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Archive for the ‘WORRY’ Category

FEAR & PANIC: DO’S AND DON’TS for Family and Friends

SOURCE:  June Hunt

To support a loved one who is struggling with fear, learn what to do and what not to do. You can very well be that person’s answer to prayer.

“There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

• Don’t become impatient when you don’t understand their fear.
Do understand that what fearful people feel is real.
“A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.” (Proverbs 14:29)

• Don’t think they are doing this for attention.
Do realize they are embarrassed and want to change.
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15)

• Don’t be critical or use demeaning statements.
Do be gentle and supportive, and build up their self-confidence.
“Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

• Don’t assume you know what is best.
Do ask how you can help.
“We urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14)

• Don’t make them face a threatening situation without planning.
Do give them instruction in positive self-talk and relaxation exercises.
“Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.” (Proverbs 4:13)

• Don’t make them face the situation alone.
Do be there and assure them of your support.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9–10)

• Don’t begin with difficult situations.
Do help them to begin facing their fear in small increments.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:2–3)

• Don’t constantly ask, “How are you feeling?”
Do help them see the value of having other interests.
“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)

• Don’t show disappointment and displeasure if they fail.
Do encourage them and compliment their efforts to conquer their fear.
“Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.” (Proverbs 3:27)

• Don’t say, “Don’t be absurd; there’s nothing for you to fear!”
Do say, “No matter how you feel, tell yourself the truth, ‘I will take one step at a time.’”
“The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction.” (Proverbs 16:21)

• Don’t say, “Don’t be a coward; you have to do this!”
Do say, “I know this is difficult for you, but it’s not dangerous. You have the courage to do this.”
“A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction.” (Proverbs 16:23)

• Don’t say, “Quit living in the past; this is not that bad.”
Do say, “Remember to stay in the present and remind yourself, ‘That was then, and this is now.’”
“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24)

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Hunt, J. (2013). Fear (june hunt hope for the heart). Torrance, CA: Aspire Press.

When Anxiety Collides With Faith: Rough Waters Result

SOURCE:  From a blog post by Dr.Laura Hendrickson

Rats! Yesterday I had a chest x-ray, ordered by my doctor to follow-up last month’s pneumonia. Pneumonia in a breast cancer survivor can be the first sign of recurrence in the lung, so it’s important to check it out. I hated waiting for that second x-ray!

My Plan For My Life

I was counting on a negative result, so I could just forget about it, but there’s an anomaly in my right lung, just beneath the place where my breast cancer was. It’s probably nothing, but it could be serious. This means I need a CT scan, which involves waiting to have it and then waiting to be informed of the results.

My plan for my life included crossing the possibility of recurrent cancer off my anxiety list. God’s plan for my life is not yet clear, but it surely includes continuing to challenge me on this issue for a while. I don’t like it!

Amy Carmichael saw the story of Paul’s shipwreck in Acts 27 as a metaphor for the conflict between God’s will and our own hopes.

I can’t even get through on the phone to schedule it, which means I don’t even know how long I’ll have to wait. For that matter, more tests may be recommended by the results from this one or, even worse, the dreaded “re-test in six months to see if it’s changed.”

But striking the place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the prow stuck fast and was immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the violence of the waves (Acts 27:41 NKJV).

Here’s what she said about it:

Where the will of God and the will of the flesh are in conflict there will be rough water, and if the flesh does not yield to the Spirit there must follow the painful breaking up of hopes and expectations, even as the timbers of that ship were broken up by the violence of the waves.

Exactly! I’m experiencing this discomfort because I haven’t let go and trusted God to do the best thing for me. Even though I recently blogged about this, saying that my anxieties are my friends because they drive me to God in prayer, here I am again.

 My Rough Water

I struggled for a while this morning after I got the call from my doctor. I went to the web to see what the anomaly might mean. I begged God to give me the outcome I wanted. I searched his Word for evidence that I’d get what I hoped for.

Finally, I went to an older Bible to look at a note written during an earlier struggle with uncertainty over my health. Instead, I found an old prayer, written many, many years ago.

Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all to thee to be thine forever. Fill me and seal me with thy Holy Spirit. Use me as thou wilt, send me where thou wilt, work out thy whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever.

I prayed this 34 years ago, as a new Christian. God confronted me with it this morning.

Did I really mean it? Do I still?

God’s Peace

I acknowledged that I do, and the peace came. I don’t want to live with anxiety over my health, but God wants me to. This should be enough for me, because I know that he always brings good from the painful things he ordains for my life (Romans 8:28).

I’m sure that the anxiety will come back. As I mentioned the other day, that’s a good thing, because it drives me to prayer.

How about you? Any “rough water” in your life? Have you talked to God about it yet?

What to do When You’re Waiting for God to Deliver You

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

Over the years, I’ve observed countless people who become derailed by the circumstances of life. Speaking as one who has failed many times, the key to long-term success is often in how you respond during the darkest days of your life.

I’ve always enjoyed the advice God gave His people when they were in captivity by a rival nation. Immediately before He told them they would be in captivity for 70 years, He told them to:

Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.  Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters.  Increase in number there; do not decrease.  Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.  Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Jeremiah 29:5-7

He told them to keep living! In time (70 years in this case), He would deliver them, but in the meantime, they were to live life as they already knew to live.

By the way, that’s the passage from which we get a favored verse…one we love to cling to and offers us hope:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

If you are in a season of captivity…if you can’t seem to find your way these days…if you are waiting for God to deliver you…don’t stop doing the good things you know to do. Don’t stop moving forward with what you have today. Don’t neglect the relationships you have now during your mourning of the relationship that you’ve lost.  Seek ways to bless others as you wait for your blessing.

Don’t give up! Push forward, clinging to your faith, while you wait for God’s deliverance.

What you do and how you respond during the difficult days often determine the degree of success and enjoyment of the good days. Learning to navigate through droughts, disappointments and failure is a key to enjoying the best of life and living as a person of faith.

Stress Management: Don’t Worry!

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“Don’t worry about anything” (Philippians 4:6 NLT).

Work doesn’t keep you up at night; worry does.

God clearly states in the Bible what he thinks about worry. Philippians 4:6 says, “Don’t worry about anything” (NLT).

Why do you need to let go of your worry?

Worry is unreasonable. Here are a couple of reasons why that’s true. First, worry exaggerates the problem. Have you noticed if somebody says something bad about you, the more you think about it, the bigger it gets? Second, worry doesn’t work. To worry about something you can’t change is useless. And to worry about something you can change is a waste of time. Just go change it!

Worry is unnatural. No one is a born worrier. You might think you are, but you’re not. Worry is something you learned. Since worry is unnatural, it’s also unhealthy. Your body wasn’t designed to handle worry. When people say, “I’m worried sick,” they’re telling the truth. Doctors say a lot of people could leave the hospital today if they knew how to get rid of guilt, resentment, and worry. Proverbs 14:30 says, “A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body” (NLT).

Worry is unhelpful. Worry cannot change the past, and worry cannot control the future. All it does is mess up today. The only thing that worry changes is you. It makes you miserable! It’s never solved a problem.

Worry is unnecessary. God made you, he created you, he saved you, and he put his Spirit in you. Don’t you think he’s going to take care of your needs? There’s no need to worry.

The first step in stress management is to refuse to worry about anything. Why? Because it’s unreasonable, unnatural, unhelpful, and unnecessary.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 5:7, “You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal concern” (PHILLIPS).

God personally cares about you and for your needs. So all those things you’re stressed, anxious, and worried about? Let them go. Give them to God.

8 Bible Passages to Ease Your Anxiety

SOURCE:  Thomas Nelson Bibles

Diagnoses of anxiety have risen sharply in recent years, but the problem is anything but a modern epidemic. In fact, anxiety is one of the very oldest of human afflictions. The first recorded cases can be traced to the moment Adam and Eve discovered that they were naked and exposed to God (see Genesis 3:10). Many of the best-known people in Scripture experienced bouts of anxiety. Perhaps that’s why God filled His Word with wisdom that speaks to our anxious spirits.

If you find yourself overwhelmed by circumstances or struggling with feelings of anxiety, spend some time in the following passages. You may find the comfort and assurance you need to ease your anxious spirit.

Psalm 139:13

For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13).

No one knows more about the inner workings of your mind and emotions than God does. Spending quiet time with Him on a daily basis will go a long way toward easing an anxious mind.

Matthew 6:25-27

Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?” (Matthew 6:25–27).

The source of your anxiety, whatever it is, matters dearly to God. You can leave it to Him. If you need evidence of that, look up and around you. God cares for the birds of the air—the robins, the hummingbirds, even the vultures. Humans have greater value to Him than birds do, so how much more will He pay attention to your needs?

Joshua 1: 5-6

I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage” (Joshua 1:5–6).

God doesn’t promise to shield us from situations that make us anxious. He doesn’t promise to make worrisome circumstances go away. Instead, He promises to accompany us through every anxiety-ridden situation we face. He gives us the courage, strength, and endurance we need to overcome our anxiety, one battle at a time.

Psalm 13:5

But I have trusted in Your mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation” (Psalm 13:5).

After crying out to God in anguish, David acknowledges the Lord’s power and plan. Follow his example and place your trust in God, even when anxious thoughts and worries cause you to feel less than trusting.

Matthew 11:28

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Anxiety is a heavy burden to carry, so heavy that sometimes it takes all your emotional strength not to buckle under its weight. That can leave you weakened, unable to deal with other responsibilities. Instead of trying to shoulder the burden of anxiety alone, take up the Lord on His offer. Give Him everything that makes you apprehensive or worried. Exchange your heavy load for His rest and peace of mind.

Philippians 4:6-7

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7).

Prayer is the most effective weapon we have. No anxiety is too severe for God to handle. No worry is too insignificant for Him to care about. If something affects us or robs us of our joy, God wants us to share it with Him. He wants to counteract it with His peace.

1 Peter 5:7

“[Cast] all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Anxiety is baggage. The more we struggle with it, the heavier it becomes. Trying to carry it alone is exhausting. We may be able to handle it for a while. We may even be able to convince others that we’re not overly exerting ourselves. Eventually, though, the effort will wear us out. Instead of exhausting our own limited strength, why don’t we give our anxieties to someone who can handle them? Not only is Jesus glad to accept them, but He knows exactly what to do with them.

Galatians 6:2

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

When you see people struggling with anxiety, take time to walk alongside them and provide comfort and peace during their volatile moments. Show them how to give their anxiety to God. Talk about your own experiences with giving your burdens to Him. Let them know that they aren’t alone.

Likewise, when you struggle with anxiety, let someone else help you bear your burdens. Turn to other believers with your struggle. Be open and honest about what you’re experiencing. Don’t hesitate to ask others for assistance. After all, we’re all part of the same body.

Jesus Controls My Chaos

Editor’s Note:  Even as Jesus is able to set the boundaries of the Earth’s seas and control their fury, He is able to wisely and compassionately set limits on and control the chaos, destruction, and fury of life’s storms that affect each one of us.

Jesus Stills the Storm

SOURCE:  R.C. Sproul/Ligonier Ministries

“The men marveled, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?’” (v. 27).  – Matthew 8:23–27

Having explained the cost of discipleship to two would-be followers, Jesus and His disciples set out to cross the Sea of Galilee (Matt. 8:23). Little do the disciples know that this journey will give their teacher an opportunity to show forth His identity in a way they have not yet seen.

Because of its geographical location, violent squalls frequently occur on the open water of the Sea of Galilee, especially in the period between May and October. Seasoned fishermen like Peter, Andrew, James, and John (4:18–22) are certainly familiar with such storms, and so their fear, evident in Matthew 8:24–27, shows that the turbulence in which they find themselves is unusually fierce.

However, despite the storm’s ferocity, Jesus is able to sleep peacefully as the boat traverses the waves. This indicates His great trust in God and comfort in His faithful obedience because the Old Testament understands sound sleep to be a gift from God to His holy people (Lev. 26:6).

Christ’s ability to sleep in the storm is more remarkable when we consider that the boat in which His company is traveling is the customary fishing boat of His day, just big enough to accommodate the small group of men and a large catch of fish. The sailors are completely exposed to the elements. Jesus is not worried like the others even though He feels the storm’s effects no less than they do.

Yet Jesus’ command of the storm tells us about much more than His great faith.

In the biblical worldview, the sea and the storm are associated with chaos and destruction (Ps. 69:1–2). Only God can control the sea, and in fact, He sets its boundary and stills its fury (Job 38:8–11). That Jesus is able to silence the storm and still the waves indicates that He possesses an authority equal to the Creator’s (Matt. 8:26–27). The disciples marvel at this miracle because it is evidence that their beloved rabbi is more than just a teacher; He is in fact God Almighty.

John Chrysostom writes that “[Jesus’] sleeping showed he was a man. His calming of the seas declared him God” (Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew, 28.1).

We put our lives in Jesus’ hands based on the evidence of His power. Today’s passage shows us that we can trust Him because He has authority over all nature and is worthy of our faith since He is the incarnate God over all creation. We follow the Creator of all things, not merely a good man. Take time today to review biblical teaching on the divinity of Christ (for example, John 1:1–18) so that you may be confident that your trust in Him will never be in vain.

Why God Gives Us More Than We Can Handle

SOURCE:  Jon Bloom/Desiring God

The next time someone says that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, point them to Judges 7. God’s instructing Gideon to take on over 100,000 enemy soldiers with just 300 fits in the “more than you can handle” category. Imagine how Gideon and his servant, Purah, must have felt trying to come to grips with a humanly impossible assignment.

Standing on the side of Mount Gilboa, Gideon gazed over the Valley of Jezreel, which sprawled beneath him northward toward the hill of Moreh. The valley was a sea of tents, teeming with more than 100,000 Midian warriors.

That morning, the Lord had judged Israel’s army of 32,000 too big to face Midian’s. Israel would think more highly of himself than he ought to think when God gave him victory. So Gideon had sent home whoever was afraid. When 22,000 hit the road, Gideon had to quiet his own fear. Now Israel was outnumbered ten-to-one. But God was with them and armies had overcome such odds before.

Oddly, the Lord considered these odds still too much in Israel’s favor. So in obedience to the Lord’s instruction, Gideon brought his small, thirsty army down to the spring of Harod. And he gave his servant, Purah, the strangest command of his brief military career: “Observe all the men as they drink. Have every man who laps his water like a dog stand off to the side.”

Gideon supervised the selection, but when so few were being chosen, he just let Purah finish the count and he climbed back up Gilboa to pray and survey.

It wasn’t long before Purah emerged from the trees. “So what’s the total?”

“Three hundred, sir,” said Purah.

Gideon chuckled to himself. “Three hundred.” He looked back toward the human hoard in the valley and was quiet for a moment. “That’s less than I expected.”

“Yes, sir,” said Purah. “But thankfully, three hundred doesn’t reduce our strength much.”

Gideon breathed deeply. “No, Purah. The three hundred are not the reductions. They’re the army. The others are the reductions.”

Purah stood dazed for a moment, staring at Gideon. “The three hundred are the army?”

Gideon nodded slowly, still looking into the Midian-infested Jezreel.

“But that’s not an army! That’s how many should be guarding an army’s baggage!”

Purah stepped up beside Gideon. Together they watched smoke columns rising from ten times more cooking fires than they now had warriors. Purah shook his head and said, “Even if we were all like the mighty men of old, three hundred could not overcome 100,000.” He paused. “And we aren’t mighty men.” Another pause. “And there’s more than a 100,000 down there.”

Both were silent for a while. In the quiet, the Lord spoke to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.

Then Gideon said to Purah, “During the exodus, how many mighty men did it take to destroy Egypt and its army or part the Red Sea?”

Purah thought briefly. “None.”

“How many did it take to tear down Jericho’s walls?”

“None.”

“How many did it take to feed two million of our people in the wilderness every day for forty years?”

“None. I get your point.”

“The mightiest are those who trust in the Lord and obey him, no matter how impossible things appear.”

“In our people’s history, the mightiest have not been the strong warriors,” Gideon said. “The mightiest have been those who trusted in the Lord and obeyed him, no matter how impossible things appeared. He has promised us that Midian will be defeated. He has chosen only three hundred of us. We will obey; he will act. And when Midian falls, it will be clear to everyone who felled him.” Then he looked at Purah and smiled. “Maybe the Lord just needs us to guard his baggage!”

Purah didn’t laugh. He only replied, “Should we dismiss the others?” Gideon nodded.

Later that night, in the tiny camp, Gideon lay praying. Every plan to mobilize 300 against 100,000 seemed ludicrous.

Suddenly, he was aware of the Presence. He sat up, his heart beating fast.

The Lord said, “Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hand. But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant. And you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.

Purah woke to Gideon’s nudge and whispered words, “Let’s go.”

“Where are we going?” Purah whispered back, getting up quickly.

“To the Midian camp, just you and me. The Lord has something he wants to show us.”

They quietly crept toward the nearest Midian outpost, veiled by the clouded sky, and saw two inattentive guards talking. Just as they got within earshot, one said, “I had a strange dream before being woken for duty tonight.”

“Tell me,” the other said.

“This cake of barley came tumbling into our camp, crashed into the tent, turned it over, and flattened it.”

The other guard looked at him alarmed and said, “I know what that means! The cake can be none other than Gideon, the son of Joash! God has given us all into his hand!”

Gideon and Purah looked at one another with the same stunned expression.

Cast Your Cares

With renewed faith, Gideon and Purah roused their mini army and launched a night attack. This threw the Midians into a panic and they slaughtered each other in confusion. It was a rout. Not one of Gideon’s three hundred perished in the battle. God gave them more than they could handle to force them to rely wholly on him.

“God gives us more than we can handle to force us to rely wholly on him.”

When we’re confronted with an impossible situation or trial, Gideon’s three hundred preach to us that “salvation . . . is from the Lord” (Psalm 37:39) and “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). These are no domesticated platitudes. God really intends for us to cast our all on these massive truths and for them to give us more-than-conquerors confidence and peace (Romans 8:37), no matter what we face.

It is not hyperbole to say that the defeat of our sin that Jesus accomplished on the cross dwarfs Gideon’s victory. Compared to overcoming God’s wrath against our sin, defeating 100,000 Midianites was very small. And if God “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things” (Romans 8:32)?

God certainly does give us more than we can handle. And he does it “to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9). If you’re facing some overwhelming adversary or adversity and you wonder how God could possibly deliver and work it for your good (Romans 8:28), then take heart. He is granting you the joy of experiencing the reality of Judges 7, Romans 8, and 2 Corinthians 1.

Anxiety: How to stop catastrophizing – an expert’s guide

SOURCE:  Linda Blair/Clinical Psychologist

A clinical psychologist suggests a three-pronged plan for tackling anxiety and approaching each day logically and positively

Let us start by considering why some people catastrophize – that is, on hearing uncertain news, they imagine the worst possible outcome. After all, it is not uncommon and those who catastrophize seem to do it a lot.

Catastrophizers tend to be fairly anxious people. Whether this characteristic is principally genetic or more the result of learning is unknown. High levels of anxiety are extremely unpleasant, so we look for ways to discharge those unpleasant feelings as quickly as possible. If a catastrophizer is told something inconclusive – for example, if they go to a GP and are asked to have tests – they look for a way to feel in control again immediately. They learn to choose the worst possible outcome because it allows for the greatest sense of relief when they are reassured.

Considering all possibilities is not a bad strategy if you examine them logically. However, unable to bear their distress, catastrophisers rush to external sources to calm themselves down: checking whether anyone else has “come through” the same problem; matching symptoms online to obtain a diagnosis and treatment options; asking a professional to tell them that they will survive. Once they are reassured, they feel better – in psychological jargon, they have “rewarded” this seeking behaviour. The next time they feel uncertain or threatened, they will ratchet up their anxiety with a catastrophic thought, then look outwards for reassurance even faster than before. In this way, catastrophising soon becomes a well-entrenched habit. The greatest problem with seeking others to alleviate anxiety is that it offers only temporary relief. There is always another source to check or another opinion to be had; as a result, catastrophisers feel anxious again increasingly quickly. The only way to break this cycle is to tame anxiety. After this, you can still seek advice. So, if you are a catastrophiser and you would rather not be, how do you go about making changes?

Accept yourself. Anxiety is energy: if you are an anxious person, celebrate! However, why waste that energy feeling uncomfortable and preparing yourself for circumstances that will almost certainly never occur? Look for enjoyable ways to challenge yourself and use your energy more positively: taking regular aerobic exercise; learning something new; taking up a creative passion.

Take control. Establish a regular “worry time”. Start by setting aside half an hour every day. Write down all your concerns in specific terms. For example: “I felt nauseated this morning. Do I have stomach cancer?” Assign a score on a scale of 0 to 100% to estimate how distressed this possibility makes you feel. Next, list all the possible explanations for your concern, then rank each one according to how likely it is to be correct. Make use of external sources if necessary, but stick with reputable websites and professionals. Finally, score your worry for the level of distress it is causing you now. Gradually, you will be able to reduce the amount and frequency of worry time.

Use the “best friend test”. Ask yourself what you would advise your best friend to do about each concern, and take that action.

Learn to self-soothe. Whenever you are overwhelmed by anxiety and feel you must seek reassurance, give yourself permission to do so – but not straight away. Establish an interval before you are allowed to act. Even two minutes is enough at first, because you are still exerting self-control. Breathing slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth, or taking some gentle exercise, will help. Gradually, you will find you can wait longer. When you get to the point where you can wait more than 20 minutes, most people find they no longer need to be reassured by others.

This three-pronged approach – using your “worry energy” to carry out new and enjoyable challenges, approaching your tendency to catastrophize logically and systematically, and learning to wait through discomfort – takes time. But if you invest the necessary time, you will start looking forward to each day knowing you can deal with uncertainty in a more positive, balanced way.

How to Stop Automatic Negative Thoughts

SOURCE:  Renee Jain, Contributor/The Huffington Post

All kids blow things out of proportion or jump to conclusions at times, but consistently distorting reality is not innocuous.

“I didn’t get invited to Julie’s party… I’m such a loser.”

“I missed the bus… nothing ever goes my way.”

“My science teacher wants to see me… I must be in trouble.”

These are the thoughts of a high school student named James. You wouldn’t know it from his thoughts, but James is actually pretty popular and gets decent grades.

Unfortunately, in the face of adversity, James makes a common error; he falls into what I like to call “thought holes.” Thought holes, or cognitive distortions, are skewed perceptions of reality. They are negative interpretations of a situation based on poor assumptions. For James, thought holes cause intense emotional distress.

Here’s the thing, all kids blow things out of proportion or jump to conclusions at times, but consistently distorting reality is not innocuous. Studies show self-defeating thoughts (i.e., “I’m a loser”) can trigger self-defeating emotions (i.e., pain, anxiety, malaise) that, in turn, cause self-defeating actions (i.e., acting out, skipping school). Left unchecked, this tendency can also lead to more severe conditions, such as depression and anxiety.

Fortunately, in a few steps, we can teach teens how to fill in their thought holes. It’s time to ditch the idea of positive thinking and introduce the tool of accurate thinking. The lesson begins with an understanding of what causes inaccurate thinking in the first place.

We Create Our Own (Often Distorted) Reality

One person walks down a busy street and notices graffiti on the wall, dirt on the pavement and a couple fighting. Another person walks down the same street and notices a refreshing breeze, an ice cream cart and a smile from a stranger. We each absorb select scenes in our environment through which we interpret a situation. In essence, we create our own reality by that to which we give attention.

Why don’t we just interpret situations based on all of the information? It’s not possible; there are simply too many stimuli to process. In fact, the subconscious mind can absorb 20 million bits of information through the five senses in a mere second. Data is then filtered down so that the conscious mind focuses on only 7 to 40 bits. This is a mental shortcut.

Shortcuts keep us sane by preventing sensory overload. Shortcuts help us judge situations quickly. Shortcuts also, however, leave us vulnerable to errors in perception. Because we perceive reality based on a tiny sliver of information, if that information is unbalanced (e.g., ignores the positive and focuses on the negative), we are left with a skewed perception of reality, or a thought hole.

Eight Common Thought Holes

Not only are we susceptible to errors in thinking, but we also tend to make the same errors over and over again. Seminal work by psychologist Aaron Beck, often referred to as the father of cognitive therapy, and his former student, David Burns, uncovered several common thought holes as seen below.

  • Jumping to conclusions: judging a situation based on assumptions as opposed to definitive facts
  • Mental filtering: paying attention to the negative details in a situation while ignoring the positive
  • Magnifying: magnifying negative aspects in a situation
  • Minimizing: minimizing positive aspects in a situation
  • Personalizing: assuming the blame for problems even when you are not primarily responsible
  • Externalizing: pushing the blame for problems onto others even when you are primarily responsible
  • Overgeneralizing: concluding that one bad incident will lead to a repeated pattern of defeat
  • Emotional reasoning: assuming your negative emotions translate into reality, or confusing feelings with facts

Going from Distorted Thinking to Accurate Thinking

Once teens understand why they fall into thought holes and that several common ones exist, they are ready to start filling them in by trying a method developed by GoZen! called the 3Cs:

  • Check for common thought holes
  • Collect evidence to paint an accurate picture
  • Challenge the original thoughts

Let’s run through the 3Cs using James as an example. James was recently asked by his science teacher to chat after class. He immediately thought, “I must be in trouble,” and began to feel distressed. Using the 3Cs, James should first check to see if he had fallen into one of the common thought holes. Based on the list above, it seems he jumped to a conclusion.

James’s next step is to collect as much data or evidence as possible to create a more accurate picture of the situation. His evidence may look something like the following statements:

“I usually get good grades in science class.”

“Teachers sometimes ask you to chat after class when something is wrong.”

“I’ve never been in trouble before.”

“The science teacher didn’t seem upset when he asked me to chat.”

With all the evidence at hand, James can now challenge his original thought. The best (and most entertaining) way to do this is for James to have a debate with himself.

On one side is the James who believes he is in big trouble with his science teacher; on the other side is the James who believes that nothing is really wrong. James could use the evidence he collected to duke it out with himself! In the end, this type of self-disputation increases accurate thinking and improves emotional well-being.

Let’s teach our teens that thoughts, even distorted ones, affect their emotional well-being. Let’s teach them to forget positive thinking and try accurate thinking instead. Above all, let’s teach our teens that they have the power to choose their thoughts.

As the pioneering psychologist and philosopher, William James, once said, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”

Hope for Those Battling Cancer

SOURCE:  June Hunt

I’ll never forget the doctor’s words … “You have cancer.”

He delivers these words matter-of-factly as I sit on the examining table — absolutely stunned. My mind begins to race. But … Friday I have a three-day conference in Baltimore … and next Monday I have to be in New York City. I don’t have time for surgery!

My diagnosis felt like an ambush. It was one month after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and I’d been asked to speak in New York on “Crisis Counseling” at a trauma and grief conference. Despite my own personal crisis, I felt not going wasn’t an option. Even though I wouldn’t be going to help victims, I would be helping those working with the grief-stricken victims. With many counselors, pastors and other leaders wanting to serve survivors, I felt humbled to help in any way.

The traumatic news didn’t stop with the radiologist’s words. It continued into the coming days. As I was boarding my flight to Baltimore, the surgeon called to confirm not only my malignancy on the right side, but also a second, more aggressive, cancer on the left. Suddenly, I found myself facing two surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation and multiple medications for years to come. My life had changed … forever.

Reflecting back, God’s Word hidden in my heart ministered to me. I was comforted by Psalm 139:16 … “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” God knows all my days — the length of my life is already settled. While I can’t extend my appointed days, I can trust my heavenly Father with my future. I also remember being fixed on Philippians 1:20 … “Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” This passage became my prayer, “Lord, whether my time is long or short, may the love and peace of Christ be expressed through my body.”

Even though I’d taught the book of Philippians, I had never focused on this verse. But with life and death in question, this one Scripture kept my fight with cancer in perspective — shielding me from fear. And amazingly, throughout the entire ordeal, God helped me to not be overcome by fear.

Anyone struggling with cancer needs to know these three truths:

1. Cancer is never sovereign over our lives, only God is. The Bible says … “If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Romans 14:8). Although I make decisions that influence my health, my life is ultimately in His hands. Long ago when I gave my life to Christ, I learned nothing could enter my world that hasn’t first passed through my heavenly Father’s loving hands. Nothing. So, whatever the challenge, there is purpose in the pain.

2. Hope is rooted in a relationship with Christ and what He has promised. The Bible says … “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19). When our security is in Christ, He gives us an anchored life. Therefore, on each step of my journey, I genuinely had hope for my heart that didn’t depend on a doctor’s diagnosis.

3. God can comfort you and use you to comfort others. The Bible says that God is “… the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). If you know someone battling cancer, I encourage you to allow God to use you to be the one who gives comfort to your friend or family member. No one wants an unwelcomed illness. … No one enjoys pain as a partner. I never would have signed up for cancer. Yet that pathway of pain has proven priceless because the compassion I “caught” could have come no other way. Throughout my journey with cancer, God taught me how to be more empathetic and compassionate. I now feel more connected with those struggling with pain.

God’s Silver Lining

Now 15 years later as a cancer survivor, what others may view as “bad” in my life, God has used for good. Even now, I’m overwhelmed at all the meaningful ways loved ones supported me. Today, I genuinely praise God for the care I received, the growth I gained and the lessons I learned. Each is an invaluable part of my life. As you come face-to-face with your own struggles, may you experience the Lord’s peace that surpasses all understanding.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————
June Hunt is an author, singer, speaker and founder of Hope For The Heart, a worldwide biblical counseling ministry.

Give God Your Worries

SOURCE:  Chuck Swindoll

What qualifies as a worry?

  • Anything that drains your tank of joy—something you cannot change,
  • something you are not responsible for,
  • something you are unable to control,
  • something (or someone) that frightens and torments you, agitates you, keeps you awake when you should be asleep.

All of that now needs to be switched from your worry list to your prayer list. Give each worry—one by one—to God . . . .

Tell Him you will no longer keep your anxiety to yourself . . . .

The more you practice giving your mental burdens to the Lord, the more exciting it gets to see how God will handle the things that are impossible for you to do anything about.

Turn your worry list into your prayer list.

Give each worry—one by one—to God.

————————————————————————————————————————————


Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Wisdom for the Way

The Year of Conquering Negative Thinking

SOURCE:  LESLEY ALDERMAN/The New York Times

Here’s a New Year’s challenge for the mind: Make this the year that you quiet all those negative thoughts swirling around your brain.

All humans have a tendency to be a bit more like Eeyore than Tigger, to ruminate more on bad experiences than positive ones. It’s an evolutionary adaptation that helps us avoid danger and react quickly in a crisis.

But constant negativity can also get in the way of happiness, add to our stress and worry level and ultimately damage our health. And some people are more prone to negative thinking than others. Thinking styles can be genetic or the result of childhood experiences, said Judith Beck, a psychologist and the president of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy in Bala Cynwyd, Pa. Children may develop negative thinking habits if they have been teased or bullied, or experienced blatant trauma or abuse. Women, overall, are also more likely to ruminate than men, according to a 2013 study.

“We were built to overlearn from negative experiences, but under learn from positive ones,” said Rick Hanson, a psychologist and senior fellow at the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

But with practice you can learn to disrupt and tame negative cycles.

The first step to stopping negative thoughts is a surprising one. Don’t try to stop them. If you are obsessing about a lost promotion or the results of the presidential election, whatever you do, don’t tell yourself, “I have to stop thinking about this.”

“Worry and obsession get worse when you try to control your thoughts,” Dr. Beck said.

Instead, notice that you are in a negative cycle and own it. Tell yourself, “I’m obsessing about my bad review.” Or “I’m obsessing about the election.”

By acknowledging your negative cycle and accepting it, you are on your way to taming your negative thoughts. Acceptance is the basic premise of mindfulness meditation, a practice that helps reduce stress and reactivity. You don’t necessarily have to close your eyes and meditate every day to reap the benefits of mindfulness. You can remind yourself to notice your thoughts in a nonjudgmental manner, without trying to change or alter them right away.

Accepting negative thoughts can also help lessen their weight. Getting mad at yourself for worrying or telling yourself to stop worrying only adds fuel to the negativity fire.

After you’ve accepted a negative thought, force yourself to challenge it.

Let’s go back to the setback at work. Perhaps not getting the promotion made you worry about your overall competence and you were berating yourself about your skills. Ask yourself, “Why would one setback mean that I am incompetent?” Or you might ask, “What have I done in the past that shows I am actually a very competent worker?”

If you’re having trouble challenging your negative thoughts, try this approach. Imagine that your friend is the one who received the bad news. What advice would you give him or her? Now think of how that advice might apply to you.

A study conducted at Ohio State University found that this method — known as Socratic questioning — was a simple way to reduce depressive symptoms in adults. In the study, 55 adults were enrolled in a 16-week course of cognitive therapy sessions. Researchers studied videotapes of the sessions and found that the more frequently therapists used Socratic questioning, the more the patients’ depressive symptoms lessened. The study’s authors theorized that Socratic questioning helped patients examine the validity of their negative thoughts and gain a broader, more realistic perspective on them.

There will be times when your bleak thoughts are actually valid, but your projections about what’s next are not. Consider this scenario: Your partner has left you for someone else. “My partner doesn’t love me anymore,” might be accurate, said Dr. Beck, but “No one else will ever love me,” is probably not.

Now move from a place of inaction to action to counteract the negative thought. If you are worried about feeling unloved, check in with friends and family members. If you are feeling insecure at work, make a list of your accomplishments. Perhaps ask your best friend to write you a letter telling you all the ways in which you are a good, kind person. Reread the letter daily.

Dr. Hanson, author of “Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence,” said it may be helpful to ask yourself if you are accomplishing anything by dwelling on your negative thoughts. If you’re ruminating on your financial problems during a run around the track in hopes of finding a solution, then that is useful. But fretting for lap after lap about the president-elect or a foreign crisis is not going to accomplish anything.

When your negative thoughts are making you feel agitated and overwhelmed, take a deep breath, and then another. Practicing controlled breathing can help lower the stress response and calm anxious thoughts.

Finally, if your thoughts are making you feel seriously distressed and interfering with your ability to work and relax, consider seeing a mental health professional. Therapists who specialize in cognitive therapy, which teaches practical ways to cope with persistent and unwanted thoughts, may be particularly helpful. If the underlying source of your thoughts is clinical depression or intense anxiety, you might want to talk with a professional about the root cause of your negative thinking patterns and discuss medications that can be helpful.

While you are sorting out what approach works best for you, give yourself a break and have compassion for your overwrought thoughts.

“The more you dwell on the negative, the more accustomed your brain becomes to dwelling on the negative,” said Dr. Hanson, who suggests asking yourself, “Are my thoughts helping to build me up, or tear me down?”

Waiting: Out of the Shadows

SOURCE:  Charles Swindoll

Some of you who read these words today could use a little extra hope, especially if you find yourself in a waiting mode.

You were once engaged in the action, doing top-priority work on the front lines. No longer. All that has changed. Now, for some reason, you’re on the shelf. It’s tough to stay encouraged perched on a shelf. Your mind starts playing tricks on you.

Though you are well-educated, experienced, and fairly gifted in your particular field, you are now waiting. You’re wondering, and maybe you’re getting worried, that this waiting period might be permanent. Admittedly, your response may not be all that great. You can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. It just doesn’t seem fair. After all, you’ve trained hard, you’ve jumped through hoops, and you’ve even made the necessary sacrifices. Discouragement crouches at the door, ready to pounce on any thought or hope, so you sit wondering why God has chosen to pass you by.

I want to offer you some encouragement, but I need to start with a realistic comment: it may be a long time before God moves you into a place of significant impact. He may choose not to reveal His plan for weeks, maybe months.

Are you ready for this?

It could be years.

I have found that one of God’s favorite methods of preparing us for something great is to send us into the shadows to wait.

But that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to terminal darkness. Take heart from the words of British author James Stalker who wrote, “Waiting is a common instrument of providential discipline for those to whom exceptional work has been appointed.”

Pause and let that sink in. Read the statement again, slower this time.

Waiting is one of God’s preferred methods of preparing special people for significant projects. The Bible makes that principle plain from cover to cover.

As Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD.”

God often prepares us for something great by sending us into the shadows to wait.

No Surprises

SOURCE:  Charles Swindoll

For more than three decades, Saul controlled his own life. His record in Judaism ranked second to none. On his way to make an even greater name for himself, the laser of God’s presence stopped him in his tracks, striking him blind. Like that group of shepherds faithfully watching their sheep years earlier on another significant night outside Jerusalem, Saul and his companions fell to the ground, stunned.

That’s what still happens today when calamity strikes.

You get the news in the middle of the night on the telephone, and you can’t move. As the policeman describes the head-on collision, you stand frozen in disbelief. After hearing the word “cancer,” you’re so shocked you can hardly walk out the doctor’s office doors. A friend once admitted to me that, after hearing his dreaded diagnosis, he stumbled to the men’s room, vomited, dropped to his knees, and sobbed uncontrollably.

Life’s unexpected jolts grip us with such fear we can scarcely go on.

For the first time in his proud, self-sustained life, Saul found himself a desperate dependent. Not only was he pinned to the ground, he was blind. His other senses were on alert and, to his amazement, he heard a voice from heaven say, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4). Saul was convinced he had been persecuting people—cultic followers of a false Messiah. Instead, he discovered that the true object of his vile brutality was Christ Himself.

We live in a culture that regularly confuses humanity with deity. The lines get blurred. It’s the kind of sloppy theology that suggests God sits on the edge of heaven thinking, Wonder what they’ll do next. How absurd! God is omniscient—all-knowing. This implies, clearly, that God never learns anything, our sinful decisions and evil deeds notwithstanding. Nothing ever surprises Him. From the moment we’re conceived to the moment we die, we remain safely within the frame of His watchful gaze and His sovereign plan for us.

God never learns anything new He didn’t know about us. Nothing surprises Him.

— Charles R. Swindoll

7 Truths to Remember in Troubled Times

SOURCE:  Family Life/Dennis – Barbara Rainey

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.

Years ago our family of eight and some dear friends of ours with their two kids vacationed in a small condo on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Southern California. It was a beautiful setting and a wonderful time for our families, but one night we were introduced to an experience that Southern Californians face regularly.

At 2 a.m. we awoke to a boom that made us think a truck had hit the building. Then we noticed that everything was shaking. We jumped out of bed and hurried to the living room where all our children were sleeping on the floor in sleeping bags. The chandelier over the dining room table was swinging.

It was an earthquake—not very large, but very unsettling. We felt disoriented and confused. We wondered how long it would last and what we should do. The earth is supposed to be steady and solid, and now it wasn’t. When it finally stopped we couldn’t go back to sleep for hours because our fears had been awakened and our security threatened.

Unsettling times

Does our experience describe how you have felt recently? Many Americans have felt shaken by economic instability, racial conflict, mass shootings, and terrorist threats in recent years. Even the current political races have left us feeling anxious, troubled, disoriented. We wonder what to do. We feel afraid as the ground shakes beneath our feet.

Many followers of Christ feel just as unsettled over the unprecedented transformation in the moral climate of our culture. The world’s views on human sexuality, especially, have changed so quickly that Christians are now labeled as bigots for holding to biblical standards. We don’t know how to act, what to say or not say.

And inside our individual homes, many may be feeling disoriented and disheartened because of illness, hardships, failed relationships, or recent deaths of friends or family. Like a friend of ours who just received a cancer diagnosis—her world has just been shaken. Perhaps your world has been shaken, too.

Our stability

A couple of years ago I (Barbara) was reading through the book of Isaiah, and I came across a passage I had never noticed before. Isaiah 33:5-6 says, “The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness, and he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure.”

I was struck by that phrase in the middle: “and he will be the stability of your times…” At the time our country was experiencing an economic downturn. Everyone in America was feeling the impact.

When life feels insecure and unstable—not just in the world outside but also inside your family—remember that God is ultimately in control. No matter what is happening around you or how unsteady the world feels, He is our sure and stable foundation.

In many ways, America has been a pretty stable country for the last few decades. But it may not continue to be. When you feel the ground shift beneath your feet, it’s good to remember that Jesus is your Rock and your Fortress. He will be the stability of your times.

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.

GOD WILL STILL BE IN CHARGE (Tomorrow)

The Counseling Moment editor’s Note:  In the following article, author Max Lucado brings a solid and needed perspective concerning God’s perspective about and His sovereignty over the affairs of humankind — specifically the presidential election in November 2016.  At the same time, we can apply this understanding toward any aspect of life we face (or will face) that has any measure of uncertainty, confusion, and is troublesome to us.

SOURCE:  Max Lucado

Max Lucado: My Prediction for the Presidential Election

I have a prediction. I know exactly what November 9 will bring. Another day of God’s perfect sovereignty. He will still be in charge. His throne will still be occupied. He will still manage the affairs of the world. Never before has His providence depended on a king, president, or ruler. And it won’t on November 9, 2016. “The LORD can control a king’s mind as he controls a river; he can direct it as he pleases” (Proverbs 21:1 NCV).

On one occasion the Lord turned the heart of the King of Assyria so that he aided them in the construction of the Temple. On another occasion, he stirred the heart of Cyrus to release the Jews to return to Jerusalem.

Nebuchadnezzar was considered to be the mightiest king of his generation. But God humbled and put him in “detention” for seven years. “The kingdom is the Lord’s, and He rules over the nations” (Psalms 22:28).

Understanding God’s sovereignty over the nations opens the door to peace. When we realize that God influences the hearts of all rulers, we can then choose to pray for them rather than fret about them. Rather than wring our hands we bend our knees, we select prayer over despair.

Jeremiah did this. He was the prophet to Israel during one of her darkest periods of rebellion. He was called “the weeping prophet” because he was one. He wept at the condition of the people and the depravity of their faith. He was so distraught that one of his books was entitled Lamentations. But then he considered the work of God. Note the intentionality of his words:

“This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. The LORD’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:21-23)

Imitate Jeremiah. Lift up your eyes. Dare to believe that good things will happen. Dare to believe that God was speaking to us when he said: “In everything God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).

Many years ago, I spent a week visiting the interior of Brazil with a long-time missionary pilot. He flew a circuit of remote towns in a small plane that threatened to come undone at the slightest gust of wind. Wilbur and Orville had a sturdier aircraft.

I could not get comfortable. I kept thinking that the plane was going to crash in some Brazilian jungle and I’d be gobbled up by piranhas or swallowed by an anaconda.

I kept shifting around, looking down, and gripping my seat. (As if that would help.) Finally, the pilot had had enough of my squirming. He looked at me and shouted over the airplane noise. “We won’t face anything I can’t handle. You might as well trust me to fly the plane.”

Is God saying the same to you? If so, make this your prayer:

Dear Lord,

You are perfect. You could not be better than you are.

You are self-created. You exist because you choose to exist.

You are self-sustaining. No one helps you. No one gives you strength.

You are self-governing. Who can question your deeds? Who dares advise you?

You are correct. In every way. In every choice. You regret no decision.

You have never failed. Never! You cannot fail! You are God! You will accomplish
your plan.

You are happy. Eternally joyful. Endlessly content.

You are the king, supreme ruler, absolute monarch, overlord, and rajah of all history.

An arch of your eyebrow and a million angels will pivot and salute. Every throne is a footstool to yours. Every crown is papier–mâché to yours. No limitations, hesitations, questions, second thoughts, or backward glances. You consult no clock. You keep no calendar. You report to no one. You are in charge.

And I trust you.

How Worry Affects You (and others)

SOURCE:  Tim Lane/CareLeader

Surprising ways worry affects your people

Any quick search on Google or Amazon will confirm what we all already know: worry is harmful to our bodies. Here are a few physical symptoms associated with worry:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Muscle tension
  • Nausea
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sweating
  • Trembling and twitching

You can almost get exhausted and anxious reading that list. All of these can be experienced to varying degrees depending on how severe a person’s worrying is. Most of the people in your church can probably identify many of these anxiety-producing experiences.

Unfortunately, this is not the only way people in your congregation are impacted by worry. If not addressed, it can have a bigger impact on one’s overall health. People who worry consistently are more prone to the following physical consequences:

  • Suppression of the immune system
  • Digestive disorders
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Premature coronary artery disease
  • Heart attack

In light of this, it is not surprising when we discover the original meanings of the words we use today to talk about worry and anxiety. The English word worry comes from the Old English word meaning “strangle.” The word anxiety is of Indo-Germanic origin, referring to suffering from narrowing, tightening feelings in the chest or throat.

Statistics reveal that nearly 20 percent of people living in the United States will experience life-debilitating anxiety annually. That is nearly 65 million people! In 2008, American physicians wrote more than 50 million prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications and more than 150 million prescriptions for antidepressants, many of which were used for anxiety-related conditions.

What would the doctor say?

Physicians and counselors will tell you that diet, exercise, rest, and some kind of meditation is a proven help to the person  struggling with anxiety. Sometimes medication, when taken wisely, can be helpful. You can use your body to fight what is actually trying to undermine it. No one can deny that. But is there another part of dealing with worry that you could share with those imprisoned by worry?

While these things are important, the people in your church also need to know how to connect to God when worries come. We all need God’s grace even if we are going to pursue exercise and diet in a way that is most helpful. Let’s consider the most fundamental aspect that must undergird everything else we do when taking care of our bodies.

What would Jesus say?

Jesus lived at a time in human history that was very unpredictable and less safe than ours. It was a world in which worry was epidemic, too. In every instance where He encouraged people not to worry, He did so with compassion because He knew firsthand what it felt like to be a human being. In Luke 12:32, He spoke these encouraging words to anxious people: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” Those simple words sum up all that Jesus said over and over again. He commands them not to worry, but His command is one of encouragement, not shame.

Here are a few simple but profound phrases and truths based upon that passage that you can share with those in your congregation.

Do not be afraid …

Jesus knows that worry is a serious problem. He knows it is bad for you physically, as well as spiritually, and He gets right to the point because He loves you. His commands are always for your good. Whenever you are struggling with worry, it is connected to your relationship with God. The word worry that Jesus uses means “a divided mind.” Within the broader context of His teaching, Jesus says that worry happens when you try to love God and something in creation at the same time. As soon as you do this, you have begun to put your hope and security in something other than God. Anything else besides God is unstable (money, a relationship, a job, education, your own moral record, obedient children, your health). Do you see why Jesus is so straightforward? He cares for you. He knows that you can’t serve two masters (Matt. 6:24).

Little flock …

Don’t let this little phrase that Jesus utters evade you. Don’t miss those two powerful words:little flock. While Jesus challenges you to not worry or fear, He speaks to you as one who belongs to Him, whom He is shepherding and for whom He laid down His life. You are unimaginably dear to Him and loved by Him. You are one of His sheep. Be reassured—He cares for you and loves you even as you struggle with worry, even as you forget Him and His care and give in to your tendency to worry. You may be prone to wander, but you will always be part of His flock.

For your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom …

Your Father is not only going to care for you now, He is in the process and will ultimately give you His kingdom. Your future is certain and you can begin to experience it even now, because His kingdom has broken into your life by the presence of the Holy Spirit. He is a deposit guaranteeing that you will get it all one day. So, right now, in the ups and downs of life, the stresses and strains of the uncertain future, let the certainty of your eternal future be what you cling to.

With all of this in mind, encourage those in your congregation to allow the truth of God’s care for them to work its way into their daily life. We are to prioritize the kingdom by viewing everything through the lens of our faith. When we begin to live for God instead of the things of the world, we may find that our tendency to worry will lessen and our response to God and to the world, spiritually and physically, will change dramatically.

When Life Doesn’t Turn out Like It’s ‘Supposed to’

SOURCE:  relevantmagazine.com/Ashley Eure

How to not worry about meeting other people’s expectations.

I’m a single female in my late twenties. So I’m in that stage of life where I literally cannot open Facebook without seeing another couple engaged or pregnant. I’ll be honest, there are days where it irks me so much I have to get off social media.

It’s because of “the list.”

That’s right, society has a list.

It’s a checklist of: “you are this far along in life, therefore you should have achieved these things.” For the post-grad the list is: an immediate steady job that can be transitioned into a long-term career, if possible in a cool hipster city. For young marrieds it’s a baby and a cute home. It seems that for a single woman my age it’s a husband, a steady boyfriend… or at least some exciting dating life worth bragging about. If you don’t have these things, you are woefully behind in life and worthy of pity or shame.

It can be paralyzing. And demoralizing. The more you look at “the list” the more boxes seem to be unchecked in your own life. Everyone’s great life news is suddenly eclipsed by the feeling of being left behind and left out.

I know I’m not alone in this. When I graduated college and grad school it seemed as if the majority of people I knew went through some sort of disillusioned frustration that termed the “quarter-life crisis.”

We all felt that if we jumped through all the college hoops and played our cards right, we were entitled to check the life boxes of “stable job” and “clear career decision” off our life lists immediately upon graduation. The reality was that it rarely works like that, and as a result many felt like society (or even God) had sold us a bill of goods.

The truth is, “the list” is a lie.

Society claims that these achievements—relationship status, careers, income, location—are the benchmarks of success and meaning and self-worth. That’s simply not true. Our worth is in who Jesus says we are—and He says we were worth dying for.

There was a time in my life where I felt like God stripped away all the things I tend to place my identity in besides Him. It was like He unchecked every box, and then looked at me and said, “If I tell you now—with none of these achievements to your name—that I love you and that you are worthwhile and important, will you believe me?” That question was difficult to answer. I had to fill my head with the truth of what the Bible says in order to undo the damage all the world’s lies had done to my self-worth.

Here are just a few of the other things the Bible says we are:

• A dearly loved child of God (Col. 3:12)
• A co-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17)
• A conqueror (Romans 8:37)
• God’s workmanship, created for good works (Eph. 2:10)
• Chosen (Eph. 1:4)
• Fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)

The list goes on and on. If you are also feeling plagued by “the list” you are not alone. I know how holidays and time-markers like the start of a new year can amplify the unchecked boxes.

Let’s fill ourselves with the truth of who God says we are, what He says are the important check marks in life (hint: they don’t include a white picket fence and 2.5 kids). Let’s do our best for Him moment by moment and leave our worth for him to determine.

And when we start to look to the list, let’s fill each other up with truth again.

LET GOD CHANGE YOUR MIND

SOURCE:  Amy Simpson/InTouch Ministries

When it comes to worry, yes it’s all in your head and there’s something you can do about it.

There was a time I was nearly powerless against my own emotions.

Growing up in a household made confusing by my mother’s schizophrenia, I learned to mask my feelings well—the only way I knew how to handle them. When bad things happened or I got negative feedback, I’d quickly plummet into discouragement, depression, and sometimes self-pity. It was amazing how quickly I could drop from fine to really, really not fine.

Things have changed. I’ve changed.

A Christian counselor helped me understand the power of my “cognitive distortions”—negative and false messages I was habitually sending myself. I used to say, You’re a loser. You always screw up. You’re  worthless. Sometimes I didn’t even put these messages into words; I just directed hatred toward myself. I didn’t realize I was mistreating my own  soul. And because I sent myself these messages  so often, my spirit believed they were true.

Now my spirit believes something different.

I started sending myself messages grounded in biblical truth. I also started reading the Bible more, taking risks in Christian fellowship, and reaching out to develop supportive friendships. I can see those old messages are false, and when they do come to mind, I recognize them and tell myself what is true: I have purpose. I’m a beloved child of God. My God is much more capable than I am, and He loves me.

Fear and anxiety are normal, healthy, and productive capabilities given by God—but they’re not meant to be permanent states of being.

This change in self-talk affected more than my mind. It made a difference in my entire life. I’m less prone to depression, I’m more peaceful, and I have more love to offer others. I’ve noticed another change: I don’t worry as much as I used to. When I start to worry, I remind myself that God has transformed me into a new person by changing my mind.

Romans 12:2 is a commonly quoted verse, but we often focus only on not being shaped by the world but utterly transformed. We haven’t given enough attention to this transformation happening through a renewal of our minds. It’s not merely a soul or heart change. As the New Living Translation says, it’s a matter of letting God “transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”

Science is only now catching up to Scripture, which teaches us what is possible through Jesus Christ.

Our Changeable Brains

My story is one of many that demonstrate the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral therapy. According to the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists, this form of counseling “is based on the idea that our feelings and behaviors are caused by our thoughts, not external things like people, situations, and events. The benefit of this fact is that we can change the way we think to feel/act better even if the situation does not change.” Rather than live at the mercy of outside forces, we have a choice. And the most effective way to modify our habitual behaviors and emotional patterns is to let God change the way we think.

Strong, if emerging, physical science also supports this.  Research has transformed our understanding of the brain’s capacity for change through neuroplasticity. It turns out that our brains are moldable long past childhood; they can and do change throughout our lives.

“Brain plasticity is a physical process,” says Dr. Michael Merzenich, noted neuroscientist and expert in brain plasticity. “Gray matter can actually shrink or thicken, neural connections can be forged and refined or (conversely) weakened and severed. Changes in the physical brain manifest as changes in our abilities. Often, people think of childhood and young adulthood as a time of brain growth … but what recent research has shown is that under the right circumstances, the older brain can grow, too.”

Thanks to neuroplasticity, changing our thoughts (as well as our behaviors and experiences) causes us to form new synaptic connections, strengthen existing ones, and weaken others. These new and altered connections result in changes in our behavior. In his book Soft-Wired, Dr. Merzenich writes, “As a skill is developed (such as whistling, or doing a pirouette, or identifying bird calls), the specific neural routes that account for successfully performing this new skill become stronger, faster, more reliable, and much more specific to—specialized for—the task  at hand.”

This is as true for habitual worry as for anything else.

Worry Is a Problem

Many of us need this kind of change. In a 2010 survey by the American Psychological Association, 40 percent of respondents said that in the previous month, stress had caused them to overeat or eat unhealthy foods. Nearly one-third said they had skipped a meal because of stress, and more than 25 percent said they had been unable to sleep. Another survey found that more than 60 percent of American workers worry they will lose their jobs, with 32 percent saying they worry about this “a lot.” Parents commonly worry about their kids, and big worries start when children are small. Worry is not only common in our society; it’s also woven into our cultural fabric—an expectation of responsible people, a fashionable accessory whose absence seems suspicious.

We often confuse worry with two other states of mind: fear and anxiety. The three tend to be used interchangeably, but they’re different. Fear and anxiety are normal, healthy, and productive capabilities given by God—but they’re not meant to be permanent states of being.

Our culture provides plenty of opportunities to worry. But followers of Christ are called to live and think differently from the worried world around us.

Fear is a response to an immediate (real or perceived) threat. Anxiety usually appears in anticipation of what will or might happen.

Unlike normal anxiety, worry is not an involuntary physical response but a pattern we choose.

Coming from within ourselves, it’s a decision we make to stay in that place of anxiety, which was designed to protect us from immediate danger, not to see us through everyday life. For some, staying in a state of anxiety isn’t a choice but, rather, a disorder that happens when the body’s healthy, helpful biological process works overtime. An anxiety disorder is, essentially, too much of a good thing, afflicting 29 percent of us at some point in our life. It’s very different from voluntary engagement in worry and requires treatment with medication, counseling, or both.

For anyone tempted to worry (and who isn’t?), our culture provides plenty of opportunities. But followers of Christ are called to live and think differently from the worried world around us. Voluntary worry directly contradicts the way God commands His people to live. If we’re not careful, it can lead to sinful behavior. Hence Jesus’ words: “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6:34). This same message holds through the Bible, affirming a countercultural lifestyle of faith and trust from Genesis to Revelation.

Worry can injure our bodies and minds. It can cause shortness  of breath; heart palpitations; pain and damage in the back, neck, and shoulders; muscle tension; nausea; headaches; and other physical problems. In his book The God-Shaped Brain, Christian psychiatrist Timothy R. Jennings describes how the effects of ongoing worry look in our brains. As we spend more of our lives in a state of anxiety, fear, and worry, our neurons don’t function as well as they should, and we don’t produce as many healthy new ones.

The damage isn’t limited to our bodies. It injures our relationships with other people. And like all sinful patterns, worry forms a barrier in our relationship with God. It keeps us focused on ourselves, our agendas, and our own problems. It keeps us peering into the future, which is God’s domain, and clinging to people and possessions that belong to Him. That’s why addressing worry must include spiritual transformation. Voluntary worry ultimately cannot be overcome by sheer willpower—its solution is rooted entirely in who God is.

Solution: Faith

In their book How God Changes Your Brain, Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman used neuroscience to establish this startling concept: Belief in God—and religious activity itself—physically changes our brains. “Faith tempers our anxiety and fears, and it may even temper one’s belief in an angry God,” they write. “The beauty of Job’s story is that it reminds the suffering believer that God  is ultimately compassionate. And from the perspective of medicine and neuroscience, compassion can heal the body as well as the soul.”

Changing worry means changing what we believe about God and ourselves.

The discovery of neuroplasticity is a startling affirmation of Christian belief in allowing God to transform us through the renewing of our minds. It affirms the power of cognitive change as well. “Watch over your heart with all diligence,” Proverbs tells us, “for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4:23). Jesus Himself spoke of the true source of our behavior: “Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man” (Matt. 15:17-20).

Likewise, Paul told the Roman church, “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom. 8:5-6).

No therapeutic technique can transform us as the Holy Spirit can.

Acknowledging that neurological changes happen with a change in belief doesn’t diminish the mystery or power of God’s work in us. But we do have a choice—we can welcome this transformational work or resist it. God graciously gives us the freedom to believe.

Changing worry means changing what we believe about God and ourselves. If we don’t believe God is any bigger or better than us, we have reason to fret. But if we believe He’s all-powerful, trustworthy, righteous, and good, it makes sense not to waste our lives in worry, but instead to believe and embrace what we know to be true about God and who we are as His children.

The Benefits of Worry: NONE

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

Stress Management: Don’t Worry!

“Don’t worry about anything.” (Philippians 4:6 NLT)

The number one source of stress in your life is not work.  It’s worry.

Work doesn’t keep you up at night; worry does.

God is very clear in the Bible what he thinks about worry. Philippians 4:6 says, “Don’t worry about anything” (NLT).

Why do you need to let go of your worry?

Worry is unreasonable for a couple of reasons.

First, worry exaggerates the problem. Have you noticed if somebody says something bad about you, the more you think about it, the bigger it gets? Second, worry doesn’t work. To worry about something you can’t change is useless. And to worry about something you can change is stupid. Just go change it!

Worry is unnatural.

There are no born worriers. You might think you are, but you’re not. Worry is something you learned. Since worry is unnatural, it’s also unhealthy. Your body wasn’t designed to handle worry. When people say, “I’m worried sick,” they’re telling the truth. Doctors say a lot of people could leave the hospital today if they knew how to get rid of guilt, resentment, and worry. Proverbs 14:30 says, “A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body” (NLT).

Worry is unhelpful.

Worry cannot change the past, and worry cannot control the future. All it does is mess up today. The only thing that worry changes is you. It makes you miserable! It’s never solved a problem. It’s unhelpful.

Worry is unnecessary.

God made you, he created you, he saved you, and he put his Spirit in you. Don’t you think he’s going to take care of your needs? There’s no need to worry.

The first step in stress management is to refuse to worry about anything. Why? Because it’s unreasonable, unnatural, unhelpful, and unnecessary.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 5:7, “You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal concern” (AMP).

God personally cares about you and for your needs. You know all those things you’re stressing, anxious, and worried about?  Let it go. Give it to God.

The LORD, The LORD — OR — The Problem, The Problem?

SOURCE:  Max Lucado/Family Life

Your Best Thoughts Are God-Thoughts

When troubles come our way, we can be stressed and upset, or we can trust God.

You’ll never have a problem-free life. Ever.

You’ll never drift off to sleep on the wings of this thought: My, today came and went with no problems in the world. This headline will never appear in the paper: “We have only good news to report.”

You might be elected as president of Russia. You might discover a way to e-mail pizza and become a billionaire. You might be called out of the stands to pinch-hit when your team is down to its final out of the World Series, hit a home run, and have your face appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Pigs might fly.

A kangaroo might swim.

Men might surrender the remote control.

Women might quit buying purses.

It’s not likely. But it’s possible.

But a problem-free, no hassle, blue-sky existence of smooth sailing?

Don’t hold your breath.

Problems happen. They happen to rich people, sexy people, educated people, and sophisticated people. They happen to retired people, single people, spiritual people, and secular people.

All people have problems.

But not all people see problems the same way. Some people are overcome by problems. Others overcome problems. Some people are left bitter. Others are left better. Some people face their challenges with fear. Others with faith.

Caleb did.

In the wilderness
His story from the Old Testament stands out because his faith did. Forty five years earlier when Moses sent the 12 spies into Canaan, Caleb was among them. He and Joshua believed the land could be taken. But since the other 10 spies disagreed, the children of Israel ended up in the wilderness.

God, however, took note of Caleb’s courage. The man’s convictions were so striking that God paid him a compliment that would make a saint blush. “My servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly” (Numbers 14:24 NIV).  How would you like to have those words on your resume? What type of spirit catches the eye of God? What qualifies as a “different spirit?

Answers begin to emerge during the distribution of the lands west of the Jordan.

Then the children of Judah came to Joshua in Gilgal (Joshua 14:6). Every Hebrew tribe was represented. All the priests, soldiers, and people gathered near the tabernacle. Eleazar, the priest, had two urns, one containing the tribal names, the other with lists of land parcels. Yet before the people received their inheritance, a promise needed to be fulfilled.

I’m seeing a sturdy man with sinewy muscle. Caleb, gray headed and great hearted, steps forward. He has a spring in his step, a sparkle in his eye, and a promise to collect. “Joshua, remember what Moses told you and me at Kadesh Barnea?

Kadesh Barnea. The name stirred a 45-five-year-old memory in Joshua. It was from this camp that Moses heard two distinct reports.

All 12 men agreed on the value of the land. It flowed with milk and honey. All 12 agreed on the description of the people and the cities. Large and fortified. But only Joshua and Caleb believed the land could be overtaken.

Read carefully the words that Caleb spoke to Joshua at the end of the military campaign (Joshua 14:6-12). See if you can spot what was different about Caleb’s spirit.

Caleb … said to [Joshua]: “You know the word which the LORD said to Moses the man of God concerning you and me in Kadesh Barnea. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land, and I brought back word to him as it was in my heart. Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt, but I wholly followed the LORD my God. So Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children’s forever, because you have wholly followed the LORD my God.’ And now, behold the LORD has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the LORD spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the LORD spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the LORD will be with me; and I shall be able to drive them out as the LORD said.

What name appears and reappears in Caleb’s words? The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. Nine references to the Lord! Who was on Caleb’s mind? Who was in Caleb’s heart? What caused him to have a different spirit? He centered his mind on the Lord.

What about you? What emphasis would a transcript of your thoughts reveal? The Lord? Or the problem, the problem, the problem, the problem? The economy, the economy? The jerk, the jerk?

Promised Land people do not deny the presence of problems. Canaan is fraught with giants and Jerichos. It does no good to pretend it is not. Servants like Caleb aren’t naïve, but they immerse their minds in God-thoughts.

Good water and battery acid
Imagine two cooking bowls. One contains fresh, clean water. The second contains battery acid. Take an apple and cut it in half. Place one half of the apple in the bowl of clean water. Place the other half in the bowl of battery acid. Leave each in its respective bowl for five minutes, and then pull out the two halves. Which one will you want to eat?

Your mind is the apple. God is good water. Problems are battery acid. If you marinate your mind in your problems, they will eventually corrode and corrupt your thoughts. But thoughts of God will preserve and refresh your attitudes. Caleb was different because he soaked his mind in God.

The psalmist showed us how to do this. He asked, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? (Psalm 42:5). He was sad and discouraged. The struggles of life threatened to pull him under and take another victim. But at just the right time, the writer made this decision: “Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him … I will remember You from the land of the Jordan, and from the heights of Hermon, from the Hill Mizar (verses 5-6).

There is a resolve in those words. “I shall yet … I will remember You. The writer made a deliberate decision to treat his downcast soul with thoughts of God. Everywhere I go, I will remember you—from Jordan to Hermon to Mizar.

In your case the verse would read, “From the ICU to the cemetery, to the unemployment line, to the courtroom, I will remember you.

There is nothing easy about this. Troubles pounce on us like rain in a thunderstorm. Finding God amid the billows will demand every bit of discipline you can muster. But the result is worth the strain. Besides, do you really want to meditate on your misery? Will reciting your problems turn you into a better person? No. But changing your mind-set will.

Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed (John 14:27, AMP).  Instead, immerse your mind in God-thoughts.

When troubles come our way, we can be stressed and upset, or we can trust God. Caleb could have cursed God. He didn’t deserve the wilderness. He had to put his dreams on hold for four decades. Still he didn’t complain or grow sour. When the time came for him to inherit his property, he stepped forward with a God-drenched mind to receive it.

Set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things) (Col.  3:2 AMP). When giants are in the land, when doubts swarm your mind, turn your thoughts to God. Your best thoughts are God-thoughts.

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Taken from Glory Days by Max Lucado, copyright © 2015 by Max Lucado.

 

Dealing With Doubt

SOURCE:  Randy Alcorn/Ligonier Ministries

In times of doubt, difficulty, and trials, our fundamental beliefs about God and our faith are revealed.

So how can Christians find faith in the midst of doubt?

How can they trust God’s plan when their lives seem out of His control, and prayers seem to go unanswered or, as it sometimes feels, even unheard?

If you or someone you love has been there, these questions may be far more personal than theoretical. You might ask questions like these: Is God good? Is He sovereign? Does He care?

When we’re assailed by trials, we need perspective for our minds and relief for our hearts. It’s essential that we realign our worldview by God’s inspired Word: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

The Foundation of Our Faith

The sovereignty of God is a solid foundation for our faith. God’s sovereignty is the biblical teaching that all things remain under God’s rule and nothing happens without either His direction or permission. God works in all things for the good of His children (see Rom. 8:28), including evil and suffering. He doesn’t commit moral evil, but He can use any evil for good purposes.

Paul wrote, “In [Christ] we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11). “Everything” is comprehensive—no exceptions. God works even in those things done against His moral will, to bring about His purpose and plan. We can follow Scripture’s lead and embrace the belief that a sovereign God is accomplishing eternal purposes in the midst of painful and even tragic events.

The Testing of Our Faith

Suffering and life’s difficulties either push us away from God or pull us toward him. Though he did not believe in Jesus as the Messiah, Auschwitz survivor Viktor Frankl wrote in The Unconscious God, “Just as the small fire is extinguished by the storm whereas a large fire is enhanced by it, likewise a weak faith is weakened by predicaments and catastrophes whereas a strong faith is strengthened by them.”

Only when you jettison ungrounded and untrue faith can you replace it with valid faith in the one, true, sovereign God—faith that can pass, and even find strength in, life’s formidable tests.

The devastation of tragedy is certainly real for people whose faith endures suffering. But because they do not place their hope for health, abundance, and secure relationships in this life, but in an eternal life to come, their hope remains firm regardless of what happens.

Faith means believing that God is good and that even if we can’t see it today, one day we will look back and see clearly His sovereignty, goodness, and kindness.

The Nurturing of Our Faith

In our times of doubt, God promises never to leave us. Paul Tournier said, “Where there is no longer any opportunity for doubt, there is no longer any opportunity for faith.”

Trusting God is a matter of faith. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). We must immerse ourselves in God’s Word. As a solar panel stores energy from sunlight, faith is established only by regular exposure to the truth and application of that truth to the events we confront in our lives. This is why it’s essential that we attend a church that teaches God’s Word and that we study it daily ourselves. When our beliefs are established on the truth, we are more likely to stand during times when doubts assail us.

The Hope of Our Faith

We should ask God to deliver us from Satan’s attacks of unbelief and discouragement. We should learn to resist them in the power of Christ (see James 4:7). Trusting God for the grace to endure adversity is as much an act of faith as trusting Him for deliverance from it.

God promises in Hebrews 13:5 (NIV), “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” This unusual Greek sentence contains five negatives. Kenneth Wuest translates it: “I will not, I will not cease to sustain and uphold you. I will not, I will not, I will not let you down.” When we languish in the deepest pit and wonder if God even exists, God reminds us that He remains there with us.

We can trust that God is refining us through our trials—and that one day He will bring us into His glorious presence.

The Lord says to us, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…. When you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (Isa. 43:2).

God’s presence remains with His children whether we recognize it or not. In periods of darkness, God calls us to trust Him until the light returns. “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold” (Job 23:10).

In this world of suffering, I have a profound and abiding hope, and faith for the future. Not because I’ve followed a set of religious rules, but because for forty-some years, I’ve known a real person, and continue to know Him better. Through inconceivable self-sacrifice, He has touched me deeply, given me a new heart, and utterly transformed my life. To Jesus be the glory, now and forever.

How To Deal With Anxiety

SOURCE:  Mark Merrill

In Florida, thunderstorms come and go, often very quickly. These storms roll in rapidly with crashing thunder and heavy downpours.  After 30 minutes or so, the rain stops and they pass through.  But what about the storms that don’t ever seem to leave?

Anxiety is one of those storms that may linger.

It isn’t a quick-moving storm in the lives of those who struggle, but rather a long-term deluge of fear. While adrenaline can push us to lead productive lives, it can all too easily turn into a prolonged and unnatural state of worry known as anxiety.  Recently, I’ve spoken with a few friends and coworkers who have shared with me about their struggles with anxiety.  I was surprised to hear that these friends I know and interact with daily had hid the pain so well.  But the truth is, they aren’t alone – anxiety affects 40 million adults in the U.S., which is 18% of the national population.

As I continued to research the matter, I learned that anxiety is considered to be highly treatable.  However, it’s estimated that only about one-third of those who are suffering actually seek treatment.  This is sometimes due to the negative stigma associated with anxiety in our society, which creates feelings of shame within those who are suffering and leads them to hide their hurt.

Thankfully, there is hope for you if you’re struggling with anxiety, or if you think you know someone who is.  Here are five other things you can do to manage and treat your anxiety.

1. Keep Talking. Talk to your friends, family, or a doctor about your struggles with anxiety.  Their support and prayers will be a huge source of encouragement.

2. Practice Relaxation Techniques.  Learn about some commonly recommended techniques to help you remain calm. Your doctor may have some suggestions.  Then at moments when your mind becomes clouded with anxious thoughts, use these relaxation techniques—some of which include muscle relaxation and relaxed breathing.

3. Rest and Exercise. Try your best to get a good night’s sleep.  That way you’ll be rested and ready to better handle life’s ups and downs.  Daily exercise is also highly recommended.  Go for a brisk walk or a jog to help clear your mind.

4. Be Involved. Try not to isolate yourself at home.  Sign up to volunteer in your community or find a sports team or club you can join.  This will give you a much-needed break from the everyday stress you deal with.

5. Medication. In some cases, medication will be used in the treatment of anxiety.  Of course, that isn’t for me to decide.  A doctor, often in conjunction with a therapist or counselor, will be the one who makes that decision.

If you think you are struggling with anxiety, please remember that you are not alone in this battle and that there is hope.

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 Medical information within this site is not intended for use in the diagnosis or treatment of any health condition. Please consult a licensed health care professional for the treatment or diagnosis of any medical condition.

A PRAYER FOR BROKEN HEARTS, CRUSHED SPIRITS, AND WEARY FRIENDS

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Ps. 34:18

     Dear Lord Jesus, there’s no Savior like you—none so merciful and kind, present and loving. The brokenhearted don’t need to “buck up” and be brave when they see you coming. The crushed in spirit don’t need to pull themselves together, as though you would be greatly disappointed to find us less than conquerors.

     We praise you that the gospel frees us from posing and pretending, spinning and hyping. Jesus, you have no need for us to be anything other than we actually are. You are nearer than the next breath to those who are in need of fresh grace. That’s why we bring a wide array of weary friends, including ourselves, to you today.

     Jesus, we pray for friends struggling with dashed hopes and unfulfilled longings. Whether the dream was for a loving marriage, emotionally healthy kids, the “good-health gene,” or a longer career, you meet us right where we are, no matter what the disappointment is. Show us how to encourage our friends, without minimizing their pain. May your grace prove to be sufficient, and our friendship helpful, over the long haul.

     Jesus, we pray for weary friends serving on church staffs or in vocational ministry. Many of them wake up today disillusioned, depleted, and despondent. Though all of us are targets of spiritual warfare, those who labor in the gospel bear unique challenges. Show us how to wrestle in prayer for our friends, and to encourage them in practical ways.

     Jesus, keep our betrayed friends from bitterness, our wayward friends from disaster, and our depressed friends from harmful non-solutions.

     Jesus, for those of us who don’t feel crushed in spirit but rather feel disconnected in spirit, help us sort through the issues. Show us what is repent-able and what is repairable; and bring quiet to our noisy hearts so we can hear you speak. Convince us, yet again, that we need your presence much, much more than we need circumstances and people to change.

     Jesus, today and every day, we declare that our hope is built on nothing else, nothing less, and nothing more, than you and your finished work on our behalf. So very Amen we pray, in your near and compassionate name.

How to Help Your Anxious Child

SOURCE:  Kim Blackham

It is normal for children to have some anxieties throughout childhood.  Being afraid of the dark, worried about shots at the doctor’s office, fear of being left alone, or anxious about an upcoming test are common fears for many children.  But what do you do when the anxieties feel like they are taking over the child’s sense of well-being?

  1. Encourage them to see the worries and concerns as existing independent from them.

If they can separate themselves from the anxieties, it will be easier for them to understand and manage them.  You can do this, but helping them understand that worries and anxieties are normal – we all have them, but that we get to decide which worries and concerns we are going to allow.

  1.  Explain that while some people may think that worries and concerns only exist in our heads, they have a very real impact on us physically as well.

Ask them what happens for them physically when they are afraid.  Where do they feel it?  Sometime people feel it as a yucky ball in their stomach, other times people feel it as a tight knot in their chest, or feeling hot and sticky all over.  See if they can identify the physical response to those anxieties.

READ FURTHER ABOUT THIS TOPIC AT:  http://www.kimblackham.com/how-to-help-your-anxious-child/

 

Your Stress Is Harming Your Spiritual Life

SOURCE:  ANDREA LUCADO/Relevant Magazine

Overworking yourself takes a much deeper toll than you might realize.

I’ve noticed a theme since entering adulthood: it’s stressful.

Becoming a grown up means grown-up responsibilities. You go to work, where maybe you have a difficult boss, or strict deadlines, budgets to make and presentations to give. After work, you go home, where you’re trying to keep up with things like grocery shopping, bills and cleaning. And on top of keeping your work and home life in order, you are trying to maintain a decent social life, stay up-to-date on pop culture and follow the news.

It’s a lot. It’s stressful. And, pretty quickly, we grow accustomed to the stress.

We talk about being stressed out with our friends. We learn to go about our day with a constant weight on our shoulders, with neck pain and tension, with shortness of breath, or however it is your body manifests stress.

At some point, we just learn to live with it, get the occasional massage, and move on. But I wonder if we’re growing too comfortable with the amount of stress we have in our lives. I wonder if we realize what it is actually doing to us, not just physically, but spiritually.

I think stress, at its core, is feeling worried about things that aren’t going your way presently, didn’t go your way in the past, or might not go your way in the future. I went through an intensely stressful time recently in which I was worried about all three of these things at once. I felt myself spiraling. I got anxious and just held onto the anxiety. In the stress, I began to doubt God’s power, and I began to doubt His goodness. If God is good and cares about me, why do I feel this way? If He is all-powerful and all-knowing, why isn’t He improving my situation?

Simply put, I was not trusting God.

When we’re stressed, our reaction is to search for peace. But after this recent bout of anxiety, I wonder if what we should be looking for instead is trust. Consider Isaiah 26:3: “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” According to this verse, trusting God is the key to perfect peace. And how do we trust God, especially in the midst of a stressful time? By keeping our minds “stayed” on Him.

John MacArthur says, “Perfect peace comes when our focus is off the problem, off the trouble, and constantly on Christ.” Let’s be honest, keeping our minds constantly on Christ is a bit of a daunting task, but I think we can take steps in that direction by remembering who God is and what He has done for us. For it is when we forget these things that we begin to distrust, and it is when we distrust that we begin to stress.

Remembering Who God Is

Oswald Chambers says in order to find peace, “remember who you are and whose you are.” When we forget who God is, it becomes very easy to freak out. If God is not in control, then who is? If God is not good, will the bad things never stop happening? If God is not loving, then will I never get the things I so deeply desire?

When we forget the character of God, the troubles in our minds escalate quickly. But when we remind ourselves of who God is—He is good (Exodus 34:6), He is just (Nehemiah 9:32), He is merciful (Hebrews 4:16)—the pressure to solve our own issues and take care of own stress is off. It’s not up to us, and the person it is up to is good, just and merciful.

Remembering What He Has Done for Us

There is no shortage of scholarly evidence that gratitude leads to a less stressful and more “happy life,” as the experts call it. But gratitude for the Christian takes things to a deeper level. We’re not only thankful for what we have; we are able to thank the one who gave it to us.

 Paul tells the Philippians, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ” (Philippians 4:6-7). Thanksgiving is on the path toward peace.

I set a challenge for myself this year that you may want to consider if your stress level is high. I’m starting every day by writing down five things I am thankful for and five things I know to be true about God’s character. I’ve been doing this for a few weeks now, and though I can’t say my stress is completely gone and everything is roses, I have felt more aware of how good my life is and more aware of God’s presence in it. Reminding myself of these things has allowed me to be less skeptical of God and more trusting of Him. And in that trust, there has been peace.

A 100 percent stress-free life isn’t realistic, but I think we can, realistically, set a goal to stress less, fear less, and experience anxiety less often, one piece of gratitude and one piece of truth at a time.

When Fear Seizes You

SOURCE:  Desiring God/Stacy Reaoch

This past fall my husband had the privilege of going to Turkey to speak at a conference for Christian workers. Although I was excited for his opportunity, I was also feeling somewhat hesitant with the terrorist activity in nearby Syria. Thanks to modern technology, we planned to FaceTime every day to keep in close touch with each other.

One day during that week, our appointed time to connect went by with no contact from my husband. Maybe he’s just running late, I reasoned. I looked for text messages . . . negative. I checked to make sure my ringer was turned up loud enough . . . affirmative. Maybe he’s deep in conversation with someone. . . . But as the minutes turned into hours, fear began to seize me. Unfortunately I learned of terrorists near the Turkey border as I began watching world news reports.

As fear began to consume me, every worst possible situation was played out in my head. Had terrorists overcome the conference and taken captives? What would I do? My mind went through multiple scenarios: explaining to our children what had happened, looking for a job to support our family, and wondering whether to sell the house. By the time my husband was finally able to call I had already decided where to move and how much to sell the house for. Come to find out, he was just fine.

Fear Feeds Irrationality

When fear seizes you, all our ability to think rationally evaporates. Life becomes overwhelming and the promises of God are thrown out the window.

When Moses sent the spies into Canaan to gather information for the people of Israel, fear of the looming giants became much more visible than any of the blessings Canaan had to offer. Although they obediently gathered fruit from the land, their report focused on all the seemingly impossible obstacles they faced.

“We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there” (Numbers 13:27–28). As the spies exaggerated and gave the worse report possible, they compared themselves to grasshoppers and claimed the land would devour them (Numbers 13:32–33).

This fearful exaggeration infected the Israelites who succumbed to crying and grumbling against Moses and Aaron, and it even led them to claim they wish they’d died in the wilderness (Numbers 14:2–3)!

It seems Israel forgot God’s promise to give them the land of Canaan, despite the obstacles that looked so intimidating. “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel” (Numbers 13:2). If the Israelites had truly trusted God’s promise, even their enemies in Canaan shouldn’t have been a threat to them. God was going to give Israel the Promised Land, just as he’d said to Abraham hundreds of years before.

And during our moments of fear and panic, God is whispering promises to us too.

Fighting Off Fear

When fear begins to creep in and all the “what-if” situations begin to consume your mind, here are seven things to remember:

1. God’s truth — Is what I’m thinking about really happening? Or is it just my imagination running wild? Paul reminds us to dwell on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).

2. God’s presence — We can be comforted remembering that we are not alone. God is with us. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

3. God’s grace — God promises to provide us with his all-sufficient grace for every trial that comes our way. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Jesus told Paul. And therefore, with Paul, we can “boast all the more gladly of our weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon us” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

4. God’s sovereignty — God is in control over every situation in our lives. “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:34–35).

5. God listens — Pour out your heart to God in prayer. “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1).

6. God’s trustworthiness — “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” (Psalm 56:3–4).

7. God’s big picture plan — No matter how awful this trial may seem, God promises to use everything together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). We may not see the good in our situation at the time, but we can trust God has a hidden smile behind the dark cloud.

So when your child is diagnosed with cancer, or you just learned of a loved one in a car accident, or your husband comes home with news that he was let go from his job, prepare yourself for battle. Don’t allow the enemy of fear to seize you and take you captive. Fight him off with the promises of God’s word and his unchanging character.

Two Traps to Avoid: “If Only” and “What If?”

SOURCE:   Susan Yates/Family Life

In each season of my life, I’ve found myself falling into two mental traps which are not helpful.

One is the “If only” syndrome, and the other is the “What if?” syndrome.

Here’s how “If only” might express itself:

  • “If only I had a husband.”
  • “If only I had more money.”
  • “If only my husband would act like…”
  • “If only my husband (or I) had a good job.”
  • “If only we had a different house.”
  • “If only my parents (or his) understood.”
  • “If only my child would sleep through the night.”
  • “If only I had a really close friend.”
  • “If only I didn’t come from such a wounded past.”
  • “If only I wasn’t stuck in this place.”
  • “If only I was free of this disease.”
  • “If only I knew how to handle my teen.”
  • “If only I didn’t have to do this.”
  • “If only I didn’t struggle with this.”

Can you identify?

You can probably add to this list yourself. Over the years I’ve realized that these thoughts merely lead me into a real case of self-pity. At the core of what I’m expressing is: “Life is about me and my happiness.” I have a bucket that needs to be filled.

But the reality is that even if the desire for one “If only” is met, I’ll just have another one to add to the list. Too often I get myself into this mindset without even realizing it. And it sinks me into a bad mood or a feeling of being depressed. The focus is on me, and I need to confess this selfishness and ask God to forgive me and to enable me to focus on Him and on others. And I need to ask Him to give me a grateful heart.

The other trap is “What if?”:

  • “What if I can’t get pregnant?”
  • “What if my husband leaves me?”
  • “What if I don’t get this raise?”
  • “What if I can’t complete this project?”
  • “What if we lose the election?”
  • “What if the medical tests bring bad news?”
  • “What if my child doesn’t make the team?”
  • “What if I fail?”

This mindset leads to fear. I am afraid of what will happen if the “What if” comes true. And this can be a paralyzing fear.

The “What if” syndrome is especially hard for those of us with an overactive imagination—we are often visionaries; we are creative. We tend to have this weakness, however: We can create the worst-case scenario in our imagination in three seconds flat! It can be terrifying.

What’s at the core of this attitude? I fail to believe that God is in control. My “What if” has become bigger than my God. I have temporarily forgotten that He is loving, He is kind, He is present, He is good, and He will never, ever forsake me.

I can give Him my “What if”—He can handle it. He will sustain me.

Underlying the “If only” and “What if” syndromes is an expectation that our lives should be completely satisfying. We may recognize that’s not realistic, but too often we live with that expectation in our thought life without even realizing it.

We need to remember that, in this life, our bucket will always have holes. Life will not be perfect until we get to heaven. Eternal life in heaven will be a perfect bucket with no holes completely filled with the love of Christ and satisfaction—no wants or fears, just sweet fellowship with Jesus and those who have gone before us.

Today, what is your “If only…”?  What is your “What if”?

Recognize the subtle danger of these thoughts, which produce self-pity and fear. Make a conscious decision to dump them someplace (down the garbage disposal, in the trash, or fireplace).

Begin to say His traits out loud: “You are my Father, You go before me. You prepare a way for me. You protect me. You bless me. You understand me. You forgive me. You know me better than I know myself and you love me totally, completely, perfectly. No matter what happens You are still in charge. You will never forsake me.”

This puts your focus on God, where it belongs.

What If the Worst Happens?

SOURCE: Vaneetha Rendall/Desiring God

I found myself growing fearful. Not a heart-stopping, all-encompassing fear, but the kind of constant gnawing that occurs when you look at the discouraging trends of the present and assume things will never change. When you think about the future and wonder, “What if the worst happens?”

What if.

I’ve spent a lifetime considering the “what ifs.” Those questions have a way of unsettling me, destroying my peace, leaving me insecure.

People in the Bible were uneasy about “what if” questions, too. When told to lead the Israelites, Moses asked God, “What if they don’t believe me?” Abraham’s servant asked about Isaac’s future wife, “What if the young woman refuses to come with me?” Joseph’s brothers asked, “What if Joseph bears a grudge against us?” All of them wondered what would happen if circumstances went awry. Just like we do.

We all face a staggering array of “what ifs.” Some are minor issues while others have life-altering repercussions. What if my child dies? What if I get cancer? What if my spouse leaves me?

The uncomfortable truth is, any of those things could happen. No one is free from tragedy or pain. There are no guarantees of an easy life. For any of us. Ever.

I was considering this sobering reality a few months ago. Over the course of several days, I had brought numerous longings and requests before the Lord. I wanted them fulfilled. But the unthinkable question haunted me: What if my inmost longings are never met and my nightmares come true?

As I sat poring over my Bible, I was reminded of the questions I had wrestled with for decades. “Is God enough? If my deepest fears are realized, will he still be sufficient?” Each time those questions had come up in the past, I’d pushed them out of my mind. But this time, I knew I needed to face them.

I wondered: If my health spirals downward and I end up in an institution, will God be enough? If my children rebel and never walk closely with the Lord, will God be enough? If I never remarry and never feel loved by a man again, will God be enough? If my ministry doesn’t flourish and I never see fruit from it, will God be enough? If my suffering continues and I never see the purpose in it, will God be enough? I wish I could have automatically said, “Yes, of course God will be sufficient.” But I struggled. I didn’t want to give up my dreams, surrender those things that were dear to me, relinquish what I felt entitled to.

I reflected on my unilateral unwritten contract with God, where I promise to do my part if he fulfills my longings. I reluctantly admitted that part of my desire to be faithful was rooted in my expectation of a payback. Didn’t God owe me something?

Reluctantly, I opened my hands, filled with my dreams, and surrendered them to him. I didn’t want to love God for what he could do for me. I wanted to love God for who he is. To worship him because he is worthy.

God’s presence overwhelmed me as I relinquished my expectations. He reminded me that I have something far better than a reassurance that my dreaded “what ifs” won’t happen. I have the assurance that even if they do happen, he will be there in the midst of them. He will carry me. He will comfort me. He will tenderly care for me. God doesn’t promise us a trouble-free life. But he does promise that he will be there in the midst of our sorrows.

“God doesn’t promise us a trouble-free life.”

In the Bible, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not guaranteed deliverance. Just before Nebuchadnezzar delivered them to the fire, they offered some of the most courageous words ever spoken. “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it . . . But even if he does not, we want you to know that we will not serve your gods . . . ” (Daniel 3:17–18).

Even if.

Even if the worst happens, God’s grace is sufficient. Those three young men faced the fire without fear because they knew that whatever the outcome, it would ultimately be for their good and for God’s glory. They did not ask “what if” the worst happened. They were satisfied knowing that “even if” the worst happened, God would take care of them.

Even if.

Those two simple words have taken the fear out of life. Replacing “what if” with “even if” is one of the most liberating exchanges we can ever make. We trade our irrational fears of an uncertain future for the loving assurance of an unchanging God.We see that even if the worst happens, God will carry us. He will still be good. And he will never leave us.

“Even if the worst happens, God will carry us.”

Habakkuk models this exchange beautifully. Though he had pleaded with God to save his people, he closes his book with this exquisite “even if” . . .

Even if the fig tree does not bloom and the vines have no grapes,
even if the olive tree fails to produce
and the fields yield no food,
even if the sheep pen is empty
and the stalls have no cattle—

Even then,

I will be happy with the Lord.
I will truly find joy in God, who saves me. (Habakkuk 3:17–18)

Amen.

How To Stop Worrying So Much

SOURCE:  Relevant Magazine/TYLER EDWARDS

The art of casting all your cares on God.

Do you know what one the most commonly ignored commands in all of Scripture is?   “Don’t worry.”

Do you know what the most common command in Scripture is?   “Do not be afraid.”

The Bible tells us not to worry or be afraid, but you take one look at our culture, and you see how closely we hold onto those commandments.

It’s understandable, actually. Not worrying is easier said than done. We are all anxious about something: Relationships, finances, health, the future. We get stressed with work, with responsibilities, with decisions.

We might use different words for it, but it all boils down to one thing: fear.

We have lots of fears. We are afraid to make the wrong decision. We fear what we don’t know. We fear what we can’t change. When we run out of reasonable things to worry about, we start fabricating unreasonable ones. It’s like our minds are little worry factories manned by little worker elves that never sleep. We mass-produce anxiety 24/7.

Worrying Without Reason

So over and over, God tells us not to be afraid. He commands us not to worry. Jesus doesn’t say, “Don’t worry without good reason or don’t worry unless it makes you feel better.” He just says don’t.

To help us obey the command, God tells us how to stop worrying. In Luke, He says “Trust in me. For if I take care crass of birds, how much more will I take care you my children?” In 1 Peter He says to cast our worry onto Him. To give it over to Him.

For many of us, giving our anxiety over to God feels like an almost insurmountable task. Our issues with worry and anxiety are beyond our own ability to handle. We need to address these issues with friends, and perhaps seek professional counseling. There is nothing wrong with admitting you need others to help you with your worry. That is not battle you were ever meant to fight on your own, and the sooner you seek help, the sooner you can be free of it.

When you live a life free from worry, you’re living in the full truth of who God is. You’re living under the assumption that He is in control, He cares and He can do something about your circumstances.

The Response to Worry

In the church we talk about faith a lot.

Faith and doubt, it’s always those two together. But doubt isn’t the opposite of faith. Not really. The opposite of faith is fear. That’s why God commands us not to do it.

We don’t need to be afraid because God loves us. He promised to take care of us. He never promises there will be no pain but He does promise to come back and to take that pain away.

How do we overcome worry? We need to equip ourselves with a proper understanding of God.

1. Equip yourself with the knowledge of who God is.

Is God good? Is God all-powerful? Does God love you? Will God take care of you? If you believe the answer to these are yes then our reasons to worry drop significantly It’s a trust issue.

2. Surrender.

We fear because we want to know, we want to be in control. God knows. God is in control. When we place our faith in Him. We can overcome our fears because we know He is good and He will take care of us. Lay your fears at His feet and leave them there. How do you bring your fears to God? Pray. When you were little and scared of monsters what did you do? You called out for daddy. It’s effective. When you are worried or concerned, pray.

3. Consider your witness.

Our relationship with God fundamentally changes our perception. Our worries about food, clothes, appearances and money become superfluous. We as Christians can meet the worries of the world with the confidence that God reigns over it all.

 4. Think about Jesus.

Consider what He endured for you. He was not guilty of sin but He paid the price for all sin. He suffered. He died on a cross. He carried the burden of our transgressions. If Jesus endured all that for you, do you really believe He would forsake you?

5. Know who you are.

You belong to God. You are His. When you have confidence and security in your identity as a child of God you will find that worry has hard time getting its hooks into you. Worry breeds in insecurity. Find your security in Jesus.

So give up on living of a life of “what if’s?” You can spend your whole life wondering about maybes and possibilities. All it will do is cripple you from dealing with things you can actually control.

Seek out friends and professionals who can help you deal with your inner turmoil. With their help, you are fighting a winnable battle.

Worry doesn’t prevent the sorrows of tomorrow. It destroys the joys of today.

Look at the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Mary sits at Jesus’s feet. Martha worries about many things. Jesus tells us not to worry because He wants us to be free from worry. He wants us to live life to the full. Worry and fear steal that away. We worry because we are focused on other things. We overcome our worry by focusing on Jesus. When we focus on Him the worries and troubles of this life fade into the background.

 

Q&A: Is It Controlling To Check My Spouse’s Emails and Texts?

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by  Leslie Vernick

QUESTION:  One of the chapters in your new book on The Emotionally Destructive Marriage addresses control regarding looking at emails and texts. I never did this before until I had caught my husband in a lie about his whereabouts. He was acting differently for several months and was protective over his phone.

When I looked at his phone without his knowledge, I saw texts with co-workers and customers that were flirtatious. Then I looked at emails and also found emails that made me feel unsafe and uncomfortable as a wife. He said he could see why I thought that way and would take a look at his actions. I hadn’t looked in a long time, but several texts would appear when I was near him that I saw again were the same flirtatious exchanges.

We are in counseling, and he did admit to being deceptive regarding his whereabouts. I hadn’t looked in a while, but started looking again at his texts because I felt he was again not being truthful and maybe he never was, and that the only way I could find out the truth is if I looked.

Is this wrong and controlling as you mentioned in your book? Or is it different when you have reason to look because I hadn’t looked up until that point? Again, I love this book and can’t put it down. He is attentive to me when we are together.

If I didn’t look, I might not have realized what was going on. He is meeting with a counselor regarding his inability to express emotions (dad died when he was 6 yrs old). My counselor feels he is being emotionally promiscuous. He feels he is in control and not doing anything wrong. Recently, I saw 3 texts in over a year from a co-worker that he said were not meant for him. One said “listening to this song thinking of you” and another said, “Me too Babe, it’s been a long time.”

He said she texted back and mentioned it was not intended for him. I want to believe him, but it’s getting harder and harder. If I didn’t look, on the surface things appear normal.

ANSWER:  I’m sorry you’ve discovered that your husband has a secret life. That is painful to you and harmful to your marriage. Apparently, he is also confusing you. On the one hand, he’s agreeing that his behavior might make you feel unsafe and uncomfortable. Yet, he is also minimizing the damage when he states he’s in control of his emotional promiscuity and not doing anything wrong. If he’s not doing anything wrong, why is he hiding his behavior? With the way you worded your sentence though, I wasn’t sure if it was your husband or his counselor who felt your husband was in control of his emotional promiscuity and not doing anything wrong. If it’s the counselor, he would do well to find another counselor.

That said, the question you’re asking is are your behaviors controlling when you keep checking your husband’s cell phone and e-mails to see if he is lying or sneaking around?

Let me ask you a question. Why are you still checking? It’s not to find out if he’s lying to you. You already know the answer to that. So what’s your purpose? To find out if he’s still lying to you? You already know that answer, too. So what do you want to do with the information you already have? That is what you need to focus on right now.

You indicate that overall you have a good marriage and you would have no idea this was going on if you didn’t check. From that, I assume that you want your marriage to stay in-tact, minus the emotional promiscuity. What does your husband want? If he wants the same thing, then what will he need to change in order for him to stop his secret life?

First, he might commit himself to counseling to figure out what he’s trying to get out of his flirtatious behaviors. Next, he would initiate accountability for himself so that he will be less likely to fall into those same behaviors, you will feel safe, and you both can rebuild trust.

That means he will invite and allow you and/or other people, such as a good male accountability partner, to monitor his e-mails, phone messages or texts whenever you want to. You will not need to sneak to check. You will have full access to his passwords and be able to verify that he is doing what he says anytime you feel anxious. This is not to control him, as he must learn to control himself. This is for you to rebuild the trust that he is doing what he says he wants to do–stay married to you and stop flirting with other women.

However, that doesn’t mean that if your husband wants to, he still can’t find a way to flirt and lie about it. You cannot control him or his behaviors. The best you can do is to decide what you are willing to live with and what you are not willing to live with and then let him know what the consequences will be to your marriage if he continues to lie and flirt.

So many women obsessively try to change their husband’s sinful behaviors by playing detective and drive themselves crazy in the process. If your husband wants to be a liar and a cheat, you are absolutely powerless to stop him. All you can do is work on yourself and decide if you are willing to put up with that behavior or not. If not, then what do you need to do instead of continuously monitoring him?

A Prayer Upon Receiving Troubling News

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. (John 14:1)

In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Dear Lord Jesus….

Last evening’s troubling stories shape today’s morning prayer. I went to bed last night, wearied with woes of friends. I arise today hungry with hope in you, our great and gracious Savior.

Thank you for being honest with us about life this side of the new heaven and new earth. You’re not an on-demand panacea, promising the elimination hardships and heartaches. You’re not a miracle-computer, passively waiting to be programmed, as we exercise the right formula.

You’re so much more; so much better. You’re a very present help, pledging your presence in every circumstance and trial—committed to working in all things, for our good and your glory. Troubling news doesn’t have to cripple our hearts. Indeed, may it carry our hearts to you today, for you are ever so trustworthy, Lord Jesus.

For our friends stunned with breath-taking health news, we declare our trust in you, Jesus. How we long for the day when words like cancer, dementia and heart disease will no longer appear in our vocabulary. Until that Day, we unabashedly and earnestly pray for healing, and we trust you for all-surpassing peace and more-than-sufficient grace.

For friends saddened with heart-ripping issues with their children, we declare our trust in you, Jesus. Few reports carry more power to dishearten us than those related to our children.

Whether they’ve been vandalized by others’ darkness, or victimized by their own foolish choices, it hurts real bad and real deep. We appeal to your covenant faithfulness and your powerful reach: capture the hearts of our children, Jesus, and help us love them well in the chaos and the crisis.

For friends waking up to pink slips, financial burdens and no apparent options, we declare our trust in you, Lord Jesus. Things impossible with man are possible with you. We pray, not only for your provision, but also for our generosity with one another. May the law of love be fulfilled as we bear one another’s burdens—spiritually and emotionally, physically and fiscally.

Lord Jesus, we can “trust in you as we trust in God,” for you are God—the Son of God and God the Son. We can “take heart” because you took our sin, and have already overcome the world for us.

In the world we will have tribulation and broken stories, but in you we are given all the grace, peace, and hope we need.

So very Amen we pray in your kind and overcoming Name.

Fighting and Conquering Anxiety and Worry

SOURCE:  John Piper

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)

When I am anxious about my ministry being useless and empty, I fight unbelief with the promise of Isaiah 55:11. “So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

When I am anxious about being too weak to do my work, I battle unbelief with the promise of Christ, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

When I am anxious about decisions I have to make about the future, I battle unbelief with the promise, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8).

When I am anxious about facing opponents, I battle unbelief with the promise, “If God is for us, who is against us!” (Romans 8:31).

When I am anxious about the welfare of those I love, I battle unbelief with the promise that if I, being evil, know how to give good things to my children, how much more will the “Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11).

And I fight to maintain my spiritual equilibrium with the reminder that everyone who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for Christ’s sake “shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29–30).

When I am anxious about being sick, I battle unbelief with the promise, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19).

And I take the promise with trembling: “Tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:3–5).

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~ John Piper, Future Grace, Multnomah Books (Colorado Springs, CO), pages 60–61

Giving thanks……in the MIDST of ………

SOURCE:  AACC (American Association of Christian Counselors)

Thanksgiving in the Midst

“This way of seeing our Father in everything makes life one long thanksgiving and gives a rest of heart, and, more than that, a gayety of spirit, that is unspeakable.” -Hannah Whitall Smith

“As I look back over fifty years of ministry, I recall innumerable tests, trials and times of crushing pain. But through it all, the Lord has proven faithful, loving, and totally true to all his promises.” -David Wilkerson

“In Everything Give Thanks.”

A verse so familiar we recite it almost without thinking as an encouragement to one another in our everyday walk.

However, like a woodman’s axe, the reality of life has a way of splitting “everything” into opposing halves.

Good and bad.

Pleasure and pain.

Joys and sorrow.

The front half of the “everything” is easy. Thankful for the birth of a child. For great health. Family. A good job.

The backside of the “everything” is more difficult. The death of a loved one. Cancer. Divorce. A job lost. The empty chair at the head of the table from which dad said the Thanksgiving prayer just last year.

It’s hard to get our hearts and emotions around thanking God for the dark days, for pain, or overwhelming loss.

What’s interesting is that our Father does not ask us to. He asks us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to be thankful “in” the midst of those things.

Consider the life of Jeremiah. His autobiography recorded in Lamentations chapter 3 paints a dismal portrait of his journey.

Affliction. Darkness. Flesh wasting away. Broken bones. Bitterness. Hardship. Chains. Crooked paths. Bears. Lions. Arrows. Mocking. Rejection.

Reflecting on all of this, Jeremiah bemoans, “I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.” (Lamentations 3:20 NIV)

Too often, the tapestries of our own lives have the same threads woven through them.

But, in the midst of despair — Hope always emerges.

Jeremiah calls to mind an eternal truth upon which all thanksgiving has its foundation… “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end.” (vs. 22 ESV)

Every trial that enters your life comes through the doorway of the steadfast love of the Lord. It involves love that emanates from an eternally wise Father. “It is He who made the earth by His power, who established the world by His wisdom…” (Jeremiah 10:12 ESV).  Isaiah adds that the Lord of Hosts is “wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom” (Isaiah 28:29 ESV).

God is infinitely wise. His steadfast love endures forever. Separate truths, which are inseparable.

And they are truths that transform trials into thanksgiving.

When life is not the way it is supposed to be, when the wheels come off…when looking up is the only choice you have, because you are flat on your back…be thankful.

Be thankful that God is infinitely wise. Be thankful that His steadfast love never ceases and endures forever.

In the midst of everything — give thanks. It will turn your life around.

Do You Ever Worry?

Source:  Christina Fox/Desiring God

A Prayer for the Worried Mom’s Heart

Do you ever worry?

I think we can all admit that we do. In fact, we probably worry more than we realize. As a mother, I find myself worrying about my children, about their health, their learning, and whether I can just make it to bedtime each day.

I also find myself worried about paying bills, about my husband’s travel for work, and about that message from my doctor needing to discuss test results with me. My to-do lists keep me awake at night because I fear I’ll forget to do something important. Questions like “what if?” and “should I have?” swirl around my mind, holding me hostage and keeping me chained to my worries and fears.

Worry is a kind of “acceptable sin.” By that I mean worry is one of those sins that everyone does so we don’t often address it. Like gossip, worry is something we all know we aren’t supposed to do, but we often gloss over it and call it something else — something like stress. Especially for women, worry can be expected and in some situations to not worry would seem strange.

But deep down, we want to be freed from the chronic feeling of doom and the expectation of something bad lurking just around the corner. We know that the Bible tells us not to worry, but “what if?” thoughts seem like such a part of us that we don’t know how to stop.

What can we do?

Remember and Pray

Like oil and water, trust and worry do not mix. To expel worry from our heart, we need to grow deeper roots of trust in God. Time and again in the Psalms, when the writer’s heart was heavy, he turned to look back at all that God had done for him. As the psalmist looked back at God’s faithfulness and his sovereign care for him, he was able to trust God even in the midst of troubling circumstances.

When we look back in our own lives at God’s faithfulness to us, it gives us confidence and hope in his future faithfulness. We look back to our own story of salvation. We see that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, that this is the demonstration of God’s love for us. When worries threaten to seize our heart, we need to remember and dwell on the truth of the gospel. Remembering the cross propels us in faith for what lies ahead.

And as we remember, we need to turn to God in prayer. Hebrews says that because of Jesus, we can come to the throne of grace with confidence, to receive the help we need (Hebrews 4:16). Paul was referring to chronic worry when he wrote in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” We are to give our worries to God in prayer, trusting him with all our burdens and cares. As a result, we will receive in return the peace we long for, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

You might even pray something like this. . . .

A Prayer for the Worried Heart

My Papa in Heaven,

I come to you with a heart heavy and full of so many worries and cares. I want to just curl up on your lap and find some peace from the chaos in my life. My worries fill my mind night and day. My stomach is in knots and I can hardly breathe. I feel like I am drained dry; the joy has been sucked right out of me.

But you said to come to you with all my burdens. You said that you will carry them. You tell us you are a rock, a shield, a fortress. I need a rock right now. I need a fortress to run into right now. I need you.

There are so many decisions to make. What if I make the wrong one? So many bad things loom on the horizon, what if I’m not prepared? Help me to focus my heart on you and not on the giants around me. I know that all these worries are keeping me from trusting you. Like Peter, instead of looking toward your face, I am looking around at the waves encircling me.

Forgive me for doubting and not living a life of trust. I believe, but please help my unbelief! I know that when I worry, I am believing a lie that says that I can control what happens in my life. Forgive me for trying to control something I never really had control of. Help me to trust in your word and not the lies.

You sent your Son to carry my greatest burden at the cross. I know that you can handle all that troubles me today. There is nothing too great for you, the earth is your footstool and the wind and rain come and go at your command. Free me of this worry today. Help me to trust the same grace that saved me at the cross to save me from all that weighs me down.

I know that you have a perfect plan for my life. Help me to walk by faith and not by sight. I want to trust in your plan and your love for me. I want to face the unknown future confident that you have it under control. Grant me the grace I need.

Thank you for Jesus and that because of him I can come to you in confidence. You accept me as I am, worries and all. I give them all to you now, in Jesus’s name, Amen.

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