Soul-Care Articles: Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Biblically-based, Clinically-sound, Truth-oriented

Posts tagged ‘lies’

Satan’s Favorite Lies: Five Ways The Enemy Deceives Believers

SOURCE:  Douglas Wendel/Discipleship Journal

During my years in the air force, the government spent a lot of money training us to understand and recognize the tactics of our enemies. Why? Because in warfare, you must know your adversary. What weapons does he have? How, when, and where will he use them? This information provides a critical edge in battle.

As Christians, we wage war against a spiritual enemy (2 Cor. 10:3–4, Eph. 6:12). Although Jesus defeated Satan on the cross, the devil still wreaks havoc in our lives, knowing that his time is short (Rev. 12:12). Peter described him as a “roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Satan loves to trip up our walks with God, tempting us to dishonor His name. How does he attempt to derail us? With his tricky lies.

Jesus said that when Satan lies, he speaks his native language (Jn. 8:44). Just as we all speak one language that comes naturally to us, so Satan is a natural liar. In fact, Jesus called him the “father of lies” (Jn. 8:44). If we hope to resist the enemy’s attacks, we must realize that Satan doesn’t fight fair. He is a master of the guerrilla warfare of deceit.

Here are five of Satan’s favorite lies and the truths of God’s Word that can empower us to stand firm when the enemy attacks.

Lie 1: “God is holding out on you.”

In Genesis 3, Eve stood at the crossroads of temptation and obedience. Satan had tempted her to eat the fruit God had forbidden, saying, “You will not surely die… For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (vv. 4–5). What was Satan saying to Eve? “God is holding out on you. He has something good He’s trying to keep from you!” Unfortunately Adam and Eve succumbed to Satan’s first lie.

Throughout most of my college years (I started college in my mid-20s), I struggled with being single. I knew God had my best interests in mind, as Jer. 29:11 describes: “For I know the plans I have for you …plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Yet at times my strong desire to marry tempted me to doubt God’s goodness, just as Eve had done. I wondered why His plans for me did not seem to include a good thing like marriage.

One lonely night I cried out to God over my inner struggle. Sitting among the dark, empty track bleachers of my university, I told Him about this temptation and then recommitted myself to doing His will—even if it meant staying single. A year later I found myself at the marriage altar, thanking God for the grace to believe in His goodness instead of Satan’s lie. I experienced His perfect timing in this area of my life as I trusted Him.

Sometimes our circumstances don’t seem to make any sense and fail to meet our expectations of life. In these moments, Satan tempts us to believe that God’s goodness obligates Him to gratify our desires immediately. But we must intentionally recall that God’s plans are always aimed at our best over the long term.

Lie 2: “Trust yourself.”

David wrote, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Ps. 20:7). Yet even the author of these words fell victim to another one of Satan’s lies: the lie of self-reliance. In 1 Chron. 21:1, Satan “incited David to take a census of Israel.” David responded to Satan’s suggestion by commanding Joab to count all the fighting men in Israel. Why did David give this order? He had begun to believe his security lay in the size of his army instead of the strength of the Lord. Satan tempted David to trust in numbers instead of God’s provision. Though he was a man after God’s heart, David failed to recognize Satan’s deception.

Because of David’s self-reliance, the whole nation of Israel suffered through a terrible plague. Likewise, when we rely solely on our own insight, it damages our walk with God and our relationships with others.

When I came on staff with The Navigators, I had to raise my salary by asking friends and relatives to give regularly to my ministry. But asking people for their financial support was not something I wanted to do. For months I resisted the idea of earning a living this way while I investigated other sources of income. My unwillingness to ask others for money kept me from moving forward in my calling.

Then one day God clearly spoke to me regarding my hesitance to trust Him. A college friend I had led to Christ years earlier was killed in a car accident. At his funeral, I realized the eternal impact God had allowed me to make in this man’s life. It was clear He was calling me to do the same in the lives of others. To pursue that mission, I needed to trust Him—not myself—to provide an income for my family.

That day I began to believe that God would meet our financial needs as He promised in Phil. 4:19: “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Today, I wonder how well I would be fulfilling my calling if I had continued to believe Satan’s lie of self-reliance instead of depending upon God.

Lie 3: “You will never suffer as a Christian.”

Another one of Satan’s favorite lies tells us nothing difficult will ever happen to us as Christians. When we believe this lie, it sows seeds of self-pity into our hearts that bloom into bitterness when trials overwhelm us.

In Matthew 16, Jesus told His disciples He would suffer and die in Jerusalem. When Peter heard these words, he emphatically rebuked Him, “Never, Lord! …This shall never happen to you!” (v. 22). Jesus replied,

Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.—v. 23

Jesus recognized Satan’s seductive suggestion in Peter’s words because He knew God’s plan for His life included suffering.

Several years ago, my wife gave birth to our premature son, Jonathan. Our hearts ached for Jonathan as he fought for life in the weeks following his birth. After five long months, we brought him home from the hospital. Our house became an intensive care unit full of oxygen tanks, beeping monitors, and medication. We cared for him around the clock, enduring months of little sleep.

Yet even in our exhaustion, we never questioned God or quit. Why? Because we sincerely believed Paul’s promise in Ro. 8:28: “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Even in our difficult circumstances, we trusted God would accomplish His good purpose in our lives.

God doesn’t promise that suffering will never touch our lives. In fact, He says the opposite. In Jas. 1:2, we are told, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” Notice James says “whenever,” not if we face trials. Difficult circumstances will sift all of our lives. But God allows these trials so that we may be “mature and complete, not lacking anything” (v. 4).

God uses trials to shape our character and conform it to His own. That process equips us to reach out with compassion to a lost and hurting world.

Lie 4: “Money is the key to happiness.”

Satan knows the powerful lure of riches. He promised earthly extravagance to Jesus in an attempt to turn Him from the Father (Mt. 4:8–9). Jesus replied, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” (v. 10). Satan is well aware of how greed takes our focus off God. The Apostle Paul verified this when he wrote, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim. 6:10).

Recently, we sold our home for a profit. Though I had intended to tithe from the additional income, moving to another state delayed my giving. Instead, I put the money in an interest-bearing account until we could buy a new house.

But temptation crept in, and I began to think about how I could make the money grow faster. Periodically I thought of making the tithe, but the idea would slip away with my lack of action.

Finally, God spoke to me one morning through Mal. 3:10.

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this …and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

Within a few days the Lord showed me how much and where to give. I released the tithe I should have given months earlier. The next week we got a phone call. Some Christian friends outside our city had suddenly decided to move and wanted to sell their house and small acreage to us if we were interested. They thought the property might be a great place for our ministry and family. We were amazed. God wanted to bless us in a greater way but did not do so until I gave back to His work. Listening to Satan’s lie of greed could have short-circuited God’s plan for blessing.

God may bless us with earthly riches. If He does, we need to hold them with an open hand before Him. But when we say yes to the enemy’s lie and no to God, Satan’s promises will certainly be accompanied by a load of heartache. A lifetime of mammon is not worth shipwrecking our faith on the reef of earthly riches (Mt. 6:24).

Lie 5: “You can never forgive them.”

Finally, Satan attempts to derail us with the lie that we can’t forgive those who’ve wounded us severely. A respected Christian leader recently said that with the exception of sexual immorality, he’s seen more men and women drop out of the Christian life because of unforgiveness than any other factor. In the early days of the church, Paul also understood how unforgiveness separated believers. In 2 Cor. 2:7, 11, he urged believers to “forgive and comfort [the offender] …in order that Satan might not outwit us.”

How does Satan outwit us through unforgiveness? Someone once said that bitterness is a poison you drink hoping the other person dies. Refusal to forgive invites bitterness into our hearts, poisoning everything in our lives. It eats away at our souls and robs us of the joy and satisfaction God gives through our relationships with Him and others.

Unforgiveness divides people. As long as forgiveness is withheld, a wall of separation exists between two parties. Satan uses festering grievances to kill fellowship among believers and to thwart the work of God.

Several years ago I lost my job. The pain and humiliation left me bitter toward my former supervisor. Whenever she came to mind in the months that followed, anger flared up within me. One day the Lord spoke to me through Eph. 4:32: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” As I meditated on how much Christ had forgiven me, I realized I needed to let go of my bitterness and forgive her. Although the healing process took several years, today I can think of her with peace and genuine concern for her welfare.

The road to forgiveness begins by remembering how much we have been forgiven ourselves. When we recognize our own unworthiness before the Lord, the sweet love of God can flow again from our hearts toward others. Forgiveness is the oil that keeps our souls from burning up in the friction of our relationships.

Truly, our battle is “not against flesh and blood, but against …the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). The Bible promises God will have the final victory over Satan and his demons. Until that time, may we resist Satan’s lies by standing firm on the truths in God’s Word.

God’s Positive Answers

For all the negative things we have to say to ourselves, God has a positive answer for it :
 

You say:  “It’s impossible”
God says: All things are possible (Luke 18:27)

You say:  “I’m too tired”
God says: I will give you rest (Matthew 1:28-30)

You say: “Nobody really loves me”
God says: I love you (John 3:16 & John 13:34)

You say: “I can’t go on”
God says: My grace is sufficient
(II Corinthians 12:9 & Psalm 91:15)

You say: “I can’t figure things out”
God says: I will direct your steps
(Proverbs 3:5-6)

You say: “I can’t do it”
God says: You can do all things (Philippians 4:13)

You say: “I’m not able”
God says: I am able (II Corinthians 9:8)

You say:  “It’s not worth it”
God says: It will be worth it. (Roman 8:28)

You say:  “I can’t forgive myself”
God says:  I FORGIVE YOU (I John 1:9 & Romans 8:1)

You say:  “I can’t manage”
God says: I will supply all your needs
(Philippians 4:19)

You say:  “I’m afraid”
God says: I have not given you a spirit of fear
(II Timothy 1:7)

You say: “I’m always worried and frustrated”
God says: Cast all your cares on ME (I Peter 5:7)

You say: “I don’t have enough faith”
God says: I’ve given everyone a measure of faith
(Romans 12:3)

You say:  “I’m not smart enough”
God says:  I give you wisdom (I Corinthians 1:30)

You say:  “I feel all alone”
God says:  I will never leave you or forsake you
(Hebrews 13:5)

SOURCE:  Author Unknown


 


 

5 Myths About Suffering: See Your Pain From God’s Perspective

SOURCE:  Stacy Padrick/Discipleship Journal – NavPress

“Your blood pressure is fine,” said the nurse, leaving me to wait for the doctor.

“Oh, Lord,” I prayed, “please help the doctor find out what is wrong with my body.”

After leaving numerous doctors’ offices with no answers over the course of 18 months, I was desperately seeking a cure for the mysterious virus that often confined me to home and bed. I longed to reclaim my active lifestyle, resume working full time, and eventually return to the mission field.

“Hello, Stacey,” the doctor’s voice interrupted my thoughts. “How are you feeling?” As I began describing my symptoms, she nodded as if already suspecting the answer. When lab results confirmed her diagnosis, my hope of simply “getting over it” vanished, leaving me to live with the daily limitations of an incurable disease. As a previously energetic and ambitious 27 year old, I watched in fear as this illness crept into every area of my life, threatening my work, my ministry, my finances, my dreams, my relationship with the man I loved, and even my walk with God. I cried out to Him, groping to know His presence in the midst of my pain.

Suffering. Just hearing that word can make us cringe. Under the influence of a society that abhors even the thought of suffering, we seek to escape the reality of pain in our lives any way we can—television, busyness, entertainment, drugs. Suffering doesn’t fit with the world’s notion of success or with the theology of God’s goodness and victorious living in Christ we often espouse. Never mind that Jesus often spoke about suffering. Like Peter and the disciples to whom Christ revealed His imminent suffering and death, we, too, are tempted to respond, “Oh, that will never happen to you!” (see Mt. 16:22).

Yet is it possible that our view of suffering has been colored by pervasive myths we have unthinkingly accepted? As I’ve faced pain in my own life and turned to God’s Word for consolation, I’ve identified five myths that tempt us to shrink back, doubt God, or experience despair during times of suffering.

Myth 1: Suffering is negative and to be avoided at all costs.

How often do we pray to know Christ better? Quite often, most of us would say. How often do we pray to know Him better through suffering? If you are like me, seldom, if ever! Shortly after my diagnosis, I read Paul’s words in Phil. 3:10: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.” I passionately prayed, “Yes, Lord, I want to know You better!” But as I came to the words that followed—”and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings”—my tongue froze. The idea of praying for suffering made me shudder! Why would Paul pray for fellowship in Christ’s sufferings? I began to wonder if he knew something we unknowingly miss in our rush to avoid or “get through” suffering.

Scripture clearly teaches that affliction and tribulation work to make us complete and mature. James wrote,

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

—Jas. 1:2–4

For the believer, suffering works on the seeds of faith in the same way manure works as a fertilizer. We abhor the stench of manure and, similarly, the agony of pain. Yet though it seems like waste material, suffering nourishes and feeds the growing fruits of faith and maturity in the garden of our lives. God does not waste any experience in our lives when we willingly surrender it to Him. Even Jesus, although He was God’s Son, learned obedience from the things He suffered (Heb. 5:8).

Truth: The spiritual fruit for which we often pray is fertilized by adversity.

Myth 2: We can only experience joy and peace when we are not experiencing pain.

Knowing that suffering develops character only partially comforted me at times. Though I tried to “consider it pure joy” as James advised, my emotions often swayed from peace to anxiety when my body battled unpredictable symptoms. How could I experience joy when I was losing my health, my independence, my dreams of returning to the mission field, and a love relationship?

The psalmist wrote: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him” (Ps. 126:5–6). When God gave me the seeds of sadness and brokenness, I wanted to cast them aside and implore Him to give me seeds of joy and peace instead. But then it struck me that joy and peace are fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23), fruit which is often mysteriously born from seeds of suffering. Only as we willingly accept these uncomely seeds and allow Him to sow them in our lives will the lasting fruit of joy and peace bloom.

In 1873, Horatio Spafford, a prominent American businessman, waved good-bye to his wife and four daughters as they boarded a ship for Europe, where he was soon to join them. Days later, he received the shattering news that the ship had collided with another, and his four daughters had drowned in the Atlantic. Journeying to Europe to meet his wife, his ship sailed over the waters where his daughters had perished. As his tears poured forth, he returned to his cabin, committed his immense sorrow to God, and wrote the following: “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say: It is well. It is well with my soul.”

Not only did he experience God’s peace for himself, but with the seeds of his suffering, he sowed a five-stanza hymn that has brought comfort and peace to countless people in pain for more than a century.

Truth: Suffering and sorrow, when willingly accepted, become the seeds of joy and peace in our lives.

Myth 3: Suffering is a sign of God’s displeasure or judgment.

As months passed and God did not answer the many prayers of friends and family for my healing, I began to wonder, Did I do something to invite this? Is this a sign of God’s judgment of me? Then the enemy, prowling about for an opportunity to attack when my spirit and body had grown weary, tempted me to believe that God had condemned me or, at best, overlooked me. Yet turning again to Scripture, I found truth in Paul’s words: “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil. 1:29, NASB).

Rather than a sign of God’s disapproval or neglect, adversity is a sign of God’s work in our lives. My pastor once said, “In God’s economy, sometimes the measure of our hurt is the measure of our success.” Why? Because suffering makes us more like the Author of our salvation. Allowing us to suffer is actually a sign of His grace! He cares so deeply for us that He will do whatever is necessary for us to know Him better and to become more like Him. God does not test us, as the enemy would have us believe, simply to see how much we can stand. Earlier in this century, an anonymous writer penned these words:

The very fact of trial proves that there is something in us very precious to our Lord; else He would not spend so much pains and time on us. Christ would not test us if He did not see the precious ore of faith mingled in the rocky matrix of our nature; and it is to bring this out into purity and beauty that He forces us through the fiery ordeal.

Truth: Affliction allowed by God is a sign of His grace in our lives and His love for us.

Myth 4: Only voluntary suffering “for the sake of Christ” has spiritual value in the kingdom of God.

To sustain my spirit during the most difficult times, I meditated on Scripture about tribulation and claimed the promises and hope they offered. Initially, I found comfort in Peter’s words:

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ.

—1 Pet. 4:12–13

However, the enemy soon began tempting me with thoughts such as, These verses don’t apply to you! They are for those who suffer voluntarily for the sake of the gospel. Your affliction just happened; it isn’t a result of your obedience to God. As I read verse 14—”If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you”—I had to concur that I was not being reviled for the sake of Christ. Perhaps the deceiver was right, and my affliction lacked real spiritual value.

Yet one night as I anguished over the apparent lack of purpose in my hardships, I stumbled upon a statement in C. S. Lewis’ Letters to an American Lady that challenged my narrow definition of suffering for Christ. Responding to a letter from a woman who laments about her many ailments and trials (from toothaches to budget problems), Lewis wrote: “Always remember that poverty and every other ill, lovingly accepted, has all the spiritual value of voluntary poverty or penance” (emphasis mine). What comfort these simple words brought!

As I committed my illness to God and asked Him to accomplish His will through it, my struggles no longer seemed in vain. Thomas À Kempis wrote, “Do not despair or be discouraged but accept God’s will calmly, bearing all that befalls you for the glory of Christ.” My disease, as frustrating and limiting as it was, could still be used for God’s glory.

Truth: All suffering can be used for God’s glory when we willingly accept and surrender our hardships to Him.

Myth 5: If God were truly good, He would remove this suffering from me.

As another year ended, I prayed once again, “Lord, may this new year be one of healing.” Even knowing the maturing benefits of affliction, I grew weary of the struggles. “Enough, Lord!” I wanted to say. “Haven’t I been pruned enough for a while?” How desperately I longed for Him to deliver me from the trials and bring restoration of the losses I had endured. If God was God, He could do that, right? If He were loving, He would do that, right? How tempted I was to believe that if God truly cared about me, if He were all powerful, He would take away the pain.

Yet as I continued praying, I stumbled upon a treasure I would have easily missed had I looked to healing as the only sign of His love. More often than not, God does not remove our suffering. He does something better: He enters into our suffering. The Lord Jesus enters into the fullness of our pain and bears it with us. He is the God who is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Ps. 34:18).

I finally understood why Paul prayed to know Christ and the fellowship of His sufferings. The path upon which we come to know Him better winds through the valley of suffering. If we seek a detour around the valley, we forfeit a chance to walk alongside the Suffering Servant. To know Christ more intimately, to more fully identify with Him, I must share in His sufferings by experiencing it myself. Whatever the nature of our affliction, sharing our pain with Him forges a deeper bond of intimacy. Nothing—not healing, not restoration, not success—compares with the comfort and sweetness of this fellowship.

The jewels of suffering abound: maturing faith, growing obedience, increased fruit. Yet the greatest treasure I have found is deepened intimacy with Christ as I fellowship with Him in the midst of my suffering.

Truth: Suffering helps us identify with the Lord Jesus more fully and deepens our intimacy with Him.

The Mythmaker

Where do these myths originate? I believe they come from none other than the father of lies. The tempter has thoroughly duped us into believing that suffering is negative, a sign of God’s neglect or of our own failure. Why would Satan be so determined to tempt us to avoid suffering (and sadly, sometimes to avoid those we know who are suffering)? Because he knows that suffering is one of the greatest means to draw us closer to Jesus and teach us increasing dependence upon Him. Thus, he will do whatever it takes to entice us to run from it  . . . until God, in His grace, allows suffering from which we cannot run.

When Peter refused to accept Jesus’ imminent suffering and death, He responded, “Get behind me, Satan” (Mt. 16:23). In the midst of our pain, we must refuse to accept Satan’s lies about suffering. When we believe that God loves us perfectly and that “perfect love drives out fear” (1 Jn. 4:18), we need no longer submit to the fear of suffering.

We live in a fallen world where the prince of darkness rules. Trials, hardships, and adversity are more normal in this life than abnormal. If this life were absent of suffering, we might begin to mistake it for the real thing. Suffering makes us hunger for heaven, our real home, where God will wipe away every tear. Though we may never fully understand our suffering, we can rest in the hope that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Ro. 8:18).

Are “Inner Voices” Real? Yes!

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Radio Bible Class

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27

Hearing voices has to be the most haunting of all the mental disorders. After all, which voice do you listen to? Talk about massive confusion! But before you think that you are among the blessed ones who don’t hear voices, think again. Today will be full of voices that compete for a piece of your life. Your boss, your spouse, your children, close friends, advertisements, and talk shows all will bombard your psyche with conflicting advice or demands.

It’s not just the voices on the outside. No matter how sane you think you are, we all have inner voices that compete for control; voices that are not always positive. I confess to hearing the compelling whispers of the dark side of my heart on a regular basis. Whispers that advise and plan ways for me to live for my own advantage. Whispers that convincingly argue that a life lived by the lure of my desires is life at its best. Whispers that tell me I am clever enough not to get caught, that nobody is perfect, that God understands my weakness and will forgive me. Tell me that I am not alone and that you can identify!

I have learned that when those kinds of inner voices dominate, I often look back in regret and shame for letting them grab the control levers of my life. They promise me life at its best but consistently leave me empty, disappointed, guilty and embarrassed.

That’s why I am forever grateful that there is a voice within that I can trust. A single voice that puts all the other voices into perspective. A voice that speaks wisdom clearly and confidently. A voice that has my best interest in mind and wants to lead me to life at its best.

Over the years as I have followed the advice and counsel of that voice, I have never been disappointed. It hasn’t always been easy advice, and sometimes it hasn’t made a lot of sense—like telling me that I should forgive someone who has hurt me or that I need to die to myself—but it has reliably been the right advice.

It’s the voice of Jesus. When you get on line in your heart to hear His voice and His alone, you will be liberated from the conflicting voices that in the end you really can’t trust. Thankfully, He has given you all the equipment you need. Talk about high tech! The indwelling Holy Spirit actually lives within you to decode God’s Word as you read it. He speaks to your mind, heart, and conscience as your eyes scan the lines of the bestselling how-to-live book ever written.

So put the “earbuds” in and tune to the one frequency where you are loved and led to life as God meant it be—life at it’s best!

Remember, His is the only voice you can finally and fully trust. He loves you and died to prove it!

Divorce Begins With Deception

Lies lure us away from God’s plan for marriage, as we depend more on what our culture says rather than what the Bible instructs us. This being the case, why are we so surprised by the number of divorces?

by Cheryl Scruggs (Author of: I Do Again)

Marriages ending in divorce are at a pandemic level. Lies lure us away from God’s plan for marriage, as we depend more on what our culture says rather than what the Bible instructs us. This being the case, why are we so surprised by the number of divorces?

Many types of deception lead us into the hands of divorce. Again, John 10:10 reminds us: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy … “, and Satan desires to destroy your marriage.

What types of deception are we talking about?

When we begin to feel disgruntled in our marriage, negative or faulty thoughts begin to formulate about our spouse or our marriage. We begin to believe the lies swirling through our head. We convince ourselves that “the grass must be greener on the other side”; that “this is not the same man or woman I married”; or that “I must have married the wrong person.” When this begins to happen, it is important to remember 2 Corinthians 10:5: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Many times, blinded by love, we falsely perceive the object of our affection as nearly flawless. Yet in marriage, our weaknesses, and our spouse’s, eventually surface.

Deception #1 – We married the wrong person

Instead of accepting these “less than attractive” things about our spouse, we often feel duped. We may begin to convince ourselves we married the wrong person. Warning: Allowing these thoughts to fester and penetrate your heart could cause your thoughts to spiral out of control and can set your marriage up for failure! You might begin to pull away from your spouse emotionally and/or physically, without even knowing it. I experienced this. Part of the deception, for me, was not addressing my thoughts properly, and not realizing how I was pulling away. My heart was growing hard, yet I was oblivious.

We all, at one time or another, wonder if we married the right person. We must guard our hearts when feeling disconnected from our spouse. If disconnect happens, we often convince ourselves that we somehow messed up and missed out on marrying our “soul mate.”

Is there such a thing as a soul mate? A soul mate is someone with whom we can share deep feelings and attitudes. Marriage takes work, and learning to share deep feelings and attitudes is part of the work necessary to enjoy intimacy in marriage. Jeff and I frequently remind other couples that when they got married, their spouse became the right person! According to Scripture, when you said “I do,” you became a one-flesh union, and, “Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:6).

Deception #2 – We misunderstand love

Often we think we understand what love is supposed to look like, and enter marriage with our own definition. This definition may have been influenced by the examples we had growing up, the shows or movies we watched, the music we listened to or even relationships we’ve experienced. We tend to spend a great deal of time comparing our fabricated definition of love with the love we think we are experiencing – or not experiencing – in our marriage. How we judge love is often based on our own definition, rather than the Bible’s definition.

Deception #3 – We believe we deserve to be happy

Focusing on our own happiness is a shallow approach, especially compared to God’s greater plan for our life. God is OK with us being happy, but His greatest desire is for us to seek Him and glorify Him in all that we say and do. With this in mind, as we seek to glorify God with our lives, joy and contentment become a byproduct of this obedience.

I prefer the word contentment over “happy,” because I believe discontentment prevails in our culture. Is it realistic for us to be content in all circumstances? Philippians 4:11(ESV) says: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” It is possible to be content, but it takes hard work.

How does this play into your marriage? When you feel discontent or unhappy, what do you do with it? Do you start making a laundry list of all the things your spouse is doing wrong? Do you emotionally and/or physically disengage? Do you try to fix things by passively addressing it without your spouse knowing of your discontent? Have you ever entertained the idea that you need to examine your own heart? Do you ever go to God with your discontentment and ask Him what He is trying to teach you?

Asking yourself these questions can help you discern your own heart and confront these lies before they potentially destroy your marriage. Why do we believe these lies? Many times, it is because we want to. Romantic movies, TV shows, music – and our sinful thoughts – cause our thinking to become distorted. Many people (yes, Christians) convince themselves that they are hearing a message from God telling them to get out of their marriage, or that there is a better spouse out there for them. They often feel they deserve freedom and happiness. Yet where in the Bible does it say we deserve anything?

When and how do we succumb to deception? We are capable of giving way to temptation at anytime. When we do not understand God’s plan for marriage, are not reading God’s Word, are not in healthy Christian community, are feeling unloved, or are emotionally or physically deprived, we can succumb very easily.

Lastly, we must guard ourselves into thinking we are incapable of being deceived.

FAMILIES EXPERIENCING TROUBLE: A BROADER VIEW OF ADDICTION

SOURCE: Adapted from Helping Troubled Families by Charles M. Sell

Helping Troubled Families: A Guide for Pastors, Counselors, and Supporters

For practical reasons, many experts are taking a broader view of addiction, a biopsychosocial one.  They view substance abuse as a complex condition and endorse multiple strategies for dealing with it.  Using drugs and alcohol may serve any number or purposes – avoiding responsibility, medicating emotional pain, dealing with a difficult relationship, etc.  These behaviors are inadequate ways of coping with the underlying problems that sustain them.

*God in a Bottle – If there were one reason above all others for people becoming addicts, it would be a spiritual one.  People worship their addictions.  Ironically, for them, spirits replace the divine Spirit.  It is a form of selfishness or self-idolatry.  The feeling of power and exotic excitement in addiction is an attempt to rise above the routine of living.  For this reason, many label addictions idolatry.  It is obviously so, since the addict’s center of life has become the substance/behavior to which he or she is addicted.  Addicts testify that nothing else mattered to them once they became hooked – not family, health, pleasure – nothing was more important to them than satisfying their craving for a fix.

The Old Testament describes idolatry as putting something in front of God.  When God commands that we “have no other gods before” Him, idolatry/addictive behaviors consist of putting something/anything in front of God, disguising and distorting God’s true face.  Every sin emerges from the fact that God is no longer first in our lives but is concealed by something created.

Viewing addiction as a form of idolatry should encourage us as Christians to be confident of our own spiritual resources to treat it.  Salvation through faith in Christ and sanctification through reliance on the Holy Spirit strike at the heart of idolatry.

*For Pleasure or Escape – Addicted people are crippled by their past experiences, unable to choose and exercise responsibility for their behavior.  Some use addictive behaviors as a way to escape emotional hurt sometimes sourced in their troubled childhood family.  People often use addictions not to make their hearts happy but to put their souls to sleep.  When people use addictive behaviors to escape suffering, they fail to cope with their problems in functional ways.  This only compounds their problems, which don’t go away but remain to keep nudging them to return to their “drug” of choice to escape.

Dependence is learned as a result of living in a family where a behavior is rewarded one time and punished the next.  Children learn to be dependent on cues from their environment to know how to act.  They are often not taught to follow their feelings but rather to follow the actions of another – to react as opposed to act.  The perceptive child grows to learn how to watch the family so that under each changing set of circumstances he or she will know how to act.  When the cues keep changing and the consequences for mistakes are severe, the child becomes dependent on these external cues to know what to do.  By training themselves to trust only external cues, not only do children learn dependency but they also perceive that feeling good can come only from a source outside of themselves.  This helps explain why children of addicts learn to depend on others and not themselves in a relationship.  Once addiction becomes a problem for them, addicts will continue to use the substance/behavior not so much to obtain enjoyment but to blot out the pain of the disastrous effects their heavy use is causing them.  They then search for more relief from the addiction moving farther into the process of addiction.  Sobriety means giving up their maladaptive way of coping with their emotions and their troubles.  Recovery must include making major life changes.

*Relational and Trust Issues – Sometimes addictive behaviors are blamed on others and other relational factors can be involved in addictions.  One’s acting out might keep the focus of the problem on the addict rather than other family members.  Some use addictive behaviors to draw attention to themselves and excuse themselves from their responsibilities.  Addictive behaviors can be used to control others through manipulation or as a way of not being controlled by others.  Addictive behaviors can be used to avoid intimacy and the threat of self-disclosing including the risk of rejection.  Because of not having healthy relationships, those involved in addictive behaviors may not have learned to trust people.  Their emotional isolation from others eventually leads them to establish an emotional relationship with some substance or activity.  They turn to it because it is dependable – they can trust it to give them the lift that they need and the nurture that they are unable to receive from others.  Addictions are dependable; people are not.

*Stinkin’ Thinkin’ – The thinking of one involved in an addictive behavior is distorted.  One’s life can be falling apart, health deteriorating, family in ruins, and job in jeopardy, but he/she seems unable to recognize this.  Family and friends may even be taken in by this “addictive thinking” because the addict sounds convincing to friends, pastors, employers, doctors, and even counselors.  It is difficult to understand if this perverted reasoning is the cause or the result of the addiction.  For example, “Am I addicted because of my intolerable life, or is my life intolerable because of my addiction?”  Once the intense craving begins, it affects the person’s thinking in much the same way as a bribe or other personal interest distorts one’s judgment.  The addict’s need will be so powerful that he or she will think anything that will justify the next fix. Addicts’ illusion of control is part of these rationalizations.  Although their lives have become grossly unmanageable, they steadfastly insist they are still in charge.  They falsely claim they can quit anytime they want.  They do this because they think in terms of minutes, not hours or days.  Recovering addicts must patiently stay sober moment after moment.

HEALING, HELP, AND HOLINESS IN THE PRESENT MOMENT

SOURCE:  BILL BELLICAN

A lot happens in life in the present moment.  Anything (good or bad) can happen at any given moment.  What’s even more real (and amazing) is how God desires that we grow in our ability to engage with Him about all things in all moments.  In other words, He desires to have a vibrant, interactive, moment-by-moment fellowship with each of us in each present moment of our lives.

Concerning the more painful side of life, God constantly invites us to commune with Him, to discuss with Him the hard realities of life as we are affected by and experience these realities, and to depend upon Him more.  As we do these things, we learn how to wait on and watch for His wise and loving involvement in all our life needs and situations.

Among the hard realities of life are that we are responsible for and experience the consequences of our own personal sins, we suffer at the hands of others who sin against us, and we live in a fallen and broken world that sometimes comes crashing down on us.  As a result, we encounter hurts, wounds, engage our own unhealthy coping behaviors, are subject to the attacks of Satan, and find ourselves constrained by various strongholds of negative thoughts and emotional responses. This all makes life, at times, exceedingly miserable and difficult.  Furthermore, any unhealthy or dysfunctional responses we make to these hard realities hinder our progress toward holiness and being made Christ-like which is God’s will for us.

As we learn to take full advantage of our present relationship with God and invite His involvement in every present detail of life we encounter, we learn how to talk with Him more deeply, intimately, and honestly and to trust in His good and loving ways to deal rightly and compassionately in our lives and makeus into the person He intends us to be.

The following are just some examples of various interactions I have with God in the present moment as I bring before Him my genuine needs for healing, help, and holiness in my life:

— I ask the Holy Spirit to help me acknowledge to the Lord any specific strongholds of thoughts — things that “feel” true to me in an unhealthy, negative sense.  I offer these strongholds up to the Lord  trusting Him to begin displacing them with His truths.

— I ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any lies or untruth unknown to my conscious mind that I am believing in the present moment.  Then I choose to bring this lie-based thinking into the healing presence of Jesus for Him to renew my mind.

— I ask the Lord for His Lordship over any specific behavioral strongholds (i.e., destructive coping behaviors and habits) that affect me.  I request He demolish the strongholds as I faithfully look only to Him to do what I am powerless to do.

— I ask the Lord to make it possible for me to hear and sense only His truth that I might receive it in place of lies and distorted thinking.  I willingly choose to dedicate my all (i.e, everything good and bad about myself) to the Lord, and I reaffirm my current situation/thinking/feelings belong to Him along with my desire to be enslaved only to Him.

— I confess to the Lord any aspect of actual sin or compromise on my part that occurs to me including my awareness of and regret about my fallenness and potential to sin.

— I realistically share with the Lord the hurt, wounds, pain, bitterness, and unforgiveness I feel as a result of what others have done to me.  I request His Power to release to Him these wounds/hurts trusting Him to take them away and deal with them as He will.  I ask for the ability to trust that He will right every wrong done to me in His way and timing.  I also ask to receive His ability to forgive and release others for what they have done to me. I even boldly tell Him about any anger or hurts I have toward Him and ask for His perspective about these while trusting He will lovingly carry my distorted perspectives away as He cleanses me.

— I recall who I am to and in Christ and ask that the Holy Spirit remind me about my God-given position, rights, and privileges as a member of the family of God that I might proclaim and experience the reality of these truths.

— I choose to proclaim (in the Name of Jesus) that I resist Satan, his demons, their influence, and all lies as I obediently seek the Holy Spirit’s filling/control and the empowerment to put on the spiritual armor  of God.

— I choose to rebuke (in the Name of Jesus) Satan, his demons, and their lies, and I ask the Lord to rebuke these, also.  I reaffirm that God chose me as His own forever.

— I proclaim to the Lord how I choose to rejoice in Him (with His enablement) regardless of what my circumstances, struggles, failures, feelings are, since Who He is and What He allows are rooted in His Goodness toward me.

— I ask the Lord to show me what obedience to Him looks like, to train me in obedience, and to motivate me to obedience as a way of expressing my love for and faith in Him as He demolishes strongholds in my life along with the unhealthy thoughts, emotional responses, and behaviors attached to these strongholds.

— I praise God for Who He is,  because of His total involvement and interest in every minute detail of my life, and for His indescribable love for me as He works within these details.

May these be of help to you as the triune God — Father, Son, Holy Spirit — engages you in a deeper, more intimate, real, more constant communion with Him in the present moment as He brings to you: healing, help, and holiness.

Scriptural References:  Pr 23:7;  Zec 3:1-2;  John 8:32, 36;  Ro 8:29, 12:2;  2 Co 10:3-5;  Php 4:8; 1Th 3:13, 4:3;   Jude 9

Tag Cloud