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Posts tagged ‘self-care’

What Does The Bible Say About Destructive And Abusive Relationships?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

I receive frantic calls and e-mails each week from Christian women (and some men) who feel scared, trapped, hopeless and helpless because their most intimate relationship is abusive; verbally, physically, economically, sexually, spiritually or all of the above. The Bible has something to say about the way we treat people and as Christians we should all strive to be Biblically wise in how we handle these difficult and painful family issues.

Below are five Biblical principles that will guide your thinking about this topic.

1. Abuse is always sin. The Scriptures are clear. Abuse of authority or power (even legitimate God given authority) is always sin. Abusive speech and/or behavior is never an acceptable way to communicate with someone. (Malachi 2:16-17; Psalm 11:5; Colossians 3:8,19).

2. Abuse is never an appropriate response to being provoked. In working with abusive individuals they often blame the other person. This can be especially tricky when trying to counsel couples. There is no perfect person and victims of abuse aren’t sinless. However, we must be very clear-minded that abusive behavior and/or speech is never justified, even when provoked. People provoke us all the time but we are still responsible for our response (Ephesians 4:26; Luke 6:45)

3. Biblical headship does not entitle a husband to get his own way, make all the family decisions, or to remove his wife’s right to choose. At the heart of most domestic abuse is the sinful use of power to gain control over another individual. Biblical headship is described as sacrificial servanthood, not unlimited authority and/or power. (Mark 10:42-45). Let’s not confuse terms. When a husband demands his own way or tries to dominate his wife, it’s not called biblical headship, its called selfishness, and abuse of power. (See, for example, Deuteronomy 13; Jeremiah 23:1-4; Ezekiel 34:2-4 for God’s rebuke of the leaders of Israel for their self-centered and abusive shepherding of God’s flock.)

4. Unrepentant sin always damages relationships and sometimes people. Sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2-5) and from one another (Proverbs 17:9). It is unrealistic and unbiblical to believe that you can continue healthy fellowship with someone who repeatedly sins against you when there is no repentance and no change. We are impacted in every way. (See Proverbs 1:15; 14:7; 21:2822:24; 1 Corinthians 15:33).

5. God’s purpose is to deliver the abused. We are to be champions of the oppressed and abused. God hates the abuse of power and the sin of injustice. (Psalm 5,7,10,140; 2 Corinthians 11:20; Acts 14:5-6.

What’s next? How should we respond when we know abuse is happening to someone?

We must never close our eyes to the sin of injustice or the abuse of power, whether it is in a home, a church, a work setting or a community or country (Micah 6:8). The apostle Paul encountered some spiritually abusive leaders and did not put up with it. (2 Corinthians 11:20). Please don’t be passive when you encounter abuse.

However, because we too are sinners, we are all tempted to react to abusive behavior with a sinful response of our own. The apostle Paul cautions us not to be overcome with evil, but to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

Below are five (5) biblical guidelines that will help you respond to the evil of abuse with good.

1. It is good to protect yourself from violent people. David fled King Saul when he was violent toward him. The angel of the Lord warned Joseph to flee to Egypt with Jesus because Herod was trying to kill him. Paul escaped from those who sought to stone him. We must help people to get safe and stay safe when they are in abusive relationships. This is not only good for her and her children, it is good for her abusive partner. If you are not experienced in developing a safety plan and assessing for lethality (often women are more at risk when they leave an abusive partner), refer or consult with someone who is knowledgeable in this area (Proverbs 27:12).

2. It is good to expose the abuser. Secrets are deadly, especially when there is abuse in a home. Bringing the deeds of darkness to light is the only way to get help for both the victim and the abuser. If you are working with a couple and notice that the woman defers to her husband, regularly looks to him before she answers, blames herself for all their conflicts, speak with them separately. (Proverbs 29:1; Galatians 6:1; James 5:19-20). If you are a victim of an abusive relationship, it is not sinful to tell, it is good to expose the hidden deeds of darkness (Ephesians 5:11). Biblical love is always action directed towards the best interest of the beloved, even when it is difficult or involves sacrifice (1 Thessalonians 5:14; Hebrews 3:13).

3. It is good not to allow someone to continue to sin against you. It is not only good for the abused person to stop being a victim, it is good for the abuser to stop being a victimizer. It is it is in the abuser’s best interests to repent and to change. (Matthew 18:15-17; James 5:19-20).

4. It is good to stop enabling and to let the violent person experience the consequences of his/her sinful behavior. One of life’s greatest teachers is consequences. God says what we sow, we reap (Galatians 6:7) A person who repeatedly uses violence at home does so because he gets away with it. Don’t allow that to continue. (Proverbs 19:19). God has put civil authorities in place to protect victims of abuse. (Romans 13:1-5) The apostle Paul appealed to the Roman government when he was being mistreated. (Acts 22:24-29). We should encourage victims to do likewise.

5. It is good to wait and see the fruits of repentance before initiating reconciliation. Sin damages relationships. Repeated sin separates people. Although we are called to unconditional forgiveness, the bible does not teach unconditional relationship with everyone nor unconditional reconciliation with a person who continues to mistreat us.

Although Joseph forgave his brothers, he did not initiate a reconciliation of the relationships until he saw that they had a heart change. (See Genesis 42-45.)

Biblical repentance is not simply feeling sorry (2 Corinthians 7:8-12). Repentance requires a change in direction. When we put pressure someone to reconcile a marital relationship with an abusive partner before they have seen some significant change in behavior and attitude we can put them in harm’s way. We have sometimes valued the sanctity of marriage over the emotional, physical, and spiritual safety of the individuals in it.

The apostle Paul encourages us to distance ourselves from other believers who are sinning and refuse correction. (See 1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 2 Thessalonians 3:6,14-15).

A person cannot discern whether a heart change has taken place without adequate time. Words don’t demonstrate repentance, changed behaviors over time does. (Matthew 7:20; 1 Corinthians 4:20)

As Christians we have the mandate and the responsibility to be champions of peace. Dr. Martin Luther King said “In the end what hurt the most was not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”

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Is Self-Care Selfish?

SOURCE:  Taken from the Prepare-Enrich Newsletter

Spoiler Alert:  It’s Not!

Self-care is taking time to care for yourself in whatever what makes sense for you. We often overlook self-care by thinking that it’s something only selfish people do and isn’t that important. However, the more I intentionally practice self-care, the more I see the positive impact on my relationship and I know it’s not a selfish act. Most importantly, I’ve found it allows me to be more present in my relationships because I took the time to make myself feel whole.

The problem with the idea of your partner being your “other half” is that you are unable to invest any part of yourself into your relationship if you aren’t whole. By reframing my thoughts around self-care, how loving and appreciating myself can create a stronger connection in my relationship, I have been able to overcome the negative stigma of “selfish self-care.” It’s important for me to take care for myself for mine and my partner’s sake.

Why Does Self-Care Matter

  • Increases your emotional/mental well-being
  • Allots time for you to take care of your physical self
  • Gives you the energy to care for others
  • Feeling positive about yourself gives you a better outlook on your relationship and life in general

How to Practice Self-Care

Simply take time to do something you enjoy, something that feeds your soul and inspires you. Here are some ideas:

  • Journal – write down your daily thoughts in the morning or at night
  • Volunteer – give back to others using your talents
  • Cook – develop a new recipe, make your favorite dinner
  • Be creative – draw, write, rearrange your living room
  • Pamper yourself – get your hair cut, take a long shower, get a massage
  • Spend time with family – look at old family photos, play a game
  • Go outside – take a walk, jog, or go for a run
  • Be active – go to the gym, practice yoga
  • Eat what you want – drink water, eat your veggies, and eat your cake too (in moderation)
  • Sleep – go to bed early, allow yourself to sleep in, take a nap

Just When I Think God Isn’t There — HE IS !!

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)

A Low Whisper

Instead of concentrating on your problems and getting discouraged, focus on God and meditate on His promises for you. You may have fallen down, but you don’t have to stay down. God is ready, willing and able to pick you up. — Joyce Meyers

If we will not learn to eat the only food that the universe grows, then we must starve eternally. -C. S. Lewis

Highs and lows.

One minute we experience a victorious spiritual breakthrough and are on the top of the world.

The next minute the raw realities of life assault the very core of our faith.

As if that isn’t enough, the evil one loves to then whisper in our ears… “What a loser”… “You really can’t do anything right can you?”… “God isn’t listening”… “You will never be used”… “You’d better run for your life”… “God isn’t really there for you”…

And too often we believe him.

Elijah understood this.

Under the rule of King Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel, the children of Israel had turned their back on God and worshipped Baal. In a bold attempt to turn the people’s hearts back to God, Elijah calls the prophets of Baal to a contest. A sacrifice was prepared and Elijah challenges, “And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” (1 Kings 18:24 ESV)

The deceived prophets cried out to Baal all day and no fire fell. Elijah then takes his turn. He prays to the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel…then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering, and when all of the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, ‘The Lord He is God; the Lord He is God.’” (18:36-39 ESV)

Elijah experiences a stunning victory.

A short six verses later, Jezebel threatens to kill Elijah “by this time tomorrow” (19:2 ESV). Then “he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life.” (19:3 ESV) Elijah sits down under a tree and asks to die – “O Lord, take away my life…” (19:4 ESV) and then falls asleep.

His triumph turned to discouragement – discouragement to depression – and depression to despair. What a turn of events

A quick scan of Elijah’s predicament can be best understood as the HALT syndrome. He found himself:

Hungry… he physically stopped eating

Angry… mad at God

Lonely… traveling in the journey alone

Tired… collapsed into sleep

Just when we think God isn’t there — that He has abandoned us – that the whole world would be better off without us – God is ready to meet us at each point of need.

Consider what happens next – – – An angel of the Lord wakes him up, and gives Elijah this simple instruction – “Arise and eat.” Elijah looked and there was “a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he “arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.” (19:5-8 ESV)

If you’re in a pit, it just might be that you need real food and sleep.

Then notice vs. 12 – God lovingly reaches out to His servant. He doesn’t leave him hopeless – He speaks in the “sound of a low whisper”, reassuring him of his presence, power and provision.

The all-powerful God is also intensely personal.

In times of despair we must slow the process and lean into his voice — listening and obeying as He conforms our will to His.

God may perform great miracles; more often, however, He is quietly at work in the hearts and souls of His people, speaking words of truth and comfort.

Listen and follow Him.

It will turn your life around.

Five (5) Ways to Stop Discouragement from Getting the Best of You

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Discouragement and disappointment are normal emotions we all experience, even as Christians.

Peter felt discouraged with himself when he realized that he wasn’t as courageous as he thought he was, even though Jesus had warned him that he would deny him before the rooster crowed (Matthew 26:31 and 74,75). We too can feel discouraged and even depressed when we fail to live up to our own or other’s expectations.

Job felt discouraged and frustrated with his wife and friends. They didn’t get it. Trying to be helpful, they only heaped more shame and blame on Job for his afflictions. We also can feel let down by our friends and family. They don’t understand what we’re going through or don’t offer to help as we wish they would. (Read through the biblical book of Job for the story.)

We can get discouraged with life’s circumstances. Things don’t always turn out the way we’d hoped despite our persistent prayers. Elijah hoped that, after all the miracles the Israelites saw performed on Mount Carmel, they would finally repent and put God first, but they did not. King Ahab and Jezebel were as stubborn and hard hearted as always and Elijah felt discouraged, exhausted and believed his entire ministry was a waste (1 Kings 19).

Jeremiah felt angry and discouraged with God, when he believed God was against him, and temporarily lost hope in God (Lamentations 3). The disciples too felt discouraged after Jesus was crucified, before he rose from the dead. They said “We were hoping that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” (Luke 24:21) They couldn’t see the bigger picture and felt that their life’s work was a waste.

Discouragement happens, even to the strongest and best of people. Here are five (5) things you can do when you start to feel the black cloud of discouragement swallow you up.

1.  Be honest.  It does you no good to pretend you don’t feel what you feel. You can’t take action against a negative feeling until you first admit you have it. A strong Christian is not someone who never experiences negative feelings. It’s someone who has learned what to do with them when he or she has them and how to process them biblically.

2.  Take care of your body.  If your body isn’t working, your mind, emotions and will are also weakened. I love how God tended to Elijah’s body first, before addressing anything else, and provided ravens to feed him. Sometimes the circumstances of life drain us dry and we need to press pause, stop doing, and simply rest and refresh.

3.  Pay attention to your thought life.  Maturing as believers means we learn to think truthfully (Philippians 4:8) and to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)

All of us attempt to make sense of the things that happen in our lives. We try to figure out why they happen and what it all means. It’s crucial that we pay attention to what stories we are telling ourselves about ourselves, about others, about God, or about a particular situation and whether or not those stories are actually true. For example, if you look at what Elijah was telling himself after he became discouraged, much of it was not true. Yet, because he thought it, it added to his misery (read 1 Kings 19).

Jeremiah was also telling himself things about God that were not true, but because his mind believed his version of reality instead of God’s, he lost his hope. Read through Lamentations 3. Notice in verse 21 that Jeremiah begins to have a change of mind and heart. He says, “This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope.” When his thoughts changed, his negative emotions also lifted even though his circumstances stayed the same.

4.  Train yourself to “see” life out of two lenses at the same time.  When the apostle Paul counsels us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2), he is telling us that our mind needs to be trained to think differently than we have in the past. Part of this training is to learn to see both the temporal (life is hard) and the eternal (God has a purpose here) at the same time.

Paul speaks honestly of his temporal pain when he says he is hard pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted and struck down. Yet, he did not become crushed, despairing, abandoned or destroyed. Why not? Because he learned to firmly fix the eternal perspective on his spiritual eyes. He says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:8-18).

Paul never minimized the pain of the temporal, yet discouragement didn’t win because he knew that God’s purposes were at work. (See Philippians 1:12-14 for another example.)

5.  Press close into God.  The truth is life is hard, people do disappoint and hurt us and we don’t always understand God or his ways. The prophet Naham talks about a day of trouble and reminds us “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, he knows those who trust in him” (Naham 1:7). If we’re not in close trusting relationship with God, life’s troubles can become unbearable. The psalmist cried out, “I would have despaired unless I had believed I would see God in the land of the living” (Psalm 27).

One final tip:  The best way to chase out a negative feeling is with another feeling. The Bible teaches us “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Gratitude is a powerful antidote for discouragement. We may not be able to give God thanks for the difficult situation that we find ourselves in, but we can learn to look for things we can be thankful for in the midst of it.

7 Truths You Must Remember in Crisis

SOURCE:  Nathan Rouse

Here are 7 truths worth remembering during such times:

The last few days have brought an unwelcome and unforeseen storm in my life. I’m not alone in this, I’m sure you’ve experienced circumstances and storms that have caught you off guard or maybe experiencing this even now. I want you to be encouraged and strengthened by the knowledge that you’re not walking this journey out on your own.

Here are 7 truths I’m convinced are worth remembering during such times:

1. There is always time to pray! (You’ll “feel” and make things worse if you don’t.)

2. No matter how much you “don’t feel like it”, Read your Bible! It is our compass, our true north when it feels like our life is spinning out of control. We need more truth, not more feelings in crisis. Psalms 46 is a good start.

3. Don’t believe that you have to be depressed because you’ve encountered something heart breaking. Grieve….yes. Harbor it….no.

4. Make it a point to not make any major decisions when feeling overwhelmed. (Unless absolutely necessary)

5. Make sure you’re eating right and getting plenty of rest. You’re going to need all your strength to walk through this season.

6. Remember you can’t fix people or fix every circumstance. Stop carrying that responsibility. The God Almighty position is already filled.

7. Stop what you’re doing now and practice doing #1.

Managing Stress

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

The Lord helps the fallen
And lifts up those bent beneath their loads.
Psalm 145:14 NLT

If we are going to be diligent about depression proofing our lives, we must learn how to manage stress. Stress overload is a contributing factor in most cases of depression. In our hectic, fast paced lives, we are faced with hundreds of choices a day from simple to complex. The demands of deciphering all of one’s choices can become overwhelming, especially if we tell ourselves that we can never make a mistake because we must be perfect. How we manage our stress and teach ourselves to de-stress can make the difference.

Here are four things that you can learn to do in order to prevent life from getting the best of you. As you learn to do these things and practice them, you will find you are better able to handle stress instead of feeling overwhelmed by it.

1.     Take Better Care of Your Body

We’ve already talked about the importance of taking care of your body through exercise, and diet and exercise for building depression prevention. In addition to those three, one of the best ways to help your body de-stress is to teach it how to relax and breathe deeply. When you are anxious or in pain, your muscles tighten, your body feels tense, your emotions are agitated, and your breathing gets shallow.

There are relaxation techniques that can help you lower your physical tension as well as emotional stress. But you must learn how to use them—and that is not as easy as it seems. When I was pregnant, my husband and I signed up for Lamaze class to prepare for natural childbirth. I attended the class and learned everything I could, but didn’t practice. I told myself it was so easy I didn’t need to. I was wrong. As childbirth progressed, I could not concentrate or focus on relaxing my body. Just as with any other skill you are learning, it takes repeated and regular practice for you to learn how to relax your body.

Learning how to breathe deeply can help you relax your body and mind and bring a heightened sense of well-being. The physiological changes that deep-breathing produces can counter some of the negative effects of stress on your body. Simply breathe in slowly through your nose, hold it a second or two, and then fully exhale through your mouth. Do that a few times and notice how much better you feel.

Once you’ve learned how deep breathing feels, you can do it inconspicuously while waiting in a long line, driving in a snarled traffic jam, or anytime you feel tense or stressed in order to relax your body and your mind.

2.    Accept Your Limitations

We must emotionally accept the reality that we are human beings. That may sound odd, but many of us try to ignore that reality. We refuse to accept that we are finite, limited people who don’t know everything, can’t do everything, aren’t perfect, need sleep, get sick, and sometimes do wrong.

I’m not saying anything you don’t already know, but knowing it and accepting it are two different things. Listen to your self-talk when you are faced with the reality of your limitations. Do you say something like “I should have known better” or “I should have been able to stop that from happening?” If so, you believe a lie that you should be all-knowing or all-powerful.

Do you berate yourself for your sins and mistakes? Perhaps on one hand, you acknowledge that you’re not perfect but emotionally you won’t accept it.

When you can’t emotionally accept that you’re a sinner, you can’t emotionally accept God’s forgiveness or his help. Instead, you tell yourself that you shouldn’t need it because you should be better than that. Accepting our humanity means we know, accept, and live within our limits. We don’t try to play God or be God. We recognize that we need more than ourselves to manage our life successfully. We need God. That awareness is good because then we can run to the God who loves us and wants us even when we mess up. He doesn’t condemn us like we are so prone to condemn ourselves (Romans 8:1). Rather, he forgives us and helps us to change so that we grow to become a holy (whole) person.

3.    Prioritize Your Resources 

We only have four resources at our disposal. They are our time, our talents, our energy, and our money. We often overspend these finite resources on things that aren’t really important, leaving us with no margin for emergencies or fun. How we choose to allocate our resources not only impacts us, but also those we love. It is essential that we give some thought to our deepest values and priorities.

Feeling stressed out often exposes how we have been misspending our resources. For example, many people are overwhelmed these days because of high credit card debt and financial difficulties. Their resource of money has been overspent, and the consequences are now draining them emotionally and financially.

We can do the same thing with our other resources. We go into debt with our energy resources by extending ourselves over and over again beyond our limits, leaving ourselves physically drained and emotionally exhausted. Always hurrying is a refusal to accept the reality of time. We leave no margins for interruptions or delays and try to squeeze every moment out of our day. It’s not surprising that we feel like a taut rubber band ready to snap.

Take some time to evaluate how you allocate your resources of time, energy, money, and talents. Ask yourself are you living within your limits or are you always overdrawn? Do you budget your resources according to your values and priorities and your family’s needs, or do you use up your resources in order to live up to other’s expectations or gain their approval?

4.    Learn to Get Quiet With God

In our time-starved, get more done world, many of us never take a moment to be quiet and still in God’s presence. When we’re feeling good, it seems like a waste of time. When we’re not feeling good, our anxious thoughts and emotional turmoil make it hard to get quiet.

The psalmist tells us to “Be still in the presence of the Lord and wait patiently for him to act” (Psalm 37:7 NLT). Christian meditation and prayer can help us remember what is true and restore a sense of peace when our negative thoughts threaten to overwhelm us.

During these quiet, still times, God works to change the stress that is crippling us into something that can actually strengthen us.

Remember these stress-busters

  • Learn to prioritize and say “no” when you need to.
  • Slow down and stop living your life in a hurry.
  • Stop procrastinating. It causes stress because things get backed up.
  • Remember you’re not God and are not omnipotent.
  • Meditate on God’s perspective and his character.
  • Let go of what you cannot control and change.
  • Practice deep breathing and learn relaxation.
  • Have fun and enjoy the little things of life – beauty, nature, music.
  • Exercise – burn off that extra adrenaline.

For more information on handling depression, see [Leslie Vernick’s] book Defeating Depression: Real Hope for Life-Changing Wholeness.

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