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Posts tagged ‘Christ Jesus’

Four Promises of Forgiveness

Adapted from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 207.
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12

I once heard a joke that described a frequent failure in forgiving. A woman went to her pastor for advice on improving her marriage. When the pastor asked what her greatest complaint was, she replied, “Every time we get into a fight, my husband gets historical.” When her pastor said, “You must mean hysterical,” she responded, “I mean exactly what I said; he keeps a mental record of everything I’ve done wrong, and whenever he’s mad, I get a history lesson!”

Food for Thought
Take a moment today to remember the Four Promises of Forgiveness:
1. I will not dwell on this incident.
2. I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.
3. I will not talk to others about this incident.
4. I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.

Then take a moment to remember something else: This is the way God forgives you. It’s natural for us to read the Four Promises of Forgiveness as another set of laws to which we’re presently failing to live up; however, the gospel reminds us that they should be read first and foremost as God’s commitment to us because of the sacrifice of his Son. That commitment says that he will never “get historical” in bringing up sins for which we have been forgiven!

Is there an area in life where you feel condemned even though you’ve genuinely repented before God? Take a moment to hear God speaking the Four Promises of Forgiveness to you with regard to that particular issue. As you read them again, try adding your name to the beginning of each promise as a reminder that God speaks them personally to you. Remember Romans 8:1 applies to you, not just other Christians: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

When you accept this and apply it to your own life, prepare to be pleasantly surprised how much easier it will become to apply the Four Promises of Forgiveness to others who have hurt you.

Hope for the Depressed

by Ed Welch

Never has so much been crammed into one word. Depression feels terrifying—your world is dark, heavy, painful. Some days you think that physical pain might be easier to endure; at least the pain would be localized. Instead, depression goes to your very soul, corrupting everything in its path. Dead but walking is one way to describe it. You feel numb, but you still remember when you actually felt something. Somehow that makes it harder to bear.

You aren’t alone, of course. Depression affects as much as 25% of the population. But statistics offer little comfort. In fact, a depressive spin on them can make you feel worse: You wonder why so many people are depressed, and you’re afraid that means there is no solution to the problem. Yet there is another perspective. God tells us that he cares about one wandering sheep in a hundred (Matthew 18:10–14) and counts the hairs on individual heads. If he has this much compassion for a solitary, lost individual, he certainly cares for you and such a large group of suffering people. You may not understand how he cares for you, but you can be certain that he is.

SUFFERING MAKES US AWARE OF GOD

You are suffering, and suffering brings God into view. That’s the way it always happens. The soldier who escapes from a treacherous battle will instinctively thank God. The stock broker who just lost a fortune might instinctively curse him. When hardships come we either cry out to God for help, shake our fist at him, or do both. There is actually a picture of this in the Bible: throughout history God has taken his people out into the wilderness, and you are certainly in the wilderness.

The journey in the wilderness is intended, in part, to reveal what is in our hearts, and to teach us to trust God in both good times and hard times. Why does he do this? To show us those things that are most important. Don’t forget that God takes his children into the wilderness. He even led his only Son into the wilderness. We shouldn’t be surprised if he takes us there as well.

While you are in the wilderness what are you seeing in your own heart? How are you relating to God? Do you avoid him? Ignore him? Get angry at him? Do you act as though he is very far away and too busy with everything else to attend to your suffering? Are you frustrated that God is powerful enough to end your suffering but he hasn’t? In your depression, let God reveal your heart. You might find spiritual issues that contribute to or even cause your depression.

WHICH PATH WILL YOU CHOOSE?

You are on one of two roads: faith or isolated independence. On the road of faith you are seeking and following God. You are calling out to him. You don’t understand what is happening, but you have not lost sight of how the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ assure you that he is good. You feel like you are walking in the dark, but in your best moments you are putting one foot in front of the other as an expression of your trust in God. Whether you know it or not you are being heroic. On this path, although you are suffering, you are still able to notice and marvel that God’s Spirit is empowering you to trust him through darkness and pain.

The other path is the more common one, even among Christians. Even if you believe that God has revealed himself to you in Jesus Christ, it doesn’t seem to make much difference. You don’t feel as though you are consciously avoiding God. You are just trying to survive. But if you look closely you will notice that you are pushing God away. Look at the tell-tale signs:

  • You have no hope, even though Scripture, God’s words to you, offers hope on almost every page. Here’s just one example, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21–23).
  • You think life is meaningless, even though you are a servant of the King and every small step of obedience resonates throughout eternity. This is God’s purpose for you today, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6).
  • You think God doesn’t care, even though Scripture makes it clear that we run from God, not vice versa. Listen to what God says to you, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6–7).
  • In other words, in many areas of life, you simply do not believe what God says.

Practical Strategies for Change

Depression tries to tell us what is true and what isn’t. For example, it says that you will never feel any different, and you can’t continue to live in such a condition. It says that God doesn’t care, and no one loves you. It tries to persuade you that nothing matters. Know, however, that depression lies! You have to tell it the truth, rather than listen to its interpretation of life.

Do you remember times when you were grouchy and everything in the world looked horrible? Or you had PMS and it colored your interpretation of other people? Our emotions are loud, but they do not tell the whole story.

TURN TO GOD AND LISTEN

Turn toward God, and instead of listening to your depression, listen to what he says about himself. The center of his message to you is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, became the Son of Man. He obeyed the Father perfectly, emptied himself, and became your servant. He died to give you life. Now he is the King, and through his death he brings you into his kingdom. Here on earth the kingdom of heaven is riddled with suffering, but we know the King is with us and our suffering is only for a short while. We also know that the King takes our suffering, which seems senseless, and makes it profitable in his kingdom. Read all of Romans 8 and pay special attention to these words, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:28–29).

This is God’s message to you. Beg for grace and mercy so you can hear it over the din of your depression.

The Spirit of God speaks most clearly to you in the Bible, so take the small step of opening it and reading it. If you can’t, ask someone else to read it to you. Ask God to speak to you through his words in the Bible. Ask a friend to talk to you about the good news that Jesus lived, died, and rose again. Any friend who knows that good news would love to talk about it.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Read about Jesus’ suffering in Isaiah 53 and Mark 14. How does it help you to know that Jesus is a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief?
  • Use the Psalms to help you talk to God about your heart. Make Psalm 86 and Psalm 88 your personal prayers to God.
  • Be alert to spiritual warfare. Depressed people are very vulnerable to Satan’s claim that God is not good. Jesus’ death on the cross proves God’s love for you. It’s the only weapon powerful enough to stand against Satan’s lies (Romans 5:6–8; 1 John 4:9–10).
  • Don’t think your case in unique. Read Hebrews 11 and 12. Many have walked this path before you, and God did not fail them.
  • Remember your purpose for living (Matthew 22:37–39; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 2 Corinthians 5:15; Galatians 5:6).
  • Learn about persevering and enduring (Romans 5:3; Hebrews 12:1; James 1:2-4).

Gradually a new goal will come into view. Without doubt you will still want depression to be gone, but you will also develop a vision of walking humbly with your God even in the midst of pain. When you read Scripture, you will find that many people have walked the same path.

CONSIDER THE SPIRITUAL CAUSES OF YOUR DEPRESSION

Next, consider some of the spiritual issues that might play a part in your depression. There is no one cause of depression, but there are some common paths that provoke a depressive spiral. Identifying these in your life may help you move out of depression and avoid it in the future.

Depression rarely appears overnight. When you look closely, you usually find that it crept up on you gradually. Take a closer look at its progression. Personal problems that are left spiritually unattended can, in susceptible people, lead to depression. Do you see any of these things in your life?

  • If you made someone besides God the center of your life, and you lose him or her, you will feel isolated and without purpose. Can you see how this can give way to depression? You made another person your reason for living and now, without him or her, you feel hopeless and unable to go on. You may not realize it, but the Bible tell us that this is idol worship—you are worshipping what God created instead of him.
  • If you feel like you failed in the eyes of other people, and your success and the opinions of others is of critical importance, you can slip into depression. Can you see the spiritual roots? Your success and the opinions of others have become your gods, they are more important to you than serving Christ.
  • If you feel like you did something very wrong, and you want to manage your sin apart from the cross of Jesus, depression is inevitable. We always want to believe that we can do something—like feeling really bad for our sins—but that is just pride. We actually think that we can pay God back, but this attitude minimizes the beauty of the cross and Jesus’ full payment for sin.
  • If you are angry and don’t practice forgiveness, you can easily slide into depression. The simple formula is sadness + anger = depression. What makes us angry shows us what we love and what rights we hold dear. Unforgiveness shows us that we are not willing to trust God to bind up our broken hearts and to judge justly. Deal with your sadness and anger by pouring your heart out to God. Use the psalms as your prayers. Ask for faith so that you can trust God to be your defender and your helper.

Even students of depression who reject the Bible acknowledge that anger, resentment, and jealousy can contribute to the beginnings of depression. So take a hard look. Look for sin patterns you can confess. This is hard, but it is not depressing. If punishment was on the other side of confession, it would be foolish to follow such a path. But get to the gospel of Jesus and on the other side you will find full forgiveness, love, hope, and joy. They are yours for the asking. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8–9).

TAKE ONE STEP AT A TIME

Now, take one small step at a time. Granted, it seems impossible. How can you live without feelings? Without them you have no drive, no motivation. Could you imagine walking without any feeling in your legs? It would be impossible. Or would it? Perhaps you could walk if you practiced in front of a large mirror and watched your legs moving. One step, wobble, another step. It would all be very mechanical but it could be done.

People have learned to take one step at a time in the midst of depression. It doesn’t seem natural, though other people won’t notice either the awkwardness or the heroism involved. The trek begins with one step, then another. Remember, you are not alone. Many people have taken this journey ahead of you.

As you walk, you will find that you must tap into every resource you have ever learned about persevering through hardship. It will involve lots of moment by moment choices: take one minute at a time, read one short Bible passage, ask for help, try to care about someone else, move outside yourself, ask someone how they are doing, and so on.

When in doubt, confess your unbelief, trust in Jesus, and look for someone to love. A wise depressed person once said, “The reason I get up—after years of depression—is that I want to love one other person.”

GUIDELINES FOR MEDICATION

The severe pain of depression makes you welcome anything that can bring relief. For some people, medication brings relief from some symptoms. Most family physicians are qualified to prescribe appropriate medications. If you prefer a specialist, get a recommendation for a psychiatrist, and ask these questions of your doctor and pharmacist:

  • How long will it take before it is effective?
  • What are some of the common side effects?
  • And, if your physician is prescribing two medications, will it be difficult to determine which medication is effective?

From a Christian perspective, the choice to take medication is a wisdom issue. It is rarely a matter of right or wrong. Instead, the question to ask is, “What is best and wise?” Wise people seek counsel (your physicians should be part of the group that counsels you). Wise people approach decisions prayerfully. They don’t put their hope in people or medicine but in the Lord. They recognize that medication is a blessing, when it helps, but recognize its limits.

Medication can change physical symptoms, but not spiritual ones. It might give sleep, offer physical energy, allow you to see in color, and alleviate the physical feeling of depression. But it won’t answer your spiritual doubts, fears, frustrations, or failures. If you choose to take medication, please consider letting a wise and trusted person from your church walk come along side of you. They can remind you that God is good, that you can find power to know God’s love and love others, and, yes, that joy is possible, even during depression.

DEALING WITH SUICIDAL THOUGHTS

Before you were depressed, you could not imagine dreaming of suicide. But when depression descends, you notice a passing thought about death, then another, and another until death acts like a stalker.

Remember, depression doesn’t tell the whole truth. It says you are all alone, no one loves you, God doesn’t care, you will never feel any different, and you cannot go on another day. Even your spouse and children don’t seem like a reason to stay alive when depression is at its worst. Your mind tells you, “Everyone will be better off without me.” But this is a lie—they will not be better off without you.

Because you aren’t working with all the facts, keep it simple. Death is not your call to make. God is the giver and taker of life. As long as he gives you life, he has purposes for you. One purpose that is always right in front of you is to love another person. Begin with that purpose and then get help from a friend or a pastor. Depression says you are alone and you should act that way. But that is not true. God is with you and he calls you to reach out to someone who will listen, care, and pray for you.

PERSEVERE IN HOPE

Will your depression go away? Perhaps. If you follow these suggestions, your depression will, at least, be changed. But to guarantee that you will be depression-free is like guaranteeing that you will never have suffering in your life. The cross of Christ is a sign to us that we will share in the sufferings of Jesus rather than be free of all hardships.

Your hope rests on something much deeper than the alleviation of pain. Depression can’t rob you of hope because your hope is in a person, and that person, Jesus, is alive and with you. The apostle Paul put his suffering on a scale and found that it was out-weighed by all the benefits he had in Christ. Of course, that kind of hope and vision doesn’t come overnight, but it does come. Set your sights high. You can set a course where you say “Amen” with Paul.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16–18)

Edward T. Welch, M.Div., Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and faculty member at CCEF. He has counseled for over twenty-five years and has written many articles, booklets, and books including When People Are Big and God Is Small; Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave; Blame It on the Brain?; Depression: A Stubborn Darkness; Crossroads: A Step-by-Step Guide Away from Addiction; and Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest.

Related Articles:

Don't Waste Your {Cancer}

by John Piper (June 25, 2007) (adapted by Bill Bellican)

NOTE: This excellent devotional by John Piper gives us a higher view of life and our circumstances no matter what we might insert in place of cancer. In no way is the intent meant to minimize the magnitude of the seriousness of what you are facing. However, it does call us to look at our situation from an eternally caring and wisel God’s point of view to enable us to transcend our present life difficulty. Bill Bellican.

I write this on the eve of prostate surgery. I believe in God’s power to heal by miracle and by medicine. I believe it is right and good to pray for both kinds of healing. Cancer is not wasted when it is healed by God. He gets the glory and that is why cancer exists. So not to pray for healing may waste your cancer. But healing is not God’s plan for everyone. And there are many other ways to waste your cancer. I am praying for myself and for you that we will not waste this pain.

1. You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God. It will not do to say that God only uses our cancer but does not design it. What God permits, he permits for a reason. And that reason is his design. If God foresees molecular developments becoming cancer, he can stop it or not. If he does not, he has a purpose. Since he is infinitely wise, it is right to call this purpose a design. Satan is real and causes many pleasures and pains. But he is not ultimate. So when he strikes Job with boils (Job 2:7), Job attributes it ultimately to God (2:10) and the inspired writer agrees: “They . . . comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him” (Job 42:11). If you don’t believe your cancer is designed for you by God, you will waste it.

2. You will waste your cancer if you believe it is a curse and not a gift. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). “There is no enchantment against Jacob, no divination against Israel” (Numbers 23:23). “The LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11).

3. You will waste your cancer if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God. The design of God in your cancer is not to train you in the rationalistic, human calculation of odds. The world gets comfort from their odds. Not Christians. Some count their chariots (percentages of survival) and some count their horses (side effects of treatment), but we trust in the name of the LORD our God (Psalm 20:7). God’s design is clear from 2 Corinthians 1:9, “We felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” The aim of God in your cancer (among a thousand other good things) is to knock props out from under our hearts so that we rely utterly on him.

4. You will waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death. We will all die, if Jesus postpones his return. Not to think about what it will be like to leave this life and meet God is folly. Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning [a funeral] than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” How can you lay it to heart if you won’t think about it? Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Numbering your days means thinking about how few there are and that they will end. How will you get a heart of wisdom if you refuse to think about this? What a waste, if we do not think about death.

5. You will waste your cancer if you think that “beating” cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ. Satan’s and God’s designs in your cancer are not the same. Satan designs to destroy your love for Christ. God designs to deepen your love for Christ. Cancer does not win if you die. It wins if you fail to cherish Christ. God’s design is to wean you off the breast of the world and feast you on the sufficiency of Christ. It is meant to help you say and feel, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” And to know that therefore, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 3:8; 1:21).

6. You will waste your cancer if you spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God. It is not wrong to know about cancer. Ignorance is not a virtue. But the lure to know more and more and the lack of zeal to know God more and more is symptomatic of unbelief. Cancer is meant to waken us to the reality of God. It is meant to put feeling and force behind the command, “Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD” (Hosea 6:3). It is meant to waken us to the truth of Daniel 11:32, “The people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.” It is meant to make unshakable, indestructible oak trees out of us: “His delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Psalm 1:2). What a waste of cancer if we read day and night about cancer and not about God.

7. You will waste your cancer if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepen your relationships with manifest affection. When Epaphroditus brought the gifts to Paul sent by the Philippian church he became ill and almost died. Paul tells the Philippians, “He has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill” (Philippians 2:26-27). What an amazing response! It does not say they were distressed that he was ill, but that he was distressed because they heard he was ill. That is the kind of heart God is aiming to create with cancer: a deeply affectionate, caring heart for people. Don’t waste your cancer by retreating into yourself.

8. You will waste your cancer if you grieve as those who have no hope. Paul used this phrase in relation to those whose loved ones had died: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). There is a grief at death. Even for the believer who dies, there is temporary loss – loss of body, and loss of loved ones here, and loss of earthly ministry. But the grief is different; it is permeated with hope. “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Don’t waste your cancer grieving as those who don’t have this hope.

9. You will waste your cancer if you treat sin as casually as before. Are your besetting sins as attractive as they were before you had cancer? If so you are wasting your cancer. Cancer is designed to destroy the appetite for sin. Pride, greed, lust, hatred, unforgiveness, impatience, laziness, procrastination – all these are the adversaries that cancer is meant to attack. Don’t just think of battling against cancer. Also think of battling with cancer. All these things are worse enemies than cancer. Don’t waste the power of cancer to crush these foes. Let the presence of eternity make the sins of time look as futile as they really are. “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:25).

10. You will waste your cancer if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ. Christians are never anywhere by divine accident. There are reasons for why we wind up where we do. Consider what Jesus said about painful, unplanned circumstances: “They will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness” (Luke 21:12 -13). So it is with cancer. This will be an opportunity to bear witness. Christ is infinitely worthy. Here is a golden opportunity to show that he is worth more than life. Don’t waste it.

Remember you are not left alone. You will have the help you need. “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
By John Piper.  Desiring God. Website: www.desiringGod.org. Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700 .

Also see:

f.a.i.t.H., Facing an Illness through Him (a ministry connected to Central Church)

Whatever Happened to Sin?

(Adapted from Healing Care, Healing Prayer by Terry Wardle)

Dysfunctional behaviors are largely rooted in deep pain and unaddressed needs. We must also accept that much of our unhealthy behavior is at some level symptomatic of horrible wounding and loss, suffered at the hands of others &/or tied to harsh life events.

But, it is also important for us to consider that our dysfunctional behaviors must be identified for what they are: sinful responses to pain and unmet needs in our lives. Whenever we kill pain and try to meet needs in unhealthy ways, we are falling short of God’s desire for us. And the simple definition of that set of choices is sin. Failure to identify this truth takes away the personal responsibility for our actions that we must accept. Even when we are in pain or facing a genuine need, choosing to address it in a way that is hurtful to ourselves or to others is a sinful response. The presence of underlying wounds does not absolve us from responsibility for the unhealthy choices we make. Having been wounded by others does not give us the right to react in a way that wounds anyone else, even ourselves. Sin must be recognized and dealt with before the Lord as an integral part of the inner healing process.

We need to be overwhelmed by God’s good grace and experience His unbelievable acceptance, forgiveness, and hope in the midst of our own problems. However, the starting place for experiencing His matchless grace is recognizing why we need His mercy in the first place. We are like straying sheep, wandering away from God’s best, feeding in places that ultimately lead to our own destruction. Many times this happens because we do not know better. At other times we make bad choices consciously, either unconcerned or unconvinced that the consequences are really that serious or sinful. But they are, and there is no responsible way to detour around that reality on the path to inner healing.

What precisely is sin? It is a transgression of the law of God: disobedience of the divine will; moral failure. Sin is failure to realize in conduct and character the moral ideal, at least as fully as possible under existing circumstances. In other words, sin is the failure to live according to what God expects. This involves not doing what God has told us to do, and/or doing what He has expressly forbidden. God has set before us a standard of character and behavior and to fall short of that is to miss God’s mark. And to miss the mark is to sin. Dysfunctional behaviors aimed at killing pain or meeting needs in unhealthy ways do in fact miss the mark.

The Words of Jesus are most helpful and pastoral on this topic. He defined the purpose of life as “loving the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and loving your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:37-39). He said that all of the rules and laws contained in the Bible hang on these two commandments (Matt. 22:40). Expanding on an Old Testament text, Jesus was telling all His followers that they are to live according to the rule of love. How does one know what is right and wrong? According to Jesus that is really quite simple. Do what is loving to God, loving to other people and loving toward oneself. Every action that is rooted in the law of love hits the mark of God’s expectation, dead center. Conversely, if any thought or action is not loving toward God, another person, or oneself, it is sinful. Therefore, painkilling and meeting needs in any way that is unloving toward God, hurts another person, or which at any level compromises the well-being of an individual – even ourselves – is sin. For example, let’s look at one’s need to obtain acceptance and worth through performance in light of Jesus’ teaching regarding the law of love. First, by turning to performance in order to gain a sense of worth, I am in fact creating an idol. God has made provision for that need through the work of Christ. To seek worth apart from Him is unloving toward God and clearly misses the mark He set before me. As for others, it is very easy to subconsciously use people to meet my own deep needs. They become an unhealthy means to an end, which devalues and invalidates. That is not loving either. An as for myself, continuing to rely on this behavior is both damaging and depressing.

I believe it helpful to be reminded yet again about the seriousness of sin, as described by Paul. In Romans 6:19-23, Paul writes:

I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness, leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap from the things that you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wage of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Consider what Paul is saying about sin in this text. First, he repeatedly used the term slavery with reference to sinful actions. Paul was well aware of the practice of slavery and knew its terrible cost. Slaves had no freedom to go where they wanted to go, do what they wanted to do, or become what they wanted to be. They were in bondage, forced to live according to another person’s demands and desires. They were often mistreated, dehumanized and devalued. They had become the property of another, enslaved to spend their lives serving people who had little care or concern for them as human beings.

Sin leads to slavery. When hurting, we have a pain and need deep within that becomes too much to bear alone. Misguided, the thought can come to us to try some way to alleviate the ache inside our souls. Whether out of ignorance or rebellion, we stumble upon a short-term solution to our problem. Initially it is a conscious act that we initiate and control in order to feel better. But over time, the action turns into a habit, less conscious, more impulse driven. Slowly the habit sets deep talons into the flesh of our wounded soul and we become enslaved to a behavior that begins to rip and tear at our life on every level. The behavior has turned into the beast, and we become a slave to sin’s dark design. This slavery is a constant result of sinful choices, and we need to call it the ugly taskmaster that it is.

Paul also challenges us to consider the results of the sins for which we are now ashamed (Rom. 6:21). As broken men and women, we often wear shame like a dead skin that should have been shed long before. It is ugly, heavy and carries with it the most horrible feelings of self-contempt.

Shame has been defined as:  A soul-deep sense that there is something uniquely wrong with me that is not wrong with you or anyone else in the world. Because I am not perfect and problem free, I feel hopelessly, disgustingly different and worth less than other people. I view myself as, literally, worthless. It isn’t that I make a mistake when I make a mistake; I am a mistake when I make a mistake.

This definition cuts to the core of shame’s dark nature. Inevitably, we who are caught in sin wrestle with its suffocating presence. Often that battle occurs in silent hiding because we don’t want others to see what we live with day in and day out. While sinful choices seem at first to offer some relief to deep need, in the end they bring a covering of shame that only heightens an already difficult inner battle.

Paul does not end there, but speaks to a third consequence of sin: death. He says quite clearly that the ultimate and most devastating consequence of missing God’s mark is destruction. Paraphrasing his words, “death is the final payoff of sin” (Rom. 6:23). Enslavement to dysfunctional behaviors has the potential to emotionally, mentally, relationally, spiritually, and at times, physically kill. Though we may think such choices are harmless, long-term bondage rips and tears at us until we begin to die deep within our souls. It is often a slow demise, as dark forces, bit by bit, steal the life that God intended for us.

Given this reality of sin and its deep and devastating consequences in our lives, there is good news that has come to us through Jesus Christ. God the Father’s unconditional gift of love, Jesus Christ, has provided a way for us to be free from sin and its devastating consequences. Through the Cross, each of us has the opportunity to experience forgiveness and reconciliation with God. Sinful choices need no longer plague us with slavery, shame, and death. Jesus gave His Life so that all who believe can be saved. And that salvation definitely includes the element of healing, reconnecting lost people with God, and empowering them to move forward in spite of the past, present, or future in the Power of the Spirit.

The Apostle Paul has clearly revealed all that is possible for us in our brokenness because of the Work of Jesus on Calvary. In Colossians he wrote:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Col. 2:13-15)

To call this good news is an understatement. As Christians, we have been forgiven all our sins. Jesus fulfilled all the requirements of the law and paid for sin at the cross. Through His shed blood, Jesus has disarmed all the dark forces aligned against us, giving us authority by His powerful Name to defeat our evil foe. Because of this, we are now alive with Jesus, held securely in His eternal embrace.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul assures believers that they receive every blessing they need through Christ, and that even as they struggle, Jesus has made a way for them to be holy and blameless in God’s sight (Eph. 1:3, 4). He assures us that, as Christians, through Christ we are sons and daughters of God, recipients of great gifts, redeemed by His blood, and heirs to glorious riches of God’s grace (Eph. 1:5-8). And let there be no question about the grace-based faith that Paul declares. All of this comes, not because someone has worked hard or lived right, but as gifts, freely given to all who believe in the wonderful work that Jesus did on the Cross. They are not, according to Paul, given stingily, but instead lavished upon those whom God calls into His eternal family (Eph. 1:8).

Sometimes we come fearing the Lord’s rejection and punishment for what we have been doing. Granted, we must know that our choices are sinful and ultimately destructive. But we must also remember God’s steadfast love and acceptance in spite of our actions. He has no punishment left for us, having poured it out upon Jesus who died on our behalf. No behaviors could qualify us for God’s love, and none can cause Him to stop loving His own. He looks toward our brokenness with Divine compassion and understanding. While He in no way minimizes sin, God offers us the power to be set free and thoroughly forgiven. He longs to love and touch His sinful, wounded children.

We need to hear that nothing can separate us from His love, and that even on our worst day, He is thoroughly crazy about us. God rejoices as we turn home. He meets us long before we expect Him to be there. He welcomes us with great joy and provides the healing we need. As he calls us to set aside our painkillers and dysfunctional behaviors, He opens the way for us to have our deepest needs met in Him. And where pain continues to be present, He comes to strengthen and equip us to move forward in the Power of His enabling grace. So, while on the one hand, we need to see the seriousness of sinful choices, on the other, we need to see the matchless love of the God who desires to free us from all that is dark and evil.

In a practical way, how do we seriously deal with both known, unresolved, and unknown sin?

1) First, I need to meet God in prayer and ask Him to define obvious, known areas where there are sinful responses to pain and unmet needs in my life. I need to be open and honest before the Lord, allowing the Holy Spirit to show me where I have gone astray. I need to see my life from His point of view. Prayer-time like this may take place over days, weeks, and even months.

2) Next, I must spend time in prayer to seek the Lord regarding unresolved past sin. As a believer, it is a fact that all my past sin has been forgiven by Christ. But, even though I may have moved away from certain sinful behaviors, I may have done so without ever dealing with them before the Lord. Not only is that a matter of confession, but also an issue of closing the door completely on what has happened.

3) Finally, I must pray about unknown sin. I must seek the Lord and be open to the Spirit’s work of convincing, convicting, and revealing what I am not aware of.

As the Lord begins to reveal, define, and remind me of thoughts and behaviors He wants me to bring to Him, I can follow the following steps:

*Recognize. I acknowledge and admit that specific choices and actions that the Holy Spirit has identified are sinful. I declare to the Lord the destructive results and all that these actions have cost, and I admit that these short-term solutions bring long-lasting devastation to my life. I lay before the Lord all the ugliness that I feel, have done, have failed to do, whatever.

*Repent. I choose to tell God that I want to turn away from these sins and turn toward Him for help and healing. I invite Him to do whatever He must do in my life to break me free of what enslaves me. I tell Him that I can ask Him to this because I believe He will only do what is Good, Loving, Just, Wise, and Best regardless how I feel about it.

*Renounce. Sinful choices open the door for the oppressive and harassing work of the evil one. I tell the Lord that I choose to renounce any involvement the evil one may have in my problems, and that I desire to bring myself and my problems entirely under the Lordship of Christ. I ask the Lord to demolish any strongholds to which I have, in any way, given myself over to resulting in slavery and bondage. I further state that I desire only to be enslaved to Jesus Christ.

*Receive. I allow myself to freely (and even audibly) accept the forgiveness and cleansing that is mine in Jesus Christ. I ask the Lord to give me the emotions He wants me to accurately experience that represent the cleansing He has released within me.

*Realign. I seek the Lord’s help to have the desire and ability to make specific changes in my lifestyle related to the sin I am confessing. Also, I ask the Lord to empower me to look to Him as the Strength of my life and the true Source of all that I need.

*Rejoice. I ask the Lord to enable me to praise Him. I seek to have His ability to wait on His timing to bring solutions to my problems in the way He knows is best. I also ask for the supernatural ability to continue to trust in Him and praise Him no matter how differently He answers my prayers, or even if He should not answer them at all. As bad as I want answers to my problems, I ask for His help to be able to love Him, trust Him, and praise Him even more than I want answers to any of my requests.

Taking Captivity Captive

(Adapted from Wounds That Heal by Stephen Seamands, Chapter 5)

Recurring themes run through the stories of us all. We are certainly a fallen people that live in a fallen world. We sin. We are affected by the sins of others. The world system is evil. The Enemy of our souls seeks our destruction. And, yet, we are not without Hope.

These themes can be labeled as: 1) Compassion Deficits; 2) Behavioral Narcotics; 3) The Two Selves.

Compassion deficits result when compassion and unconditional love are in short supply especially during our early formative years. These deficits can be devastating; not being loved enough damages one’s soul. We somehow keep going, but how do we cope with the pain and emptiness? The answer is that we turn to “behavioral narcotics.” We rely on them as pain relievers for compassion deficits and anesthetics for a lack of unconditional love. For some, the narcotics are actual chemical substances like drugs or alcohol. But for many, the narcotics are not chemical at all but are “patterns and habits of behavior, relating, or coping. These include:

* Habits of workaholism – filling the mind so full of thoughts, dreams, and activities of success that there is little room left to feel pain caused by irrational, underlying feelings of inadequacy.
* Habits of control – constantly striving to maintain control of others, making their will the servants of our own, and binding the hands we secretly fear will strike us.
* Habits of people pleasing – constantly monitoring what others expect from us so that we can avoid the pain of their rejection by minimizing its likelihood, becoming in the process slaves of our servanthood.
* Habits of dependency – always surrendering our will to the will of another (even to God) for reasons of fear and self-diagnosed inadequacy, instead of enjoying the freedom to follow the advice of love.
* Habits of perfectionism – wearing the mask of perfection and rightness to cover inner turmoil and ambiguity.
* Habits of escape – taking emotional vacations from pain through the use of alcohol, drugs, or self-destructive patterns of pain-delaying behavior.

Such behavioral narcotics may temporarily deaden the pain of compassion deficits, but they can’t provide permanent relief because they don’t go to the heart of the problem. As false substitutes, they also keep us from experiencing love and intimacy.

Considering the “two selves,” there are always two “people” within us, and they are battling for occupancy. The false self and the true self vie for the throne of our lives. The false self wants to remain in control. Its antidote for the agony of compassion deficits is always the same: “Turn to behavioral narcotics you are familiar with, and at all costs, stay in control.” The true self, however, desires more. It wants to restore the rightful order and to assume its proper identity. When the true self reigns, love is king. Its rightful reign is the only true solution to compassion deficits and the substance abuse problem of behavioral narcotics.

To numb the pain of compassion deficits and find substitutes for unconditional love, many have fallen into unhealthy behavioral and relational habit patterns. In fact, for so many, these patterns assume a life of their own. When they become compulsive, unmanageable and out of control, we label them as addictions. Experts agree that significant compassion deficits resulting from an unhealthy family life and personal trauma are the root of addiction. During childhood, the needs for intimacy, identity, and adequacy are largely unmet. In fact, adult addicts have been described as “essentially children hiding out in grown-up bodies, hungrily seeking parents to love them unconditionally.”

Out of this addictive root, an addictive mindset develops, revolving around the core beliefs to which addicts usually subscribe:
* I am essentially a bad, worthless person and therefore undeserving of love.
* No one would love me if they really knew me.
* If I don’t meet my needs, they will never get met.

All three of these core beliefs directly contradict the Bible’s revelation of God’s evaluation of us. We are deeply loved by God. When at our worst – hostile, rebellious sinners – God loved us the most. Christ’s death on the cross demonstrates our inestimable worth to God and the extent of his love. And Paul boldly affirms in Philippians 4:19, “My God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

In addition to fostering an addictive mindset, compassion deficits also fuel anger. Behind the addict’s smiling face stands a person who is bitter and judgmental.

Prompted by their core beliefs and fueled by anger over unmet needs, addicts choose to listen to the voice of the false self. No longer do they depend on others to meet their needs, for when they have in the past, they felt powerless and out of control. Instead, they look out for themselves; they seek power and control by taking charge.

Lacking love and intimacy from significant others in their family, addicts turn to substitutes such as drugs, alcohol, spending, gambling, romance, work, food, or relationships to dull the pain and fill the void. At first these substitutes seem to work. They offer “relief” and a pleasurable “high.” They reinforce the lie, “I really don’t need anybody; I can take care of myself. I’m the master of the universe.”

Instead of depending on others or God to meet their needs, addicts learn to depend on their substitutes. Having turned to their substitutes for power and control, eventually they become enslaved to them and, ironically, once again stand powerless and out of control.

When does something that may have functioned as a behavioral narcotic turn into an addiction? The presence of the following characteristics indicates that a behavioral narcotic has become an addiction:

1. Tolerance. Addicts continually need more of the behavioral narcotic to feel satisfied. Their system develops a tolerance for the behavior or substance, thus diminishing its desired effect. Hence it takes more and more to get the pain relief or the pleasure they need.

2. Withdrawal symptoms. When addicts are deprived of their behavioral narcotic, their system responds in two ways. First, there is a physical and emotional stress reaction as the system cries out for the narcotic. Then there is a backlash reaction marked by the exact opposite symptoms of those caused by the addictive behavioral narcotic itself.

3. Self-deceptions. Addicts go to great lengths to justify their behavior and to convince themselves they are still in control. They are masters of mental trickery, adept at denial, rationalization and various other defense mechanisms.

4. Loss of willpower. Despite their firm resolutions, addicts can’t stop the addictive behavior because their will is divided. Although one part sincerely desires to quit, another part tenaciously clings to the addiction. Their determination to quit is always short-lived.

5. Distortion of attention. Addicts become so preoccupied with the object of their addiction, they are unable to fix their attention or love on anything else. The particular object has become their ultimate concern; it is their god. Idolatry is present in every addiction.

The litmus test for whether a person suffers from an addiction is the absence of freedom -when addictive desires and behaviors have become habitual and compulsive, enslaving the addict. Their wills are bound. They cannot stop. Having exchanged the truth for a lie, they have been given over to their addictive thoughts, their lust and desires, and the idolatry of their false gods (Romans 1:25-28).

Powerless – describes the addict best. By turning away from God and others and turning to substitutes for unconditional love, addicts hope to gain power and control over their lives. Yet in the end they are powerless, slaves to the very substitutes they thought would free them.

What does the Cross say to those shackled by the chains of addictions? First, we must admit we are powerless over our addictions. Jesus won victory over sin, death, and the devil by becoming powerless. He overcame not by launching an all-out frontal attack on his adversaries or by beating them at their own game but through the power of suffering love. He chose the way of forgiveness, not retaliation; meekness, not self-assertion. He took everything the powers of evil could throw at him yet remained free, uncontaminated, uncompromised. The devil could gain no hold on him and therefore had to concede defeat. Now the tables have been turned. Death is under His feet; so are the devil and all dark powers. “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive” (Ephesians 4:8).

We will never overcome our addiction until we realize and confess we are powerless. We are not in control; we are not the master of the universe. We can’t quit anytime we please. Our willpower is no match for the power of our addictions. The only power we have is the power to admit we are powerless. Only by confessing our absolute weakness will we find strength to overcome.

Pierre D’Harcourt, who was in the French underground during World War II, discovered this principle of power through powerlessness when he was captured by the Nazis. He was thrown into a prison and handcuffed to the iron frame of the bed. The first hour in his cell was one of the worst in his life. As he lay on his bed feeling utterly alone and hopeless, he turned his face to God and cried out for help.

Beneath everything, beyond everything, I felt myself humiliated and defeated. I knew I must make the gesture of complete humility by offering to God all that I had suffered. I must not only have the courage to accept the suffering He had sent me; I must also thank Him for it, for the opportunity He gave me to find at last His truth and love. Then the inspiration came to me to kiss the chains that held me prisoner, and with much difficulty I at last managed to do this. Once my lips touched the steel I was freed from the terror that possessed me. In the blackness of that night my faith gave me light.

To be set free from the bondage of addiction, we too must discover this liberating principle. Instead of fighting the chains of our addiction, let’s kiss them and acknowledge our powerlessness. We cannot deny or despair over it but must rather embrace it. Our honest acceptance is the first gigantic step on the path to freedom.

Next, in our powerlessness we must cry out to Jesus, for his strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Our powerlessness releases His power. The Lord can break the chains of our addictions. So we must call on Him to deliver us and give Him permission to do anything necessary to set us free.

Finally, in our powerlessness we must reach out to others for help. Make no mistake, achieving freedom from addiction will involve a long, difficult process. To break an addictive behavior cycle alone is a major accomplishment, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. We still must deal with an addictive mindset (the lies we have believed about ourselves) and an addictive root (our wounds and compassion deficits). A determined, personal commitment to change coupled with involvement with others in a recovery program and group support, individual counseling and spiritual disciplines (such as worship, bible study, prayer, meditation, service) are necessary to reach that goal.

My Lord, Jesus, I’m in trouble. I see no way out. I am miserable. I am held totally captive by _________________. It masters me, my life, and all I hold important and dear. It is destroying me and everything of value to me. I don’t understand all the complexity about how I got here, and I can’t honestly see a way to freedom. But, I know that You can somehow lead me to freedom and break the bondage I am in. I admit that I need You so much more than I have ever allowed myself to realize. I admit that I have let _________________ become my god. I am guilty of idolatry. I have turned to it instead of turning to You in the way You require. I admit I want to let go of ______________, and at the same time, I am scared to turn it loose. I can’t even say that I know how to trust You, nor that I really believe You will supply all my needs. But, You are all that I have. You are my only Hope. You offer the only possibility of healing, health, holiness, freedom, and restoration for me. You, Lord, will have to give me the ability to trust you and exercise my faith in You. Make me willing for you to do anything that You know is necessary in my life to break this bondage. With fear and trembling, I do invite you and give you permission to have complete freedom to do whatever You have to do. Help me to trust in Your Goodness to do only what is right and best for me. Help me to even see Your Sovereignty and Wisdom in the way that you have allowed me to suffer with ____________________. Although I hate what I am experiencing, I give You thanks for the way you use even this terrible stuff in my life to make me the person You want me to be. Forgive me! Continue to cleanse me! Heal me! Restore me! Bring me to an end of myself so I can have a new, fresh beginning with You! Thank You, Lord Jesus!

God's Reason For Our Suffering

(Adapted from an article, “Praying Through Problems,” by Stormie Omartian)

There are different reasons that tough times happen, and if we can gain an understanding of the reason for our suffering, it will help us overcome our pain, rise to a place of peace, and see our faith grow in the midst of it.

Sometimes difficult things happen to us so that the glory and power of God can be revealed in and through us. Jesus’ disciples asked Him if a man’s blindness was because the man’s parents had sinned or he had sinned. Jesus replied, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him” (John 9:3 NKJV). We may not be able to understand why certain things happen, and we may never know the whole story until we go to be with the Lord. However, when we turn to God in the midst of these difficult situations, God’s glory will be seen in them.

Sometimes God uses difficult times to purify us. The Bible says, “Since Christ suffered in His body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin” (I Peter 4:1 NIV). Sometimes suffering will burn sin and selfishness out of our lives. God allows suffering to happen so that we will learn to live for Him and not for ourselves-that we will pursue His will and not our own.

Sometimes our misery is caused by God disciplining us. “No chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). The fruit that this godly disciplining and pruning produces in us is worth the trouble we have to go through to get it, even though it doesn’t seem like it at the time. Be careful not to resist it or hate it. “Do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:5-6).

Sometimes we are caught in the middle of the enemy’s work. The enemy would like to make you miserable and destroy your life. Often the reason for the anguish, sorrow, sadness, grief, or pain you feel entirely is Satan’s doing and no fault of your own or anyone else’s. Your comfort is in knowing that as you praise God in the midst of the attack upon you, He will defeat the enemy and bring good out of it that you can’t even fathom.

How do we pray through difficult times?

Regardless of the reason for your difficulty, your prayers will make a positive difference on the outcome. Every day you have another opportunity to affect your future with the words you speak to God. Don’t worry about how many times you feel you are praying the same prayer over and over. God freshly hears your words spoken to Him each time. Your prayer has new life every time you pray it.

Even if you don’t see answers to your prayers right away, each prayer sets something in motion. There is so much happening in the spirit realm that you don’t see. Along with telling God your specific needs, here are some ways to pray that will help you get through the difficult times:

Pray for wisdom. Whenever we don’t make good choices in our lives, there is a price to pay. And we are never more in danger of making wrong decisions than when we are stressed, in pain, or suffering in some way. During those times it’s easy to make a decision born out of desperation, so it’s always good to ask God for wisdom and discernment. And this needs to be an ongoing prayer because too often we have to make quick decisions. On those occasions we don’t have time to seek the will of God. We need to already know it.

Pray for the Holy Spirit’s help. When we’re in the midst of tragedy, loss, devastation, or disappointment, we hurt terribly and find it impossible to think beyond the pain. But we don’t have to go through those difficult times alone, because the Holy Spirit is there to help us. When we turn to Him for help and comfort, we will find it. He will give us revelation and power, the very things we need most when we are struggling.

Pray to have the mind of Christ. The Bible says you “have the mind of Christ” (I Cor. 2:16), and you are to “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5). It also says, “since Christ suffered for you in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin” (I Peter 4:1). If you ask God to help you arm yourself with the mind of Christ, He will enable you to endure the suffering for the glory set before you. In other words, He will help you focus on the good that He will bring out of the situation instead of the misery you are experiencing.

Pray for a greater sense of God’s Presence. In times of suffering, ask God to help you sense His Presence in a stronger way every day. Feeling God’s Presence around you will help you increase your faith and not be overcome with doubt. It will give you strength to stand strong in God’s truth and not be swept away by your emotions or lies of the enemy. It will help you be content in your current situation because He is there. We can come to the place where we don’t have to be afraid of bad news because our heart is steadfast, trusting in Him (Psalm 112:7).

Pray that you will stay in God’s Word and obey it. Nothing is more solid than the Word of God. Even when so incapacitated with life situations, reading or even hearing God’s Word will lift the spirits and provide strength. The Word speaks of God’s promises and gives hope. It will allow you to feel that somehow everything will be all right.

Pray to see the good in the bad. None of us likes pain or uncertainty – we want things the way we want them. But the challenging and miserable times are not without their aspect of good. There are things that happen to us in those times that are as precious as diamonds. It’s during the difficult times that we have the opportunity to experience the Lord’s Presence in a deeper way. When we cling to Him, He will reveal the good things that are right in front of us.

Pray that all your expectations will be in God alone. Disappointment and suffering are inevitable because life can never consistently met our expectations. But when we put our expectations in the Lord and acknowledge that our help comes from Him, it takes the pressure off others to meet our needs. We make a mistake by expecting too much from people, life, and ourselves when our expectations should be in God. It pleases Him when we have faith enough in the midst of our disappointment to put our hope and expectations in Him. Don’t run to bitterness or unforgiveness. Run to your father’s arms instead, so He can hold and sustain you.

Pray that you will forgive others. Often our greatest times of hurt and disappointment occur when someone fails us – or we feel they have. People can hurt us deeply. But our fulfillment and happiness don’t depend on other people – they depend on God. Of course, we rely on other people for certain things, and it’s painful when they let us down. But the ultimate success or joy of our life doesn’t depend on them. We have to forgive and release them and not continue to suffer over what others do or don’t do to us.

Pray that God will help you forgive yourself. It’s devastating when we have failed others. Or we think we have failed when we really haven’t, but we torture ourselves, allowing our regret and condemnation to pound our souls like a giant sledgehammer. It’s a weight we can’t carry and were never meant to. Even when we have to bear the consequences for the wrong choices we’ve made, God is still there to bring good out of it. Even in our greatest depth of failure, God redeems everything when we reach humbly to Him. While it is good to examine our motives, thoughts, and actions, it’s counterproductive to beat ourselves up with a constant battering of, “If only I hadn’t…,” “If I just would have…,” Or “Why didn’t I ….”

Pray that you will not get discouraged. Discouragement can descend on you like a flood. You think you are standing strong, and in a weary moment, you get washed away by discouragement. Even though it may seem like forever as you wait for your difficult time to end, and you feel like you don’t have the strength to withstand any longer, tell yourself that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Phil. 4:13). Declare that you will “rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37:7). Keep in mind that God has been known to do a quick work for which He has been preparing a long time. It could be today!

Regardless of your present situation, know that God has an abundance of blessings for you. He is working powerfully in your life right where you are; don’t stop praying. Close your eyes, call His Name, and sense His Presence. He wants you to trust that when you are afraid, you can turn to Him and find peace. When you are weary, you will find His strength. When you are empty, you will find His fullness. When you are sad, you will find His joy. And when you are in the middle of a raging storm, you will find His shelter and provision. Don’t let yourself be blinded by circumstances, afraid of what’s happening, easily discouraged, drawn toward bitterness, or quick to complain. Instead, look for God in the midst of your circumstances.

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