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Posts tagged ‘emotional pain’

THE SEARCH FOR FREEDOM: Demolishing Strongholds

(Adapted from the The Search for Freedom by Robert McGee)

Strongholds are those things which control us –they are compulsions.  Compulsions are those behaviors that we regret doing, but continue doing.  No matter how negative these behaviors are to us and no matter how we hate them, we still do them.  When we were very young, we developed patterns of responding to two worlds: our inner world and the outer world.  For most of us, the inner world of our thoughts, dreams, feelings, fears, and imagination is even more powerful than the outer world of people, places, and things.  As we move through each world, we encounter pain and pleasure.  Although we gravitate toward that which gives us pleasure, pain is usually a much greater motivator.  This is especially true of emotional pain.  The way we respond to emotional pain creates the most important behavioral patterns we have.  It is, in fact, these patterns that create the core relationship problems in our lives.  I can tell what I really believe by how I respond to life, not what I say I believe.  Here’s how the process usually works:

1) We are born and know little if anything about truth;  2) As we’re growing up, the people around us teach us what life is all about – Who I am, Who to trust, What’s good or bad, What I’m worth, What life and this world is all about…and so forth;  3) The things we are told become a system of beliefs upon which we evaluate all new incoming information accepted or rejected as we compare it with our basic beliefs (i.e., Basic Beliefs vs. New Information); 4) Our definition of “truth” becomes whatever it is that we have been taught, and our beliefs begin to dictate our behavior.  Then, as other people respond to our behavior, their responses tend to reinforce what we believe to be true.

In John 8:32, Jesus says, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  Is it possible to hear truth and not be free?  Sure it is!  It’s not enough to intellectually know truth.  We must know the truth experientially as well.  Intellectual knowledge can become dangerous if it is not put into practice.  Many people think their intellectual knowledge of Scripture makes them more spiritually mature than others.  Yet such people are not always better off for all their so-called knowledge.

God’s Word can be profitable only as the Holy Spirit provides understanding.  Scriptural principles that are learned and applied apart from direct interaction with God may be worthless and perhaps even destructive. But when we include God in the learning process, He helps us know and experience the truth.

God makes it clear that freedom is possible if we only put what we know into practice.  Although strongholds exist and hold power over people, they are problems that can be overcome.

In 2 Cor 10:3-5, God’s promise is:  “Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Contrasted against the ineffective weapons of this world, God’s weapons wield His power.  And because His power is infinitely stronger than the power of the flesh, only His weapons are capable of destroying strongholds.  These strongholds are so named because they are stronger than the flesh.  It takes a higher power to destroy them. The flesh is no match for the power of any spirit – God’s or otherwise.  Strongholds exist because of the influence of ungodly supernatural forces.  They can only be destroyed by God’s Spirit, Who is not only infinitely powerful but also is motivated by love.  God is Truth.  Satan is a liar.  As long as we believe Satan’s deceptions, we will not experience the freedom God intends for our lives.  We will live instead as slaves to the strongholds that are built upon false beliefs.  So many of the false beliefs we suffer from are negative messages we learned as children that continue to control us.  That’s why it is so essential to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor 10:5).  This is a key step.  It is one of those specific truths that must be experienced – not simply absorbed intellectually.  Spiritual maturity means consistently conforming one’s own thought life to the thoughts of God.

THE C.R.O.P. PROCESS – CONFESSION,  REPENTANCE,  OBEDIENCE,  PRAISE

Confession. To confess literally means “to agree with God.”  We need to agree with God that our strongholds are evil.  We need to acknowledge our sinful behavior as a major obstacle on our road to freedom.  True confession of sin is more than agreeing with God about the actuality of sin.  It must go beyond and help us to realize the reality of sin’s destructiveness.  Until we see evil for what it is, we will never understand the full depth of God’s forgiveness.  In addition to helping us see the destructiveness of our sin, confession helps us by revealing the connective ness of our sins.  We may confess the sin of lying, and God may show how the lying is connected to pride or a need to keep everyone pleased with our performance.  Our sins are usually connected to other sins.  If we allow God to show us the connections, we can clear out a network of evil from our lives.

With confession we are dependent on the Holy Spirit to show us: (1) our surface sins, (2) how each sin might be connected to other sins, and (3) the extent of destructive evil in our lives due to our sins.  Attempting to discern these things apart from the Holy Spirit will only lead into morbid introspection and the unveiling of hurts that will not be comforted.  The Holy Spirit knows exactly what and how much we are capable of handing.

Repentance. The concept of repentance is one of “turning back.”  Through repentance we turn from our self-willed approach to life and reestablish a face-to-face relationship with Jesus.  We often think repentance involves promising to do something to become more worthwhile to God.  By focusing on our performance, we miss out on what it really means to be in a relationship. When we truly relate to God, we can do no less than relate to Him as LORD.  We must accept His leadership and lordship in our lives through the Holy Spirit. Some of us find it hard to accept a complete yielding to God, especially those who have lived with great hurt in their lives.

Ironically, the more we need to control this yielding process, the less control we have.  Fear begins to rule because we feel if we lose control something bad will happen to us, something hurtful, so we refuse to yield to anyone – including God.

Trust is a precious commodity.  The Lord challenges us to: “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him”  (Ps 34:8).  Through repentance we “turn back” the control of our lives to God.  He’s the only One capable of handling it without all the hurts and fears that would otherwise result.  Associated with repentance is reliance.  For too much of our lives, we have relied on the patterns of childhood.  We cannot be in a state where we are not reliant on something or someone.  We will rely either on the patterns of our flesh, or the guidance of the Spirit.  Scripture states this clearly in Galatians 5:16 when it says, “Walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh” (NAS).  Unfortunately, we often try to turn from something without turning to the God who can set us free.  Pray for the courage and exercise of faith that only God can give so that you can repent and rely on God.

Obedience. In the step of obedience, we need to turn our attention to God’s power.  By the time we discover strongholds in our lives, we also see that we are incapable of doing away with them using our own power.  If we are to discover what God can do through us, we must learn to respond to Him differently than we have in the past.  If we have failed to respond to Him, or have responded in wrong ways, we need to change how we relate to Him.  If our confession and repentance are genuine, we should see things from God’s perspective.  Obedience shouldn’t seem like an unpleasant alternative.  It’s a change of response that we should be more than willing to undertake.  If we have prepared through true confession and repentance, we have tapped into God’s power to confront the darkness of our souls.  Does this mean our battle against evil is won?  Not by a long shot!  That’s why obedience is such an important step.  Continued obedience results in continued victory.  But it’s easy to revert to our old, self-centered ways. When we seek to take back the control of our lives, we set ourselves up for failure.  Yet God is quick to forgive us when we see the error of our ways and turn back to Him.  When it comes to obedience, we can learn by trying even if we fail.  A far worse mistake is to refuse to change how we respond to God and fall back into the same patterns that have always controlled us.

Praise. We are commanded throughout Scripture to offer praise and give thanks to God.  Probably praise is the highest form of spiritual warfare.  After genuine confession, repentance, and obedience, praise is not optional – it’s automatic.  The first three steps will produce freedom from our strongholds and an overriding sense of freedom in our lives.  As we experience this freedom that only God can provide, our hearts will praise Him.

 

AN EXAMPLE OF HOW THE C R O P PROCESS WORKS  (With Bitterness) –

Confessing Bitterness. We need to pray that God will search our hearts and find anything that might be there which would trace back to bitterness.  As we yield to the illumination of the Holy Spirit, we might recall events we have not thought of in years.  Allow the Holy Spirit to bring the truth to light.  It’s also important not to argue with the Spirit when such things are revealed.  Our first instinct will be to defend our actions.  Often, we give ourselves permission to react in destructive ways – rebellion, drug use, sexual activity, withdrawal, self-will, or passivity.  Things such as these can be connected to bitterness, and we need to deal with each stronghold.  Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how these responses have destroyed or limited your life.  Take your time.  Unless you experience with God what these improper responses have done to your life, you will not be ready to go forward.  When God says you have seen enough and you have confessed these things, then you are ready to go to the next step.

Repenting of Bitterness. Bitterness and its related behaviors are the products of a self-willed life.  The thought of living any other way will be frightening.  You may have heard about, talked about, and sung about the lordship of Christ for most of your life.  But at this stage, when you actually begin to experience it, you may experience a sensation of death within your soul.  You are, in fact, putting to death your old ways of responding to life.  This will feel uncomfortable and frightening at first.  As we repent and turn back toward God, there will be an awesomeness about the experience.  We clearly see who we are only by first seeing clearly who He is.

Obedience as a Replacement for Bitterness. Much of our behavior is not what it should be due to the bitterness we have harbored for so long.  God has shown us the problem areas and we have repented of them by agreeing that they are wrong and seeing the extent of their destructive influence.  But now we have to replace each of those errant behaviors with obedience to God.  In some cases, we already know what we’re supposed to do.  In other instances, however, we might need to continue to search God’s Word and seek His will for how to stop being so bitter.  Again, take your time.  God does not reveal problems without also revealing solutions.  As we begin to conform to His will in the ways we know how, we will begin to see what we need to do in the other areas as well.  It is through obedience that you see God’s complete power over the stronghold of bitterness.

Praise for Victory over Bitterness. The struggle against bitterness has been a long and difficult one, even with God’s help.  It has taken time and energy to see the extent of the effects of bitterness in your life.  It has been painful to repent of each of these things.  Replacing improper behaviors with godly ones has taken a lot of effort as well.  When you experience release from the devastating weight of bitterness, joy will fill your soul.  Praise will flow from your lips.  This newfound feeling of freedom will affect everything you do.  You don’t have to understand it.  You can’t understand it.  Just enjoy it and appreciate it.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7).

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER –

Going through the C.R.O.P. process will be difficult at first.  But as you begin to use the steps of Confession, Repentance, Obedience, and Praise on a regular basis, the process won’t seem nearly as cumbersome.  Since you are following the same pattern, you’ll quickly become accustomed to going through the steps.  When handled correctly, these steps are weapons.  No stronghold – not even Satan himself – can stand against them.  Strongholds can only be formed when you let a problem go unattended for a long period of time.  When you were younger, you didn’t know any better.  Your strongholds took advantage of your childhood patterns, your fears, and your desire to avoid pain at any price.  Now that you can see things a bit more clearly, you can eliminate those strongholds.  They will try to come back.  However, you will have destroyed the power of Satan in those stronghold areas.  So as long as you continue to draw on God’s power to face down your strongholds, they should never regain control.

AVOIDING COMMON FAILURES AND SETBACKS –

“I’ve tried this before, and it didn’t work for me.”

Some people don’t give it a chance.  These doubts are what Scripture calls “fiery darts” or “flaming arrows” (Eph 6:16, NAS).  Go back through the process and see where you may have gone about it in an ineffective manner.

“My case is worse than other people’s.  God can’t fix me.”

This excuse limits God’s power.  You will remain in bondage if you think God is not strong enough or willing enough to set you free.

I’m afraid.  What happens if I try and fail?”

Many people continue to do nothing because they fear the solution won’t work.  What do you have to lose?  It’s as if one has lost most hope of getting well and isn’t willing to risk the little that remains.  As long as you do nothing, you can hope your problem will go away by itself.  The thinking is if I try something else and fail, the little hope I have will be lost.  However, without overcoming this passivity by taking some kind of action in God’s power, the problem will never go away.  Indeed, it will only get stronger and harder to deal with.  If we direct the little bit of faith we have toward God, He will provide us with “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20).

“I don’t want the responsibility of freedom.”

While some people are afraid of seeking freedom and not succeeding, others are reluctant to risk freedom because they fear they will succeed.  They realize their strongholds are a prison, yet they’ve learned to cope with them.  They now know their way around. The pain is intense, but they are managing it…so far, at lease.  They may even realize that it’s a fairly sick way to operate, but it’s gotten them this far, hasn’t it?  It scares them to consider change.  If they become free of this stronghold, what will happen? The thought of freedom is just too scary.

“I gave it a shot, but forget it.  I quit!”

Some people simply quit too soon.  The pain generated by trying to break free seems too much for them.  Jut when they get to a breakthrough point, they give up.  Quitting before acquiring freedom makes it very difficult for a person to attempt the C.R.O.P. process again.  Patience and perseverance are required to get all the way through.

Don’t Hide Your Hurt, Heal Your Marriage

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Mark Merrill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anger, Pain and Depression

SOURCE: Nando Pelusi, Ph.D./Psychology Today

Anger, pain and depression are sometimes perceived as one big emotion, but when you don’t distinguish between them, they could end up fueling each other.

Anger, pain and depression are three negative experiences so closely bound together it can sometimes be hard to know where one ends and the other begins. Pain is a complex phenomenon that has emotional and physical components. The emotions play a huge role in the experience of pain, and pain is intimately associated with depression. It’s long been known that the psychic pain of depression feeds anger. But just as often, anger fuels depression.

A powerful emotion physiologically and emotionally, anger often feels good—but only for the moment. It can be a motivating force that moves you to action. But there are good actions and bad ones; it’s vital to distinguish between the two.

Many people confuse anger and hostility. Anger is a response to a situation that presents some threat. Hostility is a more enduring characteristic, a predisposition, a personality trait reflecting a readiness to express anger.

Anger is usually anything but subtle. It has potent physiological effects. You feel it in your chest. You feel it in your head. You feel it coursing through your body.

Nevertheless, anger can be insidious. Anger confers an immediate sense of purpose; it’s a shortcut to motivation. And if there’s something depressed people need, it’s motivation. But anger creates a cycle of rage and defeatism.

When you feel anger, it provides the impulse to pass the pain along to others. The boss chews you out, you then snap at everyone in your path. Anger, however, can eventually lead you into self-pity, because you can’t slough off the self-hurt.

Anger is classically a way of passing psychic pain on to others. The two-step: You feel hurt, “poor me,” “I hate you.” It’s a way of making others pay for your emotional deficits. It is wise to change that tendency. Whether or not anger fuels depression, it isn’t good for the enjoyment of life.

Here are ways to keep anger from feeding your depression.

  • First, of course, is to identify anger and to acknowledge it. Anger is one of those emotions whose expression is sometimes subject to taboos so that people can grow up unable to recognize it; they feel its physical discomfort but can’t label it.
  • Build a lexicon for your internal states. If you have a word for your emotional state, then you can begin to deal with it. Feelings are fluid; you need to stop and capture them in a word, or else you lose them and don’t know you have them. A label improves your ability to understand your feelings.
  • View your anger as a signal. It is not something to be escaped. It is not something to be suppressed. It is something to be accepted as a sign that some deeper threat has occurred that needs your attention.
  • Make yourself aware of the purpose your anger serves. Be sure to distinguish purpose from passion. Things that have a positive purpose seek betterment, growth, love, enhancement, fulfillment. Things that have a negative purpose are motivated by a sense of deficiency. Your boss yells at you, you feel diminished; the anger you express at others is driven by the blow you’ve just received. Are you enraged about an inequity or unfairness?In order to identify your motivation, you need to look within. It’s a matter of becoming psychological-minded and engaging in introspection. Tune into the inner dialogue that you customarily have with yourself.
  • If your anger is deficiency-motivated, driven by a wish to rectify a wrong you believe done to you, work on acceptance. Give up your obsession about the wrong. See that the opposite of anger is not passivity but more functional assertiveness.
  • Uproot mistaken beliefs that underlie your response. Very often anger is the result of beliefs that lead you to place unreasonable demands on circumstances, such as, that life must be fair. Unfairness exists. The belief that you are entitled to fairness results from the mistaken idea that you are special. If you feel that you are special, you will certainly find lots to be angry about, because the universe is indifferent to us.Insisting that life must be fair is not only irrational, it will cause you to collect injustices done to your noble self. Even if you are experiencing nothing more than your fair share of unfairness, such a belief can still fuel rage and lead to depression.Those who hold the deep belief that life should always be fair cannot abide when it is unfair. That leads directly to rage that is totally inert, because they believe there is nothing that they can do about the unfairness. They feel helpless and hopeless—in other words, depressed. Self-pity is another description of the same phenomenon.
  • Notice your own complaining. Listen for both overt and covert complaining. Overt complaining hassles others. It’s really a manipulative strategy. Know when it’s becoming a downer and a barrier to a strategy of effectiveness—like complaining about a fly in your soup. Covert complaining hassles you; it drags you down into passivity and inertia. Once you notice it, determine to give it up.
  • Once you can accept that life sometimes is unfair, then you can pursue positive purpose. You can work constructively against injustices you find, transforming your anger into passion. Or you can pursue fulfillment in spite of the unfairness that exists.

Suffering From REJECTION ?

SOURCE:  Excerpted from Rejection by June Hunt

Favoritism can be extremely painful.

Children catch on quickly when there is a “favorite” in the family. The favored child often comes late in life—late like young Joseph in the Bible, the beloved son of Jacob. In his heart, the father not only favors Joseph over his ten brothers, but also flaunts his favoritism by giving Joseph the infamous “coat of many colors”—a coat Jacob himself has made! Meanwhile, the older brothers seethe with anger at the sight of this richly ornamented robe, which has now become a symbol of their father’s painful rejection. Little did Jacob know that his own favoritism would be the breeding ground for jealousy—the spark that would create a climate of hurt, hostility, and lasting hatred.

“Now Israel [Jacob] loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.” (Genesis 37:3–4)

WHAT IS Rejection?
Have you ever wondered, What was the very first rejection on earth? The first rejection is recorded in the first book of the Bible. God gives Adam and Eve everything they will ever need. He also gives one warning, “Don’t eat from that one tree.” And what do they do? They eat from that one tree! Their direct defiance means that they reject not just God’s Word, but also God Himself (Genesis 2:15–17; 3:6).

• Rejection is the act of refusing to accept or consider a person or thing that is not wanted or not approved.1

▆ When you experience rejection, you feel unloved, unwanted, unacceptable.
▆ The Greek verb apodokimazo means “to reject as the result of examination and disapproval.”2 (apo = away from, dokimazo = to approve)
▆ Jesus felt the pain of rejection. The Bible refers to Christ as the “Cornerstone”—the vital, the most essential stone of a major structure—yet He was the cornerstone (or capstone) the builders rejected.

“The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.” (Matthew 21:42)

• To be rejected is to be cast aside, cast off, cast away—to be thrown away as having no value.3

▆ When you are rejected, you can feel useless, abandoned, worthless.
▆ The Greek verb atheteo means “to do away with, to set aside, to cast or throw away as useless or unsatisfactory.”4
▆ Jesus challenged the Pharisees and teachers of the law because they were rejecting the laws of God.

“You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!” (Mark 7:9)

• To reject someone means to despise, refuse, shun, turn away from.5

▆ If you reject others, you use your attitudes and actions to reveal the condition of your heart.
▆ The Hebrew word maas means “to reject, refuse, despise.”6
▆ Because God has given each of us free will, we may choose to reject the Word of God and even God Himself.

“The wise will be put to shame; they will be dismayed and trapped. Since they have rejected the word of the LORD, what kind of wisdom do they have?” (Jeremiah 8:9)

QUESTION: “My father died six years ago, but I’m still having trouble dealing with the anger I’ve had toward him. He was partial to my brother, but treated my sister, my mother, and me like second-class citizens. I tried to please him with my achievements, but we never communicated and he never recognized my accomplishments. How can I stop being so controlled by my anger?”

ANSWER: Anger has four sources: hurt, fear, frustration, and injustice. The anger you describe comes from at least three of the four. The rejection you experienced is very hurtful. Seeking to please him and never achieving recognition is extremely frustrating, and being treated in a negative way simply because you are a female is most unjust. The truth is that his treatment of you had nothing to do with you, but everything to do with him. He was the one in the wrong. His inadequacies let you down. Recognize this truth and turn loose of your expectations regarding him. Admit that your father was unable to be loving and accept him simply for being your father. Choose to forgive and release him to God so that your anger does not produce bitterness in your own heart.

“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Hebrews 12:15).

WHAT IS Acceptance?
Joseph understood rejection. Although he was his father’s favorite son, Joseph was betrayed by his brothers. Imagine Joseph as a teenager—he suddenly finds himself jerked out of his comfortable home, only to be carted off to a foreign country to live as a stranger, to live as a slave! The grief of losing his family must have been frightening.

Still, Joseph accepted the will of God in his life, which enabled him to accept the sovereignty of God over his life. In spite of one betrayal after another, Joseph refused to become bitter. Instead, he accepted his circumstances by humbly entrusting himself to God.

As years passed, Joseph rose to a position of highest respect and power. When his brothers journeyed to Egypt in search of grain, they found themselves at the mercy of Joseph. Immediately, he knew who they were—but they didn’t know who he was!

Did he take revenge and refuse to give them grain? Did he send them off with grain, but not acknowledge them as brothers? Did he extend his hand of help, but insist they bow before him?

No. Joseph refused resentment—he accepted his brothers despite their past betrayal. By inviting them to become part of his life once again, they knew his acceptance was not merely conditional, but rather unconditional. And, in truth, his acceptance was possible only because of the condition of his heart—his heart of true forgiveness, which allowed him to focus on the future, and his heart of true commitment, which enabled him to let the past stay in the past. (Read Genesis 37:12–29 and chapters 41–45.)

• To accept someone means to approve or to receive that one favorably or willingly.7 We should receive and value others because of their God-given worth.

▆ Your acceptance of others is based on the disposition of your heart, which, in turn, is expressed through your attitude and actions.
▆ The Greek word proslambano means “to accept, receive, welcome.”8
▆ Jesus Christ provides the supreme example of acceptance. The Bible says we are to accept others the same way Christ accepts us.

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” (Romans 15:7)

WHAT ARE Three Levels of Acceptance?
When we reject someone, if we look closely, we may find that we are repeating the same rejection that we ourselves have received. The same is true of those who have learned to be accepting of others. Typically, we give what has been given to us. However, your past rejection need not determine your future. You can grow in your ability to become more and more accepting—even when you yourself have been rejected. The Bible says …
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” (Isaiah 43:18)

The Three Levels of Acceptance9

1 Zero Acceptance

• “No matter what I do, I’ll never be accepted.”
The person who totally rejects you harbors deep hurt and bitterness and extends no grace and mercy. But the Bible says …
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31–32)

2 Performance-based Acceptance

• “I feel accepted only when I perform perfectly.”
The person who accepts you based only on how you act demands, “You must meet my requirements,” and rarely offers grace and mercy. But the Bible says …
“Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (James 2:13)

3 Unconditional Acceptance

• “No matter what I do, even when I fail, I always feel accepted.”
The person who accepts you—especially when you fail—lives with a heart of grace and mercy and reflects the heart of God. The Bible says …
“Show mercy and compassion to one another.” (Zechariah 7:9)

QUESTION: “Can an authentic Christian be rejected by God?”

ANSWER: No. Based on various verses in the Bible, an authentic Christian who has truly trusted in Christ will still sin but will never be rejected by God. If you find yourself fearful of being forsaken by God, claim the following truth from God’s unchanging Word:
“For the LORD will not reject his people; he will never forsake his inheritance.” (Psalm 94:14)

CHARACTERISTICS OF THOSE FEELING REJECTED10
The teenage years can be replete with life’s most painful rejections. Because of severe insecurity, young people crave acceptance from others and often overreact to any rejection.
By age seventeen, Joseph felt the sting of rejection from his older brothers. But, in truth, Joseph played a part in causing his brothers’ jealousy. Although God had given Joseph a special ability to interpret dreams, Joseph unwisely disclosed a certain dream to his older brothers which implied that one day they would all bow down to him. Speaking these words was not smart on Joseph’s part!

“Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, ‘Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.’” (Genesis 37:5–7)

How insulting! How impertinent! How arrogant! Resenting the implication that Joseph would “lord” over them, his brothers continued to be filled with an animosity that eventually reached a boiling point. These brothers, who felt such intense rejection, in turn took revenge and made sure that Joseph would pay dearly. Joseph’s brothers did not realize that although some say, “Revenge is sweet,” it can also leave a bitter aftertaste. That is why the Bible says …
“See to it that … no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:15)

ARE YOU Controlled by the Fear of Rejection?
If your sense of self-worth is based on the approval of others, you are on a runaway roller coaster with no ability to control when you are up or down. Your feeling of value is at the mercy of what others think about you. Your sense of identity is determined by how others respond to you. To get off this uncontrollable roller coaster and conquer your fear of rejection, allow the Lord to control your life. He created you and established your worth when He made you in His image. As you put your trust in Him, He will turn your fear into faith because …
“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” (Proverbs 29:25)

Messages of One Who Is Addicted to the Approval of Others
If you think you may be living for the approval of others, honestly evaluate the following statements to see if they reflect your self-talk.

• “I am not good enough.”
• “I have to try harder.”
• “I have to earn your love.”
• “I have to be perfect.”
• “I can never please you.”
• “I always feel stupid.”
• “I am always the one at fault.”
• “I am not acceptable in the eyes of others.”
• “I know that what I think isn’t important.”
• “I know there is nothing likeable about me.”
• “I don’t deserve to be loved.”
• “I don’t feel anyone could really love me.”
• “I don’t feel that God could ever love me.”

Even though you may think these thoughts are true about yourself, they don’t reflect God’s truth. The Bible says …
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

The Fear of Rejection Test11

If we feel controlled by the fear of rejection, then our focus will be on being “people pleasers.” However, we need to say what the apostle Paul said:
“We are not trying to please men but God.” (1 Thessalonians 2:4)

If you are uncertain whether or not you are living for the approval of others, answer the following questions honestly to see if you live with the fear of rejection.

• Do you avoid certain people out of fear that they will reject you?
• Do you become anxious when you think someone might not accept you?
• Do you feel awkward around others who are different from you?
• Do you feel disturbed when someone is not friendly toward you?
• Do you work hard at trying to determine what people think of you?
• Do you become depressed when others are critical of you?
• Do you consider yourself basically shy and unsociable around others?
• Do you try to see the negative in others?
• Do you find yourself trying to impress others?
• Do you repeat negative messages about yourself to yourself?
• Do you look for clues as to how others are responding to you in order to avoid the pain of rejection?
• Do you say “Yes” when you should say “No” to others?
• Do you expect others to respond to situations and conversations in the same way you would?
• Do you hear people saying that you are a “codependent person”?
• Do you experience hypersensitivity to the opinions of others but insensitivity to your own emotions?
• Do you often feel overly controlled by others?
• Do you struggle with anger and resentment toward others?
• Do you seem to be easily manipulated by others?

If you conclude that you have been controlled by the fear of rejection and you have lived for the approval of others, take this verse to heart:
“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)

WHAT ARE Inner Symptoms of Rejection?12

What are the ramifications of rejection? Perhaps you’ve been unaware of its subtle impact on your soul (your mind, will, and emotions). One obvious assault that rejection makes on your soul is an altering of your own self-perception and the inevitable insecurities that seem to arise out of nowhere when someone painfully turns away from you. That rejection can sear the deepest part of your soul and at the same time “mess with” your mind, taint your thoughts, and make you question your ability to function normally. But God, who knows every rejection you will ever encounter, never planned for you to be emotionally or spiritually disabled. Although you will be rejected, the Bible says …
“God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)

The following are many of the classic symptoms of those who have been rejected in the past and as a result have a fear of future rejection.

• Ambivalence—“I have difficulty making decisions— if I make the wrong decision, I could be rejected.”
• Anxiety—“I have real apprehension when someone says, ‘Trust me.’”
• Bitterness—“I harbor bitterness toward those who rejected me and toward God, who allowed it to happen.”
• Depression—“My heart feels so heavy. The pain has pushed me down.”
• Distrust—“I can’t really trust others not to desert me.”
• Escapism—“Life hurts. I just need to numb the pain.”
• Fear—“I live in fear of being rejected again.”
• Flat emotions—“My heart is so deeply hurt that I can’t seem to feel excited about anything.”
• Guilt/false guilt—“I feel so bad about myself. No wonder I was rejected.”
• Inability to accept love—“Even if others say that they love me, I know it’s not true.”
• Inferiority—“I know I’ll never measure up!”
• Insensitivity—“I can’t feel for others who are in pain.”
• Introspective—“I’ve got to keep analyzing what’s wrong with me.”
• Low self-worth—“I know I’m not worthy of being accepted.”
• Resignation—“Whatever will be, will be, so why try?”
• Self-condemnation—“I feel terrible. I know I’m to blame whenever I’m rejected.”
• Self-pity—“I’m always ignored. No one reaches out to me.”
• Self-rejection—“I wish I’d never been born!”
• Withdrawal—“I’m not willing to be vulnerable again.”
• Worry—“I’m afraid I’ll be scarred for life.”

WHAT ARE Outer Signs of Rejection?13

The unseen pain of rejection can sabotage your soul and shatter your spirit; however, the outer signs of rejection are easily seen and even felt by others. When someone special walks out of your life, the joy of living is snuffed out like having a wet towel thrown on a lit candle. The darkness of desertion can discolor your perception of others and do untold damage to your relationships. The saddest part of it all is that rejection breeds rejection!
In truth, no one can avoid being rejected or treated unjustly at times. However, when you remember that your identity is in the Lord, because of your relationship with Him—not in your having been rejected by others—you will experience the truth that you, like Paul, can be …
“ … hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8–9)

Many of the outer signs of rejection are:

• Abuse—Mistreating others and even yourself
• Addiction—Seeking solace in addictive behavior in an effort to numb your pain.
• Anger—Feeling bitterness toward others and even toward God
• Apathy—Giving up on life—not caring about anything
• Arrogance—Acting superior to others
• Competitive—Assuming, I have to be the best
• Critical spirit—Being condescending toward others
• Defensive—Arguing with others for self-protection
• Dominant—Controlling others and situations to an excess
• Exaggeration—Bragging to impress others
• Hatred—Loathing (primarily directed toward yourself)
• Isolation—Becoming a loner as a means of self-protection
• Jealousy—Resenting suggestions and successes of others
• Legalism—Complying with rigid rules based on black-and-white thinking
• People pleasing—Trying too hard to please others
• Perfectionism—Feeling like a failure unless you do everything perfectly
• Performance-based acceptance—Believing your acceptance is based only on how well you perform
• Rebellion—Resisting the authority of others
• Subservient—Cowering in the presence of others
• Undisciplined—Lacking self-control and boundaries around others
• Vengeful—Getting even with others

WHAT ARE Thoughts, Feelings, and Vows?14
When you experienced painful rejection in the past, do you remember rehearsing repeated thoughts, feelings, and perhaps even “vows”? Unfortunately, these repetitious thoughts (I’m not accepted) and emotions (I feel unwanted) lead to an illogical conclusion (I vow that no one will hurt me again).
How we live our lives is based on what we believe. Therefore, if we believe we are rejected, we will live a life of rejection in our minds, our hearts, and our emotions, even when we are not outwardly rejected by others.

• Repeated Thoughts:

▆ “No one loves me.”
▆ “No one cares about me.”
▆ “I don’t really matter.”
▆ “I’m not good enough.”
▆ “I don’t fit in.”
▆ “I’m not accepted.”

• Repeated Feelings:

▆ “I feel empty inside.”
▆ “I feel all alone.”
▆ “I feel insignificant.”
▆ “I feel like I’m not worth anything.”
▆ “I feel unwanted.”
▆ “I feel excluded.”

• Repeated Vows:

▆ “I’m not going to get close to anyone again.”
▆ “I’m not going to let anyone be important to me again.”
▆ “No one will ever hurt me again.”

This progression demonstrates the importance of taking your thoughts captive, training your mind, telling yourself the truth. You are accepted by God; therefore, allow Him to heal your heart from the pain of the past. If you will cancel the vows that are contrary to God’s Word, you will experience perfect peace in your life.

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

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

Forgiving the One Who Hurt Me

SOURCE:  Living Free

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” 

Ephesians 4:32 NIV

If you are divorced or have recently experienced a broken engagement or separation, you probably are having painful feelings of rejection.

The sense of loss felt in these situations can be overwhelming. You thought you were secure and now you suddenly find yourself on your own. You might even have children to care for and inadequate resources of time and money.

Even though you have been rejected by someone very close to you, your attitude toward that rejection is your choice. You may choose to allow the pain of rejection to dominate and define the rest of your life, causing bitterness, depression and self-pity. Or you may choose to forgive the one who has hurt you, to accept your singleness—at least until God leads you in a different direction—and to move on with your life … making the most of each day.

Even with positive choices, the pain won’t immediately disappear—but it will begin to heal. The time and money challenges will still be there, but you will be able to start dealing with them.

We live in a society of “quick fixes,” but recovering from this kind of hurt is a process. Learn to take one step at a time, trusting God to strengthen you and allowing him to love you.

Father, help me to forgive. You have forgiven me of so much, even though I didn’t deserve it. Help me to forgive and to begin rebuilding my life. I know I can only do that with your strength, your love and your guidance. Thank you for freely giving me all this and more. In Jesus’ name …

7 Suggestions for Processing Pain

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

What’s a great way to process (emotional) pain?

Here are 7 biblical ways:

Expect God to use pain for good – Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28

Use it to comfort others with similar pain – 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Reconsider your perspective on the pain – Romans 8:18

Receive the honor of suffering pain – Philippians 1:29

Accept the normality of pain – 1 Peter 4:12

Celebrate His sufficiency during pain -2 Corinthians 12:8-9

Look for the reward in suffering through pain – 2 Timothy 4:7-8

How we respond to emotional pain is a choice we make.

The promises of God are real, even during our times of suffering. In the earliest days of any trial, we may not see any of these truths at work. That’s okay. We are frail people. The key is as we move forward, what we do with the pain in the days to come. Painful times are not going away in this earthly life. Jesus told us that. Learning to rest in Him is part of maturing as followers of Christ.

Suffering reminds us that His grace is sufficient for all our pain. In fact, though I don’t completely understand it, His power is perfect in our weakness, but only when I surrender the pain to Him.

We are not intended to handle pain alone. Thankfully, by His grace, we don’t have to.

Are you learning to “cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you”?

Hide the Pain, Suffer Longer

SOURCE: Adapted from  Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 126:3

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

Romans 8:1

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

1 Peter 5:6-10

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

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