouse. It’s freeing to let go of resentment toward an unhealthy friendship, but there’s no nobility in allowing those patterns to continue. In cases of persistent abuse, the best way to forgive someone is to walk away.

 

How To Ask For Help

SOURCE:  adapted from Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love by Edward T. Welch

Asking for Help Is Hard

Asking people for help makes calling out to the Lord seem easy by comparison. The Lord already knows we are weak and needy, but other people? That is a different story. They may not know, and we desperately want to appear competent before them. Even though spiritual neediness is one of the most attractive acts of a human being, we have our own views of strength, honor, and what is most becoming, and pleas for help are not on that list.

But it really should be simple.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Brothers, pray for us” (1 Thess. 5:25; also 1 Cor. 1:10–11; Eph. 6:19–20; Col. 4:3). Apparently, he was no longer embarrassed by his weakness and need. Paul was thoroughly schooled in rejection and humiliation. He was once a noted up-and-coming Pharisee, and then—he became nothing. He was nothing before his Hebrew kin, and he was of no reputation before many of the churches he founded. Having learned that Jesus made himself of no reputation before others, Paul was unconcerned about his own reputation. That is how he was able to ask for prayer.

If we desire to be perceived as competent and in control, we will not ask for prayer. If we know that humans, by nature, are spiritually needy, and God’s plan is that we turn both to him and to other people for help, we will ask for prayer.

How to Ask

Whether we have never asked anyone to pray for us or we do it every day, the goal is to grow both in how often we ask for prayer and how we ask for it.

How often? We want to ask more than we do now.

How to ask? We want to ask for prayer about both circumstances and matters of the heart that sit below the surface, for things seen and things unseen. We take the skills we have learned in personal prayer and ask others to pray with us.

First, we put our burdens into words. Second, we attach words of Scripture that capture both our real needs and God’s purposes and promises. That is, we pray for what we know our Father wants to give us.

Example 1: I’m So Behind

First, the burden: “I have been so tired. I feel like I am always a few steps behind on everything.”

Second, we attach Scripture: “Would you pray that I would rest in Jesus?” The Scripture that shapes this prayer is from Matthew 11:28–30: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Example 2: My Daughter Is Sick

First, the burden: “This is so hard. Would you pray for healing for my daughter?”

Second, we attach Scripture: “Would you also pray for perseverance and that I would be able to fix my eyes on things that are not seen?” (Heb. 6:11 and 4:16–18).

Example 3: I’m Too Impatient

First, the burden: “I have been so impatient with my kids recently. I need help.”

Second, we attach Scripture: “Would you pray that I will know Jesus’s unlimited patience toward me so that I will pass that on to my children?” (1 Tim. 1:16). Or, “Would you pray that I will see my anger as my problem and not theirs? I want to see that anger is murder and the problem is that I demand something and am not getting what I demand” (James 4:1–10).

Example 4: I Need a Job

First, the burden: “Would you pray that I will find work?”

Second, we attach Scripture: “And would you pray that I will trust the Lord for manna each day rather than get swamped by my anxieties?” (Matt. 6:28–34).

And sometimes our request for prayer can be very simple and desperate: “I feel undone. Would you pray for me? I don’t feel that I can pray for myself, and I don’t even know what to pray.”

If you have prayed for someone, you know it is a privilege. Other people will feel the same way when you ask them to pray for you. Once we get the knack of asking, we can ask for help for some of our other burdens in life, such as looking for a job or cleaning up an apartment. We can even let people know our financial needs.

Recognize Help When It Comes

Once we’ve prayed and asked others to pray for us, all that’s left is to keep watch. We assume “that if we pray according to God’s promises, we will see him on the move. So we wait expectantly, and then we acknowledge his work when it comes.

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Edward T. Welch (PhD, University of Utah) is a counselor and faculty member at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation.

Q&A: He’s Sorry Now. Do I Wait?

SOURCE: Taken from an article by Leslie Vernick

Question:  My husband has had several affairs. One sexual and the others emotional. After each one I have tried to work on me and felt they occurred because I needed to fix things in my own life. I needed to be more loveable, appealing and easy to be with. In so many ways I have been completely humbled and broken, but despite the changes in my own life I recently discovered he had resumed calling the woman he had been having an emotional affair with 4 years ago. In addition, he has confessed to having a sexual addiction or integrity issues involving pornography and pleasing himself sexually. Yet, even while he has been doing this, I have felt loved and cared for by him most of the time.

My biggest concern has been however, when we have discussions, I feel very intimidated by him and end up backing away or apologizing profusely because I’m afraid of his anger and intimidation. I’m not perfect and see so many of my own faults and insecurities but I desire to have intimacy with God.  I’m fit, I have a great profession, close relationships and work at being a good parent to my son (16) and daughter (18).

So here is my dilemma. My husband and I are separated. After the last affair, it was agreed if he ever did this again it would mean automatic divorce, no more counseling, etc. When we first separated I felt scared, but now after 5 months I’m fine and our children are fine.  They say they prefer him gone and we have needed time to heal. Before, I tried so hard to rebuild my marriage that our children took a back seat. Now I’m enjoying the peace of our home instead of always being anxious that I would make a mistake that would drive him into the arms of another woman.

I’m thriving, going to a great Christian counselor and reading and trying to understand sexual addiction. However, my husband wants another chance and feels he now understands why he made so many hurtful choices. He periodically meets with a pastor from our church but has not sought counseling or a recovery group. He seems softer, has realized much and constantly says he misses me and loves me, but I have lost my desire for him. I almost would be embarrassed to put myself through this again but feel guilty or unsure if I’m disobeying God. Isn’t God a God of second or fifth chances?

I have never been good at discerning when my husband was betraying me how can I ever trust him. How do I know if he is fully recovered? Am I being disobedient by not giving him another chance?

Answer: Oh how we wish life’s decisions could be black and white and that God would just tell us what to do. I struggle with the same dilemma of “not knowing” the future, or the reliability of a person’s words.  Talk is cheap and insight, even good and truthful self-awareness, is still a long way off from faithful and consistent change in a person’s heart and habits.

The good news is you don’t have to decide just yet about whether or not to follow through with divorce. Although you certainly have biblical grounds. You indicate you are getting good counsel so I’m going to give you some things to talk about with your counselor to make sure you are moving in the right direction.

First, pay attention to your feelings but don’t allow yourself to be ruled by them. You feel anxious about his anger and intimidation. Is this true in other relationships or mainly with him?  You indicate your own insecurity issues and sometimes people who fear rejection are easily intimidated into compliance because they fear disapproval or loss of relationship even when the other person isn’t intentionally trying to be controlling.

This season of separation can be a good test for you to observe the fruit of your change as well as his.  Are you able to speak up and say no, even if you still feel anxious or intimidated? And, can he hear and respect your “no” the first time, without arguing, trying to change your mind or threatening you with loss of potential reconciliation? If you’re still not able to be clear and direct with what you want or don’t want because of fear, you need to figure out why.  Is it him or it is your need to please, to not disappoint, to be a good Christian girl, and/or to always be the accommodating one?

Your husband has done great damage to your family and marriage yet he doesn’t seem to be working very hard to make sure he never does it again. That does not sit well with me at all. Why has he not gone to personal counseling, joined a recovery group or taken other steps to deal with his problems? You say you’re reading about sexual addiction, but is he? You seem to have done lots of work to mature, grow, and become a more godly woman but what exactly has your husband done to identify his problems and change them?

From what you describe, it seems to me that your husband has been ruled by a selfish and a lazy heart. (These are defined more fully in my book, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship). Pornography is a selfish and lazy way to have sexual pleasure and release without the responsibilities of relationship or mutual giving. It’s all about him!  From what you describe, most of the marriage has been all about him and what you’ve lacked or not done to make him happy or keep him faithful to you.

Affairs are also selfish and indulgent. He wasn’t thinking of you or your children, only about what he felt and what he wanted. From my vantage point what you describe as your husband’s change is really just more of the same but now instead of the other woman, you’ve become the desired object he wants.

Yes, God is a God of second chances, of fifth chances, of hundredth chances, but you are not God. You do not know his heart.  Only God can discern his true motives. However, you can use the growth you’ve achieved to speak the truth in love, ask him to do the work required in order for you to be willing to consider reconciliation and build trust again and see what happens. If his heart is truly changed, he will. If not, he will get angry, blame you and want you to do the work to trust him. You’ve already been around that bend several times and you’re wise to not repeat it.

Why Hasn’t God Healed Me?

SOURCE:  DR. LARRY KEEFAUVER/Charisma Magazine

The invitation had just been given for anyone who needed prayer to approach the altar. John came forward, kneeling in silent contemplation–silent except for the tears streaming down his cheeks.

I stood behind the prayer rail and knelt in front of him as he extended his hands to grasp mine. His body trembled as he sobbed. Behind him stood his wife, one hand resting on John’s shoulder and the other raised heavenward as she prayed silently and wept openly.

“I just got back some tests on Friday,” John whispered. “The doctors say I have prostate cancer. Pastor, I don’t know if I have enough faith to go through this. Will you pray for me?”

As I anointed John with oil and prayed with him for healing, my mind pondered the phrase “enough faith.”

For years I have heard preachers imply that faith in some way is quantified. The myths seem to circulate unabated: “If Susan had just had enough faith, she would have been healed,” or “When Bill’s faith gets strong enough, he will be healed,” or “If everyone in this room all believed at the same moment, then all would be healed.”

But is healing really based on your faith alone? What should be your perspective when God doesn’t heal immediately?

If you are to understand why God doesn’t always heal now, you will have to peel away the layers of myth that have been so tantalizing to embrace. You will have to dig deep into the Scripture for yourself instead of consuming the “fast food” of your favorite popular name-it-and-claim-it theologian. And you will have to decide to walk by faith instead of simply mouthing the platitudes of faith that have so easily supplanted God’s Word in your daily confessions.

The truth is, while the lack of faith may hinder healing, healing does not depend on faith. I have witnessed both the faithful and the faithless being healed. And I have seen those of great faith die. In fact, everyone Jesus healed eventually died.

Those around the tomb of Lazarus lacked faith, and certainly Lazarus was in no position to exercise faith–he had been dead four days (see John 11:39-40). Yet Lazarus experienced a wonderful healing: He was resurrected.

A man once said to me after a friend’s funeral: “Life’s greatest enemy is death. She lacked faith. She doubted. So she lost and thus died.” Yet this deceased friend was a believer who had surrendered her life to Jesus as Lord and Savior. She lives eternally with Christ in heaven. How silly to suggest that people die because of a lack of faith. Does this mean that people with enough faith will never die? Of course not!

If death were the enemy, why would Paul write, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” or “We walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (Phil. 1:21; 2 Cor. 5:7-8, NKJV). We must avoid the myths of faith and healing and embrace the truth revealed in Scripture.

The Myths of Faith Healing

Some believers focus exclusively on faith as the key to healing. Yet Jesus healed many who apparently had no faith. Some were healed because their friends had faith. Others were bound up by demonic spirits and healed by exorcism, even against their wills.

The truth is that God heals. The myth is that God always heals now at the initiative of our faith.

Faith teacher Frederick K.C. Price has asserted: “The seventh method of receiving healing–[which] I believe is the highest kind of faith–is the highest way to receive healing…If you believe you receive it, you will confess that: ‘Bless God, I believe I am healed. I believe I have received my healing…I believe that it is so. I believe that I can walk in divine health all the days of my life.’ You are reading after one man who will never be sick, and I’m not being presumptuous.”

Myth is mixed here with truth. The highest kind of faith is, “I believe in Jesus,” not just, “I believe.”

It is true that faith must be our initiative. But even our initiative comes through the prompting of the Holy Spirit: “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). Our faith helps us receive healing, just as the lack of faith hinders healing. But healing does not depend on faith. Healing depends on the Healer.

Healing is the will of God. Canadian evangelist Peter Youngren wrote: “Jesus clearly shows us God’s will in healing…the Word of God declares that ‘great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all’ (Matt. 12:15). When Jesus healed all, He was obviously doing the will of His Father, because He only did that which the Father wanted Him to do.”

Youngren adds: “This is why you can come with boldness asking God for healing. God is on your side. He wants the best for you. He is good.”

So, if God wills all to be healed, then can your faith move His hand to heal you? In the words of the Hertz rental car commercial: “Not exactly!”

Your faith moves Him to save you (see Rom. 10:9-13; Eph. 2:8). And in your salvation is your healing: “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses'” (Matt. 8:17; Is. 53:4-6).

But your faith does not effect your healing now. When you are healed rests entirely on what the sovereign purposes of the Healer are.

Consider this biblical example. In John 5 Jesus healed one paralytic at the pool of Bethesda though a multitude thronged that place daily to be healed. Why was one man healed at that moment while others were not?

John 5:19 gives the answer when Jesus confessed, “‘Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.'”

Bible scholar Jack Deere correctly observes that the initiative for the miraculous in Jesus’ ministry did not begin with Him but with the Father. “He healed only the people He saw His Father healing,” Deere writes. “The only firm reason for the healing of the paralytic that we can derive from the context of John 5 is that the Father willed it, and Jesus executed His Father’s will…We are ultimately faced with the conclusion that sometimes the Lord works miracles for His own sovereign purposes without giving any explanation for His actions to His followers.”

The second myth about healing is that if you stand fast in faith, you will be physically healed in time and space. Ken and Gloria Copeland have declared that healing will come if we have faith in our hearts and God’s Word in our mouths. But, they add: “It may take time for it to manifest in your body. So stand fast in faith, giving thanks to God until it does. Focus on God’s Word, not on physical symptoms.”

In what do we “stand fast”? The “rock” on which we stand isn’t faith or healing but Christ alone–the Healer. In Hebrews 10:23 we are admonished to hold fast to the profession of our faith. But in what is our profession of faith? Certainly, it is not in faith or in healing.

Be careful that your faith is not in faith itself–or, worse yet, in a faith teacher! Just believing hard enough, long enough or strong enough will not strengthen you or prompt your healing. Doing mental gymnastics to “hold on to your miracle” will not cause your healing to manifest now.

So what is faith? It is more than believing in your heart that God heals. The truth is that God is the God who heals. Faith is trusting the God who heals. Faith is a radical, absolute surrender to the God who heals. Faith is not holding on for your healing but holding on to the God who can do the impossible.

The truth is that your healing may manifest in eternity, not in time. If your trust is in God who heals, then when He heals you is secondary to belonging to the Healer. Certainly you will thank Him if He heals you today. But if your healing comes beyond death in eternity, will you praise Him now for that?

Paul did just that: “‘O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:55-58).

The third myth about healing is that if you just confess your healing, you will be healed right now. But you should confess the Healer, not your healing.

In his best-selling book, The Bible Cure, Dr. Reginald B. Cherry encourages us to “speak to the mountain” of our illness when we pray. That is important in prayer. But praying it and saying it won’t make physical healing manifest now.

Positive confession does not effect healing. If that were true, anyone who believes in mind-over-matter mental exercises could heal people. Only Jesus heals.

Our confession should be in Him, not in being healed now. Jesus sternly warned: “‘Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven'” (Matt. 10:32-33).

It’s time we throw out the lies that cloud the truth about faith and healing. It’s time we embrace the scriptural truths that shatter shallow myths and bring us freedom to confidently trust God.

Freedom in the Truth

When God doesn’t heal now, you can apply essential truths about faith and healing that are anchored in Scripture. I’ve identified four key actions we should take when we face a serious illness:

1. Have others join their faith to yours in bringing your infirmity to Jesus. “When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them” (Luke 4:40; Matt. 8:16; Mark 1:32-34; 2:3-12).

Don’t try to face sickness alone. An essential key to healing in the New Testament is the power of corporate faith and praying in agreement with others (see Matt. 18:19-20). When you gather with others to pray, the presence of Christ dwells in your midst. Because He is the Great Physician, with His presence comes healing power.

Throughout the healing miracle accounts in the Gospels, we observe that friends brought the sick to Jesus. In Mark 2, a paralytic man was brought by his friends to Jesus. The Syro-Phoenician woman brought her daughter to Jesus (see Matt. 15:22; Mark 7:24-30). A father brought his demonized child to Jesus (see Matt 17:14-18; Mark 9:17-27; Luke 9:38-42).

Join your faith with others to seek the Great Physician. When sickness has weakened, fatigued and discouraged you, seek out others who will pray in faith.

2. Seek to receive a touch from God. The woman with an issue of blood exercised her faith by going outside and searching for the Healer. She did all she knew to do to reach out through a crowd and touch Jesus (see Matt. 9:20; Mark 5:25-27; Luke 8:43-44).

When you are sick, you might be tempted to isolate yourself from settings in which you can touch and be touched by the presence of Christ. At times, you may not feel like going to worship services. You may feel too weak to sing and praise God. You may be too tired and discouraged to call the elders of your church to anoint you with oil and pray in faith for you.

Resist this temptation to stay at home in isolation. Healing flows through the body of Christ. His body is the church. Break out of your loneliness and seek the Healer.

3. Submit yourself to the authority and will of Christ, trusting Him as your Healer. The centurion’s faith in Christ opened a door for his servant to be healed (see Matt. 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10). Likewise, the authority for your healing does not rest in you or your faith. Claiming your healing and speaking the right words do not guarantee your healing now or at any future time. Your faith opens a door for you to receive your healing from Christ.

I prayed with a woman who demanded that God heal her. When I questioned her attitude, she exclaimed, “I have the authority as a child of God to command God to fulfill His promise of healing for me.” She believed a common myth that has been spread by some faith teachers, who believe that we can command God to do our bidding.

Our authority isn’t over Christ but in Christ. We reign with Him in heavenly places (see Eph. 2:4-7). The sons of Sceva presumed to have healing authority but quickly learned that authority rested in the person of Jesus, not simply in the repetitious use of His name (see Acts 19:13-16).

The truth is that all authority for every matter, including healing, rests in Jesus: “‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth'” (Matt. 28:18). From Christ we receive imparted authority to say what He says and to do what He does. Submit to His authority for your healing.

4. Believe on His Word, not someone else’s advice or counsel. Whenever Jesus spoke the Word, people were healed (see Matt. 8:8, 16; Luke 7:7). The psalmist said, “He [the Lord] sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions” (Ps. 107:20). Listen to the Word of the Lord for your healing. No one else’s word, faith or assurance will do. When God doesn’t heal now, trust His voice and believe His Word.

Proverbs 4:20-22 reads: “My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh.”

When God doesn’t heal now, trust His Word–not your circumstances or human advice. God has not abandoned you. He’s not taking a vacation. He is right there by your side as you put your trust in His tender care.

 

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Dr. Larry Keefauver is a former editor of Ministries Today magazine and founder of Your Ministries Counseling Services and PowerHouse Families. He is the author of Lord, I Wish My Teenager Would Talk With Me(Creation House).

Q&A: How Do I Heal From Emotional Abuse?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Question: My physical injuries have healed from people who’ve abused me, but the negative feelings are still there. What can I do to find deeper healing?

Answer: Emotional wounds can be much more damaging than physical wounds can be and usually heal very slowly. I’d highly recommend that you read the last section (Surviving It) of my book, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship as well as How to Live Right When Your Life Goes Wrong for specific steps that you can take for your emotional growth and healing. But let me share with you a meditation I’ve been pondering that will give you a good start.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the story of the women who had an issue of blood for 12 years. You know her; she touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, hoping to be healed. But let’s look more closely at her story to understand how deeper healing takes place. (Read Mark 5 and Luke 8 for the story.)

Here is a woman who was an outcast. She was labeled an unclean woman, socially unacceptable, undesirable, and dirty. Jewish law mandated that if someone touched an unclean person, they would need to go through the Jewish purification ritual in order to regain their rights to enter the temple. She was an untouchable woman and people kept their distance. She had spent all her resources to find help, but she only got worse. This woman heard Jesus coming and thought to herself, “if only I can touch his cloak, I will be healed” ─ and to her surprise ─ she was.

Immediately she tried to escape the crowd unnoticed. Remember, she touched Jesus and according to Jewish law, that made him unclean. How embarrassed and scared she must have felt when Jesus turned and asked, “Who touched me?” If she identified herself then everyone would know what she had done.

Let’s step back for a moment and look at the larger story here. Jesus was heading to Jairus’ house. Jairus was a Jewish leader, a ruler of the synagogue. Yet he approached Jesus for help because his young daughter lay dying. Jairus was a daddy before he was a religious leader and so he fell at Jesus’ feet begging him to heal his daughter.

It was on the way to Jairus’ home with the crowd pressing on that Jesus stopped to ask who touched him. I wonder in that moment what Jairus thought and felt. Did he feel impatient, anxious for Jesus to hurry up and get to his house? His daddy’s heart wanted his daughter healed. I wonder if he also felt a bit angry at this woman for distracting Jesus and taking valuable time away from a more pressing need. I suspect he might have even felt angry that Jesus did not prioritize his daughter’s life threatening illness over this woman’s chronic bleeding problem.

Jarius was a person of influence and importance. He was a leader; he spoke and people listened. He risked everything to beg Jesus for help and now Jesus was wasting time asking who touched him while his daughter lay dying. Now Jesus himself was unclean too.

Do you ever feel like Jairus? God isn’t moving fast enough for your emergency? Angry and impatient that other people’s prayers are getting answered while you are still waiting?

Jairus was a daddy and wanted to see his daughter healed. But dear readers, one of the lessons of this story is that this unclean woman had a daddy too, and her daddy cared about her needs and he knew she had no one who begged for her healing. Jesus stopped and called her forth because he wanted her to know something very important. Listen to what he told her. He said, “Daughter, Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” He wanted her to know that her daddy (the Heavenly Father) saw her suffering and told Jesus to help her too.

Jesus wanted her to know that she mattered to God. Although her culture rejected her, God did not. Although she was judged to be unclean, Jesus declared her whole. He wanted her to know that she was a person of value and worth. Even in a pressured moment, Jesus took the time to have a conversation with a nameless women who felt unclean, unloved and unimportant. He wanted her to know who she was. She was a daughter and her Daddy loved and cared about her.

How about you? Perhaps your mother abused you. Your husband rejects you. People don’t understand you. You feel like an unclean women, damaged goods. If only you could touch his cloak, you’d be well. I have good news for you. Daughter, go in peace and be freed from your suffering. 

God wants to help you. He wants you to know that you matter. You are important to him. He sees you and knows you and is never too busy with more important people to meet your very personal need. You are not nameless, or worthless, or hopeless. You have a daddy, he’s called Abba (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6).

Knowing and believing that, is the beginning of your healing.

As for Jairus, Jesus didn’t forget about his concern although he probably felt that way once he got word that his daughter died. But Jesus turned to Jairus and said, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” What did it take to walk those next miles home, heavy with sorrow yet clinging to faith? Perhaps that’s where you are right now. You feel hopeless or angry or disappointed. But Jairus trusted what Jesus said to him, and because he did, he got to see a miracle. Jesus took his precious daughter’s hand and said, “Honey, wake up.”

What is Jesus saying to you right now, even if the midst of sorrow, heartache, broken dreams and shattered promises? Can you trust what he is saying and continue to walk in faith? That is healing. He says to you and to me, “Honey, wake up”.

A PRAYER ABOUT HEALTH CONCERNS AND HEALING

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

     I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the LORD.  Jer. 30:17 (ESV)

     Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.   3 John 2 (NIV)

     Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses. 1 Tim. 5:23 (NIV)

     We who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. 1 Cor. 15:52-53 (NIV)

Dear heavenly Father,

My stuffed-up head and slightly sore throat are mere irritants, compared to the health crises many of us face as this day begins. How we long for the Day of no more cancer, no more dementia, no more heart disease, no more respiratory issues, no more Ebola and AIDS, no more disease of any kind—the Day of perfect health.

Thank you for the promise of a resurrection body that will never get sick, wear out, or die. Thank you that our life in the new heaven and new earth will not include visits to the ER, health insurance, medical bills, hospitals, nursing homes, palliative care, or funeral homes. Hasten that Day, Father, hasten it.

Until then, we will pray for healing—thankful that Jesus’ finished work has secured the redemption of our whole being—mind, body, and spirit. Though we’d love for you to answer all of our prayers affirmatively, and on our timetable, we will trust and love you when you grant us sufficient grace instead of instant healing (2 Cor. 12:7-12).

Father, we will also seek to take care of these “tents” in which we live (2 Cor. 5:1-5). Thank you for good food, opportunities for exercise, the gift of sleep, clean water—gifts you’ve given us by grace—gifts you intend us to share with others. Indeed, Father, may our suffering make us more sensitive to the sufferings of others. Even as Jesus joyfully fulfilled the law for us, grant us great joy in fulfilling the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2), as we bear one another’s burdens.

So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ triumphant and tender name.

7 Things to Remember About Healing From Past Pain and Tragedy

SOURCE:  Teryn O’Brien/Relevant Magazine

Healing after tragedy strikes is a long, hard process. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re going through it.

At the beginning of this year, I was still grieving the alleged murder of one of my dearest friends, and I was feeling hopeless that I could ever find peace and healing again in life. My creativity and passion for life had shriveled up, and my heart was completely numb.

At some point, all of us will feel the impact of tragedy—whether it’s pain from our past that gets brought back up, the death of a loved one, or even just the onslaught of horrific events around the world that we hear about on a daily basis.

Over the summer—after a month-long illness, meaningful counseling sessions, and many intense times with God—He worked healing in my heart in some incredible ways. Here are some things I learned about healing from past pain and tragedy:

1. It’s OK to Stop Doing Something That’s Hindering Healing, Even if People Expect You to Do It.

This summer, I took a break from blogging because I was only feeling obligated to do it. There was no real passion or joy left. I felt guilty about that, but when I stopped, I felt so much relief. As soon as I gave myself some space, I was able to really focus in on some important things—like healing and writing a book. Over the summer, my joy has come back. I even started missing blogging a little.

2. Slowing Down and Resting is Really Important.

God really spoke to me during my month plus of illness, and it’s because I had ample time to listen.

This summer, I got sick for over a month, which ruined nearly all my summer plans. While it makes me sad that I didn’t get to go on some of my expected adventures, the illness forced me to slow down. I couldn’t even concentrate, my head hurt so badly some days. So I did nothing. I read (when my head didn’t hurt). I wrote (when my head didn’t hurt). I processed. I healed emotionally, physically and spiritually. God really spoke to me during my month plus of illness, and it’s because I had ample time to listen.

3. Sometimes, You Just Have to Let Yourself Feel All the Emotions.

At the beginning of the year, I was trying really hard not to feel anything. My heart was numb. Well, the dam broke this summer, and I was feeling things so intensely for a while that I thought I might be going crazy. Every day was up or down. I’d be so angry one day and then so full of joy the next.

But through all that, I was able to process some very buried emotions that needed to come out. I detoxed from past wounds that had poisoned me for years. My heart cleared and cleansed, and I settled down, and I found peace. But it only came by being completely emotionally honest, which is always scary, because it feels so out of control.

4. You Never Realize You’re Healing Until You Look Back and See How Far You’ve Come.

Needless to say, when I started the summer, I was in a really bad place. I didn’t think I could ever heal. Gradually, a change has come. I can feel it in the beat of the rain and the whispers of the wind. Something changed this summer. I softened. My hardened heart softened.

Healing takes time. It’s easy to look at myself and see all my faults and how imperfect I still am. But then I think back to a year ago, and I realize that I have grown. It’s been up and down and backwards and forwards and sideways, but yes, the growth is there.

5. Forgiveness is Vital to the Survival of Any Pain or Tragedy.

Through my healing process, I learned to choose forgiveness over bitterness, cynicism and hatred. I forgave. It’s been a hard, hard battle in my heart, but now that I’ve made the choice, I feel so much lighter.

Forgiveness helps you release the stifling control of the past; it drops away from you like a stifling cloak so you can move and breath and dance once more. Forgiveness doesn’t make you forget the past, but it changes the way you relate to the past. It’s a process, and it will probably never stop. Now that I know it’s truly important, I’m willing to choose it again and again, over and over, for the rest of my life.

Forgiveness doesn’t make you forget the past, but it changes the way you relate to the past.

6. Love Never Fails.

I’ve realized that love is worth it—even if you’re hurt in the process, even if the world thinks you’re strange to love, even if you lose those you love.

It’s not violence that frees us. It’s not war or vengeance or hatred. It’s not being more clever or cruel or calculating than the people around you. It’s love. I want to be a loving person. I want to give, even if the world takes and never says thank you. Love heals our broken hearts.

7. There is Always Beauty, Even in the Darkness.

This world is often so dark and painful. It seems like so much unrest and war and hatred is spilling all over. But there’s so much beauty, too. It comes in the smallest ways—when the sunset strikes clouds blossoming with red, when you share laughter with friends over a silly inside joke, when you take a small step toward reaching out to love another. It’s all beautiful. Let’s fight for that beauty in the way we live our lives.

The road to healing is never easy, and I will assure you that these lessons are very difficult to learn. I’m not sugarcoating the painful agony of love, forgiveness and healing. Learning these lessons is the hardest thing anyone will ever do, and it will take a lifetime of practice.

But I’m here to tell you—it’s worth it.

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Teryn O’Brien works in marketing at Penguin Random House, LLC, and has written for ChurchLeaders.com and various other online magazines. She blogs about brokenness redeemed in the light of God’s greater story at terynobrien.com and is writing a fantasy fiction trilogy. Follow her on Twitter at@TerynOBrien.

Abandonment: Who/What Fills the Hole?

SOURCE:  Living Free/Janet M. Lerner, D.S.W.

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You, Lord, alone make me dwell in safety and confident trust.” (Psalm 4:8 AMP)

The desire to have a good relationship with our earthly parents is normal. But many of us have had little or no relationship with our earthly fathers and mothers. That lack leaves a hole inside us. A hole we need to fill. That search often prompts us to look for love . . . security . . . happiness in the wrong places.

Men who had no father figure as a child have questions about who they are as men. They tend to become just like their absent father . . . and hate themselves for it. Poor gender identity creates vulnerability for other difficulties, even homosexuality. Women who grew up without a father sometimes avoid men altogether or develop distorted perceptions and inappropriate expectations of men.

In the case of an absent mother, children often grow up without nurturing and do not learn to be nurturing parents themselves. Men may have difficulty relating to women.

Where are you looking for love and security? Whom do you expect to satisfy your needs? How are you trying to fill that emptiness inside you?

There is only One you can always trust. In the above scripture, the psalmist says he can lie down and sleep in peace because He knows God is protecting Him. He knows God is trustworthy.

Are you looking in the wrong places for hope and peace and acceptance? Look up and reach out to your heavenly Father. He is waiting for you . . . with open arms.

Father, a hole was left in me because of my absent parent. I’ve tried to fill that hole in many ways but now I realize I’ve looked in all the wrong places. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for being my heavenly Father. In Jesus’ name . . .

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These thoughts were drawn from …

 Restoring Families: Overcoming Abusive Relationships through Christ by Janet M. Lerner, D.S.W.

Healing: Jesus Knocks and Waits

SOURCE:  John Eldredge

Invite Him In

There is a famous passage of Scripture which many people have heard in the context of an invitation to know Christ as Savior. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in…” (Rev 3:20).

He does not force himself upon us. He knocks, and waits for us to ask him in.

There is an initial step, the first step of this which we call salvation. We hear Christ knocking and we open our hearts to him as Savior. It is the first turning.

But the principle of this “knocking and waiting for permission to come in” remains true well into our Christian life.

You see, we all pretty much handle our brokenness in the same way – we mishandle it. It hurts too much to go there. So we shut the door to that room in our heart and we throw away the key – much like Lord Craven locks the Secret Garden upon the death of his wife, and buries the key.

But that does not bring healing. Not at all.

It might bring relief – for awhile. But never healing. Usually it orphans the little girl in that room, leaves her to fend for herself.

The best thing we can do is to let Jesus come in, open the door and invite him in to find us in those hurting places.

It might come as a surprise that Christ asks our permission to come in and heal, but he is kind, and the door is shut from the inside, and healing never comes against our will. In order to experience his healing we must also give him permission to come in to the places we have so long shut to anyone. Will you let me heal you?

He knocks through our loneliness.

He knocks through our sorrows.

He knocks through events that feel too close to what happened to us when we were young – a betrayal, a rejection, a word is spoken, a relationship is lost.

He knocks through many things, waiting for us to give him permission to enter in.

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Taken from:  (Captivating , 99-100)

Do You Want To Be Healed

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors [AACC]

38 years in a bed. Next to a pool. Sounds relaxing doesn’t it?

But as we read on, the story says the man was alone and horribly crippled. Probably twisted feet, pencil thin legs and atrophied muscles barely covered by a thin blanket. Why? Because this was the pool of Bethesda near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem. There was something miraculous about this pool. Periodically the water stirred, and the first one into it was instantly healed.

Suddenly a commotion just inside the gate caused everyone to turn and look.

A Man, followed by a large crowd, walked through one of five alcoves. With humble determination, He moved to the crippled man’s side. Whispers fill the air. “Is it Him?” some ask. Every ear strains to hear what He might say as He kneels tenderly next to the man. And then, with a quiet strong voice full of power and grace, He asked, “Do you want to be healed?”

The broken man feebly hangs his head and utters an interesting reply, “Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.” His answer only goes to affirm the depths of his hopelessness. Not “yes” or even “no”. Just discouragement and despair…

Even more interesting is the edict He gives in response. “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off. (John 5:1-9 MSG)

Jesus asked him — Do you want to be healed?

Each of us, at some point in our lives, have heard Him ask us the same question. Whether it’s physically… emotionally… relationally… or spiritually. Too often, we answer with the same timidity he did. Our pain is too deep. The hurt has been lodged in our heart for way too long. The doctors have tried everything. Hopelessness fills our souls…

When you really think about it, healing starts with a choice. And it is always for His glory.

Meditate on these words. Treasure them up and ponder them in your heart:

“But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5 ESV)

“O LORD, my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.” (Psalm 30:2 ESV)

“Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise.” (Jeremiah 17:14 ESV)

“And many followed Him. And He healed them all.” (Matthew 12:15 ESV)

“He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24 ESV)

“Do you want to be healed?”   The next time He asks you that heartfelt question, reflect on these verses before you answer.

And yes, He is always waiting and willing to turn our lives around.

Divine Conversation: A Present-Oriented Healing Prayer Model

SOURCE:  Excerpted from a dissertation by Bill Bellican*

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me. . . . My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me (John 10:14, 27).

 He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught (Isaiah 50:4).

 I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.  I pour out my complaint to him; before him I tell my trouble (Psalm 142: 1-2).

 Prayer is not monologue, but dialogue. God’s voice in response to mine is its most essential part – Andrew Murray

There is divine conversation between our Shepherd—The Lord Jesus Christ—and us who follow him.  He passionately loves us and invites us to talk to him and to listen to him.  Since the Lord is Truth (John 14:6), what we listen for and to is truth. This truth sets us free (John 8:32, 36).  The truth dispels lies and overcomes strongholds that would constrain us (2 Cor. 10:3-5).  This truth makes it possible for us to walk in light instead of continuing to walk in darkness (John 8:12; 1John 1:5).  This truth allows us to have more of the mindset of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 12:2).  This truth destroys the work of the devil (1 John 3:8).  It is readily intuitive that individuals in a loving and intimate relationship with each other carry on truthful conversation for the edification and enjoyment of the other.

Divine Conversation is a spiritual tool—a present oriented healing prayer model—that fosters communication between the Lord and us for an intentional reason.  That reason involves positioning ourselves before the Lord to attune to his truth to overcome destructive strongholds of lie-based thinking.  This prayer based spiritual tool of communication with the Lord is within the tradition of healing prayer.

I find that established Spirit-led healing prayer models typically seek the deeper source of an individual’s present distress by addressing the inception of emotional woundedness or trauma that generates false beliefs that remain operative in the present.  These models position the individual to receive God’s healing truth as he brings his healing perspective to this hurtful and painful source.  Among leading deep level healing prayer models today, in my opinion, two are most notably and visibly used—Formational Prayer developed by Terry Wardle (Wardle 2001) and Theophostic Prayer developed by Ed Smith (Smith 2007).

The present oriented healing prayer model, Divine Conversation involves a basic process.  This process is “at once entirely simple and richly complex” when one thinks about how the Holy Spirit sanctifies the mind and imagination in a supernatural interaction with the living God (O’Donoghue 1986, 192).  Nonetheless, the process is simple in its application.  It is not unlike the process of salvation.  While the overall understanding of what is involved in salvation—a holy and righteous God choosing to die in the place of sinful people in order that a personal, intimate, and eternal relationship might be restored with him through faith in him—is also deep and profound, it does involve a process. However, this process is simple enough in its application that even a child might embrace it (Matt. 18:3).  This process of salvation involves some basic steps:

* understanding God’s love

* understanding our sinful and needy condition

* understanding God’s righteous, just, and redeeming response

* understanding our faithful response

In addition to these basic steps, other actions are also included to help give additional clarity and application to Scripture (Bright 2007, 1-16).

The process of Divine Conversation is much the same.  When indicated by the presence of negative emotional upheaval, the steps of Divine Conversation intentionally can be put into action.  Just as in the case of salvation, the Lord responds to a genuine invitation or expression of our will (Rev. 3:20).  The Divine Conversation process allows you to ask, seek, and knock for the truth as an exercise of the will (Luke 11:9-10).

Divine Conversation involves four primary components:

1. Emotional Upheaval

2. Core Steps

3. Prompted Steps

4. Experienced Truth

Like the process of salvation, the Divine Conversation process is simple and fluid.  The triune God’s power and plan encompasses the entire process of Divine Conversation.  The Father and the Son desire for us to be holy and formed into the likeness of the Son.  The Holy Spirit directs and empowers the various steps to make this plan possible.  The next sections look at each of the Divine Conversation process components in more detail.

Emotional Upheaval

Lie-based thinking and negative emotional upheaval are correlated.  The negative emotional upheaval serves as an indicator that something is going on within that needs attention.  Emotional upheaval serves “as God-given ‘dummy lights.’. . .[these emotions] are a God-given means for discerning inner motivation and thinking” (Kellemen 2005, 396).  This type of emotional upheaval is characterized by such things as an unsettled spirit, a lack of emotional peace, angst, anger, anxiety, and depression. Both Wardle and Smith have written a great deal about the connection between past wounding life events, associated lies, emotional pain/upheaval, and current life events (Smith 2007, 15-46; Wardle 2001, 127-144).  Our past constantly shapes and affects our present. We only have the moment to live in the present.  It then slips into our past. Our mind associates what it is currently experiencing with previously stored data whether that past data is based upon truthful or erroneous interpretation.  When a past event is based upon truth, there is no problem.  For example, each of us has learned somewhere originally in our past that a green light means go, and a red light means stop.  In the present, when we come upon a traffic light changing from red to green, there typically is no problem.  There is peace, and no emotional pain is present.  No lie-based thinking is involved.  No past wounding life event was experienced when originally learning the meaning of green and red.  The experiences associated with this original learning event were based on truth—green means go and red means stop.

However, too often, present life events tap into past experienced emotional wounds and troublesome life events that have never been resolved.  When that occurs, we ultimately experience the emotional pain or upheaval that is associated with the lies we presently believe based on our interpretation of the past event.  Left unattended, we may turn to any number of behavioral narcotics (both socially acceptable and unacceptable) in the present to quell the emotional pain we feel (Moon 1997, 39-43).  Scripture calls attention to the dual purposes of Satan and God as captured in Genesis 50:20—the same event involves two vastly different motivations.  Typically, Satan seeks to capitalize on our past woundedness to intensify and exaggerate the lies.  He desires that the emotional upheaval will turn our attention onto self and short-term fixes apart from depending upon God.  He wishes our destruction and harm.  Conversely, God uses the reality of this present emotional upheaval to get our attention focused on him and his pathway of truth and healing.  He is only interested in our good as he accomplishes his will concerning us.

Smith does clarify that some painful past experiences actually may carry truth-based emotional pain.  For example, I may experience present grief or sadness when an event triggers a memory about the reality of growing up without both parents present.  This emotional pain is real and normal.  It is based on truth—both parents were not available to me.  However, if that emotional pain and upheaval also ties to a belief that something is wrong with me because I did not have both parents in my life, a lie is present and operative.  Although some present negative emotional upheaval can be based upon past truth, “it is more common that the emotional pain . . . is rooted in what was falsely interpreted about the event as opposed to the truth in the event” (Smith 2007. 168).

Divine Conversation becomes one additional way to deal with the negative emotional upheaval and lie-based thinking in the present moment in place of turning to any other ineffective and harmful coping mechanism.  More extensive and deeper healing work may be needed to address the root or core issues fueling the lie-based thinking and emotional upheaval, but the lie-based thinking can be abated in the present moment.

Divine Conversation:  The Core Steps

We must consider the reality that we are in a personal relationship with a supernatural and triune God who greatly loves us and desires a communicative relationship with us.  He purposes to engage us in a unique relationship that is designed to mature us spiritually and conform us to the likeness of Christ.  One of the divine weapons or tools that God uses to accomplish this is Divine Conversation.  As we look more specifically at Divine Conversation, we must remain mindful that steps and technique are never to displace the relational connection with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

What follows are the core steps for Divine Conversation (i.e., to define, to own, to move, to demolish the lie, and then desire and experience the truth).  It is desirable to have quiet, focused, and intentional time regularly to practice Divine Conversation.  However, spontaneously engaging in Divine Conversation is also feasible.  This type of prayer is to be used in the present moment of need.  As with any new skill, even a spiritual skill, practice is required.  Continued practice makes us more open, aware, receptive, and sensitive to the personal working and presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Continue to practice Divine Conversation and the various spiritual exercises so that you are likely to initiate use of Divine Conversation at any time.  Use it immediately in the midst of any circumstance.  It is a form of prayer, and we are invited always to be in prayer (Rom. 1:9-10; Eph. 6:18; 1Thess. 5:17; 2 Tim. 1:3).  Just like Nehemiah, there are times where intensive prayer and communion before the Lord are necessary (Neh. 1:4).  Then, there are times when spontaneous communication with the Lord in the present moment is needed (Neh. 2:4).

Included with each step is a brief description and suggested dialog with the Lord.  The dialog is just an example.  You must convey your heart through your own words—simply and honestly.  For any words in brackets [ ], insert your specific words, feelings, and thoughts.

Core Step 1.   Define the Lie.  The initial step toward solving a problem is to define what the problem is.  In the case of lie-based thinking, the first step is to define the actual lie that is intruding upon the present.  For the most part, lies become rooted in our minds from several sources usually during our younger, formative years.  First, someone who intends to hurt us can speak lies into our lives.  In addition, we can experience traumatic episodes in our lives perpetrated by others, or we can experience trauma as the result of natural disaster or other calamity.  Second, those around us can unintentionally cause hurt and damage because of their skill-based, emotional, and relational deficiencies and/or mistakes in judgment.  Third, we can mistakenly come to the wrong conclusion about an event in our life and focus on a false interpretation.  Regardless of the situation, our mind works to make sense of an event, and we come to some interpretation of it.  As Kellemen notes, “We must make sense of our life experiences. . . . we are meaning seekers” (Kellemen 2005, 174).  Finally, we are subject to our own sinfulness and faulty natural disposition that touches every aspect of our existence.  “We are all bent souls. . . . Sinfulness infects both our thinking and our affections, blinding us to truth and causing our hearts to stray,” writes McMinn in Why Sin Matters (McMinn 2004, 37).  Ultimately, we fail to think and do that which we should, and we end up thinking and doing that which we should not (Rom. 7:15-24).

When our interpretation is not based on truth or is flawed, the seeds of lie-based thinking are planted, surrounded by emotional pain.  On a repeated basis as time passes, certain present life events serve as triggers as the brain associates the present situation with past information or memories that are stored.  When what is stored and accessed is based on lies, painful memories, and emotional pain, these intrude into the present resulting in emotional upheaval and dysfunctional coping measures.

The Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17), delights in uncovering anything, including lie-based thinking, that hinders our ability to live and walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 25).  As fallen as they are, God can sanctify our reason and imagination to use them for his good purpose (Foster 1998, 25-26).  Thus, we must look to the Holy Spirit and seek his help in determining the lie,

“Holy Spirit, sanctify my mind as I am feeling [anxious and overwhelmed] in this moment.  What feels true to me?  What am I believing right now that is not based on your truth?  I want you to bring any lie I believe to my attention.”

Wait on the Holy Spirit as you sense, feel, and listen for him to bring to you the lie(s) you believe.  Allow the Holy Spirit to do this in his way and timing.  Keep alert and attuned to the Holy Spirit to do this. The lie will typically take the form of oppressive, intrusive, negative, hopeless, and despairing thoughts.  Many times, the lie will include self-identity statements (i.e., “I” statements) such as:  “I am no good.”  “I can’t do anything right.”  “I’m pitiful.”  “I will never get over this.”

At other times, the lie may be aimed at God.  These types of lies could include things such as:  “I can’t trust you.”  “You don’t love me.”  “You will abandon me.”  These are lies which you might know are not true about God, but they feel true in the present moment.

Whatever form the lie takes, always listen and sense for what seems to feel true.  It does not have to make logical sense.  You might even cognitively argue that you know better.  However, you are allowing the Holy Spirit to have you experience what feels true in the present moment.  In this case, this is the lie that is affecting you.

Allow the Holy Spirit to enable you to discern the difference between what actually could be true versus what feels true but is not the truth.  For example, a person asked to pray in front of a large group for the very first time may feel anxious or nervous about doing so.  This person may even think, “I might stumble over my words,” or “I am not ready to do this, yet.”  These are normal and true feelings and thoughts for a person in this situation.  Still, this is different from this same person thinking and feeling, “I will make a fool of myself if I do this,” or “I will stumble over my words and prove that I am an idiot.”  The latter are lies that hold us captive which the enemy capitalizes on to inhibit our spiritual walk and development into the likeness of Christ.  In his book, The Lies We Tell Ourselves, Chris Thurman does a wonderful job defining various categories and aspects of lies we believe and how to distinguish lies from truthful thoughts (Thurman 1999, 3-99).

Core Step 2.  Own the lie.  By owning the lie, we must acknowledge that the lie revealed by the Holy Spirit is real, and it is destructive in our lives.  We must embrace how this lie feels terribly true, and it is operative in the present moment of our lives.  We must agree with the Holy Spirit, not only about what the lie is, but also about the extent it has an evil hold on us.  We must see how the lie connects to our dysfunctional thinking and behaviors.  We must allow ourselves to grieve over the presence of the lie in our lives and for the space that we give it within ourselves to thrive.  We proclaim to the Holy Spirit,

“Holy Spirit, yes, it does feel true that [I am worthless and will never be of value to you or anyone else.] This lie has held me back and kept me down for so long.  I grieve and sorrow over how I continue to give in to this lie and let it control me and dictate how I live.  Cleanse me as I have focused more on this lie than I have focused on you.” 

Core Step 3.  Move the lie.  Moving the lie involves willingly, humbly, but decidedly taking the lie to the presence of Christ.  As McGee says, “We turn from our self-willed approach to life and reestablish a face-to-face relationship with Jesus” (McGee 1995, 191).  We turn the control of our lives and this lie over to Jesus.  We realize that he is the only one who desires to and can handle our hurts and fears.  Only he can tear down and effectively destroy the strongholds of lies in our lives.  Only Jesus can bring freedom for us to live freely in spite of outward circumstances with an inward peace based upon our moment-by-moment relationship with him (Isa. 26:3-4).  We must remember and take action on the fact that we cannot handle the vast array of lies that surround us and intrude into the present moment of life.  We have no power or wisdom in and of ourselves.  We must look to Jesus to fight against our strongholds and the lies within (2 Chron. 20: 12, 15).  We can confidently enter his presence with freedom to find mercy, grace, healing, and truth (Eph. 3:12; Heb. 4:16; James 1:5).  Apart from him, we are powerless to do anything about the lies in our lives (John 15:5).  To that end, we choose to remove the lie from just our presence and take it to the presence of Jesus,

“Lord Jesus, by faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit, I bring to you this lie that feels so true.  What feels true is that [I am worthless and will never be of value to you or anyone else.]  It has held me captive too long.  It destroys me.  I believe that apart from you, I can do nothing about this lie.  Only you can destroy this lie.”

To be mindful of the presence of Jesus, allow yourself to feel his surrounding nearness.  Center your thoughts upon him realizing that there is not a moment of your life that he is not present and involved (Ps. 139; Isa. 52:12).  You might also use the Safe Place exercise as a way intentionally to be in the presence of Jesus as you bring to him the lies that hinder you.

Core Step 4.  Demolish the lie.   God is truth and totally truthful in all ways (John 14:17; Heb. 6:18; 1 John 1:5).  Satan is the originator, embodiment, and perpetrator of lies (John 8:44). Satan uses lies in our lives to harm us in any way possible (John 10:10).  These strongholds and lies “are ways of thinking and evaluating that are false, arrogant, and destructively disobedient. . . . [They] are beliefs that are untrue about oneself, others, or circumstances” (Murphy 2003, 376-377).

The plan of God includes destroying the works and lies of the devil (1 John 3:8).  God desires to give us what he knows is good and best for us—his presence which is his truth (Matt. 7:7-11).  God requires that we hate any form of evil (Rom. 12:9), flee any form of demonic presence (1 Cor. 10:14, 21), and let nothing master or hold sway over us that is not of God (1 Cor. 6:12).  Since we were bought at such a great price (John 3:16; 1 Cor. 6:20), God is vested in demolishing the strongholds that are counter to him and his love and plan for us (2 Cor. 10:3-5).  Seek his help in eradicating the present lie that you have brought to his presence,

“Lord Jesus, please now demolish this lie that [I am worthless and of no value to you or anyone].  Tear it down.  End how this lie holds me captive.”

Core Step 5.  Desire the truth.  God’s desire for us is more than just bringing us truth to counter lies we believe.  While he does want us to have his truth, his greater goal is for us to desire him more (Matt. 6:33; 22:37) and to relate to him more intimately.  He wants us to want him more than what he will bring to us or do for us.  God has placed choices before humankind from the beginning of time through the present day (Gen. 2:16; 3:6; Josh. 24:15; John 3:16-18; Rom. 1:21-25).  He considers the motives of the heart about what an individual really wants to do (Prov. 16:2; Heb. 4:12)—whether or not we genuinely want to abandon the lies believed to embrace his truth or just feel better.  Jesus even asked the blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46; Luke 18:41) what he wanted him to do.  Obviously, Jesus knew the man was blind.  However, Jesus had Bartimaeus state what he desired.  Jesus gave him more than just his sight as Bartimaeus also entered into a personal relationship with Christ.  Do we really want more of his presence in our lives?  Do we desire a full and deep application of his truth to do more than just help us in the moment?  As we truly delight in him and want more of his presence, he will give us this desire (Ps. 37:4).  Express your desire for the fullness of the truth of Christ to be experienced by you,

“Lord Jesus, I do want to hear or sense your truth in place of this lie that [I am worthless and of no value to you or anyone].  What is your perspective?  What do you say about this?  Let me not hear any other voice but yours or receive anything other than your truth.  Make it possible for me to experience you and your truth and the freedom you promise.  I am willing to receive whatever you bring to me.”   

Divine Conversation:  The Prompted Steps

The prompted steps are key elements about which to be mindful and willing to initiate as the Holy Spirit prompts you.  While attuning to the Lord and waiting for his truth to counter lie-based thinking addressed through the core steps, the Holy Spirit may encourage implementation of one or more of these prompted steps.  The reasons for these prompted steps are two-fold:  (1) The Holy Spirit knows that there is some impediment to your receiving truth; (2) He wants further to solidify his relationship with us.  Although the core steps are essential to the Divine Conversation process, any or all of the prompted steps are taken only as the Holy Spirit moves one to implement the prompted step(s).

Prompted Step 1.  Reaffirm position in Christ.   It is critical for us to know and internalize who the Lord says we are from his perspective.  We tend to spin around what we have internalized as true (Prov. 23:7).  As Neil Anderson says, “The battle is for the mind, which is the control center of all that we think and do” (Anderson 1993, 282).  Since Satan does not want us to be free because we might continue to be transformed into the likeness of Christ, he desires that we forget who we are in Christ.  Satan wants us to continue to internalize who we were apart from God.  Quite the opposite, the Holy Spirit wants us to revel in the fact that we are children of God and planned to be like Christ (1 John 3: 1-2).  As the Holy Spirit leads, remind yourself and experience the truth about who God says you are by reaffirming truthful identity statements that the Holy Spirit brings to mind,

“Holy Spirit, help me remember and experience the truths that [I am yours.  Jesus is my King, Savior, Lord, Master, Beloved, Brother, Friend, Shepherd.  I am God’s forever. God loves me more than I can understand.  God chose me to be in a forever relationship with the Father, Son, and Spirit.  I am forgiven and accepted in every way by you.  Allow me to receive your truth in place of this lie.”]

Prompted Step 2.  Resist the devil.   Scripture makes it clear that Jesus defeated all the powers of evil at the Cross (Col. 2:15).  Additionally, in James 4:7-8, we are reminded that as we willingly and consciously submit to God’s authority, we can take a stand against this defeated foe—the devil.  The end goal of doing so is greater communion with God.  Anderson reminds us that although Satan is a defeated foe and his power is limited, “he still has the ability to deceive ‘the whole world’ (Rev. 12:9)” (Anderson 2000, 161).  However, we counter Satan’s deceptive attempts and practices with the internalized and experienced truth and authority of Christ.

Because of our faith in Christ, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Eph.  2:6, NIV).  Because of Christ’s heavenly position of authority, we also have this same position of authority.  This allows us to take a stand, resist, and wage warfare against Satan and his demons (Foster 1992, 239).

One key way we are able to stand firm and resist the devil is by spiritually attiring ourselves with the full armor of God (Eph.  6:10-18).  As we understand the significance of this spiritual resource, we can assert our will against being deceived and bullied by the enemy.

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit calls us to resist the devil, we do so by taking our rightful authority in Christ,

“Lord Jesus, in your Name, I resist Satan and any demonic influence upon me.  I recognize only you as my Lord and Master.  I wear your full armor that I might stand firm against the devil’s lies.  I rebuke the lie that [I am worthless and have no value to you or anyone else].  I also ask that you—the Lord who is for me and who has chosen me—rebuke this lie and any demonic influence behind it.  Lord, what truth do you have for me in place of this lie?”

Prompted Step 3.  Proclaim desire for obedience.  According to Rick Warren, “You were created to become like Christ.  From the very beginning, God’s plan has been to make you like his Son, Jesus” (Warren 2002, 171).  The problem is that lies we believe hinder our obedience and, thereby, our progress to “be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24, NIV).  The good news is that as we seek to be obedient and in-step with the Holy Spirit, he releases his power to transform us into his image and to accomplish his purposes.  As Warren continues to emphasize, “God waits for you to act first. . . . [by] doing the right thing in spite of your fears and feelings.  This is how you cooperate with the Holy Spirit” (Warren 2002, 175).  As you seek his truth about the lie you brought to the Lord’s presence, acknowledge your desire to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in ways of obedience,

“Holy Spirit, enable me to desire obedience to you in all ways.  Train me in obedience.  Motivate me to obedience.  Open my eyes to what obedience looks like.  Bring to me the truths that I need only from you.”

Prompted Step 4.  Praise God.  Scripture commands us to offer praise and give thanks to God.  For example, we are told to “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:17, NIV).  Additionally, the psalmist explains that God is good and what he does is good even when he allows affliction.  He goes on to say that it was good that he was afflicted given that God in faithfulness brought forth the affliction (Ps. 119: 67-75).  McGee offers, “praise is the highest form of spiritual warfare” (McGee 1995, 194).

As you wait upon the Lord to bring his truth to you in place of the lie, praise him for whatever way he directs you to praise him.  Allow the Holy Spirit to freely carry your praises heavenward,

“Lord Jesus, help me to praise you.  Enable me to believe and experience how you are using my circumstances, the lies affecting me, and even Satan’s attempts to destroy me to work out my salvation and character to become more complete in you.  I praise you for your goodness in spite of what my problems and hurts are.  I trust you will only do what is right and good for me.  For all of this, I praise you for your wisdom and sovereignty over me.  Help me to be open to your truth.”

Prompted Step 5.  Remedy Sin.  To remedy sin involves engaging one or more of several components that the Holy Spirit might bring to our attention:  confession and repentance, releasing anger – bitterness – resentment, and receiving cleansing.

Confession and repentance involve more than just acknowledging sin or a stronghold and deciding to turn away from it.  Confession means that we allow the Holy Spirit to show us the reality of personal destructiveness caused by the sin or stronghold including the depth of evil it injects into our lives.  Repentance calls us to move away from a self-willed or rebellious approach to life and to move toward a humble, relational encounter with Christ (McGee 1995, 189-194).

By releasing anger, bitterness, and resentment, we become willing to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us (Matt. 18:15; Col. 3:13; Eph. 4:32).  First, we move toward forgiveness, not because the offender deserves it, but because Christ deserves our obedience given that he sacrificed all to pay for our sins.  He did this for us when we did not deserve it and were, in fact, still his enemy (Rom. 5:6-10).  Second, when we hold onto unforgiveness, we impede our own healing, our fellowship with the Lord, and our ability to receive his truth (Ps. 66:18; Matt. 6:12-15; 18:21-35).

When releasing and forgiving others who have hurt us, Seamands has provided a wise and prudent way to go about this process as outlined in this summary (Seamands 2003, 130-147):

*Facing the facts.  We must be genuinely and ruthlessly honest about what we experienced.

*Feeling the hurt.  More than just being honest about the facts, we must allow ourselves to feel and connect with the pain we have and do experience.

*Confronting our hate.  We must have the courage to confront our hatred for the offender given what we experienced.

*Bearing the pain.  Forgiveness is costly.  When we choose to forgive, we also choose to bear the pain of the injustice we have experienced.

*Releasing those who have wronged us.  While not ignoring the demand of justice, we choose to release our offenders and turn them over to God.  Faithfully, we trust God to exact justice in his way and timing (Rom12:17-21).

*Assuming responsibility for ourselves.  We cease being a victim or needing to blame someone else.  We recognize that our identity is not defined by what happened to us.  A choice is made that holding on to the  pain and resentment caused by another is not to be a source of meeting our needs.

*Longing for reconciliation.  The goal of forgiveness is the restoration of broken relationships.  Just forgiving to get beyond the pain and get on with life does not go far enough.  It is very true that the nature and extent of reconciliation with an offender depends on a number of significant factors.  At the same time, as we are willing to trust the Holy Spirit to oversee this process and outcome, we find ourselves in the presence of the Cross of Christ.

After we have confessed and repented about a sin or stronghold and/or released others from our debt, it is critical that we are willing to receive the cleansing of Christ in our own lives.  His death on the Cross made provision for us to be cleansed from all aspects of every sin regardless of the source and to continue to experience this cleansing on an ongoing basis (Heb. 10:22-23; 1 John 1:9).  At times, we may feel that we have failed too many times, our failures are overly egregious, or we have been stuck in a sinful, shameful position for too extensive of a time.  The lie-based belief that either we are too bad to receive cleansing or that God will not provide further cleansing is another attempt of the devil to constrain our freedom in the Holy Spirit and hinder our relationship with Christ (2 Cor. 3:17).

As the Holy Spirit leads, express your heart to remedy any sin or stronghold, and/or for the release of troublesome emotions,

“Holy Spirit, you have shown me that I do hold [anger] toward [specific person].  Honestly, I have been [hurt] by [specific person].  However, I desire to be obedient to you.  I choose to forgive [specific person] for the damage done to me.  I do this not because [he/she] deserves this, but because Jesus deserves my obedience given how he has forgiven me.  Make it possible for me to forgive [specific person].  Take away the [anger and hurt].  Replace this with the thoughts and feelings you would give to me.  Forgive me for holding on to what happened for too long.  Allow me to experience your cleansing and release from this.”

Prompted Step 6.  Receive the Holy Spirit’s filling.  According to Ephesians 5:18, being filled with the Holy Spirit is a natural part of the believer’s life.  However, it is important to make a clear distinction.  Being indwelled by the Holy Spirit and filled by the Holy Spirit are two distinct aspects.  When a person by faith accepts Christ as personal Savior, a spiritual birth or conversion immediately takes place where the Holy Spirit forever indwells and seals the individual as proof of the redemption that has taken place (John 3:1-8; Eph. 1:13-14, 4:30).  However, being filled with the Holy Spirit as noted in Ephesians 5:18 means being empowered, released, guided, and controlled by the Holy Spirit.  This is not a one-time event like being indwelled by the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion.  Rather, this is an act of our will where we seek the continual, moment-by-moment presence and power of the Holy Spirit.  As noted by Siang-Yang Tan, “When we are open to the Spirit—continually filled and seeking to be filled—we are less likely to quench or grieve the Spirit in our daily living” (Tan and Gregg 1997, 20).  When the Holy Spirit prompts or reminds us to be filled, we exercise our will inviting him to overtake us and undertake whatever he desires in our lives in the present moment,

“Holy Spirit, I seek your total and complete filling in this moment.  Take control of everything about me.  I willingly invite you to be over my entire life, and I submit to you.  Make my will and desire to be exactly what your will and desire is.” 

 Divine Conversation:  Experienced Truth

“God is not simply to be learned about in life,” according to Wardle, “[h]e is to be experienced.  He waits in every moment to be encountered by those who seek him” (Wardle 2007, 110).

We are in a deeply intimate and personal relationship with a God who is to be known and who is to be experienced.  Our problem experiencing God has several facets:  (a) We have primarily a surface understanding about Christ and do not have sufficient knowledge about him, his work, and his Word.  We have treated him like a very distant cousin who we know of but do not really know well at all and with whom we do not spend any significant time; (b) At the other extreme, we know about God in great detail and have made it a disciplined practice to study about him and his Word.  At the same time, we have ignored, not understood sufficiently, or simply downplayed the reality of the experiential aspect of our relationship with him.  In other words, we know a lot about God without really knowing God (Benner 2003, 27).  Kraft reminds us that “John 8:32 refers to experiential knowledge, not mere theoretical knowledge, as that which undergirds the truth that sets us free” (Kraft 2002, 76); (c) Some are more left brain oriented and are not as oriented to the right brain functions allowing the spiritual senses to be open to imaginative and experiential encounters with God.

God works in the totality of our lives—past, present, and future.  He wants to bring us his truth to deal with the more past-oriented, deeply seated wounds and resultant lies of past troublesome events through deeper level healing processes.  At the same time, he wants to bring us his truth in the present moment of need to counter the lie-based thinking that invades our present.  In both cases, it is the relational experience of God and his truth that bring to our lives correct meaning, thinking, feelings, and actions.

As you apply the Core Steps of Divine Conversation and are mindful how the Holy Spirit leads using the Prompted Steps, you now are open to experiencing the truth in the way that the Holy Spirit knows best to bring it to you.  God will apply his unique truth tailored to the individual.  As Smith indicates, “God’s Spirit may convey truth through thoughts and words, visual imagery, or a sense of His presence” (Smith 2007, 159).  Additionally, God may apply his truth through:  (a) his Word as we read and meditate upon it; (b) timely and wise counsel of mature Christian believers; (c) the use of providential circumstances; (d) our sanctified common sense and reason; (e) applications of nature and creation such as a majestic sunset or the worry free existence of a squirrel gathering food (Tan and Gregg 1997, 57-60).

While waiting for God’s truth, we must be vigilant in the process and careful not to desire the outcome of the process over the One we are in relationship with.  We must not put our desire and focus more on what God might say or bring than on God himself.  With this in mind, we must guard against:  (a) putting God on our timetable to bring us his truth.  He will bring it in his timing; (b) limiting how God brings us his truth.  We must be open, willing, and sensitive to his choice of how he communicates truth to us; (c) putting words in God’s mouth.  We must discern the difference between our voice/other voices and the Voice of God; (d) seeking the spectacular.  As indicated in 1 Kings 19:12, many times God communicates in the manner of a “gentle whisper;” (e) ignoring basic good sense.  God will not convey anything that is contrary to his nature or Word (Johnson 1996, 92-95).

Having reviewed the core steps and prompted steps, I want to make a final observation.  There is no reason to feel guilty or perplexed if it seems that you are encountering the same or similar lie on frequent occasions requiring repeated truth from the Lord.  First, various characters in Scripture (Moses, the Israelites, Joshua) received reoccurring truths from God (e.g., “Be strong; Do not be afraid; Do not be discouraged”), perhaps, to counter reoccurring lies they were believing.  The enemy knows what particular lies in his arsenal work best against us, and he will trigger us through life events to bombard us with them. More important, the Giver of Truth will overcome these lies with his truth on each occasion (James 1:5).

Second, keep in mind that as you focus on healing prayer in the present moment, you are not attending to the lie at its source, as would be the case in deeper level healing prayer.  Simply allow the Holy Spirit to identify whatever lies are present and bring to you the experience of truth as he directs.  As you continue to hear the Lord’s persistent truth, it will tear away at the lie stronghold weakening its ability to stand against truth.  In God’s timing and way, the stronghold will be demolished.  Scripture indicates the need for us to position ourselves as persistently dependent on God for his mercy and truthful intervention (Ps. 123:2; Luke 11:5-13).

Finally, you might consider entering a season of deeper level healing prayer to address a reoccurring lie at its source.  In this case, Divine Conversation becomes complementary to deeper level healing prayer process.

APPENDIX

 DIVINE CONVERSATION: PRESENT-ORIENTED HEALING PRAYER MODEL

 

Bill-Bellican-chart

Divine Conversation Present-Oriented Healing Prayer Model

                                                                                                  

 

CORE STEPS

 Understand Life Events – Various life events trigger associated negative past experiences and/or are capitalized upon by Satan as a venue to breed an unsettled spirit within us.

 Recognize Emotional Upheaval – A negative emotional indicator that something is going on within me that needs attention.

Attend To Lie-Based Thinking – Inner statements/beliefs/attitudes that are intrusive but feel uncomfortably true.

Define The Lie – Ask the Holy Spirit to define specifically what feels true.

Own The Lie – Once defined, embrace the lie-based thoughts that feel true owning them as though they were true.

Move The Lie – Bring the lie-based thoughts into the presence of Christ recognizing your powerlessness to deal with them.

Demolish The Lie – Seek and depend upon the Lord to demolish the lie-based thoughts and enable you to take them captive.

Desire The Truth – As an act of the will, seek and expect the reality, application, and experience of the Lord’s truth counter to the present lie-based thoughts.

Experience The Truth – In the present moment, sense, listen for, be aware of the Lord conveying and applying His truth in the ways He chooses to do so.

Peace/Freedom – The opposite of emotional upheaval enabling you to experience freedom and peace in the present moment as truth is experienced.

 PROMPTED STEPS

 Should the Holy Spirit prompt you:

Reaffirm position in Christ – I must know who Jesus says I am to Him and who He is to me.  The devil does not want me to know this. (2 Cor. 5:17; 1 John 3:1-2)

Resist the devil – The devil is defeated, and I can resist him because I belong to Christ. (Eph. 6:10-12; Col. 2:15; James 4:7-8)

Proclaim desire for obedience – I must cooperate with the Holy Spirit to allow God to produce his character in me.  The devil does not want me to change.  (Ps. 119: 33-37, 44-48; Eph. 4:24)

Praise God – I can reflect God’s goodness by being thankful regardless of circumstances.  The devil wants me discouraged and mistrustful of God.   (Ps. 119:68; 1 Thess. 5:16-18)

Remedy sin – I must receive the abundant cleansing from my sin continuously offered by Christ. The devil continuously accuses me to promote a guilty conscience.  (Heb. 10:22-23; 1 John 1:9; Rev. 12:10)

Receive the Holy Spirit’s filling – I can live an empowered new life controlled and guided by the Holy Spirit.  The devil wants me to live apart from God’s power.  (Gal. 5:16; Eph. 5:18)

Examples of Lie-Based Thinking

Lies about God – He will not take care of me.  I cannot trust him.  He will never answer me. He could not possibly love me.  He is angry with me.  He is disappointed in me. He will not help me so I have to figure it out myself.  He cannot/will not forgive me because I have done too much.  He is not enough. God owes me. God is not fair.

Lies about others – No one will ever love me.  Everyone will hurt me.  All reject me.  No one sees any value in me.  Others do not like me.  No one cares anything about me.  People do not want to be around me.  Everyone is out to get me.

Lies about myself – I will never amount to anything.  I always fail.  I am worthless.  I can never do anything right.  I am hopeless.  I cannot change.  I cannot take it anymore.  I will always be miserable.  I will make a fool of myself.  My life is wasted.  I am stupid.  It is always my fault.  There is something wrong with me.  I am doomed.  I cannot stop.

Lies about circumstances – This will go on forever.  Nothing will ever change. This situation is impossible. There is no way out of this situation.  This problem cannot be solved.  My situation is hopeless.  There is no end to this problem.

Lies that seem positiveIt will not hurt me to do this.  I need to look at this/do this.  Doing this will make me feel better.  God understands if I do/think this.  If I do this, no one will know.  I will do this only this time.

NOTES: 

Anderson, Neil.  1993.  Living free in Christ.  Ventura, CA:  Regal Books.

________.  2000.  Victory over the darkness.  Ventura, CA:  Regal Books.

Benner, David G.  2003.  Surrender to love.  Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity

Bright, Bill.  2007.  Would you like to know God personally?  Peachtree City, GA: Campus Crusade for Christ.

Foster, Richard J.  1992.  Prayer: Finding the heart’s true home. New York:  HarperCollins Publisher.

Kellemen, Robert W.  2005.  Soul physicians:  A theology of soul care and spiritual direction.  Taneytown, MD:  RPM Books.

Johnson, Jan.  1996.  Enjoying the presence of God.  Colorado Springs: NavPress.

Kraft, Charles.  2002.  Confronting powerless Christianity.  Grand Rapids:  Chosen Books.

McGee, Robert.  1995.  The search for freedom.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Servant

McMinn, Mark R.  2004.  Why sin matters.  Wheaton, IL:  Tyndale House

Moon, Gary.  1997.  Homesick for Eden.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Servant Publications.

Murphy, Ed.  2003.  The handbook for spiritual warfare.  Nashville:  Thomas

O’Donoghue, N. D.  1986.  The Mystical Imagination.  In Religious imagination, ed. James P. Mackey, 186-205.  Edinburgh UK: Edinburgh University

Seamands, Stephen.  2003.  Wounds that heal.  Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity

Smith, Edward M.  2007.  Theophostic prayer ministry:  Basic seminar manual 2007. Campbellsville, KY:  New Creation Publishing.

Tan, Siang-Yang and Douglas H. Gregg.  1997.  Disciplines of the Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids:  Zondervan Publishing House.

Thurman, Chris.  1999.  The lies we tell ourselves.  Nashville:  Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Wardle, Terry.  2001.  Healing care, healing prayer.  Orange, CA:  New Leaf

________.  2007.  Strong winds and crashing waves.  Abilene, TX:  Leafwood

Warren, Rick.  2002.  The purpose-driven life.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan.

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*Author:  Bellican, W. M. (2010).  Divine conversation: Attuning to truth in the sacrament of the present moment.©  (Doctoral Dissertation).  Retrieved from Theological Research Exchange Network. (028-0324; 773236003)  http://www.tren.com/search.cfm

Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission

SOURCE:  Rick Warren/American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)

“Your illness is not your identity,” Pastor Rick Warren shared this week. “Your chemistry is not your character. It’s not a sin to be sick.”

Returning to the pulpit for the first time since his son Matthew’s tragic suicide in April, Warren broke away from his notes to talk frankly about his grief and the challenge of living with his son’s mental illness.

According to USA Today, “Matthew Warren, after a lifetime of struggle with depression, shot and killed himself in what Warren at the time called ‘a momentary wave of despair.’ ”

“I was in shock for at least a month after Matthew took his life,” Warren said. In a world where many Christians often feel the pressure to “put on a happy face,” Pastor Warren’s honesty is refreshing.

“For 27 years I prayed every day of my life for God to heal my son’s mental illness,” Warren said. “It was the number one prayer of my life…And it didn’t make sense.”

As Christian counselors, we must remember the daily challenges facing family members of an individual who struggles with depression, addiction, an eating disorder, or other mental health concerns.

“How proud I was of Amy and Josh, who for 27 years loved their younger brother,” Warren said. “They talked him off the ledge time after time. They are really my heroes.”

As churches and communities we need to rally around and provide support, care and a listening ear to those who live with the daily reality of mental illness, reminding them, as Warren said, that their illness is not their identity.

“It’s not a sin to take meds. It’s not a sin to get help. You don’t need to be ashamed.” This message needs to reverberate through churches all across our nation, where misunderstandings about mental illness and false theology that “faith is enough” often results in unnecessary suffering.

In Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s MissionAmy Simpson points out, “Mental illness is the sort of thing we don’t like to talk about. Too often, we reduce people with mental illness to caricatures and ghosts, and simply pretend they don’t exist.”

“They do exist, however. Statistics suggest that one in every four people suffers from some kind of mental illness—from depression to schizophrenia and beyond.

Many of these people, and the family and friends who love them, are sitting in churches week after week, suffering in stigmatized silence.”

Simpson reminds us that people with mental illness are our neighbors—our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are called to love them and care for them.

What can churches do to help advocate on behalf of mental illness? Simpson offers several starting points:

  • Get help if you’re struggling. Break the silence by telling your story.
  • Get educated about the issues—read, learn and seek to truly understand.
  • Talk about mental illness and address common stigmas—in the pulpit, small groups, etc.
  • Build genuine relationships—don’t just help as a “project.”
  • Ask families living with mental illness how you can help with practical needs.
  • Accept people unconditionally—look past their diagnosis and see the real person God created and loves.
  • Start support groups for families living with mental illness.
  • Collaborate with local mental health professionals.

“There are people with mental illnesses in every church, whether this is known or not,” one church leader writes. “Jesus came to love and serve everyone. He feared no one. All churches can learn to serve the Lord better in caring for His people.”

In the midst of unspeakable grief, Pastor Warren shared, “God wants to take your greatest sorrow and turn it into your life’s greatest message.”

How does God want to use you to help those struggling with mental illness and their families?

Christian counseling is far more than a career…it’s a calling to minister and offer hope to those who need it most.

Do you want to be healed?

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)

[John 5:1-9]

38 years in a bed.

Next to a pool.

Sounds relaxing doesn’t it?

But as we read on, the story says the man was alone and horribly crippled. Probably twisted feet, pencil thin legs and atrophied muscles barely covered by a thin blanket. Why? Because this was the pool of Bethesda near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem. There was something miraculous about this pool. Periodically the water stirred, and the first one into it was instantly healed.

Suddenly a commotion just inside the gate caused everyone to turn and look. A Man, followed by a large crowd, walked through one of five alcoves. With humble determination, He moved to the crippled man’s side. Whispers fill the air. “Is it Him?” some ask.

Every ear strains to hear what He might say as He kneels tenderly next to the man. And then, with a quiet strong voice full of power and grace, He asked, “Do you want to be healed?”

The broken man feebly hangs his head and utters an interesting reply, “Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.” His answer only goes to affirm the depths of his hopelessness. Not “yes” or even “no”. Just discouragement and despair…

Even more interesting is the edict He gives in response. “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off. (John 5:1-9 MSG)

Jesus asked him — Do you want to be healed?

Each of us, at some point in our lives, have heard Him ask us the same question. Whether it’s physically… emotionally… relationally… or spiritually.

Too often, we answer with the same timidity he did. Our pain is too deep. The hurt has been lodged in our heart for way too long. The doctors have tried everything. Hopelessness fills our souls…

When you really think about it, healing starts with a choice. And it is always for His glory.

Meditate on these words. Treasure them up and ponder them in your heart:

“But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5 ESV)

“O LORD, my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.” (Psalm 30:2 ESV)

“Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise.” (Jeremiah 17:14 ESV)

“And many followed Him. And He healed them all.” (Matthew 12:15 ESV)

“He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24 ESV)

“Do you want to be healed?”

The next time He asks you that heartfelt question, reflect on these verses before you answer.

And yes, He is always waiting and willing to turn our lives around.

Brokenhearted–But God Wants To Heal It

SOURCE:  John Eldredge

We All Are the Brokenhearted

When Isaiah promised that the Messiah will come to heal the brokenhearted, he was not speaking poetically.

The Bible does use metaphor, as when Jesus says, “I am the gate” (John 10:9). Of course, he is not an actual gate like the kind you slammed yesterday; he has no hinges on his body, no knob you turn. He is using metaphor.

But when Isaiah talks about the brokenhearted, God is not using metaphor. The Hebrew isleb shabar (leb for “heart,” shabar for “broken”). Isaiah uses the word shabar to describe a bush whose “twigs are dry, they are broken off ” (27:11); to describe the idols of Babylon lying “shattered on the ground” (21:9), as a statue shatters into a thousand pieces when you knock it off the table; or to describe a broken bone (38:13). God is speaking literally here. He says, “Your heart is now in many pieces. I want to heal it.”

The heart can be broken-literally.

Just like a branch or a statue or a bone. Can you name any precious thing that can’t?

Certainly, we’ve seen that the mind can be broken-or what are all those mental institutions for? Most of the wandering, muttering “homeless” people pushing a shopping cart along have a broken mind.

The will can be broken too. Have you seen photos of concentration camp prisoners? Their eyes are cast down; something in them is defeated. They will do whatever they are told.

But somehow we have overlooked the fact that this treasure called the heart can also be broken, has been broken, and now lies in pieces down under the surface. When it comes to “habits” we cannot quit or patterns we cannot stop, anger that flies out of nowhere, fears we cannot overcome, or weaknesses we hate to admit-much of what troubles us comes out of the broken places in our hearts crying out for relief.

Jesus speaks as though we are all the brokenhearted. We would do well to trust his perspective on this.

(Waking the Dead , 131-34)

God’s Prescription: Pain Relief & Healing

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by  Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

Life Abundant: Pain Relief and Healing

All our dysfunctional behaviors, our poor decisions, our sin can be boiled down to one issue.

We don’t like pain, we are addicted to comfort, and instead of following [God’s] instructions for pain relief, we reach out to the store shelves of the world and pull out world’s salve that falls way short of the advertisements and empty promises.

The Holy Scripture tells us that Christ’s mission in coming to earth was to forgive and to save … to provide “eternal salvation” for us. He came to deliver oh so much more than just our redemption. He brought us eternal freedom, fulfillment, peace and joy. Healing in every area of our being is now available for us.

You see, often times, we have a hard time believing the healing He brings is actually available for us here on earth. I know that not all our physical and psychological illnesses will be made whole now. But even though we struggle, His peace and comfort can melt away pain and renew our mind in powerful, relieving ways. Our biggest illness is spiritual, so connecting with Him and maximally absorbing Him will have a powerful impact on our other ills. (Our science actually shows this to be true.)

The prophet Isaiah tells us the Messiah will come to bind up and heal, to release and set free (while we are here on earth). Jesus Himself referenced this passage as captured in Luke 4:17. Think about this: Christ came not only to forgive you, but to restore and release you. This is the central passage in the entire Bible about Jesus. He fulfilled every prophesy, testifying to the truth and then dying for us, bringing ultimate healing and shalom to our lives and His relationship with us.

Today, take Jesus Christ at his word … as the healer of all the broken pieces within you … Who unites them into one whole and healed heart. Think what life would be like if you believed that promise. Think about what keeps you from believing His promise? What do you believe in more strongly than His promise and the incredible body of evidence He has compiled? Why do you believe that something else?

What you will believe — Jesus’ promises and teachings, or your own theories — is your decision.  So choose well. Your life depends on it.

Dear Father God, I pray and ask You to release me from all bondage and captivity, as You promised to do. Open my eyes to the cheap imitators that promise healing, but only lead to more pain and distance from You. Take all my broken pieces and give me an all-receiving heart … make me whole. I know, Father, that You will not do this at a distance, so I desire to be as close to You as I possibly can be … show me the way to You, my Lord, and Savior. I pray in the name of the One You sent to forgive me, save me, and heal me, Jesus Christ–– AMEN!

The Truth
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.  Isaiah 61:1

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  John 10:10

Being OK With Being Honest With God!

SOURCE: Taken from an article at  Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

Posing? For Who?

So many activities and experiences from childhood reinforce this scary and isolating concept of conditional acceptance. I know now that my parents loved me through thick and thin. But many times when I was a kid, that wasn’t so clear to me. I would interpret, actually misinterpret, their words, facial expressions, manipulative comments, tone of voice, body language, consequences, or sharp critique of my activities as rejection, rejection based on my performance.

You see, most Earthly systems, excluding our present government, are mainly works-based systems. Perform well, and get lots of acknowledgment and rewards. Mess up, and get criticism and lose a lot. Even in a grace based institution like a Christian church, we have the same traps – memorize a verse … get a gold star. Do well in youth group … get asked to join the worship team. Make a mistake … people gossip. If a Pastor’s wife is shy … she is viewed as cold.

Unfortunately, this conditional acceptance is a habit or pattern of thinking and viewing the world that flooded into my spiritual world as well. For so long, I had closed off parts of my life from God. I didn’t want Him to reject me, so I tried to hide my broken areas. I believed I could only bring a “cleaned-up” version of myself to Him.

How ignorant … how futile. Wounds and sins that we try to shut away from the light of His love will only fester, get worse, and then infect other areas of our life. Like a computer virus, we usually don’t realize what happens until a lot of damage occurs. Secret sins that we try to “hide” from our Lord can split off and develop lives of their own … controlling us without our knowledge while creating and building debilitating fear in our relationships and actions.

Today, open yourself completely to God. Open yourself to His transforming and healing presence. Let his brilliant love-light search out and destroy your hidden fears. Tell Him directly about one fear you struggled with today. The sooner you let Him into all those areas, the sooner His instruction and healing can soothe your hurts, and transform your heart and mind for lasting fulfillment and joy. Posing with God or finally getting honest with Him and yourself is your decision, so choose well.

Prayer
Dear Father, You know me inside and out. I no longer want to hide things from You. I am tired of hiding my wounds from You, then having to bear them all myself. Thank You for taking my yoke, and bearing my pains. Posing is getting so tiring. I just want to be myself and see what You can do with me. I am ready for real change from the inside out. I pray that Your love-light will seep deeply into the inner recesses of my being. Help me to understand Your perfect love … and to believe that perfect love drives out all fear. I pray this in the unconditional name of Jesus– AMEN!

The Truth
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. 

Psalm 139:23-24

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 

1 John 4:18

 

Focus on the Family: Homosexuality/Same-Sex Attraction Issues

SOURCE:   Focus on the Family Issue Analysts

Counseling for Unwanted Same-Sex Attractions

In recent years, there has been a marked debate in the mental health professions about both the desirability and feasibility of attempts to alter a person’s homosexual orientation. Historically, such “change” was widely considered both desirable and possible.

More recently, however, an increasing number of mental health practitioners now believe that a homosexual orientation is an intrinsic part of a person’s identity that can not – and should not – be changed. It is in this largely politically driven context – in contrast to a more objectively scientific or even scriptural context – that many clinicians further hold that any and all therapy practices that have as their goal sexual orientation change are harmful and should be declared professionally unethical.

Copyright © 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

 Cause for Concern (Same-Sex Counseling)

Many who experience homosexual temptations and impulses are responding to the Gospel message that unwanted same-sex attractions can be overcome.

Bowing to the forces of political correctness, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in 1998 issued a position statement “rebuking” practices that are broadly referred to as “reparative therapy” for homosexuality. In 2000, the APA affirmed this opposition to psychiatric treatment of reparative or conversion therapy. 1Holding the view that homosexuality is a normal variant of human sexuality, their concern was with groups who were motivated by the view that homosexuality is morally wrong and harmful to society. While the 1998 statement said that there are risks to such therapies, no evidence was offered to support this claim.

What is evident, however, is that the American Psychiatric Association was simply agreeing with pro-homosexual activists and with the American Psychological Association, which had passed a similar, but broader, resolution in 1997. Here, the American Psychological Association claimed that treatment for unwanted homosexual behavior is harmful, unethical and unsuccessful. 2Of note, this resolution also supports the client’s right to self-determination and autonomy – calling for psychologists to “respect the rights of others to hold values, attitudes and opinions that differ from their own.” Clearly, this would include religious beliefs upholding the biblical view that God’s created intent for sexual expression is limited to a monogamous, covenantal marriage relationship between one man and one woman.

Significantly, both groups ignored the fact that many individuals who experience same-sex attractions are dissatisfied with the situation and seek professional help in aligning their thoughts and behaviors with their convictions and faith. In short, many who experience homosexual temptations and impulses are responding to the Gospel message that unwanted same-sex attractions can be overcome. And as they seek pastoral and professional psychological counseling, they find that change and transformation are, indeed, possible.

Copyright © 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.


1Therapies Focused on Attempts to Change Sexual Orientation (Reparative or Conversion Therapies) POSITION STATEMENT, May 2000,http://www.psych.org/Departments/EDU/Library/APAOfficialDocumentsandRelated/PositionStatements/200001a.aspx, August 20, 2008.

2Resolution on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, APA online, 14 August 1997, http://www.apa.org/pi/sexual.html , August 20, 2008.

Our Position (Same-Sex Counseling)

Focus on the Family is dedicated to defending the honor, dignity and value of the two sexes as created in God’s image.
  • Focus on the Family is dedicated to defending the honor, dignity and value of the two sexes as created in God’s image – intentionally male and female – each bringing unique and complementary qualities to sexuality and relationships.
  • Sexuality is a glorious gift from God – meant to be offered back to Him either in marriage for procreation, union and mutual delight or in celibacy for undivided devotion to Christ. 1
  • Homosexual behavior violates God’s intentional design for gender and sexuality.
  • While we do not believe an individual typically “chooses” his or her same sex-attractions, we do believe that those who struggle with unwanted same-sex sexual temptation can choose to steward their impulses in a way that aligns with their faith convictions.
  • We affirm the Scriptural teaching that homosexuals can and do change their sexual identity (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
  • We support counseling and the availability of professional therapy options for unwanted homosexual attractions and behavior.
  • We do not endorse or promote any one particular religious, psychiatric or psychological approach as the “one and only” way to go about changing same-sex attractions and behaviors.
  • Just as there are many paths that may lead a person to experience same-sex attractions, there are likewise multiple ways out. Thus, individuals and their helping professionals are called to discern and pursue the most appropriate approach that best enables them to steward their sexuality in alignment with their chosen values.

Copyright © 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.


1Focus on the Family Mission and Vision, The Pillars,http://www.family.org/sharedassets/correspondence/pdfs/GeneralInformation/FOF_Mission_Statement_and_Pillars.pdf, August 20, 2008

 Talking Points (Same-Sex Counseling)

 Both the American Psychiatric Association and American Psychological Association call for practitioners to respect the religious and spiritual values of their clients and assert that clients have the right to autonomy and self determination. 1At the same time, however, both groups view the traditional biblical understanding on homosexuality with disdain and actively promote a sexual ethic opposing biblical orthodoxy. The American Psychiatric Association goes so far as to take sides in the theological debate by referencing pro-gay, biblically unorthodox, revisionist writers in its document. 2

  • The resolution by the American Psychological Association also calls into question parental rights to raise children according to their own standards – including those who encourage their children to follow a traditional biblical sexual ethic.
  • Research confirms that permanent change away from a homosexual orientation is, indeed, possible.
  • In 2007, Drs. Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse published a study confirming that long-term change away from homosexual orientation can occur through religious mediation. At the end of three years, 67 percent of men and women who had undergone group discussions, individual counseling, journaling, Scripture reading and prayer either reported a change towards heterosexual orientation or a rejection of gay identity with establishment of successful chastity, or were continuing work towards one of those two goals based on the progress they had already experienced.3
  • In 2003, pro-gay Dr. Robert Spitzer published his study of 200 men and women who had reported some change “from homosexual to heterosexual orientation that lasted at least five years.” He found that “almost all of the participants reported substantial changes in the core aspects (of) sexual orientation, not merely overt behavior.” 4
  • A major study, released in 1997, of almost 860 individuals and more than 200 psychologists and therapists who treated clients with same-sex attractions, reported that a large number had moved away from homosexual attractions, identity and behavior. 5
  • There is no valid or replicable research demonstrating the inevitability of homosexual behavior based on biological or genetic circumstances. 6
  • Not only does research confirm that permanent change is possible, but numerous testimonies declare the truth of God’s healing and redemptive power – both with and without the assistance of those in the psychiatric and psychological professions. The Apostle Paul noted the reality of change for some members of the early church in Corinth, and men and women continue to find freedom from homosexuality today. 7
  • While the process of changing one’s sexual identity is often a long and difficult journey, it is nevertheless possible for highly motivated individuals.
  • In contrast to the claims of both APAs, competent religiously mediated counseling for unwanted same-sex attraction was found not to be harmful on average, and hence the change attempt is not inherently harmful. 8
  • In America, individuals are blessed with the freedom to choose how they define themselves and to steward their sexuality as they see fit. If people want to change their sexual identity, it is their right to choose.
  • The American Psychiatric Association’s “rebuke” in 1998 of “reparative therapy” and the resolution adopted by the American Psychological Association are not – nor have they ever been – official ethical bans on therapeutic approaches to bring behavior, attractions, and identity in line with a person’s values. Individuals continue to have a right to choose counseling and therapy to help align their thoughts and behavior with their convictions and faith.

Copyright © 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.


1Religious/Spiritual Commitments and Psychiatric Practice, RESOURCE DOCUMENT, December 2006,http://www.psych.org/Departments/EDU/Library/APAOfficialDocumentsandRelated/ResourceDocuments/200604.aspx, August 20, 2008; Resolution on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, APA online, and http://www.apa.org/topics/sexuality/index.aspx, section heading ‘What about therapy intended to change sexual orientation from gay to straight?” Here, the APA says “Mental health professional organizations call on their members to respect a person’s (client’s) right to self-determination;…”

2Therapies Focused on Attempts to Change Sexual Orientation (Reparative or Conversion Therapies)
POSITION STATEMENT.

3Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse, Ex Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation, InterVarsity Press, 2007.

4Robert L. Spitzer, “Can some gay men and lesbians change their sexual orientation? 200 participants reporting a change from homosexual to heterosexual orientation,” Archives of Sexual Behavior, Oct. 2003, vol. 32, no. 5, pp. 403-417. See alsohttp://www.narth.com/docs/evidencefound.html.

5New Study Confirms Homosexuality Can Be Overcome, Findings Indicate that Those Who Want to Change Sexual Orientation Can Be Successful, May 17, 1997,http://www.narth.com/docs/study.html , August 20, 2008.

6Caleb H. Price, “Are People Really “Born Gay”? See http://www.citizenlink.com/2010/06/are-people-really-born-gay/

7I Corinthians 6:9-11; Personal Pageshttp://www.stonewallrevisited.com/, August 20, 2008; Real Stories, http://exodusinternational.org/resources/real-stories/, August 20, 2008.

8Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse, Ex Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation, InterVarsity Press, 2007.

You Matter To God

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

We’ve all read the story of the woman who had an issue of blood for 12 years.

You know her; she touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, hoping to be healed. Let’s look more closely at her story to understand how deeper healing takes place. (Read Mark 5 and Luke 8 for the story.)

Here is a woman who was an outcast. She was labeled an unclean woman, socially unacceptable, undesirable, and dirty. Jewish law mandated that if someone touched an unclean person, they would need to go through the Jewish purification ritual in order to regain their rights to enter the temple. She was an untouchable woman and people kept their distance. She had spent all her resources to find help, but she only got worse. This woman heard Jesus coming and thought to herself, “if only I can touch his cloak, I will be healed.” And to her surprise, she was!

Immediately she tried to escape the crowd unnoticed. Remember, she touched Jesus and, according to Jewish law, that made him unclean. How embarrassed and scared she must have felt when Jesus turned and said, “Who touched me?” If she identified herself then, everyone would know what she had done.

Let’s step back for a moment and look at the larger story here. Jesus was heading to Jairus’ house. Jairus was a Jewish leader, a ruler of the synagogue. Yet he approached Jesus for help because his young daughter lay dying. Jairus was a daddy before he was a religious leader, and so he fell at Jesus’ feet begging him to heal his daughter.

It was on the way to Jairus’ home with the crowd pressing in that Jesus stopped and asked who touched him? I wonder in that moment what Jairus thought and felt? Did he feel impatient, anxious for Jesus to hurry up and get to his house? His daddy’s heart wanted his daughter healed. I wonder if he also felt a bit angry at this woman for distracting Jesus and taking valuable time away from a more pressing need. I suspect he might have even felt angry at Jesus for not prioritizing his daughter’s life threatening illness over this woman’s chronic bleeding problem.

Jairus was a person of influence and importance. He was a leader: he spoke and people listened. He risked everything to beg for Jesus’ help and now Jesus was wasting time asking who touched him while his daughter lay dying.

Do you ever feel like Jairus? God isn’t moving fast enough for your emergency? Angry and impatient that other people’s prayers are getting answered while you are still waiting?

Jairus was a daddy and wanted to see his daughter healed. But, dear readers, one of the lessons of this story is that this unnamed woman had a daddy too, and her daddy cared about her needs and knew she had no one who begged for her healing. Jesus stopped and called her forth because he wanted her to know something very important. Listen to his words. He said, “Daughter, go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” He wanted her to know that her daddy (the Heavenly Father) saw her suffering and told Jesus to help her too.

Jesus wanted her to know that she mattered to God.

Although her culture rejected her, God did not. Although she was judged to be unclean, Jesus declared her whole. He wanted her to know that she was a person of value and worth. Even in a pressured moment, Jesus took the time to have a conversation with a nameless woman who felt unclean, unloved and unimportant. He wanted her to know who she was. She was a daughter of a daddy who cared.

How about you? Perhaps your mother abused you. Maybe your husband rejects you, or people don’t understand you. You feel like an unclean women, like damaged goods. If only you could touch his cloak, you’d be well. I have good news for you. Daughter, go in peace and be freed from your suffering. God wants to help you. He wants you to know that you matter. You are important to him. He sees you and knows you and he is never too busy with more important people to meet your very personal need. You are not nameless, or worthless, or hopeless. You have a daddy, he’s called Abba (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). Believing that is the beginning of your healing.

As for Jairus, Jesus didn’t forget about his concern–although Jarius probably felt that way when he got word that his daughter died. Jesus turned to him and said, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” What did it take for Jairus to walk those next miles home, heavy with sorrow, still clinging to faith? Perhaps that’s where you are right now. You feel hopeless or angry or disappointed. But Jairus trusted what Jesus said to him and, because he did, he saw a miracle. Jesus took Jairus’ precious daughter’s hand and said, “Honey, wake up.”

What is Jesus saying to you right now, even in the midst of sorrow, heartache, broken dreams and shattered promises? Can you trust what he is saying and continue to walk in faith? That is healing.

He says to you right now, “Honey, wake up”.

Hurts, Wounds, Lies: Getting Below The Waterline

SOURCE:   / Conversations Journal

 Getting Below The Waterline: The Role of Inner-Healing Prayer in Spiritual Transformation

In the days following my husband’s death, I desperately sought God’s comfort in the Scriptures. After an eleven-year battle with Multiple Sclerosis and all the humiliation, fear, hardship, and losses that go with it, my faith was on the fragile side. I needed solace, the kind only God could give.  So I went to the Psalms. Isn’t that where God’s children always find consolation?

But I found no consolation there. On the contrary, in fact. One day I was reading Psalm 91, the psalm just about every Christian turns to in times of fear or discouragement:

Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,

nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.[1]

I didn’t want to admit it, but the psalm made me feel angry. My husband had not been saved from the deadly pestilence or the destroying plague. My whole family had experienced plenty of terrors by night, and plenty of arrows by day. Disaster had come near our tent. More than just near, it had invaded our tent, taken my husband’s life, and left my son and me wounded and bereft. God did not feel like a refuge. Actually, reading the psalm made me feel as if God were mocking me.

Hadn’t I loved God enough to deserve His protection? I wondered. Had I failed Him and in the process, nullified His promises? If God had allowed so much pain and suffering to happen to my family and me already, how did I know there wasn’t more or even worse to come? I felt as if I were just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Mind you, I admitted these thoughts to no one, hardly even to myself. I was a leader in full-time ministry, after all. I’d been serious about my walk with God for decades. I invested myself in helping others to grow spiritually. How could I possibly admit such thoughts and feelings? They seemed almost blasphemous to me. I didn’t want to jeopardize the faith of others.

About that time, a man in my church whom I’d only met on a couple of occasions mentioned a healing prayer ministry he was part of. With no knowledge of my spiritual crisis, he offered, “If you ever want to have somebody pray with you and help you listen to God, we have people who do that. Just let me know.”

At that point in my spiritual journey, listening to God was something that was still relatively new to me. For much of my Christian life, I didn’t know how to hear God speak to me personally. Although I had puzzled over Scriptures like John 10 that assured me that Jesus’ sheep hear His voice,[2] my prayers had been mostly one-way monologues. And the impersonality of that seemingly one-way relationship left me feeling lonely and detached from God. But during the hardest years of my husband’s illness, God had mercifully taught me how to listen to His voice. Through experience, He proved to me that I could call to Him and He would answer me,[3] and that I could come to Him with my ears wide open and in listening, I would find life.[4] He helped me to understand that He really does call me friend,[5] and that He enjoys it when I invite Him to have conversation with me, Friend to friend.[6]

I don’t think I would have survived the years of illness, loss, and relentless caregiving if I hadn’t learned to hear my Father’s tender voice. Time and time again I was amazed by His almost unnervingly personal care for me as He patiently responded to my anger and fear, and gently comforted me and fathered me. As my ability to discern His voice grew, so did my relationship with Him. God became more personal and intimate—and thus more indispensable to me—than He had ever been before.

But in spite of having heard God and even dialogued with Him in deeply personal, relational ways, He seemed pretty silent in those dark days after my husband’s death. The warm conversations we’d had previously seemed like ancient history. So when Jack asked me if I would like somebody to listen to God with me, I was open. I wasn’t hearing much from God on my own, but maybe listening with others could help me to re-connect. I had no idea what to expect, but I set up a time to pray with him and a woman from the church’s healing prayer team.

Healing prayer, it turned out, was different from any other kind of prayer I’d ever been involved with. But even though it was a stretch for me, it made complete sense. Using listening prayer as a foundation, it is a way of asking Jesus to do for people now, in our generation, the kind of ministry that Isaiah 61 (and Luke 4) describe Him as doing—binding up broken hearts, freeing captives, releasing prisoners, comforting all who mourn, exchanging despair for praise.

My prayer partners explained that they had no agenda except to ask Jesus to do His healing work. They said they would focus our prayer time on asking God what I needed and how He wanted to meet me. They asked me a few questions, equivalent to a medical doctor asking, “Where does it hurt?” Then they explained to me that they would ask God a question and invite Him to respond to me. He might bring up a memory or impression, perhaps He would stir up a painful emotion. He might bring to mind words that had been spoken to me, or maybe a verse of Scripture. Maybe He would give me a picture. Whatever came to mind I was to report. If we weren’t sure if it was from God or not, or if we didn’t know what it meant, we would simply ask Him to confirm or clarify.

In the process of listening to God in that manner, He did speak. He revealed early memories—long before the ordeal with my husband—of times when I had felt unprotected and vulnerable. He helped me to see that long before adulthood I had come to believe that those who are supposed to protect me, won’t. That if I don’t look out for myself, no one else will. He helped me to see how, subconsciously, I’d transferred these beliefs to Him, too. Without even knowing it, I’d come to believe that God would not protect or help me, that I had to take care of myself. Was it any wonder that when I needed God the most, I couldn’t find Him? I’d built my life around those devastating, isolating lies, so that I had no real expectation that He would rescue me. Sure, I “believed” Psalm 91 intellectually, but in my deepest heart, I doubted.

When those lies were exposed, I was able to confess them and ask God’s forgiveness for doubting His love and care. I was able to see and declare the truth that God is for me and He helps those who call to Him in faith. Over time, I was able to forgive the ones who had failed to keep me safe and had set me up to believe awful lies about God and life.

Healing for me wasn’t one quick prayer session. It involved a series of times similar to what I just described in which God revealed to me the obstacles that were standing in the way of my trusting Him. Over a period of months, as one by one I dealt with them, my confidence in God’s loving care grew so that now I can read Psalm 91 with peace and hope.

Inner-Healing Prayer’s Part in Spiritual Formation

My personal experience with inner-healing prayer, both offering it to others and receiving it, has prompted me to believe that it plays a helpful, if not critical, role in spiritual formation. In my case, I desperately wanted to trust God. I was miserable when I dreaded the future because I couldn’t bring myself to trust in His care for me. My struggle filled me with guilt and shame. I hated feeling suspicious of God while all the while professing my faith in His goodness. So I read books on faith. I memorized Scriptures about His goodness. I confessed (over and over and over) my fear. I gritted my teeth and tried to “just do it.” I learned so much about what it meant to trust God that I suspect I probably could have given a convincing inspirational talk or written a powerful devotional about the faithfulness of God. But no matter how firmly my head was convinced, my heart still struggled.

As others have invited me to pray with them for inner healing, I’ve discovered that I was by no means alone in my spiritual frustration. Many of us have deep-rooted wounds that get in the way of our spiritual transformation. My issues of doubting and distrusting God are far more common than I realized. But there are many others: inferiority, shame, perfectionism, addictions, obsessive and compulsive behavior, anxiety, gender confusion, people-pleasing, body image issues, and more. All of these are serious barriers to our ability to experience God and grow in Jesus’ likeness. And all of them are nearly impossible to address by conventional means of discipleship such as Bible study, Scripture memorization, or petition-based prayer.

Rusty Rustenbach, director of pastoral care and counseling for The Navigators and author of A Guide to Inner-Healing Prayer: Meeting God in the Broken Places, describes how, as a seasoned counselor, missionary, and disciple-maker, not only was he unable to help the people he ministered to get past these obstacles—he could not get past them himself. As a boy, he had not received from authority figures the affirmation he needed—which led to insecurity, people-pleasing, and periodic overreactions to triggering events that continued into adulthood. He wanted to be free from those inner attitudes and weights —but the spiritual disciplines he tried weren’t setting him free. Then one day he read Psalm 18:9: “He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.”[7] Yeah, I’ll bet God delights in me,Rustenbach mused, cynically. No, He puts up with me because He’s stuck with me.”[8]

A friend talked to Rustenbach about listening prayer (in 1997, before much had been taught or written about the inner-healing aspect of listening prayer) and Rustenbach reluctantly agreed to try it. He really didn’t expect anything to happen, but God surprised him. “Rusty, I am for you… for you and not against you. You belong to me I chose you to belong to Me because I love you with an everlasting love. You are Mine!”[9] That intimate encounter with God was deeply healing to Rustenbach; as he relates the story today, fifteen years later, his eyes still fill with tears. And now, listening and inner-healing prayer has become the foundation of his fruitful ministry with The Navigators.

“As our global society increases in complexity, size, and brokenness, growing numbers of people struggle with issues that seem impervious to traditional ministry methods.”[10] Rustenbach says. Spiritual disciplines are useful and necessary, but inadequate to deal with issues that are hidden “below the water line.”[11]

Often a person is not even aware of these below-the-surface wounds. Nevertheless, he or she may feel trapped by unwanted but automatic reactions, unhealthy habits, and negative thought patterns. In persons who have walked with the Lord for a long time these are especially troubling. After all, intellectually, they believe the right things. They have good theology. But there is a head-heart schism. What they believe in their heads does not work itself out in their lives, in spite of counseling , effort, or traditional forms of prayer. These kinds of wounds require a touch from Jesus, a manifestation of God’s grace. We need God to show us where the problem is rooted—and we need Him to bring the healing.

This process does not require a person to probe deeply into his or her past. Such introspection, as many of us have learned the hard way, often isn’t helpful, and can even be harmful. Through difficult experience we understand that “the heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out.”[12] But God is able to lovingly, gently, objectively sort out what we cannot. “I, God, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.”[13]

Assumptions and Principles of Inner-Healing Prayer

There are different models of inner-healing prayer, most of which rely on some variation of these assumptions and principles:

  • A person experienced an emotional wounding, often in childhood (e.g. abandonment by a parent, real or perceived rejection by significant people, sexual, verbal, or physical abuse, loss, deprivation, etc.).
  • Lies about God, self, or the way the world works were believed as a result of that traumatic, painful or disappointing experience (e.g. “If I let people know who I really am, they won’t like me”).
  • Vows may have been made in an attempt to protect the person from future hurt (e.g. “I’ll never trust a man again”).
  • Generational patterns may have been inherited (such as patterns of fear, a poverty mindset, and so on).
  • As we practice listening prayer, the Holy Spirit speaks in our minds or hearts, through pictures, the stirring of emotions, words, symbols, or other creative and very personal means.
  • Usually God takes us back to memories from childhood where the wounding took place. He helps us to see what happened to our souls at that time, exposing lies we came to believe, unbiblical vows we made, faulty strategies for living that we adopted, and perhaps the pronouncements others made over us.
  • We confess these lies, vows, and so on, to Him and ask Him to reveal truth. As we embrace the truth He reveals, our minds are renewed and we are freed from the emotional bondage that hindered our spiritual growth and freedom. We stand with Jesus, Way, Truth, and Life, and declare our independence from the father of lies.
  • Sometimes we see Jesus with us in the memory of the painful event.  He may speak words of truth or offer comfort that usually is deeply moving and penetrating.
  • With His help, (sometimes over time rather than immediately) we forgive the ones who wounded us, both for the actual offense, as well as for the consequences we have experienced as a result of that offense.
  • By replacing lies with truth and forgiving those who hurt us, we close off areas of access to the enemy. He can no longer energize those places for us.
  • We adopt our true identity in Christ rather than the false identities we assumed because of the lies we believed and the wounds we were compensating for.
  • We expect that the Wonderful Counselor actually will meet us and touch us when we invite Him into our wounded places. When we invite Him, He will come, and He will heal.

Recently I had a conversation with a young Christian medical student who is seeking to understand God’s role in healing. He cited research that supports the efficacy of prayer for soul healing. That wasn’t surprising, he told me, since prayer is a form of catharsis, allowing for the release of painful emotions so that healing can occur. I agreed with him that pouring out our hearts to God is indeed cathartic. What kinder, wiser Listener could we ever have than our Abba, Father, who made us and redeemed us and constantly watches over us in love? But there’s more, I told him. Inner-healing prayer is supernatural. God actually does something when we invite Him to heal our hurting hearts. Somehow, He enters into our pain with us and releases us from it with no less power than when He healed 2,000 years ago.

As Richard Foster so aptly puts it, “Don’t you know that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who lives in the eternal now, can enter that old painful memory and heal it so that it will no longer control you?”[14]

Healing Prayer Resources

Inner-healing prayer can be a helpful adjunct to spiritual direction, counseling, discipling, and pastoral care, although depending on where you live, it may be difficult to find a good practitioner. This form of soul-care, as in any other, should be left only to those who are reliably trained, spiritually and emotionally mature and healthy themselves, biblically sound, in accountability relationships with other Christians, and with a proven record of helping others find healing and freedom. If you cannot find someone like that in your community, you may want to consider receiving training yourself. There are several options:

The Pastoral Care Team of The Navigators (Rustenbach’s organization) offers listening and healing prayer seminars several times a year in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and elsewhere, by invitation.

Ministries of Pastoral Care (founded by Leanne Payne, who has since retired) offers training each summer at Wheaton College, in Illinois.

The International Association for Theophostic Ministry (founded by Ed Smith) offers comprehensive training resources for individuals or groups (such as a church prayer team).

Christian Healing Ministries (founded by Francis MacNutt) offers conferences, seminars, a healing prayer school, and internships, along with printed and video resources for basic or in-depth training in healing prayer of all kinds.


[1] Psalm 91:3-10, NIV

[2] John 10:3-4, 8, 16, 27

[3] Jer. 33:3

[4] Is. 55:3

[5] Jn. 15:15

[6] Rev. 3:20, NLT

[7] NASB

[8] Rusty Rustenbach, teaching at the Listening and Healing Prayer Seminar, The Navigators, Colorado Springs, May 18-19, 2009

[9] Rusty Rustenbach, A Guide for Listening & Inner-Healing Prayer, Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2011, p. 22.

[10] Ibed, p. 165

[11] Ibed, p. 103

[12] Jer. 17:9, MSG

[13] Jer. 17:10, MSG

[14] Richard J. Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home. New York: HarperCollins, 1992, p. 205.

Cynthia Hyle Bezek facilitates inner-healing prayer through her local church’s prayer ministry. She is author of Prayer Begins with Relationship, former editor of Pray! magazine, and blogs about prayer at cynthiaprayblog.wordpress.com. She currently serves as editorial director for Community Bible Study.

Hide the Pain, Suffer Longer

SOURCE: Adapted from  Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

Most of us are very selective about the parts of our lives we voluntarily bring into God’s presence.

We hesitate to bring traits that we consider shameful … partly because we actually believe He doesn’t see them, and partly because we are ashamed to even think about them again. Some of us are so used to living with pain, loneliness, guilt, fear, anxiety, and stress that it never occurs to us to ask God for help in dealing with various elements of these problems. We assume help is not available and that the pain is an unavoidable guaranteed sentence from which there is no relief.

You see, it’s as if we believe we can accumulate degree-of-difficulty points (like in diving) for overcoming hardship and pain, commonly called the martyr syndrome or victim mentality. Many times I notice people trying to one up each other by making their own path harder, then even bragging about it. “You think your life was hard, wait till you hear this” kind of mentality.

For many, pain of some kind has been such an integral part of growing up that, in a weird way, it is hard for them to navigate life without the pain, almost waiting for the other shoe to drop, feeling they don’t deserve any luck or good fortune. People like this seem to sabotage success, and even go out of their way to create problems. When  we are preoccupied with our struggles, we can even forget God is with us and will provide help.

God really desires to heal the hurting parts of your life.

However, some of the pain has been with you so long, it becomes part of your identity. Sometimes, we are so addicted to certain painful patterns that we find it difficult to break free from them. Only repeatedly exposing them to God’s healing presence and applying His instructions in the BIBLE will bring you long-term healing and freedom.

Today, turn to your Lord when you are hurting. He will share and reduce your pain.

Remember, the Bible is the book about suffering, especially spiritual suffering. The Bible tells how God loved us so much that He miraculously provided a way for ultimate healing. He also has many promises for the smaller daily sufferings we experience. Turn to your Lord when you are in pain and rejoice in these circumstances as you remember that He is with you. He has joy, peace, and comfort, as well as a message for you. He is communicating to you through your pain.

How you deal with pain is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father God, I am so grateful to You, Lord, grateful that I can come to you no matter what condition I am in … just as I am. Thank You, Father. I am relieved that I don’t have to “clean up my act” before I come to You; You already know the worst about me. When I am hurting, I want to be with someone who understands me without condemning me. When I am happy, I delight in being with someone who loves me enough to celebrate with me. I pray that You help me bring more and more of myself to You. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the One who divides my pain and multiplies my joy, Jesus Christ;  – AMEN!

The Truth
The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. 

Psalm 126:3

 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus 

Romans 8:1

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 

1 Peter 5:6-10

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to set the captives free, and recover sight to the blind, and to set at liberty them that are bruised,  Luke 4:18

To Ignore or Not Ignore the Pain……

SOURCE:  Living Free Ministry

Freeing the Balloon

Surrender your heart to God, turn to him in prayer, and give up your sins—even those you do in secret. Then you won’t be ashamed; you will be confident and fearless. Job 11:13-15 CEV

People build walls to hide their feelings and cover up their problems and wrongdoing. We’ve all done it. We even begin to believe the lies we are telling ourselves and others. Eventually we may be unable to see the truth at all.

Life-controlling problems are usually accompanied by painful feelings of guilt and shame. This kind of pain is an indication that something is wrong. When the pain comes as a result of our sin, we need to humble ourselves, confess our fault, ask forgiveness of God and those we have offended, and right any wrongs we have done. However … sometimes it seems easier just to ignore the pain.

God designed painful feelings to be a warning system. They let us know when we need to pay attention to something in our lives. But too often we bury our feelings and don’t admit, even to ourselves, the problems deep within. These buried feelings may explode to the surface when we least expect them, causing us to do something rash or to hurt someone we care about.

Consider this … 
One [has] said this about hiding problems: “It’s kind of like trying to keep an air balloon under water … It’s hard work. And a person works hard to keep those feelings down … to keep from facing the real issues. But you know that balloon will pop—that’s why you have emotional outbursts … There’s something buried there.”

Is there a balloon in your life that you are trying to hold underwater? Today’s scripture urges us to surrender to God, giving it all to Him … even our secrets.

Prayer
Lord, I’ve worked very hard to keep this secret buried. But I’m worn out. I know I need to surrender it to you. Please forgive me, and help me change. I no longer want to be ashamed. I desire the peace and confidence that you promise. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Living Free by Jimmy Ray Lee, D. Min. and Dan Strickland, M. Div.

Receiving Help That I Might Be Of Help

 SOURCE:  Dr. Tim Clinton/AACC

Real Soul Care

Somewhere outside Atlanta. All alone. Discouraged, and perhaps even a bit depressed. Questioning myself. Confused about the direction my life was taking. Wondering about God’s plan. Even questioning whether or not God cared, or was even listening.

Years ago, that is where I found myself. It seemed as if the wheels were coming off of my life, and I was simply driving aimlessly around. When my phone rang, the caller I.D. displayed “Michael Lyles”. I answered, albeit hesitantly. “Where are you Tim?” he asked. When I told him, he said, “Stay right there… I’m on my way.”

The next few hours felt like fresh water to a man dying of thirst. Mike listened. He prayed. He poured spiritual comfort and grace into my very soul. He affirmed and encouraged me. He believed in God’s work alive in my life. It was as if he came along side of me as a brother, friend and fellow warrior. Still, not everything in life made sense, but now I knew for sure that I wasn’t facing it alone.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (ESV) have been “life” verses for me for a very long time:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

Recently, I came across those verses in The Message

“All praise to the God…of all healing counsel! He comes alongside uswhen we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.”

Often in the New Testament, the writers refer to the “God of all grace”… or the“Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ”.  Amazing Grace.

What’s important to understand is that I received the Grace of God that day in North Atlanta. And it was poured into my life through the life of another. Strong’s Concordance describes grace (charis) with these words… divine influence upon the heart, and it’s reflection in the life. And don’t miss this — God comforts us in ALL our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in ANY affliction…

Let me paraphrase all of this if I might:

When we are going through hard times, God comforts us with grace, and that grace has a divine influence upon our hearts. Often he uses someone else to help bring that grace to us. And He comforts us in ALL of our trials. Then, further down the road, when we meet someone else who is going through ANY hard time, the grace that God poured into our lives is now reflected into their life – so that further down the road, when they meet someone else who is going through ANY hard time… And on and on it goes.

Life is tough. Struggles, trials and hard times will come. When they do, look around you. God is probably bringing someone along side of you to pour grace into your life. Grace to turn your life around — so that one day you can help turn someone else’s life around.

To Forgive or Not To Forgive: My Choice!

 SOURCE:  Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

Forgiveness: The Reason and the Responsibility

We hear the following phrase a lot, but often in the wrong context or delivered from an impure heart:

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free – John 8:32. 

Forgiveness requires that we face the truth: the truth of Christ’s forgiveness; the truth of our own need for forgiveness; the truth that if we are ever to be free we must receive Christ’s forgiveness, and forgive those who have hurt us.

You see, in order to experience true freedom, we must forgive those who have caused us harm or disappointment … even when that means forgiving ourselves. All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. But God treats us much better than we deserve … because of Christ Jesus. When we turn to Him, He freely accepts us and sets us free from our sins.

How can we do less? Forgiven by the Lord, we have the power, the reason, and the responsibility to forgive others. Forgiveness is not a feeling we need to muster up, it is an actual choice we make. When you realize it is a choice, then you must consider, “what are my options?” So let’s take a look.

Door #1: You don’t forgive. You remain aloof and detached, or bitter, resentful, angry, and vengeful. A terrible side effect is that people still have power over you. That’s because you need to extract some payment or amends from them … an apology, their suffering or an experience of pain, a sacrifice, or penance. And they can withhold it as long as they want and play you like a puppet.

Door #2: You do forgive. It becomes easier to let go of the bitterness, revenge, and entitlement. You experience freedom from the past. You have an opportunity to grow something better with them. Or you can totally disconnect from them because now you don’t need anything to make the “transaction” complete. You have relieved them of their debt, so they can’t “withhold” anything from you to string you along. Now you are letting God be their judge. And He is much better at determining their consequences and doling it out to them.

Sometimes it is hard to let go. In fact, when we have been deeply hurt, it may not be possible to forgive … on our own, that is. But it is important to remember that we don’t have to do it alone. Through the power of Christ, God has forgiven us. When we truly and humbly accept that, we have the perspective and power to forgive anyone else for any transgression against us. That’s real freedom! Your decision, so choose well.

Today, examine your heart. Identify relationships where there is uneasiness, anger, bitterness, resentment, revenge, sarcasm, or irritation. You probably have to make a decision about forgiveness. If you are struggling to forgive, ask God to help you. He loves you. He cares and He is able. Look at your other option. It is more painful to withhold forgiveness than it is to forgive.

Prayer

Dear Father God, I’ve kept these feelings of resentment and unforgiveness buried much too long. Help me to face the truth … and then to forgive myself and others. I now realize that forgiveness isn’t about others feeling good. It is for me to feel better and be right with You! Thank you for your mercy and forgiveness. Help me to show the same to others, even those who have hurt me. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the One who paid for my forgiveness, Jesus Christ;  AMEN!

The Truth

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:23-24

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:32

Forgiveness Requires That We Face The Truth

SOURCE:  Stepping Stones/ Lighthouse Network

Facing the Truth

Forgiveness requires that we face the truth:  the truth that it was necessary for Christ to die to pay the price tag for our sins; the truth of our own sinful behavior and desperate need; the truth that if we are ever to be free, we must receive Christ’s forgiveness; the truth that we need to extend the powerful gift of grace to others and forgive those who have hurt us.

In order to experience true freedom in Christ, we must forgive those who have caused us harm or disappointment … even when that means forgiving ourselves.

All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. But when we confess our sin to Him, God treats us much better than we deserve. And because of Christ Jesus, He freely accepts us back and sets us free from the grip of sin. How can we do less? Are we more powerful than God? Do we have a higher standard than God? Are we more upset about sin than God is?

We have both the reason and responsibility to forgive others because we are forgiven by the Lord. Forgiveness is a choice we make. When we forgive, it shows that we understand who we are, who God is, and what He really did for us on the cross.

Sometimes it is hard to let go. In fact, when we have been deeply hurt, it may not be possible to forgive … on our own. But it is important to remember that we don’t have to do it alone. With Him as our model and source of power, and having accepted His forgiveness, we can then forgive others. We can actually enjoy the freedom and blessing God has for us by forgiving them and freeing ourselves from the power they had over us before we extended forgiveness.

Our goal should be to glorify God, not to glorify ourselves. But glorifying ourselves is actually what we do when we prioritize our pride, hurt, bitterness, revenge, spite, and other feelings above God. Shift your focus to His love and power. It will be the best lenses you can wear.

Today, identify a relationship in which you need to reach out and forgive. If you are struggling to forgive that person, ask Jesus to help You. Then look at whether you really understand and have accepted who you are, the sins you have committed, what you did to deserve God’s forgiveness, and whether you realize the unfair pain and sacrifice Jesus endured for you. Hopefully, the gift of forgiveness you received will help empower you to offer the same forgiveness to others. Life is your decision, so choose well.

Prayer

Dear Father God, I’ve kept these feelings of resentment and unforgiveness buried much too long. I know I didn’t deserve Your forgiveness of me. Help me understand why I should offer forgiveness readily to others. Help me to face the truth. Thank You for Your mercy and forgiveness. Help me to show the same to others, even those who have hurt me. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the One to who paid for all my sins, Jesus Christ;  – AMEN!

The Truth

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:23-24

 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:32

Forgiving Your Spouse After Adultery

SOURCE:  Cindy Beall

Four lessons from my journey of regaining trust in my husband.

Editor’s Note: In 2002, Cindy Beall was a happily married wife to Chris, her husband of nine years. Chris had been on staff with a church in Oklahoma City for only six weeks when he made a confession that would change their lives forever: He had been unfaithful with multiple women over the course of two and a half years, and he was pretty sure one of those women was now pregnant with his child. He also admitted an addiction to pornography. 

His complete inability to control his addiction had left Chris utterly broken, humbled, and repentant. Over the course of several weeks and much prayer, Cindy sensed God calling her to stay in her marriage. The following is an excerpt from her book, Healing Your Marriage When Trust Is Broken, which tells the story of how God redeemed their marriage, making it “better than new.”

Every week I receive e-mails from women who ask many questions about getting through infidelity in their marriage.  Of all the questions I am asked, one of the most common is, “How did you learn to trust him again?”

And every time I give the same answer: “I am still learning.”

I would love to be able to come up with the perfect algebraic formula that shows exactly how to restore trust. But that isn’t going to happen—not because I barely squeezed out of algebra with a 71 percent, but because trust and forgiveness don’t exist in the land of numbers. They are born of God’s grace, mercy, and healing.

You don’t have to have endured infidelity in your marriage to lose trust. Trust can be broken in many different ways. I am still on my journey of having my trust restored in my husband, but I have learned a few things that I hope you will find helpful.

1. Trust means taking a risk.

My husband works hard to regain my trust, but I still struggle. I wish I could say otherwise, but I’d be lying.

Isn’t that the way it is with all of us? I’ve come to realize that we are all capable of doing things we never imagined we’d do. So trusting a person is a risk. We must learn to trust people, but we must also realize that people will fail us. It’s part of life. But if we place our utmost trust in our heavenly Father, we will never be let down.

There is a mental battle going on inside me as I strive to trust my husband more every day. I engage in this battle on a regular basis, and it can be exhausting. But the more I do it and believe what God has shown me, the easier it becomes.

I stand on the one thing that is trustworthy and never fails. I stand on the Word of God. Praise Him that His words are sharper than any double-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). There is power in them, and when we claim them, believe in them, stand on them, and trust in them, we will be lifted up. We will find peace.

2. Replace anger with forgiveness.

We’ve all been wounded. I am no stranger to the pain I see in the eyes of so many people. We can try to cover it up and “get over it,” but if we don’t truly forgive, we will be stunted individuals going about our lives and becoming more and more embittered. Forgiveness is essential. It’s also possible.

The Bible doesn’t mince words when it comes to forgiveness. We don’t have to wonder what our heavenly Father thinks about the idea. He’s the author of forgiveness, and we’d do well to follow His commands. Matthew 6:14-15 says, “If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, you Father will not forgive your sins.”

Ouch. That stings a bit, doesn’t it? Especially when you’ve been wounded by someone you’ve loved as unconditionally as possible. It sounds like a cruel joke to expect us to just let it go, doesn’t it?

Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” If you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you know that you have a sinful nature. If we don’t recognize that nature, we won’t recognize our need for a Savior. We also need to understand and remember the true meaning of God’s love. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). If we truly understand God’s forgiveness, can we really withhold our forgiveness from those who have hurt us?

3. Stop nursing your wounds.

It can become second nature to tend to our wounds with such care that we begin to identify only with the wound and not with a life of healing or restoration. When something reminds us of our pain, we nurse the hurt and then just can’t get past it. It’s almost as if we forget that we, too, need a Savior. We’re so busy saying, “Look at my hurt!” that we forget to give it over to God.

Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Sure, I haven’t been unfaithful to my husband physically, but I have committed sins, too. And when we sin, we are not just sinning against one person; we are also sinning against our heavenly Father.

I know how hard this is. I am profoundly aware of how badly my flesh wants to throw my husband’s sin back in his face when he gets mad at me for something small. I know how easily I could remind him of his failures and make sure he knows just how picture-perfect my marital resume is. But reacting like that will never bring about forgiveness.

4. Don’t wait until you feel like forgiving.

One of the harder parts of forgiveness is that we don’t always feel like forgiving. The problem is that feelings are often misleading and erratic. I learned a long time ago that you rarely feel your way into positive actions, but you can act your way into better feelings. You may not really want to wake up at five for that morning run, but you do it anyway. Afterward, you are so glad you made the extra effort because you feel good and have more energy. There is great satisfaction in making a choice to do something that your flesh was yelling at you not to do! You acted your way into a feeling.

How to know you’re healing

The results of forgiveness look different for everyone. Some relationships will be mended in spite of betrayal, and some will end because of it. The key, though, is to make sure you are healing from this wound. You don’t want to get a knot in your stomach every time you think about this person, especially if he or she is your spouse.

Here’s one way you can know you have healed from a wound caused by someone else: You cease to feel resentment against your offender. My mentor says, “You know you’ve healed from the hurt that someone else’s actions have caused when you can look back on the situation and it’s just a fact.”

We all make mistakes. We all have done things we regret. We all need forgiveness. And we all need to extend that same forgiveness to others—not just today, but every day.

It’s time to forgive.

——————————————————————————————–

Taken from: Healing Your Marriage When Trust is Broken. Copyright © 2011 by Cindy Beall.  Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR.  Used by permission.

Cindy Beall is a writer, speaker, and mentor to women. She and her husband, Chris, share openly about their journey of redemption through Chris’s infidelity and pornography addiction.

A Christian Psychology of and Response to Homosexuality

The Counseling Moment Editor’s Note:  The below article taken from a lecture by Dr. Sam Williams is lengthy but well worth the time invested to read.  It presents an excellent, truthful, and graceful Christian perspective of this ongoing topic based on research under-girded by biblical thought.

Source:  Taken from a lecture — Biblical Counseling Coalition by © 2011 Sam R. Williams, Ph.D.

Homosexuality has not been a biblical abstraction in my life. That doesn’t mean I am coming out of the closet here. The skeletons in my closet don’t look quite like that; they are probably worse, and they are not the topic of this lecture, thank God.

What it means is Dale: my best friend in college coming over to announce that he was gay and therefore intended to kill himself on his 23rd birthday–and then me spending the next year talking him out of suicide.

What it means is Roger: my roommate while in grad school, who died of AIDS before medicine learned how to keep people with HIV alive. Our last conversation on the phone a few hours before he died was one-way because he could no longer speak. It was just me sharing the gospel with him, trying to point him to Jesus again, knowing that was the day he would meet the Maker.

Dale and Roger, both dear friends, responded to same-sex attraction (SSA) by “coming out of the closet” and adopting a gay identity, a much less popular step to take in the ’70s than in 2011.

But of course things have changed, to the point that such a step now may earn popularity points.

In a Gallup poll in 2010, for the first time a majority of Americans, 52%, called homosexuality morally acceptable, while only 43% said it is immoral.

For younger evangelicals, homosexuality is not a moral abstraction for them either. For them it brings familiar and friendly faces to mind immediately. For me now, as an elder in my church and a counseling professor in a Baptist seminary, I think of Terry and Karl and Dave (and I could go on) committed Christian men who came for counseling because no matter how much they tried, their sexual compass pointed more to men than women.

These men have had to grapple with the meaning of same-sexual desires.

• Does this mean I am Gay?

• Was I born this way?

• Did God make me this way?

• I surely wouldn’t set my own compass in this direction. If God’s design is for heterosexuality, what happened to me?

• I don’t think I chose this, so can I choose my way out of it? Can my sexual compass be reset, redirected through prayer or some array of spiritual practices or through counseling or therapy?

• If I didn’t choose to point my sexual compass in this direction, is it sinful?

• Do I repent of SSA…or is it merely a temptation and that I need to resist it as one would any temptation?

So that is the topic of this lecture – A Christian Psychology of and Biblical Response to Homosexuality.

How to think about the homosexuality of my friends was one of the first major cultural challenges I faced when I became a believer in my late twenties. The condemnation of homosexuality in the Bible didn’t make sense to me. As a psychologist and an aspiring empiricist, I could see that homosexuality was atypical and in a sense abnormal, but does it really have to be wrong? Maybe it’s just different, like left-handedness, or perhaps it’s some type of disorder some people are unwillingly afflicted with – but this is a form of neurosis that requires treatment, and not a moral or spiritual issue.

Eventually however, regardless of my own attitudes toward homosexuality, it seemed clear, and beyond any hermeneutically sensible doubt that Scripture forbids and condemns both homosexual practice and passions, and does so using hard-nosed terms such as “shameful, unnatural, and dishonorable” in Romans 1, “unrighteous” in 1 Corinthians 6.9 and 1 Timothy 1.9-10, and “detestable” or “an abomination” in Leviticus 18.22 and 20.13.

Surely, homosexuality is a watershed issue with respect to the interpretation, authority, and relevance of Scripture. But that is not the torch I am bearing here. My intent in this lecture is not to provide a biblical theology or ethical analysis of homosexuality. (See Robert Gagnon’s book The Bible and Homosexual Practice, 2001.)

I am going to presume the majority opinion, a conservative biblical hermeneutic and sexual ethic that views every aspect of homosexuality as a product of the fall and of sin–that it’s not the way it’s supposed to be. And, I shall avoid the political squabbles so ever-present in media world.

Even though political issues are not unimportant, I do believe that following Jesus at this point in God’s plan is more rescue mission than culture war.

Someday when He is ready, Jesus will win the culture war, overwhelmingly–after His rescue mission is complete. And that mission is our mission for the time at hand, and also it is the mission of this paper.

I want in particular to note my debt to Mark Yarhouse and Ed Welch, both Christian psychologists whose thinking and writing in this area have in my estimation been seminal.

How will the church understand persons who struggle with SSA, and what should the hope and help that we offer look like?

What should you say to your friend or your son or your daughter if they come to you and say, “I think I’m gay.”? How did their sexual compass get so offset?

Can they change, and if so, what type of change can be expected, even hoped for?

How will you counsel and minister to them?

Effective ministry, according to David Powlison, requires of us a triple exegesis: of Scripture, of people, and of this beautiful and crazy world in which we live.

The movement from Scripture to real lives in this world requires careful and clear-eyed understanding of all three. So, what I have tried to do is listen first to the Bible and then to the social sciences – at least those parts of them that from my perspective deserve a hearing. Let’s start with defining what we are talking about, with a few descriptions and definitions.

Mark Yarhouse helpfully differentiates same sex attraction, homosexual orientation, and a gay identity. (see 1st figure, p. 16)

(1) Same-sex attraction is an intentionally descriptive term describing the direction of a person’s sexual desire. SSA can vary in strength and also in durability or longevity. It can be weak or moderate or strong, and it can be temporary or enduring. The term “SSA” is merely descriptive and says nothing about how a person feels about his or her sexual attraction, or what they intend to do or actually do with their sexual desires, nor does it say anything about their identity – who they are or how they label themselves.

Approximately 6% of men and 4.5% of women report experiencing at least some degree of same sex attraction (Laumann, Gagnon, Michael, and Michaels, 1994).

(2) Same-Sex Orientation (SSO) is the term I prefer to use since the term homosexual often connotes an identity. What it means is that some people experience SSA in such a manner that it is predominant compared to opposite-sex attraction, and such that it is strong and durable and persistent. Like the term, SSA, SSO is a merely descriptive phrase.

Approximately 2% of men and 1% of women report a same-sex or homosexual orientation, wherein their primary and predominant sexual attraction is to the same sex. [1]

It is possible for a person to be sexually attracted to both sexes, to varying degrees, and that person might identify themselves as “bisexual.” It is also possible, although less frequent, for a person’s experience of same-sex attraction to be limited to a specific person, and for them to be otherwise heterosexual.

(3) Gay or lesbian identity: Some persons choose to adopt a homosexual identity, taking as a key feature of their identity their same-sex sexual orientation, and usually along with that accepting same-sex erotic behavior as a morally neutral or morally good sexual alternative.

The percentage of adults who identify as being gay or lesbian is estimated to be 1.7%, approximately 4 million persons. An additional 1.8% of our population was estimated to view themselves as bisexual (Gary Gates, Press release April 7, 2011, Williams Institute).

What is crucial to recognize here is that these three categories are not coterminous. They do not or at least should not be collapsed into one another. While it may be the case that a person experiences SSA or even is completely SSO, a gay or homosexual identity is not an experience and it is not inherent. Identity is a decision based upon one’s perspective on their sexual desires and their acceptability; in other words, the adoption of a gay identity is a value-based choice rather than a given fact of experience or of psychology or biology.

With respect to identities, they don’t happen to us, they come from us: “I” am the central organizer and active agent in forming my identity. Even though most of us are not aware of choosing our identities, they are our construction built out of the raw materials of who we are, our life experiences, especially key relationships, and all of this construed or interpreted in light of some prevailing narrative or worldview or philosophy of life.

So, our identity is a personal construction project composed of many conscious and subconscious choices which accumulate gradually over time. Of particular importance are the attributions that we make about ourselves and that others apply to us, which function like scripts for how we manage our lives. To a significant extent these identity scripts are provided by the various social authorities within our culture: parents, peers, religion, “science,” “psychology.”

Now, with respect to the development of sexual identity, some parts of that are biogenetically hard-wired and other parts are shaped by key relationships within particular cultures with particular values and views about the way things are supposed to be. And of course, at the center of all this is the active, responding, choosing person, made in the image and likeness of God but also fallen biologically and psychologically or spiritually, and embedded in a fallen world.

So, identity is personal and it is contextual; it is innate, but also it is formed in the context of a web of relationships, not unlike the way children develop language – with brains and tongues pre-designed to speak, but this innate capacity to communicate is formed by family, friends, and culture.

Most psychologists recognize that identity is as much a construction as it is an expression of one’s essence, and that personal values, beliefs, and religious commitments are “grist for the mill” producing the identity that one constructs. Among developmental psychologists, there are two camps which emphasize different elements in identity development, essentialists (nature) and social constructivists (nurture).

The modern language of sexual identity, “homosexual, bisexual, gay, lesbian,” is a good example of this mutual interaction between person and culture. Although homosexuality has been practiced for millennia, “gay” as an identity is an historical artifact, belonging only to contemporary western culture: it is a personal and social interpretation and not an incorrigible fact.

“Although homosexual behavior has been practiced in other cultures throughout history, we are the first culture in which people refer to themselves this way. There was never a language for it, and there has never been community support for this kind of identification or labeling. Until recently there was not even a way to say it” (Yarhouse, 2010).[2]

Sorting these matters out on a personal level is a process; a person who experiences SSA is confronted with a unique dilemma: what does this mean about me, that I am attracted to the same sex? People attracted to the same sex go through a process that could be summarized in two stages.

• Identity Crisis: this is a painful knot of emotion – shame, guilt, anxiety, depression – with lots of confusion and many questions. If you’ve never listened to a person in this phase, do so, or at least read about it. This will help you understand the challenge of finding hope when something so fundamental to your person and to your gender is upside down and you can’t just flip a switch and set it right. (see Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill or Andy Comiskey’s various books)

But people don’t stay in crisis mode forever; eventually they come to some type of resolution.

• Identity Attribution: a synthesis and consolidation of same-sex attractions. Eventually, people come to conclusions about themselves and their sexual experiences based on some sort of interpretive paradigm, or script that is available to them in their world, and with respect or disrespect for the moral script that God has placed within every human heart.

These identity attributions occur much earlier these days, around 15 years of age; versus at 20 years in 1970 (Savin-Williams & Cohen, 2004). Another interesting recent phenomenon is that some young persons are choosing to avoid the adoption of any label at all regarding their sexual identity.

In contemporary western culture, there are two prevailing narratives or scripts, ways to respond to and integrate SSO. The first is to adopt a gay or homosexual identity. This is based on a Gay Explanatory Framework (GEF) (Yarhouse & Tan, 2004): the self is defined by sexual desire; sexual attraction defines who I am, categorically, just like an “alcoholic” defines who he is by his desire for alcohol.

This identity formula is very much at home in a culture of expressive individualism, which prizes self-expression above all else (see R. Bellah’s Habits of the Heart, 1996). The GEF relies upon metaphors like “discovery” or “coming out” to describe identity attribution. The GEF reaches beyond personal experience into the academy, developing its own personality and developmental theories which include an ideal or “healthy” socialization process, and which has unfortunately been adopted in the public square and public schools in most of western culture.

Usually the Gay Explanatory Framework is characterized by simplistic explanations of cause, especially biological reductionism – i.e., “Since I am not aware of making a conscious decision to feel this way, I must have been born this way. This is obviously biological.” According to this script, personal fulfillment depends upon sexual self-actualization, the embracing and expression of one’s sexual desires, with some sort of “coming out” ritual whereby the person is initiated into a new lifestyle in which same-sex sexual and romantic relationships are deemed either neutral or good, and even sometimes superior.[3]

While most people struggling with SSA or SSO in our culture believe the Gay Explanatory Framework is the only plausible option, there is another option, one that does seem increasingly strange, even abnormal to modern and post-modern people. The second identity option is to understand SSA or SSO by means of a Christian Explanatory Framework, taking Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Final Restoration as the definitive narrative for explaining same-sexual desires. This framework is honest about the experience of SSA or SSO but views it as unnatural and disordered, inconsistent with God’s will for sexuality.

The key issue, for anybody, and particularly for Christians, is which of our desires and affections we choose to be defined by. A Christian with SSA will, like the rest of us, emphasize their identity in Christ and in the body of Christ, and view same-sexual desires as a product of the Fall, just one of many forms of sexual deviation and temptation that can be overcome by God’s grace. They will grieve over their SSA, and some will repent of it depending upon how they understand its origin and how they understand sin and guilt and repentance. A Christian Explanatory Framework comprehends the reconstruction of our identities upon adoption into the family of God: “Now, God is my Father, Christ is my brother, I am a son/daughter of the Lord. ‘I’ (in the deepest sense of that little word) belong to Him. He redefines and redirects every part of my being.”

With respect to the origin of SSA and SSO, What causes it? Where does it come from?

While the person is the active and responsible agent with respect to their sexual desires, there are both nature and nurture factors related to the development of sexual attraction. So, there are things that come at the person and things that come from within the person. While there does not seem to be any single universal cause, “if this occurs, then that develops” the biological and social sciences do point out a few common factors that are helpful in understanding SSA.

The current scientific research and theory can be divided into three areas: biological, temperamental, and relational (see 2nd and 3rd figures on pp. 16-17):

• Biology (genetics, intrauterine hormones, neurological): while researchers in the ‘80s and ‘90s believed that genes or brains would offer the strongest contribution to SSA/SSO, more recent research has not supported earlier theories that genes or brains play a primary role in homosexual development. The better twin studies with larger sample sizes do not support a big genetic contribution to homosexual orientation. The concordance rate among identical twins was 20% for men and 24% for women (Bailey, Dunne, & Martin, 2000), which indicates that genes may play a role, but not in themselves an overwhelming one. Studies examining brain contributions are even less impressive. Even though there are some studies implicating brain structures, these studies have not been replicated. Even when brain differences have been found, sorting out cause and effect is nearly impossible with correlational research.

Another possible biological contributor still under investigation is the prenatal hormonal environment. Fetal development of sexual characteristics is a product of interaction with hormones, especially testosterone, and this may play a role in sexual orientation in some instances, but the data are not clear at this point.

Nonetheless, that there may be some biological contributions in some persons would not be surprising and does seem consistent with the research. The recognition that biology may play a role need not be resisted by Christians since God has created us as embodied souls, psychosomatic beings, and all things, including our bodies and brains and genes, have been infected by sin. In addition, that something such as the body or the brain is influential, or even formative, does not mean it is morally or spiritually determinative. It seems reasonable to accept, and clearly consistent with Scripture, that bodies and brains and genes along with parents and peers and cultures all play influential or formative roles in our lives. But that doesn’t mean they are determinative.

• Effeminate temperament features or gender non-conformit: Both anecdotal and research evidence supports a positive correlation between gender non-conformity and homosexuality (Hamer, 1994; LeVay, 1996).[4] Many homosexual men report feeling different and less masculine than the other boys during childhood. They tended to be more sensitive, less naturally aggressive, and more aesthetically than athletically inclined. This is sometimes referred to as the “sissy” phenomenon. Dean Hamer, a gay geneticist, in his book The Science of Desire (1994) goes so far as to write, “Most sissies will grow up to be homosexuals, and most gay men were sissies as children. Despite the provocative and politically incorrect nature of that statement, it fits the evidence. In fact, it may be the most consistent, well-documented, and significant finding in the entire field of sexual-orientation research” (p. 166).

• Exotic Becomes Erotic theory by Daryl Bem (1996) contends that at puberty we will experience sexual arousal by the gender that we find exotic, or by that gender which seems so different from oneself. In other words, “opposites attract.” So, if as a child a boy feels like the other boys, but different from the girls, at puberty he will find girls no longer abhorrent but fascinating and then attractive and arousing. On the other hand, if a boy does not feel like he fits in with the boys and instead is more comfortable with the girls, at puberty he finds himself fascinated by the boys and then erotically attracted to them. The biogenetic variable in this theory is the child’s innate temperament, especially traits such as aggressiveness and activity levels.

• Parental relationships: Early theories, rooted in Freud’s psychoanalysis, viewed homosexuality as a kind of developmental disorder – an impairment in psychological development (which does often seem to be the case) with parents as the culprits (which does not necessarily seem to be the case). However, these psychoanalytic explanations were based more on clinical experience and less on empirical research. More rigorous recent research lends little support to the traditional view that SSO is a direct result of absent or critical fathers and smothering mothers. The research does not indicate a primary role for parents as a sufficient cause of homosexuality; most children with troubled parental relationships do not turn out with SSA. At the same time, of course, there can be no reasonable doubt that parents play an important formative role in most aspects of child development. And, there does seem to be a preponderance of difficulties in the father-son relationship for many SSO men, and on the other hand a preponderance of negative experiences with men in SSO women. Even though these factors are not sufficient or determinative, they do seem to be significant influences in some instances of SSO (Yarhouse, 2010, p. 230, n. 21-24; Yarhouse & Burkett, p.175, n. 2).

Faulty development of masculine traits may be related to the father-son relationship, especially the extent to which the son feels connected to and then identifies with his father as a male, so that he develops the sense that “I’m like him” or “I want to be and can be like him.” On the other hand, it may be that for some boys the sissy phenomena may be more innate (related to genetic predisposition or to the brain or to prenatal hormones), and then subsequently the boy and his father find it difficult to relate to one another because they are so temperamentally different, which of course would further diminish the boy’s sense of masculinity.

• Peer influences: Boys who are less aggressive and masculine understandably feel disenfranchised and different. Unfortunately, they are often avoided or are the subject of derision or bullying by their peers, which can be devastating to a boy’s gender identity and masculine confidence.

• Early sexual experiences (abuse; early debut): While neither physical abuse nor neglect are correlated with homosexuality, studies have found some correlation between early sexual abuse and homosexual behavior in men, but not in women.[5] It is not difficult to imagine how sexual abuse, especially of a boy by a man, could be extremely disruptive to the boy’s developing sexual identity.[6] At the same time, it is important to remember that most boys who are sexually abused by men do not become same-sex oriented. Early, consensual same-sex behavior is also found more frequently in the history of male homosexuals. But, cause and effect are difficult to sort out in these correlational studies.

• Personal choice? The personal experience of most, but not all, persons with SSA is that it is not chosen, but instead is found, and often with shock and shame. This is particularly true for men and for at least half of the women. While most men with SSA/SSO believe their homosexuality was not consciously and explicitly chosen, 30-50% of lesbian women report that it was a choice.

So, what “causes” homosexuality? According to the human sciences, there are two honest answers to that question: “We don’t know for sure” and “Probably several things.” The principle of equifinality is helpful here. Equifinality is the principle of multi-causality: that in open systems a given end state can be reached by many potential means. In the same way that there are several ways to get from here to San Francisco, there are several ways a person may develop SSA or SSO.

So there are a handful of common factors that seem significant, but there is no one-size-fits-all formula.[7]

Transitioning now from this overview of social science research and theory, we can now take up the question:

Can people change SSA or SSO, and if so, how do they change?

Change efforts come in a variety of contemporary secular formats: traditional psychoanalysis (C. Socarides, E. Moberly), reparative psychotherapies (J. Nicolosi), and gender-affirming encounter groups such as Journey into Manhood.

Do they work? It depends who you ask.

In 2009, The American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation “concluded that efforts to change sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful. . . Given the limited amount of methodologically sound research, claims that recent SOCE [sexual orientation change effort] is effective are not supported” (pp. v and 2). [8]

Unfortunately, the composition of the task force was not methodologically sound either. Their objectivity was doubtful since each of the six authors, five psychologists and one psychiatrist, is on record as gay affirmative and several of them publicly identify as gay or lesbian.[9]

There are a couple of studies which indicate some degree of success in changing SSA by means of secular therapies, with 44 to 66% of persons reporting significant change of some sort, but the degree of change and what changes is quite variable (NARTH, 1997; Spitzer, 2000).

There are several different Christian counseling or ministry options:

Leanne Payne’s charismatic approach blends psychoanalytic theories of homosexuality with a focus on the inner healing of traumatic memories through “listening prayer.”

Christian recovery groups such as Courage, a 12 step program for Roman Catholics, and Homosexuals Anonymous (14 instead of 12 Steps).

Andy Comiskey’s Living Waters groups blend biblical teaching on gender, identity, and sanctification with some of the theories of the reparative therapies and inner healing, and emphasize the role of the Church as a healing community.

Mark Yarhouse and Warren Throckmorton’s Sexual Identity Therapy, which is less focused on changing same sex attractions and more focused on choosing one’s identity in Christ and the incorporation of behavioral and cognitive methods to facilitate the process of progressive sanctification.

Finally, there are other approaches that incorporate theories about the development of masculinity into the process of progressive sanctification. (Alan Medinger; Gerard van den Aardweg).

Do these work? Here also there are only a couple of good studies and they found that 23-29% of persons reported a complete change in orientation from homosexual to heterosexual, and 60-70% reported behavioral success. (Schaeffer, et al., 1999; Jones and Yarhouse, 2007, 2009)

Mark Yarhouse’s summary of this research is helpful:

Those who argue that there is “insufficient evidence” of sexual orientation change are often thinking of categorical and complete change, as though sexual orientation were a light switch that is in one of two positions: on or off. Homosexual or heterosexual. Gay or straight. On the other hand Christians can sometimes add to the problem by claiming this kind of complete change happens frequently. . . . Some people do report a change in attractions over time. For those who report a change, it tends to come in the form of a reduction in homosexual attractions, but these reductions are typically not complete. A smaller number of people also report an increase in heterosexual attraction. [In some instances this may be attraction to the opposite sex in general; in other cases it may reflect attraction to only one individual or the opposite sex, such as a person’s spouse]. . . . It may be helpful to everyone involved to recognize that 180-degree change or categorical change is less likely. That doesn’t mean people shouldn’t attempt change or feel discouraged about it, but it does help us identify the more likely outcomes. In some ways, understanding this will free a person up to focus on other important considerations, such as vocation, stewardship, and Christlikeness (2010, pp. 89-90).

Listening to the Bible

Regardless of the particular causes identified by science or the success of sexual orientation change efforts, God aims to interpret and govern and redeem every part of our us, including our sexual experiences, desires, identity, and even one day our bodies. The good news of God is that whatever is distorted and broken can and will in God’s good time be restored and healed. Christ assumed a full human nature to heal all of human nature. The incarnation and bodily resurrection of Christ is God’s pledge of full and final healing (Gregory of Nazianus).

But the reception of God’s grace begins with a humble acceptance of what is wrong with us, with a kind of biblical psychopathology.

It seems that a biblical macro-psychology of homosexuality begins with the Pauline version of the Fall in Romans 1: an account of the origin of sin, with homosexuality as a vivid example of its dynamics. In that passage Paul attributes the origin of same-sex passions and practices to a failure to “thank and honor God,” in other words to disordered worship. Humanity’s original rejection of God then incurs His judgment and His passive, and yet terrible, wrath, wherein the passage says, God “gave them up” (v. 24, 26, 28). He simply lets them alone, leaves them to their own devices, giving them over to impure lusts, dishonorable passions, and a debased mind. So, in this passage, disordered desires of all sorts result from disordered worship. St. Augustine’s biblical psychology is helpful here: The root of all evil is wrongly directed desire.

Both Richard Hayes and Ernst Kasemann note that in this passage homosexuality, along with a string of other disordered desires and practices, is the consequence of God’s wrath, not the cause of it. Homosexuality is probably singled out because it is such a clear rejection of something so obvious – God’s complementary design for the sexes and of sexual intercourse itself.

But it is important to note that Paul’s account here is archetypal or generic; he is giving the history of humanity and of sin in general, with homosexuality as a particularly graphic case in point. He is not giving us a history of any particular person’s development of homosexuality. The Bible’s account of this chapter in human history goes like this: As a result of the rejection of God’s rule, God steps aside, and the consequence is the reign of sin and satan, a Kingdom in which everybody is born defective (Rom. 6.17) with deformed desires, some of which are common to all men, such as selfishness and pride, and others that are unique to some men. And this is where personal psychopathologies begin.

The typical experience of same-sex attraction, that it is not consciously chosen, is in fact consistent with our innately sinful condition, which in itself is not chosen – we are born that way. Sin is a chronic condition and sometimes, but not always, a conscious choice. This is the human condition Paul describes in Romans 7, where he goes back and forth, but he ultimately cites “sin in me” as the source of his sinful behavior. So, the starting point for a biblical psychology of homosexuality is fundamentally no different than the origin of many of our sin-driven character flaws, whether it is selfishness and narcissism, or jealousy and envy, or a bad temper, or worry and anxiety, or mania or depression, or addictions or whatever. Everybody is born congenitally defective with some innate bio-psychological weakness, which finds its origin in the fall and subsequently in hearts and bodies riddled with the cancer of sin. (Eccl. 9.3; Jer. 17.9)

According to New Testament scholar Robert Gagnon:

For Paul, all sin was in a sense innate in that human beings do not ask to feel sexual desire, or anger, or fear, or selfishness – they just do, despite whether they want to experience such impulses or not. If Paul could be transported into our time and told that homosexual impulses were at least partly present at birth, he would probably say, ‘I could have told you that’ or at least ‘I can work that into my system of thought.’. . . Paul paints a picture of humanity subjugated and ruled by its own passions; a humanity not in control, but controlled (2001, p. 431, 430).

In the same vein but with more emphasis on human accountability, Richard Hayes writes,

As great-grandchildren of the enlightenment, we like to think of ourselves as free moral agents, choosing rationally among possible actions, but Scripture unmasks that cheerful illusion…the Bible’s sober anthropology rejects the apparently commonsense assumption that only freely chosen acts are morally culpable. . . . The very nature of sin is that it is not freely chosen. . . . We are in bondage to sin but still accountable to God’s righteous judgment of our actions. . . . In light of this theological anthropology, it cannot be maintained that a homosexual orientation is morally neutral because it is involuntary (1996, p. 390).[10]

Up to this point we have been talking about SSA, a particular dis-orientation of a person’s sexual compass, but we could be talking about the infinite variety of sinful orientations of any of our hearts which are less than consciously chosen, but for which we will be held accountable by God. I think this is Paul’s point in Romans 2 and 3, when he segues from God’s judgment of homosexuality to God’s judgment of everybody, in what Richard Hays calls a “homiletical sting operation”: “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself. . . . Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?” (Romans 2:1-3) Paul makes it clear: no one has a secure platform to stand upon to judge others. (R. Hayes, 1996, p. 389)

MINISTRY/ COUNSELING

The truth is that each and every one of our sex lives, every look, every touch, every fantasy, and every desire within our hearts will be judged by our holy, holy, holy God.

According to Jesus, in Matthew 5.29-30, when it comes to sex, what we do with the desires of our hearts is a matter of life or death. So, “If your eye or hand causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” That ought to give all of us pause. This is serious business, according to Jesus.

So, the church’s response to SSA must be just as serious. It must be as theologically bold and as morally clear as Jesus is, and at the same time as pastoral and gracious as Jesus is. And we must bring hope: like oxygen for the soul – to those who struggle with same sex attraction. And this is that hope:

The Gospel changes the most important things initially, and it changes everything eventually.

What I mean by Gospel and change is a type of faith in and obedience to Christ that flows out of a fundamentally re-oriented heart, resulting in a changed and changing life.

In closing, there are four ways we can promote change in our churches and families for those who struggle with same-sex attraction.

First, the essential starting point is BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF, OTHERS, AND GOD.

In view of the mercy of God, it makes no sense to avoid, deny, or minimize SSA. I would like to propose that there is a properly Christian form of “coming out of the closet.” Should we not all come out of the closet with anything we find inside that is broken and wrong? We do this so that we can repent more thoroughly and receive all the help and healing that comes through authentic Christian relationships.

That which we keep to ourselves tends to fester and swell, and what is left is that painful knot of shame and guilt. The alternative to authenticity is not a pretty thing: loneliness, duplicity, secret sins, anxiety, self-hatred, and sometimes suicide.

It is here that the response of parents, peers, and church is so important. It is the responsibility of Christian families and communities to cultivate openness to the acknowledgment and confession of same-sex attraction. What can we do to move in this direction?

Second, we can CULTIVATE A RENEWED RESPECT FOR DIFFERENCES.

We need relationships characterized by respect and acceptance in which various forms of masculinity are affirmed, of course, that are true to one’s God-given gender, but also cognizant of a variety of temperaments. We should not presume that cultural stereotypes are biblical norms or guidelines. There is more than one type of man, and not all of them like to camp or play sports. (Could somebody explain to me how Ultimate(ly Foolish) Fighting became a fad among young evangelical men!?) My colleague Robert D. Jones says that the greatest man he has ever known described himself as gentle and humble in heart! It was this Lord who said, “Blessed are the meek/gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” If the character of Jesus is not the main part of your view of manhood, then it is not biblical manhood.

Probably one of the most important changes would be to eliminate within our communities, especially among men, the unedifying words that denigrate men whose masculinity is not so evident, who may have some effeminate characteristics. Such words are unconscionable. What if that were your brother or your son that was being made fun of? How would Jesus speak to him? And how would Jesus speak to those who spoke to him that way???

I still remember my best friend Dale announcing his homosexuality to me. He had heard me use terms like “fag, queer, homo” and many other false bravados characteristic (I wish only) of teenage boys. He said he would have told me sooner, but he was afraid of my reaction, even that I might attack him physically. That changed how I talk.

Third, we can EXPRESS A TYPE OF EMPATHY FOR PERSONS WITH SSA THAT COMPREHENDS HOW LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD IS UNDER THE CROSS.

It is important to realize and openly acknowledge that at the deepest and most important level we are much more like the person who struggles with SSA than we are different. They have their particular sin tendencies and temptations, and you have yours. Every one of us has a weak link, a form of remnant sin for which we need Jesus and one another. Therefore same-sexual sin should not be singled out as a red-letter sin.

Fourth, PROVIDE BIBLICAL HOPE FOR CHANGE.

Real and substantive change can be expected for people with SSA or SSO, as it can and should be for all who have chosen to follow Christ. Tim Wilkins says when he turned away from homosexuality, “I decided that although I honestly did not know how to become heterosexual, I did know how to be obedient. . . . Same-sex attractions continued throughout college and seminary, but to a lesser degree. I remained steadfast in refusing to give in. . . . I told God ‘it does not matter if I am ever attracted to a woman as long as I get You!’ What mattered most to Tim was becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ.”

Change for the Christian is a grace-fueled process that for good reason is called progressive sanctification: a long obedience of faith down a narrow and often difficult road, in the company of other Christian men and women within the local church. All this is rooted in the transformative power of the Gospel of God and the rich soil of the body of Christ. The cross of Christ signifies the beginning of the end of the old self, a progressive and radical reordering and re-orientation of every one of our distorted desires. But sin is stubborn, especially at the level of desires, and the old man dies slowly. Nonetheless, according to Paul, that old man is history: “Such were some of you. . . . But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified. . . .” (1 Corinthians 6.11) That sounds like past tense.

As it is with many root sins that are lodged deeply within us, change may or may not be associated with a complete elimination or reversal of SSA, for now. But make no mistake about it: under the cross and in Christ neither the past nor our desires determine our identity or our future. Paul’s instruction in Romans 6 is to be who you are, in Christ.

Romans 611 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. . . . 14For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

This Spirit-fueled, Christ-following progressive sanctification includes an understanding of who we are: identities that originate in God’s good creation–made by and like and for Him, and then born again in a miraculous New Creation. Change like this includes a type of humble authenticity that does not flinch in examining and repenting of the distorted but dwindling effects of sin on all things: “Where sin abounds, grace abounds even more.”

Someday this grace will culminate in our final sanctification, when the King returns and resets everything. On that day, True North will be irresistible. Such is our hope.

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NOTES:

[1] These figures rise in urban centers; in other words, those with a homosexual orientation are more concentrated in cities.

[2] Coincidentally, this is often a part of the gay critique of the biblical passages on homosexuality; they are correct when they claim that these categories and terms did not exist in the ancient biblical languages. Instead, more descriptive terms that described what that person does, or terms like natural and unnatural were the verbal categories relied upon to discuss these matters (Hays, 1996).

[3] It is this incorporation of homosexuality into the center of that person’s identity that makes even the most sensitive and winsome conversation so difficult with a person who identifies themselves as “gay”. If “gay” is who you are, then even the kindest challenge or disagreement is perceived at least as a personal rejection, and at worst as hateful or “violent.” Since this is the accepted normative narrative in most of the First World, any other view seems to be just so much nonsense. David Wells captures this dislocation well in his definition of worldliness as “that system of values, in any given age, which has at its center our fallen human perspective, which displaces God and his truth from the world, and which makes sin look normal and righteousness seem strange. It thus gives great plausibility to what is morally wrong, and for that reason makes what is wrong seem normal” (Losing our Virtue, 1999, p.4).

[4] In its most extreme manifestation, Gender Identity Disorder, ¾ of boys with this disorder later report a homosexual or bisexual orientation (DSM-IV, 1994, p. 536).

[5] Wilson, H., & Widom, C., 2009. Does Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse, or Neglect in Childhood Increase the Likelihood of Same-sex Sexual Relationships and Cohabitation? A Prospective 30-year Follow-up. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39 (1), 63-74).

[6] Dube, S. et al. (2005) found that 16% of adult men reported being sexually abused before age 16. They had been abused by men 70% of the time. Am J Prev Med;28(5), p. 433.

[7] The APA (American Psychological Association) states the following about etiology in their pamphlet, Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality: “There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.”American Psychological Association (2008). “Answers to your questions: For a better understanding of sexual orientation and homosexuality”.

[8] A review of 83 studies published in peer reviewed journals from 1960 to 2007 discusses people who attempted to change their sexual orientation through counseling or therapy.

[9] Joseph Nicolosi, of the National Association for Research and Therapy for Homosexuality, commented, “The Task Force’s standard for successful treatment for unwanted homosexuality was far higher than that for any other psychological condition. What if they had studied treatment success for narcissism, borderline personality disorder, or alcohol/food/drug abuse? All of these conditions, like unwanted homosexuality, cannot be expected to resolve totally, and necessitate some degree of lifelong struggle” (The 2009 APA Task Force Report – Science or Politics?, posted Jan. 10, 2011, NARTH website).

[10] Perhaps a good example of this is our dreams at night. And, if yours are like mine, I bet some of them are not morally neutral. And yet even though they are involuntarily and subconsciously created … whose dream is it? Who created and produced that dream? And if it is your production, who should repent of it?

Works Cited

American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 4th Edition. Washington, DC: Author. 1994.

American Psychiatric Association. Report of the Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. Washington, DC: Author. 2009.

Bellah, R., Madsen, R., Sullivan, W., Swidler, A., & Tipton, S. Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life. Berkely, University of California Press, 1996.

Bem, Daryl. “Exotic becomes erotic: A developmental theory of sexual orientation.” Psychological Review, 1996.

Dube, S. et al. “Long-Term Consequences of Childhood Sexual Abuse by Gender of Victim.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 28.5, 2005.

Gagnon, Robert. The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001.

Gates, Gary. “Press release April 7, 2011.” Williams Institute. Web. 15 Sept 2011.

Hays, Richard. The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, New Creation, A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics. San Francisco: Harper, 1996.

Hamer, Dean. The Science of Desire. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994.

Hill, Wesley. Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.

Jones, S. & Yarhouse, M. Ex-Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation. Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 2007.

Kasemann, Ernst. Commentary on Romans. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980.

Laumann, E. O., Gagnon, J.H., Michael, R.T., & Michaels, S. The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.

LeVay, Simon. Queer Science. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996.

Savin-Williams, R. C. & Cohen, K.M. “Homoerotic Development During Childhood and Adolescence.” Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 2004.

Schaeffer, K. W. et al. “Religiously-motivated sexual orientation change: A follow-up study.” Journal of Psychology and Theology. 27 (4), 1999.

Spitzer, Robert. “Can Some Gay Men and Lesbians Change Their Sexual Orientation? 200 Participants Reporting a Change from Homosexual to Heterosexual Orientation” Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2003.

Wells, David. Losing Our Virtue: Why the Church Must Recover Its Moral Vision. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998.

Wilson, H., & Widom, C. Does Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse, or Neglect in Childhood Increase the Likelihood of Same-sex Sexual Relationships and Cohabitation? A Prospective 30-year Follow-up. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2009.

Yarhouse, Mark. Homosexuality and the Christian: A Guide for Parents, Pastors, and Friends. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2010.

Yarhouse, M. & Burkett, Lori. Sexual Identity: A Guide to Living in the Time Between the Times. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 2003.

Yarhouse, M. & Jones, S. Homosexuality: The Use of Scientific Research in the Church’s Moral Debate. Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 2000.

Yarhouse, M. & Tan, E. Sexual Identity Synthesis: Attributions, Meaning-Making, and the Search for Congruence. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 2004.


Homosexual Sexual Orientation Change: The Truthful Facts

NARTH Statement on Sexual Orientation Change

SOURCE:  Approved by the NARTH Board of Directors on January 25, 2012

Current discussions of homosexual sexual orientation change are unavoidably occurring within a sociopolitical climate that makes nonpartisan scientific inquiry of this subject very difficult.  In light of this reality, a few considerations are crucial for accurately understanding the sometimes contradictory opinions regarding the possibility of sexual orientation change.

First and foremost, it is important to recognize that how change is conceptualized has vast implications for our thinking about change.

Some of the more ardent proponents and opponents of homosexual sexual orientation change may view change in strictly categorical terms, where change is an all-or-nothing experience.  Proponents and opponents with this view differ only in the direction of their desired outcome.  Proponents of change understood in categorical terms may view a homosexual sexual orientation as a lifestyle choice that merely needs to be renounced. Opponents who take this viewpoint, on the other hand, may conceive of sexual orientation as essentially hard wired and simply not modifiable.  NARTH does not support either of these perspectives.

NARTH believes that much of the expressed pessimism regarding sexual orientation change is a consequence of individuals intentionally or inadvertently adopting a categorical conceptualization of change.

When change is viewed in absolute terms, then any future experience of same-sex attraction (or any other challenge), however fleeting or diminished, is considered a refutation of change. Such assertions likely reflect an underlying categorical view of change, probably grounded in an essentialist view of homosexual sexual orientation that assumes same-sex attractions are the natural and immutable essence of a person.  What needs to be remembered is that the de-legitimizing of change solely on the basis of a categorical view of change is virtually unparalleled for any challenge in the psychiatric literature.  For example, applying a categorical standard for change would mean that any subsequent reappearance of depressive mood following treatment for depression should be viewed as an invalidation of significant and genuine change, no matter how infrequently depressive symptoms reoccur or how diminished in intensity they are if subsequently re-experienced.  Similar arguments could be made for any number of conditions, including grief, alcoholism, or marital distress.  The point is not to equate these conditions with homosexuality, but rather to highlight the inconsistency of applying the categorical standard only to reported changes in unwanted same-sex attractions.

Rather than pigeonholing homosexual sexual orientation change into categorical terms, NARTH believes that it is far more helpful and accurate to conceptualize such change as occurring on a continuum.  This is in fact how sexual orientation is defined in most modern research, starting with the well known Kinsey scales, even as subsequent findings pertinent to change are often described in categorical terms. NARTH affirms that some individuals who seek care for unwanted same-sex attractions do report categorical change of sexual orientation.  Moreover, NARTH acknowledges that others have reported no change. However, the experience of NARTH clinicians suggests that the majority of individuals who report unwanted same-sex attractions and pursue psychological care will be best served by conceptualizing change as occurring on a continuum, with many being able to achieve sustained shifts in the direction and intensity of their sexual attractions, fantasy, and arousal that they consider to be satisfying and meaningful.

NARTH believes that a profound disservice is done to those with unwanted same-sex attractions by characterizing such shifts in sexual attractions as a denial of their authentic (and gay) personhood or a change in identity labeling alone.  Attempts to invalidate all reports of such shifts by presuming they are not grounded in actual experience insults the integrity of these individuals and posits wishful thinking on an untenably massive scale.

Finally, it also needs to be observed that reports on the potential for sexual orientation change may be unduly pessimistic based on the confounding factor of type of intervention.  Most of the recent research on homosexual sexual orientation change has focused on religiously mediated outcomes which may differ significantly from outcomes derived through professional psychological care.  It is not unreasonable to anticipate that the probability of change would be greater with informed psychotherapeutic care, although definitive answers to this question await further research.  NARTH remains highly interested in conducting such research, pursuant only to the acquisition of sufficient funding.

To summarize, then, those who are  highly pessimistic regarding change in sexual orientation appear to have assumed a categorical view of change, which is neither in keeping with how sexual orientation has been defined in the literature nor with how change is conceptualized for nearly all other psychological challenges.  NARTH believes that viewing change as occurring on a continuum is a preferable therapeutic approach and more likely to create realistic expectancies among consumers of change-oriented intervention.  With this in mind, NARTH remains committed to protecting the rights of clients with unwanted same-sex attractions to pursue change as well as the rights of clinicians to provide such psychological care.

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NARTH Mission Statement

We respect the right of all individuals to choose their own destiny. NARTH is a professional, scientific organization that offers hope to those who struggle with unwanted homosexuality. As an organization, we disseminate educational information, conduct and collect scientific research, promote effective therapeutic treatment, and provide referrals to those who seek our assistance.

NARTH upholds the rights of individuals with unwanted homosexual attraction to receive effective psychological care and the right of professionals to offer that care. We welcome the participation of all individuals who will join us in the pursuit of these goals.

Change in Sexual Orientation is Possible

The Counseling Moment EDITOR’S NOTE:  Given all that is taking place in society along with all the information available via the media, much confusion exists about whether one desiring to explore and/or seek change from unwanted same-sex/homosexual desires and behaviors can ever hope for change.  One position emphatically says, “No Way!”  Another position says change is possible.  A Christian position lays claim that nothing is impossible for God who wants those who have a faith-relationship with Him through Christ to progressively continue to be transformed by Him into the very likeness of Christ.  This transformation includes movement toward holiness in thought, emotional responses, behaviors, and relationships.  Furthermore, this transformation includes aspiring to a holy, blameless, righteous, and pure life that increasingly exhibits the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  God desperately wants what is best for us as He loves us each so much–so much that He sacrificed His own Son on our behalf.  Our becoming like Christ is the best that God can offer us.  There is nothing better or of greater value.

Even a casual reading of Scripture makes clear that as God enables us to move toward Christlikeness, He empowers us to move away from a host of things that He declares counter to His plan for us and destructive to us.

These things counter to His will for us, as called out in Scripture, include anything that would “gratify the desires of the flesh” such as:  any hint of sexual impurity, homosexuality, sexual immorality, adultery, extra-marital sex, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, bitterness, anger, brawling, slander, malice, greed, filthy language, unforgiveness, idleness, love of money, deceitfulness, pride, lack of self-control, loving pleasure over God, enslavement to passions, conceit.  

God loves us and chooses to be in a personal relationship with us knowing that we are challenged with these types of issues in our lives.  And, He loves us too much to allow us to continue to embrace these things.  Therefore, God wants us to depend on Him to help us move away from any and all of these types of hindrances to becoming more holy like Christ.  And, He promises that freedom from these things is possible in His way and His timing.

So, yes, change is possible whether it is change from homosexual orientation or change from any of the other issues of life that God highlights as detriments to our being made into the likeness of Christ.  God wants change to take place concerning ALL of these!  We are all involved in God’s change process concerning whatever things we find in us that are on His “list.”  He will work uniquely and lovingly within each one of us to accomplish change in His way, in His timing, to the extent He determines until He carries it on to completion (Phil. 1:6).

As a result, it should be no surprise that solid, credible, truthful research as summarized in the below article supports what God, the Author of all truth, says and desires about change.

Finally, as Christians, it is important that we do not respond to those dealing with homosexuality (or any other less than Godly life issue) with ignorance and fear.  Nor should we ignore or uphold any lifestyle or life issue which is counter to God’s desire and will.  Either extreme fails to convey the divine balance of grace and truth which is so pleasing to God.  Blessings……..

ARTICLE SOURCE: NARTH/Reviewed by Christopher H. Rosik, Ph.D.

(October, 2011)

Change in Sexual Orientation is Possible, Harm Unlikely, according to New Evidence of Long-Term Outcomes

The best-designed study of sexual-orientation change efforts (SOCE) to date, has just concluded in a follow-up report that some people can indeed move from homosexuality to heterosexuality, and that harm is unlikely to result from such efforts.

The original study was published in 2007 by Stanton Jones, Ph.D., of Wheaton College, and Mark Yarhouse, Ph.D., of Regent University, in their book, “Ex-Gays?”. The follow-up study has just appeared in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy.

In the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapythe authors conclude:

Evidence from the study suggested that change of homosexual orientation appears possible for some and that psychological distress did not increase on average as a result of the involvement in the change process” (Jones & Yarhouse, 2011, p. 404).

Study methods

The authors followed 98 individuals (72 men and 26 women) who undertook SOCE through the assistance of a variety of  Christian ministries over a period of 6-7 years. The authors’ motivation for conducting this study was, in part, that the American Psychological Association had gone on the record indicating that change in sexual orientation was not possible, and that risks to those who engage in such efforts could be significant.

The authors note that the APA has moderated its viewpoint somewhat since then, fluctuating between statements that sexual-orientation change is “uncommon,” to the view that science “cannot yet” make conclusive statements about such change from the available literature.

The rigor of their own research standards, Jones and Yarhouse indicate, in fact meets many of the requirements that the APA itself has asserted are necessary in order to make reasonably definitive conclusions about the actuality of such change.

Participants in the Jones-Yarhouse study were first assessed at the beginning of their involvement in SOCE (from 1-3 years); again at 3 years, and again at the 6-7 year mark. Findings from the first two assessments were published earlier in the book, Ex-Gays? (2007).

Standardized and widely accepted measures of sexual orientation and psychological distress were administered at each assessment period. At the final time of assessment, attrition had reduced the available sample to 64%, which is not unusual for longitudinal studies.

Study findings

The results after 6-7 years of SOCE involvement, presented below, indicate that change does indeed occur, although not for
everyone.

  • Success: Conversion:  23% (n = 14) of the sample reported substantial reductions in homosexual attraction and subsequent conversion to heterosexual attractions and functioning.
  • Success: Chastity: 30% (n = 18) reported that homosexual attraction was still present, but only incidentally or in a way that did not seem to bring distress, allowing them to live contentedly without overt sexual activity.
  • Continuing: 16% (n = 10) reported modest decreases in homosexual attraction, but were not satisfied with their degree of change and remained committed to the change process.
  • Nonresponse: 7% (n = 4) reported no significant sexual orientation change; they had not given up on the change process, but some were confused or conflicted about which direction to turn next.
  • Failure: Confused: 5% (n = 3) reported no significant sexual orientation change, and had given up on the change process, but without yet embracing a gay identity.
  • Failure: Gay identity: 20% (n = 12) had given up on the change process and embraced a gay identity.

Jones and Yarhouse observed that from the point-of-view of the ministries involved in their study, 53% of the sample therefore had self-categorized as achieving “some version of success,” and 25% had self-categorized as failure.

As regards harm, the study participants on average did not report experiencing harm due to SOCE during the course of their pursuit of change.  In fact, two of the indicators of psychological distress actually improved significantly over the time of the study.

Discussion

Jones and Yarhouse conclude that “the findings of this study appear to contradict the commonly expressed view that sexual orientation is not changeable” (p. 425).  and that attempts to change are not likely to be harmful.

While the authors believe their research clearly contradict the pessimism regarding SOCE that has been promulgated by the APA, they do acknowledge that their study has limitations.

First, the average change in sexual orientation was modest, although they noted that this is likely to be an artifact of average change scores including some participants who made dramatic shifts away from homosexual orientation and fewer participants who reported dramatic shifts to a gay identity.  In other words, the dramatic changes toward heterosexual response clearly made by some participants may have been offset by changes toward homosexual response in others, so that the overall average change in sexual orientation for the sample appeared to be modest.

Second, participants who had begun the change process prior to the start of the study appeared to have disproportionately positive outcomes compared to participants inducted into the study early in their pursuit of change.  This may indicate that some weeding-out of individuals who were not successful in changing sexual orientation occurred in the time between the onset of pursuit of change and the initial collection of data.  Although there is no way to know this for sure, Jones and Yarhouse imply that it is probably wise to view their study’s success rate for the change process undertaken in Christian ministries as a somewhat optimistic figure.

A third limitation is the relatively small sample size, which makes any generalization of these findings to the population of individuals pursuing SOCE tentative.  That said, the size of the sample is not uncommon in the longitudinal research that has been widely accepted as representative of samples in other subject domains.  Finally, the authors note that, given the study design, it was not possible to determine which components of the participants’ change process were responsible for the outcomes reported.

Comment

No doubt this study will be dismissed by skeptics who for ideological reasons remain dogmatically unwilling to acknowledge the reality of sexual orientation change in some people. However, Jones and Yarhouse’s study of SOCE should go a long way toward putting to rest two extreme positions:  i.e., that change always occurs and is simply a choice, or that change never occurs and is generally harmful.

It is also worth remembering that this study did not examine SOCE’s  that occur in the context of psychotherapy.  The subjects in this study received their counseling in Christian ministries. It is certainly within the realm of plausibility that the inclusion of professional psychological care, over and above participants’ involvement in Christian ministries, would increase positive outcomes.

The hallmark of a scientific organization that is not beholden to socio-political interests is a heightened curiosity at unexpected findings, and a subsequent dedication to understanding how such findings came to be.  In the case of change in sexual orientation, which had been purported to be impossible, this implies a dedication to study those individuals who report change in order to identify the active ingredients of change and thereby maximize its potential among SOCE consumers.

Unfortunately, however, the major mental-health associations appear to be moving further away from a purely scientific approach and toward one apparently directed by activists, whereby the purpose of their science does not seem to be understanding those who report change, but rather debunking, dismissing, and ignoring them.  Thus while Jones and Yarhouse will win no accolades or awards from the APA, they will have the satisfaction of knowing that their research exemplifies the best in scientific curiosity and courage.

Reference

Jones, S. L., & Yarhouse, M.A. (2007). Ex-gays? A longitudinal study of religiously mediated change in sexual orientation. Downers  Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Jones, S. L., & Yarhouse, M. A. (2011). A longitudinal study of attempted religiously mediated sexual orientation change.  Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 37, 404-427. DOI: 10.1080/009263X.2011.607052

[After Divorce] Do’s and Don’ts in Your New Relationship

SOURCE:   Kathy Leonard/www.divorcecare.org

If you are confident that you are spiritually and emotionally ready for a new relationship (and your pastor and other mature Christian friends agree), these practical suggestions could help you avoid some problems that often lead to remarriage failures.

 Don’t date people whose divorces are not final

Gary Richmond, author of The Divorce Decision, advises: “Your very first question for the other person should be, ‘Is your divorce final?’ If the answer is no, then avoid that person like you would avoid the plague because anything could happen. That person could go back to his or her first mate and reconcile (this happens more often than you would think). You could also get enmeshed in their legal problems, which sometimes never find an end. You have no idea as to how long you will have to be dating a married person, and until the divorce is final, you are dating a married person, and it’s not appropriate.

“Also, this person is not healed. The reality is that a person whose divorce is not final is not going to need anything but nurses and doctors for a while, and you, if you’re wise or well, don’t need to be dating someone who is sick. You’ll catch it again.”

You may be tempted to date a person who is still in the divorce process. That person may seem strong and well. Perhaps he or she has been in the divorce process for over a year. Every reason stated above by Gary Richmond is an excellent reason to avoid that relationship or to put it on hold. Remember how easy it is in the divorce process to push down hurts and losses and to try and put a Band-Aid over wounds instead of facing them and feeling them. True healing is difficult; it takes a relationship with Jesus Christ, and it takes time.

Now, more than ever, you need to be completely in touch with God. Spend extra amounts of time sitting quietly and listening to Him. Pay attention to wisdom from God’s Word, mature Christian friends and Christian books. Surrender completely to Him: “Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field” (James 4:8 The Message Bible).

You may feel that this relationship is right. Be sure that your feelings line up with God’s plan for both of you. Your relationship will be better, stronger and deeper if you both follow God’s plan and pursue it in His timing.

Do make a list of character qualities that you require

The next suggestion to help you develop a successful new relationship is to make a list of character qualities that you require in a person you want to develop a relationship with. You are worth every good quality that you list, and God wants the best for you. If the new person falls short of some of these characteristics, then you need to prayerfully consider if God is leading this relationship.

After you have listed good characteristics, then list the qualities of your former spouse that drove you crazy in the first marriage or that were just plain wrong. The person you date or marry should be mostly free of these qualities. Do not fool yourself into thinking you will feel different this time because it is a different person.

Gary Richmond says, “It’s a fact that we are drawn to the same type of person over and over again, which means you have to make an effort to say, ‘I will not be drawn to this kind of person again. There is going to have to be more substance of character, and I’m going to have to view that.'”

It is easy to fall back into old patterns of thinking and behaviors when seeking a new relationship. Think carefully about Gary Richmond’s statement that says, “There is going to have to be more substance of character, and I’m going to have to view that.” Be certain that the new person has demonstrated time and time again the strong character traits that you have listed as prerequisites for a relationship with you. For instance, if honesty, dependability and no abusive language are character traits you feel are crucial in a mate, then give the relationship ample time for you to discover if the person is honest, if he or she can be counted on and if he or she uses encouraging and supportive words. Don’t ever compromise your beliefs when you choose to be in a new relationship.

Follow the advice of Matthew 5:37 when it comes to standing by your beliefs: “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” If God wants you to have a new relationship, He has a person planned for you who is kind, godly and true.

 Do pay attention to the parental relationship

When you are considering a new relationship, be sure to examine how the person you are interested in relates to his or her parents. “Honor your father and your mother as the LORD your God has commanded you,” says Deuteronomy 5:16, “so that you may live long and that it may go well with you.”

Gary Richmond suggests that you “take a close look at that person’s relationship with his or her parents. It will be a reflection, not only of the parents’ relationship with each other, but also of that person’s respect for elders and for the opposite sex. If you see an emptiness or loneliness in the parental relationship or if you see disrespect, then you’ll know the person you are dating may not have the skills to relate to you the way you want to be related to.”

And you, in turn, may need to consider how you relate to your own parents.

 Don’t marry a person in debt

If you are seeking a new relationship, make sure you know how well the other person manages money. You should not marry a person who is deeply in debt. Wait until the bills are paid off.

“If you are really wise, you will look carefully at the financial practices of the person that you are getting intimately involved with,” admonishes Gary Richmond.

Financial management can be a difficult subject in any relationship, but it is important to discuss money and not be naïve in a new relationship. Especially if you are considering remarriage, your new partner should be open with you about his or her financial practices, debts and investments.

God’s Word on debt is, “Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another” (Romans 13:7-8).

 Do understand your differences

You should also examine the similarities and differences between you and the other person.

“You need to look closely at having some things in common. If all you can base your relationship on is physical attraction, it just will wear thin in the same way that a roller coaster gets increasingly less exciting the more you ride it,” says Gary Richmond.

Some things in a marriage are extremely important to have in common; for instance, your beliefs about God, ideas about raising children and convictions about honesty, commitment and faithfulness. It is also important that you share interests, hobbies and ideas about how to spend free time. You do not need to or necessarily want to share every activity with your mate—you are a unique individual with special talents and tastes—but you do want to be able to have meaningful and stimulating conversations about more than just your relationship. The person you are interested in should not only be a romantic interest, but also a friend, someone you have things in common with.

 “A sweet friendship refreshes the soul” (Proverbs 27:9).

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