# Monday, June 25, 2012

Position yourself for Change

While there are no specific steps to take to change, there are specific steps to position yourself for optimal change.

1 - Know the Truth

There is a difference between knowing facts and experiencing the facts in a loving relationship with Christ. Knowing the facts does not change you. It is only head knowledge. But it is an important step. Before we open ourselves up to something, we need to know what we are opening ourselves up to.

2 - Remove Distractions

We live in a fallen world, so there are distractions that can block our ability to see and hear from Christ. So the next step in the process is to intentionally remove as many of these distractions as possible. Think in terms of all of your senses. Remove clutter that is visually displeasing. Remove noise. Remove smells. Remove temptations.

3 - Enter Rest

With negatives removed, add positives. Go to a scenic, peaceful place. Or, if this is not practicle, imagine a peaceful place where you feel safe. You might light a scented candle. You could put on some soothing music. Consider anything that helps you relax.

4 - Give Permission

You may now be ready physically, but not spiritually. Say a simple prayer to give Jesus permission to be present and share with you what He knows is needed. Search your heart - be prepared to share what you find there.

5 - Bring up your Feelings

Whatever you find in your heart, bring it to God through your feelings. Even if you have negative feelings about God - He wants to hear those too. Come as you are. If you do experience persistant anger or other negative feelings about God, make a note of these for a later time. Consider counseling to sort through these feelings.

6 - Wait and Listen

At this point, you have done all you can do, except to wait with anticipation. Believe God wants to speak to you. Again, if you do not believe this, make a note of it so you can dig deeper into why. It might help to remember step one. Think of some scriptures that affirms God accepts you and wants to speak to you. Come to God in faith believing these are true. Allow God to speak to you. What you start thinking about is likely not a coincidence. Trust God is directing your thoughts. Allow your mind and heart to be a blank canvas and give Jesus permission to write and draw on your heart.

Reflections

  1. What negative feelings or memories came up when you thought about God?
  2. How did God speak to you? Consider keep a prayer journal where you write out what God is saying to you.

Resources

Proverbs 3:3-6

3 "Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. 4 Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Read on Bible Gateway

Psalm 40:1-5

"1 I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. 2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him. 4 Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. 5 Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.”

Read on Bible Gateway
Monday, June 25, 2012 10:40:21 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
# Sunday, April 29, 2012

How to Forgive Yourself

Forgiveness is hard work. It is especially hard to forgive when you are still living with the effects of an offense. Yet, there can be an even worse place to be. When you are the offender, you have to live with something irreversible you did to someone else. What if you feel blocked from experiencing true forgiveness for what you have done? These four steps will help you forgive yourself.

1 - Identify What was Lost

It is important to look at what has happened. This is the same as the first step in forgiving others. Identify how reality is different - what could have been? Identify what is lost as a result of your actions. Accept responsibility for what you did. Initially this may be hard to do and you may actually feel worse. But it is a necessary step because there is no going back to the past to undo something, there is only moving forward.

2 - Express Remorse and Repent

It is appropriate to feel sorrow or remorse for a short period of time. This is an essential part of handling a loss. Even if the primary loss was someone else's, you have lost something too. Until you can forgive yourself, you will lack some degree of security. Spend some time being aware of your feelings. Express feeling sorry for what you have done. This could be journaling, talking, or perhaps even yelling or some other method to expend your energy (all of this done without hurting anyone). Accept what was lost as lost. Spent an appropriate amount of time grieving. This might be anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of months.

3 - Trust in God's Goodness

Surrender your fate into God’s hands. Ask God to forgive you. Trust in God's grace and mercy for both the offended and for you. Trust that God is able to make up for your mistake in a way that only God knows is best. Pray for the person you offended. Pray that God will bring them to a better place than before you hurt them. Even if this is not God's will, this is a good heart attitude. The offended will not be able to return to their pre-offense state, but God will make it right. God may bless the offended person sooner, or the offended person may continue to suffer for some time. Either way pray that the offended can sense God's presence and find peace and acceptance of their new reality. If God does not appear to make up for your mistake, trust that God is in control and knows something you do not.

4 - Lighten Your Load

Be willing to be a part of God making it right. Make restitution if possible (but only if the offended wants this). Having done what you can do to make restitution, leave the rest to God. Drop the weight. Cut the strings. Leave the luggage. Stop punishing yourself. Walk away from it. Allow yourself to pursue enjoying your life again. Get on with your life. Rejoice that you are forgiven. Having learned from your mistake, be a blessing to others. Be ready to forgive others in the same way you have received God's forgiveness. If you continue to struggle to forgive yourself, realize you have not fully received God's forgiveness. Return to the gospel message and receive complete forgiveness. Start life anew with a blank canvas.

Reflections

  1. Do you struggle to forgive yourself in any way?
  2. What is standing in the way of you completely receiving God's forgiveness?
  3. Are you still too hard on yourself? What would you say to a friend who is struggling with self-forgiveness?

Resources

Nehemiah 9:17

"But you are a God of forgiveness, Gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness.”

Read on Bible Gateway

1John 2:1

"If anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One."

Read on Bible Gateway

From the Song “What Sin?”

The heaviest thing you’ll carry
Is a load of guilt and shame.
You were never meant to bear them
So let them go in Jesus name.
Our God is slow to anger
Quick to forgive our sin
So let Him put them under the blood
Don’t bring them up again.
Cause He’ll just say,
What sin, what sin?

Further Reading

Marriage Missions

Sunday, April 29, 2012 1:29:34 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
# Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Are We Supposed to Judge?

Wikipedia defines judgment as, “the evaluation of evidence in the making of a decision.” Matthew 7:1 says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” At first glance it would appear we should avoid all judgment. Even looking further in verses 3 – 5 we can see even more reason to avoid judging others. However, as we will see the Bible acknowledges judgment as necessary. Therefore, “do not judge” in Matthew 7 has to do with the motivations of the heart when judging, not an absolute prohibition.

Good Judgment Brings Healing

Judgment is a necessary part of life. God is Judge and all fair judgment begins with God. In 1 Corinthians 6:1-6, we find that God’s people will judge the world and angels. Right judgment is empowered by the Spirit. The Spirit gives wisdom and discernment. Solomon was the wisest person ever to live. He judged between many people. His succeeded because he had God’s gifting.

Judgment brings order and maintains peace. We make judgments (discernments) all the time. It is what helps us make good decisions. We decide which job to take, which person to marry, which house to buy, etc. As parents we judge between siblings all the time. Godly discernment is a good thing.

Poor Judgment Brings Destruction

Bad judgment has sinful motives. A person giving bad judgment may do so to look better. A critical spirit is always wrong; it seeks the destruction of the other. One sign of bad judgment is that the person has not first considered how their judgment applies to their self. If this is done first, they will be more humble when seeking to correct a brother. I think this is why we are cautioned when restoring someone, so we don’t also fall into the same trap (see Galatians 6:1-10). If we don’t realize we have weaknesses we can be tempted and sin like the person we are helping restore.

Make Judgments

Bad judgment tears down. Good judgment restores, corrects, and builds up. Make judgments. But make them with your eyes wide open. Make judgments by the Holy Spirit. Keep in mind you might not be called to speak out your judgment. If you do, speak the truth in love.

Reflections

  1. Why is judging a good thing?
  2. When is judging a bad thing?

Resources

Matthew 7:1-6

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Read on Bible Gateway

1 Cor 6:1-3

If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!

Read on Bible Gateway
Wednesday, March 21, 2012 7:42:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
# Wednesday, January 18, 2012

3 Ways to Identify Legalism and Improve Your Parenting

Legalism is destructive. It is in opposition to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But it can be subtle and therefore hard to know for sure when you are dealing with it. Let's look at some ways to identify if you are facing legalism.

# 1: There is no Absolute

A legalistic approach involves setting up an absolute standard where one does not really exist. It focuses more on the externals (what you do or believe) than it does the internals (what is going on in your heart). Jesus described the legalists as, "white-washed tombs." Usually, the legalist will develop a specific test that can be adminstered to determine if you are "in" with them or "out." For example: Do you drink alcohol? Do you smoke? Do you read your Bible every day? Any such test is superficial because it is possible to get the right answer and still be lacking spiritual growth (or get the wrong answer, but still be growing). Unfortunately this approach can lead to teaching that it is possible to lose your salvation when you are not able to answer enough (or even one of the) questions the right way.

# 2: Distinctions are not Embraced

The legalist will be more focused on conforming others to their image instead of Jesus. Their goal is to clone everyone. This can even be taken as far as having everyone look alike (for example, everyone must dress the same). There will be a lack of acceptance of the diversity in the body of Christ. The legalist will tell you what you are supposed to believe. They will insist you act like they do and serve the way they do. They will say, "You must believe exactly what we believe, or you will not be considered in the group." You will have to perform in order to be considered in the group. Membership in the group will be based on how well you are performing and looking like them.

# 3: Location Matters More than Direction

Legalists are not primarily concerned with your relationship with Christ. They will be more concerned with what you are doing rather than if you are moving closer to Christ. Someone focused primarily on grace will treat membership and maturity differently. With a grace-oriented paradigm, membership is achieved without having to perform. A baby is born into a family having been automatically granted membership. There will be an understanding that the baby needs to mature, but the baby will always have total acceptance. Any decent parent will not ask, "Is this baby worth keeping?", but will ask, "Is this baby moving in the right direction?"

Conclusion

To avoid legalism, start with total acceptance of others, granting them membership. Then give them responsibility and authority depending upon their maturity. To determine maturity ask, "In what direction are they pointed and is there any movement?" Are they moving toward or away from Christ? How close are they to Christ? Don't judge someone by how far away they are from Christ. Instead, assess the person's maturity only for purposes of determining level of responsibility. This works well for the church family. And, it works well for the biological family. Parents are always to love, include, and accept their children unconditionally, but give out responsibility according to maturity.

Reflections

  1. What does avoiding legalism have to do with better parenting?
  2. In what ways have you accepted the subtleness of legalism into your life?

Resources

Matthew 23:27-28

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Read on Bible Gateway

Luke 16:10

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.

Read on Bible Gateway
Wednesday, January 18, 2012 12:51:50 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
# Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Objectivity in Dating - Part III

How do people end up choosing an unhealthy person to date or marry? In my experience as a counselor, it is skipping over the time in a relationship when objectivity is at its highest. The following is continued from Part II.

Flaws

Flaws are not bad; no one is perfect. But, some people are closer to being ready for marriage than others. If you marry someone who is farther away, you will need to invest more effort up front to have a working relationship. When someone like Sally is “in love,” he or she will more easily overlook flaws. This can happen because Sally let herself be in such a need to find a car that she is desperate to have the first one that appears to make her feel comfortable. Desperation directly results in a loss of objectivity. The longer she spends with the car, the more attached she becomes to it.

Be Objective, then Subjective

Attachment and passion are subjective. This is good because they can keep a couple together – after they have committed to each other. But before marriage and before going on too many dates, it is important to stay objective and evaluate a potential mate. This requires patience and being tough, some would say. When you are first meeting someone, this is the time you are most objective. The longer you know someone the harder it is to be objective. That is why it is so hard to break up with someone the longer you have spent together – you’ve already formed an attachment. Staying objective early on prevents you from getting into a relationship with a person who is not ready to be in a relationship – due to “maintenance needs”.

Conclusion

The process of selecting a date or a mate is a subjective one. It is supposed to be. But for these very reasons, it can also be a daunting one. Seeing a counselor during this time provides the added objectivity to help you sort through your values and feelings so you can make a wise decision. NRC counselors are available to help you find the right person and be the right person.

Reflections

  1. Be willing to act tough (look objectively) on where you are at in your relationship (it's maturity), while offering total acceptance of each other.
  2. Consider bringing your relationship in front of a pair of trained eyes, so you can work through any difficulties early in your relationship.

Resources

1 Cor 13:7-8

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

Read on Bible Gateway

Ro 12:9-10

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another ... in honor giving preference to one another.

Read on Bible Gateway
Wednesday, December 28, 2011 12:44:29 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
# Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Objectivity in Dating - Part II

How do people end up choosing an unhealthy person to date or marry? In my experience as a counselor, it is skipping over the time in a relationship when objectivity is at its highest. The following is continued from Part I.

Sally

Then it happens. Sally is all set to drive to work one day and the car refuses to start! It’s only been four months since she purchased it. When Sally is the owner, the seller is not responsible for the car - she is. She makes arrangements to take it to a mechanic and finds an alternate way to work. The mechanic calls her later that day with the news, “Your car needs $477 worth of repairs to get it working again. There’s also an oil leak. It will eventually need to be fixed and it will be at least $2000.” “Whoa,” reels Sally, “this car I love is costing me dearly!”

This could happen to anyone. Even if a person is careful to select a mate, there are no guarantees. Our relationships will always require hard work. However, it is possible to do our part to avoid unnecessary heartache. It would be nice to think God would always prevent us from buying a car that needed a lot of work, but He doesn’t. At least He doesn’t all the time. And He is less likely (or we are less able to hear Him) if we are not praying and asking Him to help us make the decision.

A Better Way

Let’s take a closer look at what Sally could have done differently to reduce the likelihood of getting a lemon (but note that once you have a lemon you make lemonade). First, it is positive that she took the car for many test drives. This provides opportunities to experience the car and see how it performs in more than just one drive. However, if Sally has already determined that this car is the one for her, she has already lost most of her objectivity. So while continuing to spend more time with her selection, she is only “falling more in love” which means she is increasingly more likely to overlook any flaws.

To Be Continued

Flaws are not bad; no one is perfect. But, some people are closer to being ready for marriage than others... Stay tuned next week for Part III.

Reflections

  1. Before you are married, are you both feeling "in love" and maintaining objectivity to choose the right person at the right time?
  2. After you are married, are you acting like an "owner" or are you still thinking like a "renter"?

Resources

Luke 14:28-30

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’

Read on Bible Gateway
Wednesday, September 14, 2011 10:12:20 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
# Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Objectivity in Dating - Part I

How do people end up choosing an unhealthy person to date or marry? In my experience as a counselor, it is skipping over the time in a relationship when objectivity is at its highest. Let’s consider an example to illustrate this idea.

Sally's Story

Sally, 24 years old and a recent college graduate, needs to find transportation quickly so she can get to work every day. She looks around and takes a car for a test drive. She likes the color, feels comfortable sitting in the car, the car looks to be in good shape, and the car handles the road with ease. It is love at first sight! She comes back the next day and the next, taking the car on drives. Each time she takes the car out for longer drives. Sally is in love with this car!

Sally plans the date of purchase (the wedding), signs the financial papers and finally drives the car away never to return because she is now the proud owner. From this moment forward, everything is different. Sally must drive this car everywhere she goes. She needs this car to take her to work every day. She has to take the car in for maintenance to get the oil changed, rotate the tires, etc. Her whole perspective on the car changes from being a distant admirer, to an up-close admirer, to an up-close owner.

Then it happens. Sally is all set to drive to work one day and the car refuses to start! It’s only been four months since she purchased it. When Sally is the owner, the seller is not responsible for the car - she is...

To Be Continued

Stay tuned next week for Part II.

Reflections

  1. Check your heart. Are you making a dating decision too fast?
  2. What is the difference between leasing (dating) and owning (marriage)?
  3. Are you allowing God to be a part of your mate selection?

Resources

2 Corinthians 6:14

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

Read on Bible Gateway

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Read on Bible Gateway

Genesis 2:18

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

Read on Bible Gateway
Wednesday, August 31, 2011 12:55:05 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
# Sunday, July 31, 2011

Growing Past Barriers in Your Marriage

God made us to be growing and changing. But we are not always growing at the same rate. Sometimes we experience slow growth, and others times fast growth. A growth spurt is usually preceded by a period of rest and even complacency, followed by a period of difficulty and frustration, followed by a determination to choose faith over fear. When faith is excercised and the barrier is past, there is once again a period of rest.

The Sound Barrier

In 1947 Chuck Yeager became the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound. As pilots approached the speed of sound they experienced a barrier called a shock wave. When they hit the shock wave, their plane shook and they retreated. Many pilots died in crashes. But Yeager found that when he accelerated past the sound barrier the plane flew well. Before the barrier is reached, there is resistance. After the barrier is reached, there is peace.

There were planes which could break the sound barrier prior to Yeager. When these pilots went up and approached the speed of sound, the plane shook violently. The more the plane shook, the more frightened the pilot became. When a pilot would try to slow the plane down, often he would crash. The same thing happened to other pilots because they responded to the resistance with fear and backed off from their attempt to achieve a break through.

When Chuck Yeager attempted to break the sound barrier, all the same things happened. His plane shook violently and he became afraid. But, he responded differently to his circumstances. Instead of giving up and slowing down, he decided, "if I am going to die, I am going to go out in style." Instead of slowing down, he sped up and the rest is history. It's okay to be afraid, because everyone encounters fear. But what you do after that makes all the difference.

The Love Barrier

Thankfully God has provided a man and woman some "rocket fuel" to get their marriage off the ground. This fuel is potent stuff. I am speaking figuratively about the onboard hormones (and biochemicals) which drive mutual attraction. These are more than sufficient to bring about feelings of being "in love." When two people are "in love" there is a sort of magical effortlessness to the relationship. It is this effortlessness that drives the two together.

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending upon how you look at it, this state of effortlessness does not last forever. Eventually it runs it course and the same effortless effect is no longer present. This is when a marriage is most vulnerable to shakes and fears. Life and marriage are not without challenges. At this point there develops a fork in the road. How will the couple interpret this lack of feeling in love? Many couples will conclude that because they are no longer in love, there is no point in staying in the relationship. They fear their own lack of ability to produce effortless love. When love becomes work, they back away in fear.

It takes a certain amount of maturity to break this Love Barrier. Marriage is about hanging into there and pressing forward even in the midst of shakes and fears. Press on, pray, and persevere until you make your break through. You will need to overcome by expanding your horizon. Believe in faith there is something better ahead. If you don’t look out very far, then it is easy to make a hasty decision that looks good in the short term. A short term gain might reduce the immediate pressure, but it will mean the eventual crash of your marriage.

Conclusion

Once you've experienced moving past a barrier, you are forever changed. Your brain chemistry maps a new neurological path directly related to your new experience (of successfully breaking the barrier). The next time you are faced with the same barrier, it will be easier to push through. The same barrier will no longer be challenging to you. Enjoy this time of rest, because God is infinite and there are always new horizons to explore.

Reflections

  1. What barriers are you facing in your life? In your marriage?
  2. What fears are preventing you from moving forward past the barriers and into doing what is right?
  3. Is there anything you need to strenghen your faith? Ask Jesus for it now. When there are strong shakes and fears, consider counseling to help you break the love barrier.

Resources

Romans 5:3-4

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Read on Bible Gateway

James 1:3-4

...because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Read on Bible Gateway

Psalm 25:9

He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.

Read on Bible Gateway
Sunday, July 31, 2011 5:19:53 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
# Wednesday, June 29, 2011

God’s Actions Count More

No matter what happens to us apart from God, God's actions always count more. Why is this such an important truth?

To be Human is to be Vulnerable

Our actions affect others to the degree they are vulnerable. God made us able to be vulnerable, but he also gave us the ability to put up walls to keep others out. Even so, there are limits to this defensive ability. We can find ourselves easily hurt if we encounter an unsafe person. We can be “caught with our guard down.” This is exactly what happens to children. Children are naturally more vulnerable – and most of the time that’s a good thing. When we are vulnerable, we are open to learning – learning through relationship and learning information.

To be Human is to be Capable of Abuse

Abuse is when someone more aware and more powerful uses their position to take advantage of those who are less aware and less powerful. When the misuse of power is much greater than the victim’s ability to manage it, the victim’s automatic defenses kick in. Automatic defenses are heavy duty, but their use comes with a cost. Dissociation is the main defense. Dissociation allows the victim to survive horrendous abuse. The cost is the victim loses a part of their self when the walls come up.

Recovering What Was Lost

It can take a long time in a safe, controlled environment to recover from abuse. One of the first steps to recovery is regaining the lost ability to trust. Without trust it is hard to be vulnerable. Without being vulnerable, it is hard to recover. This is what makes recovery so difficult. Usually a person will trust a little again. Then so long as the trust is not further abused, progress is made little by little. This is possible in extreme cases too, but the process takes a lot longer.

The Bad News - Abuse Happens All the Time

So far I’ve been discussing abuse while focusing on person to person interaction. But our battle is not against flesh and blood. It is against evil powers and principalities. The bad news is abuse happens all the time because no one is perfect and evil is real. Anyone on earth can end up in a position of power over others. When we sin (go against what God wants) we give the devil permission to harass us, until we once again realign ourselves under God’s authority.

The Good News - God is On Our Side

The good news is God is good. Whenever we are vulnerable and we encounter God, we are changed for the good. Whatever anyone else has done or said to us, can be washed away by whatever God says. God has infinite power and is infinitely good, so it will trump everything else. When we sense we have power, God wants us to be humble so we don’t hurt his children. However, when we hurt someone, there is forgiveness and God’s healing presence. Therefore, we are never without hope!

Reflections

  1. Are there any ways you have recently abused the power you have? Talk to God about it. Ask him to increase your awareness of how you use the authority he's given to you.
  2. Are you currently in an abusive relationship? Do you lack the power to appropriately protect yourself? Are you feeling too weak or vulnerable? Find a trusted person - seek out help so you may be strengthened to remove yourself out of the abuse.
  3. Are you still hurting from past abuse? Even though you are no longer in any immediate danger, God wants to see you find healing.

Resources

Matthew 18:6

But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

Read on Bible Gateway

Romans 8:31

... If God is for us, who can be against us?

Read on Bible Gateway
Wednesday, June 29, 2011 12:12:55 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
# Saturday, May 28, 2011

Forgiveness or Healing

Which comes first? Do we forgive first then experience healing? Or, do we experience healing which allows us to forgive? I’ve been pondering this for several months now. The more I think about it, the more it does appear to be a "chicken and egg" question.

An Important Question

Why is this question relevant? I say it is important because suffering cannot be addressed by a simple black and white answer. When you are actively suffering, there are usually no easy answers. Yes, suffering will work for our ultimate good. But will that knowledge satisfy the person currently in excruciating pain? For the person not in any kind of pain, it is too easy to address another’s suffering with, “Snap out of it!” Or, “Just don’t think about it anymore.” Or, “God helps those who help themselves.”

Forgiveness is First?

If we say forgiveness must come first, what about the situation where someone is so traumatized by what another has done, they cannot begin to even think about reaching out to someone else? This person is clearly not ready to do anything more than receive care. They need some amount of recovery and restoration before considering other things. Therefore, at least in some cases, forgiveness cannot be first.

Healing is First?

If we say healing must come first, just exactly how much healing is needed? All of it? Isn’t extending forgiveness part of the healing process? Or is it the evidence of health? If someone hasn’t forgiven their offender, they are essentially perpetually waiting for payment of the debt. This is the opportune time for bitterness to take root. Therefore, forgiveness must be completed to enjoy full emotional health.

Forgiveness and Healing are Intertwined

With this puzzle before me, I can only find one way to answer. Forgiveness and Healing are inseparably dependent on each other. You cannot say you are 100% healed if you haven’t completely forgiven your offender. But, many times a person cannot start, let alone complete, the forgiveness process without first receiving a heavy dose of healing.

This means there are two "stages" to healing fully. The first stage has nothing to do with forgiveness or the offender, but has everything to do with our basic needs for security and safety. Where strength was taken, it must be restored. Concern for the immediate necessities of life take precedent over forgiveness. We must have our hope restored that life is worth living before entertaining forgiveness. Yet, when a person is strong enough to resent another person for what has been done, they would appear to have the strength to extend forgiveness.

The 7 Steps to Complete Healing

While forgiveness is essential to complete healing, it is not essential to start healing. A foundation of being able to extend forgiveness to another is the capacity to sense exactly how much one has been forgiven by God. In this security, in God’s power, we can then offer the same comfort to another. So we might summarize the relationship between forgivess and healing as follows:

  1. You recognize how you are hurt by someone.
  2. You receive care as needed to restore your basic functioning and sense of personal safety.
  3. You consider what is to become of your offender; you consider forgiveness over revenge.
  4. Forgiving releases you from the burden of collecting a debt that cannot be collected. Being able to forgive is evidence you have accepted God's forgiveness for your sins. Forgive from God's strength, not your own.
  5. You might be completely healed at this point, or simply cleared to pursue further healing.
  6. Look to God to provide the healing needed.
  7. Pray for your offender out of the comfort and healing you have received.

This is a dynamic process (not necessarily a sequential one). When you've reached step 7, or 5, etc. you might still need to return to step 2 to receive further care. It might take short amount of time, and it also might take a long amount of time. No time limit can be placed on this process.

Reflections

  1. Where are you at in the 7 steps to Healing?
  2. What is difficult about forgiving your offender? What do you need to help you be able to forgive?
  3. What has getting hurt revealed about you? Have any weaknesses been uncovered that require further healing?
  4. Some burdens (hurts) are too much to carry alone. Seek help from others when you need it.

Resources

Galatians 6:2

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Read on Bible Gateway

1 Peter 5:6-11

... Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. ... And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

Read on Bible Gateway
Saturday, May 28, 2011 2:11:59 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)