Loneliness Hurts But Help’s on the Way

lonelinessLoneliness plagues everyone at some point in their lives. So the real question is, how can you help the lonely? And if you are among the lonely, how can you find hope? This article by Anne Dryburgh appeared first here at the Biblical Counseling Coalition website and it used by permission.

Loneliness is an emotionally painful sense of not being connected to others. The lonely person may feel unwanted, isolated, and left out.”[1]

Feelings of loneliness are often the result of living in fear, being isolated, lacking an emotional connection with others, a lack of intimacy with God, or feeling rejected by someone significant. All of us will experience some level of loneliness at some point in our lives.

The people who are most likely to experience the biting pain of loneliness include those who are facing grief, marital problems and/or divorce, chronic illness, unfamiliar surroundings or culture, or children who are growing up in a difficult home.

Loneliness in the Bible

There are many lonely people in the Bible.

Elijah: In 1 Kings 19:10, Elijah was in a state of great distress. He believed that he was alone in serving the Lord.

David: David’s soul waited in silence for God alone (Ps. 62:5). There was no other person who took notice of him, or took care of his soul (Ps. 142:4).

Asaph: He had no one on earth or in heaven besides God (Ps. 73:25, 26).

Paul: Demas, Crescens, and Titus abandoned Paul. It was only the Lord who stood by him during his first trial (2 Tim. 4:10, 16-17).

Jesus: Those closest to Jesus deserted him (Mark 14:50); Peter denied him (John 18:15-18; 25-27), and Judas betrayed him (Matt. 26:47-50). Jesus suffered alone in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36-46), and was forsaken by the Father when he hung on the cross (Matt. 27:46).[2]

Intimacy with the Lord

As we have read, the Bible speaks about loneliness, but the Lord ministers powerfully to the lonely. He has promised believers throughout the ages that he will not leave them nor forsake them, but will always be with them (Ps. 139:7-12; Isaiah 41:10; Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5).[3]

God calls himself a husband to his people, and compares his people to a “wife deserted and grieved in spirit, as a wife of youth when she is cast off” (Isa. 54:5, 6). We read in Hosea that God’s people were betrothed to Him in righteousness, justice, steadfast love, mercy, and faithfulness (Hos. 2:19, 20).

In the New Testament, believers are described as the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:31, 32; Rev. 21:2). This speaks of a deep intimacy of the soul, which is greater than that which human beings can experience with each other.

Providing Support

Someone who is suffering loneliness will have the tendency to be focused on themselves; what they want and what they don’t have. When supporting the lonely person, you will need to discover what they are thinking and how they spend their time.

Are they looking at what other people are doing on social media and feeling sad because they do not have nice date nights, beautiful vacations, or fun evenings with friends? Are they watching films or programs and wishing that they were somewhere else, with other people, or had something that they don’t have at present? These thoughts can quickly progress to thinking that nobody loves them and that their lives are a waste.

What is the truth about the Lord and their situation? What are some ways they can use their time more constructively; what would be a more edifying use of time than social media? Learning about God’s providence can help them discover that the Lord is actively at work in their circumstances for his purpose and glory.

Trusting this truth and living for his glory in the midst of their difficulty can turn painful loneliness into a time of experiencing the glory of the Lord.

Importance of Community 

It is important to help them come out of isolation and begin establishing relationships with other people as much as possible. Even if the person would rather stay at home, it is essential that they take steps to be with others and to seek to take an interest in what is happening around them.

The church can look for ways to care for those who are lonely by visiting or providing practical support. For example, creating connections for teens by building relationships across generations can help the lonely teen grow in their faith while living through difficult situations.

Sometimes, people who have lived in a state of loneliness for a long time will become very needy and want to hold onto any form of sincere love that they experience. Encouraging the lonely to pursue intimacy with the Lord and to seek to love others will help prevent them from developing an unhealthy dependency on those who reach out to them. In this way, genuine community and fellowship can develop.

Conclusion

Loneliness is painful, and all of us will experience it at some point in our lives.

Thankfully, the Lord speaks into our loneliness and ministers to us in a deeply meaningful way. When supporting the lonely, discover what they are saying to themselves and how they got to that stage. Help them focus their hearts on the providential God who is working out his glorious purpose in and through their situation. When they focus on loving others, they will emerge from their isolation and become a source of blessing.

Questions for Reflection

  • As you think about the most lonely times in your life, how did the Lord minister to you?
  • How did scripture speak deeply into your soul at that time, and how did that impact your life?
  • Do you know someone who is lonely? How can you encourage and bless them?

[1]Mary Somerville. “Coping with Loneliness.” National Association of Nouthetic Counselors, Annual Conference, 2005, mp3.

[2]Ibid., Wayne Mack, “Loneliness & Self-Pity#1: How to Handle Loneliness,” The Dr. Wayne Mack Library. CDWM4191.

[3] Mary Somerville, “Coping with Loneliness,” National Association of Nouthetic Counselors; Caroline Newheiser, “Helping Women who are Married but Lonely,” The Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship.

About the author: Anne is an IABC and ACBC certified biblical counselor who has been a mission worker in Flemish-speaking Belgium since the early 1990s. She is also a guest lecturer at Tilsley College in Scotland, an external reader for doctoral candidates at the Masters International University of Divinity, an author, a frequent contributor to the blog Biblical Counseling for Women, and coordinates the European hub of the Biblical Counseling Coalition.

Counseling Hope to Your Heart,

Marriage: Is It Too Late for Mine?

marriageMarriage: Is it too late for mine? In this frank article, Julie Ganschow says when God’s involved, nothing is impossible. . even when husbands move on or wives check out. Julie is listed here on our Heart2Heart Counseling Directory. Her article appeared first here and is reprinted with permision.

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“Is it too late to save my marriage?”

I have been asked this question over and over in the counseling office. And I hesitate to say that “too late” applies to a marriage that involves a Christian, and especially two Christians. I also hesitate because that implies that God is not able to change them.

When God is involved, nothing is impossible!

There’s Hope. . .Always

When troubles persist even in a “Christian” marriage, damage continues to mount and love grows cold. The actions of love cease to exist as withholding of affection, attention, and serving each other become commonplace. Bitterness and resentment often grow between the couple. And distance becomes preferable.

This is where things usually are by the time the couple comes for biblical counseling.

I want to encourage you by reminding you nothing is impossible when God is involved. This is true even if your husband has left you, moved out, or moved on. When people are willing to do what God asks of them in spite of how they feel great things happen!

Maybe You’ve Checked Out 

That being said, some women reach that certain point emotionally where they just give up and refuse to believe anything will ever change. I call it “rounding the corner.” When this happens it is very rare for her to return to the marriage. Her heart hardens. She refuses to cooperate anymore in counseling, or to give her husband another opportunity to change and get it right.

Sometimes it is because he has promised for months or years to change and nothing lasting has happened. Sometimes she finds someone else. And other times she is just without hope anymore.

All of these are sad, and even sinful responses a person can have to someone else’s sin. That may sound harsh to you, but I speak from the perspective that God is able to do more than we ask or imagine according to His will. It is not God’s will that two people who make a covenant before Him to be husband and wife . . .decide they don’t want to be married anymore.

Change Begins in the Heart

Christian woman, if you want to save your marriage, begin by becoming husband-oriented. Eph. 5:22-24 gives us some instructions about our role in the marriage with respect to submission.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

But how many women have ceased complaining and arguing but are unsubmissive in their hearts? Many I fear!

Women who are not husband-oriented are as much a problem as husbands who are not wife-oriented! Many women have become so supremely selfish! In counseling I hear about “my career”, “my private time”, “my time for the spa” (or shopping or fill in the blank). With this attitude, soon the couple leads separate lives.

Make a New Commitment

If this describes you totally or even remotely, then it is time to make a new commitment to become a “new person.” Yes. . .1 + 1 = 1

If you have lived for years or even months independently as a couple, it is going to take some work from both of you to change this. You will need to commit to change, change of the heart. But there is hope.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

 

Help for Grandparents Who Parent. . .Again

grandparentsGrandparents who parent their grandchildren need hope and help. Are you parentining your grands? Are you counseling a grandmom or grandpa who is emotionally exhausted? Guest writer Linda Jabobs was a single mom who learned firsthand the emotional and support needs of broken families. She has assisted countless single-parent families and their children. 

Grandparents who parent their grandchildren come in all ages, shapes, sizes, and colors. Some are healthy. Others aren’t. Some are financially stable. Others live on a fixed income. Many are married. And many are single. And some are in second and third marriages. But no matter the age, health condition, marital status, or finances, raising grandchildren is emotionally tough.

To help you and your church minister well to emotionally exhausted grandparents, we’ll look at reasons why parenting grandchildren is so emotionally taxing, emotional challenges faced by grandparents who raise their grandchildren, and ten ways your church can help.

Parenting Grandchildren: Emotionally Exhausting!

1. They weren’t prepared for the responsibility

Grandparents may not have had time to prepare for the arrival of the grandchildren. This in itself causes stress, as the grandparents are trying to figure out how they feel about taking on the responsibility of the grandchildren. After all, they are used to spoiling the grandchildren and seeing them only on short visits.

Now the grandchildren will not be leaving, and the grandparents will be on duty 24/7 every day of the year. And there will be no more sending the grandkids home when grandma and grandpa get exhausted and want some peace and quiet.

2. They didn’t want the responsibility

A step-grandparent explained it this way.

We just found out my husband’s son has had his kids taken away from him. The state called and wants us to bring these kids to live with us. The grandchildren have been in a drug-infested home and have been neglected. Since meth [methamphetamine] was found in the home, the kids can’t bring anything with them. Everything they owned, even their blankets, has been confiscated.
Here’s the deal, I raised my kids in a Christian home. I’m sorry his ex-wife didn’t raise his kids that way. I raised my kids to be good parents. I didn’t marry him to raise his grandkids. To be honest with you, I am angry because I don’t want to have to raise little children that I don’t know and to which I have no emotional attachment.

This step-grandparent, like many step-grandparents, has a lot of emotional issues to overcome if she and her husband are going to provide an emotionally and spiritually healthy home environment. But step-grandparents aren’t the only ones who feel as if their grandchildren have been forced upon them.

Many grandparents parenting again have shared that it is a lonely existence. Most of their friends fall by the wayside because the grandparents now have a different lifestyle. They don’t have as much free time to do the things they used to do with their friends. Many will have to resign from positions in your church because of time restraints. So tell them you understand and it’s okay, as they are now ministering to their own family. God will bless them.

3. The grandchildren have experienced trauma

Trauma and loss affect many of these little ones. Even after the grandparents are able to help the children get control of their behavior and have provided a stable home life, issues can crop up. Here is one grandfather’s story:

My son divorced his first wife. He remarried and brought my grandson into the new marriage. His new wife never treated my grandson well. My son cut off all contact with us, and we didn’t see our grandson for years. One day I was driving past an elementary school and I thought I saw my grandson on the playground. I called Child Protective Services, identified myself, and found out my grandson had been taken away from my son. They didn’t have my contact information, so I had never been contacted.

After several months of wrangling, I was able to bring my grandson home with me. He had experienced some horrific abuse over the years. He was run over by a truck. He had been burned and admitted to the ICU at one point. I was so overwrought at what this precious child had experienced.

One day at school his grandson had gotten so out of control that the school called the grandfather to pick up his grandson. The teacher said that the child had been happy when he came to the classroom, but within a few minutes he began screaming and started throwing things. She said they had an exciting day planned and were celebrating Mexican heritage and had salsa and chips for the kids.

What the teacher didn’t know was that when the child was three years old, the stepmom had punished him repeatedly by pouring Tabasco sauce on his tongue. When the child smelled the Tabasco sauce, his mind went back to the trauma and child abuse, and he flipped out. Now the grandparents had to again grieve what had happened to their grandson when he was younger.

The Emotional Toll of Parenting Grandchildren

One of the issues that makes grandparenting these kids difficult is the emotional toll. There is always a reason grandchildren have to live with the grandparents. Many times the reason brings great stress to the grandparents. Here are emotional issues grandparents may encounter when grandchildren are thrust upon them:

  1. Grieving the loss of their own child or the divorce of their adult child
  2. Parental failure and guilt: They may experience guilt that somehow the divorce, or whatever situation resulted in the parent not being able to parent the child, was their fault because they weren’t model parents themselves
  3. Having to put their wants, such as retirement, on hold
  4. Resentment at not wanting to parent full time again
  5. How to cope with caring for a child at my age
  6. How to deal with being both a grandparent and a parent to the child
  7. Just wanting to be the “fun” grandparent who gets to send the child home at the end of the day

And There’s the Emotional Price

We can also add to the emotional price of raising grandchildren the following:

  • Loss of their dreams for their own child
  • They may feel overwhelmed with all of the responsibilities
  • They may feel sad/depressed
  • Some grandparents will feel extreme anger at their own child for not being a better parent to the grandchildren
  • Some will be embarrassed about their family’s situation; they may not want to talk about it or let others know they are struggling
  • Many have problems concentrating, organizing, and problem solving due to the extreme stress parenting at their age brings
  • Some elderly will just not want to adapt to this new family structure and will feel extreme stress at feeling like they have to provide for their grandchildren
  • Relationships with other family members may be affected

10 Ways Your Church Can Help

There are many ways the church can assist grandparents who are overwhelmed and struggling emotionally. Here are some ideas that you and/or a care ministry leader could offer and do, or ask other lay leaders to put into place.

  1. Look for these grandparents in your congregation.

    If anyone hears about people taking in their grandchildren, make sure a lay leader reaches out to them who is willing to walk alongside them and keep abreast of their emotional struggles and concerns.

  2. Have a care ministry leader or other lay leader pray with them.

    This, combined with step one, will go a long way in letting the grandparents know they are valued and remembered.

  3. Provide a day of respite care for the grandparents…

    especially in the case of a single grandparent. Ask other people in the congregation, perhaps a family with children the same ages as the grandchildren, to take the kids for a Saturday or for a weekend.

  4. Organize a fishing trip…

    for the grandpa to go on with other men his age, and encourage other women to invite the grandma to a day at a spa. Provide free child care.

  5. Provide parenting classes or resources for parenting traumatized children.

  6. Give tips or classes on new technologies.

  7. Find a parent with children the same ages…

    to help the grandparents get the grandchildren registered in school and purchase school supplies. Elderly grandparents may simply not know what some items on a school list are.

  8. Teach or provide resources to your lay leadership about the effects of trauma on children.

  9. Teach lay leaders how to mentor and love these grandparents and grandchildren.

  10. When you speak on parenting, be sure to address and affirm grandparents who parent their grandchildren.

Helpful Scripture for Grandparents

Here are some examples of Scriptures that can be passed on to the grandparents (emphasis added):

  • Psalm 103:17 “But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children …” (ESV)
  • Proverbs 17:6 “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers.” (ESV)
  • Psalm 145:4 “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.” (ESV)
  • Psalm 78:4b “… we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done.”

Grandparents can make a huge difference in stopping generational divorce and other issues such as addictions and poor life-living choices. Churches can walk alongside the grandparent-headed families and help them succeed.

Linda’s post first appeared on CareLeader.org, October 6, 2016, here.

Counseling Hope to Your Heart,

Emotional Adultery: How to Free Your Heart!

EMOTIONAL ADULTERY: It can happen to anyone. Me. You. Him.

Emotional adultery is, in the words of my radio show guest Paula Friedrichsen, giving your heart to a man who is not your husband and doing everything “but the sex.” Listen to the podcast of my interview with Paula on my show “The Sisterhood of Beautiful Warriors”? Here’s the link to the podcast.

How Emotional Adultery Begins

Author of The Man You Always Wanted Is the One You Already Have, Paula shares a redemption story of recommitting to her marriage after a too-close, emotionally intertwined relationship with her pastor. Her inappropriate relationship began the usual way. Innocently. She first buddied up to the pastor and his wife.

Then she starting playing with fire. For you who’ve been there, you get it:

phone calls

inside jokes

a gentle touch on the shoulder

a little flirting

Through her trial, and a series of unwise choices, Paula found triumph and forged a stronger relationship with her husband and with Christ. Indeed she discovered,

It’s only as I am found in Christ that I can be content in my relationship with my husband.

5 Stages of Emotional Adultery

As you listen to the podcast, you may notice five things.

1. UNGUARDED HEART: Paula did not plan to become emotionally involved with a male friend. And she didn’t turn to Christ when tempted.

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)

2. LIFE GOING WEL: Paula had at the time (and has now) a good marriage.

3. FALLOUT! But the emotional adultery caused pain and confusion to Paula, her husband, the congregation, and no doubt the pastor and his wife. Just as Paula was asked to leave the church, so was the pastor.

Satan confuses, God brings order.

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. (1 Corinthians 14:32)

4. FORGIVENESS: Deeply hurt, Paula’s husband forgave her, noting that it would have been more difficult had she given away her body too. However, it took 10 years for her husband to forgive the pastor. His hurt was deep.

5. GOD IS FAITHFUL! Despite these terribly difficult circumstances, God proved faithful. And here are three examples:

Many Christian women who love their husbands become attracted to men — often spiritually mature men — who give them attention they deeply desire.

Now Paula says of her husband,

He’s predictable, proverbial, and prone to leaving his dirty clothes in a pile beside the laundry basket. He’s the big lug lying next to you every night–and believe it or not, he is your Prince Charming!

Questions to Ponder

  1. If you’ve been tempted to fall for a man who isn’t your husband, what are one or two ways you escaped giving in?
  2. Perhaps you had an emotional affair. If a friend were headed down that path, what godly advice would you give her?
  3. If you need counseling to overcome emotional adultery or other difficulty, please contact me for a free 15-minute phone consult. I offer biblical counseling in person and by Skype worldwide.

Counseling Hope to Your Heart,

Laughter Heals Your Heart!

laughterLaughter heals! In this uplifting post, which appeared first here, Dr Donna Hart, PhD, shares how having fun and laughing are not only good for you but also pleases God. Donna is listed on our Heart2Heart Counselor Directory.

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At a family gathering over the holidays, I enjoyed good food, good friends, and. . .laughter. In a conversation with the family matriarch, affectionately called “Memaw” by her grandchildren, she commented about the embroidered decorations on her sweatshirt and the effects of their strategic placement.

We started to laugh about the private joke between us. And we couldn’t stop laughing. The tears streamed down my face as others around us to start to laugh with us. I cannot remember the last time I laughed that hard. Something about that laughter gave my heart such joy and companionableness.

Are You Too Serious?

Christians have a long-standing reputation for being serious-minded people who are not prone to humor, laughter, or play. In early church history in America, the Puritans did much to cement this reputation of serious piety. They spent long hours in church and rigorous hours in daily Bible study and prayer. They are also known for their restrictions against music, dancing, and bright colors. Holiness seemed to be likened to judgment, suffering, and severity.

But John Wesley recognized the danger of taking this serious attitude to the extreme when he said: “Sour Godliness is the devil’s religion.” And Martin Luther is quoted in Is There Fun After Paul?: A Theology of Clowning:

If you’re not allowed to laugh in heaven, then I don’t want to go there.

Even though we eagerly bring joy, laughter, and good humor into our family lives, often we hesitate to bring the same qualities into our relationship with God. Are we worried that God does not have a sense of humor? If we want to bring laughter and play into our relationship with God, will we need to expand our view of His attributes to include laughter and fun?

Seeing Comedy in Life

To move in this direction, let’s define what a “sense of humor” means. It is a perspective on life that has the ability to see thlaughtere comic in creation, humanity, and the ability to laugh at ourselves. Human relationships do not survive well without the ability to have a sense of humor.

We are all too familiar with how struggles and communication barriers block our ability to know and be known to each other. When we can step back and see the humor in our predicaments, it softens our hearts to move forward toward each other.

The same principle applies to our relationship with God. If all of our prayers are solemn, serious, and focused only on weighty matters of importance, we will miss opportunities for light and playful prayers.

Tears and laughter are often linked in the Bible. Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time to weep and a time to laugh (3:4). Luke 6:21 offers the promise of laughter when he writes “…Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” It is difficult not to love someone when you are laughing with them. Have you experienced the love that comes from shared laughter?

Laugh Well, Live Better

When we laugh together, we build relationships; we build sympathy for each other, and we become kindred spirits. Good humor and laughter depend on solid trusting relationships. We cannot command laughter nor can we dictate trust.

But we can be willing to seize the funny moments to laugh out loud when least expected, find humor in our own situations. We can share laughter with others and discover love. And we can delight in God and experience God’s unconditional love for us.

If we believe that God will laugh at us if we share our joys and excitements, then we will remain silent for fear of being ridiculed. However, if we can learn the joy of laughter that comes from the love of laughing with someone finding humor in human experiences, we will then learn to laugh with God.

Help for Your Laughter

If you have been hurt by laughter in the past, and this prevents you from laughing now, write a prayer to God about your specific need. As you write your prayer, detail the hurt you have experienced and how the memories still hurt. Be willing to ask God for what you need to heal these hurts. (You might want to try this journal.–Ed.)

Also think about the places in life where you would love to receive the gift of laughter. Pour out your heart and longings to God, for He will not scorn, mock, or belittle you. You can rest in confidence God will not laugh at you.

Counseling Hearts to Hope,

 

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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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