If You Feel Abused, Were You Abused? (Part 2)

abusedAbused? Were you abused, phyically or sexually, in your marriage? In part 2 of this multi-part series on domestic violence, guest writer Jim Newheiser carefully looks at common assertions and takes a balanced view. This post appeared first here at the Biblical Counseling Coalition website and is reprinted with permission.

Read Part 1 here: When to believe the victim, when to believe the abuser

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I am thankful to God that many necessary and important books and articles are being written to increase awareness of physical and sexual abuse. Abuse affect both the society at large and the Christian community in particular. Spiritual leaders have been rightly admonished for their failure to protect at-risk women and children.

Battered wives have been wrongly told that if they were just more loving and submissive, their husbands would change and the abuse would stop. They are then wrongly sent back to take further verbal and physical beatings. Many church leaders need to repent of their failure to “rescue the weak and needy; [and] deliver them out of the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 82:4).

While I affirm the importance of understanding the dark nature of abuse and protecting the victims of abuse, I am concerned that some, in their zeal to correct the failure of the past, have swung too far the other way. This can lead to false accusations and unnecessary family breakups.

I would like to give a few examples of what I believe to be common overstatements, and for each one, I will describe the good intention behind the statements, the harm which can be caused because of imbalanced thinking, and a more balanced way of expressing the same concerns.

If You Feel Abused, Then You Were Abused?

ASSERTION: If you feel abused, then you were abused.

  1. The valid concern: This statement is often made to express the reality that abuse may have taken place even if the abuser does not recognize or acknowledge his behavior (yelling, pushing, bullying, coercion, threats, and intimidation) as wrong.
  2. The harm that can be caused: On the other hand, the Bible teaches that it is possible to wrongly interpret the words, actions, and motives of others (1 Corinthians 2:11).

For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 1 Corinthians 2:11

For example, Eli falsely accused Hannah of drunkenness because her lips were moving as she prayed (1 Samuel 2:12ff). We cannot judge one person merely by the subjective feelings of another. For example, a man may be in a rush and accidentally bump into his wife (with whom he had had a recent conflict) as he turns a corner. She may accuse him of doing it deliberately to harm her when that was never his motive.

Words also can be misunderstood. What is taken by one person as angry and abusive might have never been intended as such. Nor might it have been interpreted this way by an objective third party.

Scripture reminds us: “Love hopes all things” (1 Cor. 13:7); in other words, love seeks to assume the best.

3. It would be better to say: A person who feels abused should be helped to objectively evaluate what has happened and to get assistance if genuine abuse has taken place. Part of this objective evaluation involves considering the ongoing pattern and cumulative effect of the accused person’s behavior, as well as the immediate accusation at hand. Proper evaluation over time keeps us from wrongly escalating the consequences for one individual incident while also not dismissing the whole situation because one incident wasn’t deemed as abusive.

Sometimes a Victim Has a Sin Issue Too

ASSERTION: It is never the victim’s fault.

  1. The valid concern: Many abusers claim that their victims are to blame because the victim provoked him or failed to be as good a wife or child as they should be. Many victims suffer from false guilt. There is no valid excuse for physical or sexual abuse.

Even if the abuser believes that he was provoked, he is never authorized by God to take physical or verbal vengeance.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

2. The harm that can be caused: Some victims have sin issues which also need to be addressed. I counseled in a case in which a wife would berate and insult her husband, saying “Come on Jesus man, hit me!” She admitted that she felt that she had won the argument when he finally struck her. Again, I emphasize there was no excuse for him hitting her. But she also needed to address her personal sinfulness.

There have been cases of sexual assault in which the woman got herself into an extremely compromising and dangerous situation (i.e., drunk, alone, and making out with a man with whom she is not married). Again, the man should have stopped when she said, “no” (also see Habakkuk 2:15). If he assaults her, he is guilty of a crime and should be punished. But she also needs to acknowledge before God her personal sin in the situation. Deuteronomy 22:23-24 addresses situations like this.

3. It would be better to say: Abuse is never justified, but victims may need to examine themselves to see if they have any sin for which they also need to seek God’s forgiveness.

(Friend, if someone has abused you, please seek help from a caring pastor, a spiritually wise woman at your church, or from a biblical counselor, who counsels the compassionate, effective Word to your hurting heart. Learn more about biblical counseling by Skype.–LAM)

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

 

 

Contentment: Learning to Be Content in ALL Things

contentmentContentment. Isn’t this something we all want but difficult to get? In this warm and insightful article which appeared first here, Heart2Heart Counselor Karen Gaul walks you and me toward contentment. Karen poses these questions:

  • What gets in the way of contentment?
  • What do you value most? 
  • How do you respond when God says no?
  • Will you choose eyes of faith?

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I really thought I would have this one figured out by now. Life has been filled with all sorts of joys and sorrows and struggles and pleasant valleys, I have had years to learn to be content, and yet it seems that with each new cloud comes yet another time to learn this great character trait.

The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4 that he “learned to be content in all things.” Did he learn contentment once and for all? Or did he have to relearn it each time something happened to him? I’m just curious.

 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Philippians 4:11-12

I can say that it takes me less time each time to find my way to that contented place but is it my initial go-to? I’m thinking not usually.

What Gets in the Way of Contentment?

So what keeps getting in the way? Me, that’s who. I still value things above what God values, and I value things above God. I wish I could say I don’t but that would not be truth. Then I read Romans 7 where Paul struggled with getting things right as well. This was in the later years of his life so was contentment one of those things he struggled with?

Then I am reminded,

He who began a good work in me WILL bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6).

So there remains hope for me. Paul penned those words too, and believed them.

Will there always be a measure of depravity left inside of me? Yes. I will never be perfectly perfected until I walk through the gates of heaven. I will only be glorified and fully sanctified when I get there.

My salvation will be absolutely finished when I see Jesus face to face.

So what keeps getting in the way? What things do I value that have the ability to bring me to a discontented (dissatisfied, disgruntled, unhappy, sullen, grumpy or grumbly) place? That is a good question and one worth digging into.

What Do You Value?

We can value all sorts of things.

  • We can value comfort,
  • We can value money in the bank,
  • We can value time,
  • We can value a person,
  • We can value pleasure,
  • We can value being in control and having our own way.
  • We can place a very high value on being married or having children.

What things do you value?

Is it wrong to value the things I listed above? I like comfort, I like to feel good, I like things to go my way.  Again I’m going with Paul.

He said everything is permissible but not to be mastered by anything.” So if my valuing something causes me to be discontent, grumbly and sullen, then yes it is a value that has way too much importance attached to it.

What Is Your Response When God Says No?

contentmentIt is a value that I am screaming that I need, and I want whomever to give it to me. And if I don’t get it then I will be sinful in how I respond. I don’t rationally think that through, but that is what my heart says and that is what comes rolling out of my mouth and works its way into my actions when I respond wrong. How I respond says a lot about what I think and believe about God.

It says He isn’t good, He can’t be trusted. Don’t most of our sin issues and our sinful responses come because we don’t trust God?

We are like the children of Israel who long for Egypt’s sweet veggies and fish, all the while in shackles. How absurd you think but that is us. We want our creature comforts and demands met (sweet veggies and fish). But they don’t deliver contentment or peace. Rather, they leave an empty ring of incompleteness, a hollow and endless tune.

Will You Choose Eyes of Faith?

What is your current position? Are you seeing it through the eyes of faith? Or, are you yearning for it to be different? Are you counting your struggle a privilege because you know God is up to something good in it? Or, are you frustrated and depressed because your life turned out or is currently where it is?

Truths to Ponder:

He is enough. He is enough when your life isn’t what you had dreamed it would be.

God is your strength when you can’t get out of bed to face one more day.

He is your Rock and your sure foundation to stand on when it feels like everything around you is falling away.

He is enough when you really, really want what you value. God is enough when life is overwhelming and confusing. In fact, God is more than enough, you will see.

Paul learned contentment.

The most important thing to Paul was being able to reflect the glory of Jesus, to preach him, to live him and then to be with him. There is no greater prize. My prayer is, “Lord, let me value you above all more and more and more each day, and learn contentment.”

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

Self-Care: Your Emotions and Thoughts (part 2)

self careSELF-CARE: For the best self-care, recognize your emotions and choose godly thoughts so you can act on renewed beliefs. And God will heal your heart in the most important way.

In case you missed it, here’s part one in this series where you learned the role of the heart in true self-care. In part three, you’ll also discover how to change habits that hurt your heart.

This brief article shares my own journey in embracing self-care, beginning with these steps.

  1. Recognize emotions.
  2. Choose thoughts that line up with God’s word.
  3. Act on renewed beliefs.

Recognizing Your Emotions

I’m tired of my own crazy fear of self-care that it is extravagant. This is how I’m changing, a step at a time. You can too.

The first step begins with recognizing your emotions.

The emotion of fear tells me something’s wrong with my heart. In the bible the word heart refers to the inner self. Your heart is the control center of your being; it is the immaterial part of you that includes desires, motivations, beliefs, and thoughts.

As in water face reflects face, so a man’s heart reveals the man. Proverbs 27:19

We do what we do and feel what we feel because we think what we think. More simply, your thoughts determine your emotions and actions.

Personalizing this truth, I recognized that my thoughts led to fear and to the actions of working overtime, and failing to rest, exercise regularly, and just enjoy this wonderful world God created. I knew I had a problem when I became too busy to notice my hardy red geraniums had turned brown and crunchy. Have you let busyness crowd out your self-care?

I love my work as a biblical counselor and counseling hearts to hope. I love love love finding treasures of truth in books by Ed Welch and Paul Tripp and Elyse Fitzpatrick and Bob Kellemen and other biblical counseling leaders.

But when I choose Ed, Paul, Elyse, or Bob over eating dinner, wouldn’t you agree I’ve gone too far?

Identifying Your Thoughts

Recognizing my faulty thinking and choosing new godly thinking is a second step in true self-care. When one’s thinking is out of line with God’s thinking, this means the heart’s desire is off. My focus was pleasing me not God.

My thoughts sounded like,

I need to work harder.
Self-care is a waste of time.
My worth depends of what I do.

food cravingsNote the emphasis on self. Having battled self-sufficiency since childhood, I know that God was giving me another chance to deny the sin of pride. This time it’s pride in thinking I can defy God-ordained limits in my physical needs. Jesus slept, ate, and had fun too. Am I above Jesus?

Where do you tend toward faulty thinking?

Acting on Renewed Beliefs

To choose to change faulty thinking is life transforming. At Biblical Counseling Center where I counsel hurting people in person and by Skype, we often say, “Faith is believing the Word of God, and acting upon it, no matter how you feel, knowing God promises a good result.” So the third step is acting upon biblical truth.

Namely, get enough sleep, exercise, and spend refreshing time with family and friends while trusting God.  I’m learning to view and practice consistent self-care in a new way: an act of worship.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

Do you agree consistent, true self-care an act of worship? Please leave a comment. Thanks.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

Trials: Take the Wild Path to Joy

trials

Who likes trials? Only masochists, right?

Yet in Jesus Christ’s flip-the-world-upside-down gospel — where the weak are strong, and the poor are rich, and the messed up are cleaned up — trials are the wild path to joy, to true happiness. And here’s a key:

Christ gave his life for you in order to give his life to you so that he could live his live through you.

Blessing of Trials

Sucky trials get your attention.

Then you feel a need to deal.

And Jesus is the real deal.

Did you know he wants you to think like he thinks? Did you know you canwhat a mind-boggling thought!  because he empowers you to do so? It’s all Jesus.

‘For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinshtians 2:16, ESV

With Jesus, trials help you and me see, really see. They help us gain a new perspective, God’s perspective, as long as we’re open to listen to him. But Satan tries to interfere.

As Timothy Lane and Paul Trip say in How People Change:

Nothing is subtle about the ongoing war that rages throughout the Christian life. Trials and temptations about, but we respond to them from a new vantage point.

 New Perspective of Trials

We can change our perspective of trials. Here are just three ideas.

1. Remember that God continually blesses you. He is for you. You belong to him, and he wants you to experience the abundant life.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10.

2. Decide to want what God wants: a close relationship with Jesus. Let go of lesser pleasures that entice. Seek the greatest pleasure and spend your life enjoying God.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him,  rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7

3. Embrace the truth that God uses sucky trials to increase your desire for the highest dream.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:6-7.

Isn’t it wonderful to know that you belong to God? That you can spend the rest of your life enjoying him? That trials have a goal?

And what is this goal? To become more and more Christlike as you love God and love your neighbor.

Invitation for YOU

Friends, we gave one hope: Christ. But sometimes life beat us down. This is where biblical counseling can help. If you’re facing trials and want God’s best for you, I invite you to consider biblical counseling.

I’m a trained biblical counselor persuing a doctorate in biblical counseling. I also am certified by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors and by the Association of Biblical Counselors.

I meet with counselees (women, teen girls, and couples) in person and by Skype. (Skype-to-Skype calls are free.)

May our great God bless you, as I know he will. Ephesians 1:3

Sharing Hope for Your Heart,

3 Myths About Depression (part 3)

depression

DEPRESSION: Many of us feel depressed around Christmas. Did you know scientists and biblical counselors recognize at least three myths about depression?

In part 3 of this three-part series, learn the truth about medication for depression. Part 1 looked at . . .  Part 2 covered diagnosis and the Bible. This post first appeared here on CareLeader.org, June 29, 2016, and is used with permisison.

Would you like caring biblical counseling for depression? I offer counseling by Skype and in person. Contact me. Let’s set up a short complimentary consultation. Don’t go it alone.

Myth #3: Medication Doesn’t Help Treat Depression

Some people are under the impression that depression is purely a spiritual issue and that medication isn’t effective or needed in treating depression. Some who cite the ineffectiveness of antidepressants claim that they are slightly more effective than a placebo.

A fact sheet produced by MIT explains the origin of that idea:

Clinicians began hearing this question from patients after news articles reported on a 2002 analysis of published and unpublished studies submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as part of the approval process for several new types of antidepressant medication. This analysis concluded that the newer types of antidepressants are only marginally more effective than placebo.

However, these analyses do not reflect how antidepressants are used in actual practice. Drug trials measure only how a person responds to a single medication taken at a specific dose for a limited time. In clinical practice, however, the patient and clinician work together to find the dose and the medication or combination of medications most effective for you. Most clinicians believe that this process results in much better results than these analyses imply.

Medication: A Wisdom Issue

Dr. Michael Emlet, in an interview for our DivorceCare and Single & Parenting projects, pointed out that the Bible doesn’t prohibit taking medications for psychiatric disorders. He said,

When Jesus came, He not only forgave sin but He also healed disease. He also relieved suffering. Medications may be one way that suffering is relieved…. I would say medication is a wisdom issue. It’s going to vary from individual to individual whether or not medications may be wise.

I think some people want to rush too quickly to medications. Other people refuse to even consider the possibility of medications. Both of those positions could be problematic because they reflect motives of the heart that may be off base.

Dr. Emlet reminds us of the importance of remembering the limitations of medicine:

Medication can help treat depression and shouldn’t be written off as one of the ways that God can bring healing and relief to a person’s life. For example, with stabilized emotions and higher energy, people can be enabled to make needed changes in their lives.

But people need more than drugs. Drugs, as helpful as they can be, do have limitations. They don’t treat any of the underlying spiritual or environmental issues that contribute to a depression.

Some people may not require medication to treat their depression at all. Less severe cases can be treated with nonmedicinal approaches and basic behavior changes. For example, one study reported by Reuters found that simply getting active three times a week reduces the risk of depression in adults by 16 percent, and additional exercise reduces the risk even more. You can also suggest that a person try a change in diet, since a lack of essential vitamins and minerals can result in depressive symptoms.

Conclusion

A strategy for effective care begins with an accurate understanding of the person’s problem. For more on how to understand depression from a biblical perspective, see Jeff Forrey’s article How pastors can help the depressed. It will help you understand the unique role pastors play in helping people deal with depression.

Also check out Kathy Leonard’s article 3 reasons depression is complicated, which features interviews with counselor Leslie Vernick and Dr. Robert Kellemen. It’s a great post to share with your church leaders to help them understand why we shouldn’t use simplistic reasons to explain depression.

Now What?

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Struggling? Make an appointment (in person or by Skype). The Lord has effective and caring solutions to depression.–LAM

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