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Posts tagged ‘tough love’

Loving the Prodigal Who Seems to Hate You

SOURCE:  Adapted from Letting Go, by Dave Harvey and Paul Gilbert. 

The way we love sinful people must be patterned after the rugged love God has for us.

If you live with a prodigal, you know what it means to love someone. Love is a means of survival. Love is what gets you up each morning and inspires you to serve someone who acts like they hate you. Loving this way means duty, sacrifice, responsibility, and resilience.

But there is a side of love that’s difficult to face. You’ve had a taste of it already if you are persisting in hope that this person you love might change.

It’s loving a rebel, someone who isn’t trying to work it out and who doesn’t have your interests in mind. It’s loving someone who is enamored with their sin and does not care about the consequences—the pain and hurt it causes others.

Prodigals need more than tough love; they need a rugged love. A love that’s bold yet redemptive, forceful yet forgiving, gallant yet gospel-based. Think of it as love with teeth. For prodigals to change, those who love them must exercise a love that is courageous. They need to have conviction and a clear conscience. To love a wayward rebel, you need a rugged love that is rooted in the hope of God’s promises.

Rugged love is the way God engages and reaches sinful people. We are all wayward, dead, and trapped in our sin. So the way we love prodigals must be patterned after the rugged love of God.

What is this rugged love? Love is rugged when it’s:

  • strong enough to face evil;
  • tenacious enough to do good;
  • courageous enough to enforce consequences;
  • sturdy enough to be patient;
  • resilient enough to forgive;
  • trusting enough to pray boldly.

Strong enough to face evil

Bonnie knows Stan is a serial adulterer, but she looks the other way. Walter believes his daughter is on drugs, but he won’t probe or ask her questions because he fears the truth. Zoe ignores the cruel and demeaning comments her husband makes about her in public and in front of the kids, hoping against hope that things will improve.

Though each situation is distinct and complex, they are all connected by a common compromise: Bonnie, Walter, and Zoe are all tolerating evil. If you ask them why, they say they do it all for love.

When someone you love goes wayward, the worst lies are not always the ones you hear from them. They are the ones you whisper to yourself.

Of course, many of these lies stem from not fully grasping the biblical understanding of love. Our own misunderstandings of what love should look like and how to love others affect our well-intentioned responses to sinful behavior.

Wayward people tend to pile up collateral damage like a tornado through a traffic jam. And that carnage of hurt feelings, broken trust, and fractured relationships can be so overwhelming that people like Bonnie, Walter, and Zoe just want to close their eyes and wish it away. They tell themselves that time heals all wounds. If they just ignore it and put it out of their minds, then surely things will eventually get back to normal. They hope to outlive the evil.

This lie masquerades as hope, and perhaps on some level, it really is a hope that God will do a miracle. But it’s a naive hope—one that traffics not in reality but denial. And the unwillingness to acknowledge reality only further encourages sinful behavior.

In calling us to biblical love, the apostle Paul says, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil” (Romans 12:9). True and genuine love abhors evil. This means that we loathe and stand in opposition to it.

Abhorrence leaves no room for denial. It means that we have eyes to see evil and the courage to respond to it. Sin and folly are inhabiting the soul of the wayward like unwelcome squatters. If these vices are ever to be expelled, they must be honestly named and exposed, not ignored or hidden.

To abhor evil requires a single-minded devotion to accelerating its downfall. The most diminutive mom will strike with ninja speed and nuclear force if she sees a Nazi-loving skin­head threatening her small child. Her abhorrence in this case isn’t a mental exercise, it’s abhorrence in action, an unwavering commitment to eliminating the threat without hesitation or indecision.

God’s response to evil

The gospel does not deny evil. The gospel shows us God’s response to evil—He abhors it! “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18).

God’s wrath is His settled and determined response to injustice, sin, rebellion, and evil. He cannot tolerate it, and He will not accommodate it in any way. Christ did not come to earth to paper over our offenses against God. He was not here to spring God free from having to deal with the wickedness of the wayward. The gospel reveals the sinfulness of sin and showcases God’s hatred of evil.

God poured out His righteous fury on the only sinless man to walk the earth, who was stapled to a tree on a hill called Golgotha. And not just any man—His beloved Son, who willingly accepted His role as our substitute to free us from our enslavement to sin and reconcile us to God. Ascribed to Christ was our evil—”For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Jesus hung suspended, the sacrificial Lamb tarred by our wicked thoughts and actions, and received in His body the full gale force of God’s wrath.

Make no mistake; the gospel reveals a rugged love. When we look at this love, we see our sin and our hatred of God and are confronted by the truth that Christ suffered what we justly deserve. The nails were meant for us; the hopeless abandonment and spiritual separation from the love of God that Christ experienced was deservedly ours.

God’s love, displayed for all to see on the cross, was strong enough not only to face evil, but also to act against it. The cross reveals God’s abhorrence in action.

God’s response to evil is good news because it has a redemptive purpose, but the path to redemption requires that we come face-to-face with our sin and evil. God’s law, given to us in the Old Testament Scriptures, reveals our accountability before God and the rightness of His verdict against Adam and Eve in condemning them to death.

Naming our sin and evil is always the first step to experiencing grace and forgiveness. This step cannot be bypassed or skipped. Conviction should lead to repentance, which leads us to forgiveness in Christ.

 The key to rugged love

This gospel is good news because if someone you love is bent on evil, there is help. Repentance is the key that unlocks the power of grace and separates true grace from cheap grace.

But true repentance doesn’t come through denial or accommodation.

The pretending must end. The delusion that one can indulge evil behavior with no costs must be exposed. Biblical grace is not a license to sin. As the apostle Paul says in Romans 6:1-2 “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” It is never loving or gracious to forgive someone simply to accommodate further sin.

Loving like this is not simple or easy. To get here, you need to experience this love yourself, a love so sturdy that it enables you to face your biggest fears—your dread of a loved one leaving you, your anxiety over the unknown, or your unspoken suspicion that this situation indicates you’re one humongous failure.

Showing rugged love begins by receiving the rugged love of God and holding fast to the promises of the gospel, knowing that our Lord and Savior will never leave us or abandon us (Hebrews 13:5) and that He is truly with us until the end (Matthew 28:20).

Our love becomes rugged as our motivation moves from “peace for me” to “help for them.” Rugged love faces human messiness head on.

Are you facing the evil?

Let’s face it—anyone embracing rugged love faces huge emotional hurdles. It feels like we are piling on, like we saw a drunk fall down in the street and decided to go over and kick him to teach him a lesson. But if we’re serious about helping people enslaved in deep patterns of selfishness, we will find faith to think honestly and deeply about the gracious grit of real love.

Doing so could make a dramatic difference in the life of the one you love.


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ABUSE: False Hope or Realistic Hope

SOURCE:  Living Free/Janet M. Lerner

“But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ.” (Hebrews 3:6 NLT)

Abused spouses generally have sincere love and loyalty for their violent spouse. Those feelings of love and loyalty lead to false hope. Abused spouses need to learn to distinguish between false hope and the real hope that can be found only in Christ. They need to stop allowing false hope to prevent them from taking steps to correct an ungodly situation.

Hope placed in other people and our own abilities is unrealistic. It keeps us committed to the cyclic nature of battering and intermittent reinforcement and is not godly.

Hope built on our belief that we can keep our spouses from getting angry and violent is a distortion of reality. We cannot control the feelings or actions of the abuser. We do not have the ability to manage their anger. We must learn to back off and allow the abusive spouse to take responsibility for his or her own actions. We must exercise tough love.

Realistic hope builds on God and his promises—not people. Here are just a few of the many scriptures that promise God’s faithfulness and love.

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. (Psalm 46:1 NLT)

The Lord is righteous in everything he does; he is filled with kindness. The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth. He grants the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cries for help and rescues them. (Psalm 145:17-19 NLT)

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13 NLT)

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 NLT)

Father, help me remember I can’t change my spouse. I realize that as long as I place my hope in him or myself, I have no real hope. I choose to place my hope in you. I know you love me. I know you will never leave me or forsake me. Thank you. In Jesus’ name . . .

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These thoughts were drawn from …

 Restoring Families: Overcoming Abusive Relationships through Christ by Janet M. Lerner, D.S.W.

Q&A: Boundaries and Consequences

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Question:  I am unsure how to set up boundaries and consequences with my alcoholic, pot-smoking husband.  He thinks neither should be a concern of mine.  He says it doesn’t affect me.  When he has too much to drink, his verbal cocky language, insinuations, and controlling attitude are horrible.

He thinks nothing of drinking 6-10 beers at one time.  He is bi-polar but doesn’t think it is an issue anymore.  He was on lithium years ago for this.  I am so tired of this relationship with him.  I want to do what God wants me to do.  I know that with God He can handle this marital issue.  I just need to release it totally to Him.

Please give me guidance on setting up specific boundaries and consequences.  I have read your book How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong, but I need more specific advice in my particular situation.  Thank you.

Answer:  In my book, How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong I introduced the idea of the Gift of Consequences as a loving gesture to help wake a spouse up to behaviors or attitudes that were affecting (or destroying) the marriage.  (This particular gift of love often does not feel loving to the one receiving it at the time)

In past blogs and in my other books on destructive relationships and marriage I give many more reasons and examples how not to enable destructive behavior to continue unchallenged by mitigating or removing negative consequences from the destructive person’s life.

Specifically in your situation you need to ask yourself the question how does his behaviors affect you?  For starters you indicate that when he’s drunk or high, he treats you differently.  He’s controlling, cocky and makes remarks that offend you and hurt your feelings.  What would be a natural consequence for someone who treats you that way?

Most healthy people wouldn’t put up with it.  They’d leave the room, leave the conversation, or exit the house for an hour or even for the night.   In other words, one consequence is that your husband looses the pleasure of your presence or company when he’s drinking or high because you don’t like the way he treats you when he’s that way.

Now, the problem for you when you implement this consequence is that perhaps it has no impact on him. In fact, he may prefer you to leave him alone.  This is where it gets tricky.  The consequence we implement we want to also have impact.

So what other consequences might you implement that may get his attention?

Stop cleaning up his messes – cans, ashes, dirty glasses, vomit.  (But you have to live there too so it impacts you too)

Separate your family money if he’s spending large quantities of money on his drinking and drugs and it’s affecting your ability to pay your bills.

Refuse to drive with him if he’s been drinking or smoking pot/ not allowing the children to drive with him

Refuse to lie to the children about his behaviors when they observe him drunk or high.

Refuse to bail him out of jail if he gets pulled over by the police.

Refuse to buy him alcohol or other supplies for his habit.

Refuse to lie or cover up for him to others (work, family, neighbors) for his foolish behavior while drunk or high.

Separate from him until he gets help and stops his abusive behavior.

Plan an intervention with family members to help him see how his problem impacts everyone (he says it doesn’t affect anyone).

Sometimes boundaries and consequences look rather similar.  The boundary you may set ahead of time – such as I am no longer willing to drive with you because I’m afraid when you’re driving and drinking.

A consequences might be, last night you scared me to death the way you were weaving in and out of cars. We almost had an accident. From now on I refuse to drive with you when you’ve been drinking (or smoking).

But bottom line – what keeps you stuck in this relationship is something you can work on. You can’t change him but you can, with God’s help, change you.  You say you want to do what God wants you to do but I do not believe God calls you to sacrifice yourself and your children so that your husband can stay steeped in his foolish behaviors.  So if you lovingly implement consequences – not to scold, shame or punish, but to wake him up, it can be part of God’s plan for his life.

Doing what God wants you to do means that you will also do what you need to do to stay healthy and get wise. It may mean attending Al Anon or Celebrate Recovery or some other support group for people who live with addicts.  It means that you will protect your children from his abusive behavior when he’s intoxicated and if it’s frequent, you may need to consider separating from him until he gets help for his problem.

I think we often think God wants us to always be nice and minimize the ugliness of sin.  We’re not to judge sin because all of us are sinners – you are not less a sinner than your husband is, but when we cover it up or minimize it or think it makes no negative impact on other people, we are deceiving ourselves and not living in the truth.

Your words to your husband – or consequences and boundaries may be hard but need not be harsh.  Do the work you need to so that when you take this step, you do it in love.

Suffering Consequences = Coming To Senses

Source:  Living Free Ministry

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.'” Luke 15:17-18 NIV

Thoughts for Today
Robert and Gayle, Christian leaders in their church, were dismayed to realize that their son Eric had fallen in with the wrong crowd and had developed a drinking problem. After visiting a Christian counselor, they told Eric that they loved him very much but that he would be expected to live by house rules, obeying curfew and not drinking alcohol in their home.

Eric decided he would rather leave home. Devastated, Robert and Gayle pondered their decision, but chose to follow the example of the prodigal son’s father and let him go. They trusted God to bring Eric back and prayed for his safety.

Several months later, Eric returned home, desiring to change and ready for help. Suffering the consequences of his behavior had brought him to a point of repentance.

Consider this … 
Although they loved him very much, Robert and Gayle had not enabled Eric. They had not lowered the standards of their home, nor had they tried to rescue Eric after he made the decision to leave home. As difficult as this was, they recognized it was the best way to help him.

Are you ready to show this kind of tough love? Every situation is different, but God will give you the wisdom to know what you should do. And he will give you the strength and courage you need.

Prayer
Father, my loved one is walking in disobedience. Show me how I can help. If this means letting go and allowing the natural consequences to take place, give me the strength to allow this to happen–all the while trusting you to work in his life. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee.

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