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Archive for the ‘Injustice’ Category

How to release emotional pain

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

We have natural responses to being hurt that are part of our imperfections. We do not always respond well to stresses in our lives. These responses come easily to us, but they are not helpful to our personal growth. Next time someone hurts you, try using these tools:

Acknowledge the Wound. Don’t Deny it.

When we are hurt emotionally, we tend to deny it. For example, an unloving wife may wound a husband’s heart, but he may not want to appear weak or vulnerable. Or he may think he is being overly sensitive. Or he may think that admitting his hurt is being disloyal or mean to his wife. So he shrugs off the wound. However, he is living a lie. Just saying something doesn’t hurt us doesn’t make it go away, and the wounded heart stays injured.

Stay Connected. Don’t Isolate.

We tend to withdraw from a relationship when we hurt. Some people are afraid of their dependencies on others. Others feel guilty about burdening friends with their problems. Still, others try to be self-sufficient. None of these responses helps a person heal and grow.

Love and Forgive. Don’t Retaliate.

People also “naturally” lash back when they are hurt, and they desire revenge on the one who hurt them. Like little kids, they will harbor murderous intentions and attempt to retaliate. For example, a woman who has been betrayed by a man she is dating may then do the same to him. Perhaps they had agreed to an exclusive relationship, deepening their commitment and trust. Then she found out he was seeing someone else. The problem with rationalizing retaliation is that while he certainly needs to know how he hurts others, it’s more likely to help him justify his own behavior.

Practice Self Control. Don’t be Controlled.

Our initial response to being hurt is that we lose self-control. Our getting hurt in a relationship is proof of how little control we have over others in the first place. Many times we transfer power onto the person who has hurt us, which makes things worse. For example, a man may realize his parents have been emotionally unresponsive to him all his life. He may see how this unresponsiveness has made his relational life difficult, as he has not been connected enough to his inner self to connect to others. As he understands this, he may then also become obsessed with trying to get his parents to see what they did to him or get them to apologize, or get them to re-parent him and provide him for what they did not when he was a child.

Good relationships do involve confronting, forgiving, and reconciling. However, some people make the injured self the focus of their lives, letting the other person control them. In this way, they put their hearts under the power of the very ones who injured them. That’s not a productive way to live.

Are You in an Abusive Relationship?

SOURCE:  Justin and Lindsey Holcomb/familylife.com

Editor’s note: Although this excerpt is addressed to women, we know domestic abuse happens to both men and women. If you believe you are in an abusive relationship, please seek godly counsel from your pastor or a counselor. Depending on your particular situation, you may also need to seek legal protection and make a safety plan. For a more complete exploration of what Scripture has to say about abuse, please read the Holcombs’ entire book, Is It My Fault: Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence.

An abuser typically has a well-stocked arsenal of ways to exert power over you.

When the abuse first begins, many women in abusive relationships aren’t sure if what they are experiencing is abusive. In fact, one of the biggest hurdles to addressing domestic violence is that very few victims self-identify as experiencing abuse. Many think abuse happens to “those women” and don’t want to have the stigma of being one of “those women.”

The most telling sign that you are in an abusive relationship is living in fear of your spouse. If you feel like you have to walk on egg shells around him—constantly watching what you say and do in order to avoid a blowup—your relationship is unhealthy and likely abusive. Other signs include your spouse’s belittling of you, his attempts to control you, and feelings of self-loathing, helplessness, and desperation.

An abuser typically has a well-stocked arsenal of ways to exert power over you. He may employ domination, humiliation, isolation, threats, intimidation, denial, blame, and more. What’s more, he is often creative and strategic in when—and how—to put these to their most effective use.

None of this is your fault. Your abuser is the only one to blame.

And because he is so good at deceptively wielding control, it can often be difficult to discern if you are being abused. From the perspective of outside observers, these signs of abuse may be cut-and-dry. But for those trapped in the cycles of abuse, making sense of these complicated relational dynamics—especially when the relationship is intimate—can be suffocating and confusing.

If this is where you find yourself right now, here are some ways to discern if your relationship is abusive.

What the abuser does: eight common profiles

Some abuse victims may be so confused by the relational dynamics in their relationship—understandably so—that they need to hear stories and common experiences from others in order to make sense of their own. Some find it helpful to identify domestic abuse by understanding the common profiles of abusers—and recognizing their partner among them.

Since abuse is defined by an abuser’s behavior—not yours—we’ll start with identifying just that. Here are eight categories or personas abusers commonly exhibit:

  1. Bully
    • Glares
    • Shouts
    • Smashes things
    • Sulks
  2. Jailer
    • Stops you from working and seeing friends
    • Tells you what to wear
    • Keeps you in the house
    • Charms your friends and family
  3. Head worker
    • Puts you down
    • Tells you you’re too fat, too thin, ugly, stupid, useless, etc.
  4. Persuader
    • Threatens to hurt or kill you or the children
    • Cries
    • Says he loves you
    • Threatens to kill himself
    • Threatens to report you to social services
  5. Liar
    • Denies any abuse
    • Says it was “only” a slap
    • Blames drinking, drugs, stress, overwork, you, unemployment, etc.
  6. Bad father
    • Says you are a bad mother
    • Turns the children against you
    • Uses access to harass you
    • Threatens to take the children away
    • Persuades you to have “his” baby then refuses to help you care for it
  7. King of the castle
    • Treats you as a servant/slave
    • Says women are for sex, cooking, and housework
    • Expects sex on demand
    • Controls all the money
  8. Sexual controller
    • Sexually assaults you
    • Won’t accept no for an answer
    • Keeps you pregnant
    • Rejects your advances and allows sex only when he wants it rather than when you initiate

Belittling behavior

Does your spouse:

  • Yell at you?
  • Embarrass, insult, criticize you, call you names, or put you down?
  • Treat you so badly that you’re embarrassed for your family or friends to see?
  • Put you down, but then tells you that he loves you?
  • Ignore or belittle your opinions or accomplishments?
  • Blame you for his abusive behavior?
  • Use any mistakes you made in the past against you?
  • Not allow you to disagree?
  • Ignore your feelings and ideas?
  • Tell you that you are a bad parent or threaten to take away or hurt your children?
  • Act like the abuse is no big deal, tell you it is your fault, or even deny doing it?
  • See you as property or a sex object, rather than as a person?

Controlling behavior

Does your spouse:

  • Act excessively jealous or possessive?
  • Withhold affection as a way to punish you?
  • Control where you go, what you do, and demand your whereabouts?
  • Keep you from seeing your family or friends?
  • Limit your access to money, the phone, or the car?
  • Withhold basic necessities (food, clothes, medications, shelter)?
  • Make you ask for money or refuse to give you money?
  • Restrict you to an allowance?
  • Prevent you from working or sabotage your job?
  • Steal from you or take your money?
  • Constantly check up on you?
  • Control your plans and friends?
  • Stop you from seeing your family or friends?
  • Force you to drop charges?

Violent behavior or threats

Does your spouse:

  • Hit, kick, slap, choke, burn, shove, shake, drag, bite, push, punch, or physically harm you in any other way?
  • Throw things at you?
  • Have a bad and unpredictable temper?
  • Threaten to hurt or kill you?
  • Threaten to take your children away or harm them?
  • Threaten to commit suicide if you leave?
  • Intimidate you with guns, knives, or other weapons?
  • Destroy your property or belongings?
  • Threaten to kill your pet?
  • Force, threaten, or coerce you to have sex?
  • Destroy your belongings?

Three kinds of abuse

There are different kinds of abuse but all of them are wrong. To help you take inventory of your unique situation, let’s consider three different kinds of abuse:

Physical
When we talk about domestic violence, we are often referring to the physical abuse of a spouse or intimate partner. This means using physical force against someone in a way that injures or endangers that person. Physical assault or battering is a crime, whether it occurs inside or outside the family. The police have the power and authority to protect you from physical attack. And you have the right to protect yourself and your children, if you have them.

Sexual
Any situation in which you are forced to participate in unwanted, unsafe, or degrading sexual activity is sexual abuse. Forced sex, even by a spouse or intimate partner with whom you also have consensual sex, is an act of aggression and violence. Sexual assault includes rape, but it also includes coercion, intimidation, or manipulation to force unwanted sex. We define sexual assault as any type of sexual behavior or contact where consent is not freely given or obtained and is accomplished through force, intimidation, violence, coercion, manipulation, threat, deception, or abuse of authority.

Sexual assault is a display of power by the perpetrator against the victim. It is not a product of an “uncontrollable” sexual urge. In fact, it is not actually about sex at all; it is about violence and control. Perpetrators use sexual actions and behaviors as weapons to dominate, control, and belittle another person.

If you feel as though you are being pressured into sex or that you are doing something that you do not want in order to placate your spouse, then let us tell you now that your feelings are valid and that it is abuse.

Emotional
Most people can identify physical abuse—pushing, hitting, kicking—if it is happening in their relationship. Emotional abuse, on the other hand, is not always so easily spotted.

It’s harder to pinpoint exactly what’s wrong, and easier to minimize what’s really going on. It doesn’t leave you bleeding or bruised. The neighbors can’t hear it (not always) through the walls. But emotional abuse is no less destructive than physical abuse, and it is no less wrong.

The aim of emotional abuse is to chip away at your feelings of self-worth and independence—a violent process, in that it degrades you and your sense of God-given worth. If you’re the victim of emotional abuse, you may feel that there is no way out of the relationship, or that without your abusive partner you will have nothing.

So how can you identify if what you’re experiencing is emotional abuse? There are several ways. Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse such as yelling, name-calling, blaming, and shaming. Isolation, intimidation, and controlling behaviors are also signs of emotional abuse. Sometimes, abusers throw in threats of physical violence or other repercussions if you don’t do what they want.

Emotional abuse also includes economic abuse such as withholding money and basic necessities, restricting you to an allowance, sabotaging your job, and stealing from you or taking your money.

These are just some examples. But if you don’t see your particular experience listed here, use this as a general guide: Does your partner do something deliberately and repeatedly that puts you down or thwarts your plans? If the person who is supposed to be providing love, support, and guidance is keeping you in a situation where you are constantly made to feel inferior, you aren’t in a healthy relationship.

Your thoughts and feelings

The descriptions above are focused on your spouse’s behavior, which are all the telltale signs of abuse. These next questions are for you—to determine how you feel regarding this behavior. The more “yes” answers here, the more likely it is that you’re in an abusive relationship.

Do you:

  • Feel afraid of your spouse most of the time?
  • Avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner?
  • Feel afraid of your spouse’s temper?
  • Feel afraid to disagree?
  • Feel that you can’t do anything right for your spouse?
  • Believe you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?
  • Have to justify everything you do, every place you go, every person you talk to in order to avoid your spouse’s anger?
  • Feel afraid to leave or break up because your spouse has threatened to hurt you, himself, or someone else?
  • Avoid seeing family or friends because of your spouse’s jealousy?
  • Wonder if you’re the one who is crazy?
  • Feel emotionally numb or helpless?

Reflect on your spouse’s abusive behavior. Do you see him in these descriptions? Can you see evidence that the behaviors were deliberate, controlled, or planned? Does he act differently toward you when there are other people around? How has he attempted to stop your resistance to his abuse? Does he treat others with respect, while treating you with disrespect?

Take a look at your own experience to get clarity on your situation. Our hope is that as we spell out the nuances of what you may be experiencing, you will be able to call it what it is, plain and simple—abuse.

 

 

Helping victims of domestic abuse: 4 pitfalls to avoid

SOURCE: Dr. Diane Langberg/Careleader.org

To understand domestic abuse properly, let’s start with the word abuse, which comes from the Latin word abutor, meaning “to use wrongly.” It also means “to insult, violate, tarnish, or walk on.” So domestic abuse, then, occurs when one partner in the home uses the other partner for wrong purposes. Anytime a human being uses another as a punching bag, a depository for rage, or something to be controlled for that person’s own satisfaction, abuse has occurred. Anytime words are used to demean or insult or degrade, abuse has occurred. And anytime there is intimidation and threats and humiliation, abuse has occurred.

Domestic abuse is something you as a pastor may encounter, or it may be a “silent sin” within the church that goes unseen. Either way, it is a reality, and one for which we must be prepared. But how do we do this? How can we prepare to minister to victims of domestic abuse? Below, I share four common pitfalls of pastors and leaders, then conclude by explaining how the church is called to act in these situations.

Pitfall #1: Not realizing the frequency of abuse

We need to realize just how frequently abuse happens. We are surprised by it in the church, but statistically 20 percent of women in this country will experience at least one episode of violence with a husband or partner.

That’s almost one-third of women, and that includes women in the church.

20% of women in this country will experience at least one episode of violence with a husband or partner.

Further, more than three women are murdered each day by their husbands or boyfriends.

Or here’s another statistic: pregnant women are more likely to be victims of homicide than to die of any other cause.

That is astounding. And again, those numbers don’t change when you survey women within the church.

Pitfall #2: Not calling abuse what it really is

One of the most important things we can do is call abuse what it really is, because people have a tendency to rename abuse into other things. For example, an abuser might say, “I was upset from a bad day at work … which is why I turned the table over, broke the dishes, and hit my spouse,” or “It was a mistake.” Abusers use words to minimize what has been done and make it seem normal. And unfortunately, those trying to help do the same thing, saying things like “Can’t you forgive so-and-so for that mistake?”

But domestic abuse is not a mistake. It is abuse; it meets the definition of abuse. So we have to call it what it is, because we are called to the truth. We have to call things by their rightful name. By changing the wording, we diminish the gravity of the sin.

Pitfall #3: Encouraging submission despite abuse

Sadly, many women have been beaten, kicked, and bruised, and then return home in the name of submission. Worse, many of these women have been sent home in the name of submission. But submission does not entitle a husband to abuse his wife.

Unfortunately, this instruction is one of the biggest mistakes pastors and church leaders have been known to make. So many women are sent home by church leaders to be screamed at, humiliated, and beaten, sometimes to death. Their husbands can break their bones, smash in their faces, terrify their children, break things, forbid them access to the money, and all sorts of things, but they are told to submit without a word and be glad for the privilege of suffering for Jesus.

Pitfall #4: Protecting the institution of marriage instead of the victim

Domestic violence is a felony in all fifty states. So, to send people home and not deal with it, not bring it into the light, and not provide safety is to be complicit in lawbreaking, which is also illegal. In sending women home, the church ends up partnering in a crime. But it is not the church’s call to cover up violence. Paul says in Ephesians 5 to expose the deeds of darkness so the light can shine in. That’s the only way there is hope for truth and repentance and healing.

I also find one of the things that confuses Christians is we think that if we take the wife and children out of their home to bring them to a safe place, for example, we are not protecting “the family.” We say that we have to protect the family because it is a God-ordained institution, which it is. But what we forget is that God does not protect institutions, even ones He has ordained, when they are full of sin.

It’s easy for us to forget that truth, and particularly when we know those who are abusive, we tend to want to believe them. We don’t understand how incredibly deceitful and manipulative they are, deceiving first themselves and then others. We think we can tell when people are lying—even though the Scriptures say we are all so deceitful, we can’t even know the depths of it. But we are deceived into thinking that they wouldn’t do something so severe. And while we think we are doing the right thing by believing or trusting them, we are actually completely opposed to Scripture.

The calling of the church

The church is called to be the church. What that means is that we are called to protect the vulnerable and the oppressed; that’s all through the Scriptures. And we are called to hold others accountable, despite the tough road to repentance, even if they are our best friends.

So when a pastor hears from a woman that she is being abused in her home, the first step is to find out what that means. It could be verbal abuse, or it could be that her life is in danger, and she and her children need to be taken out of the home and put in a safe place.

Unfortunately, though, not all victims of domestic abuse feel that they are able to leave, a source of frustration for many caregivers. The vast majority of women in these situations love their husbands and want their marriage to work, and many times, the husband assures her that he won’t do it again. She wants her husband, so she keeps going back. So while we want to ensure her safety by not sending her back to an abusive home, we also want to give her the dignity of being able to make her own decision, which he does not give her.

We must also have the humility to involve other authorities like the police, if need be. They are God-given authorities for matters such as these, but it can be a bit of a revolving door. If she wants to report the abuse to the police, go with her to the police. If she needs to file a protection order, go with her to the courthouse. We must walk with her as she makes her decision.

As pastors and leaders, we must not minimize abuse, nor should we teach women that submission means being a punching bag, even a verbal one. We also cannot minimize the gravity of the issue or be naïve to its prevalence in the church. Instead, the church is called to love and protect those who are vulnerable, to walk with them and care for them well.

7 Truths to Remember in Troubled Times

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Dennis and Barbara Rainey/ Family Life Ministry

Concerned about economic, political, racial, and moral instability in our culture?  Disheartened by struggles in your personal life?  Here’s what to focus on when the ground shakes beneath your feet.

Dealing with the hardships of life

Life will never be easy. We will always face problems and hardship. That would be true even if our culture felt more stable than it does today, for the Scriptures promise us, “In the world you shall have tribulation.”

So how will we deal with loss, with grief, with fear, with suffering? How do we respond when things don’t go our way? And how do we teach our children to face the hardships of life?

Christians today need to know more about God, more about ourselves, and more about the mission God has given us. Here are seven things to remember:

1. God is alive. He has not disappeared. He is eternal, all-powerful, and all-knowing, just as He has been from the beginning of time. As Isaiah 40:28 tells us, “… The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.”

2. God never changes. Psalm 90 (KJV) begins, “Lord, Thou has been our dwelling place in all generations … even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God.” Inspired by these words, Isaac Watts wrote the following verses in the enduring hymn, “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.” They remind us that our fears, though circumstantially different than his in ages past, are still the same:

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.

We all fear the loss of life, health, freedom, and peace. We fear the unknown future. But do you know who will be with us? Jesus, the One who is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

3. God offers eternal life. If you have received Christ as your Lord and Savior, your sins have been forgiven because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. You are a child of God, and as Romans 8:38-39 tells us, “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That is encouraging.

4. God has won the battle. He has defeated death. History will culminate in Christ’s return. No matter what we experience in the world, we can find peace in Him. In John 16:33 Jesus tells us, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

5. God is still in control. He is not surprised by anything going on in the world, or in your life. He is the sovereign, omnipotent King of kings. Even in times of uncertainty and chaos, Romans 8:28 (NASB) is still in force: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” So is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB), which tells us, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

6. God will provide for your needs. Especially in times of economic uncertainty it’s easy to grow anxious about the most basic things, like whether we will keep our jobs, or whether our families will have enough to eat. But in Matthew 6:26-33, Jesus tells us we should not be worried about what we eat, or what we will wear:

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? … But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 

7. God has given us good works to do. Jesus’ words also remind us that there is more to life than meeting our daily material needs. When we seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness, we operate according to His priorities—we’re concerned about building our family relationships, and connecting the hearts of our children to God’s heart, and impacting future generations by proclaiming Christ. We’re concerned about God using us to reach and influence others with the gospel. That’s what life is really about.

Second Corinthians 5:20 tells us that we are ambassadors for Christ. Have you considered that your best opportunities to fulfill this role—to represent Christ and His Kingdom—may come in times like these when so many need help and encouragement?

Consider this: If you are feeling troubled by the instability in our world, then many of the people you encounter each day are concerned and fearful as well. What makes you different is that you have a firm foundation in Christ. This is an opportunity for you to shine. If you have built your home on the Rock (Matthew 7:24-27), you will remain unshaken. That in itself is a witness to the watching world that there is something different about Christians. And if you then reach out to help others who struggle without that foundation, that makes you rare indeed.

When life feels insecure and unstable, focus on these timeless truths. Read the never-changing Word of God with your spouse and to your children.  No matter what troubles we are experiencing in our world and in our families, He is in control. He will not abandon us. He will provide for us. This may look different than you expect, but His promises have not expired in the 21st century.

You Don’t Have to Forget

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”

(Romans 8:28 NIV).

You’ve heard this phrase over and over: “Forgive and forget.”

There’s only one problem with it: You can’t do it. It’s impossible!

You really can’t forget a hurt in your life. In fact, you can’t even try to forget it. Because when you’re trying to forget, you are actually focusing on the very thing you want to forget.

Forgetting is not what God wants you to do. Instead, he wants you to trust him and see how he can bring good out of it. That’s more important than forgetting, because then you can thank God for the good that he brought out of it. You can’t thank God for things you forget.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV).

It doesn’t say that all things are good, because all things are not good. Cancer is not good. Disease is not good. Death is not good. Divorce is not good. War is not good. Rape and abuse are not good. There are a lot of things in life that are evil. Not everything that happens in this world is God’s will.

But God says he will work good out of the bad things in life if you will trust him. When you come to him and say, “God, I give you all the pieces of my life,” he will return peace for your pieces. He gives you peace in your heart that comes from knowing that even if you don’t understand the hurt in your life, you can still forgive, knowing that God will use that pain for good.

You don’t have to forget the wrong thing that someone did to you. You can’t do it even if you tried! But God says you don’t have to forget it. You just have to forgive and then see how he will bring good out of it.

Research Finds Emotional Abuse Is As Destructive As Physical Abuse To Children

SOURCE:  /Lifehack

It’s widely known that physical child abuse has long-lasting and far-reaching consequences for people, from post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depression to toxic relationships.What few realize is that emotional abuse in children can be as damaging and insidious as physical violence.

Recent research demonstrates that emotional maltreatment destroys a child as thoroughly as physical harm.Utilizing data from a previous study, David Vachon concluded that “although some people assume physical abuse is more harmful than other types of abuse, we found that they are associated with similar consequences.” A pair of doctors at the University of Minnesota and the University of Rochester validated the study, finding, through working at a summer camp for low-income families, that different types of abuse share “equivalent, broad, and universal effects.”

What is emotional abuse, and how can it be identified?

Child abuse falls primarily into three categories: Physical, sexual, and emotional. While each chief form of abuse is addled with consequences that often shadow a person for life, identifying emotional abuse in a child presents complications.Far less evident than physical abuse, emotional maltreatment involves a broader spectrum of actions and often encompasses undetected violence. Unexplained sadness, angry outbursts, withdrawn behavior, and poor performance in school are just a few of the symptoms that a child is being abused emotionally, which can be caused from shaming, indifference, emotional and physical withholding of love, as well as unjust punishment and neglect.

Andrew Vachss, a lawyer and advocate who has devoted his life to protecting children, describes emotional powerfully and poignantly here:

“…of all the many forms of child abuse, emotional abuse may be the cruelest and longest–lasting of all.

Emotional abuse is the systematic diminishment of another. It may be intentional or subconscious (or both), but it is always a course of conduct, not a single event. It is designed to reduce a child’s self–concept to the point where the victim considers himself unworthy—unworthy of respect, unworthy of friendship, unworthy of the natural birthright of all children: love and protection.

Emotional abuse can be as deliberate as a gunshot: “You’re fat. You’re stupid. You’re ugly.”

Emotional abuse can be as random as the fallout from a nuclear explosion. In matrimonial battles, for example, the children all too often become the battlefield. I remember a young boy, barely into his teens, absently rubbing the fresh scars on his wrists. “It was the only way to make them all happy,” he said. His mother and father were locked in a bitter divorce battle, and each was demanding total loyalty and commitment from the child.

Emotional abuse can be active. Vicious belittling:

“You’ll never be the success your brother was.” Deliberate humiliation: “You’re so stupid. I’m ashamed you’re my son.”

It also can be passive, the emotional equivalent of child neglect—a sin of omission, true, but one no less destructive.

And it may be a combination of the two, which increases the negative effects geometrically.

Emotional abuse can be verbal or behavioral, active or passive, frequent or occasional. Regardless, it is often as painful as physical assault. And, with rare exceptions, the pain lasts much longer. A parent’s love is so important to a child that withholding it can cause a “failure to thrive” condition similar to that of children who have been denied adequate nutrition.”

Sound terrifying? Read on.

The sweeping, long-lasting impact of emotional abuse

To think that emotional abuse has a statute is faulty: The Journal of Pediatric Care found that of 3,000 adults with a history of major depression, a staggering 93% reported emotional maltreatment, while 31% were determined to have suffered both emotional and physical abuse.

“Emotional maltreatment, even more than physical and sexual abuse, may predispose a person to developing depression or anxiety.”

Troublesome? Certainly. While the enduring impact of emotional abuse has not been studied widely, reports across the board have determined the devastating effects it can have on an individual. Reactive Attachment Disorder–or RAD–is just one manifestation of the traumatic impacts of early childhood emotional maltreatment. Defined as “markedly disturbed and developmentally inappropriate social relatedness that usually begins before the age of 5,” RAD is a rare, but potentially catastrophic, disorder. As infants and children, those with RAD cling indiscriminately to strangers and demonstrate developmental delay and disabilities; as adults, RAD can present itself as a failure to socialize appropriately.

More common than RAD, however, are a list of problems that are just as damaging: Anxiety, sleep problems, post-traumatic stress, and depression–not to mention substance abuse, obesity, suicidal ideations, and interpersonal complications. As one emotionally abused woman remarked, “I keep looking for the affection I was denied as a child in men.” Her choice in partners, she confessed, was “wildly inappropriate and careless,” and led to physical abuse, psychological torment, and too many heartaches to count.

The effect of emotional abuse on intimate relationships

Indeed, interpersonal relationships seem to take the biggest toll when it comes to adults who were emotionally abused as children. In some cases, the abused adult will shy away from intimacy out of fear of the unfamiliar, while others–like the woman mentioned above–will develop indiscretion, anger, and aggression towards those with whom they become involved. Why? Because a healthy precedent has not been set. As one study put it,

“being exposed to emotional abuse is a predictor to developing ‘overt forms of aggression.’”

In other words, the anger an individual experienced but didn’t know how to express as a child builds over time and is released in the unhealthiest of manners–through outrage and violence.

The indiscriminate nature of emotional maltreatment

Certain socio-economic classes determine, in part, the rate of emotional abuse in children. Parents with limited means–or none at all–are more likely to be stressed out and financially strapped, and that anger and anxiety is often exerted on their children. However, a study at Midwestern University revealed that

“emotional abuse and neglect each continued to exert an influence on later symptoms of anxiety and depression even after controlling for gender, income, parental alcoholism, and other forms of child abuse.” (Wright, Crawford and Del Castillo, 2009).

This corroborates the findings of Vachon about the widespread effects of emotional abuse regardless of gender, race and/or ethnicity.

Healing emotional wounds

Despite these recent discoveries–which might make many who spot a child that is alone and frozen in watchfulness think twice–the indiscriminate nature of emotional abuse and its lasting consequences need not deter individuals who have either suffered from it or witnessed it in another. Prompt identification and appropriate invention are assuredly key, but treating it after-the-fact has also shown to make a tremendous impact on one’s ability to heal. Vachss points out that,

“if you are a victim of emotional abuse, there can be no self–help until you learn to self–reference. That means developing your own standards, deciding for yourself what “goodness” really is. Adopting the abuser’s calculated labels—”You’re crazy. You’re ungrateful. It didn’t happen the way you say”—only continues the cycle.

Adult survivors of emotional child abuse have only two life–choices: learn to self–reference or remain a victim. When your self–concept has been shredded, when you have been deeply injured and made to feel the injury was all your fault, when you look for approval to those who can not or will not provide it—you play the role assigned to you by your abusers.”

Whether you are the victim, the abuser, or the witness to an unfortunate child, one fact remains the same: Scars are not just skin-deep, and there exists a salve in our souls.

5 Tests to Determine If You’ve Forgiven Someone

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:25

bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:13

Wow! Those are hard words, aren’t they?

Whether in business, in church, or in family — relationships can cause pain and separation.

It’s tempting to get even. Holding a grudge is easier. Our first reaction is not always to forgive.

But forgiveness is not an option for the believer — even for the person who has hurt us the most.

And, there is another wow moment — especially if you know it applies to you.

Even with the importance the Bible places on forgiveness I frequently hear people give excuses for not forgiving someone.

Things such as:

“You can forgive but you can’t forget.” And, that’s most often true. Only God (and sometimes time and old age) can erase a memory.

“I’ve tried to forgive them, but they haven’t changed.” This may be true also. Forgiveness can be a catalyst for change, but it doesn’t guarantee change. And, I don’t seem to read those qualifiers in the commands to forgive.

“I may have forgiven them, but I’ll always hold it against them.” Okay, while it may sound logical, it’s not really forgiveness. Sorry, to be so blunt.

Forgiveness is a releasing of emotional guilt you place upon the other person. It’s a choice. It happens in the heart. It’s not a release of responsibility or an absence of healthy boundaries. It doesn’t even mean justice — legal or eventual is removed from the situation. It is, however, a conscious choice to remove the right to get even from the person who injured you. It’s a release of anger and any bitterness or grudge.

Plain and simple, forgiveness is hard.

I was talking with someone who wants to forgive the person who has hurt her the most. She wants to be free from the guilt of holding a grudge. She wants to follow the example of Christ in Biblical obedience. The problem? She’s not sure she has truly forgiven, because she still hurts from the injury.

I shared with her that while forgiveness is a decision — a choice — it is not an automatic healer of emotions. It helps, but emotions heal over time. Then I shared some ways she could determine if she’s truly forgiven the other person.

Here are 5 ways to tell if you’ve forgiven someone:

The “first thought” test.

When the first thought you have about them is not the injury they caused in your life you have probably extended forgiveness. You should be able to have normal thoughts about the person occasionally. Remember, you are dropping the right to get even — the grudge you held against them.

An “opportunity to help them” test.

Ask yourself: Would you help them if you knew they were in trouble and you had the ability? Most likely this is someone you once cared about — perhaps even loved. You would have assisted them if they needed help at one point. While I’m not suggesting you would subject yourself to abuse or further harm, or that you are obligated to help them, or even you should, but would you in your heart want to see them prosper or would you still want to see them come to harm? This is a huge test of forgiveness.

Your “general thoughts” test.

Can you think positive thoughts about this person? Again, you’ve likely been on positive terms with this person or in a close enough relationship for them to injure you to this extreme. Is there anything good you can come up with about them which is even remotely good? If not, have your really forgiven them?

The “revenge” test.

Do you still think of getting even with the person? There may be consequences which need to come for this person and you may have to see them through to protect others, but does your heart want to hurt them? If so, would you call this forgiveness?

The “failure” test.

When someone injures us we can often wish harm upon them. This is normal, but it’s not part of the forgiveness process. Have you have stopped looking for them to fail? If you have truly forgiven someone, then just like you would for anyone else, you would want them to succeed or at least do better in life. Forgiveness means you’ve stopped keeping a record of the person’s wrongs. That’s how believers respond to others. We consider their best interests.

I realize this is a tough list. Those struggling with forgiveness will most likely push back against it a bit. I know this, however, for your heart to completely heal, you eventually need to forgive the one who hurt you the most.

And, if you’re struggling to “pass the test” don’t beat yourself up. Pray about it. Ask God to continue to work on your heart.

Rejection By Friends Really Hurts

SOURCE:  Christina Fox/Desiring God

Rejected by Men, Even Our Friends

Wounds from a friend can hurt much more than those from an enemy.

It’s the kind of pain that cuts deep. It’s a wound that aches and throbs and is slow to heal. The rejection’s unexpected, and therefore worse — more painful.

We’ve all experienced rejection at some point in our lives. Whether it’s being picked last for a game at recess or being turned down for a job or being ridiculed for our faith, rejection from anyone hurts. But rejection at the hand of a friend hurts even more. And the deeper the friendship, the more excruciating the pain.

There is one thing that brings us hope in the midst of any rejection: Our Savior was rejected, too — even by his closest friends.

A Rejected Savior

Peter was one of Jesus’s most trusted friends. He was with Jesus from the start of his ministry. He had walked away from his livelihood to follow Christ. Peter was the first to claim Jesus as Lord and one of the few that saw Jesus in all his glory at the Transfiguration. Because of that history, the story of Peter’s denials is all the more poignant.

After Judas betrayed Jesus and the soldiers arrested him, Peter followed them to the high priest’s house. As he stood outside by the fire, waiting to hear what would happen, those in the courtyard recognized him as one of Jesus’s followers.

“Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:59–62)

Our Savior knows the pain of broken friendships. He knows what it’s like when friends fail us, reject us, and abandon us. “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).

He was also rejected by those he had grown up with in his hometown of Nazareth (Mark 6:4). Perhaps some who waved palm branches and laid down their cloaks as Jesus entered Jerusalem just one week later were shouting, “Crucify him!”

At his arrest, all his disciples fled and abandoned him when he needed them most (Matthew 26:31).

And on the cross, he bore the full weight of rejection when the Father poured out his wrath upon him for our sins, “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34).

My Forever Faithful Friend

I’ve been rejected by friends a number of times in my life. The confusion and shock of rejection is paralyzing. My mind can’t help but rehearse the memories with suspicion. I walk back through the years I spent with those who hurt me and wonder if I was wrong about everything I had thought about our friendship. I can’t help but want to withdraw to protect myself from further harm. I resist trusting others with my heart. Even worse, I’m prone to harbor anger, resentment, and bitterness toward those who hurt me.

But then I look at the Rejected. I look at the pain and abandonment he faced for me — because of me — and it helps me face my rejections. The gospel — the good news of what Jesus did through his life, death, and resurrection — gives me hope in the midst of my pain. The sorrow I feel over broken relationships reminds me of Jesus’s brokenness for me.

Even more, the gospel reminds me that I am just like Peter and the disciples.

Apart from God’s transforming grace in my heart, I would always reject God’s love. I would deny and abandon him. Seeing Jesus’s rejection, I’m reminded that I’ve been forgiven for far worse, and it helps me let go of anger and bitterness, and instead extend forgiveness.

The rejection Jesus endured shows me that he is my perfect forever faithful friend.

His love for me is not fickle. It’s not dependent upon what I do for him, and it does not change. “Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39). When I am hurt by my friends, I always have a friend in Jesus. He understands my pain and sorrow. He has compassion for my tears. He is always with me, and I can always trust him.

As long as we live in this sin-stained world, we will all experience rejection — even, maybe especially, from dear friends whom we have loved and trusted for years. Jesus never promised to protect us from pain or sorrow, but to be with us in it and eventually to deliver us through it to himself.

Getting Even OR Getting Better

SOURCE:  Joe Stowell

“It is mine to avenge; I will repay . . . . If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Romans 12:19-20

I’ll never forget an older woman who came to my office and heatedly dumped on me a long list of objections about her husband.

I asked how long she had been married. It had been more than 40 years. I have never in my life, nor would I ever, counsel anyone to break up a home. But as she went on and on about how miserable he was, I finally said, “Why have you lived with him so long if he’s so bad? Did you ever think about just checking out? I’m not advising it, but I’d like to know what you think.” She said, “Oh, no! I’d never walk out of this marriage.”

I thought that was an honorable attitude until she continued.

It was evident that she hated him so much that walking out of the marriage would have meant she couldn’t torment him anymore. For her, that was a reason for staying. Why would she want to give up the opportunity to shred her enemy at every turn?

Got any people like that in your life?

People you’d like to take every opportunity to even the score with?

Take my advice: Forget it! You’ll only lose sleep and waste precious energy if you are living to get even with someone. As someone well said, “Bitterness is the poison you prepare for someone else and end up drinking yourself!” So thankfully, God has a better way. He’ll deal with your enemy if you get out of the way and pour out love instead of venom.

Joseph understood this dynamic when he, as a ruler in Egypt, could have made toast out of his hateful brothers. But instead he said to them, “Am I in the place of God?” (Genesis 50:19). Joseph was free of the “do evil for evil” syndrome and admitted he had no business getting back at his brothers because God is the one who carries out justice. With Joseph, you can experience emotional liberation from your enemies when you pray, “God, they are in your hands! I give them to you to deal justly with them!” When that is our prayer, we are set free to follow the liberating way of Romans 12:19-21 where Paul writes:

“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

So don’t get in the way. God has not equipped us to personally carry out justice and vengeance on our enemies. That’s why things always get messed up when we try. He is the only one who has that right and the power and wisdom to do it well.

Spiritual Abuse: What it is and Why it Hurts

SOURCE:  Dr. Phil Monroe

In 21st century United States, does spiritual abuse really happen? Can’t we all just choose churches where we feel safe? No one makes us (adults) go to church so shouldn’t spiritual abuse be nonexistent in this day—or at least happen only once (e.g., fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice…)?

Sadly, spiritual abuse happens in all sorts of churches and for all sorts of reasons.

What is spiritual abuse?

Spiritual abuse is the use of faith, belief, and/or religious practices to coerce, control, or damage another for a purpose beyond the victim’s well-being (i.e., church discipline for the purpose of love of the offender need not be abuse).

Like child abuse, spiritual abuse comes in many forms. It can take the form of neglect or intentional harm of another. It can take the form of naïve manipulation or predatory “feeding on the sheep.” Consider some of these examples:

  1. Refusing to provide pastoral care to women on the basis of gender alone
  2. Coercing reconciliation of victim to offender
  3. Dictating basic decisions (marriage, home ownership, jobs, giving practices, etc.)
  4. Binding conscience on matters that are in the realm of Christian freedom
  5. Using threats to maintain control of another
  6. Using deceptive language to coerce into sexual activity
  7. Denying the right to divorce despite having grounds to do so

For a short review, consider Mary DeMuth’s 2011 post on spotting spiritual abuse.

Why it is so harmful

If someone demands your wallet, you may give it but you do not think they have a right to it. You have no doubt that an injustice has occurred. You have been robbed! When someone abuses, it is a robbery but often wrapped up in a deceptive package to make the victim feel as if the robbery was actually a gift. Spiritual abuse almost always is couched in several layers of deception. Here’s a few of those layers:

  1. Speaking falsely for God. Spiritual leaders or shepherds abuse most frequently by presenting their words as if they were the words of God himself. They may not say “Thus sayeth the Lord” in so many ways but they speak with authority. When leaders fail to communicate God’s words and attitudes, they are called false teachers and prophets. Some of these false words include squelching dissent and concern in the name of “unity.”
  2. Over-emphasizing one doctrinal point while minimizing another. Consider the example of Paul, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). In three other places in the NT, Paul says similar phrases. The application is that our leaders are to exemplify the character of Christ. Sadly, it is easy to turn this into, “do what I want you to do.” Paul does not say to imitate him. He says to imitate him whenhe imitates Christ. There are other examples as well: forcing forgiveness, demanding victims of abuse to confront their abusers in private so that they will meet the letter of Matthew 18.
  3. Good ends justifying means. It is a sad fact that many victims of other kinds of abuse have been asked to be silent for the sake of community comfort. Indeed, community comfort is important. But forcing a victim of abuse to be silent and to forego seeking justice is a form of spiritual abuse.
  4. Pretending to provide pastoral care. I have talked with several pastors who crossed into sexual behavior with those they have been charged to counsel. All too commonly, the pastor deceived self and other into thinking that the special attention given to the parishioner was love and compassion. In fact, their actions were always self-serving. However, the layer of deception made it feel (to both parties) like love in the beginning stages.

The reason why spiritual abuse hurts so much is that it always fosters confusion, self-doubt, and shame. This recipe encourages isolation, self-hatred, and questioning of God. When shepherds abuse, the sheep are scattered and confused. They no longer discern the voice of the true Shepherd.

This is exactly why the Old Testament and New Testament speak in such harsh terms against abusive and neglectful Shepherd: Ezekiel 34:2; Jeremiah 50:6; John 10:9. Words like, “woe to you…” and “you blind guides…” reveal that spiritual abuse for any reason is destructive and is not of God. And it gets no harsher than, “better than a millstone be tied to your neck and thrown into the sea” to illustrate the depth of evil in harming vulnerable people.

A PRAYER FOR WAITING ON THE LORD WHEN EVIL SEEMS TO WIN

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

   Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. Psalm 37:7-9

Dear heavenly Father,

You send your Word with Swiss timing and uncanny precision. Whenever we’re vexed or fretful, you anticipate it. Whenever we’re confused or anxious, you’ve already spoken wisdom about the matter, in multiple places in the Scriptures. Whenever we feel vulnerable or angry, time and time again, you come to us in the Bible and bring us back to gospel-sanity. How we praise you for the counsel and consolation of your Word; the grace and power of the Scriptures; the truth and authority of the Bible.

It’s easy to get worked up over the apparent success of those who bring harm to others—evildoers who even get rewarded for their madness. The recent beheadings is glaring and horrific example. How long, O Lord, before you send Jesus back to put all things right? When will Jesus return to finish making all things new?

Though you won’t give us a date, you do give us yourself. You’re calling us to stillness and fretless waiting. Every day, in multiple contexts, we need to hear you say, “Be still and know that I am God.” No good comes from our obsessing about darkness and evil-making. Nothing profitable results from our spending extra time fertilizing our anger, fueling our disgust, fuming about how much evildoers get away with.

Satan was defeated at the cross, and he is filled with fury because he knows his time is short (Rev. 12:12). Having been humiliated, he will be eradicated. Death and dying, terror and terrifying, evil and evil-makers will be gone forever. For a Day is coming when the knowledge of your glory will cover the entire earth as the waters cover the sea.

Until that Day, we will work hard to push back the effects of the Fall, and offer our communities a foretaste of the world to come. How we praise you that the very righteousness with which you have already robed us is the same righteousness with which you are going to fill the earth. Fill our hearts with your grace and our hands with your mercy.

So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ reigning and returning name.

Book Review/Domestic Violence: Is It My Fault?

Source:  Aaron Armstrong/The Gospel Coalition

Justin and Lindsey Holcomb. Is It My Fault?: Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence. Chicago, IL: Moody, 2014. 240 pp. $14.99.

As we sat in the school auditorium where our church meets, I could feel my wife seething beside me. Our pastor had come to a crucial text in one of the Gospels—Jesus’ teaching on divorce. As we listened to him strongly (and faithfully) teach what the Bible says about marriage and divorce, Emily became increasingly agitated—not because of what was said, but because of what hadn’t been. What about women being abused?

Many assume the Bible’s teaching on divorce is too simplistic to deal with such issues. Bad counsel based on incomplete teaching leaves many women (and men) feeling trapped with nowhere to turn when their spouses begin to spiritually, psychologically, physically, or sexually abuse them. When the abuse somehow becomes their fault in the counseling session. When they’re too ashamed to say anything at all—or don’t even know if it “counts.”

Whose Fault Is It?

My wife’s anger was birthed from experiences in both her childhood and adolescent years, and her empathy for several friends who have experienced abuse in their marriages. If we will offer meaningful hope and encouragement to those suffering from domestic violence, we need to know what the Bible says to them.

This is why books like Justin and Lindsey Holcomb’s Is It My Fault?: Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence are so necessary. From its opening pages, the Holcombs, who also co-authored Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault (Crossway, 2011), offer a compassionate and biblical look at the problem of domestic violence, beginning with five words victims need to hear: It is never your fault.

No matter what kind of abuse you have experienced, there is nothing you can do, nothing you can say, nothing you think that makes you deserving of it. There is no mistake you could have made and no sin you could have committed to make you deserving of violence.

You did not deserve this. And it is never your fault.

You did not ask for this. You should not be silenced. You are not worthless. You do not have to pretend like nothing happened. You are not damaged goods, forgotten or ignored by God, or “getting what you deserve.” (21)

These truths should be obvious, but for someone in an abusive relationship, they’re anything but. And I’m not sure how obvious they are to some of us who aren’t. For example, we tend to look at marital problems and try to figure out how to divide responsibility equally between spouses. While some measure of “shared blame” is certainly warranted in most relationships, we need to be careful to not apply this assumption too broadly. Sometimes, it really is the problem of just one person—and in the case of domestic violence, in whatever form it takes, it is always the abuser’s fault.

Although a bit of a loose example, consider the shootings in May in Santa Barbara, California, when 22-year-old Elliott Rodger stabbed three people to death, shot three more, and left 13 more injured before killing himself. Why did he do it? Because “girls have never been attracted to me,” he said. What surprised me wasn’t that Rodger placed the blame for his yet-to-be-committed crimes on women, but that some online commenters seemed to agree—saying that if he wasn’t a virgin, maybe this wouldn’t have happened.

Yeah. Someone actually said that.

What Is Domestic Violence?

Keeping this background in mind is especially important when you consider how tricky it can be to develop a concrete definition of domestic violence. You need one broad enough to capture the full spectrum of abuse without leaving all readers paranoid they’re either being abused or are abusers themselves. Here’s the Holcombs’ definition:

Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive, controlling, or abusive behavior that is used by one individual to gain or maintain power and control over another individual in the context of an intimate relationship. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, exploit, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure, or wound an intimate partner. (57)

Despite being a little clinical, and maybe a bit lawyer-y, this definition is strong. I believe the key word here is pattern. An abuser isn’t necessarily someone who says something stupid and hurtful once (again, if that were the case, we would all be abusers). An abuser is someone who makes an intentional behavior of it. Sinful and hurtful words must be dealt with, but we ought not label the one-time offender—depending on the nature of the offense—as being guilty of domestic violence. (There’s no such thing as being just a little stabby.)

What Will God Do About It?

The first several chapters of the book offer necessary definitions and categories readers may lack; beyond a definition of domestic violence, they may not know what the cycle of abuse looks like, or what types of personas exist among abusers—all of which the Holcombs provide. But the strength of Is It My Fault?really comes through when they turn to the Scriptures to show readers what God says about this issue. They display a God who “hates abuse, viewing it as sinful and unacceptable” (107), and who “delights in rescuing the oppressed (2 Sam. 22:49)” (108).

This testimony isn’t always easy for us to believe, though. In their day-to-day circumstance, many suffering abuse struggle to see God at work. They cry out asking for the Lord to deliver them, just as David did many times in the psalms. But it’s the tension we all face. Suffering and pain are real, but deliverance is real, too—even if it doesn’t come when or how we wish it did. Despite how it may seem at times, “God is not standing idly by to watch evil run its course. He will not allow evil to have the final word. His response to evil and violence is redemption, renewal, and recreation” (113).

I appreciate how the Holcombs hold this tension in their reflections on selected psalms. They don’t offer a pat “God’s in control,” though that would be easy to do. Instead they dig into the reality of the pain, the difficulty of the circumstances. But they don’t leave us there. Instead, they redirect despair to hope, showing how we can be confident that God’s deliverance will come.

This, arguably, may be the most vital practical takeaway for readers (aside from the helpful action plan in the appendices). When the darkness won’t lift, we need the hope that God isn’t ignoring our circumstances. That God is at work, even when we can’t see it. That his promises are still true—and because his promises are true, hope cannot be extinguished.

What Will We Do About It?

Is It My Fault? will provoke some strong feelings: anger that abuse happens at all, perhaps the temptation to seek vengeance, a longing for Jesus’ return and the coming the new creation. I hope it reminds readers that none of us can stand by when abuse occurs in our homes or in our churches. In those situations, our goal should always be to bring hope into the darkness of abuse. To humbly, earnestly, and uncompromisingly call perpetrators to repentance and let them endure the consequences of their actions. To offer compassion to victims and let them begin some form of healing, all the while holding out the promise of the final restoration Jesus will bring when he comes to wipe every tear from our eyes.

This is what victims of abuse need and, by God’s grace, it’s what we can offer if we’re willing.

Aaron Armstrong is the author of Awaiting a Savior: The Gospel, the New Creation, and the End of Poverty (Cruciform Press, 2011). He is a writer for an international Christian ministry focused on caring for the needs of the poor, serves as an itinerate preacher throughout southern Ontario, Canada, and blogs daily at Blogging Theologically.

Understanding The Bitter Heart

SOURCE:  Julie Ganschow/Biblical Counseling Coalition

Bitterness is unresolved, unforgiven anger and resentment. It is the result of anger changing from an experience to a belief. Bitterness is seething and constant. Bitter people carry the same burdens as angry people, but to a greater extent.

Watch out that no bitter root of unbelief rises up among you, for whenever it springs up, many are corrupted by its poison.  Hebrews 12:15 (NLT)

Bitterness does not affect only you, dear counselee; it affects everyone with whom you come into contact.

In the book of Ruth we read about Naomi (which means pleasant), the wife of Elimelech. Elimelech took his wife and two sons down from Bethlehem to the country of Moab because there was a famine in the land. While living in Moab, the sons took wives named Ruth and Orpah from among the native people. Elimelech and his two sons died in Moab and left Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah to fend for themselves.

When news came that the famine in the land of Judah had lifted, Naomi decided to return home to her own people. The three women set out together, but on the way, Naomi gave the young women the freedom to return home to their own people.

“No,” they said. “We want to go with you to your people.” But Naomi replied, “Why should you go on with me? Can I still give birth to other sons who could grow up to be your husbands? No, my daughters, return to your parents’ homes, for I am too old to marry again. And even if it were possible, and I were to get married tonight and bear sons, then what? Would you wait for them to grow up and refuse to marry someone else? No, of course not, my daughters! Things are far more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD himself has caused me to suffer.”  Ruth 1:10-14 (NLT)

Orpah did turn back, but Ruth was committed to Naomi and to her God.

So the two of them continued on their journey. When they came to Bethlehem, the entire town was stirred by their arrival. “Is it really Naomi?” the women asked. “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Instead, call me Mara, [meaning bitter] for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me home empty. Why should you call me Naomi when the  LORD has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy?”  Ruth 1:19-21 (NLT) 

What do you suppose it was that caused the whole town to stir? Could it have been Naomi’s appearance? Do you wonder if they could see the changes that had taken place inside her heart or on her face? Note the things Naomi says in verses 19-21:

“Things are far more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD himself has caused me to suffer.” And “. . . call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me home empty. Why should you call me Naomi when the LORD has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy?”

Naomi blamed God for making her life bitter and empty. All she could see was that she no longer had what she loved. Her bitterness reflected a heart of unbelief in the justice and sovereignty of God. She held on to the anger for what had been done to her and stood in judgment over God. In the entire text, we see nothing of Naomi’s quest to understand the purpose of God in her suffering. We only read that she was angry and bitter for what she had lost.

Perhaps you struggle with the same type of bitterness. Sometimes women and men who have lost children to illness or accident blame God for their loss. “God, how could you take my beloved child  from me? Don’t You know how much I loved him? How could You do this to  me?” An abandoned spouse may become bitter as they wonder: “God, don’t You see how much I am struggling to raise these kids while he is out living the high life?How can you let him get away with this? I am the one who was faithful, and now I am  he one who is miserable while he has it made! Don’t you care about me? Why aren’t you punishing him?”

The honest businessman sees a crooked businessman prospering while he flounders. “God, how can You stand by and let this happen? I am an honest businessman, and  my business is failing! How can You let him get way with such thievery? I have a wife and kids to feed, God; why are you doing this to me?”

The childless couple is bitter when they see families with several children and they cannot seem to have even one. “God, why don’t You let us have even one child when these other people have so many! It isn’t fair that we can’t have even one child to love while so many are being aborted and abandoned! God, why are You doing this to us?”

You become bitter out of a belief that God will not punish the people who hurt you, that God does not hear your plea, or that He does not care about your plight. Since God is apparently not going to intervene in your circumstances,  you stand in as judge, jury, and executioner in the lives of other people.

It becomes a circular pattern. The more you dwell on what has been done to you, the injustice you have suffered, or the loss you have incurred, the deeper goes the root of bitterness. You already know that carrying around a load of bitterness is exhausting.

Bitterness hardens your heart on the inside and your features on the outside. It also defiles those around you because it is contagious.

Curing The Bitter Heart

Do you want the cure for bitterness? You must understand that the only cure for bitterness and anger is forgiveness.

Bitterness is focused on what has been done to you. To break up bitterness, you must also be willing to look at what you have done to others. Your task is to admit what your responsibility is in the matter and go to those you have hurt, confess your sin, and first seek their forgiveness. You must be willing to get the log out of your own eye prior to examining your neighbor’s eye.

And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log from your own eye; then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.  Matthew 7:3-5 (NLT) 

The examination process begins right here at home. Start with yourself and seek God’s help in revealing the contents of your heart in relation to how you have sinned against others.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT) 

There needs to be a willingness on your part to forsake your sin of bitterness.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,  even as God in Christ forgave you.  Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT) 

Confession of your own sin and repentance for that sin must take place in your heart first. Then you must seek for other relationships to be healed and restored. You may want to pray a prayer similar to this one:

Gracious Heavenly Father, I realize now that I have a root of bitterness in my heart. Thank You that You have chosen this time in my life to reveal it to me. I ask for Your help, dear Lord, to see the areas of my heart and life where bitterness has grown. I trust the Holy Spirit will reveal to me my sin and I confess to you the sin of bitterness regarding the following circumstances in my life : __________

Thank You, dear Lord, for revealing to me the areas of my life over which I am bitter. Please help me to overcome this sin that defiles many and begin to put on the fruit of forgiveness in my life. Please help me to restore and repair the relationships that I have wounded and destroyed by my bitterness. Thank You for Your great gift of grace to me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Forgiving others is not an option for the Christian; it’s required, and it is step number one in removing bitterness.

Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Colossians 3:12-13 (NLT)

In forgiving others, it is important to remember a few important rules: When I forgive, I resolve never to bring this circumstance or situation up again to the one I forgave, to anyone else, or even to myself. It is a closed book. If you are going to pattern your forgiveness after that of the Lord, then you will choose to remember no more the sin committed against you.

But what if you are bitter toward God? What if it is God who has hurt you and caused you pain? My dear friend, please take hold of this truth: God is the sovereign God of the entire universe. It is His, and He does with it what He wishes, and it is always good. In fact, it is always very good!

To believe you must forgive God for what you perceive He has done against you insinuates that God has sinned, and this cannot be. God is a loving, holy, and perfect, sinless God who does not make mistakes.

Naomi, as recorded in the book of Ruth, may have believed for a time that God somehow made a mistake in taking her husband and sons from her, for she said He “brought me back empty.” It was no mistake, however. God was purposely unfolding His divine plan for humanity in Naomi’s life and in the death of her loved ones. Take note, dear one, that if Naomi’s son would have lived, Ruth would have remained his wife. Without the death of her husband, Ruth would not have been free to meet and marry Boaz, who became her kinsman redeemer. Ruth would not have given birth to their son, Obed, who became the father of Jesse, who is the father of David, from whose lineage comes the Christ.

Acceptance of hard things at the hand of a loving God is not easy. I encourage you to seek God in your circumstances and to trust that He is unfolding a divine plan that you cannot see right now, just as He did in the case of Naomi and Ruth. God’s sovereignty is always balanced by His love, and He promises to bring good out of every tragedy and heartache.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn, with many brothers and sisters.  Romans 8:28-29 (NLT) 

A Prayer for Letting Go of the Desire to Get Even

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord (Rom. 12:19). Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice (Prov. 24:17). Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing (1 Pet. 3:9)

Dear heavenly Father, I love the taste of deep dish, double-crusted apple cobbler, topped with sharp cheddar cheese and homemade vanilla ice cream. But, with less nutritional value, I also savor stories of creative revenge, seasoned with spiteful retaliation, and topped off with the gravy of humiliating retribution—when the bad guys “get it”1000 times worse than they gave it. Alas, the very attitude confronted by these Scriptures.

You commend, even command, that we work for justice, and long for the Day of ultimate righteousness. But we must heed your many warnings to avoid a vengeful spirit, as surely as we’d run from coiled rattlesnakes, toxic fumes, threatened momma bears, or E. coli poisoned waters.

No matter what the provocation—from a personal “dissing,” to evil parading its hatred of beauty—you tell us that we have no right to revenge, no right to gloat when an enemy falls, no right to get even with anybody. The gospel calls us to a different way of stewarding our hurts and anger.

Father, I’m so glad you didn’t “get even” with me, for all the ways I’ve rebelled (and do rebel) against you; for all the ways I’ve chosen my gain over your glory; for all the ways I’ve misrepresented you to the world, even to my own heart.

You didn’t get even; you got generous—lavishing mercy and grace upon this ill-deserving man. May the gospel keep me humble and patient, prayerful and expectant of the Day of consummate justice. I don’t want to waste one more self-absorbed moment rehearsing things that hurt me and relishing personal revenge.  So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ merciful and mighty name.

3 Things God Never Promised

SOURCE:  Ray Deck III/Faithlife

In Scripture, God makes a lot of promises. He keeps them all, but there are a few things he never promised that might surprise you. Here are three; can you think of others?

Justice on earth

God keeps score. He promises to heal the wounded, reward the faithful, and punish the wicked (2 Corinthians 5:10). But he doesn’t promise to do any of that until after heaven and earth are remade without the curse of sin. He promises justice. He does not promise swift justice.

God is patient with us all (2 Peter 3:9). That’s a great comfort until we realize that he’s also patient with those who harm, oppress, and offend us.

To my regular frustration, Scripture never gives permission for us to enforce our own interpretation of justice (Romans 12:9). Instead, we’re told to wait on God’s perfect plan to be carried out on his perfect time (Psalm 37:7).

Comfort

Many television preachers have built a personal empire on the false promise that obeying God will lead to material prosperity and success. But God never promised his followers an easy life. In fact, he warned us to expect the opposite (John 16:33)—hardship and persecution from the world, and even correction from his own hand (Hebrews 12:7).

The Christian life is not a comfortable life, but it is a fulfilling one. (Click to tweet)

Instant change

I love hearing stories of miraculous life transformation. They fuel my faith in the transformative power of God’s Word more than anything else. But they also plant a desire for the same sort of instant change in my own life. Yet still I still wrestle with entrenched habits and besetting sins (Hebrews 12:1). Much as I love to see instant change in others, and long to experience it myself, I must remember that God has promised to change me, but hasn’t promised to do it instantly.

He has promised to complete the transformative work that he’s begun in me (Philippians 1:6), a promise that implies this change is going to take a while.

EXTREME SUFFERING TAKES US TO ONE QUESTION

SOURCE:  Ed Welch/CCEF

“Almighty God, why have you done this to us? Have you no heart, no feelings? Have you no eyes to see with? Have you no ears to hear us with? You are wicked, O Lord, as wicked as a man.”

These are the words of a Jewish man who was watching people die while being driven in a dank, vomit and blood-laden, over-crowded truck from a ghetto in Hungary to Auschwitz. He had entered the extremes of human pain. Though laconic by nature, he could not hold back. He had to speak this anti-psalm.

Most of us have our points when suffering has the power to take us into the anti-psalms.

For some—and I have witnessed this—it could be a flat tire or plumbing mishap.

For others the line is not crossed until the life of a loved one is in jeopardy.

Yet for those like the Apostle Paul, there is no line. No amount of suffering could shake his confidence in God.

I fear that my own line is between the flat tire and the loved one in jeopardy.

If we have a line at which faith withers, there is only one question. Do I live for God or does he live for me? There are other questions we could ask such as, do I believe that God loves me? But that does not quite get to the stark, either/or essence of human life. God is in heaven, we are on earth. He is the Creator, I am his creation.

Do I live for him or does he live for me?

A Remarkably Different Course of Action

SOURCE:  Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 247.


Overcome Evil with Good

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21

Peacemaking does not always go as easily as we would like it to.

Although some people will readily make peace, others will be stubborn and defensive and resist our efforts to be reconciled. Sometimes they will become even more antagonistic and find new ways to frustrate or mistreat us. Our natural reaction is to strike back at such people, or at least to stop doing anything good to them.

However, Jesus calls us to take a remarkably different course of action: “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. … Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:27-28, 35-36).

Think about someone who could be described by one of the following:

• Your enemy
• Someone who hates you
• Someone who curses you
• Someone who mistreats you

Maybe someone pops right to mind.

Or maybe it’s a little hard to identify one (though “someone who mistreats you” is quite a one-size-fits-all descriptor of a person who make your life difficult). But in each case, Jesus has called us to this “remarkably different course of action.” He calls us to love, do good, bless, and pray. But in our own strength, this command is impossible to obey.

Pray that God would give you a special measure of grace today to overcome evil with good, even when it seems the most difficult thing in the world to actually do.

Rejoice When Suffering? Really? Really!!

SOURCE:  Living Free

“We can rejoice too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:3-5 NLT

It is usually easy to rejoice when things are going well in our lives. But how about when we are having problems … and suffering? The Bible says even then we are to rejoice!

None of us likes to suffer, but experiencing problems does not have to be destructive to our relationship with God. We need to trust God and see the good that can come through our experiences of suffering. Suffering teaches us to endure patiently . It also teaches us that our comfort is not the most important thing in life. Suffering builds character. It strengthens our hope because when we have to face another tribulation, we can look back on how God helped us in the past.

Although we would all prefer to be exempt from tribulations, God uses them to deepen our relationship with him. They are still painful, but we can be comforted with the knowledge that our sufferings do not mean God is displeased with us. And we can rejoice because God will bring good even from the most difficult times … if we will continue to trust in him and his great love.

Father, teach me to rejoice even when I am suffering … to see the good that can come from these struggles … and to remember your great love for me. In Jesus’ name …

Rachel Weeping for Her Children — How should Christians think and pray in the aftermath of such a colossal crime?

SOURCE:  Albert Mohler

Rachel Weeping for Her Children — The Massacre in Connecticut

Thus says the LORD:  “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”[Jeremiah 31:15]

It has happened again.

This time tragedy came to Connecticut, where a lone gunman entered two classrooms at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown and opened fire, killing at least twenty children and six adults, before turning his weapons of death upon himself. The young victims, still to be officially identified, ranged in age from five to ten years. The murderer was himself young, reported to be twenty years old. According to press reports, he murdered his mother, a teacher at Sandy Hook, in her home before the rampage at the school.

Apparently, matricide preceded mass murder. Some of the children were in kindergarten, not even able to tie their own shoes. The word kindergarten comes from the German, meaning a garden for children. Sandy Hook Elementary School was no garden today. It was a place of murder, mayhem, and undisguised evil.

The calculated and premeditated nature of this crime, combined with the horror of at least twenty murdered children, makes the news almost unspeakable and unbearable. The grief of parents and loved ones in Newtown is beyond words. Yet, even in the face of such a tragedy, Christians must speak. We will have to speak in public about this evil, and we will have to speak in private about this horrible crime.

How should Christians think and pray in the aftermath of such a colossal crime?

We Affirm the Sinfulness of Sin, and the Full Reality of Human Evil

First, we must recognize that this tragedy is just as evil, horrible, and ugly as it appears.

Christianity does not deny the reality and power of evil, but instead calls evil by its necessary names — murder, massacre, killing, homicide, slaughter. The closer we look at this tragedy, the more it will appear unfathomable and more grotesque than the human imagination can take in.

What else can we say about the murder of children and their teachers? How can we understand the evil of killing little children one by one, forcing them to watch their little friends die and realizing that they were to be next? How can we bear this?

Resisting our instinct toward a coping mechanism, we cannot accept the inevitable claims that this young murderer is to be understood as merely sick. His heinous acts will be dismissed and minimized by some as the result of psychiatric or psychological causation, or mitigated by cultural, economic, political, or emotional factors. His crimes were sick beyond words, and he was undoubtedly unbalanced, but he pulled off a cold, calculated, and premeditated crime, monstrous in its design and accomplishment.

Christians know that this is the result of sin and the horrifying effects of The Fall. Every answer for this evil must affirm the reality and power of sin. The sinfulness of sin is never more clearly revealed than when we look into the heart of a crime like this and see the hatred toward God that precedes the murderous hatred he poured out on his little victims.

The twentieth century forced us to see the ovens of the Nazi death camps, the killing fields of Cambodia, the inhumanity of the Soviet gulags, and the failure of the world to stop such atrocities before they happened. We cannot talk of our times without reference to Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin, Pol Pot and Charles Manson, Idi Amin and Ted Bundy. More recently, we see evil in the impassive faces of Osama bin Laden and Anders Behring Brevik. We will now add yet another name to the roll call of mass murderers. His will not be the last.

The prophet Jeremiah knew the wickedness and deceit of the sinful human heart and asked the right question — who can understand it?

Beyond this, the Christian must affirm the grace of moral restraint, knowing that the real question is not why some isolated persons commit such crimes, but why such massacres are not more common. We must be thankful for the restraint of the law, operating on the human conscience. Such a crime serves to warn us that putting a curve in the law will inevitably produce a curve in the conscience. We must be thankful for the restraining grace of God that limits human evil and, rightly understood, keeps us all from killing each other.

Christians call evil what it is, never deny its horror and power, and remain ever thankful that evil will not have its full sway, or the last word.

We Affirm the Cross of Christ as the Only Adequate Remedy for Evil

There is one and only one reason that evil does not have the last word, and that is the fact that evil, sin, death, and the devil were defeated at the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. There they were defeated conclusively, comprehensively, and publicly.

On the cross, Christ bore our sins, dying in our place, offering himself freely as the perfect sacrifice for sin. The devil delighted in Christ’s agony and death on the cross, realizing too late that Christ’s substitutionary atonement spelled the devil’s own defeat and utter destruction.

Christ’s victory over sin, evil, and death was declared by the Father in raising Jesus from the dead. The resurrection of Christ is the ground of our hope and the assurance of the final and total victory of Christ over all powers, principalities, and perpetrators.

A tragedy like this cannot be answered with superficial and sentimental Christian emotivism, nor with glib dismissals of the enormity and transience of this crime. Such a tragedy calls for the most Gospel-centered Christian thinking, for the substance of biblical theology, and the solace that only the full wealth of Christian conviction can provide.

In the face of such horror, we are driven again and again to the cross and resurrection of Christ, knowing that the reconciling power of God in Christ is the only adequate answer to such a depraved and diabolical power.

We Acknowledge the Necessity of Justice, Knowing that Perfect Justice Awaits the Day of the Lord

Charles Manson sits in a California prison, even now — decades after his murderous crimes were committed. Ted Bundy was executed by the State of Florida for multiple murders, but escaped both conviction and punishment for others he is suspected of having committed. Anders Behring Brevik shot and killed scores of young people in Norway, but he was sentenced to less than thirty years in prison. Adolf Hitler took his own life, robbing human courts of their justice, and Vladimir Lenin died of natural causes.

The young murderer in Connecticut took his own life after murdering almost thirty people, most of them children. He will never face a human court, never have to face a human accuser, never stand convicted of his crimes, and never know the justice of a human sentence.

But, even as human society was robbed of the satisfaction of that justice, it would never be enough. Even if executed for his crimes, he could die only once. Even if sentenced to scores of life sentences to prison, he could forfeit only one human lifespan.

Human justice is necessary, but it is woefully incomplete. No human court can hand down an adequate sentence for such a crime, and no human judge can restore life to those who were murdered.

Crimes such as these remind us that we just yearn for the total satisfaction that will come only on the Day of the Lord, when all flesh will be judged by the only Judge who will rule with perfect righteousness and justice. On that day, the only escape will be refuge in Christ, for those who knew and confessed him as Savior and Lord. On that day, those who are in Christ will know the promise that full justice and restoration will mean that every eye is dry and tears are nevermore.

We Grieve with Those Who Grieve

For now, even as we yearn for the Day of the Lord, we grieve with those who grieve. We sit with them and pray for them and acknowledge that their loss is truly unspeakable and that their tears are unspeakably true. We pray and look for openings for grace and the hope of the gospel. We do our best to speak words of truth, love, grace, and comfort.

What of the eternal destiny of these sweet children? There is no specific text of Scripture that gives us a clear and direct answer. We must affirm with the Bible that we are conceived in sin and, as sons and daughters of Adam, will face eternal damnation unless we are found in Christ. So many of these little victims died before reaching any real knowledge of their own sinfulness and need for Christ. They, like those who die in infancy and those who suffer severe mental incapacitation, never really have the opportunity to know their need as sinners and the provision of Christ as Savior.

They are in a categorically different position than that of the person of adult consciousness who never responds in faith to the message of the Gospel. In the book of Deuteronomy, God tells the adults among the Children of Israel that, due to their sin and rebellion, they would not enter the land of promise. But the Lord then said this: “And as for your little ones, who you said would become a prey, and your children, who today have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there. And to them I will give it, and they shall possess it.” [Deuteronomy 1:39]

Many, if not all, of the little children who died in Newtown were so young that they certainly would be included among those who, like the little Israelites, “have no knowledge of good or evil.” God is sovereign, and he was not surprised that these little ones died so soon. There is biblical precedent for believing that the Lord made provision for them in the atonement accomplished by Christ, and that they are safe with Jesus.

Rachel Weeping for Her Children

The prophet Jeremiah’s reference to Rachel and her lost children is heart-breaking. “Thus says the LORD:  ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.’” Like Rachel, many parents, grandparents, and loved ones are weeping inconsolably even now, refusing to be comforted for their children, because they are no more.

This tragedy is compounded in emotional force by the fact that it comes in such close proximity to Christmas, but let us never forget that there was the mass murder of children in the Christmas story as well. King Herod’s murderous decree that all baby boys under two years of age should be killed prompted Matthew to cite this very verse from Jeremiah. Rachel again was weeping for her children.

But this is not where either Jeremiah or Matthew leaves us. By God’s mercy, there is hope and the promise of full restoration in Christ.

The Lord continued to speak through Jeremiah:

Thus says the LORD: “Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your work, declares the LORD, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. There is hope for your future, declares the LORD, and your children shall come back to their own country.”
[Jeremiah 31:16-17]

God, not the murderer, has the last word. For those in Christ, there is the promise of full restoration. Even in the face of such unmitigated horror, there is hope.“There is hope for your future, declares the Lord, and your children shall come back to your own country.”

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Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.,serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary — the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.

GOD DESIRES FOR YOU TO EXPERIENCE COMPLETE FORGIVENESS

SOURCE:  Charles Stanley

Forgive me? How could God ever forgive me? You don’t know what I’ve done.”

“Forgive that person after what she did to me? You’ve got to be kidding!”

“I can’t believe I’ve done such an awful thing. I can never forgive myself for doing that.”

These are confessions I have heard often as a pastor. They are the confessions of people who have godly parents, who have grown up in church, and who have heard sermons about forgiveness all their lives. And yet, they persist in believing that there is something unique about their situation that puts them beyond the realm of God’s forgiveness.

The result is bondage.

The bondage of living in guilt and unforgiveness stifles a person’s ability to love and to receive love. It stunts the growth of a marriage and friendships. It keeps a person from entering into all that the Lord might have for him in the way of ministry or outreach. It keeps a person from enjoying the full abundant life that Christ promised to those who believe in Him (John 10:10). And bondage, my friend, is never the desire of God for His children.

God’s desire for you today is that you be free in your spirit—free to embrace all the blessings, challenges, and joys that the Lord has for you now and in your future. God’s desire is for you to experience complete forgiveness, which is forgiveness of your sins and a full restoration in your relationship to the Lord God, forgiveness of others who have wronged you, and forgiveness of yourself.

Limited forgiveness will never do. Complete forgiveness is required if you are to know personally and fully that God is your loving heavenly Father, and if you are ever to reach your personal destiny in this life.

 A Definition of Forgiveness

Forgiveness does not mean, “It didn’t matter.”

If you have been hurt by someone, or if you have committed a sin, it does matter.

There is no justification for sin that stands up in God’s presence. If you have sinned, you need to recognize that your sin is a blot on your soul, one that you can’t and therefore shouldn’t attempt to sweep under the rug or ignore. Sin matters. Hurt, pain, bondage, and guilt come in the aftermath of sin, and you are unwise to try to deny their reality.

Forgiveness does not mean, “I’ll get over it in time.”

The memory of a particular incident or action may fade with time, but it never disappears.

If you have committed a sin before God, the effects of that sin remain in your life until you receive God’s forgiveness for it. You may not immediately feel the consequences of your sin—which can cause you to think that God has overlooked your sin or that it has been resolved in some way—but the consequences of sin will manifest themselves. They lie as dormant “bad seeds” in your life.

The same holds true for a wrong that another person commits against you.

You may think that time will heal. Time by itself doesn’t heal anything. Only the Lord Jesus Christ and His forgiveness working in and through you can heal the hurt you have felt. A wrong that you attempt to bury will only rot in your heart and very easily can turn into bitterness, anger, and hatred—all of which are not only destructive emotions to the person who harbors them, but the root of destructive behavior that may affect others.

Forgiveness does not mean, “There will be no penalty.”

Some people believe that God skips over certain sins when He surveys the hearts of people. This is usually the response of people who hope that God will make a detour around their sin and that they’ll get away with their sin.

There are other times, however, when we are fearful that God will forget to punish those who have wronged us. They may even seem to be prospering, and we feel a need to hold on to our unforgiveness until we are certain that the other people are punished in some way. We hold on to the prerogative of vengeance just in case God has forgotten about the incident or in case He intends to do nothing about it.

At still other times, we know we deserve to be punished, but God doesn’t seem to be taking any negative action against us, so we refuse to forgive ourselves as a form of self–punishment.

These definitions don’t hold water when they are subjected to the truth of God’s Word.

Sin matters. It always matters.

Sin and the effects of sin don’t disappear over time of their own natural accord. Sin must be forgiven, or it remains unforgiven.

Sin always has consequences. It always bears with it the ultimate penalty of death.

What, then, is forgiveness?

Forgiveness is “the act of setting someone free from an obligation to you that is a result of a wrong done against you.”

Forgiveness involves three elements:

1. An injury. A wrong is committed. Pain, hurt, suffering, or guilt is experienced (consciously or subconsciously).
2. A debt resulting from the injury. There is a consequence that is always detrimental and puts someone into a deficit state of some kind.
3. A cancellation of the debt.

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Stanley, C. F. (1996). Experiencing forgiveness. Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

Remembering Our Place When Wronged

SOURCE:   John Henderson/Association of Biblical Counselors

Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants. ”

But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place?” (Genesis 50:18-19)

We find in Joseph a kind of humble grace that deserves our thought and appreciation. His brothers had wronged him severely.

They had sold him into slavery and death. Years later, as second in power to Pharaoh in Egypt, Joseph is given an opportunity for retribution. It would be easy to assume that God was providing a chance for him to even the score. What would you do if you were in Joseph’s place?

I am amazed by how he responded. The posture Joseph takes is contrary to our sinful nature and wholly divine.

Clearly the Spirit of God abides in him. Mankind tends not to act in this way. None of us tend to act this way. When hurt and abused, we tend to be quicker to punish and revile. We need help. We need God abiding in us. We need to believe and practice what Joseph believed and practiced.

Remember the place of God– to assume the seat of judge upon the souls of others is to forget the Lord has already filled the seat. It is like a pardoned convict demanding the judge step aside so that he may evaluate and sentence a fellow criminal. The Father has given the position of Judge to His Son.[1] Not one of us can bear the burden, nor would we exercise the chair with wisdom that is fitting. We can take comfort, however, that God is Judge enough. He dispenses mercy and wrath in perfect seasons and proportions.

Remember the place of Self– a recipient of grace. Perhaps we are offended in the present situation, but we have often assumed the other spot. Whether we recall the incidents or not, the Lord remembers countless moments when His grace was extended to us, undeserved. Our grit and savvy did not secure our pardon, but God’s grace in Jesus Christ. “Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin’?”[2]

Remember the ways of God– they are righteous and pure. They have always been righteous and pure. “For I proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He. ”[3]

We can trust our God. We can trust His works. Since the foundation of the world, He has proved Himself holy beyond measure. His law is perfect. His wrath upon sinners is perfect. His wrath was so perfect that the sacrifice of His Son was necessary to satisfy it. Indeed, His grace is perfect too.

Remember the ways of Self– they are prideful and distorted. Whatever true justice we perceive and dispense is a gift from God anyway. It is not of us or from us. If we had our way, then true grace and mercy wouldn’t happen.

Justice wouldn’t either. We cannot trust ourselves. We cannot trust our works. It is not our instinct to redeem, or absorb transgression, or overlook a fault in love. The Spirit must train our hearts to believe and apply the gospel in these forms.

Next time we are offended, let us pray for the Lord to bring these verses and truths to our minds. Let us pray to give the same mercy we have received. Then we will better understand what it means to be children of God.

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. ”[4]

[1]John 5:22

[2]Proverbs 20:9

[3]Deuteronomy 32:3-4

[4]Matthew 5:44-45

When You Hit Bottom, Bounce Back

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)

Bounce Back

“The test of success is not what you do when you are on top. Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.” -General George S. Patton

“bounce /bouns/ verb – to cause to bound and rebound — to spring back in a lively manner…”

To “bounce” means the ability to fight through an issue, to be resilient, to be able to stabilize after adversity. To recover — and to thrive.

In 2009, Rick Hoyt completed the Boston Marathon. This race was officially his 1000th race. Since 1977, Rick has competed in marathons, duathlons, and triathlons (6 of them being Ironman competitions). In 1992 Rick “ran” 3,735 miles in 45 days. Coast-to-coast.

Rick was born in 1962 to Dick and Judy Hoyt. As a result of oxygen deprivation to Rick’s brain at the time of his birth, Rick was diagnosed as aspastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. He would never walk or communicate as we do. He would never be “normal.”  His life would be lived in a wheelchair.

In 1977, through the use of a special computer, Rick “told” his father that he wanted to participate in a 5-mile benefit run for a Lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident. Not being a long-distance runner, Dick agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair. They finished all 5 miles, coming in next to last. “Team Hoyt” rose up from seemingly insurmountable odds and adversity. That’s “Bounce”!

When life simply isn’t fair. Filled with sickness… debt… or abandonment…

When the walls are pressing in… and you don’t even know your own name.

When you feel like you can’t breathe — or see. And there is absolutely nothing you can do.

When life isn’t the way it is supposed to be…

CONSIDER THIS:

  1. He understands. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that “…we do not have a high priest (Jesus the Son of God) who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses (frailty — feebleness — sickness — infirmities — troubles), but one who in every respect has been tempted (the trying and testing of our faith, virtue and character) as we are …” (Hebrews 4:14 ESV  He’s been there. He goes before you… and with you!
  2. He will strengthen you“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace… will Himself restoreconfirmstrengthen, and establish you.” (1Peter 5:10 ESV)

Bounce back!

Put the devil on notice in your life… It’s time to get your dreams back… Get your family back… Get your marriage back… Get your anointing back… Get your strength back… Get your step back… Get your confidence back… Get your fight back!

Claim the life changing principle in Genesis 50:20: What satan, or even other people in your life, meant for evil, God can turn it for your good.

“You are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4 ESV)

Bounce back! It just might turn your life around.

Q&A: How To Forgive

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Question:   I know God’s word tells us to forgive, but how do you do it? I try, but I still feel angry and bad thoughts come into my head. How do I know when I’ve let it go?

Answer:   Forgiveness is a decision not a feeling. It’s a choice, so the process starts there. You must decide in your heart to work toward forgiving those who have hurt you or sinned against you.

I find that many people either forgive too quickly, before doing the emotional work they need to do in order to process and get rid of their hurt and anger, or they don’t forgive at all because they have erected large, thick walls of bitterness and resentment.

Jesus tells us to forgive one another, and that alone is a good enough reason to do it, but forgiveness is a good thing to do even for those who don’t know Jesus or believe in him. Long before modern medicine studied the physiological effects of chronic anger, resentment, and bitterness on the body, God knew that harboring these toxic emotions could not only damage our health but also ruin our lives. He warns us to get rid of them promptly.

God knows sin destroys us. It is not the sin that is committed against us that wields the fatal blow. Rather, it is our own sinful reaction to the things that have happened to us. Unresolved anger often turns to depression, self-pity, bitterness and resentment, and these things poison our body and our soul. A person finds healing through the process of forgiveness by both receiving forgiveness and extending forgiveness. That is why God is so insistent that we forgive. He doesn’t want sin to ruin our lives.

Please don’t misunderstand what forgiveness is. Forgiveness isn’t excusing the offender or minimizing their offense. Forgiveness is your decision to cancel the debt they rightfully owe you. Many protest here and become stuck because they are rightly deserving of justice or an apology or some restitution for the offenses done to them. They don’t want to cancel the debt owed because it feels so unfair to them. Yet, if they are waiting for the person to repent or apologize or show remorse, they may wait a very long time.

In the Old Testament story, Joseph forgave his brothers for selling him into slavery. Joseph’s obedience freed him to be used by God in Egypt. But Joseph never initiated reconciliation with his betrayers—nor did he expose himself to them when he first saw them again. Why? He did not trust them. He was kind and gracious to them because he forgave them, but he tested them to see if they had repented and changed their jealous and self-centered ways. Joseph invited them back into relationship with him after they passed the test (see Genesis 42–46). Joseph’s forgiveness and his brothers’ repentance were both necessary to bring reconciliation and restoration to their relationship.

For some of you, you may never see repentance from the person who hurt you. Sandy lived stuck in her past, angry that her father abused her. She refused to give up her anger until “he admits what he did and says he’s sorry.” When she confronted him and asked for an apology, he told her she was crazy and denied everything she accused him of doing. That left her waiting for something that may never happen. She allowed her father to continue to ruin her present and her future because he would not do what she longed for him to do. Sandy’s anger and lack of forgiveness wasn’t hurting Sandy’s father. He lived selfishly just as he always did. It was Sandy’s life that was hurt by her angry and bitter heart. Finally forgiving her father released Sandy from those toxic emotions. Her father will still have to give an account for what he did to Sandy, only it will be God, not Sandy who will judge him.

In my own life, forgiveness usually comes in steps and cycles. It is not a one-time, over-and-done-with event. First, I decide to forgive, exercising my will. Then I begin the process of letting go, releasing the anger, the hurt and my desire to retaliate. I appeal to God for justice and turn the situation over to him. I also ask him to help me see my offender and myself differently. This is very helpful. When God shows me my own sinful nature and the things I am capable of doing, then I can have some genuine compassion for my offender because, but for God’s grace, I may have done the same thing. I no longer want to see my offender only as someone who did something wrong, but also as someone who has done some things right. I no longer want to see him or her as a victimizer, but as a person with weaknesses of character and a sinful heart, just like me.

When hurtful memories surface and I’m tempted to dwell on the wrongs done to me, I continue this process and keep at it until the negative emotions and thoughts are no longer in the front of my mind. They are fading and moving to the past, right where they belong.

To practice forgiveness, walk regularly through these four steps:  Decide—Begin—Continue—Keep at it.

As we do this, we are changing. We are no longer defining ourselves by what has happened to us, but we are instead seeing ourselves by what God is doing in us. Our healing becomes a powerful conduit for God’s love and grace to flow to others, and we can honestly say that what Satan meant for evil, God is using for good.

Acting Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick/Discipleship Journal

God can use the annoyances of marriage to school us in his love.

It was one of those crazy weeks: deadlines looming, clients in crisis, dirty dishes scattered throughout the house. In a moment of frustration, I yelled at my husband, “You never help me around the house!”

That was not accurate. Although Howard doesn’t always notice the things I do, he is always willing to help. I’m sure he was tempted to defend himself: “What do you mean I never help you around the house? Just last week, I  . . .”

But that’s not what he did. Instead, he asked, “What can I do?”

Still frazzled, I snapped back, “Plan next week’s menu, shop for all the groceries, and cook all the dinners.” And he did. The meals were simple (frozen pizza, hot dogs, chicken nuggets), but the love behind them was extravagant.

It is an incredible gift to our husbands or wives when we respond in a godly way to their wrong actions. This gift comes through hard work—and the grace of God. God uses our relationships to school us in how to love when we don’t feel like it, how to forgive when we’ve been sinned against, and how to overcome evil with good. God can use the imperfections, weaknesses, differences—and, yes, even the sins—of our spouses to help us become more like Christ. Marriage provides the perfect backdrop for continual lessons in applied theology.

It’s My Problem?

Someone once said, “Adversity introduces a person to himself.” When our spouses aren’t behaving as we’d like, God often wants to show us a few things about ourselves.

Before marriage, I pictured myself as a kind and easygoing person. Once married, however, I began to glimpse another side of me. I saw how much I liked my own way and how angry I became when I didn’t get it. I noticed a tendency to hang on to my hurts. I got a peek at my pride when I believed I was right, and my husband was equally convinced I was wrong. These negative aspects of my personality were exposed when Howard wasn’t doing what I thought he should. When things were pleasant between us, these sins remained hidden.

I see the same pattern as I counsel married couples. When I ask, “When did your problems start?” I often hear, “I didn’t realize I had problems until I got married.”

Rather than focus on what our spouses are doing to us that is annoying or hurtful, we must redirect our attention to what our spouses’ wrongs reveal in us.

We generally blame our spouses for our reactions: “You make me so mad.” “If you didn’t do that, I wouldn’t act this way.” But our spouses actions don’t cause our responses. For example, I feel impatient and irritated when I am waiting in line for a slow clerk who is chatting with another clerk. The clerk is notmaking me feel these things. She is simply the trigger that exposes the impatience and anger already in my heart.

Jesus explained it this way.

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

—Lk. 6:45

What overflows from your heart and comes out of your mouth when your spouse behaves badly? God uses those moments to expose our hearts so we can see ourselves more clearly, change, and grow. Part of that change is learning to step back and take in the larger picture.

The Real Battle

When I’m fighting with my husband, I usually lose sight of whom I should be fighting and what I should be fighting for. I fight to get my way, to be right, or to prove my point. But the real struggle couples face is not for such temporal victories. As much as we might feel it in the moment, our spouses are not the enemy. Rather than engage in combat with each other, we need to ward off Satan’s tactics. Rather than seeking to vindicate ourselves, we need to fight for the glory of God, the preservation of our marriages, our spiritual health, and our children’s future.

Satan is our real enemy. He is out to destroy us (1 Pet. 5:8). Satan tries to convince us that God’s ways don’t satisfy and that following Him will rob us of something enjoyable. During marital troubles, he whispers, “Why should you work on your marriage? After all, look what your spouse has done. Why should you forgive? You have needs too.”

When Susan discovered that her husband, John, was heavily involved in internet pornography, she felt deep hurt and anger. Her first impulse was to shame him publicly, exposing him to his family, church, and employer. But if Susan is going to win her battle, she needs a clear understanding of Satan’s strategies and the weapons available to her.

The only weapons that have real power are spiritual (2 Cor. 10:3–5). God gives us a powerful alternative to reacting recklessly to our spouses’ sin: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Ro. 12:21). The Apostle Peter reminds us, “It is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men” (1 Pet. 2:15). We overcome evil with good when we stop battling our spouses and respond to wrongdoing in ways that are godly, righteous, and loving.

From Reacting to Responding

Jennifer came to counseling grinning from ear to ear. “I finally get it,” she said. “When I don’t react to Paul’s stupid remarks with a sarcastic dig, God actually works in his heart.” Jennifer had learned an important lesson. Though we don’t intentionally set out to ruin our marriages or hurt our mates, our reactions to our spouses’ wrongs can be like tossing a lit match into gasoline. A relationship deteriorates rapidly when two sinners sin against each other at the same time.

To reverse this pattern, we need to stop reacting out of our fleshly natures and start responding as God calls us to do. Most often, this process starts by harnessing our tongues. Proverbs tells us, “Reckless words pierce like a sword” (Prov. 12:18). The psalmist knew about struggling with the tongue. “I said, ‘I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence'” (Ps. 39:1). Yet he also knew that keeping quiet can be tough. “But when I was silent and still, not even saying anything good, my anguish increased” (v. 2). Something in us feels good when we open our mouths and let someone have it.

In our culture, we are encouraged to express our negative feelings so we don’t become unhealthy. But negative feelings are a lot like vomit. It feels better to get it out, but vomit belongs in the toilet—not on your spouse.

Writing letters to my husband—the kind I rip up rather than send—helps rid me of destructive emotions. Ask God for His perspective. He will teach you what to do with your negative reactions so you can address why you’re upset in a constructive manner. Inevitably, God–directed responses will demonstrate His love.

Costly Choices

Many couples are committed to staying married “no matter what,” but they do so with hard hearts. God doesn’t command us simply to stay married, however. He commands us to love, no matter how another person is behaving. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Lk. 6:27–28).

Love, from God’s perspective, is much more than an emotional feeling for another person. And it is bigger than a commitment to stay together no matter what. To love my husband as God calls me to means that I must consciously choose to act in his best interests, even when it costs me. This type of love is demonstrated when a tired husband stays up late talking with a wife who needs a listening ear, or when a wife who hates to cook gladly makes her husband’s favorite meal. But what does godly love look like when our spouses hurt us, disappoint us, or sin against us?

David knew his wife, Lisa, wasn’t honest with him about their finances. But he never confronted her about it. He said he loved her and didn’t want to upset her or make her mad.

However, genuine love is defined by actions that focus on another person’s good, not actions that simply make another person feel good. “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted” (Prov. 27:5–6).

What was in Lisa’s best interests? She didn’t need David to overlook her spending and deceit; she desperately needed him to confront her. Lisa’s “wrong” became part of God’s plan to mature David. God wanted him to become a God–centered husband, not a Lisa–centered husband. David learned to wrap himself in God’s all–sufficient love and received strength to move beyond his fear of rejection. Then he could boldly love Lisa by confronting the spending problem—for her good and for the welfare of their marriage and family.

The Gifts of Love

Loving our spouses when we are angry or hurt is difficult. It may even feel impossible. But the love that gives good gifts to undeserving people does not originate in a human heart; it is God’s love displayed through us. When our spouses act wrong, we may not readily be able to give them our affection, warmth, or companionship. However, there are gifts of love we can give, regardless of the current climate of our marriages.

The gift of acceptance. Sometimes we refuse to accept our spouses as they are and where they are. We seem surprised when our spouses act imperfectly or differently, as if somehow they aren’t ever supposed to do such things. “I can’t believe you did that,” we say. “How could you think like that?”

I’ve heard people say again and again in counseling, “You’re not the person I married!” One time, a husband replied, “Oh, yes I am. But the person you dated? He was a fake.”

Learning to accept our spouses doesn’t mean we like their faults, neither does it imply that we resign ourselves to a hopeless situation. True acceptance begins with understanding reality: We—and our spouses—are creatures in process.

Acceptance is more than a grudging acknowledgement of reality. Acceptance is a true gift when we stop resenting having to give it, when we learn to be emotionally content with our spouses as they are, all the while asking God to mature them.

The gift of truth. We do not always face the truth in our marriages. We imagine the best in spite of evidence to the contrary. We close our eyes to information that would help us make better decisions. However, there are times when we must tell the truth about reality, though always with love (1 Cor. 13:1,Eph. 4:15).

None of us likes it when our spouses tell us something about our behaviors or attitudes that we don’t want to face. Yet it is loving and good when they do so. Why? So we do not continue to deceive ourselves into thinking that all is well when we are about to fall off a cliff (Jas. 5:19–20).

At times, our efforts to give the gift of truth will have wonderful results. Other times, we may see no change or repentance; we may even be mocked. Remember, God has called us to love our spouses as no one else in this world will. That may mean suffering under mockery and still speaking truth (Ezekiel 2).

The gift of kindness. Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22), and being kind is one of the definitions of love (1 Cor. 13:4). Yet, as with the other gifts, we struggle to give the gift of kindness when we don’t feel like it or when our mates have hurt us.

Joan’s husband, Adam, was an alcoholic and a drug abuser. His drug use was so out of control that Joan finally asked him to move out until he got help. When, through friends, she heard he had a bad case of the flu, she cooked a pot of soup and delivered it to his apartment. Joan gave the gift of kindness to her selfish and irresponsible husband.

Being kind and gracious doesn’t mean you ignore wrongdoing or pretend it didn’t happen. Being kind means that what happens to you doesn’t define you. It doesn’t shape you or turn you into something evil. Extending kindness and mercy doesn’t depend upon whether the other person has been good or bad, wrong or right. Kindness is a gift of love, not a reward for good behavior.

In every marriage there are moments, even seasons, when we have the opportunity to choose to act right when our spouses act wrong. It might be in small, everyday ways (cooking hot dogs for dinner) or in big ways (extending forgiveness in the face of deep betrayal). God will use even the pain of a difficult marriage to help us become more like Christ—which He promises is very, very good.

FORGIVENESS: IT IS SO HARD TO DO!

SOURCE:  Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

Forgiveness: An Act of Service

In some ways, forgiveness is so simple and in other respects so complicated.

And that’s true whether we are trying to forgive ourselves or a person who has hurt us.

[. . . forgiveness:  IT IS SO HARD TO DO!

Like most psychological activities, forgiveness is a skill; nobody is born good at it. Learn it the right way, then practice, practice, practice. , and you will get much better at it.

Forgiveness is one of the most important choices to act on after receiving eternal life through Christ’s death on the Cross. Why? Extending forgiveness to those who have wronged us acknowledges our understanding of God and His forgiveness of us. To have a relationship with God and live in Heaven with Him we need God’s forgiveness for our sins. We then need to live in that forgiveness and forgive ourselves. That’s easier said than done, if you really analyze your view of yourself and some of your motivations.

 Jesus came to die for us so we can live in an intimate and incredible relationship with God … an Abundant Life … liberated from sin and Satan. God created us to do good works and to be shining lights. We can’t become all God designed us to be if we harbor resentment and bitterness towards others or ourselves. It is vital that we make the choice, yes, a decision, to forgive and, if possible, to reconcile with the person who has hurt us.

The first step towards reconciliation begins with your thoughts. One of several areas to think about is the other person’s needs rather than their faults. How can you serve that person and God by forgiving him or her? Then begin to think well of that person and speak well of him or her to someone close to you, drawing attention to strengths and needs, rather than offenses. Next take action … begin to seek reconciliation.

You might be in a difficult situation in which the other party is not willing to reconcile. If this is the case, make sure you have forgiven in your own heart. Then keep yourself ready to pursue further reconciliation, if and when the other person is ready.

Today, ask God to open your eyes, using spiritual lenses to see the other person’s needs and issues. Wait on God’s timing for the individual to join in total reconciliation. It may not be safe to be physically reconciled with some people. Don’t try to force it … let God work it out in His way and time. You are responsible for your heart and your part, not the other person’s.

Above all, remember that Jesus loves you, and He will give you the strength and courage you need … abundantly. Forgiveness is your decision, so choose well.

Prayer

Dear Father God, in all my relationships, help me dwell on things worthy of praise, not things to curse. And especially help me to do this when I think or speak about the one who has offended me. May I walk in forgiveness and be open to reconciliation in Your way and in Your time. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the One died for my forgiveness so I can extend it to others;  – AMEN!

The Truth

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious … the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.

Philippians 4:8

 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.

Romans 3:23-24

 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of a sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.

Galatians 5:16-17

Where Is Our World Going? STOP Sexualizing Our Children

THE COUNSELING MOMENT EDITOR’S NOTE:  

The below article from the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) is alarming and also prophetic — a preview of more of the unthinkable to come.  At the last AACC World Conference I attended in 2011, this information was presented as the next emerging “watershed” issue we will face as Christians.  An aid to this down-hill societal slide was when God largely was removed from schools and increasingly from society.  Then, there was (is) the abortion issue.  From there we see ever-increasing lax moral views, the redefining of family, and legalization of same-sex marriages.  Now, this next issue (as brought out in the article) is to regard  “pedophilia as just another ‘sexual orientation.'” 

 Where will this downward slide finally and ultimately end?  

 “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. ComeLord Jesus. [Rev 22:20) 

In due course, when the Lord Jesus returns to bring completion to His redemptive work in creation, all things will be made right — according to God’s original creative intent.  However, until that time, we — as followers of Christ — must continue to seek His grace and ability to do what is right, loving, and pleasing to the Lord.  

Jesus makes it clear (Mt 5:44) that we are to love our enemies (i.e., those entirely opposed to and antagonistic toward us and God) and pray for those who would mercilessly persecute us for our beliefs about what is right as we understand and apply God’s Word.  At the same time, we are to seek the Lord’s help to obey His command for us to be holy as He is holy (1Peter 1:15-16) and have nothing to do with evil/darkness, but rather to expose it (Ps 101:4; Eph 5:11).  May the Lord give us His Divine wisdom, understanding, knowledge, discernment, heart, perspective, protection, strength, and resolve to be and to live as the men, women, and children of God to His Glory.

Stop Sexualizing Our Children

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors/Matt Barber [http://www.aacc.net/stop-sexualizing-our-children/]

In “Batman,” the Joker rhetorically asks a young Bruce Wayne: “Tell me, kid – you ever danced with the devil by the pale moonlight?” Well, I have. Not by the pale moonlight, but in a brightly lit Four Points Sheraton in Baltimore, Md.

On Wednesday, Aug. 17, I – along with the venerable child advocate Dr. Judith Reisman – attended a conference hosted by the pedophile group B4U-ACT. 

Around 50 individuals were in attendance, including a number of admitted pedophiles (or “minor-attracted persons” as they euphemistically prefer), a few self-described “gay activists” and several supportive mental-health professionals. World renowned “sexologist” Dr. Fred Berlin of Johns Hopkins University gave the keynote address, saying: “I want to completely support the goal of B4U-ACT.”

Here are some highlights from the conference:

• Pedophiles are “unfairly stigmatized and demonized” by society.
• There was concern about “vice-laden diagnostic criteria” and “cultural baggage of wrongfulness.”
• “We are not required to interfere with or inhibit our child’s sexuality.”
• “Children are not inherently unable to consent” to sex with an adult.
• “In Western culture sex is taken too seriously.”
• “Anglo-American standard on age of consent is new [and ‘Puritanical’]. In Europe it was always set at 10 or 12. Ages of consent beyond that are relatively new and very strange, especially for boys. They’ve always been able to have sex at any age.”
• An adult’s desire to have sex with children is “normative.”
• Our society should “maximize individual liberty. … We have a highly moralistic society that is not consistent with liberty.”
• “Assuming children are unable to consent lends itself to criminalization and stigmatization.”
• “These things are not black and white; there are various shades of gray.”
• A consensus belief by both speakers and pedophiles in attendance was that, because it vilifies MAPs, pedophilia should be removed as a mental disorder from the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), in the same manner homosexuality was removed in 1973.
• Dr. Fred Berlin acknowledged that it was political activism, similar to the incrementalist strategy witnessed at the conference, rather than a scientific calculus that successfully led to the declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder: The reason “homosexuality was taken out of DSM is that people didn’t want the government in the bedroom,” he said.
• The DSM ignores that pedophiles “have feelings of love and romance for children” in the same way adults love one another.
• “The majority of pedophiles are gentle and rational.”
• The DSM should “focus on the needs” of the pedophile, and should have “a minimal focus on social control,” rather than obsessing about the “need to protect children.”
• Self-described “gay activist” and speaker Jacob Breslow said that children can properly be “the object of our attraction.” He further objectified children, suggesting that pedophiles needn’t gain consent from a child to have sex with “it” any more than we need consent from a shoe to wear it. He then used graphic, slang language to favorably describe the act of climaxing (ejaculating) “on or with” a child. No one in attendance objected to this explicit depiction of child sexual assault. There was even laughter.
(In fairness, Dr. Berlin did later tell Mr. Breslow that his words might “anger” some people and that he [Berlin] is categorically opposed to adult-child sex with “pre-pubescent” children. When asked about the propriety of adult-child sex with pubescent children, Dr. Berlin did not provide a clear answer.)

So, am I just an intolerant, “pedophobic” bigot? Apparently so. In fact, Dr. Berlin says pedophilia is just another “sexual orientation.” Some of the “minor attracted” conference-goers insisted that they were “born that way.” Sound familiar?

This is sexual anarchy – fulfillment of the moral relativist dream.

In the 1940s, homosexual psychopath and secular-humanist messiah Alfred Kinsey’s stated goal was to destroy, in society, the Judeo-Christian sexual ethic. He has largely achieved that goal.

Indeed, during his sexology “research,” Kinsey facilitated the rape of thousands of children – some as young as 2 months old – placing stopwatches and ledgers in the hands of “minor-attracted persons” to document their “findings.” He then recorded everything in what is generally referred to as the “Kinsey Reports.”

Kinsey determined, among many things, that children are not harmed by sex with adults and that it can be a positive experience. Old Al even earned his very own Kinsey Institute, still in existence today at Indiana University.

As recently as 1998, the APA seemed to agree with Kinsey’s assessment, releasing a report that suggested harm caused by child rape was “overstated” and that “the vast majority of both men and women reported no negative sexual effects from their child sexual abuse experiences.”

Furthermore, the APA report suggested that the term “child sex abuse” be swapped with “adult-child sex,” indicating, as did Kinsey, that such “intergenerational intimacy” can be “positive.” Isn’t “tolerance” wonderful?

Oh, and the “progressive,” political-activist APA has also seen fit to join an amicus brief in favor of so-called “same-sex marriage.” What does this have to do with psychiatry? Your guess is as good as mine.

Make no mistake: Children are the target of what I call the “sexual anarchy movement.” Whether it’s the movement’s pedophile wing that seeks to literally rape children, or its radical pro-abortion, homosexualist and feminist wings, which seek to rape the minds of children, the larger sexual anarchy movement has a shared goal: Attack, corrupt and destroy God’s design for human sexuality. Children are just collateral damage.

Sexual anarchists know that to own the future, they must own the minds of our children. Hence, groups like B4U-ACT, GLSEN (The Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network), Planned Parenthood and the like utilize academia from pre-school to post-graduate to brainwash and indoctrinate. Still, sexual anarchists are not restricted to the world of not-for-profit perversion advocacy. They also permeate the Obama administration.

Consider, for instance, that the official website for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently linked to “parenting tips” that referenced children as “sexual beings” and suggested that they should experiment with homosexuality and masturbation.

Small surprise when you consider that radical feminist and pro-abort Kathleen Sebelius was President Obama’s pick as HHS secretary.

You may also recall that Mr. Obama appointed Kevin Jennings, founder of the aforementioned GLSEN, to the post of “safe schools czar.” The position is now defunct, ostensibly due to national outrage over Jennings’ appointment.

In keeping with the thinly veiled goals of B4U-ACT, GLSEN seems to be “running interference” for pedophiles, having tacitly advocated adult-child sex through its “recommended reading list” for kids.

Again, not surprising when you consider that one of Jennings’s ideological mentors is “gay” activist pioneer Harry Hay. “One of the people that’s always inspired me is Harry Hay,” he has said glowingly.

What did Mr. Hay think? I’ll let him speak for himself. In 1983, while addressing the pedophile North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), Hay said the following:

“[I]t seems to me that in the gay community the people who should be running interference for NAMBLA are the parents and friends of gays. Because if the parents and friends of gays are truly friends of gays, they would know from their gay kids that the relationship with an older man is precisely what 13-, 14-, and 15-year-old kids need more than anything else in the world. And they would be welcoming this, and welcoming the opportunity for young gay kids to have the kind of experience that they would need.”

(Oddly, there’s another “gay” activist group, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG, that frequently partners with GLSEN. I wonder where they came up with the catchy title.)

Bolstered by support from the National Education Association, GLSEN has access to your children through sex education curricula it provides thousands of public schools across the country, and via adult sponsored “Gay Straight Alliances,” hosted in those same schools.

Alas, we live in a post-Kinsey America wherein our culture, along with our Judeo-Christian heritage, rots in the heat of the day. The stench of sexual anarchy is masked by the soaring, disingenuous rhetoric of “tolerance,” “diversity” and “comprehensive sex education.”

Sick to your stomach? I am. Why can’t these sexual anarchists leave our children alone and let kids be kids?

————————————-

[Matt Barber is an attorney concentrating in constitutional law. He serves as Vice President of Liberty Counsel Action. (This information is provided for identification purposes only.)]

Even When… God is…

SOURCE:  Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 61

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Certainly, God takes no pleasure in what is hurtful (Ezek. 33:11), and he is never the author of sin (James 1:13-14; I John 1:5). Yet, for his eternal purposes, he sometimes allows suffering and permits unjust acts by men and women whom he decides not to restrain, even though he has the power to do so… Even when sinful and painful things are happening, God is somehow exercising ultimate control and working things out for his good purposes.

Food for Thought

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

From war and rumors of wars, to politics and politicians, to road rage and playground rage, it is tempting to bow our heads in despair. Hate is strong. The song of peace is mocked. But even when it sounds as if there is no peace, you and I must remember the deeper, truer song of His word. God is in control. And He is working for his good purposes.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1864

Living With an Angry, Abusive or Violent Spouse

SOURCE:  Edward T. Welch/CCEF

No matter how bad your situation is, remember that you are not alone.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

It shouldn’t happen.

You married someone you trusted, and you gave yourself to that person. How could it be that the person you once trusted with your life now acts like the person who could take your life? Whether you are facing unpredictable anger or outright physical abuse, this is betrayal at its worst.

It just shouldn’t happen.

A quick scan of the Internet reveals that you are certainly not alone. Twenty-five percent of adult women say they have experienced violence at the hands of their spouse or partner in a dating relationship. Men, too, can be victims of spousal violence. Eight percent report at least one such incident. But since men are more often violent against women, and since women are typically weaker than angry or violent men, this article is written especially for women.

If you have experienced violence, and you are living scared, statistics are little comfort. Women who live in identical conditions don’t protect you or give you hope for peace and reconciliation. But the numbers do remind you that others know the pain of such a living situation, and that resources are available to help you.

You are not alone: There are people who want to help.

Where can you turn for help?  Where can you find a wise friend to guide you?

If you attend a church, talk to your pastor. If you don’t attend a church, find one in your area. Look for a church that is centered on Jesus Christ and believes what the Bible says about Him—that He is the Son of God who came to earth, died for our sins, rose from the dead, and is the living and powerful head of His church today. Find a community of people who worship this Jesus and who express their worship in love for one another. There you will find hope and direction.

You are really not alone: Listen to the God who hears.

Your long-term goal should be to know the personal God. This won’t magically change your situation, but you will find that knowing God does change everything. Think about it for a moment. What would it be like to know you are not alone, you are heard, and the One who hears is acting on your behalf? It would make a difference. It would especially make a difference if you knew that this person was the holy King of the universe.

The challenge, of course, is that, at this time in history, you cannot see God with your eyes. When you want real hands and feet to help you, the knowledge of God’s presence might seem to provide very little consolation, but don’t let your senses mislead you. God’s presence is a real spiritual presence. The Spirit will confirm this, and “Blessed are those who have not yet seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29, ESV).

How do you know that the invisible God of the universe is with you? Look at the evidence from the past. The Bible is full of stories about God hearing the cries of His people and coming to their rescue.

In Genesis, the first book in the Bible, a woman named Hagar and her young son, were unfairly sent from their home and left in the wilderness to die. She turned her back on her son so she wouldn’t have to watch him die, and they both wept. They thought they were utterly alone, but “God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation’” (Genesis 21:17, 18).

This is a pattern. God’s ears are finely tuned to tears. Like a mother who wakes at the sound of her child, God hears the cries of the oppressed.

We see this again when God’s people, the Israelites, cried out because of their slavery in Egypt (Exodus 2:23, 24). Like Hagar, the people were not even crying out to God; they were simply crying, and God heard. While some people can hear and do nothing, when the God of heaven and earth hears, He acts. He gave Hagar and her son water and made her son the father of a great nation. He responded to the cries of the Israelites by delivering them from their slavery in Egypt.

So don’t think that God merely listens. His listening always includes action. We may not see all of what He is doing, but, make no mistake, He is acting.

You are not alone: The God who hears wants to listen to you.

God wants you to direct your cries and fears to Him. Does that seem impossible? If so, He will help you to find the words. Psalm 55 can get you started.

“My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me. And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest…For it is not an enemy who taunts me—then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—then I could hide from him. But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend.
We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng.”
 (Psalm 55:4-8; 12-14)

Psalm 55 has given a voice to human betrayal for centuries. If the words fit your experience, then you are now part of a much larger body of people who have sung this psalm and made it their own. One person in particular leads the singing. Yes, King David wrote this psalm, but he wrote it on behalf of the perfect King who was to come after him. It is Jesus’ psalm, and you are sharing in His Words (read Mark 14). He was the innocent victim of evil people. He was tortured and suffered a terrible death at their hands. To be part of His chorus, all you have to do is follow Him.

Indeed, you are not alone.

The God who hears is against injustice.

The God who came to this world as Jesus and experienced oppression and injustice also stands against it. When people are oppressed by those who have authority or physical power, God pronounces grief and judgment on the oppressors.

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD. Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply.”  (Jeremiah 23:1-3)

This doesn’t mean you should silently gloat, “Yeah, go ahead. You’ll get yours some day.” As you probably know, women who are victimized usually don’t think like that. It’s more likely that you feel guilty, as if somehow you are the cause of judgment on your spouse. But neither response is what God intends. He wants you to respond by depending on Him to be your defender. He wants you to trust that He is hearing your cries and is going to act on your behalf.

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO

Most likely, you are numb, scared, confused, and paralyzed. If this describes you, then you might know some action steps, but taking one will seem impossible. There is no trick to taking a first step; you just have to do it.

Start by making a phone call to your pastor or a friend. You need help, and God’s hands and feet often are the friends He raises up to help you. Look for God’s help to arrive from God’s people.

You have many reasons why you don’t ask for help. One is that you don’t know exactly what kind of help you need. For example, you aren’t eager for someone to confront your husband because you are afraid he will get even angrier at you. You don’t want to leave. So what’s left to do? Your path isn’t clearly marked, and you’re not sure what to do next. That makes it even more important for you to ask for help from someone else.

Don’t let your sense of guilt or shame paralyze you.

Another reason you might not ask for help is because you are experiencing something shameful. You’re probably asking, “What kind of wife gets treated this badly by her husband?” The wrong answer to that question is, “Only a bad wife could elicit such a response from someone sworn to love her.”

The truth is that you are not to blame for the cruel anger of another person. Even if you incite anger (and that is rarely the case), there is never any excuse for cruelty.

Put it this way: You cannot make someone else sin. Sin comes from our own selfish hearts. Your spouse, when he is sinfully angry, is caring only about himself and his own desires (James 1:13-15). He will try to make it sound like it’s your fault—there isn’t a victimized woman in the world who doesn’t feel like she is somehow at fault—but his sin is his alone.

If necessary, find refuge.

If you’ve been physically hurt by your spouse, and he continues to threaten you, then you should get protection. If children are threatened, this is essential. Every county in the United States has domestic abuse hotlines that will provide you with resources. Protection from abuse orders are available though your local courthouse. Friends may have an extra room or two. As you think about how to keep youself and your children safe, please find someone to discuss this with you and guide you. God’s wisdom says that the more important the decision, the more critical it is to receive counsel from wise people.

The reality is that most women who are suffering like you don’t take these steps. Some who do quickly renege on them and go back to the abusive situation. Why? Fear of retaliation, fear of aloneness, love for the perpetrator, hope that things at home will change, and the lingering guilt that says, “It’s your fault.” These are powerful tugs that make decisive action very difficult.

With this in mind, you can see how important it is to listen for the consensus among the wise people around you. If you have fears and doubts about their counsel, voice them.

Distinguish between loving your spouse and wanting to be loved by your spouse.

Here’s a hard distinction, but it can go a long way toward bringing you sanity. Have you noticed that in all relationships we balance our commitment to love with our desire to be loved? Usually the scales are tipped in favor of wanting to be loved. Your goal is to tip the scales towards a commitment to love.

This is the way to avoid the twin contaminants of most relationships—anger and fear. When you need someone more than you love that person, you will be prone to anger, because you don’t get the love that feels so critical to you. You will also be prone to fear, because the other person has the power to give or withhold what you think you need.

When you set your sights on your commitment to love, the possibilities are limitless. Love gives you the clarity to make difficult decisions on the fly. Should you speak out or be quiet?   Love can guide you more than you realize. Even going to someone else and asking for advice and help with your difficult relationship can be an expression of love. You need help because you care about your spouse. His foolish, selfish lifestyle is not only hurting you, but it’s also hurting him because it’s spiritually self-destructive. Love wants to warn the fool. It wants to rescue, if possible, the self-destructive person from the wrath of God.

Love can be patient and kind (1 Corinthians 13). It can rebuke (Leviticus 19:17). It can stand against injustice and confront another person in their sin (Matthew 18:15-17). The challenge is to keep the scales tipped in love’s favor.

You can only do this when you remember that God always tips the scales in love’s favor in His relationship with you. No matter how moral you have been, you have not been perfectly faithful to the one who created you. But instead of withdrawing in anger, God pursues you even when you don’t want to be pursued.

Find the book of Hosea in your Bible (it’s in the Old Testament), and read the first three chapters. You will get a picture of God as the relentless lover of His people. Although His people repeatedly reject Him, He will not give them up or let them go.

As you know and experience God’s pursuing love, your love for others will become stronger than your desire to be loved. Trusting in God’s love will free you to love others the way you have been loved. After all, when we were God’s enemies, He extended His call of love to us (Romans 5:10). Since God loved us like this, we should expect that we will have the opportunity to love others in the same way. The Bible calls this overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:20).

Learn to disarm an angry person.

Outfitted with love, you have more power than you think. Love comes from the Spirit of the living God, the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead. Whenever you encounter the Spirit in the Bible, you encounter power. The power, of course, is the power of wisdom and love, and there are times when it can disarm an angry man.

Because of the limitless possibilities of love, let wise friends brainstorm and pray with you. Here are some things that the Spirit of power can help you do when you are faced with an angry spouse:

    • Ask him why he thinks you are the enemy.
    • Leave the house when he is sinfully angry.
    • Go and get help instead of being silenced by your shame and his threats.
    • Accept responsibility for your own sinful responses, and not accept responsibility for his.
    • Tell him what it is like to be the recipient of his anger and hatred. Angry people are blind to how they hurt others.
    • Ask him if he thinks that he has a problem.
    • Speak with a humility that’s more powerful than anger. When in doubt, you could ask what he thinks you did that was wrong. You don’t have to defend your reputation before him.
    • If he claims to want to change, ask him what steps he is taking to change.
    • Keep James 4:1-2 in mind. You are witnessing his selfish desires running amok. Be careful that you don’t become an imitator of such behavior.
    • Don’t minimize his destructive behavior. Sinful anger is called hatred and murder (Matthew 5:21, 22).
    • Read through the book of Proverbs underlining all the sayings about anger. Proverbs like “reckless words pierce like a sword” will validate your experiences (Proverbs 12:18).
    • Remember, it is possible to overcome evil with good.

This is only a sketchy list. The details will have to be worked out within your community of counselors. What guarantees do you have? God doesn’t guarantee the momentary peace and quiet you might be longing for; instead He promises you something much more lasting. He promises that as you turn and trust Jesus Christ you will become more like Him; that His Spirit will help you love more than you need to be loved; that God will be with you, He will hear and act on your behalf; and that although the Spirit of God is the one who changes hearts, you have more power than you know—the power to both know and promote peace.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Is it wrong to leave, even if my husband is violent?   Isn’t marriage a permanent commitment?   

The Bible does emphasize that marriage is a covenant that should not be broken unless we have God’s permission (Matthew 19:6). Do you have permission when there is domestic violence? Know this for certain: God opposes such evil and intends care for the oppressed (Jeremiah 23:1-3). Such care can sometimes be found in finding a place for refuge and protection. If you need to leave and seek safety, that is not necessarily a first step toward divorce. It is better understood as a statement of hope and a desire to see change in the marriage relationship.

You are right that these decisions are difficult. Therefore, ask for help. Ask your pastor to guide you in the knowledge of what God says.

Can angry men change?

This question can be heard two ways. First, “I want a relationship. Can my spouse change?” The answer is yes, absolutely! God changes all kinds of people. If He can change us, when we see that our hearts are prone to selfishness and quickly stray from trusting Him, then He can certainly change people who are like us.

You probably already believe that God has the power to change anyone. Your biggest struggle will be to put your hope in God more than you put your hope in your husband changing. When you put your hope in God, you live on a rock. When you put your hope in a person, you will feel like a life raft let loose on the open sea.

Second, this question might be about the process of change. You might be really saying something like this, “My husband has promised to change so many times, but we end up at the same place. Can he change, or is there a deeper problem?” Sin is hard to leave, in part, because we like it. In the case of abusive anger, the angry person might like the sense of power and control. If your husband says he wants to change, then he should have a plan. This plan should include at least the following things:

    • Accountability: He must be willing and able to speak openly about his sinful behavior to others who can help
    • Confession: He must be able to understand and confess that his anger has been destructive, recognize that his behavior is ultimately against God, and learn to hate his sin.
    • Growth in the knowledge of the true God: All the best intentions are not enough to bring about deep change. The real problem with angry men is their arrogance and “hatred toward God” (read James 4:1-10), in which case they must both confess their sin against God and set out on a course of knowing and fearing Him.

      —————————————————————————

      Edward T. Welch, M.Div., Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and faculty member at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF).

Men Are Victims of Domestic Violence, Too!

Editor’s Note:  No matter who is the perpetrator, the very sinfulness of bullying behavior is exactly the same whether the abusive behavior is initiated by the husband or the wife.  This article by Leslie Vernick, nationally known author –  counselor – speaker, is important.  It is important because it can be wrongly assumed that domestic violence always is about a female being victimized by a male.  While this scenario is regrettably too often true, it is only “part” of the total picture.  No one, female nor male, who is victimized via domestic violence must be overlooked.

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

In this week’s blog, I’m (Leslie Vernick) doing something different. It’s not exactly a question, but rather some comments from a man who responded to my last newsletter titled, Is Your Marriage Healthy? and wants people to know that men are victims of domestic violence too.

I applaud his bravery in speaking out and giving us this reminder that the Church as well as society needs to be much more aware and sensitive to the problem of domestic violence in general, but not to forget about men who suffer abuse at the hands of their wives.

I’ve (Leslie Vernick) condensed his rather lengthy comments and have a few of my own thoughts at the end. My second newsletter this month is on the topic of  Five Things You Can do to Help Someone that Has been Abused.

Sign up on my home page at http://www.leslievernick.com/ if you’d like to receive it.

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A Reader’s Response:

In your last newsletter on healthy marriages, one sentence grabbed my attention. You wrote,

“When a woman bullies her husband, the sinfulness and inappropriateness of the interactions are much more obvious to church leaders”

What??

My experience is anything but that. My experience is that women bullying and abusing men is considered funny. Men have no place to turn. They can be hit, abused, bullied and terrorized by their wives, and the only way they can hope to have contact with their children is if they continue to allow themselves to be victimized.

My experience has been that doors of help close for men. Social services make excuse after excuse for a woman’s abusive behavior and scorn the man for taking photos or videos during her perpetration. The man must be ultra perfect, and if he ever does wrong, he goes to jail. If she does wrong, she needs more compassion, more money, more help.

My experience has been that very few church leaders have the courage to look a woman in the eye and confront her about her abusive behavior. Church leaders, therapists, and other professionals often migrate to the “most reasonable” partner and the partner willing to make changes. So that one is the one who changes and changes and changes, only to be hit, raged at, and made out to be a monster, because well “all men are monsters.”

My wife posted as her Facebook profile photo, a picture my mom took of my wife, our daughter and me in front of the Christmas tree (2010) in which, under my shirt, I was physically injured by my wife. The picture literally makes me want to vomit, and I cannot look at it for more than a few seconds. It is still in my wife’s photo album on FB. I avoid looking there.

And as long as therapists, authors and professionals look at this issue with even a hint of “gender” in view, then, frankly, right now, I feel we’ve lost. Abuse is to be confronted and our children are to be protected. Families are to be protected. And women’s help lines and shelters simply MUST be opened up to men. Either that or parallel organizations can fill the need.

Out of about 20 calls to women’s help lines (yes, I’ve been that desperate), there was ONE time where someone actually fielded my call. Someone actually gave me the counsel, information, and advice that they would have given a woman. That was a VERY helpful and healing call in my life, and I am grateful that the woman on the other end of the line neither yelled at me nor hung up on me as others had.

In the meantime, I am raising our daughter. I separated from my wife in mid August and even though we have a 1week on 1 week off caretaking arrangement — oops, she’s sick, oh, she brings our daughter to kindergarten late or not at all, oops, she dresses our daughter in clothes that don’t fit right — oh combing her hair is just too much of a hassle, so forget about it, she can just look like a nappy mop in KG, that’s cool.

And no one would suspect it, considering her doe-faced kind-smile and soft-eyed presentation. Which is of course, the woman I married, but not the woman my wife is and was towards me behind closed doors.

And as the man, I am urged to “be more understanding.” Of what? Of outright abuse? I have never hit my wife. She has hit, bitten, restrained, yelled, raged, etc.

The counselors want to discuss how both of us are perpetrators. Maybe make the discussion “fair” by seeing it as 50/50.

Well some things are not 50/50.

A sniper can kill you from 2 miles away with a single bullet. Was the exchange 50/50? A robber can steal your car. Was that 50/50? Are you just as much to blame as the person who stole your car? Do you need to do “personal work,” because someone stole your car?

I have spent about a decade now absorbing abuse, compensating for constant chaos, and I am now repairing my life.

Thank God, now that I have separated from my wife, the kindergarten teachers and administration see more of what is going on. My daughter is well dressed, well taken care of, and OK when she is with me. When she is with my wife, she is either very very late, ragged, or distressed. My wife hasn’t kept her appointments with the kindergarten staff and, oh, now my wife wants to pull her out of her kindergarten, where she is loved, has friends, and plays on a mountainside.

In one sense, I am fortunate, because my wife’s neglect of her own child is pretty obvious to those who are in contact with her regularly. I have deep sympathy for men who are abused by women who do a “good job” with their children. That’s got to be an even more impossible situation.

And how does it feel as a man to have “escaped” from an abusive relationship with a child? I feel like a complete idiot. Sure, people smile at me and my daughter a lot in public. She sings and is well dressed and both my wife and I are good looking people, so our daughter is simply a beautiful child. But the “background” behind this father with the adorable daughter is simply: horrific.

Please don’t forget, men are victims of domestic violence too.

My Response (Leslie Vernick):

Thank you for your poignant and passionate response. For those of you who did not get my last newsletter, the larger context of my comment he’s referring to is:

When a husband bullies his wife, his behavior does not describe biblical headship, nor is her forced “submission” characteristic of biblical submission. The correct terms are coercion, manipulation, intimidation, or rape and she is the victim. Let’s make sure we use the right words.

When a woman bullies her husband, the sinfulness and inappropriateness of the interactions are much [less] obvious to church leaders, but the very sinfulness of bullying behavior is exactly the same whether the abusive behaviors is initiated by the wife or the husband.

Your points are well taken. Men are victims of abuse and here is more sad news:

1. The Family Violence survey as well as numerous other studies have found that men are just as likely to be the victims of domestic violence as women are.

2. Men indeed have fewer resources to help them. The only national toll-free helpline for men is the Domestic Abuse Helpline (888 743 5754). Go to their website at http://dahmw.org/ to find other helpful websites and resources for men who are abused. There are very few shelters (out of 1,200-1,800 DV shelters) that offers services to men.

3. Men are less likely to be supported or validated. Men who report abuse are often seen as wimpy, frail, passive, or stupid, thus making it much more likely that they won’t report. Suzanne Steinmentz, director of the Family Research Institute at Indiana University/Purdue said, “They [men] wouldn’t dream of reporting the kind of minor abuse – – such as slapping or kicking – – that women routinely report.” Why not? Because men are supposed to “take it like a man.”

4. Society doesn’t deem men as “victims” and we tend to perceive women more vulnerable than men, therefore abuse by a woman toward a man may seem more justified or excusable than abuse by a man toward a woman. A recent study revealed that more than 51% of men and 52% of women felt that sometimes it was appropriate for a wife to slap her husband. On the other hand, only 26% of men and 21% of women felt it was ever appropriate for a husband to slap his wife.

5. A man calling the police to report domestic abuse is three times more likely to be arrested than the woman who is abusing him. This makes him afraid to report, thus making the statistics for abuse of men higher than we know.

6. When a woman is abusive, she is more likely to be seen as “sick” and labeled with a mental health diagnosis. People tend to be more compassionate toward someone labeled sick. When a man is abusive, he is more likely to be labeled with entitlement issues, power and control problems, character defects or sin problems. Compassion is directed toward the female victim, not the male offender.

To the man who wrote his comments and other men who are victims of domestic violence, we hear you. Domestic violence isn’t a woman’s problem or a man’s problem, it is a human problem and a tragedy.

Please know, God gives wisdom for both the victim and abuser to heal and to change so that generational patterns are broken, but it’s only as we speak up and speak out about this can we receive the help we and our loved ones need.

“Bring it here unto ME”

SOURCE:  Octavius Winslow/Deejay O’Flaherty

Take Our Sorrows to Him

“Bring him here to Me.”  Matthew 17:17

In your moment of disappointment and despair, Jesus meets you with the gracious words, “Bring it here unto Me.”

And now your spirit revives, your heart bounds, at the words, and you exclaim, “Behold, Lord, I come!”

Jesus says, “Bring your sorrows to Me!” Never did the soul find so powerful a magnet, attracting to itself affliction in every form, and sorrow in every shade — as Jesus.

Standing as in the center of a world of woe — He invites every [son and] daughter of sorrow, of sin, of grief to repair to Him for support, sympathy, and healing.

As the High Priest of His Church for whom alone He suffered, and wept, and sobbed — He unveils a bosom capacious enough and loving enough, and sympathizing enough — to embrace every sufferer, and to pillow every grief.

Accept, then, His compassionate invitation, and bring your grief to the soothing, sustaining, sanctifying grace of His heart!

————————————————————————-
Octavius Winslow (1808-1878), also know as “The Pilgrim’s Companion,” stood out as a one of the foremost evangelical preachers of the 19th Century.

God Governs All Things: Good & Evil

Why I Do Not Say, “God Did Not Cause the Calamity, But He Can Use It for Good.”

SOURCE:  John Piper

Many Christians are speaking this way about the murderous destruction of the World Trade Towers on September 11, 2001. God did not cause it, but he can use it for good. There are two reasons I do not say this. One is that it goes beyond, and is contrary to, what the Bible teaches. The other is that it undermines the very hope it wants to offer.

First, this statement goes beyond and against the Bible. For some, all they want to say, in denying that God “caused” the calamity, is that God is not a sinner and that God does not remove human accountability and that God is compassionate. That is true—and precious beyond words. But for others, and for most people who hear this slogan, something far more is implied. Namely, God, by his very nature, cannot or would not act to bring about such a calamity. This view of God is what contradicts the Bible and undercuts hope.

How God governs all events in the universe without sinning, and without removing responsibility from man, and with compassionate outcomes is mysterious indeed! But that is what the Bible teaches. God “works all things after the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11).

This “all things” includes the fall of sparrows (Matthew 10:29), the rolling of dice (Proverbs 16:33), the slaughter of his people (Psalm 44:11), the decisions of kings (Proverbs 21:1), the failing of sight (Exodus 4:11), the sickness of children (2 Samuel 12:15), the loss and gain of money (1 Samuel 2:7), the suffering of saints (1 Peter 4:19), the completion of travel plans (James 4:15), the persecution of Christians (Hebrews 12:4-7), the repentance of souls (2 Timothy 2:25), the gift of faith (Philippians 1:29), the pursuit of holiness (Philippians 3:12-13), the growth of believers (Hebrews 6:3), the giving of life and the taking in death (1 Samuel 2:6), and the crucifixion of his Son (Acts 4:27-28).

From the smallest thing to the greatest thing, good and evil, happy and sad, pagan and Christian, pain and pleasure—God governs them all for his wise and just and good purposes (Isaiah 46:10). Lest we miss the point, the Bible speaks most clearly to this in the most painful situations. Amos asks, in time of disaster, “If a calamity occurs in a city has not the LORD done it?” (Amos 3:6). After losing all ten of his children in the collapse of his son’s house, Job says, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). After being covered with boils he says, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10).

Oh, yes, Satan is real and active and involved in this world of woe! In fact Job 2:7 says, “Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.” Satan struck him. But Job did not get comfort from looking at secondary causes. He got comfort from looking at the ultimate cause. “Shall we not accept adversity from God?” And the author of the book agrees with Job when he says that Job’s brothers and sisters “consoled him and comforted him for all the adversities that the LORD had brought on him” (Job 42:11). Then James underlines God’s purposeful goodness in Job’s misery: “You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful” (James 5:11). Job himself concludes in prayer: “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). Yes, Satan is real, and he is terrible—and he is on a leash.

The other reason I don’t say, “God did not cause the calamity, but he can use it for good,” is that it undercuts the very hope it wants to create. I ask those who say this: “If you deny that God could have ‘used’ a million prior events to save 5,000 people from this great evil, what hope then do you have that God could now ‘use’ this terrible event to save you in the hour of trial?” We say we believe he can use these events for good, but we deny that he could use the events of the past to hold back the evil of September 11. But the Bible teaches he could have restrained this evil (Genesis 20:6). “The LORD nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the peoples” (Psalm 33:10). But it was not in his plan to do it. Let us beware. We spare God the burden of his sovereignty and lose our only hope.

All of us are sinners. We deserve to perish. Every breath we take is an undeserved gift. We have one great hope: that Jesus Christ died to obtain pardon and righteousness for us (Ephesians 1:7; 2 Corinthians 5:21), and that God will employ his all-conquering, sovereign grace to preserve us for our inheritance (Jeremiah 32:40). We surrender this hope if we sacrifice this sovereignty.

Living With A Painful Situation

SOURCE:  Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) pp. 64-64

Although we can be sure that God is always working for our good and the good of others, even through trials and suffering, we will not always know exactly what that good is.

In many cases his ultimate purposes will not be evident for a long time.

And in some situations his ways and objectives are simply too profound for us to comprehend, at least until we see God face to face (see Romans 11:33-36).

This should not diminish our confidence in him or our willingness to obey him, however. As Deuteronomy 29:29 tells us, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”

This passage provides the key to dealing faithfully with painful and unjust situations. God may not tell us everything we want to know about the painful events of life, but he has already told us all we need to know. Therefore, instead of wasting time and energy trying to figure out things that are beyond our comprehension, we need to turn our attention to the promises and instructions that God has revealed to us through Scripture. The Bible tells us that God is both sovereign and good, so we can be sure that whatever he has brought into our lives can be used to glorify him, to benefit others, and to help us to grow.

Food for Thought

Are you living with a painful situation? Is there a situation in your life that you just don’t understand why it has transpired in the way it has?

As you trust God with the “secret things,” first remember all he has already done for you through Christ. Then focus your attention on obeying his revealed will, and you will experience greater peace within yourself (Psalm 131; Isaiah 26:3) and serve him more effectively as a peacemaker (Proverbs 3:5-7).

Misplaced Grace or Realistic, Authentic, Biblical Grace?

SOURCE:   An article at Practical Theology for Women/Wendy Horger Alsup

Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics … every action is met by an equal and opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff. … I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep s—. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.

From Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas

I believe in grace. I’ve written about it many times on the blog (here and here for instance). I found it core to the message of Ephesians as I studied and wrote By His Wounds You Are Healed. Yet despite my belief in gospel grace for myself and my commitment to live it out with others, I am constantly seduced away from it. The gravity that is our culture (both unbelieving and believing) pulls us down and away from gospel grace.

I remember a number of disasters in South Korea when I taught there—a gas explosion that killed 150 school children, a mall collapse that killed 500, and others. Seoul was so crowded that an accident that might kill 5 or 10 in the U. S. killed 300 there. With each incident, the culture screamed for a scapegoat. An individual government official or single head of a company would eventually be identified and sent to prison, if he didn’t take his own life first. In reality, there were systemic problems in the Korean infrastructure, not the least of which was a widespread, inbred culture of bribery. But it was easier to cry for the blood of one than address the culpability of many. The culture craved focused karma on the one guy rather than diluted karma across a wider group, and grace or forgiveness was not to be spoken of.

I noticed a similar thing in the aftermath of the teenager raped by a church usher then made to confess in a church discipline service. I read one Christian fundamentalist web forum in particular where the posters were over the top in their cry for the blood of the rapist. “They should tie him up and cut off his ….” They used their over the top language calling for the blood of the rapist to deflect from examining the culpability of a larger group. Like the mall collapse in Seoul, it was easier to cry for the blood of one than address the culpability of many.

We have an unforgiving culture, and we as believers have contributed to it. Because karma is seductive, and grace seems threatening. But I’m with Bono. My hope is that Jesus took my sins on the cross. And Scripture is clear that I can’t choose grace for myself and karma for everyone else.

But like everyone else, I’m much better at telling others to forgive than doing it myself. When something I love is threatened, my energy is aroused and expressed in either active anger or passive-aggressive manipulation. Karma seduces me – hey, they DESERVE it. And I forget that there is a better way.

The crux of grace is forgiving when you’ve been burned, as Christ has forgiven you. What does grace look like in the worst case scenario? What does grace look like for the pedophile? The child murderer? Is there anyone our culture hates more than them? They leave the worst kind of scars on their living victims. But if karma rules the day for even the pedophile or child murderer, it rules the day for all of us. And that is NOT the gospel. Karma’s a bitch, a totalitarian dictator. NOBODY wants her in charge.

Gospel grace in contrast offers hope to both the victim and the offender. If you haven’t yet read Generous Justice by Tim Keller, you really need to read it. He closes with this profound sentence (which I assure you he has proven from Scripture throughout the book), “A life poured out in doing justice for the poor (and abused) is the inevitable sign of any real, true gospel faith.” Any kind of grace to a perpetrator that doesn’t pursue justice for the victim is no grace at all.

 There are legal consequences in our culture, a result of God’s common grace to us all. There is no grace found in circumventing the system. Instead, you just delay karma’s hammer, and it hangs over the head of the perpetrator growing larger and larger until it finally falls and crushes them altogether. We all know of cases where a perpetrator comes forward, admits guilt, and enters a plea agreement with a reduced sentence. Our secular legal culture recognizes the value of immediate acknowledgement of guilt. Contrast that to the guy who managed to avoid police for 15 years and then fought charges in court instead of accepting a plea deal. Had someone loved him enough to walk him into a police station 15 years ago (grace), he’d be out of jail today. Instead, a pastor mistook grace to that guy as protecting him from the civil consequences of his sin, and now he’s facing decades in prison. Karma’s a bitch.

Authentic, Biblical grace is so, so, so much better. Grace is not hiding sin. Grace is not allowing someone to continue to wound others. Grace instead frees them to face their sin (and its consequences) head on. If you want to extend grace to someone our culture longs to make a scapegoat (because they have in fact committed an egregious sin), confront them and offer to stand with them while they admit their sin publicly and seek to repair as the legal system requires. Love them with the gospel away from defensiveness and self-protection. Offer them hope in authentic confession.

If you’ve been wounded and long for a scapegoat, don’t get seduced by karma. She’ll suck the life out of you. Because if you choose karma for the pedophile, eventually she’ll find you too. If gospel grace doesn’t inform how we handle the worst of life, it’s no use anywhere.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, … nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

The New Normal: Things Aren’t The Way They Are Supposed To Be

SOURCE: Based on an article at  Practical Theology For Women

I have had a few circumstances over the last 4 years that have grown and changed me. Inevitably, it is hard, not easy, circumstances that change us deeply.

Three years ago this month, my aunt was murdered.

I remember my sister’s story of the moment she had to tell my family. They were all on family vacation in the mountains. My sister got the call on her cell phone from another aunt. She told me she just stared at the scene in front of her–everyone enjoying the mountain air and time together as family–knowing that the news she had to share would change everything. It was a surreal moment. She did tell everyone, and nothing has been the same. Three years have passed. It’s fully incorporated into our lives now. It’s the new normal.

I’ve been thinking about this new normal. What has changed now? Besides all the obvious changes surrounding such a tragic loss, the foundation of change in my personal life has been, simply, my perspective. God shook the snow globe of my life, and some truths that were obscured by complacency have now taken a more prominent place in my thinking.

Here are some truths that are front and center now.

1) This world is not my home. I have to repeat this to myself regularly, but frankly it’s foundational to understanding everything else in this life.

2) Evil is very bad and we are not immune from it in this world. And rather than shaking my faith, this reminds me exactly why I desperately need a Savior. I need Jesus to save me from my own sin within me. And I long for King Jesus established on this earth as the sovereign authority who rules with complete justice. When God’s kingdom is fully established, there will be no more murder. There will be no more sickness.

3) Happy is a yuppie word. I struggle with the term happy. It isn’t a fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, and peace are not necessarily grown in our lives through traditionally “happy” circumstances. Yet the beatitudes use the term freely. Blessed or happy are the spiritually bankrupt, those who mourn, the meek, those who thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and, maybe most surprising, those who are persecuted for righteousness. Whatever happiness/blessedness is in Scripture, it is counterintuitive. I’m learning to think about happiness in new ways.

4) Our need for God is better highlighted in hard circumstances. When life is good, I inevitably gloss over my need for Him. But His unchanging character is the only anchor for my soul when life gets messy.

If you’ve had a life-shaking, perspective changing event rock your world recently, I recommend spending some time in Hebrews 11-13. Three years ago, the Lord saved me from despair through that section of Scripture. It reminded me that hardship, persecution, and endurance have been common to the Christian life since shortly after time began, and they will continue to be so until Christ returns. It also reminds me that despite it all, God’s purposes can not be shaken. It teaches me that my new normal is really just the old normal with complacency removed.

Hebrews 12
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 

When Life Seems Unfair

SOURCE:  Our Daily Bread/Joe Stowell

Have you ever felt that life is unfair? For those of us who are committed to following the will and ways of Jesus, it’s easy to get frustrated when people who don’t care about Him seem to do well in life. A businessman cheats yet wins a large contract, and the guy who parties all the time is robust and healthy—while you or your loved ones struggle with finances or medical issues. It makes us feel cheated, like maybe we’ve been good for nothing.

If you’ve ever felt that way, you’re in good company. The writer of Psalm 73 goes through a whole list of how the wicked prosper, and then he says, “Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain” (v.13). But the tide of his thoughts turns when he recalls his time in God’s presence: “Then I understood their end” (v.17).

When we spend time with God and see things from His point of view, it changes our perspective completely. We may be jealous of the nonbelievers now, but we won’t be at judgment time. As the saying goes, what difference does it make if you win the battle but lose the war?

Like the psalmist, let’s praise God for His presence in this life and His promise of the life to come (vv.25-28).

He is all you need, even when life seems unfair.

All wrongs will one day be set right
By God who sees both bad and good;
All motives and all deeds will then
Be fairly judged and understood. —D. De Haan

Spending time with God puts everything else in perspective.

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