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Posts tagged ‘stress’

FAMILIES EXPERIENCING TROUBLE: Children and Spouses of Troubled Families

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

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

*The Children — Many children of dysfunctional families (termed CODF’s) have to cope with baffling and painful situations.  Children who are subjected to abuse of different kinds may receive little or no help from others, mainly because their teachers, neighbors, and church leaders may not realize their plight.  Without assistance from others, children try to fix themselves.  Clumsily, with childish hands, they suture the wounds, often leaving ugly scars or unhealed lesions that split open in later life.  All of this is an attempt to protect themselves from the abuse.  The home has the power to produce angry, rebellious, or disheartened children.  Families can aggravate serious psychological disorders.  Kids under stress can develop an abundance of physical and emotional problems even while in the womb.  Many scientists how believe that stress can program a fetus to develop heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, and other disorders in adulthood.  So sensitive is the brain to its environment that absence of emotional warmth can kill brain cells.  The loss of these cells is devastating during a child’s early years, when brain connections require learning skills for language, math, and getting along with others. As infants, if anything interferes with bonding with their mothers, they may have permanent emotional scars that will influence the outcome of the remainder of their development.  The extent of the damage done to CODF’s depends on lots of factors, for example, when in the life of the child the parent became addicted, how the family reacted to it, how long the addiction continued, and the severity of the abuse and neglect.

Thankfully, despite the severity of the situation, not all of these children will be severely wounded.  Psychologists call them resilient or stress-resistant children. Some CODF’s may have a strong orientation toward personal growth.  They are able to initiate and intentionally engage in the process of self-change.  Second, they may possess a trait termed hardiness.  Hardy people are actively involved in living, believing they can control their circumstances.  Some kids are less affected by their stressful family life because of the presence of another adult in their lives.

The children of troubled families may sometimes feel frustrated and unable to control their own lives. Their helplessness may be compounded by a feeling of failure.  This is due to their trying to solve the problem in their family.  Kids feel responsible for their parents’ problems partly because they are so egocentric, believing they are the cause of most everything that happens around them.  But they also may think they are to blame for the problem because the troubled parent tells them they are.  Taking such responsibility on themselves is usually destructive to children because they are doomed to failure.  Without someone explaining to them that they shouldn’t take the weight of the family on their shoulders, they may continue to do this into adulthood and even have trouble stopping then.  Their failure to solve the family’s problems may make them angry.  Thinking their good behavior will make their parents break free from their dependency or compulsion, they may be upset when they don’t get the hoped for results.  Their anger may take the form of resentment.

Expressing anger is complicated by the attachment the child has for the parents.  Besides needing the parents’ care, children are taught to love and respect them, making it very hard to accept the anger and hatred they feel.  Feelings are mixed – love and hate, pity and disgust, anger and sympathy.  The child plays the same Jeckyll-Hyde role the troubled parent is playing. Fear may also keep children from directing anger toward the parent.  And the “don’t feel, don’t talk” rules will make them keep their anger bottled up inside of them.  This may cause them to resort to sarcasm, forgetfulness, hostile jokes, and other passive-aggressive behaviors.  They may also overreact to normal events and become extremely angry with people who haven’t done anything to deserve such a reaction.

One way CODF’s express anger is by reverting back to an earlier stage of development.  Also, a child may make light of the stressful situation at home or resort to humor to handle it. Additionally, children may be deeply hurt by a parent’s abusive ranting and raving and lack what are known as “self-soothing” abilities.  They lack inner resources to calm themselves in the face of severe stress and intense emotions.  Finally, children in stressful situations may develop a false self.  Instead of the addicted parent’s encouraging the children to express themselves and commending them for it, the parent’s behavior demands that they become something else.  If the parent is also physically or sexually abusive, the squelching of the child’s personality can be extremely severe.

Shame is another emotion that inhibits children’s development of their true self.  Theirs is not a shame for what they have done, but for who they are—an absence of self-respect.  The time between eighteen months to three years is a time when a child gains a sense of autonomy.  Restricting the child, as dysfunctional families are prone to do, may make them doubt and dislike themselves.  Guilt feelings may also develop very early from ages three to six.  In an addictive family, the children may receive little affirmation for their ventures and be blamed for innocent mistakes, causing them to feel guilty for attempts to exert themselves.

They will also be shamed by the embarrassing activities of their parents.  Their shame may also be due to the fact that all children tend to identify with their parents.  Of course, constant parental criticism may result in children’s having little self-respect.  When little children are verbally harangued by their parents, told they are worthless or bad, they will believe these things.  They lack the maturity to realize these messages are lies of an evil, addicted, compulsive person.

Trust will almost always be a problem for the dysfunctional family’s children, too.  Consistent care teaches them that they can rely on others.  If their care is sporadic, harsh, or unkind, they learn to mistrust, making it difficult for them later to form close relationships.  Distracted and disturbed, a dysfunctional family may early breed mistrust in children.  The inconsistency of the wet-dry cycle probably is enough to instill distrust in a child.  Children in dysfunctional families are often compulsive and have a tendency to become addicted to something.  Or they may turn to an addiction as an escape from pain.  The enmeshed family system has taught them to depend on things outside themselves for happiness and satisfaction.  Additionally, children of dysfunctional families are often obsessed with pleasing others.

CODF’s cast themselves in various roles.  The child may choose the role as a survival tactic, or, because each role performs a function in the family system, the system itself will force the child into the part.  Sometimes a specific child will play more than one role or through time switch from one to another.  These roles help the family maintain its dysfunctional homeostasis and can eventually be harmful to the children.  The following are various roles:

Chief Enabler – shelters the addict from consequences of his or her behavior; cost to them is martyrdom;

Family Hero – keeps family’s self-worth, acts as family counselor; cost is a compulsive drive;

Family Scapegoat – diverts attention from the addict; cost is possible self-destructive behavior and often addiction;

Lost child – escapes family stress by emotional and physical separation; cost is social isolation;

Family Mascot – diverts attention from the addict by humor; cost is immaturity and/or emotional illness.

Family members learn “addictive logic” to deny the chaos.  They learn to lie and say the problem doesn’t exist so as not to betray the family.  To survive in an addictive system, children learn to deny healthy responses that tell them they are in danger; they have to keep increasing these dishonest coping skills as their situation worsens.  Also, a torrent of negative thoughts may be coursing through children’s innocent minds:  “I can’t do anything right; I am a failure; I’m not loved; I will be abandoned; I am ugly and bad…etc.”  They desperately need someone to tell them these are lies and help them see the truth about themselves and their families.

*The Spouses — Being married to an addict can be like a ride on a roller coaster – terrifying.  Life is chaotic and unpredictable, up one day, down the next, depending on how the spouse is behaving.  Emotions fluctuate and are mixed.  The dry period, when life is on the upside, inspires hope that it will last, along with nagging fear that it won’t.  In cases of spousal abuse, the cycle is well documented:  abuse followed by remorse followed by forgiveness followed by abuse followed by remorse, and so on.  The same happens in addictive marriages:  The husband manifests an addictive/compulsive behavior, and the wife gets angry.  The husband becomes sober and pleads for forgiveness.  The wife forgives, and the two are reconciled.  The husband manifests the addictive/compulsive behavior, and the wife gets angry.  The husband becomes sober, and on and on.  The spouse will probably be experiencing many of the same emotions as the children – fear, anger, helplessness, loneliness, and the like.  Some will hate their husband or wife, their bitterness created out of years of broken promises and neglect.  Spouses will also blame themselves for their partner’s problem.  Shame too can be intense.  And to cover his or her embarrassment, the husband or wife of the troubled person will strive hard to make a contribution outside the home.  He or she may be driven to succeed in the workplace.  Some will devote themselves to social work or church ministry.  The marriage relationship will deteriorate.  Feelings of love that were likely present in the beginning of the marriage will slowly die as the partner’s addiction progresses.

Three of the most important marital resources – respect, reciprocity, and reliability – will be challenged.  Respect involves conveying to another person (through words, deeds, or simply being present) that the other is of value.  By their irresponsible behavior and neglect of family duties, addicts and the like will not be likely to keep this resource in their relationship.  Reciprocity in relationships refers to the balance of giving and receiving care and consideration.  Not much fairness will be felt in a dysfunctional family where the weight of maintaining the family falls on the addict’s spouse and/or children.  Reliability refers to the expectation that the person will be there for us on an ongoing, fairly consistent basis.  Broken promises and no-shows will destroy this resource.  An addiction, like any other violation of the relationship bond, will chip away at trust.  People married to the addiction/compulsive behavior often convey to their partners that they are not important.  This deterioration of the marriage and emotional struggles of the spouse will sometimes diminish his or her capacity to parent.  Sometimes the spouse, wrestling with the partner’s addiction/behavior, will dump his or her responsibilities on the children.  Because of this neglect, some adult children are angry at the spouse of their addictive/compulsive parent more than they are the one with the addiction/compulsion.

*The Role of Codependency — Codependency is another form of enmeshment.  The spouse of the troubled individual is referred to as the “co-addict.”  This can be described as one person’s addictive patterns aligning themselves with another’s so that there is some degree of systemic collusion or addictive pattern.  Essentially, a codependent is related to another in an unhealthy way.  One person cares so completely for the other that he or she neglects himself or herself, living almost entirely for the other person.  Being an enabler is sometimes part of such a relationship.  Enablers don’t usually consciously do things to help their partner continue his or her destructive behavior.  In fact they will probably attack their partner’s problem with a vengeance, doing everything possible to get him or her to straighten out. Yet, at the same time, they will do things that facilitate their spouse’s behavior.  For example, they will protect their spouse from the consequences of his or her actions:  phoning his boss to report him sick when he can’t go to work because of the addictive behavior; giving money to a wife who has a money related addictive problem; making excuses to the kids for a parent’s absence, and so on.  Then, too, the partners contribute to the addicts’ problem by facilitating the reorganization of the family around them.  Children, too, can play the role of codependent.

Codependents sacrifice unnecessarily and to the detriment of others as well as themselves.  Following Jesus’ example, Christians are encouraged to make sacrifices, but they are not to make senseless ones.  Jesus’ sacrificial offering of himself benefited others.  But the codependent’s sacrifices are harmful to the one for whom they are made.  It is not really loving.  Love, as conceived in the New Testament, is concern and care for a person’s highest good.  Preventing an addicted/compulsive spouse from suffering their own consequences is not showing this type of concern and care.  This troubled spouse needs to see the results of his/her lifestyle and choices.  As Proverbs 19:19 says, “A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.”  Love is sometimes expressed by not doing something for someone.  Also, codependents need to understand that it is not wrong to care for themselves.  As indicated in Lev. 19:18 and Matt. 19:19, we are commanded to respect others as we respect ourselves.

Some write that codependency is defined as “a pattern of painful dependence on compulsive behaviors and on approval from others in an attempt to find safety, self-worth, and identity.”  By this, they mean that people who live in enmeshed families develop a tendency to live this way in general, even with people outside the family.  Symptoms include the following:

* Thoughts and attitudes dominated by the other person: “I think more about your life than mine.”

* Self-esteem related to the other person: “I value your opinion more than my own; I need to help you in order to feel good about myself; I need to be needed.”

* Emotions are tied to the other person: “When you are hurting, I often react more deeply than you do.”

* Interests geared to the other person: “I know more clearly what you want than what I want.”

* Relationship to others is affected by the other person: “I neglect my friends to get overly involved in fixing you; I am compulsive about pleasing others, yet I get upset by their demands on me.”

In selecting a mate, some men and women seem to be attracted to a person who needs their care.  Besides the obvious shortcomings, one major problem of this type of relationship is the powerful dependence these partners have on each other.  They become so enmeshed that they seem unable to function as individuals.  They become so intertwined that it becomes difficult for the other to leave the relationship regardless of how dysfunctional it is.  Codependents will have considerable psychological distress.  They will suffer from poor self-esteem, since they may feel little worth apart from what is derived from rescuing others.  They will also suffer from an extreme need to be needed, making them depressed when they feel they are not.  Also they may have an unhealthy willingness to suffer, somehow believing that suffering for someone will make that person love them; being a martyr will make them feel rewarded.

Despite codependents’ sorry state of affairs, they will have a strong resistance to change.  Leaving the troubled spouse, even as a step toward healing, accountability, and re-creation of the marriage,  is not an option, because they fear feeling guilty, living alone, or not being able to make it financially.

In conclusion, when we or our families experience trouble, we must call upon the Divine weapons and resources that God has provided us.  We must remember that we cannot face the vast array of past and present problems on our own. Therefore, we must keep our focus on the Lord since we don’t know how to deal with these things (2 Chron 20:12b).  He has the willingness and power to do the impossible, demolish the past and present strongholds that have enslaved us, and make us to be who He created us to be (Phil 2:12; Luke 1:37; 2 Cor 10:3-5).

Biblical Principles for Stress Management and Reducing Hurry

SOURCE:  (Adapted from REST: Experiencing God’s Peace in a Restless World by Dr. Siang-Yang Tan)

  1. Romans 12:2; Philippians 4:8; Psalm 43:5. We need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds or thinking: to tell ourselves the truth from Scripture and focus on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable; to choose to think on these things that are excellent or praiseworthy.
  2. Matthew 6:25-34; 1 Peter 5:7; Psalm 55:22; Romans 8:35-39; I John 4; Isaiah 41:10; 43:1-4; Zephaniah 3:17; Deuteronomy 33:27; Psalm 23. These passages from Scripture emphasize God’s love and care for us and our preciousness and worth to God. Yet, in this fallen world, trials and difficulties, including stress, are part of our life. But we can grow through them as the Lord helps us (Jn 16:33; Jas 1:2-4; Phil 4:13). Even the stress or struggle of spiritual warfare against the devil (1 Pet 5:8-9) and spiritual forces of evil (Eph 6:11-12) can be an experience of victory and growth through submitting to God and resisting the devil (Jas 4:7), learning to be strong in the Lord and His mighty power, and using the armor of God, especially prayer and the Word of God (Eph 6:10-18). We can rest in the Lord, even in spiritual warfare, knowing that He has already won the spiritual victory for us (Col 2:15; Heb 2:14). The Lord reminds us that the battle is His, not ours: He will undertake for us and bring victory and deliverance (2 Chron 20: 15, 17; I Sam 17:47). Not by might nor by power, but by His Spirit! (Zech 4:6). As the Lord told Moses, so He reassures us afresh: “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Ex 33:14).
  3. Matthew 11:28-30; Luke 10:38-42. Jesus will give us rest, but we need to have humility and meekness and come to Him and sit at His feet, spending or “wasting” time with Him, listening to His voice.
  4. Mark 6:31. We need to take time off to rest, as well as to keep the Sabbath weekly to cease from work so we can rest and worship (Ex 20:8-11; Dt 5:15; Mk 2:27).
  5. I Corinthians 13. Love is the key to what really counts in life from God’s eternal perspective and not from materialistic criteria of success. A correct biblical perspective on true success is crucial for managing stress and growing through it. It is essential for us to understand that God’s ways and standards are often different from our human ways and standards: His ways and thoughts are higher and better (Is 55:8-9). God judges the heart: internal motives are critical, and whatever is highly valued by the world is detestable in God’s sight (Lk 16:15)!
  6. Habakkuk 3:17-19. The true basis of life and fulfillment is the Lord Himself and Him only! Let us learn to rejoice in the Lord and be joyful in God our Savior, despite difficult or bad circumstances, and have our deepest satisfaction in Him. Praise and worship of God are powerful stress busters!
  7. Philippians 4:4-9. To overcome anxiety and stress, rejoice in the Lord always (v.4); be gentle (v.5); pray with thanksgiving (vv.6-7); think biblically (v.8); and act appropriately (v.9).
  8. Romans 8:28. Know and believe God’s blessed assurance that in all things, He works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. There is ultimate meaning and good in our lives. Our present suffering cannot be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us and in heaven to come (Rom 8:18; 2 Cor 4:16-18).

How People With Depression Interact With The World Differently

SOURCE:  Lindsay Holmes

The condition has a huge impact on everyday life.

Nothing about depression is easy. But the way it affects a person’s daily life is arguably the most difficult part of the disorder.

Approximately 300 million people globally are affected by depression, according to the World Health Organization. Not only does it create emotional health issues, like excessive rumination and lack of motivation, but it also causes physical health problems, like headaches and trouble eating. It can also cause fatigue, irritability and difficulty concentrating.

The reality is that these symptoms all have a significant effect on routines, from running errands to social situations to even just going to sleep. As with any medical issue, the more knowledge you’re armed with, the better. That’s why we rounded up just some of the ways depression influences a person’s day-to-day life.

Below are a few ways people with the disorder interact differently with the world compared to their peers:

People with depression often ignore routine appointments.

For most, haircuts or dermatologist visits are expected blips on the calendar. However, depression can make these events feel like monumental tasks.

A case in point is a heartbreaking account from Kate Langman, a Wisconsin-based hairstylist. Her Facebook post  went viral after she shared the story of a client with depression who came into the salon.

She couldn’t get out of her bed for 6 months. Which meant she didn’t wash her hair or brush it,” Langman wrote.

Going to a simple, menial appointment is often one of the biggest victories.

They might snooze more than most.

Depression often leads to increased fatigue and irregular sleep patterns. This means that those living with the disorder may sleep more than usual or even experience insomnia.

This might not sound so bad in theory: Naps are awesome, right? But as writer Cory Steig put it in a Refinery29 post, napping when dealing with depression is more draining than anything:

[Y]ou know you’re probably not going to wake up refreshed and energized enough to take on the task you’re supposed to be doing instead of taking a nap.

They might leave work to-do lists unfinished.

The mental health disorder can take a toll on a person’s work performance. Symptoms like a lack of motivation or energy can prevent an individual with the condition from accomplishing tasks.

Or, the illness can keep people out of the office altogether: Employees with the condition miss approximately four workdays every three months due to its effects, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Serious mental illness costs the country more than $190 billion in lost earnings every year.

People living with depression may avoid fun activities.

Depression can cause a lack of interest in thing people once found pleasurable. That could mean going to parties, participating in sports or even engaging in sex is no longer the norm.

Depression makes your life dramatically different,” Dr. John Greden, executive director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Depression Center, previously told HuffPost.

Depression makes them see things through a glass half empty.

The condition often makes the person living with it see everything from a pessimistic perspective.

Depression is a negative view of self, of the world and of the future,” Greden said. “Everything is sort of being seen through dark-colored glasses … It’s pretty common, when people are depressed, for them to think that no one understands them ― and that’s a really tough place to be.”

People with depression have brains that are more prone to stress.

While some cases of depression can be acute and circumstantial (i.e. getting laid off of a job or going through a trauma), others can be more biological in nature. Research suggests depression can be influenced by environmental and genetic factors. A 2014 study even found that depression might make that person’s brain more susceptible to psychological stress.

In other words, the condition isn’t just something they “made up” or can “get over” so quickly. It’s a physiological issue that requires care.

Depression makes them want to push others away.

A common side effect of depression is changes to relationships. People living with the disorder may start to withdraw from their friends and family, and the mood symptoms may cause them to become irritable or angry.

That being said, a little encouragement can go a long way. Reader Avarie Downs, who identifies as having high-functioning depression, points out that even just an affectionate gesture can make a huge difference:

I wish he knew how overwhelming being sad during a depressive state is … sometimes it would be really nice to get a hug, instead of just the cold shoulder and being ignored because it is difficult to understand. Support is worth more than words could ever say.

Experts also recommend letting people with depression know that they’re not alone. Offering to listen to them talk about their experience or accompanying them to therapy can also help.

People with depression may need to see doctors more regularly.

Depression not only needs to be treated by a professional, but it also could put the person at a greater risk for other illnesses. So seeing doctors, between primary care physicians or mental health workers, on a more regular basis is so key when it comes to managing the condition.

Depression is a common problem,” Ken Duckworth, medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, previously told HuffPost. “There shouldn’t be shame in seeking help for that. People wouldn’t feel shamed if they got help for a broken arm. Depression is much like that. It’s treatable and you should tend to it.”

Ultimately, depression ― just like any other medical illness ― alters a person’s daily existence. And the more people keep that in mind, the less stigma and more understanding there will be about what it means to live with the disorder.

7 Truths to Remember in Troubled Times

SOURCE:  Family Life/Dennis – Barbara Rainey

Concerned about economic, political, racial, and moral instability in our culture?  Disheartened by struggles in your personal life?  Here’s what to focus on when the ground shakes beneath your feet.

Years ago our family of eight and some dear friends of ours with their two kids vacationed in a small condo on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Southern California. It was a beautiful setting and a wonderful time for our families, but one night we were introduced to an experience that Southern Californians face regularly.

At 2 a.m. we awoke to a boom that made us think a truck had hit the building. Then we noticed that everything was shaking. We jumped out of bed and hurried to the living room where all our children were sleeping on the floor in sleeping bags. The chandelier over the dining room table was swinging.

It was an earthquake—not very large, but very unsettling. We felt disoriented and confused. We wondered how long it would last and what we should do. The earth is supposed to be steady and solid, and now it wasn’t. When it finally stopped we couldn’t go back to sleep for hours because our fears had been awakened and our security threatened.

Unsettling times

Does our experience describe how you have felt recently? Many Americans have felt shaken by economic instability, racial conflict, mass shootings, and terrorist threats in recent years. Even the current political races have left us feeling anxious, troubled, disoriented. We wonder what to do. We feel afraid as the ground shakes beneath our feet.

Many followers of Christ feel just as unsettled over the unprecedented transformation in the moral climate of our culture. The world’s views on human sexuality, especially, have changed so quickly that Christians are now labeled as bigots for holding to biblical standards. We don’t know how to act, what to say or not say.

And inside our individual homes, many may be feeling disoriented and disheartened because of illness, hardships, failed relationships, or recent deaths of friends or family. Like a friend of ours who just received a cancer diagnosis—her world has just been shaken. Perhaps your world has been shaken, too.

Our stability

A couple of years ago I (Barbara) was reading through the book of Isaiah, and I came across a passage I had never noticed before. Isaiah 33:5-6 says, “The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness, and he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure.”

I was struck by that phrase in the middle: “and he will be the stability of your times…” At the time our country was experiencing an economic downturn. Everyone in America was feeling the impact.

When life feels insecure and unstable—not just in the world outside but also inside your family—remember that God is ultimately in control. No matter what is happening around you or how unsteady the world feels, He is our sure and stable foundation.

In many ways, America has been a pretty stable country for the last few decades. But it may not continue to be. When you feel the ground shift beneath your feet, it’s good to remember that Jesus is your Rock and your Fortress. He will be the stability of your times.

Dealing with the hardships of life

Life will never be easy. We will always face problems and hardship. That would be true even if our culture felt more stable than it does today, for the Scriptures promise us, “In the world you shall have tribulation.”

So how will we deal with loss, with grief, with fear, with suffering? How do we respond when things don’t go our way? And how do we teach our children to face the hardships of life?

Christians today need to know more about God, more about ourselves, and more about the mission God has given us. Here are seven things to remember:

1. God is alive. He has not disappeared. He is eternal, all-powerful, and all-knowing, just as He has been from the beginning of time. As Isaiah 40:28 tells us, “… The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.”

2. God never changes. Psalm 90 (KJV) begins, “Lord, Thou has been our dwelling place in all generations … even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God.” Inspired by these words, Isaac Watts wrote the following verses in the enduring hymn, “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.” They remind us that our fears, though circumstantially different than his in ages past, are still the same:

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.

We all fear the loss of life, health, freedom, and peace. We fear the unknown future. But do you know who will be with us? Jesus, the One who is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

3. God offers eternal life. If you have received Christ as your Lord and Savior, your sins have been forgiven because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. You are a child of God, and as Romans 8:38-39 tells us, “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That is encouraging.

4. God has won the battle. He has defeated death. History will culminate in Christ’s return. No matter what we experience in the world, we can find peace in Him. In John 16:33 Jesus tells us, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

5. God is still in control. He is not surprised by anything going on in the world, or in your life. He is the sovereign, omnipotent King of kings. Even in times of uncertainty and chaos, Romans 8:28 (NASB) is still in force: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” So is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB), which tells us, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

6. God will provide for your needs. Especially in times of economic uncertainty it’s easy to grow anxious about the most basic things, like whether we will keep our jobs, or whether our families will have enough to eat. But in Matthew 6:26-33, Jesus tells us we should not be worried about what we eat, or what we will wear:

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

7. God has given us good works to do. Jesus’ words also remind us that there is more to life than meeting our daily material needs. When we seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness, we operate according to His priorities—we’re concerned about building our family relationships, and connecting the hearts of our children to God’s heart, and impacting future generations by proclaiming Christ. We’re concerned about God using us to reach and influence others with the gospel. That’s what life is really about.

Second Corinthians 5:20 tells us that we are ambassadors for Christ. Have you considered that your best opportunities to fulfill this role—to represent Christ and His Kingdom—may come in times like these when so many need help and encouragement?

Consider this: If you are feeling troubled by the instability in our world, then many of the people you encounter each day are concerned and fearful as well. What makes you different is that you have a firm foundation in Christ. This is an opportunity for you to shine. If you have built your home on the Rock (Matthew 7:24-27), you will remain unshaken. That in itself is a witness to the watching world that there is something different about Christians. And if you then reach out to help others who struggle without that foundation, that makes you rare indeed.

When life feels insecure and unstable, focus on these timeless truths. Read the never-changing Word of God with your spouse and to your children. No matter what troubles we are experiencing in our world and in our families, He is in control. He will not abandon us. He will provide for us. This may look different than you expect, but His promises have not expired in the 21st century.

Parenting: You’re Driving Me Crazy

SOURCE:  /Focus on the Family

I am not alone when it comes to frequently losing it with my children.

My research shows that screaming is a common problem in motherhood. While there are specific circumstances in which yelling is imperative, such as with safety issues or an emergency, I confess that valid reasons for my outbursts have been infrequent.

In my study, moms listed the top anger-causing stressors as fatigue and being overwhelmed with demands on their time. Stressors or not, a loss of control often leads to self-imposed guilt. And families are too often left wounded and confused by a yelling mom.

I remember when Seth, then 2, was supposed to be in his crib and going to sleep. My husband, Curt, was out of town, so I was facilitating the bedtime routine solo. After giving Seth a bath and reading him a bedtime story, I retrieved one last drink of water, listened to his prayers and settled him for the night.

I was eight months pregnant and exhausted, so my focus, after closing his bedroom door, was on relaxing with a good book and drifting off to sleep. In less than five minutes, I heard the door of his room creak open.

“Seth,” I said sternly, “you better climb right back in your bed.” He closed the door, and I could hear him climb back into his bed. This scenario repeated itself two more times. Finally, I put down my book, heaved myself out of the recliner and charged into his room yelling, “You are driving me crazy; stay in your bed!”

Seth began to cry, and through his sobs he replied, “But it’s just so lonely in here.”

A wave of guilt engulfed me. My sweet toddler had been wounded by my loud, angry words.

That was several years ago, and I’ve since learned that being honest with myself and recognizing the destructive influence that screaming has on my children is the first step in changing this pattern of poor communication.

Here are other habit-changing behaviors:

  • Committing to lowering my voice toward my children when the stressors propel me toward screaming has been an effective way to keep my emotions at more steady levels.
  • Taking time to discuss with my children, according to their age and understanding, about why I may be on edge can help all of us be more sensitive to one another.
  • Realizing that I am not alone in this struggle has strengthened my resolve to break the screaming cycle. Friends help spur me on to change.

Whenever the triggers for “losing it” are present, I recognize the problem, lower my voice and acknowledge I am not alone in this struggle, which helps defuse my anger. The response I give my children is always more appropriate.”

The freedom from guilt has been my catalyst to parent in the way that God desires.

After all, my goal is to reflect Him well to my family.

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Sue Heimer is an author and Christian speaker on topics ranging from “Living a Life of Faith” to “When You Feel Like Screaming — Help for frustrated mothers.”

Doctors Say Your Word Choice Can Hugely Change Your Brain

SOURCE:  /Lifehack

Be careful because the next word you say could determine how your day is, or the rest of your life might pan out. Doctors at Thomas Jefferson University explained that the choice of our words could actually have more impact on our lives than we actually think. Think the words of “I can’t”, “I won’t” or “it’s tough”, are harmless? Use them long enough and it will literally change your brain and here’s why.

Positive words strengthens frontal lobe

Dr. Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldmen, authors of life-changing book, “Words can change your brain”, wrote that “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.” By using more positive words in our daily lives, the areas of our frontal lobes are exercised, making it more effective.

By stimulating frontal lobe activity, you are developing an area that is in charge of telling you what is right from wrong and the ability to override and suppress socially unacceptable responses. As a result of frequent use of positive words, it will then give you the motivation to take charge of your life and your choices.

Negative words increase stress hormones

So what happens when we use too much negative words? The use of negative words activates the fear response in us which raises the levels of our stress hormones which the Amygdala is responsible for. Too much negativity and we become edgy as the stress hormones take over our body.

Although it might be true that a little stress is good for our bodies, but too much of it can cause many problems to our physical and mental health.

Changing the way we view ourselves and others

The doctors added further that the use of positive language can start to change the functions of the parietal lobe which is in charge of how we view ourselves and others. With a positive view of ourselves through the use of positive and encouraging words, it will make us lean towards seeing the good in others too.

However, a negative self-image brought about by negative use of language can fill us with suspicion and doubt causing us to be more wary of others which changes the way we behave socially.

The experiment

Studies were conducted to see whether it is true that using uplifting words can help to rewire our brain and thought processes. A group of adults ranging from age 35 to 54 were tasked to write down three things every day for the next 3 months that make them the happiest and why they chose those three.

Three months into the study and it showed that these adults felt more happy and less depressed. The study was also able to tell us that we are all capable of rewiring our brains to become more positive by focusing on the events that make us happy instead of events that don’t.

Practical methods of using positive language

When we’re angry, there are many times when we use words which we regret using once we cool down. Experts say that this is because when angry words are used, they partially shut down the areas of logic and reasoning located in our frontal lobe. The amygdala which is our center for ‘fight or flight’ responses will then take over. This explains why most of us are not able to think before reacting when we are angry. Some experts term it, ‘amygdala hijacking’.

With the habit of using positive language, we can train our frontal lobes to be more effective even when we’re angry so that we become more logical when dealing with heated situations.

If you are currently unaware of whether you are using more positive words than negative words, start to pay attention to your word choice and write them down if you can. Also, to put yourself in a more positive frame of mind, try writing down 3 things that makes you happy every day and start to see that positive change in your life.

The LORD, The LORD — OR — The Problem, The Problem?

SOURCE:  Max Lucado/Family Life

Your Best Thoughts Are God-Thoughts

When troubles come our way, we can be stressed and upset, or we can trust God.

You’ll never have a problem-free life. Ever.

You’ll never drift off to sleep on the wings of this thought: My, today came and went with no problems in the world. This headline will never appear in the paper: “We have only good news to report.”

You might be elected as president of Russia. You might discover a way to e-mail pizza and become a billionaire. You might be called out of the stands to pinch-hit when your team is down to its final out of the World Series, hit a home run, and have your face appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Pigs might fly.

A kangaroo might swim.

Men might surrender the remote control.

Women might quit buying purses.

It’s not likely. But it’s possible.

But a problem-free, no hassle, blue-sky existence of smooth sailing?

Don’t hold your breath.

Problems happen. They happen to rich people, sexy people, educated people, and sophisticated people. They happen to retired people, single people, spiritual people, and secular people.

All people have problems.

But not all people see problems the same way. Some people are overcome by problems. Others overcome problems. Some people are left bitter. Others are left better. Some people face their challenges with fear. Others with faith.

Caleb did.

In the wilderness
His story from the Old Testament stands out because his faith did. Forty five years earlier when Moses sent the 12 spies into Canaan, Caleb was among them. He and Joshua believed the land could be taken. But since the other 10 spies disagreed, the children of Israel ended up in the wilderness.

God, however, took note of Caleb’s courage. The man’s convictions were so striking that God paid him a compliment that would make a saint blush. “My servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly” (Numbers 14:24 NIV).  How would you like to have those words on your resume? What type of spirit catches the eye of God? What qualifies as a “different spirit?

Answers begin to emerge during the distribution of the lands west of the Jordan.

Then the children of Judah came to Joshua in Gilgal (Joshua 14:6). Every Hebrew tribe was represented. All the priests, soldiers, and people gathered near the tabernacle. Eleazar, the priest, had two urns, one containing the tribal names, the other with lists of land parcels. Yet before the people received their inheritance, a promise needed to be fulfilled.

I’m seeing a sturdy man with sinewy muscle. Caleb, gray headed and great hearted, steps forward. He has a spring in his step, a sparkle in his eye, and a promise to collect. “Joshua, remember what Moses told you and me at Kadesh Barnea?

Kadesh Barnea. The name stirred a 45-five-year-old memory in Joshua. It was from this camp that Moses heard two distinct reports.

All 12 men agreed on the value of the land. It flowed with milk and honey. All 12 agreed on the description of the people and the cities. Large and fortified. But only Joshua and Caleb believed the land could be overtaken.

Read carefully the words that Caleb spoke to Joshua at the end of the military campaign (Joshua 14:6-12). See if you can spot what was different about Caleb’s spirit.

Caleb … said to [Joshua]: “You know the word which the LORD said to Moses the man of God concerning you and me in Kadesh Barnea. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land, and I brought back word to him as it was in my heart. Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt, but I wholly followed the LORD my God. So Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children’s forever, because you have wholly followed the LORD my God.’ And now, behold the LORD has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the LORD spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the LORD spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the LORD will be with me; and I shall be able to drive them out as the LORD said.

What name appears and reappears in Caleb’s words? The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. Nine references to the Lord! Who was on Caleb’s mind? Who was in Caleb’s heart? What caused him to have a different spirit? He centered his mind on the Lord.

What about you? What emphasis would a transcript of your thoughts reveal? The Lord? Or the problem, the problem, the problem, the problem? The economy, the economy? The jerk, the jerk?

Promised Land people do not deny the presence of problems. Canaan is fraught with giants and Jerichos. It does no good to pretend it is not. Servants like Caleb aren’t naïve, but they immerse their minds in God-thoughts.

Good water and battery acid
Imagine two cooking bowls. One contains fresh, clean water. The second contains battery acid. Take an apple and cut it in half. Place one half of the apple in the bowl of clean water. Place the other half in the bowl of battery acid. Leave each in its respective bowl for five minutes, and then pull out the two halves. Which one will you want to eat?

Your mind is the apple. God is good water. Problems are battery acid. If you marinate your mind in your problems, they will eventually corrode and corrupt your thoughts. But thoughts of God will preserve and refresh your attitudes. Caleb was different because he soaked his mind in God.

The psalmist showed us how to do this. He asked, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? (Psalm 42:5). He was sad and discouraged. The struggles of life threatened to pull him under and take another victim. But at just the right time, the writer made this decision: “Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him … I will remember You from the land of the Jordan, and from the heights of Hermon, from the Hill Mizar (verses 5-6).

There is a resolve in those words. “I shall yet … I will remember You. The writer made a deliberate decision to treat his downcast soul with thoughts of God. Everywhere I go, I will remember you—from Jordan to Hermon to Mizar.

In your case the verse would read, “From the ICU to the cemetery, to the unemployment line, to the courtroom, I will remember you.

There is nothing easy about this. Troubles pounce on us like rain in a thunderstorm. Finding God amid the billows will demand every bit of discipline you can muster. But the result is worth the strain. Besides, do you really want to meditate on your misery? Will reciting your problems turn you into a better person? No. But changing your mind-set will.

Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed (John 14:27, AMP).  Instead, immerse your mind in God-thoughts.

When troubles come our way, we can be stressed and upset, or we can trust God. Caleb could have cursed God. He didn’t deserve the wilderness. He had to put his dreams on hold for four decades. Still he didn’t complain or grow sour. When the time came for him to inherit his property, he stepped forward with a God-drenched mind to receive it.

Set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things) (Col.  3:2 AMP). When giants are in the land, when doubts swarm your mind, turn your thoughts to God. Your best thoughts are God-thoughts.

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Taken from Glory Days by Max Lucado, copyright © 2015 by Max Lucado.

 

Your Stress Is Harming Your Spiritual Life

SOURCE:  ANDREA LUCADO/Relevant Magazine

Overworking yourself takes a much deeper toll than you might realize.

I’ve noticed a theme since entering adulthood: it’s stressful.

Becoming a grown up means grown-up responsibilities. You go to work, where maybe you have a difficult boss, or strict deadlines, budgets to make and presentations to give. After work, you go home, where you’re trying to keep up with things like grocery shopping, bills and cleaning. And on top of keeping your work and home life in order, you are trying to maintain a decent social life, stay up-to-date on pop culture and follow the news.

It’s a lot. It’s stressful. And, pretty quickly, we grow accustomed to the stress.

We talk about being stressed out with our friends. We learn to go about our day with a constant weight on our shoulders, with neck pain and tension, with shortness of breath, or however it is your body manifests stress.

At some point, we just learn to live with it, get the occasional massage, and move on. But I wonder if we’re growing too comfortable with the amount of stress we have in our lives. I wonder if we realize what it is actually doing to us, not just physically, but spiritually.

I think stress, at its core, is feeling worried about things that aren’t going your way presently, didn’t go your way in the past, or might not go your way in the future. I went through an intensely stressful time recently in which I was worried about all three of these things at once. I felt myself spiraling. I got anxious and just held onto the anxiety. In the stress, I began to doubt God’s power, and I began to doubt His goodness. If God is good and cares about me, why do I feel this way? If He is all-powerful and all-knowing, why isn’t He improving my situation?

Simply put, I was not trusting God.

When we’re stressed, our reaction is to search for peace. But after this recent bout of anxiety, I wonder if what we should be looking for instead is trust. Consider Isaiah 26:3: “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” According to this verse, trusting God is the key to perfect peace. And how do we trust God, especially in the midst of a stressful time? By keeping our minds “stayed” on Him.

John MacArthur says, “Perfect peace comes when our focus is off the problem, off the trouble, and constantly on Christ.” Let’s be honest, keeping our minds constantly on Christ is a bit of a daunting task, but I think we can take steps in that direction by remembering who God is and what He has done for us. For it is when we forget these things that we begin to distrust, and it is when we distrust that we begin to stress.

Remembering Who God Is

Oswald Chambers says in order to find peace, “remember who you are and whose you are.” When we forget who God is, it becomes very easy to freak out. If God is not in control, then who is? If God is not good, will the bad things never stop happening? If God is not loving, then will I never get the things I so deeply desire?

When we forget the character of God, the troubles in our minds escalate quickly. But when we remind ourselves of who God is—He is good (Exodus 34:6), He is just (Nehemiah 9:32), He is merciful (Hebrews 4:16)—the pressure to solve our own issues and take care of own stress is off. It’s not up to us, and the person it is up to is good, just and merciful.

Remembering What He Has Done for Us

There is no shortage of scholarly evidence that gratitude leads to a less stressful and more “happy life,” as the experts call it. But gratitude for the Christian takes things to a deeper level. We’re not only thankful for what we have; we are able to thank the one who gave it to us.

 Paul tells the Philippians, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ” (Philippians 4:6-7). Thanksgiving is on the path toward peace.

I set a challenge for myself this year that you may want to consider if your stress level is high. I’m starting every day by writing down five things I am thankful for and five things I know to be true about God’s character. I’ve been doing this for a few weeks now, and though I can’t say my stress is completely gone and everything is roses, I have felt more aware of how good my life is and more aware of God’s presence in it. Reminding myself of these things has allowed me to be less skeptical of God and more trusting of Him. And in that trust, there has been peace.

A 100 percent stress-free life isn’t realistic, but I think we can, realistically, set a goal to stress less, fear less, and experience anxiety less often, one piece of gratitude and one piece of truth at a time.

Is Trauma Terminal?

SOURCE:  Chuck Swindoll

Matthew 11:28–30

The definition reflects devastation:

Trauma: An injury (as a wound) to living tissue caused by an extrinsic agent . . . a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from mental or emotional stress.

Like potatoes in a pressure cooker, we twenty-first century creatures understand the meaning of stress.

A week doesn’t pass without a few skirmishes with those “extrinsic agents” that beat upon our fragile frames. They may be as mild as making lunches for our kids before 7:30 in the morning (mild?) or as severe as a collision with another car . . . or another person.

Makes no difference.

The result is “trauma”—a two-bit word for nervous. You know, the bottom-line reason Valium remains a top seller. Our emotional wounds are often deep. They don’t hemorrhage like a stabbing victim’s, but they are just as real and just as painful . . . sometimes more.

Years ago, a stress test carried on by Dr. Thomas Holmes and his colleagues concluded that an accumulation of two hundred or more “life change units” in any year may mean more disruption—more trauma—than an individual can stand. On their scale, death of a spouse equals one hundred units, divorce represents seventy-three units . . . and Christmas equals twelve units! That helps explain the idea behind “something snapping” inside certain people when the final straw falls on them. Our capacity for trauma has its limits.

Joseph Bayly could certainly understand. He and his wife lost three of their children—one at eighteen days (after surgery); another at five years (leukemia); a third at eighteen years (sledding accident plus hemophilia). In my wildest imagination, I cannot fathom the depth of their loss. In the backwash of such deep trauma, the Bayly couple stood sometimes strong, sometimes weak, as they watched God place a period before the end of the sentence on three of their children’s lives. And their anguish was not relieved when well-meaning people offered shallow, simple answers amidst their grief.

Eyes that read these words might very well be near tears. You are trying to cope without hope. You are stretched dangerously close to the “200-unit” limit . . . and there’s no relief on the horizon. You’re bleeding and you’ve run out of bandages. You have moved from mild tension to advanced trauma.

Be careful! You are in the danger zone, emotionally. You’re a sitting duck, and the adversary is taking aim with both barrels loaded, hoping to open fire while you are vulnerable. Bam! “Run!” Boom! “Think suicide.”

Listen carefully! Jesus Christ opens the gate, gently looks at you and says:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
(Matthew 11:28–30 MSG)

Nothing complicated. No big fanfare, no trip to Mecca, no hypnotic trance, no fee, no special password. Just come. Meaning? Unload. Unhook the pack and drop it in His lap . . . now. Allow Him to take your stress as you take His rest. Does He know what trauma is all about? Remember, He’s the One whose sweat became like drops of blood in the agony of Gethsemane. If anybody understands trauma, He does. Completely.

His provision is profound, attainable, and right. He’s a master at turning devastation into restoration.

Look again at His invitation in Matthew 11:28–30, and accept it with all your heart.

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Excerpted from Come Before Winter and Share My Hope, Copyright © 1985, 1988, 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc.

This Pressure Cooker Called “Life”

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

Have you ever been in “pressure-cooker” situations, dealing with non-stop stress, multiple priorities, constant interruptions, or emotionally charged situations?

What happens to the brain when we’re under pressure like that?

Our circuitry, the hardware necessary to get the best decision-making and spiritual worship out of the computer that is YOU, is dramatically affected by stress. God gave us a great brain to respond to acute and short periods of stress, but longer episodes of stress are actually destructive to the brain, and thus all the areas of our life our brain touches. Satan knows that and cranks up the pressure, the stress of life, to push us to a conforming mind.

Ongoing stress causes excessive action by our immune system and endocrine system, producing cortisol and adrenaline. Prolonged activation injures brain cells, even killing some, and disrupts circuitry in our emotion, memory, and relationship centers of the brain. This is why we have trouble thinking of God’s promises, character, or past provision, trouble remembering Bible passages that soothe, or trouble connecting to God’s love, peace, comfort, and grace when we are under continual pressure or stress.

Everyone responds to stress differently. Some people just walk away. Maybe you’re competent to accomplish a task, but instead do just enough to make it work. Possibly you fall into making knee-jerk reactions, or you respond to what is urgent while avoiding what is important. It’s easy to go for the quick fix, relying on yourself but forgetting to ask God for His guidance and wisdom. That’s exactly where Satan wants you to be. But there’s another way.

Today, when you are under pressure at work, at home, or on the street, just stop. Consider that you get to make a choice. Call on God and tell Him you need His help. This is exactly where we all need to be, “on our knees” in a position of dependence. God is delighted when we rely on His goodness, mercy and power. He has promised that He will always be with us. He will never leave us or forsake us. You can decide to let the pressure get to you … or to rely on the God who loves you. When you stop and rely on Him, you are actually rewiring that damaged circuitry, healing damaged brain cells, and literally growing new ones that will allow you to function better. Your decision … choose well as it is your spiritual act of worship!

Dear God, When I consider all the pressures and demands on my life today, it feels overwhelming. It’s so hard to know what to do or even where to start. I don’t want to just get by. I want to live a full life, the abundant life Jesus talked about, that pleases You in every way. I can’t do this alone. I need and want Your help. As I call out to You. I trust You alone to give me wisdom, guidance and energy for my situation. I pray to You in the name of Your Son Jesus who had perfect brain chemistry and triumphed through the most extreme pressure cooker. “AMEN!”

The Truth

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

Matthew 6:13

 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual act of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:1-2

“God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Really!?

SOURCE:   Sue Birdseye/AACC

 

Just Enough Too Much

There was a time when I thought I knew stress. Golly, was I mistaken!

That was before adultery, divorce and single parenting. Now I believe I can safely say, “My life is stressful” without fear of later thinking I was naïve.

Thankfully, this divorced, single parent life, although tough, has revealed God’s faithfulness, love and strength to me in ways I wouldn’t trade for nothin’. And believe me there are definitely lots of things I’d be willing to trade for a long nap!

I’ve been told a bazillion times in the last 4 years that, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Really!? Because it certainly feels like He just did! But I’ve discovered that He gives me just enough too much so that I have to turn to Him. He takes me to the point of having nothing left of myself, so He can give me Himself.

When my husband revealed his betrayal to me, my world tilted dramatically, but God didn’t let it crash. He provided me grace and strength to fight for my marriage, and friends who prayed and fought alongside me.

When my divorce was finalized and my husband married his mistress, my world again seemed on the verge of collapse, but God held it together for me. He revealed His love through His word and His people, and gave me a vision for my future – one filled with hope.

When life as a single parent to five children seems beyond challenging, God continues to strengthen me and love on me. He shows me every day that His grace is sufficient. And believe me, with 5 children grace is an absolute necessity.

I’ve spent many late nights crying out to God for help and many days grumbling about this life. I’ve struggled mightily with the hurt my sweet children have suffered.

Through it all God has been my constant.

He constantly loves me through His word, His presence, and His people.

He’s constantly faithful even when I‘m less than stellar in my faithfulness to Him.

He’s constantly forgiving when I struggle with anger, bitterness and trust.

He’s constantly providing for my family even when I see no way.

I’d think those were mere Christian platitudes if I weren’t experiencing God’s profound love and faithfulness daily. My life’s challenges are just enough too much so that I completely understand that I can indeed do all things through Christ who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

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Written by Sue Birdseye, author of  When Happily Ever After Shatters.

Adult Children: Dealing With Defiance

SOURCE:  Chuck Swindoll/Insight for Living

Regarding:  Deuteronomy 21:18–21

Defiance and stress are inseparable co-conspirators. Together, they scheme to steal your peace of mind.

Although the term defiance does not appear in Scripture, acts and attitudes of defiance often do. No matter what the term, the scene is never pretty.

The same is true in life today . . . but the tragedy is that defiance is frequently permitted and sometimes totally ignored, leaving others in the wake of its serious consequences. Talk about stress fractures!

God never overlooks or winks at defiance. He deals with it, and we are to take our cues from our Lord.

Let’s take a quick look at God’s attitude, His abhorrence of rebellious acts.

Please consider Deuteronomy 21:18–21. Even though this event occurred in the days when the severity of punishment was much greater than today, it nevertheless reveals how strongly the Lord feels about defiance.

I take it, from the way this narrative unfolds, that the person in question is a young man—old enough to live outside the home, but perhaps not quite ready for that. He’s living under the roof of his parents but has been demonstrating insubordinate independence. His lifestyle reveals an unbending determination to have his own way.

“If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his hometown. They shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear of it and fear.”

I remember the first time I read that passage; I was a teenager! In fact, I was getting pretty big for my britches. I thought about those words till very late in the evening, believe me. I can still remember the chill that ran down my back when I realized how seriously God feels about defiance. I was also grateful that I was not living under the Law! The Lord made no provision for domestic insolence, even when the child living at home was approaching adulthood.

Defiance is never excusable, never of little concern.

Before proceeding, perhaps I should clarify that this passage is not suggesting that parents have the right to be despotic dictators in the home, mistreating and manipulating their children. No! Please observe that the parents mentioned in Deuteronomy 21 apparently had attempted to work with their son—to no avail. He defied their authority. He refused to cooperate, to curtail his habit of getting drunk, to restrain himself in other things as well. This young man was turning the home into a “hell on earth.” He left the parents with no alternative other than to call on city authorities to help, which still occurs today.

Take time to observe, parents!

The peace, the moral standards, and the joy of your home are not to be sacrificed on the altar of indulgence. Defiance will send stress fractures through the structure of a home just as it will ruin a life. If you do not deal with it, who will? Believe me, the teacher at school or the minister at church cannot take the place of the parent at home.

In the days of Samuel, there once lived a self-willed king named Saul. On one occasion King Saul did his own thing, in defiance of God’s instructions through the prophet-judge Samuel. The prophet was dispatched by the Lord to face the king. Saul excused himself, backpedaled, rationalized, and even denied being defiant. Finally, Samuel had had enough. He looked straight at Saul, pointed that long, bony finger of his and said, “Rebellion is as the sin of divination . . . and idolatry.”

That’s quite a statement! The Living Bible captures the thought in this paraphrase:

For rebellion is as bad as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as bad as worshiping idols. (1 Samuel 15:23a TLB)

The next time you’re tempted to pass over defiance, remember that analogy.

 

When Under Pressure, Make The Best Choice

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

This Pressure Cooker Called Life

Have you ever been in “pressure-cooker” situations, dealing with non-stop stress, multiple priorities, constant interruptions, or emotionally charged situations?

What happens to the brain when we’re under pressure like that?

Our circuitry, the hard-wiring necessary to get the best decision-making and spiritual worship out of the awesome mind that is YOU, is dramatically affected by stress.

God gave us a great brain to respond to acute and short periods of stress. But longer episodes of stress are actually destructive to the brain, and thus all the areas of life our brain touches. Satan knows that and he cranks up the pressure, the stress of life, to push us to be a ‘conforming’ mind. Our viewpoint and decisions will determine how much stress and pressure we are exposed to and whether we fan it or extinguish it. . . .

Ongoing stress causes excessive action by our immune system and endocrine system, producing cortisol and adrenaline. Prolonged activation injures brain cells, even kills some, and disrupts circuitry in our emotion, memory, and relationship centers of the brain. This is why we have trouble thinking of God’s promises, character, or past provision … trouble remembering Bible passages that soothe, and trouble connecting to God’s love, peace, comfort, and grace when we are under continual pressure or stress.

Everyone responds to stress differently. Some people just walk away. Maybe you’re competent to accomplish a task, but instead, do just enough to make it work. Possibly you fall into making knee-jerk reactions, or you respond to what is urgent while avoiding what is important. It’s easy to go for the quick fix, relying on yourself, but forgetting to ask God for His guidance and wisdom. That’s exactly where Satan wants you to be.

But there’s another way.

[W]hen you are under pressure at work, at home, or on the street, just stop. Consider that you get to make a choice. Call on God and tell Him you need His help.

This is exactly where we all need to be, “on our knees” in a position of dependence. God is delighted when we rely on His goodness, mercy and power. He has promised that He will always be with us. He will never leave us or forsake us. You can decide to let the pressure get to you … or to rely on the God who loves you. Whether you stop and rely on Him, actually rewiring that damaged circuitry, healing damaged brain cells, and literally growing new ones that will allow you to function better or you rely on yourself and allow stress to ultimately overwhelm you is your decision … so choose well as it is your spiritual act of worship!

Dear God, When I consider all the pressures and demands on my life today, it feels overwhelming. It’s so hard to know what to do or even where to start. I don’t want to just get by. I want to live a full life, the abundant life Jesus talked about, a life that pleases You in every way. I can’t do this alone. I need and want Your help. As I call out to You. I trust You alone to give me wisdom, guidance and energy for my situation. I pray to You in the name of Your Son Jesus who had perfect brain chemistry and triumphed through the most extreme pressure cooker.  “AMEN!”

The Truth
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.  1 Corinthians 10:13

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”  Matthew 6:13

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual act of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.  Romans 12:1-2

God’s Complete Control. Period.

SOURCE:  Chuck Swindoll

God’s Complete Control

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble. 
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; 
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah. . . .
The LORD of hosts is with us; 
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah. . . .
“Cease striving and know that I am God.”
—Psalm 46:1–3, 7, 10

Quiet our hearts, dear Father, and in so doing, remind us that You are sovereign—not almost sovereign but altogether sovereign. Nothing occurs in our lives that has not been masterfully planned and put together by You, our eternal God.

Help us to enter into the truth of Psalm 46:10 personally and consistently. May that result in being still, enabling us to discover that You are God. As we cast our cares upon You, knowing You care for us, release our stress.

We entrust our concerns to You today . . . large and small, new and nagging.

We long to experience peace-filled living by stepping off this treadmill called pressurized living. We pray that Your mighty presence would take the place of the stress, the demands, the struggles, the mess we’ve created.

We ask that You would give us Your shalom—Your peace—like we’ve never known it before. We deliberately choose to trust You and to rest in You.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

See also Psalm 34:4; Proverbs 16:3; Jeremiah 17:7; Philippians 4:19.

Nothing occurs in our lives that has not been masterfully planned by our God.

Do You Ever Worry?

Source:  Christina Fox/Desiring God

A Prayer for the Worried Mom’s Heart

Do you ever worry?

I think we can all admit that we do. In fact, we probably worry more than we realize. As a mother, I find myself worrying about my children, about their health, their learning, and whether I can just make it to bedtime each day.

I also find myself worried about paying bills, about my husband’s travel for work, and about that message from my doctor needing to discuss test results with me. My to-do lists keep me awake at night because I fear I’ll forget to do something important. Questions like “what if?” and “should I have?” swirl around my mind, holding me hostage and keeping me chained to my worries and fears.

Worry is a kind of “acceptable sin.” By that I mean worry is one of those sins that everyone does so we don’t often address it. Like gossip, worry is something we all know we aren’t supposed to do, but we often gloss over it and call it something else — something like stress. Especially for women, worry can be expected and in some situations to not worry would seem strange.

But deep down, we want to be freed from the chronic feeling of doom and the expectation of something bad lurking just around the corner. We know that the Bible tells us not to worry, but “what if?” thoughts seem like such a part of us that we don’t know how to stop.

What can we do?

Remember and Pray

Like oil and water, trust and worry do not mix. To expel worry from our heart, we need to grow deeper roots of trust in God. Time and again in the Psalms, when the writer’s heart was heavy, he turned to look back at all that God had done for him. As the psalmist looked back at God’s faithfulness and his sovereign care for him, he was able to trust God even in the midst of troubling circumstances.

When we look back in our own lives at God’s faithfulness to us, it gives us confidence and hope in his future faithfulness. We look back to our own story of salvation. We see that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, that this is the demonstration of God’s love for us. When worries threaten to seize our heart, we need to remember and dwell on the truth of the gospel. Remembering the cross propels us in faith for what lies ahead.

And as we remember, we need to turn to God in prayer. Hebrews says that because of Jesus, we can come to the throne of grace with confidence, to receive the help we need (Hebrews 4:16). Paul was referring to chronic worry when he wrote in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” We are to give our worries to God in prayer, trusting him with all our burdens and cares. As a result, we will receive in return the peace we long for, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

You might even pray something like this. . . .

A Prayer for the Worried Heart

My Papa in Heaven,

I come to you with a heart heavy and full of so many worries and cares. I want to just curl up on your lap and find some peace from the chaos in my life. My worries fill my mind night and day. My stomach is in knots and I can hardly breathe. I feel like I am drained dry; the joy has been sucked right out of me.

But you said to come to you with all my burdens. You said that you will carry them. You tell us you are a rock, a shield, a fortress. I need a rock right now. I need a fortress to run into right now. I need you.

There are so many decisions to make. What if I make the wrong one? So many bad things loom on the horizon, what if I’m not prepared? Help me to focus my heart on you and not on the giants around me. I know that all these worries are keeping me from trusting you. Like Peter, instead of looking toward your face, I am looking around at the waves encircling me.

Forgive me for doubting and not living a life of trust. I believe, but please help my unbelief! I know that when I worry, I am believing a lie that says that I can control what happens in my life. Forgive me for trying to control something I never really had control of. Help me to trust in your word and not the lies.

You sent your Son to carry my greatest burden at the cross. I know that you can handle all that troubles me today. There is nothing too great for you, the earth is your footstool and the wind and rain come and go at your command. Free me of this worry today. Help me to trust the same grace that saved me at the cross to save me from all that weighs me down.

I know that you have a perfect plan for my life. Help me to walk by faith and not by sight. I want to trust in your plan and your love for me. I want to face the unknown future confident that you have it under control. Grant me the grace I need.

Thank you for Jesus and that because of him I can come to you in confidence. You accept me as I am, worries and all. I give them all to you now, in Jesus’s name, Amen.

Parenting an ADULT CHILD: Love and Respect

SOURCE:  Living Free

Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king.” 1 Peter 2:17 NLT

The key to parenting an adult child is love and respect.

This is especially important if your adult child has moved back home with you. All children are admonished to honor and respect their parents (Deuteronomy 5:16), but all of us are called to respect all people—including our children!

Communication with your adult child is on the level of adult to adult. It can be a tough challenge to respect his maturity and his independence, while at the same time, to maintain your position as his parent. You need to learn to suggest and request, rather than order. And here’s a real challenge—you need to give advice to your adult son or daughter only when asked. At the same time, remember that this is your home, and your child is the guest; therefore, it is reasonable to expect (and require if necessary) that the rules of your home be respected.

An adult child living in your home can cause stress on both you and your child, but both of you can learn and grow from this experience. There will be times for compromise and times for submission. God can use all this as he works to transform you into the image of his Son. As you and your child work through various situations, always remember that mutual respect is a vital key.

Father, teach me to communicate with my adult child on an adult level—showing respect. Help us both to learn to compromise, to submit to each other and to grow in you through all this experience. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Godly Parenting: Parenting Skills at Each Stage of Growth by N. Elizabeth Holland, M.D.

How can I keep going when overwhelmed by the pressures of daily life?

SOURCE:  Marlene Bagnull/Discipleship Journal

Strength for the Battle

“I DON’T KNOW what’s wrong with me,” I admitted to a close friend. “I’m exhausted all the time, and I’m so irritable with the children. I flip out over the smallest things, then I feel guilty. Instead of praising God for all the good things He’s done for me, I’m almost always depressed. I feel like a failure as a Christian.”

My friend listened. She didn’t judge me as I was judging myself or break in with pat answers. Through the gift of her willingness to listen I discovered the root of the problem.

“I think I’m experiencing burnout,” I said. “I just have too many things to do, too much stress. I know my life is out of balance, but I don’t know what to do about it. I feel trapped. I try to pray. I try to read the Bible, but it only makes me feel worse. I feel as if God is angry with me for not applying the things I know and even teach to others.”

“Condemnation never comes from God,” my friend said. “You’re listening to the wrong voice.”

The tears I’d managed to hold back began to flow after I hung up the phone. “Oh, God,” I sobbed, “please help me to understand what’s happening to me. Please help me to find Your answers.”

My friend’s comment led me to turn to Paul’s letter to the Romans and read, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Ro. 8:1). The burden of feeling God was angry and disappointed with me began to lift as I remembered the context in which the Apostle Paul had written those words. He, too, didn’t understand why he did some of the things he did, and why he failed to do the good he wanted to do (Ro. 7:15). But Paul wasn’t chained to feelings of guilt and self-accusation. He experienced the “law of the Spirit of life” setting him free from “the law of sin and death” (Ro. 8:2).

Freeing him from exhaustion and discouragement, too? I wondered as I thought of all that Paul had to endure. Beatings, imprisonments and riots, hard work, sleepless nights and hunger—Paul certainly endured many hardships that could have caused him to quit. Wherever he went he encountered hostility. He was thrown out of cities and told never to come back. Even his brothers in Christ did not always support him.

“God,” I prayed, “please show me what held Paul steady, what prevented him from giving up.”

The answers did not come immediately, but in the days that followed I began to see some principles I had never before applied to my problem.

Recognize that you’re being tested.

“We want to prove ourselves genuine ministers of God whatever we have to go through” (2 Cor. 6.4, Phillips ). Paul recognized the fact that he was being tested, and he determined, by an act of his will, to meet that test head-on. Rather than succumbing to self-pity or giving up when circumstances could easily have led to defeat, Paul chose to view trials as opportunities to prove to everyone watching that he was striving to live by the principles he taught.

Paul had encouraged the Galatians to “not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9). In a lengthy letter to the Corinthians he encouraged them to “stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58). In his first letter to the Thessalonians he told them to “be joyful always” (1 Thess. 5:16).

We do get tested on the things we profess to believe, but through the testings we have the opportunity to strengthen our own faith and the faith of others. How? Paul went on to say, “We have proved ourselves to be what we claim by our wholesome lives and by our understanding of the Gospel and by our patience. We have been kind and truly loving and filled with the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor. 6:6, Living Bible ).

But I was too tired to know whether or not I still understood the gospel or was filled with the Holy Spirit. My capacity to be patient and kind was exhausted. I knew it would take more than an act of my will to be any of these things.

Rely on God’s power.

The next verse provided a solution: “We have been truthful, with God’s power helping us in all we do” (2 Cor. 6:7, Living Bible ). I again saw how God wasn’t expecting me to do or be any of these things in my own strength. It was essential to honestly face my inadequacies. It is only as I admit my weaknesses that I come, as Paul did, to rely upon God’s power at work within me.

“Is my tendency to become overwhelmed by my ‘thorn in the flesh’?” I asked the Lord, thinking of Paul’s battle and all the times I had prayed for a stronger personality. I felt God speak to me the same words He had spoken to Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

Those words freed me, dispelling the fears that had been haunting me. I knew I no longer needed to be afraid of reaching the end of my resources because God’s power takes over when my strength is exhausted.

Go Into the battle equipped.

Finally the Lord reminded me that I am in a battle. To go into it without the “full armor of God” (Eph. 6:11) is as foolish as walking onto the front lines dressed for a game of tennis. I need to pick up and use the defensive weapons God provides for my protection. So every morning, for the past ten months, I’ve been “praying the armor on.” It’s become as much a part of my morning routine as getting dressed and brushing my teeth.

The belt of truth. “Lord,” I pray, “help me to gird myself with Your belt of truth” (Eph. 6:14). “Give me discernment that I might immediately recognize the enemy’s lies and half-truths. Help me to refuse to receive or believe them.”

The breastplate of righteousness. Next I mentally pick up the breastplate of righteousness (Eph. 6:14). It protects my most vulnerable area—my heart, the home of my feelings and emotions. It is so easy for me to be wounded by others, to allow myself to be influenced by fear of what they might say or think. “Lord,” I pray, “help me today to consistently choose to do what is right in Your eyes. Thank You for protecting me from the judgment and criticism I may receive.”

The shoes of the gospel. Just as I would not walk out of the house in the dead of winter barefooted, I take the time to have my “feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15).

John MacArthur, in his study notes for The Believer’s Armor, describes a common military practice of the Roman soldiers: “planting sticks in the ground which had been sharpened to a razor-point, and concealing them so that they were almost invisible. This was a very effective tactic because, if the soldier’s foot was pierced, he wouldn’t be able to walk—and if he couldn’t walk, he was totally debilitated.”1

To protect their feet, Roman soldiers wore boots with heavy soles. Pieces of metal protruded from the bottom of the boots, acting like today’s football cleats, to give the soldiers firm footing.

The shoes God provides for me give me a solid foundation upon which to stand. He readies me for His work by instructing and teaching me in the way I should go (Ps. 32:8). When I choose to follow His plan instead of asking Him to bless my plans, I find my feet do not become bruised and weary from going places He never intended for me to go. I also find that when I say “yes” to what He wants me to do rather than to what others tell me I should do, I am filled with peace instead of tension.

The shield of faith. Next I prayerfully pick up the shield of faith to stop the “flaming arrows of the evil one” (Eph. 6:16). I ask God to make me mighty in spirit—to help me to walk by faith, not by sight. I also ask Him to help me not to lower my shield by nurturing doubts. A soldier can be fatally wounded if he lowers his shield for only a moment.

The helmet of salvation. This piece of the armor (Eph. 6:17) protects my mind. As I ask God to fit it snugly over my head, I am protected from indulgence in the negative thinking that tears me down. Each morning I thank God that I do not have to be bound by old habits and thinking patterns. I ask Him to continue His work of transforming me by renewing my mind (Ro. 12:2).

The sword of the Spirit. Finally, remembering that God has not provided any armor to protect my back, I ask Him to help me stand and face the enemy in His strength. I know that God does not intend for me to turn and run. Rather, He wants me to take the offensive by picking up the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17).

Just as Jesus defeated Satan by quoting Scripture, I can speak God’s promises and see the enemy flee. When I’m exhausted and the pressure is on, I can claim Phil. 4:19—God will meet all my needs. Or 1 Cor. 1:7–8—I do not lack any spiritual gift; He will keep me strong to the end. There is a promise for every lie Satan would use to try to intimidate me. I may still feel overwhelmed, but when I go into battle praising and thanking God, I am victorious.

There are still days when I feel completely drained—when I fear I have nothing to give. If I fail to recognize I’m being tested, if I do not rely on God’s power, and if I go into the battle unequipped, I suffer and my family suffers. But praise God, it doesn’t have to be that way. I can know the joy Paul wrote about. I can “delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). Feelings of exhaustion and defeat will flee as I choose to draw closer to the Source of my strength.

 

Note
1. John MacArthur, The Believer’s Armor (Panorama City, CA: Word of Grace Communications, 1982), p. 41.

Jesus’ demeanor and behavior were so odd!

SOURCE:  Jan Johnson

Saturated in Serenity

In the last month I’ve walked through three situations that rank as the most stressful of life:  doing our income taxes, moving through a computer changeover, and being scolded publicly for something I didn’t do.

The changeover, as usual, was the one that caused a meltdown.  But after my initial fit, I printed out the August 2011 wisbit Relaxing into Another Reality. I rehearsed over and over how I was being invited to move from the chaotic left side of Rembrandt’s painting to the quiet, serene right side, sitting next to Jesus in the boat. I wanted to relax in the reality of the Kingdom of God and function in harmony with it, in experiential union with God. (As I reflected on the scolding, I realized that the other person was living on the chaotic left side and I didn’t want to join him. Same with the taxes:  just stay on the right side with Jesus.)

Encouraged by this, I wanted to picture Jesus in another gospel situation living in the vitality and power and energy of the Kingdom of God:  his arrest.

After interacting with God in his Gethsemane prayer (what great preparation), Jesus was roughed up and accused but exuded “a peace and calm which is beyond the knowledge of the world possessed Him…  His extreme gentleness of manner is marvelous… full of dignity and measured reason which is more effective than hot wrath. The majesty of heaven shines out in every word and deed in this hour of humiliation.”

Jesus’ demeanor and behavior was so odd!

When threatened with arrest, some people lead car chases and shoot at the police. The Roman soldiers and temple police must have expected such behavior from Jesus because they came equipped with lanterns and torches, apparently imagining they’d have to search in caves and crevices of the walls of the garden (John 18:3).

What did they think? Picture Jesus’ serenity as the chief priests who had taunted him and plotted to kill him now stand before him (Luke 22:52). Free of contempt or scorn, he isn’t sarcastic or cynical, saying, “I knew you’d show up eventually.”  If he had showed signs of agitation or turmoil, we would have excused it because contempt is deemed acceptable if you’re stressed. People say, “Don’t be offended. She’s under a lot of stress right now.” 

Instead, he was “not defenceless but undefending, not vanquished but uncontending, not helpless but majestic in voluntary self-submission for the highest purpose of love.”  That’s who I want to be when I grow up!

And, we can be sure Jesus had a right heart.  How?  By the way he healed the high priest’s slave when Peter sliced off his ear. 

From reading and experience about healing prayer, I know it requires a right heart most of all. Contrast the angry, taunting crowd with the tender kingdom heart of Jesus. That’s why these words on the cross must have flowed easily from his mouth (rather than be forced):  “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34).

Jesus responded with this gut-level serenity and love at this highly stressful moment because he was alive to the kingdom of God. His faith became a powerful life force (knocking over the soldiers at one point (John 18:6). This life in the kingdom of God moment by moment is the life I want, and which I taste now and then.

——————————————————————————-

Although recently experienced, much of the wording above adapted from chapter 8 of Invitation to the Jesus Life (quotation from Life of Christ syllabus, Seth Wilson and Edersheim).

Invitation to the Jesus Life

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.

Why does God allow me to experience difficulties?

SOURCE:  Charles Stanley/In Touch Ministries

God’s Purpose in the Storm

Believers have a choice about how they will respond to life’s “storms.” Either they can cast blame while becoming resentful and bitter, or they can turn to the Lord and ask, “What is Your purpose?”

Since recognizing God’s purpose and plan is the way that faith grows, Christians have the right to ask “why?” Like a child learning new concepts, we see that when x happens, God does y, just as He promised. If we could choose the number of difficulties we want to face in a month, most of us would pick zero. Yet, God sees value in difficult times.

For instance, in the Old Testament, King David made destructively wrong choices for which God allowed cleansing storms into his life. The leader of the nation had wandered off the right path, but painful experiences drove him back to the center of the Lord’s will. We might consider the divine method cruel, but David would disagree. He wrote, “Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I keep Your word. . . . It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” (Ps. 119:67, 71).

When a storm rages into our life, the Lord is already planning how to turn destruction into good. Just like David, we need to seek His objective and learn to work with Him to achieve it. We must believe that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him” (Rom. 8:28). The promise of that verse is that we will reap blessings from our losses. Through the Lord’s mighty power, He uses trials to accomplish His plans–to grow us from children into mature disciples of Jesus Christ.

1. One purpose God has for us is a growing intimacy in our relationship with Him. But He knows we struggle to put Him first over our interests. Many of us place higher priority on family and friends than on companionship with God. For others, finances, work, or even personal pleasures interfere. When the Lord sees that our attention is drifting away from Him, He might use hardships to draw us back so we’ll refocus.

2. Another reason God allows difficulties is to conform us to the image of Jesus. Pain is a tool that brings areas of ungodliness to the surface. God also uses it to sift, shape, and prune us. The sanctification process, the building of Christlike character into our lives, starts at salvation and ends with our last breath.

3. A third purpose for stressful circumstances is to reveal true convictions. Our faith is tested in tough times. It’s easy to say, “God is good,” when life is peaceful. But when everything goes wrong, what do we believe about Him? Do our words and actions reveal an attitude of trust?

King David endured much heartache: a disintegrating family, personal attacks, and betrayal by close friends. But through his trials, he gained deeper intimacy with God, stronger faith, and more godly character. Won’t you let God accomplish His purposes in your present situation?

Returning believers to right fellowship is only one of God’s purposes for a season of trials. Some difficulties are meant to blow away all distractions so we can focus our attention on the Lord. Other “storms” break our worldly mold so that we can be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Our personal pleasure is not the top priority. God’s primary concern is to shape a wise and obedient follower who loves Him.

7 Tips for Handling Stress

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Ron Edmondson

Stress is all around us. Every day I encountered burned out and stressed out pastors.

Regardless of your career, it appears life is more stressful than ever.

Here are 7 ways I handle stress:

Prayer – God really does answer this request. When I’m really stressed out, I get alone with God.

Time management – Most times a well planned schedule will greatly diminish stress. I try to plan my activities at the beginning of the week in a way that allows for unexpected interruptions, yet still also allows me to complete the tasks required of me.

Exercise – This may be my best secret for battling stress. The more stressed I am the more I need to run.

Disciplined life – There are activities and habits that add to stress. If you stay up way too late and never get enough rest, your stress-factor will increase. When I’m especially stressed, I try to build in down time and time just for me.

Balance – I have learned to say “No” to some things and balance my time between all the things that pull for my attention.

Not allowing problems to build long without addressing them – If a relationship is causing stress, the sooner I deal with it the less likely I am to stress about it. If I need to make the hard decisions…make the now…the sooner…the less long-term stress it brings.

Asking for help – When I am really at my limit with stress, I am not too proud to tell someone. I have learned to delegate well.

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!”

The Most Misunderstood Woman in the Bible

Why Job’s wife may have gotten a bad rap

Editor’s NOTE:  This article gives pause to consider another perspective or other possible reasons why a person says or does something we might take exception with.  There can be other factors involved that must be understood before we rush to judgment based upon how things seem.  Without compromising truth or values or failing to realize we can always “do better next time” and “learn from our past,” it is also important to look at things humbly and gracefully in the context of the present circumstances.  Not only must we do this in reference to others, but also with even ourselves as we seek to embrace God’s direction to love others as we love ourselves (Mt 22:39).

SOURCE:  Christianity Today/Daniel Darling

Her name was never revealed and yet she may be the most infamous woman in the Bible. Augustine labeled her “the devil’s accomplice.” Calvin called her “a diabolical fury.”

And the contemporary understanding of Job’s wife hasn’t improved on Calvin or Augustine. It’s difficult to find a book or sermon treatment of the life of Job that doesn’t include the usual condemnations toward his wife. It has become a standard joke to pity Job, as if his wife was yet another cross God called this man to bear.

If the Proverbs 31 woman represents a model of Christian virtue, the wife of Job occupies the role of least desirable, sharing space in the Hall of Shame with the likes of JezebelDelilah, and Michal.

But is this image an honest assessment of her character? Or is there a possibility that in our rush to empathize and identify with Job, we’ve rushed to cast judgment on his wife?

What We Forget

I wonder if there isn’t a gap in our understanding of the Job story. Although clearly Job is the main character, he is not the only one. She may not have been the primary subject of the cosmic argument between God and Satan (1:6-112:1-4), but she was still caught in the crossfire. You might argue that every hardship endured by Job was similarly felt by his wife:

She watched her children die (Job 1:13-19).  Ten times God had blessed her womb. Ten times she endured the joy and pain of childbirth. Ten lives nurtured to love, honor, and respect Jehovah. From the account in the first chapter of Job, this appears to be a fun-loving, God-fearing, tight-knit family. Who was the heartbeat of this home? Likely Job’s wife played a part in that. It’s unlikely he could be such an esteemed man in society (Job 1:1) if his wife was not an integral and influential leader in her own right.

Imagine the grief that overwhelmed her soul as she looked down in disbelief at ten freshly dug graves.

She experienced dramatic financial loss.  The Bible describes Job as a wealthy man, perhaps the richest in the world (Job 1:3). Undoubtedly his wife was accustomed to a lifestyle of luxury and comfort. I imagine her home was adorned with the finest furnishings, her clothes spun from the most expensive threads. Her children likely had everything they needed.

In one really bad day, she lost it all. All their wealth, property, and way of life (Job 1:13-22). She was not only bankrupt, but homeless, forced to beg outside the city dump.

She became a caretaker for her disease-ravaged husband.  Although Old Testament scholars don’t agree on the nature of Job’s illness, clearly his pain was so excruciating, he asked God to take his life (Job 3). It distorted Job’s appearance so dramatically that his closest friends could barely recognize him and when they approached, fell to the ground in pity (Job 2:12). This last temptation brought by Satan was so severe, it nearly broke Job’s soul. Every day Job spent at the ragged edge of death, only experiencing momentary relief brought by the heat of the burn piles and the scrape of pottery shards.

While we weep with Job, we miss the faithful, steady presence of his wife. She put aside her own grief to stay care for her husband. Imagine the exhausting drain, caring for a suffering soul like Job. Imagine the loud howls of agony, hour after hour, day after day. Imagine the one you love walking the thin line of sanity, suffering excruciating, debilitating pain.

Job’s wife continued this mission of mercy without the resources of a helpful support network, without any financial resources, without relief. Their children were gone, their friends and family scattered, her God seemingly absent.

Words of Despair

And we come back to those seemingly bitter words of resignation, the only recorded words of Job’s wife in the entire story. Words shared at the lowest point of her life.

“Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die” (Job 2:9, ESV). These are tough words that appear to reflect a heart bitter and angry toward God. This is where most commentators pounce, accusing Job’s wife of collusion with the Devil to force her husband to do exactly what the Devil predicted Job would do: give up on God. Many question her faith, wondering if perhaps her faith in Jehovah wasn’t real.

I find both scenarios difficult to believe. Every human has moments, words, thoughts we’d love to have back, shared in the crucible of a crushing trial. Imagine if those words were recorded in history for everyone to dissect and analyze.

Clearly God chose to record her thoughts in Scripture, yet sometimes I wonder how fair it is to define an entire life based on one conversation. Nowhere before or after this incident are we given any indication that Job’s wife was a perpetually bitter, unhappy wife.

And perhaps her advice to Job wasn’t born out of her own misery, but out of compassion. Day after day, she witnessed her husband live out his days in utter agony, no relief in sight. Maybe she was seeking the most compassionate way out for Job. Curse God, pull the plug, and get it over with. Perhaps she longed to see an end to Job’s suffering, a painless journey to the sweet relief of heaven. This is certainly something Job himself desired of the Lord.

It’s not uncommon to find raw, honest, expressions of grief spilled on the pages of the Bible. Yet we celebrate David, Moses, Jeremiah, and even Job as being authentic and honest, but heap judgment on Job’s wife for similar expressions.

A Husband’s Response

Job’s response is fascinating. He carefully listens and watches his beloved wife shrink under the weight of their shared hardships.

I imagine Job lifts his blistered hand and strokes her hair. At first, his words read like a harsh rebuke: “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10, ESV).

Yet, if you listen to Job, you almost hear admiration. “You speak as one of the foolish women.” He didn’t say his wife was foolish. He didn’t even say her words were foolish. He said, “She sounds like one of the foolish women.”

In other words, “You don’t sound like yourself.” You might read these words like this:  Sweetheart, that’s not you talking. This doesn’t sound like the woman of God I know and married. That is not you talking, my wife. Let’s remember God’s promises. Let’s remember his goodness.

Such a far cry from the ringing condemnation she’s received in the centuries since. Job knew his wife’s suffering was just as acute as his. In fact, seeing the pain in her eyes may have added to Job’s great suffering.

It’s likely she was in a state of shock. Sudden loss has a way of clouding our judgment, distorting our view of reality and of God. Often those living in the thick of tragedy make contradictory statements about faith and life. Today we might even conclude Job’s wife suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Apparently Job’s words were the balm his wife needed to soothe her soul, because she isn’t heard from again in the remaining chapters of the story.

What Does God Think?

Curiously, while authors, commentators, and pastors all rush to judge her, God is silent. The Scriptures don’t record specific words of blessing for Job’s wife like they do for Job (Job 1:8).

Yet we don’t find divine rebuke either. Surely, if God was displeased with her, he would have expressed it. He didn’t hesitate to rebuke Job’s friends (Job 42:7-9).

All we know of God’s treatment of Job’s wife is how he blessed her after the trial was over. She shared in the doubling of their wealth (Job 42:10). She had the privilege of giving birth to ten more children, whom the Scriptures declared the most beautiful in all of the land (Job 42:12-15). And it’s likely she shared in the many more fruitful years of her husband’s life. The Scriptures say that Job lived long enough to see four generations of his offspring (Job 42:16).

A Model of Endurance

So what can we learn from Job’s wife today? Perhaps her greatest testimony is her simple presence during her husband’s lowest moments. At the end of Job, we read that his siblings and friends returned and “consoled and comforted him because of all the trials the LORD had brought against him” (Job 42:11). It’s easy and safe to show compassion after the fact, but during Job’s lowest moments, they were nowhere to be found.

Yet every single day, there was his wife, caring, loving, and enduring the trials Satan inflicted.

The trials that would split many marriages didn’t split Job and his wife. They stuck it out together. And at the end of this story, we read of them conceiving and raising another ten children.

Was her attitude perfect throughout the storm that engulfed her family? No. Did she say things she would later regret? Absolutely.

But through it all, she endured, her faith in God remained intact, and maybe, just maybe, her service to her husband should be held up as a model of biblical character.

————————————————————————————

Daniel Darling is the senior pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. He is the author of Teen People of the BibleCrash Course, and iFaith. He and his wife, Angela, have two daughters and a son. www.danieldarling.com.

What Does God Think About Sex?

SOURCE:  Dennis/Barbara Rainey

When you and your spouse married, I’m sure you expected to have a healthy and active sexual relationship together. That’s great—that’s what God intended. Unfortunately, the daily stress of life often gets in the way of sex, distracting the attention of a husband and wife from each other and from pleasing each other.

Sex can become a marital battleground, even in young marriages, because of emotional and mental baggage from histories of sexual abuse, inappropriate sexual behavior in past relationships (or even with your spouse before marriage), or pornography. Even if these experiences or issues do not apply to you directly, our culture’s messages about and portrayals of sex can unconsciously influence the way you and your spouse respond and relate to each other in bed.

To build an intimate marriage, husband and wife must be committed to meeting each other’s physical and emotional needs. Because most men and women have differing ideas, standards, and expectations about sex, it’s no wonder that many marriages suffer in this area.  One of the best things you can do is learn about God’s purposes for sex.  After all, He is the Designer—He created our bodies.  And you may be surprised to know what He had in mind.

God’s purposes

The Designer of sex made numerous statements integral to the sexual aspect of marriage. First, sex is the process He gave us to multiply a godly heritage. He commanded us to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28).

But God also designed sex for our pleasure, to be enjoyed in the marriage bed. Sex is meant to be a bonding experience with your spouse. Scripture talks significantly more about enjoying the pleasures of sex than it does about being fruitful and multiplying! As Dr. Ed Wheat wrote, “God Himself invented sex for our delight. It was His gift to us—intended for pleasure.”

The Song of Solomon, though full of spiritual meaning and application, provides an excellent description of God’s intention for a husband and wife’s sexual relationship. According to Solomon, the man has the freedom to enjoy his wife’s body, and the woman has the freedom to enjoy his. Here’s a sample of how the lover and his beloved expressed that freedom in the Song of Solomon. The lover (King Solomon himself) said:

How beautiful are your feet in sandals, O prince’s daughter! The curves of your hips are like jewels, the work of the hands of an artist. Your navel is like a round goblet which never lacks mixed wine; Your belly is like a heap of wheat fenced about with lilies. Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle. … How beautiful and how delightful you are, my love, with all your charms! (Song of Solomon 7:1-3, 6)

Men, these words give us three points on how to be great lovers for our wives.

First, Solomon readily praised the young Shulammite woman, his beloved. He told her how beautiful she was with vivid and picturesque language that communicated his admiration to her. I often ask the husbands at our marriage getaways, “When was the last time you wrote your wife a love letter that praised her and told her how beautiful she is?” Solomon understood how important this is in communicating love.

Second, Solomon was romantic. His poetic words describe his beloved’s entire body as a source of delight. Some husbands have an easy time being creatively romantic, but the rest of us need help in this area.

Third, Solomon’s focus was physical. A wife may be tempted to resent her husband’s sex drive and physical focus, but she should understand that much more than a woman, a man is stimulated by sight. And God designed him this way deliberately.

A lovely lover

What about the bride’s approach to sex? Some of her comments about her lover indicate that she focused on what she saw (Song of Solomon 5:10-16):

My beloved is dazzling and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand. His head is like gold, pure gold; his locks are like clusters of dates, and black as a raven. His eyes are like doves, beside streams of water, bathed in milk, and reposed in their setting. His cheeks are like a bed of balsam, banks of sweet-scented herbs; his lips are lilies, dripping with liquid myrrh. His hands are rods of gold set with beryl; his abdomen is carved ivory inlaid with sapphires. His legs are pillars of alabaster set on pedestals of pure gold. His appearance is like Lebanon, choice as the cedars. His mouth is full of sweetness and he is wholly desirable. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

She also spoke of how she felt in her lover’s arms (7:10-12):

I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me. Come, my beloved, let us go out into the country, let us spend the night in the villages. Let us rise early and go to the vineyards; let us see if the vine has budded and its blossoms have opened, and whether the pomegranates have bloomed. Then I will give you my love.

Then she revealed her feelings about physical passion (8:5-7):

Beneath the apple tree I awakened you; … Put me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, jealousy is as severe as Sheol; its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love; nor will rivers overflow it.

These passages illustrate the two main aspects of a woman’s approach to love: the physical and the relational. The Shulammite woman described her lover’s body as richly and colorfully as Solomon’s depiction of her. But she then focused on him as a total person and their relationship.

Men often make the mistake of focusing only on the physical side of sex. Sex is much more than a physical act that ends in a few minutes. Sex actually brings two people together in body, soul, and spirit. When the soul and spirit parts of sex are missing, the woman will feel empty, undesired, and used. One woman I counseled confessed that her husband approached her only one night a month. “He never shares his life with me,” she said. “He slips into bed with the lights off, we make love, and that’s it.” I will never forget her next comment: “Making love with him is like a bread-and-water diet.” Ouch!

If a marriage is going through a rocky spell, or a spouse is struggling with an emotionally difficult issue, the problems will almost always manifest themselves in the sexual relationship. Sex acts like a gauge, measuring the depth of a relationship. For the woman I just described, the physical experience left her lonely and longing for true companionship. For sex to be truly satisfying for both partners, each has to be totally open and vulnerable to the other. Each person must feel needed, wanted, accepted, and loved sacrificially.

Sexual adjustment takes time in every marriage. Enjoy the process—that was God’s intent when He created this awesome experience for intimacy in marriage.

Adapted by permission from Rekindling the Romance, by Dennis and Barbara Rainey, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2004.

Marital Jealousy: Overcome It Before Damage Is Done

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors

How can people overcome jealousy before it reaches the point of disaster?

Below are several useful tactics for battling and overcoming jealousy in one’s marriage.

Action Steps:

  1. Listen to Others
    • If good friends and loved ones comment on their jealousy, it’s a good sign that a problem exists and should be faced.
  2. Be Honest
    • If you are being accused of jealousy, do not react with, “I’m not jealous!” You must ask yourself, “Do I try to control and manipulate my loved one? What or who is causing these jealous feelings? Am I pushing my loved ones away? Do I attempt to make my loved ones account for every minute, look, or thought?”
  3. Spend Time with God
    • If you are dealing with jealousy, you must soak each question above in prayer, asking God to reveal the truth and to give you the courage to act on it. You must ask God to transform your need for security into dependence on and confidence in Him.
  4. Transform the Mind
    • If you are a jealous person, you can use your anxious thoughts and suspicions as cues to stop your dark reactions, take a deep cleansing breath, pray, and get control. Then you should pray for the beloved, think about all the positives in the relationship, and consider what special things you could do, right then, to show love to him [her]. A phone call, a touch, or a gift could do wonders — for both of you.

Biblical Insights:

In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast… Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Genesis 4:3–5, 8 NIV

Jealousy is a dangerous emotion that has been with man for a very long time. Jealousy can get out of control, as is evidenced in the story of Cain and Abel. Think about the drastic contrast displayed in the above passage: Cain is giving an offering to God, and soon afterward his jealousy drives him to commit a terrible deed.

Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David. 1 Samuel 18:8–9 NIV

The Israelites sang a song that was designed to honor David and tease their king, Saul. If the Israelites were trying to get at Saul with their teasing, they very much succeeded. When Saul realized David’s popularity, his envy was so great he became an adversary to him.

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.Proverbs 14:30 NIV

This piece of biblical wisdom from Proverbs has been proven in many lives. New clinical evidence shows the detrimental effects of stress on the human body—and jealousy always brings on a great deal of stress. Persons who harbor jealousy — emotionally, spiritually, and physically — are doing damage to themselves.

Handling Stress Like Jesus

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Jan Johnson

When you’re nervous or intimidated, do you struggle to think clearly?  How about when you’re being questioned or even bullied?  That phrase, “Stress makes you stupid,” describes the way we struggle to answer the easiest of questions when we feel inadequate or challenged.

Because of this, I’ve always been mesmerized by Jesus’ clarity and peace during the “day of questions” of the final week of his earthly life.  Group after adversarial group came to him trying to trick him.  He knew what they were up to, yet he was not intimidated.  He gave answers that showed not only showed his clarity of thinking (as opposed to our muddled thinking when stressed) but also his brilliance in sorting out complex questions (“Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s . . .,”). I picture him that day with his shoulders relaxed, his voice calm, not indulging in dramatic or overstated questions, completely himself under fire.

Nor was Jesus combative.  He didn’t try to silence his questioners or play one-up games with them.  He took every question seriously and then spoke back to the deeper issues behind them (usually the Great Commandment:  love God; love others).  Even when he answered their question with another question (Matt. 21:23-26) it wasn’t out of irritability, but to point them to the answer.

In order for Jesus to respond to these testy intimidations with calmness, clarity, and depth, he must have lived with a deep peace inside him unknown to most of us.  His OKness was not about who liked him or didn’t like him, about who approved of him or didn’t approve of him, about whether bad or good things were about to happen to him. He walked this earth in complete peace – I think of Jesus as “peace on wheels.”  He had the kind of peace I begin to taste when I move through the day saying, “The Lord really is my shepherd;  I do have everything I need;  I can be like that crazy sheep, lying down satisfied in the green pasture. I can face shadows and darkness without fear because God really is me. can even sit across the table from a difficult person and remember that I am an anointed one of God with my cup full of whatever I need at this moment. My body really can be God’s dwelling place every minute of my life.”  As I do this, I taste the inner life of Jesus.

Jesus genuinely loved people, including his questioners.  So he didn’t see them as opponents or adversaries but as people standing in front of him that he had the opportunity to love.  This was how Jesus lived and breathed, loving God and loving others. We, too, can move into such a life, loving God and others even if it’s only for the next ten minutes throughout the day.

EATING DISORDERS: ACTION STEPS


Identify a Target Weight

  • It is important to identify an ideal weight and target weight. Ideal weight refers to the best weight for the person when the person’s height and body type are taken into account. The body mass index (oft en abbreviated as BMI) is the most accurate measure of ideal weight, but few persons can easily work with this index.
  • A target weight is the lowest safe weight; it is the bare minimum you want someone with an eating disorder to be at. Target weight is calculated as 90 percent of midpoint of the ideal weight. It is best to have agreement on a target weight with a doctor or dietician because persons with eating disorders oft en try to negotiate this number.

Focus on Relationships

  • You will want to build a positive relationship with the person. Those with eating disorders tend to have a very hard time being open and accepting help. You will need much patience and you will need to be willing to speak the truth. Let the young woman know that she must be willing to hear the truth.
  • Encourage family members to show unconditional love to the eating disordered person. Do not criticize or compare or ask questions in a manner that causes the person to feel condemned.
  • Healing relationships with people and with God are essential to the recovery process.

Take the Focus Off of Food

  • Unless the girl is in immediate danger from starvation or electrolyte problems, examine what weight loss means to this person, what eating stands for, and what she most fears about eating.
  • Help the family to take the focus off food at home. They need to see that focusing on food is part of the disease, not the solution.

Watch for Triggers

  • Help her to see what triggers her bingeing behaviors and try to identify situations that aggravate it.
  • Help her to see what is behind her actions. Chances are, some kind of anxiety and stress is driving these actions.

Change Thinking Patterns

  • Gently question the girl’s thinking. Help her begin to see the lies behind the behaviors that are trapping her.

Examine Perfectionism

  • Examine her perfectionism. Chances are she holds herself to standards to which she does not hold her loved ones.
  • Help her to examine these standards and how they square with God’s truth revealed in Scripture.

Keep a Journal

  • Encourage the person to write in a journal about her feelings and the events of each day. She may have difficulty identifying feelings. Help her to view her feelings as normal and acceptable.

Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” Numbers 11:4-6

Preoccupation with food can indicate an eating disorder. When people become overly focused on food, their dependence on God suffers.

The Israelites, while not having an eating disorder, did experience a “perspective disorder” because of their focus on food. Their preoccupation with foods they did not have caused them to lose sight of God’s miraculous and loving provision of manna.

When people become preoccupied with anything other than God, they can lose their perspective of God’s care for them. People with eating disorders need to refocus on their worth in God’s eyes and be thankful for God’s provision.

Put a knife to your throat if you are a man given to appetite.Proverbs 23:2

Some people attempt to fill the emptiness in their lives with drugs, alcohol, sex, money, or even hard work. Others use food, and such people find themselves trapped in emotional eating—leading to such problems as obesity and bulimia.

There is nothing wrong with food. There must be a balance, however, between enjoying what God has provided, and using food to meet emotional needs and thus allowing it to control one’s life.

The fruit of the Spirit called self-control applies to many areas of life, including eating. God desires to fill any emptiness, helping us to lead balanced, healthy lives.

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 1 Corinthians 6:12-13

Some who face a difficult eating disorder—whether it be an addiction to food, or an addiction to going without food—understand the power of that addiction. God provided food for the animals and people He created in order to sustain them. Food is meant for sustenance—”foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods.”

A food addiction takes the focus off God and puts it on one’s food or stomach— both of which will eventually no longer be needed.

People who struggle with eating disorders should seek Christian professional guidance to gain a proper perspective and pattern for eating.


Postpartum Depression

Source:  American Association of Christian Counselors

Below is a list of helpful tips you can give to the person struggling with postpartum depression.

1. Decrease the Stress

  • Often new parents hold themselves to impossibly high standards. They feel obligated to do everything and to do it all perfectly. It is important to accept that there is no such thing as a perfect parent, and there is no such person as a “super mom!” No one parent can do it all. New parents need a lot of help. Find people who are willing to help, and get ample rest.
  • If you are not getting enough sleep, your mood will be adversely affected. Therefore, determine ways you can increase the amount of rest you’re getting. If possible, ask your husband to help when the baby wakes up at night. Try to make up for some of the lost sleep by napping when the baby does. Also, stay away from both caffeine and alcohol, which will only sap your energy.

2. Celebrate the New Baby

  • New babies are a great joy to the entire family and are reason enough to celebrate life and your good fortune and blessing from God. When a postpartum mother engages in focused celebration—laughing, counting her blessings, watching the father and others enjoying the new child—she will be distracted and her focus will move away from what is going wrong.

3. Find Personal Time

  • Of course things are very busy with a newborn, but you must try to find some time for yourself, above and beyond the hours you spend sleeping. If you feel that you’re getting enough time for yourself, another important thing not to forget is personal time with your husband. Have you found a good babysitter? Perhaps Grandma and Grandpa could take the child for a few hours one night this week.

4. Seek Support Groups and Mentoring

  • Being part of a supportive network of mothers is extremely valuable to the expecting or the new mom. Often new mothers don’t realize how normal their stresses, trouble, doubts, fears, and guilt feelings are. Being part of a group will help to “normalize” your experience. You will realize that you are not alone and that others are experiencing similar challenges and feelings.
  • Having a mother mentor can help you, the new mother, cope with the stresses and challenges of caring for an infant. A mother mentor should be caring, patient, and compassionate and she should have ample time to coach you in the raising of your child. The mentoring mom should also know her limits—she is not the mother of the infant and should never try to take charge of you or your child.

5. Minimize Major Life Decisions or Changes

  • It goes without saying that completing a pregnancy, giving birth, and then caring for a new infant is a stressful and laborious process! Major life changes and major decisions at this time will simply pile additional stress on you. Therefore, it is best to delay any major life decisions that can be put off for at least the first year after having a child.

Biblical Insights

But [Elijah] went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” 1 Kings 19:4

Life has highs and lows, and as in a mountain range, the lows often come right after the highs. Like Elijah, we may scale the heights of spiritual victory only to soon find ourselves in the dark valley of depression.

While certain forms of clinical depression should be professionally treated, many depressed feelings are part of life’s ups and downs.

Like Elijah, we should listen for God’s “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12) to comfort us.

Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance. Psalm 42:5

Depressed feelings sometimes cause some people to turn away from God. Others like David, allow those disquieted, depressed feelings to make them “hope in God,” remembering His goodness.

During such times, living by faith takes on new meaning.

Depressed people must learn to trust what they cannot feel or see. They must understand that happiness comes from communion with God, not anything on the earth.

To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.Isaiah 61:3

The Bible recognizes the heaviness of depression. God’s love and understanding reach out to those who are depressed and discouraged.

God promises to give consolation, beauty in place of ashes, oil of joy in place of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of heaviness.

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