Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Reminder to be Thankful

Today's guest blogger is Stacie Gibson. Stacie  is a wife and mom to four children in upstate New York.  She serves alongside her husband Matt at Grace Baptist Church, Dansville NY where they both are certified biblical counselors. Stacie is certified with ACBC and IABC and loves sharing God’s Word with women. In her “free time” you will find her homeschooling her children, reading, and spending time with her family and church family.

Thanksgiving is this week. I don’t know how that happened, but it’s approaching whether I am ready or not. I love this time of year, but the hustle and bustle can cause me to be gripe and complain. I would love to blame all the commercialization and my full calendar for my poor attitude, but I can’t. My problem is within me.

For the month of November, I have been doing  a 30 day Bible study through Psalm 103. It has been a much needed study for me as I am being reminded to “forget not all His benefits.”  My heart is distracted right now as I am trying not to forget all the things I have to do leading up to the holidays. I have my shopping list for next week, my guest list, my regular to do list, and I am starting to make out my Christmas shopping list.  These are lists that are important to me because I don’t want to forget anything.  In the meantime, my soul wonders away from the Lord and I forget what He has done and all the benefits that I get to enjoy as His child. When I start to forget, I become an unthankful person.

In Psalm 103, David is urging his soul to bless the Lord because even he understands how easy it can be to forget all that that Lord has done. This particular Psalm has admonished my soul as I have been confronted with my own pride and ungratefulness. My heart is already full of these particular sins, but the holiday season can reveal them even more to me and my loved ones.  This may seem like a bad thing, but this is God exercising His goodness towards me to show me areas in my life I need to change. What my soul needs is a good pondering of all that God has done.

Remembering all the benefits that come from the Lord can bend our souls towards a heart of gratitude and worship. Here are just some of the many ways the Lord blesses His people:
  • Forgives all your sin ( past, present, and future)
  • Heals all your diseases ( our diseased soul)
  • Redeems your life from the pit
  • Crowns you with steadfast love and mercy
  • Satisfies you with good things
  • Works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed
  • He is merciful, gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love
  • Does not deal with us according to our sins
  • As far as the east is from the west, He removes our transgressions
  • Shows compassion to you

You and I don’t deserve any of these benefits. But God who is rich and mercy because of the great love in which He loved us, chose us to be recipients of these good gifts.   Remembering these benefits should cause us to bless the Lord at all times, praising His name continually in our mouths. Maybe you are fighting depression this time of year or you are anxious because you have so much to do. 

This time of year can bring about envy towards those that have more than you do. Some people can just be plain ungrateful because they indulge themselves in the things of this world and forget to thank the One that gave them all they have. Whatever your situation, I exhort you to contemplate this Psalm and all that the Lord has done for your soul.

“Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of Jesus Christ.” ~Ephesians 5:20

Monday, November 24, 2014

Confessions of an Attention Seeker

Recently I had the pleasure of ministering to a woman I will call Ruth. Ruth has given me permission to share her story with you, in hope it will help some of you. Ruth is a bubbly, friendly woman with a loud, booming voice. She has infectious laughter and appears to be ready for fun and fellowship at any time. She is very likeable.

Ruth came for biblical help because she had recently been told by her sister that she was tired of being a part of Ruth's drama filled life and effectively cut off all ties. This was not the first time she heard this, in fact, Ruth had experienced a steady loss of friends and acquaintances over the years for the same stated reason. Her sister was the last close relationship Ruth had. Her parents were deceased, her brother had gone away long ago because he "couldn't handle my life either." She was lonely, sad, and couldn't understand why she was unable to maintain long-term relationships with anyone!

Ruth's said her life was always in some kind of upheaval. Things were always happening to her and she seemed to always be in need of emotional and physical support. Her life was always in turmoil.

She has several problems that add to her difficulties and her needs. She suffered an injury from a piece of farming equipment that has left her unable to work or provide for herself in a meaningful way, and her poor mobility has in part contributed to a significant weight problem. She tells me she has other problems too that no medical doctor or reliable testing will confirm. Collections of symptoms and feelings that line up with numerous possible diagnosis but for which she repeatedly tests negative. At this point, after hundreds of thousands of dollars in testing, her team of medical professionals have recommended she seek psychiatric care. Ruth has been down that road before, and has been on several psychotropic medications over the years. She doesn't like the way she feels while on them, so she has discontinued them on her own (not recommended!) in the past. She tells me they really don't help her anyway, the medications make it difficult to feel any emotions at all.

After listening to her over several sessions I conclude (and Ruth agrees) that where there is no drama, she creates drama. When there is no crisis, she manufactures one. Whether for good reasons or bad reasons, Ruth has to be the center of attention.

As a result of our biblical discipleship times, Ruth learned she was highly manipulative in her relationships. Suffering and hardship (either physical or emotional) were the tools she used to manipulate from people. She admitted to thriving on the attention she gained when her life was in turmoil. There was always a compassionate listening ear, someone to comfort her, care for her, and support her.

Ruth's friends, church members, and sister became her her rescuers and her "fixers." At the beginning of each new crisis, her friends would rally around her and give her as much time as she needed when they came to her aid. When the crisis were seemingly never ending, the help and support dwindled. This caused Ruth to escalate the level and intensity of the crisis to churn up the attention she craved. Over a period of years Ruth effectively burned out every friendship, acquaintance, and avenue of support. She was now alone.

To help Ruth in overcoming this sinful pattern of living we looked at the thoughts, beliefs, and desires of her heart that were feeding her behaviors. In addition to reading through the book of Philippians as homework, Ruth made a list of the 5 most recently ended relationships and what they had in common. Over a period of weeks, she added what she recalled were her thoughts, desires, motives, feelings, and beliefs during those relationships and then the results were listed. It was clear to Ruth that she was focused exclusively on herself and her self-worship crowded out any room for worship of God and service to others.

We focused on Chapter 2 of Philippians and how her actions were polar opposite of Christ's.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:3-5

Ruth carried a Thought Journal with her and logged her thoughts throughout the day. She brought it with her to our weekly appointments and we combed through it identifying her sinful thoughts, beliefs, and desires for attention. She learned to put off her selfish desires and asked the Lord to help her to develop the desire to outdo others in showing honor and preference to others in her church (Romans 12:10). Every time she was tempted to create drama or seek attention she checked her heart motives against Scripture. She learned to ask herself some tough questions such as, "Will sharing this honor God?" "Is this a legitimate need, or am I seeking attention right now?" "What/Who am I thinking about right now?"

I encouraged Ruth to go to those people who she sinned against by her attention seeking behaviors and confess her sin to them and ask for their forgiveness as a part of repentance. I warned her they would be wary of her professions of change and that it would take time for trust to be earned. She also understood some relationships may never be restored.

Ruth is still working on her program of repentance and change. She still struggles with temptation toward attention seeking, but has made huge strides toward serving others and honoring God by how she lives her life. I asked her if there was one thing she wanted to say to those who have the same kinds of attention seeking behaviors: "I was so selfish I was ruining my life and damaging my friendships. Eventually, people stopped paying attention to me because nobody wants to put up with a drama queen. People grow tired of being used and manipulated after a while. If this is you, what you're doing is very dishonoring to God and you need to change and repent."

Friday, November 21, 2014

Women and Men In A Culture Gone Bad

“Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you" Genesis 3:16b

Women want to be in charge. That’s why (for the  most part) we excel in parenting and domestic things. Even if home is messy and the kids are undisciplined, we are Queens over our own little domicile. We make the rules about the structure of the home and most women control what takes place there.  

Our desire for control does go back to the Garden. We are no different from our ancient sister, Eve.  We want to be the ones making the decisions and running the show over the men. It is a part of the curse upon us. The meaning of the word "desire" in Genesis 3:16 is usually misunderstood to mean that women long for the love or affection of their husbands, but what it really means is, "to compel, impel, urge, or seek control over." Since Eve, we have wanted to be in control of our husbands and other men and authorities in our lives. It is part of our natural bend that we must fight against.

What is interesting is that husbands want to “lord” their authority over us (part of the curse on them), and we want to control them! This makes for some ongoing friction in marriage!

Many of the young men who come to our counseling center for premarital counseling will tell us they had no male role model to instruct them in biblical manhood. They were not taught leadership skills as they grew up.  

Today’s men and women have grown up with the understanding they are to be partners in marriage. Men are not taught to assert authority, but to consider women equals in every respect, home, job, and church. They are taught to share the duties of the household 50/50. My counseling experience has led me to conclude wives have a difficult time respecting a husband who is not the leader of his home.

…the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. Ephesians 5:33b (NASB)

A woman who does not respect her husband has a heart of pride. She believes that she is better than he is, that her decisions and opinions are better than his are. Her lack of respect is revealed in many ways. She may use non-verbal methods of communication that are disrespectful such as: giving him the cold shoulder, eye rolling, finger tapping, loud heavy sighing, “whatever-ing” and so on. She may look upon him with disdain and distaste, or belittle him in front of their children and friends. Some women blatantly disregard his wishes are inconsiderate of his time and requests, or “forget” to do something important he asks her to do. 

...each man must love his wife as he loves himself. Ephesians 5:33 (NLT) 

A man who doesn't love his wife has a heart of selfishness. He refuses to embrace his God-given role as husband/shepherd/leader and instead abdicates his responsibility and refuses to lovingly lead his wife and family. His lack of love is revealed in leaving his wife with most or all of the parenting duties including discipline of the children. He shows little appreciation for his wife's efforts at home and may devalue her God-given role as a wife and mother. 

There is much work to be done in families, and much reeducation on the biblical roles of both men and women. I am slightly encouraged to see a small inroads being made by some organizations and churches that are promoting biblical manhood and womanhood. It will take generations to reorient the church and it will literally be done one person at a time. We continue to fight against the culture and the battle is hard. It will require tremendous perseverance and dedication, but by God’s grace it will be won. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Suffering: Nuts and Bolts

Today’s guest blogger is Heather Rice. She is an oncology nurse, with degrees also in linguistics and biblical counseling. Besides counseling at her church, she enjoys hiking, languages, linguistics, Bible study, and her church. This post is reposted with permission of the author and Linda Rice. This series originally appeared on Linda's blog, Seedsown
Part 4 of 4

The previous three posts began with the proposition that God Himself is the ultimate place of refuge for our hurting hearts. Then we examined the question of why suffering occurs at all and some benefits from suffering. Now it is time to pick up some nuts and bolts of what to do during suffering, working out applications of principles from earlier posts, and how to help others.

First, realize that while the details of your situation may be unique, you are not alone in your experience. What is happening to you is “common to man” in the sense that everyone suffers sometime and while situations may be unique, there is no unique type of suffering. Many have been betrayed. Many have suffered illness and injury. But, “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Escape often comes through obedience in the trial, not through avoidance of it. The guarantee of His help rests upon His faithfulness. Take heart! For the Christian, the Lord your God is reliable, though all others fail you. Trust Him.

Second, we need to make sure our goal is biblical. When in hardship, I am tempted to want to escape the pain more than to glorify God. It’s easy to just want relief and run to whatever will “make it all better.” There is nothing wrong with wanting a better situation. We ought to act responsibly to improve the situation where we can. But it is wrong when the desire for relief or improvement, rather than for the Lord’s will, rules the heart. Your life passion should be to please the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:9). Do you rejoice in your trial because it has “turned out for the greater progress of the gospel” (Philippians 1:12-18; 1 Thessalonians 1:6-8)? If not, examine your heart and make God’s desires those which are most important to you.

Third, exercise proper emotions in regard to suffering. Jesus exemplified appropriate emotions in response to tragedy. The Greek text uses two words to describe how Jesus felt at the grave of Lazarus, translated as “deeply moved in spirit” and “troubled” (John 11:33). Jesus was deeply concerned over what had happened, and angered about what sin and death had done to His friend. Asserting God’s sovereignty over sin should not make us nod impassively at tragedy. We should be horrified! Like Jesus, we too may feel indignation about how sin and its consequences have destroyed God’s creatures and offended Him. Simultaneously, those emotions must never control us so that we neglect to obey God.

Fourth, pray. Run to the Lord for comfort and help. Ask God for wisdom and strength to endure the trial in a God-pleasing manner (James 1:5).

Fifth, for friends and family members, give the gift of your compassion demonstrated. Comforting a sufferer means being present. Sometimes death and suffering is too profound, too grotesque, too deep for words or deeds. People do not always need solutions. Before Christ raised Lazarus from the dead, He took the time to stop, be deeply moved and weep (John 11:33-35). Think about it: Jesus took time to cry. The hectic nature of our lives sometimes makes time short, but in front of you is a person, not a problem. Instead of texting, call the person or take her out to lunch. Pray with her. Choose an encouraging verse, write it on a card, share it in conversation and leave it with the person. Also, the person who is suffering will benefit by serving other sufferers in this way.

Sixth, practice gentleness. This applies to all involved in suffering. Are you quick to listen and slow to speak? Sometimes the most hurtful words come from well-meaning folks. Conversely, those suffering can make the situation worse by lashing out in anger, impatience and “you just don’t understand.” Gentleness does not mean being a doormat or withholding truth. It does mean considering others as more important than your self, promoting peace, providing for physical needs, and giving a gentle answer to anger. A child of God should always strive to handle others as if they were fine china, not garage-sale Tupperware.
Seventh, when you are asked, “How do you do it? How do you face the suffering and death daily and maintain your sanity?” be prepared to share the hope of the gospel.

Eighth, look to the future. For the believer, there is coming a permanent, glorious transformation. Here are poignant words of hope from J.C. Ryle:
The time is short. The fashion of this world passes away. A few more sicknesses, and all will be over. A few more funerals, and our own funeral will take place. A few more storms and tossings, and we shall be safe in harbor. We travel towards a world where there is no more sickness, where parting, and pain, and crying, and mourning, are done with forevermore. Heaven is becoming every year more full, and earth more empty (Ryle, 2005, p. 19).

Adams, Jay. How to Handle Trouble. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1982.
Ryle, J. C. (2005). Sickness. Kingsford, Australia: Matthias Media.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Marriages Without Intimacy

But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 1 Corinthians 7:2-5 (NASB)

Some women live in marriages with little to no physical intimacy. Women have been informed by culture to believe that men always want sex, and are always ready for sex, so a man who doesn't want sex bewilders us.  This is becoming an issue with increasing regularity in my biblical counseling ministry.  It is a myth that women are not interested in intimacy, and while there are certainly, exceptions most women are hungry for their husbands loving touch. The reality is that a woman can be in a marriage where she desires intimacy and her husband does not.

Most women are well versed in the dangers of withholding herself from her husband. We are warned about the possibility of him straying to pornography, or committing adultery if we aren’t willing to be intimate with him, but what about when intimacy is withheld from a wife? We are certainly confronted with the opportunities and the temptation to stray from fidelity, especially in our feelings-based culture where we hear all the time that our "needs" must be met. Society has emboldened women to act out sexually through television, romance novels, and books like Fifty Shades of Gray. We are encouraged to self-gratify by using pornography and to flirt with emotional and physical adultery through social media.

Despite temptation to be unfaithful, the majority of women don’t stray and but remain steadfast in their commitment to their husband in the midst of loveless marriages. They are lonely, aching, hurt, and rejected. They fear others knowing about this, they struggle with anger, envy, bitterness, and confusion, and this is natural.  

If you are a woman in such a marriage, pray, pray, pray! As you pray, ask God to help you to focus on the aspects of your marriage and relationship that already honor Him and to keep your feet from stumbling into sinful thoughts, beliefs, and desires of the heart. This battle is fought and won (or lost) in the heart, so guard your heart well against bitterness and anger. Continue to love him unconditionally. Your obligation is to honor God by how you conduct yourself in your marriage. Treat him kindly and lovingly in spite of the hurt and pain you may be feeling. Immerse yourself in books like 1st and 2nd Peter which address suffering for righteousness sake.

I encourage you not to take revenge against your husband (Romans 12:17-21).  If your husband is a Christian, gently and lovingly point him to the Word of God. First Corinthians 7 clearly says when we marry we belong in every way to our spouse. We commit to loving and cherishing that person and we both commit to meeting the physical needs of marriage. I encourage you to be wise, and not to use the Bible as a weapon in an attempt to force, guilt, or manipulate him into having a physical relationship with you. Let the Word speak for itself and trust that God will convict his heart.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Suffering: What Good Is It? Part 3 of 4

Today’s guest blogger is Heather Rice. She is an oncology nurse, with degrees also in linguistics and biblical counseling. Besides counseling at her church, she enjoys hiking, languages, linguistics, Bible study, and her church. This post is reposted with permission of the author and Linda Rice. This series originally appeared on Linda's blog, Seedsown

This is Part 3 of 4. 
Editor’s Note: This series on suffering was written months ago. By God’s providence, the timing of  online posting coincides with a related and tragic current event, that of the planned suicide of Brittany Maynard. She wants to avoid suffering from terminal cancer. Her choice is being lauded as a virtue and courageous.
What compassion we must hold toward her! However, compassion does not negate reality. Her planned suicide actually expresses a demand to be free of suffering–natural, but not an act of courage.
Nor is it virtuous. Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” Suicide acts in direct opposition to this counsel. It expresses a demand, not a request but a demand, to have death on one’s own terms rather than God’s. It indicates a rejection of the sovereignty of God.
As an oncology nurse, Heather works with people suffering from cancer. Sometimes they ask, “Why?” which, for the purpose of writing this series, she generalized to, why is there suffering? Causes are discussed here.
God has good purposes for it, and if we reject them we sabotage our own benefit. The ultimate answer of answers is a who rather than a why–Jesus Christ. This is what Brittany is missing. She does not accept Him as her solution. Suicide will literally snuff out opportunities that she could have to experience the fellowship and sufficiency of Christ. I hope and pray that Brittany will reconsider and turn to Christ before she faces the eternity that follows death.
So we raise a critical question: If God doesn’t relieve our suffering when we want, why should we submit to Him? After all, what kind of God would allow suffering?
This is at the heart of questions posed at the end of the previous post. If God ordains, or even simply allows suffering, how can He be good? Is there any good in suffering? At this point, I return to Heather’s series:
Puritan pastor J.C. Ryle offers a gentle answer: “I ask all who find it hard to reconcile the prevalence of disease and pain with the love of God to observe the extent to which men constantly submit to present loss for the sake of future gain.” For example, my cancer patients daily submit themselves to fatigue and nausea in order to gain cure. Ryle continues, “I ask men to apply this great principle to God’s government of the world. I ask them to believe that God allows pain, sickness, and disease, not because He loves to vex man, but because He desires to benefit man’s heart, and mind, and conscience, and soul, to all eternity” (2005, p. 6-7).
What could possibly be worth the pain?
First, suffering reminds us of our mortality and human frailty. It blares, “You are not a superhero like you see in the movies; you are human, a fragile, limited human.” Suffering brings us to the end of ourselves, so that we learn to live dependent upon God. It is those who are spiritually bankrupt, hungry and mourning whom God calls blessed because they look to God as their satisfaction and sufficiency. Christ often shines brighter in our weaknesses than our strengths (Matthew 5:3-6; 2 Corinthians 12:10).
Second, suffering and sickness tend to soften us toward spiritual matters and humble us. Suffering sometimes opens an ear that was otherwise shut tight against the truth of God. Would you be seeking God as zealously now if you were not experiencing suffering? God let his people, Israel, hunger so that they would be more willing to listen to Him (Deuteronomy 8:3).
Third, suffering and death reveal the heart. Ryle, who visited many sick beds, pointed out that, “Many a creed looks well on the smooth waters of health, which turns out utterly unsound and useless on the rough waves of the sick-bed” (p. 9). Like a good football coach who makes his players run miles, God uses suffering to strengthen and purify [the Christian’s] faith. Rather than fret and fight against Him, be glad that He is acting like a loving father toward you by disciplining you. You can look forward to the peaceful fruit of righteousness God promises to those He disciplines (Hebrews 12:3-13).
Fourth, suffering teaches [the Christian] to hate sin. As Estes and Tada say, for the believer, “human suffering in this life is merely the splashover from hell…By letting us struggle with the remnants of a sinful nature, and by letting us know pain, [God] reminds us of the hell we are being saved from” (1997, p. 170). Sin is so bad that one bite of fruit in Eden overflowed the world with pain and death for millennia and the only cure is the death of God’s Beloved Jesus Himself. If you realize that the same evil behind the Holocaust envenoms your own hidden sins, you will hate them more.
Fifth, suffering is a tool God uses to conform [His children] to the image of His Son (Romans 8:28-29). God has sanctified suffering to do you good. Conformity to Christ’s death means that suffering is a way to share in Jesus’ own experiences (1 Peter 4:13). God matures character through trials, just as He did for Jesus (Hebrews 5:8; cf. James 1:2-4). Jesus’ resurrection is the guarantee and foretaste of the hope that the best is yet to come (1 Corinthians 15:50-57; Philippians 1:21).

Ryle, J. C. (2005). Sickness. Kingsford, Australia: Matthias Media.
Tada, Joni Eareckson & Estes, Steven. (1997). When God Weeps. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Guard Your Mouth, Preserve Your Life

Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. Proverbs 13:3 (ESV) 

Because my ministry is primarily to women, I can safely say with some authority that some women simply talk too much for anyone's good. 

We "share" with each other and others much more information than we have liberty to share, we distort circumstances and embellish stories, and it’s pretty common to have a woman talking over her husband in marriage counseling. We use our words to assault each other’s character, slander one another, curse at one another, lie to one another, and accuse each other. Think about how much time you have spent judging other’s clothes, styles, decisions about educating their children, working or staying at home.

In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise. Proverbs 10:19 (NKJV)

When a multitude of words are coming forth there is such a great danger of ungodly speech! It becomes so easy to add details that are not true into a story, or to say things that are not true, unkind and hurtful. 

We can use the small member called the tongue to bring either life or death. Too often, we bring death. We bring heartache, strife, and misery to others and to ourselves.  Scripture tells us not to speak things that are unwholesome, or grieve the Spirit of God by how we speak. There is a very good reason James 3:5-8 says that the tongue is a powerful force, that it is said to be a fire, and the very world of iniquity; the Bible says the tongue defiles the entire body, and can torpedo what we have planned in life, and is set on fire by hell.

Talking reveals much more about us than we realize. Talking too much reveals what is going on in her heart.  Destructive words we use are usually an instrument of judgment. A woman who talks too much is revealing a heart of fear, a heart of selfishness, and a heart of pride. 

In 2 Timothy 2:16, Paul warns us to “avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness.”

 "But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man." Matthew 15:18 (NASB)

Reigning in the tongue is a lifelong battle. It begins when you understand the words you say reveal what lives in your heart. Before your words will change, your heart must be affected, your conscience must be affected, and you must repent.  

If you are a woman who talks too much and you see yourself in this post, begin to change this life dominating sinful pattern by asking God to help you to see your heart. David prayed that God would "see if there is any wicked way in me" (Psalm 139) and this ought to be your prayer too. 

As God reveals your sinful heart to you, repent and confess to those you have wounded by your careless use of the tongue. Ask forgiveness of those you have wronged or offended by your non-stop chatter, and thank God for His forgiveness as well. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

My Husband Doesn't Love Me

I deal with a significant number of women who are in loveless marriages. The women in these marriages are devastated and live in a world of pain that goes so deep that they tell me sometimes it feels as though it could split them in half and wash them away. 

These women married in good faith, believing their husbands would love them for the rest of their lives. Sometimes the trouble started on the wedding night and other times he's had a slow but steady fade from the relationship. She's got a large, gaping hole in her life because he won't give physical comfort, and he is either emotionally dead toward his wife or he's is perpetually angry and hateful. 

She is very sad and disappointed and usually tells me she doesn't really want a divorce, but she cannot imagine living this way for the rest of her life.  She has asked her husband over and over what is wrong, what she's done, and what she can do to change things. His answers are always the same; she hasn't done anything wrong and she can't do anything to change how things are. Rejection in marriage feels unbearable. It is such a deep hurt because often it is not her actions that are rejected, her personhood seems to disqualify her from being a part of her husband's life. 

A woman in such a marriage understandably has a great deal of hopelessness. She cannot force him to love her or want her, she cannot comprehend what's happened to him to cause this to happen.  She's very lonely and if another man comes along who listens to her and pays her attention, the outcome can be emotional or even literal adultery. 

The inborn response of her heart is to become angry at him. The anger is very deeply rooted and will become bitterness if left to remain and fester.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Ephesians 4:31(NASB)

Scripture tells us that bitterness is what ensues when the pain of rejection is not dealt with biblically. And from that anger and bitterness disastrous fruit is born. The wrath bound up in her wounded heart determines he is going to pay for how she has been hurt, and this destroys any possibility furthering the relationship. Every day she decides to keep that bitterness alive in her heart, a malicious spirit grows and in the end her heart becomes hard.  

She no longer has ears to hear the soft voice of the Spirit as He wants to convict, rebuke, and warn her of the deadly path she is on. Often, she blames God for not intervening in her husband's life and in her marriage. She does not believe God is hearing her pleadings, or concludes He does not care about her plight. Since God isn't going to intervene, she takes matters into her own hands. These are dangerous, dangerous waters. 

If you find yourself in such circumstances, I urge you to read the Psalms and find your comfort and solace in the Word of God. Read and reread first and second Peter. You will find excellent counsel there, given by Peter who was living under unjust and difficult authorities. Pray for your husband. Pray for repentance and change. Determine to cooperate with the counsel you receive. 

And always remember, there is nothing you can do to make him love you again, but God specializes in the impossible. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

It Doesn't Get Better Than This

Today's guest blogger is Suzanne Holland. Suzanne is a Certified Biblical Counselor and dear friend of mine. She has her own blog that you can access by clicking the link. Her desire is to minister to those who live with chronic pain. 

“No one wants to hear, ‘That’s it for you; this is the best it’s ever going to be,’ right?”

These were the words of my physical therapist, as she worked on my leg last week. You may have read the blog post  in which I shared my decision making process when offered a new treatment. Well, I decided to go ahead and try the treatment, and that is what brought me to this conversation. As she was working on my leg, I asked my PT some questions about what my options might be, going forward. At some point, I will probably need some kind of surgical intervention again, and I am always interested in the knowledge and opinions of rehab professionals as to how soon that might be. In her attempt to be encouraging, she shared with me some strategies for “putting off the inevitable” in my case, and the sentence at the beginning of this post was basically her way of saying that there is always a chance it could get better.

For a brief moment after those words, I felt despair. No, I don’t want to hear that I’m never going to get better, have pain relief, or enjoy full mobility again. On the other hand, I don’t really appreciate a sugar coating on a bitter truth, either. My heart sank for a split second as her words sunk in, but thankfully, the Holy Spirit, who is always busy in my heart, was quick to lift me up again. He reminded me about the truth of “the best it’s ever going to be.” He brought to my mind the glorified body I will have when I am with the Lord. There will be no pain there, no limited mobility, no regret, no anger, sadness, or tears. I absolutely cannot wait for that day when this broken body is renewed, perfected, and made far better than it ever was in my lifetime.

Philippians 3:21 says that He “…will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” Wow! My body will be like His, transformed by the power of His sovereignty! How can the words of any human being bring me down, when God’s Word says that I will not have to suffer this way much longer? This life, however painful or problematic, is a vapor (James 4:14), but my glorified, perfect body will be mine for eternity! When I imagine the things I will be able to do, I am so excited I can hardly contain it! Running and jumping come to mind, and I always loved skipping, even as an adult!

But do you want to know what I am looking forward to the most? Walking. Not just because I love to walk, or miss it, or wish I could do it comfortably. I want to walk because I want to walk with Him. I can imagine us walking side by side on the New Earth, strolling over beautiful hills and through quiet valleys. As we walk, I am telling him all the things that I love about Him, and thanking Him for all the many blessings He has poured out on me. We are talking about His Word, and how powerful it was in my life. He is telling me all about His glory, His goodness, and His perfection, much of which I could not see or understand when I was still living in my fallen state. We walk for miles and miles, never tiring. Sometimes we are silent, just enjoying the beauty and glory of perfection.

As I think on these things, the voice of the physical therapist fades into the background, and I am filled with joy instead of despair, confidence instead of fear, and hope instead of dread. My dear Savior is waiting for me in paradise, planning our eternal walk together. He has gone to prepare a place for me (John 14:3), and that place has more beautiful walking trails than any place on this broken planet. In a moment, in the blink of an eye, I will be healed, perfected, pain-free. Never again will I suffer the consequences of my sin or anyone else’s!  

There’s a song my mom used to sing that is playing in my mind as I write this today. It’s called “In the Garden,” and it was written by Charles A. Miles. The chorus goes like this:

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

Friend, even as you suffer today, ask the Lord for a glimpse of that eternal walk. Look forward to the glory He has in store for you in just a little while. You will be healed, you will be restored, and you, too, will one day walk with Him. Hallelujah! What a Healer!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Are Biblical Counselors Against Medication?

This past weekend I had the privilege of being one-half of a speaking duo for a wonderful group of women in Tallahassee, Florida. At the end of the conference, we participated in a question and answer session and several of the questions had to do with the topic of how biblical counselors serve those diagnosed with mental illness; specifically clinical depression. 

It is important at the outset to understand the difference between the secular and integrated counselor and the biblical counselor because there are enormous differences in beliefs, paradigms and methodology. 

The secular and integrated counselor believes (with few exceptions), that any question that can reasonably be asked about human beings and our behavior falls within the field of psychiatry or psychology which offers a plethora of theories (currently over 250) as to why we behave the way we do. These theories have led to the diseasification of many emotions and behaviors.

One popular school of thought known as the medical model, largely attributes negative feelings and behaviors to a deficiency or imbalance of chemicals in the brain and to hormonal imbalances (although numerous secular professionals are now denying the chemical imbalance theory). This model labels many behaviors as diseases, disorders and illnesses without any objective scientific proof to support such conclusions. The solution is to prescribe medications that alter brain and body chemistry to attempt to relieve the negative emotional or behavioral problems the client is experiencing.

The numerous books, medical and psychological journal articles written on mental illness and its treatment are full of contradictory statements and data about these theories. Their conclusions are often based on the use of flawed data sets, and their papers are full of statements such as, “it is suggested”, “it is hoped”, and “often seems inconsistent.” 

There are some apparent similarities between biblical counseling and other methods of counseling. For example, in both biblical counseling and psychology, we see a problem, we know behaviors need to change, and talking with and listening to the person with the problem are part of our methodology. However, even though there are some similarities, they do not justify the use of secular theories and methods in helping troubled people. Biblical counselors do not apply psychological labels to problems, nor should we, because our understanding of what has caused the problem is based on biblical truth not psychological theory. 

To be clear, biblical counselors are not against physicians, medical research or even the use of medication to treat those who are ill. If a medical condition can be proven by objective, reproducible medical testing within accepted norms and values as is found in blood work, then a proper course of medical treatment (medication, surgical intervention etc.) must ensue. Medical causes for odd or negative behavior can be proven in a laboratory (hypo or hyperthyroidism, diabetes, cancer, Lupus, etc.) unlike psychological theories. 

Because psychological diagnosis are based on subjective data and unproven theories, the diagnosis is faulty. Therefore, the treatment will be faulty. In light of a lack of medical evidence to prove a person is “sick” we view them as a fallen sinner who has developed sinful habits, and has begun to live for self rather than God’s glory. 

In contrast to the secular route, biblical counseling was not devised or contrived by man; God has designed it. We take the counselees problems seriously and rather than excusing, justifying or rationalizing them away, we examine their problems in light of and what God’s Word says directly or indirectly about them. We show them the biblical perspective on their behavior and actions and attitudes of the heart. Because God created us in His image and likeness, He knows us better than we know ourselves and He wrote a Book that is useful for application to all aspects of our lives. 

Contrary to the medical model, that saddles a person with a disease or disorder they can never overcome, the Biblical model gives them hope that they can change! Our counseling methodology should be different from secular and integrated counseling methods. After spending 15 minutes with a biblical counselor, the counselee should be able to say that no other counseling experience they have had is like this one. They must be able to tell that our counsel is not centered on their esteem, feelings, or their past. 

The message from the first prayer uttered must be about God – who is the central focus of life. All our counseling is God-centered (Jer. 17:7-8, Rom. 12:1-2). My counselee’s hear repeatedly that it is not about them, it is about God. It is not about their feelings; it is about God’s glory. It is not about worshipping self, it is worship of God. I stress that there is accountability for sinful actions and thoughts. The responsibility for them cannot be pushed off on people. 

The counselee also hears she is accountable for change! Many people want change, but they want the changes to take place in others so they will be happy. So often women tell me they want me to help them change their husband. The emphasis in biblical counseling is on change of heart that will lead to life change. We believe that before actions and words can be glorifying to God, the heart has to be changed to one that seeks after God. Once the heart undergoes change, then great strides can be made in change of life. We do not encourage lifetime counseling. Our goal is to help the person understand and implement change on one or two levels and then give them the tools to apply it to all other areas of life.