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Archive for the ‘Self-Control’ Category

Five Ways to Avoid Overreacting in Your Relationship | Healing Together for Couples

SOURCE:   /PsychCentral

Anyone in a relationship knows that partners have the uncanny ability to bring out the best and worst in each other. Accordingly, whether newly married or celebrating many years together, partners can find themselves overreacting in a way that rarely happens anywhere else in their lives.

  • “He got me so upset that I was screaming in front of the kids.”
  • “ She doesn’t stop until I walk out and slam the door.”
  • “ How does he end up the victim, when he insulted me?”

Overreactions are like flash floods—all of a sudden they are there, be it from a deliberate or unintended provocation or the build-up of unrelated feelings that burst loose over something as simple as,

“How could you forget the milk?”

In the moment, it is very difficult to untangle what has happened, much less consider remedies to handle personal and interpersonal triggers. Here are five ways to avoid overreactions.

  1. Account for Physical Realities

Physical realities of fatigue, hunger, and pain compromise our functioning, particularly our capacity to regulate anxiety and anger. In a culture that gets too little sleep and demands multi-tasking, the stage is often set for overreaction.

  1. Self-Reflect and Disclose

“ I think if I can just unwind and change before I respond…”

“ We are exhausted and never do well discussing these issues late at night…let’s pick it up tomorrow.”

When partners can take a moment to reflect upon and disclose their needs, hear each other, and try to work together– the chance of an overreaction based on basic needs is lowered.

Sometimes that is not as easy as it sounds. Why? Anxiety

Are you the partner who feels such urgency that you cannot wait 10 minutes and insist on talking no matter how the other feels? Persisting or insisting rarely leads to a good place.

Try reducing the likelihood of an overreaction by regulating your anxiety:

  • Take 10 minutes to write down your thoughts so you don’t lose them or to do something for yourself for a short time while your partner catches his/her breath. This may actually give you a sense of mastery about waiting and improve the discussion.
  • Put words to your anxiety. If postponing discussing an issue until the morning feels like a “gag order” that fuels your anxiety, make that feeling known. Reasonable disclosure often invites a middle ground solution.
  • Sometimes, for example, simple acknowledgment of a problem offers enough relief that discussion can be postponed or becomes possible. Showing mutual respect and flexibility lowers overreactions.

“ So the boys want to drive to Maine with their friends… I am a bit nervous. Do you want to talk about it now or tomorrow?”

(If a partner chooses “tomorrow” and really follows up the next day – a big step of trust is taken for working together in future situations)

  1. Avoid Presumptions

A presumption is an act or instance of taking something to be true or adopting a particular attitude toward something, although it is not known for certain.

“ You never like spending time with my family.”

“ You have no interest in doing anything.”

Presumptions are triggers to overreactions in partners.

In most cases, they are critical and overgeneralized, leaving a partner feeling unfairly attacked and judged.

Robert Allan, author of Getting Control of Your Anger, suggests that one of the major hooks to anger is injustice.

  • It is not surprising that negative presumptions provoke partners to counterattack with anger and often a defensive screaming litany of proofs.
  • Often the accused becomes angry and feels he or she has been set up to overreact.

4. Use Assertion and Containment

If presumption is a negative pattern in your relationship, and inquiry and conversation have simply fueled the fire, believing in yourself and asserting what you know to be true is a powerful alternative to overreaction.

“ I have always enjoyed spending time with your family. They live very far away but I enjoy their company.”

Avoid Defensiveness-Stopping the back and forth with the assertion of what you know to be true is the most important thing you can do. There is power in certitude that needs no defense.

Regulate and Ignore the Bait-If your partner continues to pursue the presumption in an accusatory way – pause and use containment. Don’t take the bait. Regulate your urge to react by doing something else like getting up to make a cup of coffee or walk the dog. You are walking away from a negative pattern that hurts both you–and your partner. Come back prepared to proceed normally with the day or evening. The subliminal message is, “I am here but I will not participate in negative interactions.”

5. Evaluate How Much of Your Interaction is Overreaction

The quality of a relationship is key to mental and physical well-being. Step back and evaluate your interactions together. Is there so much shaming and blaming in a relationship that overreaction has become the painful method of interaction.

Psychologically this is a very dangerous situation for adults and children. When parents are constantly battling, children are in a storm of dysregulation without a lifeline. No one wins.

Friends and family often feel like a captive audience to a couple’s endless put-downs and blow-ups. Sometimes friends and family want to avoid the fray but stay for the children or stay to help. Not easy.

“ I no longer like who I have become.”

“ I am always angry because I feel so disrespected.”

“ I don’t know how this happened to us – We are stuck!”

  • This situation of overreactions often fueled by disdain warrants professional help for the sake of the partners and the well-being of the children.
  • Books, videos, on-line material, and groups that invite questions about co-dependency, fear of intimacy, hidden resentments, anger management and re-kindling love, can be invaluable in supporting partners who want to try to re-build or want to separate.
  • Children need their parents to be safe-so that they can be safe.

It is likely that if you are in a relationship, there will be times when you will overreact. Those times don’t have to mean the end of the relationship or the start of a war.

Looking closely at how and why you overreact, and using strategies to enhance understanding and restraint, can become a pathway to protect and expand your love and relationship.

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10 Facts You Need To Know About Emotions

SOURCE:  /PsychCentral

Do you tend to feel things more deeply than do other people? Or are you more on the intellectual end of the spectrum, more in touch with your thoughts than your emotions? What are your beliefs about feelings? Do you fall prey to any of the following myths?

  1. MythEmotions are irrational/silly/a sign of weaknessTruthEmotions allow us to express to ourselves and to those around us what we are experiencing. Also, emotions provide important clues to what we might need to do next. While it’s optimal to meld emotions with reason, do listen the next time you feel a depletion of energy, a sinking feeling, or a burst of anxiety when in a particular situation or have spent time with a specific person.
  2. MythTrying to manage my emotions will make me feel like a robot. TruthThere’s a difference between suppressing feelings and regulating them. The goal is to have a healthy and full range of emotions without allowing our emotions to function as the sole barometer of what is true or to lead us into destructive behavior.
  3. MythI should feel differently. I’m wrong to feel the way I do. TruthYou have a right to your emotions. True, sometimes your feelings may be based on a misinterpretation of your current situation, but you are always entitled to your feelings. For instance, if you are woken up in the middle of the night by a loud noise, you believe that an intruder has broken into your home, and your heart starts beating quickly, this is understandable. If when investigating the matter you realize that the noise was due to a harmless thunderclap outside, this doesn’t mean that you were wrong to initially feel anxious.
  4. MythVenting will make me feel better. TruthYelling, punching a wall, or keying someone’s car will just intensify your anger. Going on at length about how terrified you are about an upcoming plane ride or surgery is likely to magnify your anxiety. There is a difference between talking with someone about your feelings, which can be helpful, and going on for an extensive length of time, with the intensity of your emotions escalating to a 10, which can just fuel the fire.
  5. MythOther people make me feel certain ways. Truth: You are the guardian of your emotions. While other people’s behavior may be annoying, threatening, or draining, you are responsible for how you react. If you find yourself consistently feeling a certain way after interactions with a particular person, you might talk with them about your relationship or choose to spend less time with them. Do be open to examining your own part in the nature of the relationship, rather than assuming that the other person is entirely to blame.
  6. MythMy emotions just happen to me – I can’t control them. TruthWhile it wouldn’t be advisable or possible to put yourself in an emotional straitjacket, you definitely can learn to modulate the intensity of your reactions and to see the world, other people, and yourself in less threatening and more positive ways. Choose to change the way you think and behave. Consider how your best possible self would behave. Hint: “Best possible” does not mean perfect.
  7. MythThis is just the way I am. TruthWhile there is almost certainly a genetic component to being emotionally sensitive (which, by the way, is not necessarily a bad thing), there’s a lot you can do to manage your feelings while still having a healthy range of emotions. When left to their own devices, some people just instinctively react more extremely than do other people. Similar to how some people’s immune systems may be overly sensitive. Why are some people allergic to peanuts, and other people aren’t? Let go of self-judgment, accept your nature, and then work to refine your reactions, so you are most effective. While there is almost certainly a genetic component to being emotionally sensitive (which, by the way, is not necessarily a bad thing), there’s a lot you can do to manage your feelings while still having a full and healthy range of emotions.
  8. MythI can’t handle uncomfortable feelings. Truth: This belief is likely to lead to your avoiding situations that you associate with feeling a certain way, which usually results in your feeling less able to cope with this situation and possibly other situations in general. The way to build the belief that you can tolerate discomfort is to let yourself experience it (if need be) and learn that you can weather the emotional storm. Doing so would be an example of what is called “building mastery” in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and is a powerful antidote to despair.
  9. MythIf I feel that something is true, then it is absolutely true. TruthThis is emotional reasoning, one of the most common cognitive distortions. For instance, let’s say that you tossed and turned all night and are thus sleep-deprived. As a result, the amount of work waiting for you at the office seems insurmountable, although in general you perform well at your job, and you feel that your professional skills are inadequate. It’s likely that your fatigue is contributing to your feelings and consequent belief – so remember how your beliefs and actions can be skewed by your being Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired (in other words, HALT).
  10. MythI will never stop feeling the way I currently do. Truth: It can sometimes seem as if our present emotional state will go on forever. The absence of a sense of hope that things will ever change can feel devastating. If you feel this way most of the time for two weeks or longer, you may want to consult a mental health professional regarding the possibility of your being in a depressive episode. However, sometimes life is just rough. Do believe (even if you don’t “feel like it”) that your feelings are likely to shift, either through your taking action to address uncomfortable circumstances, accept unavoidable disappointments or tragedies in your life, connect in meaningful ways with family and friends, or just the passage of time.

Be your own best advocate and do what you can to be proactively self-compassionate, mindful, and non-judgmental about your feelings. Ask yourself:

  1. Do my emotions fit the facts of the situation?
  2. Would acting on my feelings right now be in my best interest?
  3. Would acting on my feelings right now create an additional problem?

When experiencing painful, unexpected, or intense emotions, accept that you feel a certain way instead of beating yourself up, and recognize that you have the ability to choose how to respond to that feeling.

What Should Be the Husband’s ‘Role’ in Marriage?

SOURCE: Dennis Rainey/Family Life

The Scriptures clearly give us the model for being a man, a husband, and father.

There is a story of a man who died and went to heaven to find two signs above two different lines. One sign said: “ALL THOSE MEN WHO HAVE BEEN DOMINATED BY THEIR WIVES, STAND HERE.” That line of men seemed to stretch off through the clouds into infinity.

The second sign read: “ALL THOSE WHO HAVE NEVER BEEN DOMINATED BY THEIR WIVES, STAND HERE.” Underneath the sign stood one man.

He went over to the man, grabbed his arm and said, “What’s the secret, how did you do it? That other line has millions of men and you are the only one standing in this line.”

The man looked around with a puzzled expression and said, “Why, I am not sure I know. My wife just told me to stand here.”

We have all heard jokes about “who wears the pants in the family.” Yet leadership in the home is no laughing matter. During the last few decades our culture has redefined the meaning and responsibilities of men and women in society and in the home. Many men are confused and insecure. Many do not know how to act in the home. Growing up, they lacked a good model for leadership at home and have no mental picture of what it means to lead a family. Consequently, they do not lead effectively, or they do not even try.Increasingly, many men are becoming passive in the home. They’ve decided that the easiest thing to do is nothing. The simplest thing—with the smallest risk—is to stay on the fence with both feet firmly planted in mid-air and let the wife do it. When a man is married to a strong wife who will take over, he often lets her do just that.

Fortunately, there is an answer. The Scriptures clearly give us the model for being a man, a husband, and a father. I call that model the “servant/leader.”

I hope that the concepts I share will help you understand the biblical role of a husband more clearly than ever before. When correctly interpreted and applied, these concepts not only result in freedom for the husband and wife, but will also help you work better as a team to combat isolation and conflict in your marriage.

#1: Be a leader. The Scriptures provide a clear organizational structure for a marriage. For example:

But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. —1 Corinthians 11:3

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. —Ephesians 5:22-30

In his commentary on Ephesians, William Hendriksen points out that God “… placed ultimate responsibility with respect to the household on the shoulders of the husband . . . The Lord has assigned the wife the duty of obeying her husband yet … this obedience must be a voluntary submission on her part, and that only to her own husband, not to every man.”

“Head” does not mean male dominance, where a man lords it over a woman and demands her total obedience to his every wish and command. God never viewed women as second-class citizens. His Word clearly states that we are all equally His children and are of equal value and worth before Him. As Galatians 3:28 tells us, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

The teaching of the New Testament clearly shows that women are to be respected, revered, and treated as equals with men. Unfortunately, many husbands have not gotten the message. They degrade their wives by neglect or with insensitive and abusive treatment. One cause of the feminist movement may have been that men abandoned God’s design. When God presented Eve to Adam in the Garden, Adam received her as a gift of great value to God and to himself. When husbands, particularly Christian husbands, do not treat their wives as a precious gift from God and helpmate, they can cause those wives to search for ways to find significance and value as persons, often outside God’s will.

Are you a leader? Men who are natural leaders have no trouble answering the question “yes.” They know how to take over, control, guide, and get things done. Some men are not strong or are not natural leaders. How can they lead in the home?

Paul says the same to everyone. God has placed the husband in the position of responsibility. It does not matter what kind of personality a man may have. Your wife may be resisting you, fighting you, and spurning your attempts to lead, but it makes no difference. I believe our wives want us and need us to lead. You are not demanding this position; on the contrary, God placed you there. You will not lead her perfectly, but you must care for you wife and family by serving them with perseverance.

Scripture does more than assign leadership in a marriage to the husband, however. Those same passages you just read also provide a model for that leadership. The Apostle Paul says that the husband is head of the wife as Christ is head of the church. “This comparison of the husband with Christ reveals the sense in which a man should be his wife’s ‘head.'” Hendriksen writes, “He is her head as being vitally interested in her welfare. He is her protector. His pattern is Christ, who, as head of the church, is its Savior!”

Let’s look more closely at two responsibilities that flow out of proper leadership.

#2: Love your wife unconditionally. Ephesians 5:25 reads, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” Your unconditional acceptance of your wife is not based upon her performance, but on her worth as God’s gift to you. If you want to love your wife unconditionally, always be sure her emotional tank is full. One of the best ways to do that is to affirm her constantly. Let her know verbally that you value her, respect her, and love her. I have discovered that I simply cannot do that enough.

There is no question that words communicate love, but so do actions. You need to do both. As the Apostle John wrote in one of his letters: “let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18). One of the missing ingredients in male leadership in homes is sacrificial action. When was the last time you gave up something for your wife—something you genuinely valued, like your golf game, a fishing trip, or your hobby? Sometimes you need to give up something you enjoy so your wife can have a break and see your love for her.

#3: Serve your wife. According to the New Testament, being head of your wife does not mean being her master, but her servant. Again, Christ is our model for this type of leadership. Jesus did not just talk about serving; He demonstrated it when he washed His disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17). Christ, the Head of the Church, took on the very nature of a servant when He was made in human likeness (Philippians 2:7).

One of the best ways to serve your wife is to understand her needs and try to meet them. Do you know what your wife’s top three needs are right now? If she is a young mother, she has a certain set of basic needs. If your children are grown and gone and you are in the empty nest, your wife has a different set of needs that you should try to meet. What is she worried about? What troubles her? What type of pressure does she feel? Learn the answers to questions like that, and then do what you can to reduce her worries, her troubles, her pressures.

What do you know about your wife’s hopes and dreams? I bet she has plenty—do you know what they are? Are you cultivating her gifts? If she has a knack for decorating, do you help her develop that?

Another way to serve your wife is to provide for her. This provision first involves assuming responsibility for meeting the material needs of the family. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Providing for your wife also means taking the initiative in helping meet her spiritual needs. You do this by modeling godly character, by praying with her, by spending time together in God’s Word, and by looking for ways to encourage her spiritually.

To be a leader, a lover, and a servant is to accommodate your life to the gift God has given you—your wife. Give up your life for hers and, at the judgment seat of Christ, He will say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Adultery: The Pathway from Porn to Adultery — LETTER TO A WOULD-BE ADULTERER

SOURCE:  Kent Butterfield/Desiring God

Dear Husband,

You know why I am writing to you. In our last conversation, you shared the pattern of your sinful thoughts, and how it often leads you to look at pornography. We agreed together on the importance of having dominion over our imaginations and putting on the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5). Viewing pornography is already a lamentable breach of your faithfulness to your wife, but I’m concerned it may only be the beginning.

I fear for you, and your wife, if you do not repent from these patterns of sin. Beyond the pornography, members of our church have noticed how you seem to be preoccupied with other women. They and I fear for how you shower them with flattery, which many perceive as flirting. You appear to be on a pathway that ends with adultery as you already betray a lack of fidelity to your bride.

Sin Always Begets Sin

Viewing pornography is not a stagnant sin. Sin begets more sin, because our hearts are desperately wicked. We will justify the temptations in our hearts unless we combat them. Rationalization is part of the self-deception of sin. How easily we think, This is not that bad, then soon, Not bad at all. Eventually, we are saying, It is a good thing that I desire.

My friend, learn to hate your sin. You must treat it with a kind of seriousness that your seared conscience may find difficult to feel at this point. You must guard your mouth, and heart, as you speak to other women in the congregation, going out of your way to treat them as sisters in Christ (1 Timothy 5:1–2).

You must also resolve to control, God helping you, what you set your eyes upon, remembering righteous Job, who took the temptation to look with lust seriously: “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” (Job 31:1). Obedience to our Lord, and faithfulness to your wife, is not passive. You will not coast into faithfulness.

You Are Free

Instead of exploring the pleasures of sin in your mind, and in unrighteous conversations, combat that sin with another voice, a better one: the voice of God himself. Meditate on his words in Scripture. God’s own word, by the power of his Spirit, will be the most potent source for both feeling conviction over sin and growing in grace and love.

Remember Joseph. When he was tempted daily by his master’s wife, he considered how God had blessed him, and how his master trusted him, and concluded, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9). Your infidelity is not only a breach of trust against your wife, but against God almighty.

But because Jesus Christ is your Lord, Savior, and Treasure, you have been redeemed — a hostage freed through a ransom paid at infinite cost. In Jesus, you are holy! I believe your faith is genuine, even as you have struggled in these ways. You are free from the bondage of sin; now be free. You are no longer enslaved to your old master Satan to follow your lusts. You are free, really free, in Christ. You now have the mind and heart to seek after God, to follow him in the ways he teaches us, and to reject the fatal promises of pornography and adultery.

You Are Not Alone

Jesus Christ, our Great Shepherd of the faith, has promised to be with you and guide you to all truth and fruitful works along the way. His commandments will help you walk in the ways of holiness and righteousness.

The child of God is not burdened in striving to keep the commandments of God; we are burdened, as you have been, when we do not keep them. God’s work in us does not replace our own vigilance against sin. His grace empowers us to be on guard against sin. Although sin no longer reigns in us, it still remains inside of us. The warning to Cain is for all of us: “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7).

Painted Poison

The temptation to be drawn toward other women, on the screen and in the fellowship hall, is defiling your marriage bed. God’s word says, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4). I am praying for you, and will continue to hold you accountable.

Your confession of love to your wife, and the preciousness and pricelessness of your affection for each other, will soon sound hollow if you linger here on the door of adultery. Adultery is a selfish act. It is profoundly unloving. You betray and wound your wife and your children, and you defy your God. You aid the enemy of the faith and give ample opportunity for the world to blaspheme his name through your open hypocrisy.

Sin is your enemy and deceives you with its false promises of joy. It paints itself beautifully, but it is poison. The consequences will be deep and long-lasting. Look beyond the empty offers of momentary pleasure and see the enduring pain. Remember how it has brought shame, guilt, and disruption to your communion with Christ. Remember your marriage vows and resolve afresh to be utterly faithful to your wife. God will bless and reward your faithfulness.

Learn to Love Her More

If you struggle with the degree of intimacy you have with her, be a man and have that hard conversation. Share your heart. She is your great companion for life. She was given to you as that special help both physically and spiritually. God has made her, and will continue to make her, suitable for you, and you for her.

Sin’s evil progression has been at work in you. But our Lord’s offer of repentance is immediate. Receive it now while you still can (Hebrews 12:15–17). True repentance is a radical renouncing of all that is contrary to the character and revelation of God. It requires discipline that grows in the soil of God’s grace.

So, go now to him in your time of need to receive his help continually and abundantly. Do not cry out only, but purposely labor to walk in his Spirit. Exercise your faithfulness in marriage as you love and cherish your wife. Love her and consider the many ways that Christ has beautified your wife and made her a vessel of honor in his glorious body. Your love for her is a gift you, and you only, can enjoy. The omnipotent God stands ready to help you as you seek to live out the calling he has given you in your marriage covenant.

As you love your wife, and exercise that love with patience and tenderness, you will find new depths of love for her and discover joys in her that no other woman can provide.

Adultery: Will You Cleave and Leave Your Man?

SOURCE:  Noël Piper/Desiring God

Dear Wife,

Cleave is a strange word. It’s a contranym — a word that can have opposite meanings.

In an upper story of a concrete apartment block in a small Chinese city, I watched Rene wield her cleaver like a top chef, preparing vegetables for her family’s dinner. I was impressed how she positioned her fingers so they didn’t get chopped with the carrots. “Wow! I want some of those knives to take home as gifts,” I said. Rene pointed out the window toward a shop across the busy street. “You should be able to find them there.”

The name of one brand was Family Cleaver. It was easy to see how the difficulty of grasping a double meaning in English must have tripped up a Chinese translator. I was glad to discover a different brand with a happier name (that wouldn’t have implications of splitting a family apart).

On the opposite side of the word, there’s the other meaning of cleave, as it’s used in a time-honored wedding text: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24 KJV). Or as the ESV translates the same word, the husband shall “hold fast” to his wife.

Johnny Picked Me

At a small country church in middle Georgia, on a mild Saturday afternoon in December almost 49 years ago, we were married. We had waited two and a half years for this day. I still could hardly believe that Johnny Piper had chosen me, and that he wanted to spend his life with me just as much as I wanted to be with him.

I understood — as well as a person can at the beginning of the rest of her life — the happy, solemn weight of promising to be faithful to him until death parted us, no matter what challenges God might bring into our lives. It didn’t seem possible I would ever want anything else.

“Noël, do you take John to be your wedded husband to live together in holy matrimony? Do you promise to love him . . . and forsaking all others, be faithful only to him so long as you both shall live?” There was not a doubt in my mind or heart when I declared, “I do!”

How could I have known that the worse of “better or worse” would lead to a season of sleepless nights when I wondered how I could keep on? I felt desperate for something different. That’s the time in our marriage when I would have been most likely to turn to someone else. But thank God, it didn’t happen. He held us together. There were a few habits that helped.

Faithfulness to Johnny, through the years, from boyfriend to husband, meant:

  • Not flirting with other men.
  • Avoiding men who seemed too interested.
  • Not meeting alone with any other man.
  • Having regular devotions together with Johnny.

Faithfulness required more than four habits, but these four have been central and essential.

Hardest Habit

The last is the hardest, but most important. My appreciation for it began, as with many things, with my parents. It is amazing my parents stayed together. About twenty years into their marriage, their rampaging differences seemed about to rip them apart.

Through even the most difficult months — years, really — Daddy and Mother took us all to church every Sunday. And every evening of the week, one of us kids was sent to the front porch to holler down toward the pasture and out toward the woods, “Sto-o-ory and pra-a-yers ti-i-ime!”

After all nine of us kids (later we were ten) had tumbled into the living room from the barn and creek and kitchen, Daddy read the next passage in our years-long path through the whole Bible. Then we kneeled at our chairs and took turns praying.

I realize now how difficult that must have been for my parents. Often they must have felt like hypocrites, going through motions when they didn’t feel like worshiping or praying together.

Of course, it would have been ideal if they had come before God with whole and happy hearts. But it was better to come somehow than not at all. And God held them together until he brought their marriage through the tempest into peace, using his glue of faithfulness — his faithfulness to them, and their faithfulness to each other and to those family devotional traditions.

What Kind of Cleaver?

What did it boil down to during my darkest nights? I was saved from wandering by some form of this question: What kind of a cleaver am I? Am I the deadly implement who will split my family — with a husband and five children — into shreds? Because, with or without divorce, that is what unfaithfulness will do to us.

Or will I cleave to the husband God has given me? Will I cling to my marriage and pray desperately for something different? I chose to cling, and God is still proving his faithfulness. He will do the same for you.

Adultery – I Would Rather Die: Letter to a Would-Be Adulterer

SOURCE:  Francis Chan/Desiring God

“Lord, please kill me before I cheat on my wife.”

This is a prayer that I prayed many times when I was first married. I’m not saying that it was mature or biblical, but it gives you a glimpse into my mind. I did not ever want to bring shame to the church, and I knew that this potential for evil was in me.

I spent my single years battling for purity and often failing. At times the battle was all-consuming. Days were filled with a paralyzing guilt that kept me from effective ministry and enjoying Jesus. I tried many things to discipline myself. At one point, I even decided that if I gave into lust, I would spend the next day fasting. This forced me to spend days in prayer, asking for more strength and self-control. I’ve found that when you refrain from eating, it makes refraining from sin easier. While it didn’t work perfectly, it was helpful. (And I did lose a few pounds.)

The Bible is clear and simple when it comes to impurity: Run! “Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). Run away from temptation, and run towards righteousness. How we each pursue this may look different, but here are some pillars that have helped me in my journey.

Fear Can Be Good

The Scriptures teach, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10). I am grateful that by his grace, God has gifted me with a deep-seated fear of him.

Many years ago, I remember reading an article about a man who had a fatal heart attack while having sex with a prostitute. I imagined how terrifying it must have been for that man to enter into the presence of a holy God at that moment. If nothing else keeps you from adultery, maybe the fact that Almighty God could take your life amidst the very act would terrify you enough to repent.

It was years later that a friend of mine, a fellow pastor, committed adultery with his assistant. I didn’t see him for months after it happened. When he came into my office, he looked awful. He proceeded to tell me the whole story. He explained how one thing led to another, and before he knew it he had committed the act he preached against for years.

What impacted me most was when he explained his thoughts and feelings after sinning. He told me of how he kept looking at his revolver, tempted to pull the trigger. He reasoned that everyone would be happier if he was dead. The other woman’s husband would be happier. His own wife and kids would be happier. His church would be happier. It was only by the grace of God that he was still alive.

Of course, taking his own life in the aftermath of adultery would only be multiplying the sin. But I was struck by the misery he felt. He seriously thought it would be better to be dead than to have done this and to live with the consequences! His misery was both a wake-up call and a warning to me. Fear can be a great grace.

Vigilant Discipline

My pursuit of sexual purity has been a discipline. I have said with the apostle Paul, “I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27).

I live each day with severe caution. I rarely counsel women, and never alone. I won’t go anywhere with a woman alone. In 23 years, I have never even been in a car alone with another woman (aside from relatives). It has felt silly at times to inconveniently tell women they had to drive separately even though we are going to the same location, but I believe it’s been worth it. My wife has access to all of my email accounts, phone records, and I don’t have a Facebook profile. There are no secrets between us.

I have alcoholic friends who were supernaturally delivered from any desire for alcohol. I have other friends who pray for deliverance, but are tempted daily. They refuse to have any alcohol in their homes, and stay away from tempting situations. After reading John Piper’s letter to a would-be adulterer, it sounds like his story has been one of supernatural deliverance, while mine has been one of discipline and daily strength. I believe God is glorified by both.

Focused Mission

Early on in my Christian journey, I focused only on running away from sin. I believe it was good and right, but not complete. It was later that I discovered the truth of Galatians 5:16, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

God calls us not only to run away from temptation, but to run toward him. He promises that when we are walking by the Spirit, we will not gratify the flesh. As I have followed God’s Spirit into meaningful ministry, it has been amazing to see the craving for sin diminish. The thrill of the Holy Spirit manifesting himself through me to bless others fills me thoroughly, crowding out sinful desires that might otherwise have had room to grow (1 Corinthians 12:7).

It’s like playing in an intense basketball game. I get tunnel vision. Winning is all I think about. My mind does not wander one bit. In the same way, when my wife and I are intensely pursuing God’s cause and kingdom, our minds don’t wander toward sin. Soldiers stay focused when they are in battle. “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him” (2 Timothy 2:4). It’s when we relax, when we forget we are actually on a mission, that trouble comes.

More of Jesus

Just this morning, I read in Psalm 73,

I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. (Psalm 73:23–25)

I pictured God holding my right hand, guiding me, receiving me into glory. The longer I imagined that, the more I understood why the next verse says, “There is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25). Take time to meditate on these truths. If you’re anything like me, you tend to take God’s commands more seriously than his promises. He wants us to have faith in both, and to find enjoyment in both.

While I am fifty years old, and have been walking with Jesus since high school, it has really been over the past few years that I have grown significantly in my enjoyment of him. A few months ago, I told a friend that I didn’t want to have any sin in my life because I am enjoying such close fellowship with Jesus. That was a new experience for me.

Fear, discipline, and mission are all biblical motivations — and have all helped me in my pursuit of holiness. But now that I have been enjoying deeper connection with Jesus, I feel like I’ve missed out.

I hesitated in writing this letter after reading Piper’s. I have been praying the five prayers he suggests there, and it has been life-changing. It has opened my eyes to the shallowness of my prayers, and it brought a new satisfaction into my life. It makes me wonder if the struggle could have been lesser, and the journey sweeter, if I had read and followed his letter years ago.

Or maybe the path to righteousness will look different for each of us, so long as we arrive in a place of deeper enjoyment of Jesus.

Adultery – Flee from the Darkness: Letter to a Would-Be Adulteress

SOURCE:  Lisa Chan

Dear Wife,

I have really wrestled with what God wants me to share in a letter like this. I’ve stopped and started a hundred times. I have found myself thinking, “They have already heard everything!” And then I remember that Paul, when writing to the churches, would often say things like “It’s no trouble for me to remind you of these things” (see Philippians 3:1).

“If we see just how near death is and how precious life is, adultery will look like the shriveled lie it really is.”

I guess I’m worried that it will just sound too obvious. But maybe you need to be reminded of the obvious. I know I do — about so many different struggles! So, it’s my joy to remind you why you would never want to have an adulterous heart toward your husband, and more importantly, toward God.

I have pictured myself sitting across the room from you, not knowing your whole story, but passionately compelled to snatch you away from the darkness.

Hunger for God’s Presence

Sin invites separation from God, and separation from God should terrify us. But our hearts are easily deceived, and 1 John 1:6 says, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” I praythat you still have enough of the Spirit’s presence in your life to recognize what is leading you into darkness right now.

Where is your fight? Where is your struggle and straining and pressing on? I say this with tears in my eyes, but where is your desire to know the presence of God in your life?

The presence of the living God must be something you can’t live without! Nearness to him should be the most desperate cry of our hearts. With David, we should plead, “Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11). Are you so far from God that you don’t love the sound of his voice anymore? Has the surpassing worth of knowing Christ been lost in your heart?

Many women think that adultery happens when the passion for their husband is at war with their passion for someone else. But adultery really happens when your passion for the power and presence of God in your life is at war with the passions of lust and self-indulgence.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). I see a lot of women hungry and thirsty for many things (attention, material things, freedom from responsibility, affirmation, something new). But a desire and a hunger to be righteous?

If you develop an appetite for righteousness, God himself will satisfy you. His presence and love will overwhelm you.

Pray for God’s Power

“If you develop an appetite for righteousness, God himself will satisfy you.”

Remember that this fight against adulterous temptations and for God’s presence is not a battle you can see.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

This passage used to sound a little dramatic to me — maybe even alarmist. I’m embarrassed to admit that, but it’s true. But here I am now, overwhelmed by the intensity of the spiritual warfare that abounds. We wrestle against spiritual forces of evil? Yes, I believe it now. Do you?

If it’s true — if our battle is mainly a spiritual one — then we need to wage war with spiritual weapons. I know of a woman who was brokenhearted after finding out her husband was struggling terribly with pornography. But instead of crumbling at the enemy’s feet, she committed to fasting and praying regularly over her husband and their marriage. I know of other couples who fast and pray weeklytogether because they know how fierce the battle for their affections is.

When one of my friends heard that a young wife in her church was struggling with lustful thoughts towards another man, she boldly told her, “I want you to call me every time you feel that attraction and are struggling, and we’re going to pray in Jesus’s name for freedom and deliverance.” What an amazing response to something that we can’t talk people out of. “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all” (John 6:63).

Again, to state the obvious, fight spiritual battles with spiritual weapons. I cannot imagine that you could be so far down the road toward adultery, and still say you were faithfully praying and fasting and seeking God.

Don’t you want to watch God powerfully intervene?! I’m not talking about intervening by making your husband suddenly seem perfect, or taking away every sinful desire. But if you will humble yourself and pray, God will rescue you from the enemy.

Number Your Days

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). I don’t know why it’s so hard to be kind sometimes. Would your husband describe you as kind and tenderhearted?

A couple years ago, I had a doctor’s appointment that didn’t go very well. They saw some suspicious spots and wanted to do further testing. After they called me back in for more tests, I had to wait the weekend before getting the results. It was one of the best weekends of my life.

Call me gloom and doom, but I had my funeral planned by Friday night. That left two days to see everything in a different light. It was sort of an out-of-body experience, but in the best way. I was so affectionate toward my husband, I snuggled longer with my children, I seemed to know instinctively what not to care about, and all that was left was the pure enjoyment of the sweetness of life and love. At night I would tell God all my fears, and let his Spirit comfort me. I can’t tell you how good that was for me.

“If we are not fighting to enjoy the light of God’s presence, we are likely being lured by deceitful desires.”

Life is short. Please don’t forget that. Plead with the Lord to soften your heart, to offer forgiveness and to receive it. If we can see just how near death is and just how precious life is, adultery will look like the shriveled, satanic lie it really is.

If you are walking down that path that leads to anything but righteousness, turn back. I am praying that you will hear the voice of God calling you to himself, and you will drop everything and run to him.

He is worth it.

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