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Posts tagged ‘hopefulness’

When There Is No Hope, There Is HOPE!

SOURCE:  Living Free

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'”

(Jeremiah 29:11 NLT)

Dealing with the consequences of a loved one’s problem creates a mounting pressure within us. We want to take charge and fix things – but we can’t. This kind of pressure leads to overload. And what does an electrical circuit do when it is overloaded?

It burns out, creates a hazard, blows a fuse, or starts a fire.

Like circuits, we also burn out with overload. We can’t function. We can even be a danger to ourselves and to others. Our health can suffer.

How about you? Do you see any of these overload signs in yourself? You may be tempted to hold in the pressures, the stress, and the pain – but if you do, the overload can do some serious harm in your life.

The feelings of pressure are real and can seem overwhelming, but never believe the lie that your situation is hopeless. In the middle of the pain and frustration, you need to believe there is hope

We are not talking about the kind of hope that halfheartedly says, “I hope things start looking up,” or “We can only hope for the best.” We are talking about the kind of hope described as confident expectation of something good. Hope based on your knowledge of God and His willingness to meet you right where you are. He loves you. He cares. And He is ready to work in you and in your difficult circumstances.

Meditate on the above scripture. God has a plan for you – a plan for your good. His plan will not harm you. He wants you to have hope and look confidently toward the future.

Are you ready to lean on him? To trust him? With him, you can have real hope.

Father, I haven’t been able to see anything but this problem. It has consumed me and destroyed my hope and my joy. But now I am reminded you are still with me. You want to help, and you are more than able. Help me shift my focus to you. To your power, your love, and your good plan for me . . . and for my loved one. In Jesus’ name . . .

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These thoughts were drawn from …

Close—But Not Too Close by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee.

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Death: Shall We Weep or Rejoice? (or both?)

SOURCE:  John Piper

When a Christian dies, shall those of us who remain weep or rejoice?

The biblical answer is both, even simultaneously.

I saw this in a new place as I was memorizing my way through Philippians again. I had never noticed before the emotional contrast between Philippians 2:17–18 and 2:27.

An Invitation to Rejoice

In Philippians 2:17–18, Paul is describing the possibility of his own death as “drink offering on the sacrificial offering” of their faith. He is willing to die in the service of strengthening and purifying their faith.

Then he says, if that happens, “I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me” (verse 18). Not only does he rejoice at the prospect of his own death, but he tells them to rejoice with him.

He already told them why he rejoices at the prospect of his death: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Philippians 1:23). Presumably, that is why he thinks they should rejoice also. They love Paul. So when Paul is “with Christ” that will be “far better.”

Jesus spoke this same way to his disciples: “If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I” (John 14:28). The Father in splendor is greater than the Son in suffering. What a liberation was coming when the Son’s work here is done and he returns to the Father’s glory! So, he says, if you love me, rejoice at my departure.

Experiencing Intense Sorrow

But that is not the whole story. Ten verses later in Philippians 2 Paul praises Epaphroditus because “he nearly died for the work of Christ” (verse 30). But then he did not die. And Paul is glad. Here’s what he says: “Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow” (verse 27).

God had mercy on Paul, lest he should have sorrow upon sorrow. In other words, he did not let Epaphroditus die so that Paul would not have that grief on top of all his other burdens.

So when Paul said, “Rejoice with me,” at the prospect of his own death (Philippians 2:18), that was not the whole emotional story. Paul would have experienced “grief upon grief” if Epaphroditus had died. And this is not because Epaphroditus was unprepared to die. He was as ready as Paul: “Honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ” (2:30).

The Complex Harmony

What should we conclude from this?

We should conclude that our sorrows at the death of a believer are joyful sorrows, and our rejoicing at the death of a believer is a sorrowful rejoicing. There is nothing hopeless about the sorrow. And there is nothing flippant about the joy. The joy hurts. And the sorrow is softened with invincible hope.

This is why one of the most common watchwords of the Christian life is “sorrowful yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10). Sorrow and joy are not merely sequential. They are simultaneous. This is not emotional schizophrenia. This is the complex harmony of the Christian soul.

Therefore, when a Christian dies, don’t begrudge the tears. And don’t belittle the joy in the lover’s eyes.

Do you want to be healed?

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)

[John 5:1-9]

38 years in a bed.

Next to a pool.

Sounds relaxing doesn’t it?

But as we read on, the story says the man was alone and horribly crippled. Probably twisted feet, pencil thin legs and atrophied muscles barely covered by a thin blanket. Why? Because this was the pool of Bethesda near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem. There was something miraculous about this pool. Periodically the water stirred, and the first one into it was instantly healed.

Suddenly a commotion just inside the gate caused everyone to turn and look. A Man, followed by a large crowd, walked through one of five alcoves. With humble determination, He moved to the crippled man’s side. Whispers fill the air. “Is it Him?” some ask.

Every ear strains to hear what He might say as He kneels tenderly next to the man. And then, with a quiet strong voice full of power and grace, He asked, “Do you want to be healed?”

The broken man feebly hangs his head and utters an interesting reply, “Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.” His answer only goes to affirm the depths of his hopelessness. Not “yes” or even “no”. Just discouragement and despair…

Even more interesting is the edict He gives in response. “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off. (John 5:1-9 MSG)

Jesus asked him — Do you want to be healed?

Each of us, at some point in our lives, have heard Him ask us the same question. Whether it’s physically… emotionally… relationally… or spiritually.

Too often, we answer with the same timidity he did. Our pain is too deep. The hurt has been lodged in our heart for way too long. The doctors have tried everything. Hopelessness fills our souls…

When you really think about it, healing starts with a choice. And it is always for His glory.

Meditate on these words. Treasure them up and ponder them in your heart:

“But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5 ESV)

“O LORD, my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.” (Psalm 30:2 ESV)

“Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise.” (Jeremiah 17:14 ESV)

“And many followed Him. And He healed them all.” (Matthew 12:15 ESV)

“He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24 ESV)

“Do you want to be healed?”

The next time He asks you that heartfelt question, reflect on these verses before you answer.

And yes, He is always waiting and willing to turn our lives around.

10 Words to RECOVER from a Broken Dream

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

Have you ever lost your way?  Are there any dreams you’ve given up on? Would you like to begin again?

Here are 10 words of hope to help you recover from a broken dream:

Recharge – Recharge your drained batteries. Read a good book, hang out with someone positive, or attend a conference. Find the way you gain energy.

Rest – Struggles drain us personally. Sometimes we can’t continue until we have an extended period of downtime. You may need a sabbatical.

Reward – Reward yourself for small achievements. You may just need one win to spur you to greater things.

Re-energize – As strange as it sounds, I find exercising to be helpful when I need more energy.

Resist – Push through the pain and resist the temptation to quit. You’ll be surprised how resilient you are if quitting is not an option.

Renew – Renew your passion for the vision you once believed in. It could be the vision of the person you intend to be.

Restart – Invite some change, begin something new or try a different approach. It’s okay to do something completely new!

Reclaim – You had a dream. You believed in it. It had potential. Perhaps you simply need to reclaim what you already had.

Rejoice – Sometimes you need to throw a party…even before you realize the victory. A celebration may give you the motivation to try again.

Remind – People follow a leader. Remind others of their role in achieving their individual dream. Spurring another to victory will energize you.

Here’s the plan:

  • Pick the one of these you feel you need the most, write it on an index card, then place it somewhere you’ll see often.
  • Invite a friend to hold you accountable.
  • Share your story with others in an effort to help another recover.

It’s time. Move forward.

Loss Is Real, But So Is Jesus

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by  Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

Loss Is Your Door to His Stability

When we are children, the reality of loss is a lesson taught and learned very quickly. Missing a meal, seeing the needs of others met before our own, watching a mother’s attention focus on a newborn sibling, losing a beloved toy, losing at games, loss through parent’s divorce or job relocation, death of a close family member, or death of a pet. Perhaps the worst to absorb is the loss of innocence through abuse or extreme life circumstances.

Life is filled with many kinds of loss. And regardless of the cause, one thing is certain: all loss hurts. We recover quickly from some losses. But others take months or even years to absorb and process. Certain losses are temporary while others are permanent.

Nowadays, many people are facing the loss of their jobs because so many businesses are closing or downsizing. This kind of loss can be devastating to anyone, but especially to the breadwinner of a family. Even losing a second job may represent a threat to survival, credibility, identity, or stability for our spouse or kids.

Job loss can produce many emotions, but fear is usually at the root of any uncomfortable response. Will I lose my home? My child is leaving for college this fall—will I have to break the news that it will be impossible? We have built up credit card debt trying to keep our heads above water … what now? Who will respect me? Will our marriage survive this pressure? Will she still love me? Do I still have worth and value to anyone?

These concerns are very real and can seem extremely threatening. If we keep our eyes on the waves of hardship, we will sink into despair and hopelessness. This is the time when it is difficult … but also imperative … to focus on Jesus, not on the problems. This is the time to remember that He, not that job, is our source of value, peace, security, comfort, redemption, and abundance.

We may go through some real challenges. We may have to tighten our belts and make some sacrifices. These struggles are not easy, but with Jesus, we have hope, and more importantly, a powerful peace. Our jobs may be gone and the economy may be falling apart, but God has not changed. Step back from the hardship and see your life from God’s perspective. If you think He has abandoned or persecuted you, think again. It is because of His mercy and loving-kindness that we are not already obliterated by the adversity.

Today, dig into the areas where you struggle or have experienced some recent hardship. What is the fear at the bottom of the issue? Infuse Jesus’ teachings into your fear, let Him bring healing and comfort to your pain. Then re-evaluate your struggle through these new lenses. Remember, great and abundant are His stability and faithfulness in all things. How you handle loss is your decision, so choose well.

My Father and Lord, This economy and my finances have left me feeling angry and fearful. Help me to regroup … to remember that You are here, that You love me and my family, and that You have a plan. Help me remember that this economy, my recent loss, or any other adversity have not taken You by surprise … and that You have already made a way for me. Thank You that Your compassion never fails and that Your stability and faithfulness are abundant. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the One who provides my stability, Jesus Christ; – AMEN!

The Truth
It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness.  

Lamentations 3:22-23

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10:10

When The Path Is Darkest

SOURCE:  Octavius Winslow

SLOUGH OF DESPOND

The causes from where mental suffering arises are many. With some of the Lord’s people the origin is hereditary, with others it is natural, and with yet more it is religious. But, from whatever it may arise, mental suffering in some form is the discipline appointed by God for many of His people. Think not that your case is singular, or that you are an especial object of your Father’s displeasure, because he has so afflicted you.

I will not pause to inquire the cause of your mental depression; it is enough for my purpose in penning these remarks to know that yours is a mind depressed, needing a gentle, yes, a Divinely healing touch.

He who created your mind, who has hitherto proved its Sustainer, knows the cloud that veils it, the tumult that agitates it, the imaginations that play around it like hideous spectres- all is known to God!

And do you think that Christ is either ignorant of, or insensible to, the spiritual exercise through which your mind may be now passing? Far from it. If there is any stage of our discipline for heaven with which the Lord Jesus more closely sympathizes than another, it is our spiritually-mental stage. Can He ever forget the mental conflict of the garden, the soul-travail of the cross; the blood-sweat of the one, the soul-sorrow of the other?

Child of God! walking in mental gloom, passing through deep waters of soul exercise- doubting, fearing, despairing, sinking- look up! There is One who knows your sorrow, and has come down to rescue you. His eye of compassion is upon you, His wing of love is around you, His arms of power are beneath you, His heart is your pavilion, His wounds your refuge, His precious promise the word upon which He invites you to hope!

Dwell upon the solemn thought that your Lord and Savior trod this identical path before you; that, if there is one cloister of His heart deeper and warmer than another, in that cloister He hides you while passing through this mental eclipse. Fear not that He will abandon you to total darkness or endless despair. Your soul will emerge from its present obscuration, all the brighter for its temporary darkness. Tempest-tossed, you will be all the more firmly rooted and grounded in God’s love. The Lord by this process is deepening the work of grace in your heart, consuming the dross with the fire, and scattering the chaff with the flail of His discipline, that had too much, and unsuspected by yourself, mingled with your Divine and heavenly nature.

Deem yourself not a child of God, because you are the subject of mental disquietude and of spiritual exercise. Were your soul still locked in the sleep of death, it would be Satan’s policy to keep you so. But the mental and spiritual exercises through which you are now passing are indices of soul vitality, of an awakening out of sleep, of the possession of that spiritual life, which is linked indissolubly with the life which is to come.

Suffering is the royal highway to glory. It is royal, for the King of Saints Himself trod it; it is royal, for the royal children all walk in it; it is royal, for it leads to the kingdom of heaven.

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Octavius Winslow stood out as a one of the foremost evangelical preachers of the 19th Century.

8 Lies That Destroy Marriage

SOURCE:  Bill Elliff/Family Life Ministry

Imagine meeting with an engaged couple a few weeks before they are married. With excitement they describe how they met and how their relationship developed. The husband-to-be proudly describes how he set up a perfect romantic evening so he could pop the big question.

Then they surprise you by saying, “We want to get married and have some children. At first we will feel a lot of love for each other. Then we’ll start arguing and hating each other. In a few years, we’ll get a divorce.”

Who would enter marriage intending to get a divorce? And yet, divorce is occurring at alarming rates. A large number of people in my church have been hurt deeply by divorce—they’ve been divorced themselves, or they’ve felt the pain of a parent or relative divorcing.

As common as divorce is, I’m convinced that most of them could be avoided. Mark this down on the tablet of your heart: Every wrong behavior begins with believing a lie. Our culture promotes many deceptions that can quickly destroy a marriage. Here are eight:

Lie #1. “My happiness is the most important thing about my marriage.”  

As a pastor, I can’t tell you how many people have justified breaking up their marriages by saying, “I have to do this. God just wants me to be happy.”

But according to God’s Word, a spouse’s individual happiness is not the purpose for marriage.

The Bible says in Colossians 3:17: “Whatever you do in word or deed,” do for the glory of God. While all parts of creation are to glorify God, mankind was made in God’s very image. Through marriage, husbands and wives are to reflect His character and have children who will reflect His character … all the way to the end of time.

Every marriage knows unhappiness. Every marriage knows conflict. Every marriage knows difficulty. But everyone can be joyful in their marriage by focusing on God’s purposes and His glory instead of individual happiness.

Lie #2. “If I don’t love my spouse any longer, I should get a divorce.”   

It’s a tragedy to lose love in marriage. But the loss of human love can teach us to access a deeper love—the very love of God Himself. That love is patient and kind … it never fails (1 Corinthians 13). It even cares for its enemies.

When human love dies in a marriage, a couple can enter into one of the most exciting adventures they’ll ever have: learning how to love each other with God’s love. Romans 5:5 tells us that this very love “has been poured out within our hearts, through the Holy Spirit.”

Lie #3. “My private immorality does not affect my marriage.”

A lot of people think, I can view pornography in the privacy of my home. It’s just me and my magazine, or computer … it doesn’t affect my marriage.

Oneness in marriage is hijacked by sexual immorality. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:15, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute?”

In the 21st century, there are many ways to join oneself with a prostitute: physically, through the pages of a magazine, on a computer’s video screen, etc. Paul’s advice is the same today as it was thousands of years ago: Flee immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18).

If you take your emotional and sexual energy and spend it on someone else, there will be nothing left for your spouse. Those who continually view pornography or engage in sexual fantasies are isolating themselves.

Lie #4. “My sin (or my spouse’s sin) is so bad that I need to get a divorce.”

The truth is God can fix our failures—any failure. The Bible says to forgive one another, just as God in Christ has forgiven us (Colossians. 3:13).

“But,” you ask, “Doesn’t Matthew 19:9 say that God allows divorce in the case of sexual immorality?” Yes. I believe that it does—when there is an extended period of unrepentance. Yet, nowhere in that passage does God demand divorce. When there is sexual sin, we should seek to redeem the marriage and so illustrate the unfathomable forgiveness of God.

Some of the greatest life messages I know are the marriages of people who have repented from sexual sin and spouses who have forgiven them. Their lives today are living testimonies to the truth found in Joel 2:25: “… I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten.”

Lie #5. “I married the wrong person.”

Many people have told me, for example, that they are free to divorce because they married an unbeliever. “I thought he/she would become a Christian, but that didn’t happen. We need to get a divorce.” They recall that they knew it was a mistake, but they married anyway—hoping it would work out. Others claim that they just married someone who wasn’t a good match, someone who wasn’t a true “soul mate.”

A wrong start in marriage does not justify another wrong step. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good,” says Romans 8:28, “to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

God tells us not to be poured into the world’s mold. Instead we are to be transformed and that begins in our minds. By doing this, God will give us exactly what we need for our lives. God’s will for us is good, acceptable, and perfect (Romans 12:1-2).

Here’s the key for those who are now married: The Bible clearly says do not divorce (with the exception for extended, unrepentant sexual immorality). God can take even the worst things of life and work them together for good if we will just trust Him.

Lie #6. “My spouse and I are incompatible.” 

I don’t know a lot of husbands and wives who are truly compatible when they get married. In marriage, God joins together two flawed people.

If I will respond correctly to my spouse’s weaknesses, then God can teach me forgiveness, grace, unconditional love, mercy, humility, and brokenness. The life of a person who believes in Jesus Christ is developed by responses to not only happy things, but also to difficulties. And those very difficulties include weaknesses.

That is why we are told in Colossians 3:12-13 to “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other.” My spouse’s weaknesses are not hindrances. Instead, they are the doorway to spiritual growth. This is a liberating truth.

If I will respond to my spouse’s shortcomings with unconditional acceptance, my love won’t be based on performance. I won’t say, “You need to live up to these expectations.” I will be able to accept my spouse, weaknesses and all. And that acceptance will swing open the door of change for not only my spouse, but also for me.

Lie #7. “Breaking the marriage covenant won’t hurt me or my children.”

When divorce enters a family, there are always scars. I know this firsthand; although I was an adult when my father committed adultery and divorced my mother, decades later there are still effects. Many consequences of divorce never go away.

Blake Hudspeth, our church’s youth pastor, also understands the pain of divorce. He was 5 years old when his parents divorced, and it was hard for him to understand God as Father and to trust people. “The people I trusted the most split up.” He also found it difficult to accept love from others “because I didn’t know if they truly loved me.” And Blake developed a fear of marriage. “Am I going to follow the trend of divorce, because my parents and grandparents divorced?”

Blake’s father even wrote him and said, “This was the worst decision I made in my life. It was bad. It hurt you. It hurt our family. When I divorced your mom, I divorced our family because I broke a covenant that we were a part of.”

Blake says that his parents (who both remarried) have embraced the gospel, resulting in him readily accepting advice and encouragement from them. “Watching the gospel play out … with my mom and dad was huge,” he says.

Lie #8. “There’s no hope for my marriage—it can’t be fixed.” 

This may be the most devastating lie of all. Because in more than four decades of counseling couples, I’ve seen God do the seeming impossible thousands of times. In a dying marriage, He just needs two willing parties. God knows how to get us out of the messes we get ourselves into.

I tell these couples about people like Chuck and Ann, who were involved in drugs and alcohol before God restored their home. Or Lee and Greg, who were engaged in multiple affairs. God brought them back to Christ and to each other. Now they have six children and a marriage ministry. Or Jim and Carol who had taken off their wedding rings and were living in separate bedrooms and about to live in separate worlds when God redeemed them.

If you begin to think, There is no hope for my marriage, realize that, “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

We must combat the lies about marriage. The truth will set us free (John 8:32). God can fix anything!

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