Instant Gratification Trap (part 1)

instant gratification 1INSTANT GRATIFICATION: Our instant gratification mindset has snuck into the counseling office, says guest writer Shannon Kay McCoy, a biblical counselor listed on Heart2Heart Counselor Directory here. Often counselees want quick fixes. But Jesus wants something better! Shannon’s article appeared first here and is used with permisison. (Slightly edited for length.)

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Instant gratification is not a new phenomenon. However, our expectation of “instant” is now faster than ever.

So how long will you wait for that cute cat video to load? I love cute cat videos, but if the video has not loaded after 10 seconds, I’m out! I move on to another site that has piqued my interest. And when I order something on the internet, if the shipping time is too long, I check to see if it is on Amazon Prime and order it there to get it in 2 days, even though I do not necessarily need it in 2 days.

And do you remember dial-up internet? I won’t even go there.

Instant Gratification Defined

Instant gratification is satisfying a desire immediately, without delay or deferment. It is the opposite of waiting. It is satisfying short-term pleasure instead of enduring the pain of long-term gain. Indeed, instant gratification often manifests as the ultimate in impatience. In fact, it is the difference between those who have the mindset of “strike while the iron is hot” versus “good things come to those who wait.”

Unfortunately, our culture feeds our innate desire for satisfaction now. With the wonderful inventions of computers, smartphones, and tablets, we can connect to anything we could possibly want. And this includes a selection of all types of entertainment on Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, a library of eBooks and audiobooks, and real-time local and world news at the touch of a button.

Instant Gratification and Quick Fixes

How does the need for instant gratification affect the counseling ministry? We may now have the dreaded feeling that instant gratification and counseling do not coexist. To be a Christian is to be set apart from a self-centered existence to a Christ-centered existence. We no longer live for ourselves.

Galatians 2:20 states the theme of the Christian life:

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

The believer’s life is characterized as living by faith in Jesus Christ and not living in the flesh, which craves instant gratification.

Also, Christians often get caught up in the instant gratification mindset in ministry. In the counseling room, the counselee wants a quick fix to a problem and the counselor wants the counselee to change instantly. An instant gratification approach to counseling is detrimental. And just as we demand instant feedback on social media and 2-day shipping, we demand that God fixes the negative circumstances and change people immediately.

If God does not come through fast enough, then we will find another way to resolve the problem—often leading to an even worse situation. The result of such impatience is stress, frustration, anger, fear, discouragement, and despair.

Downside of Instant Gratification

The instant gratification trap causes the counselor and the counselee to abandon the core spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study, fasting, and fellowshipping with other believers. Prayer is abandoned because it takes too long to see results. Studying the Bible seems pointless when we can Google any question we may have. Fasting seems bad for your health. And fellowshipping is a waste of time when we have other things that need our attention immediately.

Truly, there is no quick fix to counseling a couple whose marriage was damaged by adultery. And one cannot instantly work through the grieving process of losing a loved one. You also cannot say “Stop it!” to someone who is addicted to painkillers. When we try to fix the problem quickly or push for change instantly, then the essence of the Christian life is missed.

The apostle Paul states the purpose of the Christian life in Philippians 3:10-11:

That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

The goal of counseling is change based on a relationship with Jesus Christ. The pain and suffering of life are meant to develop a greater intimacy with Christ and to transform us into the image of Jesus Christ. The counselor and the counselee also must be reminded of this truth. And we come to know Him better when we wrestle through the trials of life in this fallen world.

The way to overcome the instant gratification trap is practicing delayed gratification.

In Part 2, I will walk us through the process of delayed gratification. 

Questions for Reflection

How is your daily life affected by this instant gratification culture?

Also, is your spiritual life affected by an instant gratification mindset?

And in what way is your ministry/counseling affected by a desire for instant gratification?

Reading Scripture for Life Transformation

Scripture is a life-changing love letter. Counselor Donna Hart, PhD, listed in Heart2Heart Counselor Directory here, experiences life change personally as she reads the Bible for understanding and transformation. Do you desire life transformation too? Donna’s article appeared first here on her website and is used with permission.

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A while back, I attended a women’s theology conference where Ruth Haley Barton spoke of our need to pay attention to our God-given desires. . .and to practice spiritual disciplines. She said believers through the centuries have practiced them as a way of opening up to the transforming presence of God.

As I listened I felt my spirit start to stiffen in resistance. I like to practice disciplines that are theologically correct. And I don’t like going off into a lot of emotion and commotion without any devotion.

Then she said something that captured my attention.

When we engage the Scriptures for spiritual transformation, we engage not only our mind but also our heart, our emotions, our body, our curiosity, our imagination, and our will.

We open ourselves to a deeper level of understanding and insight that grows out of and leads us deeper into our personal relationship with the One behind the text. It is in the context of relational intimacy that real life change takes place.

Scripture Is a Life-Changing Love Letter

Barton went on to clarify the importance of reading Scripture as a love letter from someone who loves you deeply. Indeed, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures are active, alive, and God-breathed, just it says:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

How to Read Scripture

I followed her instruction to experience the Word for myself: Take a moment to become quiet and close your eyes to eliminate the distractions. Then let your body relax and allow yourself to become consciously aware of God’s presence with you.

  • First Reading: Pick a Scripture of 4 or 5 verses, maybe a Psalm you particularly like, Isaiah 43:1-4, or Psalm 23. Read it out loud, listening for the word or phrase that catches your attention and savor the Word.
  • Second Reading: Read the same verses out loud again and listen for the way in which this passage connects with your life today.
  • Third Reading: Read the verses again listen for an invitation contained in God’s Word to you. Respond honestly to God about what you are hearing. This is a response that flows out of your deepest longing for God.
  • Fourth Reading: Read these verses out loud, this time to rest in the word God has given you, knowing that he who has called you will be faithful to bring it to pass.

He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:24

Experiencing Life Change

I walked away from this exercise with a deep sense of peace and excitement. But I wanted to stay in that word the Lord had just given me, resolved to do exactly what He told me to do. Also I wanted to hold on to it and carry it with me all day and savor the moment of intimacy with God. It was like entering the throne room of God. And I did not want to leave. It was like the Lord was giving me a little taste of heaven.

I encourage you to try this discipline for yourself and experience the transforming presence of God. I would also love to hear about your encounter with God.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

Helping Struggling Adopted Teens

adopted teensAdopted teens have unique struggles as well as the same heartaches nearly all teenagers face. How might the gospel apply to struggling adopted teens? Like guest writer Ellen Castillo, I too have adopted children (now adults) and so I found her article wonderfully instructive and encouraging. (It appeared first here on the Biblical Counseling Coalition website and is used with permission.) If you or someone who know is a family created through adoption, please share this post with them. –LAM

A Challenging Journey

“And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me” (Matthew 18:5).

Twenty years ago, when my husband and I adopted three foster children, we were the only people in our small Christian community who were doing so. Our children were ages 5, 7, and 9 at the time of each of their adoptions. They all came from a background of abuse, neglect, and abandonment. We knew that this kind of background would mean that there would be challenges ahead, but we had no idea just how difficult those challenges would be.

When two of the children became teenagers, we were facing parental challenges that we were not prepared for, and our church was not equipped to help us. God was faithful to see us through those years.

One of the ways He has used those experiences in my life is that I became burdened to help other adoptive parents and their adopted teens through the ministry of biblical counseling. As I have counseled several adopted teens in the past few years, there are recurring issues that I have noted.

Common Struggles

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Teenagers commonly struggle with their sense of identity. Teens who have been adopted have a unique form of this struggle as they have been removed from their birth family and placed into either foster or adoptive families. This can create a feeling of having nowhere to belong. This will often manifest as a lack of attachment to a new family.

The new family offers love, security, comfort and care. But at times the teen rejects all of their adopted parents’ sincere efforts, because of feeling displaced, confused, and disoriented. If they do not have the tools to communicate their feelings well, they may act out with poor behavior instead (lying, sneaking, anger, defiance, etc.)

The family often feels at a loss as to how to help the child overcome such poor responses to emotions and circumstances.

If they do not know or remember their birth-family history, there will be identity struggles. Some will struggle with a sense of (false) guilt over the birth family not staying together. Others will struggle with worry and guilt about being disloyal to their family of origin if they love and attach to the new family. These are all complicated heart struggles that must be seen through a biblical lens rather than just assuming the teen is being rebellious.

Adopted Teens and Trust Issues

Understandably, adopted teens may have trust issues. If the people who were supposed to protect them abused, neglected or abandoned them, certainly they will wonder if others will do the same to them.

Adopted teens may struggle with unbelief that stems from having been betrayed. This often manifests as lying or sneaky behavior. They might think, “I can’t trust, so I really am all on my own. I must protect myself at any cost, even breaking the commandments such as ‘do not lie.’”

Self-protection tends to trump God’s Word, even if the teen is a believer.

If adopted teens feel rejected, they often expect that they are going to be rejected again. Some will behave in such a way as to attempt to force the adoptive family to reject them because they believe it is inevitable, and they would rather have some control over the timing of it. Much energy is expended on acting out in order to force rejection. The outward behavior resembles normal teen rebellion, but the heart issues are actually rooted in significant fear.

Typical teen rebellion tends to have a malicious “I don’t care” nature to it. An adopted teen’s rebellion can be less malicious and more self-protective in nature. It is important to discern the difference as you seek to parent, mentor, or counsel the teen.

Applying the Gospel

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

Practical help needed for those who parent, counsel, and mentor struggling adopted teens is found in God’s Word. Determine to do your best to discern whether or not the gospel has been understood and received.

Once you believe that the teen is a believer, be sure that you teach him or her to view the past through scriptural teaching. Focus on all that the gospel has provided. Talk about sanctification as a process towards Christlikeness. Be sure that grace and mercy are understood.

Teach God’s view of family and the impact of sin on the family. Teach teens to apply the gospel to hurts, struggles, circumstances, and fears. Show them in Scripture that their identity is not in their birth or adoptive family; it is in Christ. Teach them that the fear of man is a snare and that people will disappoint them at times, but that they can fully trust in Christ. They must see that the gospel applies to their salvation and to their sanctification.

Call on a biblical counselor with experience in counseling troubled teens if you need assistance helping an adoptive family. Many adoptive parents endure the struggles alone, but God’s design is that the body of Christ would be a safe place for help and hope.

In the gospel struggling teens meet a very relatable Savior. He has endured betrayal and rejection, too. He modeled forgiveness, mercy, and grace. The entire narrative of the Bible is a story of redemption, and teens need to view their own history in light of that story. This is our hope–and the hope for the teens we are called to love.

Join the Conversation

Do you know an adoptive family that needs to know the hope of the gospel? How can you come alongside the parents and their teen?

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

 

Who Titles Your Life Story?

life story
Your life story has two editors–Satan and Christ.
One shames, the other gives you grace. Who will title your life story. This article by Pastor Bob Kellemen appeared first here on his website and is used with permission. Bob is a leader in the biblical couseling movement, an author, and a college vice president.

Two Editors to Your Life Story 

Your life is a story.

And two people seek to write the title to your story.

Satan’s Shaming Story 

Satan seeks to title your life story using the lens of shame, guilt, sin, and condemnation.

Satan’s story is the story of the law…which condemns.

Christ’s Grace Story 

The Author of Life is the only One with the right to name your story.

He—Christ Jesus—names your story through the lens of grace, forgiveness, the cross, justification, reconciliation, regeneration, and redemption.

Christ’s story is the story of the gospel…that forgives and makes all things new.

Consider David—Through Satan’s Law Lens 

If King David were to allow Satan to write the title to his life story, what would that title be?

“The King of Sin and Shame!”

“Adulterer!”

“Murdered!”

“Hypocrite!”

“Shameful Failure!”

Consider David—Through Christ’s Gospel Lens 

Instead…Christ titles King David’s story. David ends up not in Satan’s Hall of Shame.

No. David ends up in Christ’s Faith Hall of Fame.

By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, and Jephthah, and about David and Samuel and the prophets. who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. (Hebrews 11:31-34)

Did you catch whlife storyo made Christ’s Faith Hall of Fame?

Rahab—the prostitute—is there—by faith.

David—the Adulterer-Murderer—is there—by faith.

That’s not enough? Here’s Christ’s title to David’s life story:

“Man After God’s Own Heart.”

Here it is, right in inspired, inerrant Scripture:

After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised. (Acts 13:22-23)

David’s life story is sandwiched by grace. By grace he is a man after God’s own heart. In the flesh he sins gravely. By grace from David’s descendants God brings forth our Savior Jesus.

Let the Gospel Rewrite the Title to Your Life Story 

Martin Luther understood how Christ’s gospel of grace rewrites our sinful, shameful life story. Luther points us to the center of Scripture—the comfort of the gospel.

“It is a falsehood, that God is an enemy of sinners, for Christ roundly and plainly declares, by commandment of the Father: ‘I am come to save sinners.’”

When we are tempted by the devil to doubt the grace of God, Luther encourages us to fight Satan’s condemning lies with gospel-grace truth.

When the devil casts up to us our sin, and declares us unworthy of death and hell, we must say: ‘I confess that I am worthy of death and hell. What more have you to say?’ ‘Then you will be lost forever!’ ‘Not in the least: for I know One who suffered for me and made satisfaction for my sins, and his name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. So long as he shall live, I shall live also.’

Spit on the Devil 

Luther continues…

Therefore treat the devil thus: Spit on him, and say: ‘Have I sinned? Well, then I have sinned, and I am sorry; but I will not on that account despair, for Christ has borne and taken away all my sin, yes, and the sin of the whole world, if it will only confess its sin and believe on Christ. What should I do if I had committed murder or adultery, or even crucified Christ? Why, even then, I should be forgiven, as he prayed on the cross: ‘Father, forgive them’ (Luke xxiii. 34). This I am in duty bound to believe. I have been acquitted. Then away with you, devil!’

Luther urges us to “depend boldly upon this” in order to experience peace with God.

Christ is not the one who accuses or threatens us, but he reconciles and intercedes for us by his own death and by his shed blood for us, that we may not be afraid of him, but draw near to him with all confidence.

Luther counsels us to draw near to Christ with full confidence and assurance of his love. Awareness of God’s grace friendship has the power to entice prodigals to return home to the Father.

Believe that he esteems and loves you more than does Dr. Luther or any other Christian. The conscience, spurred by the devil, the flesh, and the fallen world; says, “God is your enemy. Give up in despair.” God, in His own Fatherly love and through His Son’s grace and through His Word and through the witness of His people; says, “I have no wrath. You are accepted in the beloved. I am not angry with you. We are reconciled!”

Title Your Story through the Lens of the Gospel 

Who is writing the title to your life story?

Is it Satan—through his condemning/law narrative?

Or…

Is it Christ—through His grace/gospel narrative?

Join the Gospel Conversation 

What is Christ’s grace-gospel title to your life story?

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

Self-Care: Changing Bad Habits into Good (part 3)

self careSELF-CARE: As you follow in step with Christ and make godly habits that come from a changed heart, you’ll also experience joy.

In case you missed them, here are part one and part two in this series. So far, we’ve looked at the role of the heart in true self-care (part 1) and the first three steps in whole health wellness: recognizing emotions, choosing godly thoughts, and acting on renewed beliefs (part 2).

In the final part of this self-care series, let’s consider:

  1. Making new godly habits and sticking with them.
  2. Experiencing the joy-filled life.

Making New Habits

Acting on my renewed beliefs a time or two isn’t enough to make a genuine difference in my thoughts, emotions, and actions. We need a fourth step: making new habits that stick.

I used to eat super healthy foods and was a vegetarian for 14 or so years, and exercised regularly too. In recent years, however, I believed the lie I was too busy for regular meals, exercise, and rest.

God helps you and me break ungodly habits, including things like critical speech, self-pity, worry, smoking, chewing fingernails, people-pleasing, pornography, and more. In my case, the bad habit of neglecting self-care came from a heart of pride.

Sinful habits are not disorders or defects. Jesus Christ gives us victory over sin. You and I no longer have to live in slavery to sinful thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, and motivation. God himself provides the way out.

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

Putting off pride, renewing my attitude, and putting on humility: This is my new thought habit.

New Habit Plan, Detailed

To successfully change a habit, we need a plan. The more detailed, the better. First you’ll see an overview below. Then I’ll share a detailed plan a counselee and I wrote together.

  1. Put off: Identify the ungodly habit that needs change. For me, I was irresponsible with diet, exercise, and sleep. For a counselee I meet by Skype, she is quick to argue with her mother.
  2. Renew my attitude: Me — I agreed with God that I was sinning by erroneously thinking that I was too busy for self-care, as if God didn’t stuff enough hours in a day. My counselee agreed with God to honor her mother and to choose Christ righteousness over self-righteousness..
  3. Put on: Me — humility. I am not Super Woman! I need good food, exercise, and rest…just like Jesus when he walked this earth. My counselee also needed humility as well as determination to speak the truth in love.

Together my counselee and I wrote a plan for her that looked like this:

  • When mother says something mean, quietly thank God for an opportunity to practice the new habit.
  • Remind myself of James 1:19, which says, “… Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” and that I need to change my attitude, desiring most of all to honor God.
  • Then speak the truth in love. Depending on what mother says, I may say, “I feel hurt when you suggest I’ve put on ten pounds and am lazy. You know I am an honor student and my clothes fit as they always do. I want you to know that I’m making a new habit to speak the truth in love. This is what the Bible tells me to do.”
  • Proactively and regulary choose words that build up, saying something like, “Mom, I love you” or “Great to see you!” or “Just want you to know I appreciate that you want the best for me” or a simple “Thank you,” always with a loving tone of voice and friendly body language.

body languageWhen making a new habit pattern, we need to repeat it many times for it to take hold. In counseling others, I’ve discovered that this step of forming new godly pattern is challenging and part of the reason why we need our brothers and sisters in Christ to come alongside us and encourage us.

What bad habit does God want you to replace with a godly habit? What obstacles are in the way? How might other Christians helped you?

Receiving Joy in the Journey

What I learned in this self-care journey may sound kind of crazy. It’s counterintuitive. My avoidance of true self-care fed my sinful appetite to live self-sufficiently and was, in fact, self-indulgent. Does this make sense?

For me, counseling my heart has meant stopping to rest and eat well and exercise.

I thank God that my poor self care didn’t create a health crisis. Rather, fear crept in and settled in my heart and mind. This is equally bad, this unsettling. Yet it has resulted in my obeying God’s call for heart change, which is always good. He knows what you and I truly need.

A quick review of the biblical counseling journey:

1. Recognizing your difficult emotions.
2. Identifying your faulty thinking.
3. Acting on renewed beliefs.
4. Making new habits.

As I continue my journey, how may I pray for you? All of us need God’s help, and he’s faithful. How we handle our everyday problems reveals our hearts: our desires, our motivations, our beliefs, and our thinking.

When God shows us that our hearts are self-centered, he gives us everything we need to live life according to his plan, which is what any true Christian really wants, right?

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 1 Peter 1:2-4, ESV

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

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5 AMAZING NAMES GOD CALLS YOU!

Blessed, Daughter, Saint, and more!

In this delightful, four-color ebook, you’ll discover the precious names God calls you. Today so many Christian women don’t fully know their wonderful identity in Christ. Isn’t a time to know yours? Filled with scripture, photography, personal stories, and encouragement!

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