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Posts tagged ‘hurt’

How to Deal With the Grief of Infertility

SOURCE:  Eddie Kaufholz/Relevant Magazine

When you or someone you know is hurting.

My wife and I have been trying to have a child for almost two years and we fear, due to some issues surrounding infertility, we will not be able to. We are beside ourselves with grief and need help—from anywhere. So I’m writing to see if you have anything to offer us. Sorry it’s not a more clear question, I don’t really know what I’m asking.

Normally I’d give the person who asked this question a playful alias just to lighten the mood a bit, but today, that doesn’t seem right. Not with this question, and not with the countless people who will be reading this and hoping—longing—for an answer that provides some respite from the grief.

I bet today and the many yesterdays haven’t been what you expected them to be, have they? Of course not. A few years ago, you and your significant other were eating a lovely dinner at your favorite Thai place. One of you looked at the other one and said, “Hey, do you think we should start trying?” And in a moment, you both realized you were on the road to parenthood. Jitters, fear, excitement, nursery Pinterest boards—it all flooded over your pad Thai and into your relationship. Weren’t those fun days? Wasn’t it nice to have hope?

And then something happened. Month after month, when there was a blue line instead of a pink plus, hope started to fade—and dread took its place. Then one of you said—again at the same Thai place which now feels more like a tragic reminder of some distant happiness—“Should we see a doctor?” So you did. And the doctor said there may be “some complications.” And the walls of the sterile doctor’s office blurred and the words began to jumble. You realized your hope had succumbed to infertility.

It is the worst. Just the worst.

Which leads us to the fundamental question: What can make infertility less terrible? Not, “What can make it better?” because “better” to you, right now, looks like a child in your home. And while I could give you Christian truths and platitudes about how there are many people who, for one reason or another, never had children via biology or adoption and are living happy lives, that’s not helpful for you right now. You want your babies. I understand.

But I would like to submit four quick thoughts for you to hold onto while you traverse the uncertain road ahead:

Let People In

One of the mistakes everyone makes in life is believing if we say nothing, problems will go away or somehow get better. We do it all the time. If there is ever even a distant, faint whisper of shame or embarrassment, we go M.I.A.

Unfortunately, with couples who are having a difficult time conceiving, sometimes shame somehow enters the equation and they silently suffer. Maybe they feel there is something “wrong” with them physically or that God is smiting them for previous indiscretions. Or maybe they just don’t want to be a burden to others. Whatever the case, so many suffer in silence. This cannot continue.

If you are experiencing infertility, you have to tell people you love and trust. Not because it will make it all better, but because you can’t take the hit of a monthly funeral alone. People need to cry with you and shoulder the burden with you. People need to bring you food and help you take your mind off of it for a night. You and your significant other can’t do this alone. Those who love you want to do so not just in thought but in deed. You won’t overwhelm them. They want to be there for you now, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon.

Try Not to Strategize

I fear I may be overstepping with this point, but I’d like to float this idea past you. What if you all stopped thinking about tomorrow (as much as is realistic)? The nature of infertility is that you’re making decisions on a daily basis that are massive, overwhelming and life-changing.

However, these decisions are not everything. Ultimately, we have no control over children being brought into this world. The best doctors and adoption lawyers can’t simply will your child into existence. Truthfully, any child showing up in someone’s home via adoptive or biological means is nothing short of a miracle.

So, because it’s a miracle, and because it’s really out of your hands, what if you tried (again, as much as is realistic) to stop. Stop worrying that today’s shot of medication may or may not result in future complications that even further complicate a confusing situation—yuck. Who could possibly know what’s right and wrong? Well, God knows (more on that in a moment). But you don’t, so make the best decision you can for today and accept that you can’t control the entire road ahead.

I acknowledge, even as I’m writing this, that what I’m asking you to do is impossible. You may even be slightly frustrated with me suggesting that you loosen your grip a bit on all the strategizing. But what if for one moment of one day you weren’t as riddled with fear and dread over a decision? I’d love that for you. And I’d love for God’s narrative to take a front seat to your thinking.

Get Real With God

The relationship between those who are suffering (you) and He who is in control (God) can get very complex. To that end, Here are two articles over the past weeks that I hope will fill out this section. In summary:

1. You can get angry with God. For real. You can, and you should. It’s not helpful to pretend that it’s all OK, and it’s helpful to get into a real tussle with Him. Be with God exactly where you are, and trust that He can handle your worst (and love you through it). You’re His child, and your pain is His.

2. If you’re too hurt to pray, it’s OK. Really, it is.

This Isn’t Your Fault

Finally, in the quiet moments of infertility, the darkness creeps in and the reasons for “why” begin to point to you. This is a lie. The abortion, the physical abuse on your body, etc., etc. begin to be the reason for all of this infertility pain (in your mind).

Hear me say this: What you’re going through isn’t your fault. Yes, a doctor’s report may point to a specific issue with someone’s family history or bodily functioning. But really—really—those issues are not what makes or prevents babies from coming into this world. What makes it happen is a miracle. An everyday, common and not at all common, miracle.

Don’t Let Bitterness Poison Your Marriage

SOURCE:  Family Life/Sabrina Beasley McDonald

Over time, repeated hurts can build up to destroy a relationship, but these suggestions can help you heal before the damage is done.

For nearly two centuries, Beethoven’s death was a mystery. The famous musician suffered from irritability, depression, and abdominal pain. His dying wish was that his illness would be discovered so that “the world may be reconciled to me after my death.”

In 1994, two Americans launched a study to determine the cause of Beethoven’s end. Chemical analysis of a strand of his hair showed his killer—lead poisoning1.

More than likely, it was a little poison in everyday activities that took his life. It could have come from drinking out of lead lined cups or having dinner on a lead lined plate—both common household items in that day. Or perhaps it came from eating contaminated fish or even the extensive consumption of wine. It didn’t come in one lump sum, but the lead killed him slowly and quietly—one little bit of poison at a time.

That’s also how bitterness destroys a marriage. It stores itself in the soul, and slowly poisons the one who carries it. It’s a blade meant for another that eventually severs the hand that tightly conceals it.

Recently, I have witnessed what a bitter wife does to a relationship. The problems with her husband are real, and her anger is justified. However, what keeps their marriage from healing is not only the problems that he has to overcome, but also the prideful bitterness she guards in her heart.

Little by little, day by day, she has allowed this bitterness to poison her. Her husband will do something disappointing, and instead of confronting the problem, she silently holds it against him. He continues to make the same mistakes, and she continues to harbor her resentment.

This pattern has gone on for years, and now the love she once felt has numbed and hardened her heart. Recently she walked out on their marriage wearing a list of her husband’s transgressions as her armor. Reflecting back on his behavior, she nurses her wounds with words that assure her that their marriage was a mistake—”I knew it all along,” she says.

What causes bitterness?

In every marriage, a husband or wife does something that hurts the other. It’s bound to happen because none of us is perfect. And in some cases, a spouse has a habit of doing the same thing over and over again, even after the behavior is confronted.

Bitterness comes when you hold onto hurt and refuse to forgive the person who hurt you. Most of the time, this comes as a result of ongoing actions of a small nature—lack of understanding, misuse of finances, harsh comments—that build up over time. Each offense takes residence in the heart, and at some point there is no more room left. That’s when bitterness is manifested and causes the most damage.

What’s wrong with bitterness?

A hardened heart can cause a lot of pain. Here are three reasons why bitterness should be removed from your heart as soon as possible:

1. Bitterness harbors unforgiveness. You may feel justified in your anger. You may think that your spouse doesn’t deserve your forgiveness until he or she straightens out. But have you forgotten the mercy that Jesus had for you?

Romans 5:8 tells us that Christ died for us while we were yet sinners. By God’s grace, He didn’t wait for us to “get our acts together” before He provided a way for forgiveness. He gave it to us freely even when we didn’t deserve it. At Golgotha as the soldiers gambled for Jesus’ clothing, the dying innocent Christ prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). If forgiveness is given freely to us, how much more should we give it to our spouses?

Not only should you desire forgiveness simply because it was given so freely to you, but also, the Bible tells us that there are consequences for unforgiveness. Jesus said, “If you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15, NASB). Seek forgiveness not only for the sake of your spouse, but also for yourself.

The other day, I found that my disappointment in my friend was turning into its own form of bitterness. So I sought the Scriptures for guidance. As always, the Word of God shone brilliant light on my own darkness. I was so moved by the verse I read that I wrote it down over and over until there was no more room left on the page. “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).

I wonder how many hurting marriages would be healed if Christian husbands and wives learned to love mercy as much as they love justice?

2. Bitterness doesn’t give your spouse a chance to repent. If you’ve been holding in your hurt, your spouse may not even know he or she has offended you. Bitterness often comes from hurt that has been suppressed without communication, like filling up a bottle with pressure—eventually that bottle will explode. In the same way, the outburst in your heart can result in a broken marriage, and your spouse never even saw it coming. In this case, go ahead and tell him or her what’s been bothering you. Sit down and try to work it out.

Perhaps your spouse does know of your unhappiness, but chooses to continue in the same patterns. This does not negate your responsibility to remove the bitterness from your heart. You still need to give your spouse the chance to repent, although stronger measures, such as marriage counseling, may need to take place.

You may ask, “How many times does my spouse have to do something before I’m justified in my bitterness?” Peter had a similar question in Matthew 18:21 (NASB). He asked, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

Jesus replied in verse 22, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”

No matter how many times your spouse may do something, you are still responsible for forgiving him or her.

(Note: If your spouse is physically abusing you, get out of your house and do not stay there. A person who is physically abusive needs extensive counseling and rehabilitation. However, no matter how the situation ends, you can still work on forgiveness from the heart.)

3. Bitterness spreads. Have you ever seen a piece of moldy bread? It appears that there is only one ruined area, but if you were to look at the bread through a microscope, you would see long roots spreading throughout the slice. What appears on the surface doesn’t reflect what’s really happening below.

Bitterness grows the same way. One little bit of bitterness can start to spread throughout your heart and contaminate your whole body. It will start to manifest itself in your attitude, demeanor, and even your health.

In addition, the spreading can also affect your children and your family. Have you ever noticed how one person’s criticism makes everyone else critical, too? It’s the same with bitterness. Paul compares it to yeast when he writes, “A little leaven, leavens the whole lump” (Galatians 5:6). When you allow bitterness into your life, it extends to your family, your church body, and everyone else involved in your life.

Getting rid of bitterness

You may feel like there is little hope left for your marriage relationship. You may be so full of bitterness that you’ve convinced yourself that your marriage could never be healed, but let me assure you that the healing begins with yourself. With God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

Here are four steps to take to begin healing from bitterness:

1.Confess your bitterness as a sin. It’s so easy to justify our attitude when we’ve been hurt, but the Bible teaches that bitterness is a sin. Hebrews 12:14-15 says, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’  springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled…” You must seek peace with your spouse and the grace to forgive.

2. Ask for God’s strength to forgive your spouse and diligently seek that forgiveness. In Ephesians 4:31-32, Paul exhorts us to “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

It’s hard to be tender-hearted to a spouse who has hurt you, but it is possible. We have the power to forgive because Christ forgave us, and He gives us strength through the Holy Spirit. For more information on how to forgive, read Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s article, “When It’s Hard to Forgive.”

3. Make a list of your hurts and find a time to talk to your spouse about it. After you’ve made your list, pray about which things you can let go and which need to be resolved. If you can let them go, then do so. You may want to physically scratch off each one that you can forgive as an act of faith. Then for those transgressions that are left, ask God to give you the strength to talk to your spouse about them.

Before talking to your spouse, let him or her know that you plan to set aside some undistracted time for you to talk about some issues. As you talk, keep the discussion productive. Start by confessing your own sins to your spouse. Then talk about your hurts. Don’t just dump all your irritations and criticisms on your spouse, but speak in love, rationally and gently.

If you feel like you can’t talk to your spouse alone, then ask a pastor or mentor couple to join you in the discussion. Make sure your spouse knows that someone else will be there. Once you begin, your spouse may deny the behavior or even become irritated. But the object of the discussion is to expose the wounds, not to accuse. Keep love the main motivator of your communication.

4. Worry about changing yourself, not your spouse. You cannot change your spouse—only God can. But what you can do is allow God to change your heart. If you have a log of bitterness in your own eye, how can you take the speck out of your spouse’s eye? (Matthew 7:3). You, too, have made choices in this relationship that have hurt your spouse and need to be mended. Even though your spouse’s sin goes unresolved for now, he or she will answer for it one day before God (Matthew 10:26). In the same way, God will hold you responsible for the bitterness in your heart.

God Meets Us in the Ache

SOURCE:  Ransomed Heart/Stasi Eldredge

We women were given a huge capacity and need for relationship.  It is our glory and a beautiful way that we bear the image of God, who enjoys perfect, intimate relationship.

But our glory has been tainted.

Because of human brokenness and sin, there is not one relationship in your life that is not touched at some level by disappointment. There is an undercurrent of sorrow in every woman’s life.

Oftentimes, when I feel this sorrow, this loneliness, I think it is revealing something deeply wrong with me. I think that if I was “doing it right” or if I was all right, then I wouldn’t experience this grief. And yes, like you, I am not all that I am meant to be yet. I am becoming. But when I ache, if I believe the cause rests solely on my failures, it is overwhelming. I must run from it. Hide it. Manage it. Sanctify it. Ignore it. Numb it. Or better yet, kill it! Because when I am awake to it, it hurts. And I can feel bad for feeling bad.

Sound familiar?

The undercurrent of sorrow that we feel is not all our fault. Maybe a part of it is. Maybe God is using it to expose a style of relating that he wants us to repent of. Maybe. But it’s also possible that none of the sorrow we are feeling at a given moment is rooted in our failings.

When we become aware of sadness or disappointment, we do not have to run. Sorrow is one of the realities of life. To be mature women, we have to be awake to the ache. Let it be a doorway for us to walk through to find deeper intimacy with God.

We ask God to meet us—right in the ache.

How To Forgive And Why It’s Good For You

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Sheila said, “I know I’m supposed to forgive my husband for hurting me, but how exactly do I do it? I try but I still feel angry and bad thoughts come into my head. How do I know when I’ve let his offense go?”

I find many believers struggle with the practical application of biblical truths. We know where we want to go, we’re just not sure how to get there. Here’s a roadmap that will help you navigate through the process of forgiving someone.

First, forgiveness is a decision not a feeling. It’s a choice we make. You must decide to work toward forgiving those who have hurt you or sinned against you.

I find that people either forgive too quickly, before doing the emotional work they need to in order to process and get rid of their hurt and anger, or they don’t forgive at all because they have erected large, thick walls of bitterness and resentment.

Jesus tells us to forgive one another, and that alone is a good enough reason to do it, but forgiveness is a good thing to do even for those who don’t know Jesus or believe in him. Long before modern medicine studied the physiological effects of chronic anger, resentment, and bitterness on the body, God knew that harboring these toxic emotions could not only damage our health but also ruin our lives. He warns us to get rid of them promptly.

God knows sin destroys us. It is not the sin that is committed against us that wields the fatal blow. Rather, it is our own sinful reaction to the things that have happened to us. Unresolved anger often turns to depression, self-pity, bitterness and resentment, and these things poison our body and our soul. A person finds healing through the process of forgiveness–both receiving forgiveness and extending forgiveness. That is why God is so insistent that we forgive. He doesn’t want sin to ruin our lives.

Please don’t misunderstand what forgiveness is. Forgiveness isn’t excusing the offender or minimizing their offense. Forgiveness is your decision to cancel the debt they rightfully owe you. Many protest here and become stuck because they are rightly deserving of justice or an apology or some restitution for the offenses done to them. They don’t want to cancel the debt owed because it feels so unfair to them. Yet if they are waiting for the person to repent, apologize or show remorse, they may wait a very long time.

In the Old Testament story, Joseph forgave his brothers for selling him into slavery. Joseph’s obedience freed him to be used by God in Egypt. But Joseph never initiated reconciliation with his betrayers—nor did he expose himself to them when he first saw them again. Why? He did not trust them. He was kind and gracious to them because he forgave them, but he tested them to see if they had repented and changed their jealous and self-centered ways. Joseph invited them back into relationship with him after they passed the test (see Genesis 42–46). Joseph’s forgiveness and his brothers’ repentance were both necessary to bring reconciliation andrestoration to their relationship.

Some of you may never see repentance from the person who hurt you. Sandy lived stuck in her past, angry that her father abused her. She refused to give up her anger until “he admits what he did and says he’s sorry.” When she confronted him and asked for an apology, he told her she was crazy and denied everything she accused him of doing. That left her waiting for something that may never happen. She allowed her father to continue to ruin her present and her future because he would not do what she longed for him to do. Sandy’s anger and lack of forgiveness wasn’t hurting Sandy’s father. He lived selfishly just as he always did. It was Sandy’s life that was hurt by her angry and bitter heart. Finally forgiving her father released Sandy from those toxic emotions. Her father will still have to give an account for what he did to Sandy, only it will be God, not Sandy who will judge him.

In my own life, forgiveness usually comes in steps and cycles. It is not a one-time, over-and-done-with event. First, I decide to forgive, exercising my will. Then I begin the process of letting go, releasing the anger, the hurt and my desire to retaliate. I appeal to God for justice and turn the situation over to him. I also ask him to help me see my offender and myself differently. This is very helpful. When God shows me my own sinful nature and the things I am capable of doing, then I can have some genuine compassion for my offender because, but for God’s grace, I may have done the same thing. I no longer want to see my offender only as someone who did something wrong, but also as someone who has done some things right. I no longer want to see him or her as a victimizer, but as a person with weaknesses of character and a sinful heart, just like me.

When hurtful memories surface and I’m tempted to dwell on the wrongs done to me, I continue this process and keep at it until the negative emotions and thoughts are no longer in the front of my mind. They are fading and moving to the past, right where they belong.

To practice forgiveness, walk regularly through these four steps: Decide—Begin—Continue—Keep at it.

As we do this, we are changing. We are no longer defining ourselves by what has happened to us, but we are instead seeing ourselves by what God is doing in us. Our healing becomes a powerful conduit for God’s love and grace to flow to others, and we can honestly say what Satan meant for evil, God is using for good.

To Forgive or Not To Forgive: My Choice!

 SOURCE:  Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

Forgiveness: The Reason and the Responsibility

We hear the following phrase a lot, but often in the wrong context or delivered from an impure heart:

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free – John 8:32. 

Forgiveness requires that we face the truth: the truth of Christ’s forgiveness; the truth of our own need for forgiveness; the truth that if we are ever to be free we must receive Christ’s forgiveness, and forgive those who have hurt us.

You see, in order to experience true freedom, we must forgive those who have caused us harm or disappointment … even when that means forgiving ourselves. All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. But God treats us much better than we deserve … because of Christ Jesus. When we turn to Him, He freely accepts us and sets us free from our sins.

How can we do less? Forgiven by the Lord, we have the power, the reason, and the responsibility to forgive others. Forgiveness is not a feeling we need to muster up, it is an actual choice we make. When you realize it is a choice, then you must consider, “what are my options?” So let’s take a look.

Door #1: You don’t forgive. You remain aloof and detached, or bitter, resentful, angry, and vengeful. A terrible side effect is that people still have power over you. That’s because you need to extract some payment or amends from them … an apology, their suffering or an experience of pain, a sacrifice, or penance. And they can withhold it as long as they want and play you like a puppet.

Door #2: You do forgive. It becomes easier to let go of the bitterness, revenge, and entitlement. You experience freedom from the past. You have an opportunity to grow something better with them. Or you can totally disconnect from them because now you don’t need anything to make the “transaction” complete. You have relieved them of their debt, so they can’t “withhold” anything from you to string you along. Now you are letting God be their judge. And He is much better at determining their consequences and doling it out to them.

Sometimes it is hard to let go. In fact, when we have been deeply hurt, it may not be possible to forgive … on our own, that is. But it is important to remember that we don’t have to do it alone. Through the power of Christ, God has forgiven us. When we truly and humbly accept that, we have the perspective and power to forgive anyone else for any transgression against us. That’s real freedom! Your decision, so choose well.

Today, examine your heart. Identify relationships where there is uneasiness, anger, bitterness, resentment, revenge, sarcasm, or irritation. You probably have to make a decision about forgiveness. If you are struggling to forgive, ask God to help you. He loves you. He cares and He is able. Look at your other option. It is more painful to withhold forgiveness than it is to forgive.

Prayer

Dear Father God, I’ve kept these feelings of resentment and unforgiveness buried much too long. Help me to face the truth … and then to forgive myself and others. I now realize that forgiveness isn’t about others feeling good. It is for me to feel better and be right with You! Thank you for your mercy and forgiveness. Help me to show the same to others, even those who have hurt me. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the One who paid for my forgiveness, Jesus Christ;  AMEN!

The Truth

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:23-24

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:32

Q & A: Honoring dysfunctional parents when there is no reconciliation

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

This week’s question: I am 37 years old, happily married with three children living in a different state than my parents live. Bottom line, I’ve never had a healthy relationship with my mom – but last year we went through some terrible episodes to the point that my sister and I were concerned about her mental health and asked her to get help (she does have a history of prescription drug abuse).

Of course this only made her angry and she got very defensive. We begged my father to intervene and get help for her but instead he defended her, enabled her, and made excuses for her to the extreme. He ended up losing his job because of their behavior. His refusal to do anything about the destruction she was causing was perhaps the most hurtful thing. She was clearly unstable. Why couldn’t he see that? Wasn’t his relationship with my sister and me worth fighting for?

Having read about boundaries, I chose not to respond to her spiteful calls, emails and letters, except to say, “This is not Okay.” Or “You can’t talk to me like that and expect to have a good relationship with me or my family.” I prayed, I sought the advice of my pastor and with the support of my husband, we asked my parents to leave us completely alone until we were ready to initiate contact. They were reluctant at first but eventually did stop contacting us.

My plan was to begin a 3 week partial fast in January to discern God’s will on the best way to reestablish some sort of relationship with my parents, working toward forgiveness and trying to figure out how to “honor” them despite all the hurt they caused. I envisioned a calm confrontation regarding the way they had damaged our relationship, hoping that they’d see the damage they’d done.

Then the day before the fast, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. It is a pretty treatable form of cancer, but believing it was the right thing to do, I flew out to see them and spent a tense weekend with them. I bought groceries, cooked meals and tried to honor them without saying many words. I came home feeling worse.

So here I am. I’m angry at my parents for all the horrible things they did last year. I’m angry that they now act like nothing ever happened. I feel like I can’t discuss my hurt with them now because my dad is getting chemo and my mom is stressed out with that.

Would it be cruel to add a confrontation to what they’re currently dealing with? I am angry with myself because I have very little compassion toward them regarding the cancer (and I am a pretty compassionate person). I do call and check on them once or twice a week, but our conversations are brief and superficial. I email them photos of the children. When is it going to be okay for me to talk to them about what they did? I can’t pretend like everything is fine, but I also feel like I can’t talk with them about why things aren’t fine….so how do I move forward.

Answer: I’m sorry that you are experiencing this. It is so hard when we want to do the right thing but yet we have no opportunity to address, heal and reconcile a broken relationship.

I think it would be helpful to you if you differentiated honoring your parents from having a healthy or close relationship with them. You may have to settle for the former while letting go of the latter. You indicate that you’ve never had a healthy relationship with your mom so I’m curious why are you expecting things to change now? You envisioned sitting down with them both and having this constructive conversation over what happened last year but do you really think that’s going to happen? Do you have any history of those kinds of honest conversations with your mom or mom and dad before? Or is this understandable, but wishful thinking on your part?

You said that you never noticed how unhealthy your dad was until this latest episode when you expected that he would stick up for you and your sister and instead he sided with your mother, even to his own job loss. That deeply disappointed you but my guess is that if you look over your childhood; your father has probably always been passive and deferred to your mother’s emotional state. Again why did you expect something different this time?

So the question you’re asking is: can or should you bring up this messy relationship stuff right now? My advice would be no. Going through cancer and chemo is stressful enough and it may very well be that the stress from last year of trying to manage your mother the best he knew how has already taken its toll on your dad’s immune system. I remember speaking to a man recently at a conference I was teaching and he said he didn’t realize he was in an emotionally destructive marriage until he got cancer. His body couldn’t take the stress anymore. But his cancer woke him up.

So reconciling with them in the way you want – to have an honest conversation with them in which they would hear your anger and hurt about what they did last year and apologize to you may not be possible right now, maybe not ever. So where does that leave you? Can you honor your parents through your ministry to them – just like you did with meals, phone calls, photos of the kids and have no expectations of close fellowship or relationship? I think that is possible if you do your homework.

So I recommend that you talk with someone about your anger and hurts, you definitely need to process them so you can let them go (for your sake) and forgive your parents (for your sake) while praying that someday you can fully reconcile. I’d encourage you to minister to them as you are able and honor them as your parents even if you don’t’ like them or trust them right now.

If at some point they notice that you are not overly friendly with them and they bring it up, then that would be the time to invite them into a conversation about why. You might say something like this:

“I appreciate that you’ve asked me and it’s because of what happened last year. I know you’ve been under a lot of stress with the cancer diagnosis and treatment. I love you and I’ve not wanted to upset you or bring it up but It was very hurtful to me. If you’re ready to talk about it, I’d be more than willing to do that so that we can heal our relationship.”

That short statement puts your toe in the pond of relational honesty and invites them to have a respectful but difficult conversation about what happened. Their response will let you know whether it will be a good idea to proceed or not. For example, if they show any remorse or regret over last year and say something to that effect, then you can move forward and share your feelings – constructively.
However if they get defensive, blaming or shaming when you say you were hurt by last year’s stuff, don’t go there. You are just opening yourself up for more of the same.

But I’d encourage you to pray, prepare and practice what you want to say to them so that if the door opens, you can walk through it and say what you need to in the best possible way, so that as much as possible, you’ve done all you can do to be at peace with your parents.

For more help in preparing that kind of talk, see my book, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship.

Divorce: The Ultimate Relationship Wound and Loss

SOURCE:  Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

Divorce: Despair or Trust?

Divorce is the ultimate relationship wound and loss.

When marriage problems end in separation and then divorce, the loss is deeply experienced not only by the couple, but also by the entire family. It even impacts friends and often the coworkers of that family. Divorce can leave the family in suspended animation as battles usually rage for many years after.

Recovering from divorce involves working through a grieving process, much like when a spouse has died. It also involves making decisions. You might not have had a choice in getting a divorce, but you do have choices in your response. Will you hold on to bitterness and anger … or will you forgive? Will you give up and give in to despair …or will you trust Jesus to help you rebuild your life on Him and not on your marriage or your spouse? Will you walk in fear … or will you be courageous to face the future God has for you? Do you trust you, marriage, your ex-, or God?

Satan and your flesh, filled with insecurities and hurt, will try to influence your me-centered focus to give up, to feel like a failure, to feel no hope is possible, and that you’ve lost everything. You have to resist these lies and distortions. Remember, Satan is the Great Deceiver. This is the only character trait he has to present and relate to the truth.

Divorce can bring one of the most intense pains possible into a person’s life. But you don’t have to go through it alone. Jesus loves you and wants to help you. If you will commit your ways to Him, the Holy Spirit will guide you in making those hard decisions … He will give you the courage and peace you need to be clear-minded … and He will restore your hope. With God, all things are possible.

Today, if you are thinking about divorce, STOP! Get some wise counsel as this is not God’s plan, (but sometimes acceptable) and therefore will be a nightmare for you and a lot of loss for many.

If you are divorced, dive into the Bible and get to a church based Divorce Recovery group so you can process and heal using Biblical truths and lenses. If you are a child from divorced parents, really examine the lies that divorce embeds in your mind about you, your parents, and relationships. If you know people in these situations, be there to help them genuinely heal and see God and life more clearly, because Satan really uses divorce to suck the soul out of people and make them his puppets. If you are married, commit to grow your marriage and express your love to your spouse. Life is your decision, so choose well.

Prayer

Dear Father God, forgive me for the poor decisions I have made in the past. I know divorce saddens You. My hurt and loss seem unbearable at times. Please help me access the strength, power, peace, and comfort You provide to overcome. I know that through You, I will not just overcome, but even thrive as a result of learning through these experiences to put all my eggs in Your basket alone. Right now I have to make so many decisions. I need your help. Help me to choose the right path … the one that is right for my family and for me, and most of all the path that pleases You. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the One who shows us what step to take next, Jesus Christ;  – AMEN!

The Truth

Who, then, is the man that fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him.

Psalm 25:12

 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Psalm 147:3

 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.

Matthew 19:6

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Genesis 2:24

Even When… God is…

SOURCE:  Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 61

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Certainly, God takes no pleasure in what is hurtful (Ezek. 33:11), and he is never the author of sin (James 1:13-14; I John 1:5). Yet, for his eternal purposes, he sometimes allows suffering and permits unjust acts by men and women whom he decides not to restrain, even though he has the power to do so… Even when sinful and painful things are happening, God is somehow exercising ultimate control and working things out for his good purposes.

Food for Thought

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

From war and rumors of wars, to politics and politicians, to road rage and playground rage, it is tempting to bow our heads in despair. Hate is strong. The song of peace is mocked. But even when it sounds as if there is no peace, you and I must remember the deeper, truer song of His word. God is in control. And He is working for his good purposes.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1864

One Liners to Avoid in An Argument

Cruel, sarcastic or aggressive wisecracks and retorts can quickly cripple the growth of relationships. Here are some expressions to to shun like the plague, together with kinder (and safer) alternatives.

SOURCE:  Peter Pearson, Ph.D

They slice and dice, causing wounds not easily healed by pacifying words.

They inflame like a blowtorch on tinder.

They suck the life out of all that they touch.

What are they?

They’re the one-liners couples fling at each other during arguments, the cruel and aggressive wisecracks or retorts that escalate a fight like nothing else.

And when these zingers begin to outnumber the kind words spoken to each other, they cripple the growth of relationships.

How to argue without hurting could be the most important relationship survival skill ever

Learning how to communicate well in a conflict — how to argue without hurting and insulting each other — is possibly the most important relationship survival skill ever. It increases personal happiness, relationship satisfaction and peace of mind—and reduces divorce anddomestic violence rates.

Here, then, are a few one-liners to avoid, along with suggestions for better alternatives:

1) “That’s not what’s happening here!”  This is just one of many versions of the line: “I’m right and you’re wrong!” And whether you say it or just think it, “You’re wrong!” creates a lose-lose situation.

Try this approach instead:“Well, here’s another perspective or point of view…”

2) “You always…” or “You never…” Starting a sentence with either of these phrases is guaranteed to raise tempers.

Be specific. Talk about a particular incident. Rather than complaining, “You never listen to me,” try something like this: “When you respond that way, I conclude you don’t want to understand me in the way I’d like you to.”.

3) “You really know how to hurt me.”  This line suggests that the other person is intentionally trying to hurt you. It also implies that someone other than yourself has power over what you feel. It places you in the role of emotional “victim.” But you’re not a victim–you have choices whether or not to be hurt by someone’s actions.

Try this instead: “What you just said/did really stung. It was especially painful because…”

4) “How can you be that way?”  This isn’t really a question. It’s an assault that implies, “You’re a terrible/insensitive person, and you should be ashamed of yourself.”

Try this instead: “When you did/said that, it really hurt. I don’t know if you intended to hurt me, or if you were frustrated yourself about something. Can you help me understand why you did that?”

This is communication under stress at its highest level. You not only avoid defending yourself by explaining the pain you are in, you actually investigate the distress your partner is in. This can make it much easier for your partner to hear the impact of what they did on you.

Of course, these are mild, compared to the doozies we come up with in the heat of an argument. But for love to flourish and deepen, for healthy and long-lasting relationships, we need to learn how to incorporate acceptance, self-understanding, ompassion and tolerance into our conflicts.

And maybe one-liners like, “I love you!”

Raw and Desperate: Prayers From The EDGE Will Be Heard

SOURCE:  Larry Libby/Discipleship Journal

Most visitors to the city of Portland, Oregon, have no idea that 100 to 150 years ago it was known as “the most dangerous port in the world.” When Portland’s working men or visitors stepped out of the rain into a bar, opium den, or brothel, they were in grave danger of never walking out again.

This was because of a practice known as the “Shanghaiing Trade,” a crude but effective method of supplementing the crews of undermanned freighters bound for the Far East. Thugs in league with shady ship captains would drug or knock unconscious able-bodied sailors, loggers, cowboys, sheepherders, ranch hands, and construction workers. Then, through secret basement passageways or trapdoors, they lowered the victims into a maze of tunnels beneath the streets and carried them to ships docked in the harbor. (The tunnels, now known as the Portland Underground, are still there. You can take spooky tours through the musty passages.) Once the men were on the ship, they stayed on board for years, and there wasn’t much they could do about it except grab a mop and start swabbing the decks.

Try to imagine it. One minute you are strolling down Burnside Avenue on your way to a late dinner, and then you wake up…where? In the bilge-filled bowels of some rusty steamship rolling on the Pacific waves, your head splitting, your stomach heaving.

One minute you are sitting on a stool in a warm, smoky tavern, sipping cheap whiskey, and then…your whole world changes.

Shanghaied

Has something similar ever happened to you? Have you ever opened your eyes in an alien land—a place you never, never thought you would be?

• You suddenly realize you’re about 10 minutes from entering a sexual affair and betraying your spouse. How in the world did you end up here?

• Your smooth ride through the Christian life lurches off the familiar rails, plunging you into unbelief. Gone are the calm assurances of childhood. You’re perilously close to abandoning your faith.

• You’ve come from the fresh grave of a spouse or child, and all your plans and dreams have suddenly been wiped off the hard drive. Where there used to be data, digital photos, to-do lists, and full calendar boxes, there is now only a blank screen and a mindless electrical hum, and you don’t know what to do.

• You’re sitting in your car in the parking lot of the medical clinic, staring without seeing at the traffic on the street. The word cancer is still ringing in your ears.

Whatever the cause, you’re standing on the edge of a sinkhole that has opened before you, into which everything dear and familiar slides: your job, your health, your family, your security, your reputation, your career. The entire structure of your life is about to slip into the chasm. And you can’t go back to the way things were. Not ever.

When you pray—if you pray—your prayers are not going to sound the same or feel the same or be the same.

Prayers from the edge know nothing of stained glass reveries or kneeling at the bedside with soft shafts of morning light stealing through slats of half-opened blinds. These prayers do not spring from forest strolls on pine-needled paths or cool twilight walks by the river.

These aren’t the prayers you learned in Sunday school, at your mother’s knee, or in Bible college. These prayers come from different regions. These prayers don’t associate with music or laughter or peace. They tie more closely to anger, rage, despair, raw fear, and nausea.

A prayer from the edge will sound like a sob. An angry challenge. A burst of frustration. A sigh of loneliness. A cry of anguish torn from the marrow of your bones.

Hear my cry!

David had been shanghaied. One minute the young son of Jesse had been a national hero eating royal dainties off platters of beaten gold, a close companion of King Saul, married to the king’s daughter, best buds with Prince Jonathan. And then, such a short time later, he found himself crouching in the dark depths of a limestone cave, hiding from Saul’s death squads. He was on the run—a wanted man and a fugitive—for the next 15 years.

Hungry, thirsty, cold, and gripped with fear, David pleaded, “Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need” (Ps. 142:6). Or as The Message renders it, “Oh listen, please listen; I’ve never been this low.”

David yelled his fears. He made demands. He warned God to act quickly, because he was walking on the ragged edge of sanity, and the dirt under his feet was beginning to crumble.

Most likely in those same terrible days, he scratched graffiti like this on the walls of his cave: “You’d better listen to me and listen to me now. I’m like a match flame in a gust of wind, and if You don’t do something fast I’m done. Get with it, God. Help. Come. Don’t step away from me now. I’m on the edge and I’m losing my balance.”

I know how he felt.

The loss of my wife four years ago brought me to the brink of a similar sinkhole. I’d never been that close to the edge in all of my 51 years. I saw death reach into a sun-filled hospital room and take the dearest and best. With my world reeling, I found I didn’t have the faith I thought I had. I wasn’t the man I thought I was.

And I couldn’t pray the way I used to pray.

I still believed in God. Still believed in His goodness. But I just couldn’t trust Him. I was too wounded. Too hurt that He’d heard my cries for mercy and healing, He’d seen my tears…and He’d taken my wife anyway.

Even so, I kept the phone line open with Him, and He with me. Cutting through the pain and fear and disorientation, I heard the Spirit’s whisper: Trust Me. And I usually replied, “Not yet. I want to, but not yet.” Still, the line stayed open.

An Inch at a Time

Here’s the most important thing about the edge you’re on, whatever it is: You need to inch back toward God. Make some kind of movement in His direction, even if it’s only a glance. A sigh. A tear. A groan. A muffled cry in the night.

Start in your mistrust and disbelief. Start in your dryness. Start in your doubt. Start in your despair. Start in your anger and grief. I remember lying on the floor in the living room, too crushed to lift my head, and having the sense that God was lying there with me listening to the words I couldn’t form or say.

That’s what it can be like on the edge—and you do what you’re able to do. If you can’t raise your hands, you move your little finger one centimeter toward the living Christ. If you can’t speak, you move your lips. If you can’t move your lips, you form the words in your mind. If you can’t form words, you just turn your thoughts toward Jesus, even for a moment.

Don’t wait until you’re in a better mood. Don’t wait until you’ve cleaned up your thoughts. Don’t wait until you’ve escaped the sickening undertow of temptation. Don’t wait until your anger and bitterness abate. Don’t wait until your nerves stop jangling. Don’t wait until you’ve straightened out your theology and banished your doubt.

Why? Because walking on the edge might soon put you over the edge—and you may not have such a Godward inclination again.

Anything at All

In the book of Isaiah, the Lord says, “All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations” (65:2).

What would God have responded to as He stood all day with His hands outstretched? Do you think He required a formal prayer? Do you suppose He waited for a carefully worded confession, a perfectly offered sacrifice, someone bowing low, someone on his knees in a pool of sunshine?

I think God would have responded to the tiniest, most imperceptible movement. I think He watched and watched and waited and waited for the most infinitesimal stirring toward Him. And He would have responded like the father of the prodigal, running down the dirt road to embrace a son slouching home from the far country.

The main thing is this: Get away from the edge. Don’t worry about protocol or formalities. Call, yell, reach, lunge, turn your thoughts and your will even one degree toward heaven. Although your movement is small, God’s mercy is mighty. When He runs toward you, very, very big things can happen.

The New Normal: Things Aren’t The Way They Are Supposed To Be

SOURCE: Based on an article at  Practical Theology For Women

I have had a few circumstances over the last 4 years that have grown and changed me. Inevitably, it is hard, not easy, circumstances that change us deeply.

Three years ago this month, my aunt was murdered.

I remember my sister’s story of the moment she had to tell my family. They were all on family vacation in the mountains. My sister got the call on her cell phone from another aunt. She told me she just stared at the scene in front of her–everyone enjoying the mountain air and time together as family–knowing that the news she had to share would change everything. It was a surreal moment. She did tell everyone, and nothing has been the same. Three years have passed. It’s fully incorporated into our lives now. It’s the new normal.

I’ve been thinking about this new normal. What has changed now? Besides all the obvious changes surrounding such a tragic loss, the foundation of change in my personal life has been, simply, my perspective. God shook the snow globe of my life, and some truths that were obscured by complacency have now taken a more prominent place in my thinking.

Here are some truths that are front and center now.

1) This world is not my home. I have to repeat this to myself regularly, but frankly it’s foundational to understanding everything else in this life.

2) Evil is very bad and we are not immune from it in this world. And rather than shaking my faith, this reminds me exactly why I desperately need a Savior. I need Jesus to save me from my own sin within me. And I long for King Jesus established on this earth as the sovereign authority who rules with complete justice. When God’s kingdom is fully established, there will be no more murder. There will be no more sickness.

3) Happy is a yuppie word. I struggle with the term happy. It isn’t a fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, and peace are not necessarily grown in our lives through traditionally “happy” circumstances. Yet the beatitudes use the term freely. Blessed or happy are the spiritually bankrupt, those who mourn, the meek, those who thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and, maybe most surprising, those who are persecuted for righteousness. Whatever happiness/blessedness is in Scripture, it is counterintuitive. I’m learning to think about happiness in new ways.

4) Our need for God is better highlighted in hard circumstances. When life is good, I inevitably gloss over my need for Him. But His unchanging character is the only anchor for my soul when life gets messy.

If you’ve had a life-shaking, perspective changing event rock your world recently, I recommend spending some time in Hebrews 11-13. Three years ago, the Lord saved me from despair through that section of Scripture. It reminded me that hardship, persecution, and endurance have been common to the Christian life since shortly after time began, and they will continue to be so until Christ returns. It also reminds me that despite it all, God’s purposes can not be shaken. It teaches me that my new normal is really just the old normal with complacency removed.

Hebrews 12
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 

THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS

SOURCE:  Adapted from    The Power of Forgiveness

Forgiving Oneself

Forgiving yourself is an opportunity to free you of pain and anger that has built up over time. Forgiveness moves you from focusing on a past hurt into the present.  You may not forget the hurtful event, but you can move on with your life.  This choice to forgive yourself may not be a one-time event and may take time to do, but over time you will find yourself living without the familiar pain you are used to carrying with you. Forgiving yourself may not be easy, but the alternative is choosing to live with the pain of bitterness and resentment toward yourself.

Failure to forgive ourselves can result in:

•Continually being hurt by unresolved pain, suffering and ways of acting that harm us

•Low self-esteem and low self-worth

• Being overly defensive or distant in relationships

• Unnecessary guilt and remorse that wear us down.

• Self-destructive behavior

Forgiving ourselves can have many benefits such as:

• Learning to love yourself in healthy ways and no longer beating yourself up for your mistakes

• Realizing we are human and all make mistakes

• Letting go of hurtful memories and painful events and developing an optimistic view for the future

•Realizing you have value and self-worth can open you up to loving others in new ways and demanding respect for yourself

Forgiving Another Person

Even in the closest of our relationships we can harbor unforgiveness.  Taking some time to reflect on our relationship can help us identify and dislodge any unforgiveness that may be present.  If pain and resentment are left unchecked in our relationship, and the healing power of forgiveness has not been made use of resentment, bitterness or a loss of hope could develop.

We often carry around misperceptions of what forgiveness is and these misperceptions impede our ability to forgive or be forgiven.

It is important to know what forgiveness is not:

• Forgiveness is not forgetting.  We often will not forget a hurtful event, but we can still seek and grant forgiveness.

• Forgiveness is not having resolved all the painful feelings.  Often the hurtful feelings will last. But we can still seek and grant forgiveness.

• Forgiveness is not absolving someone from the responsibility of what they have done. What they did was wrong; you are simply choosing to not let it negatively impact you (and your relationship) anymore.

• Forgiveness is not accepting being continually hurt.  If you are in an abusive relationship or one in which you are regularly being hurt, then that pattern must change.  You do not deserve to be hurt.  This may require staying away from the offending person to protect yourself.

• Forgiveness does not mean the relationship is always back to where it was before.  If the offense is minor, you might be able to go back to where you were.  If the offense is serious, it may take time (even years) to rebuild trust in the relationship.  Forgiveness is simply starting this healing process.

Parents Teaching Children to Forgive

Parents teach their children forgiveness in a variety of ways.  While there are many ways to learn forgiveness, one of the most effective is for children to see their parents modeling forgiveness in their daily life.  Children can also benefit from their parents instruction on forgiveness.  Like most life lessons, teaching forgiveness to your child will be a continual process, but one that can bear great fruit.

Children, especially young children, are very impressionable.  As you teach your child how to forgive it will be an on-going process.  You may even have to give your child the words to say if they have not developed the vocabulary of forgiveness yet.

An example might look like:

Parent: “Johnny, you hit your sister and now she is hurt. You need to say “I’m sorry.’”

(Or if the child is older, “I feel bad that I hurt you and I am sorry for hitting you.”)

Johnny: “I’m sorry Sally.”

Parent: “Very good Johnny. Now give your sister a hug to let her know that you are sorry.”

Johnny hugs his sister.

Parent: “Now I want you to play nicely with your sister.  If you get angry, use your words.

Hitting is not appropriate.  Have fun.”

The parent gave her child the words and actions to do in step-by-step fashion.  Children often can only remember one step at time.  Following the words and actions of forgiveness, the parent set a new course of action for the child, one without violence.  When your child responds to your request, be sure to reward his behavior by saying “Thank you” or “Good job” or hug them yourself.  This process may have to be repeated over and over, but in time it can bear fruit.

As your children get older their lives will get more complex and nuanced and they will need an ever expanding capacity to forgive.  They will need to learn problem-solving and conflict resolution skills as they get older, but the foundation that you have taught them as a child will help make this process go smoother.  They will always need to see you role model these and other skills.

If you feel ill-equipped to teach your children forgiveness, take the time to go to your local library and get some books or tapes on forgiveness. Check your local community for parenting classes. These resources will be especially important if you did not receive these skills yourself as you were growing up.  We all learn forgiveness in a variety of ways.


Emotions Gone Bad and Mad

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Dr. Robert Kellemen

Even though God designed us as emotional beings, we’d be quite naïve to imagine that our emotions and moods are always well-ordered. Because of our fall into sin, we’re not the way we’re supposed to be—we are depraved and disordered. For emotions, we call this “Mood Disorder.”

In Ephesians 4:19, Paul chooses a very rare Greek word,apēlgēkotes, to describe mood disorder. The word literally means “past feeling.” We cease to feel and care. Tired of feeling, we shut ourselves down to the messages that pain sends. As a result, we lack emotional intelligence, sensitivity, and awareness.

Designed to be responsive to the world, others, and God, we close ourselves off. We think we’re too smart to smart anymore. In our folly, we decide that hurt is too painful, even if reflecting on hurt enhances our relationships. We become obtuse to emotional messages—emotionally dense, relationally stunted.

Refusing to Need God: Emotions Gone Bad

What is the essence of fallen emotionality? Instead of using emotions to experience deeply the life God grants us, we misuse our emotions to forget the pain in our soul and the sin in our heart. We pursue whatever pleases us for a season. We live as if this world is all there is.

We also pursue whatever pleases us for a reason. We live to survive, to make it somehow—without God. You see, facing our feelings force us to face the fact that we must live face-to-face with God to survive.

In our refusal to depend upon God, we pinball between two self-centered, self-sufficient emotional survival modes.

• Out-of-Control Emotional Expression

• Over-Controlled Emotional Repression

Both styles share the refusal to listen well to our emotions, the refusal to use our emotionality to evaluate where we are spiritually. We refuse to face our feelings because we refuse to need God.

Using Our Feelings as Spears: Out-of-Control Emotional Expression

Paul further describes sinful emotions in Ephesians 4:19 as “giving themselves over to sensuality.” We’re ungoverned. Out of control. We’ve taken the brakes off our emotions.

We decide that we want nothing to do with managed moods. If we feel it; we express it. If it hurts others; so be it.

Consider King Saul. He massaged his jealousy toward David. When the women of Israel met Saul and David with dancing and song, they sang, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). Saul was enraged. This refrain galled him. “And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David” (1 Samuel 18:9).

Caressed anger leads to expressed anger.

“Saul had a spear in his hand and he hurled it, saying to himself, ‘I’ll pin David to the wall’” (1 Samuel 18:10b-11a). Saul perfectly pictures imperfect, sinful emotions—we use our feelings as spears to hurt others.

Like all unmanaged moods, Saul’s resulted from a foolish internal evaluation of a difficult external situation. No doubt it would be emotionally distressing for most leaders to hear subordinates praised to the extent people praised David.

Experiencing this, Saul kept thinking to himself, rather than talking to God. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” (1 Samuel 18:8b).

Saul catastrophized. Imagining God to be a Hoarder, Saul could not imagine that there was enough respect and responsibility to go around for both David and himself. This town was not big enough for the both of them because God was not big enough for Saul.

Emotional sensationalists wear their emotions on their sleeves and hurl their feelings like a spear. They will not be controlled. They refuse to be inhibited. Their feelings become their god.

Yet, their feelings never direct them to God. They may feel their feelings, indulge their feelings, but they never engage their feelings, never use their mood states to detect their spiritual state.

And Us?

I know. We’re all thinking about people—other people. People who have treated us like this.

But what about us? Am I, are you, are we ever guilty of indulging our feelings? Do we ever use our feelings as spears to harm others? Do we refuse to face our feelings face-to-face with God?

God’s Mysterious Mercy

BY MARK LAROCCA-PITTS

From PlainViews: A Publication of The HealthCare Chaplaincy

In my work as a hospital chaplain, it is a rare day when I do not hear from someone the following: “one day we will understand,” or “when we get to heaven, then we will know.” There have even been times when I have said, “God will have a lot to answer for one day.” We are daily confronted with a level of suffering that confounds all our ability to rationalize: a loved one, too young to die, is killed tragically in an accident; in the prime of life, you are diagnosed with a terrible and terminal cancer; in the years that should be “golden,” an implacable gray depression descends; in a schoolroom deemed safe, a crazed gunman enters. Yes, we like to think, God will have MUCH to answer for!

And with that thought, I often envision a scene that will occur on that day when I first arrive in heaven: I march up to God with the confidence of the redeemed and I pull out my list of all the wrongs and all the suffering that I witnessed and experienced and I ask God to reveal to me that “bigger” picture in which all these horrible things will somehow make sense. And then God will show me that “bigger” picture—the grand scheme of God that sweeps across all time and space in which even the tiniest details of our lives are shown to be part of God’s grand overarching purpose and plan—and everything will make sense and I will be satisfied. This image used to bring me great comfort and often helped me to move forward in light of terrible suffering. But recently a new image has come to me that somehow helps, though I am not yet sure how or why.

The scene opens in the same way: I march up to God in heaven and present to God my list of terrible sufferings demanding an explanation. And God, instead of revealing to me that “bigger” picture in which all suffering and death will somehow make sense, instead opens wide his heart and like a moth drawn to light, into God’s heart I plunge experiencing as I fall the fathomless and incomprehensible pain and suffering that God also experiences whenever a single one of God’s children suffers, feels pain and dies. I see and feel every tear that God shed for you and me. And in those very tears of God shed for me and for all of God’s wonderful creation, all my pain, all my suffering, all my tears and especially all my questions are washed away. I understand: the answer to all our whys are the very tears of God. It is God’s mysterious and vast mercy and not God’s purposeful and rational plan that in the end brings home the quiet assurance that God is indeed with us whenever and wherever we hurt.

Rev. Dr. Mark LaRocca-Pitts is a Board Certified Chaplain working at Athens Regional Medical Center. Mark completed his seminary education at Harvard Divinity School and received his PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University. Mark is ordained as a United Methodist pastor and lives with his wife and two children in Athens, GA.

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