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,

 

 

Parenting Teens: Tips from a HS Counselor (part 3)

teensTEENS: Parenting teens means trusting God and showing them you care. These tips from Leia Joseph — a crisis counselor, high school music teacher, and mother — appeared first here on The Biblical Counseling Coalition website and is used with permission. This is part three of a 3-part series on parenting teens.–LAM

I have had the privilege of spending the last 13 years working as a music teacher and crisis counselor for teens. The following six tips represent a handful of lessons I have learned along the way. If you are the parent of a teenager or pre-teen, I pray that you find this helpful.

Here are part 1 and part 2 in this parenting teens series.

5. Drop Everything to Show You Care

But care about other things too.

There is nothing like the knowledge that someone will be there for you no matter what. The simple understanding that a parent will walk out of an important meeting at work or cancel a night out with friends because his or her child is in need insurmountably communicates love and provides security to that child.

However, your teen is growing more and more independent. Teens know when they are your whole world. They can tell if there is nothing else fueling excitement, creativity, and purpose in your life apart from them. This brings its own set of pressures and vices.

Practical Help

Explore the passions God has given you. Take care of your own well-being. Seek the Lord about whom you can serve and minister. Always be willing to put these things aside for your own child.

6. Trust God’s Plans

God’s plans ultimately outshine your dreams.

teensI have only just begun the parenting journey and already know the gut-wrenching reality that my son’s pain is my pain tenfold. You love your children more than anything in the world. You would even give your life in order for them to live if necessary.

Still, good parents don’t equal good kids. Despite all that you pour into your teens with love, prayer, and opportunity, they may still push it all away. Even still, persevere in loving, praying, and trusting that God loves your teens even more than you do.

As my pastor, Mark Dever, often says, “Where there is life, there is hope.”

They may graduate from high school and find themselves entrenched in sin, but their story isn’t over yet. Be faithful by loving and caring for them today. And trust that the Lord will ultimately write a better story for your child than you could ever imagine.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

Parenting Teens: Tips from a HS Counselor (part 2)

teensTEENS: Parenting teenagers means understanding technology and how is shapes their world. Expect success and failure too. It’s a part of parenting teens! These tips from Leia Joseph — a crisis counselor, high school music teacher, and mother — appeared first here on The Biblical Counseling Coalition website and is used with permission. This is part two of a 3-part series on parenting teens.–LAM

I have had the privilege of spending the last 13 years working as a music teacher and crisis counselor for teens. The following six tips represent a handful of lessons I have learned along the way. If you are the parent of a teenager or pre-teen, I pray that you find this helpful. Read part one here.

3. Technology Really Changes Everything

Technology has drastically propelled time forward as we watch culture changing at a faster pace than ever before. Parents who have fond memories from high school naturally desire for their children to have the same wonderful experiences. However, your memories of sports, student government, dating, or football games are more dissimilar to your child’s than you could probably imagine.

The mere fact that smart phones, email, and the internet didn’t exist during your childhood radically changes things. When one of my friends wanted to talk, he or she called my house on the landline. My parents could pick up the phone at any point and listen in. Other than face-to-face interaction and handwritten letters, that was the only way to interact with peers.

Fast forward to 2017 and students can interact on screens via FaceTime, Google Chat, iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Snapchat, and Yik Yak simultaneously–and all in the privacy of their own bedrooms at night while their parents sleep.

Practical Help

Let your mind wander about the myriad of technology’s effects to get a better understanding of your teen’s world. It is much harder for a child to talk to parents about sexting or cyberstalking if parents don’t have even a basic understanding of how the technology works.

Aggressively seek to learn and understand apps, modes of communication, and its mountains of temptations. Then you will better understand the world through the eyes of your teenager.

Furthermore, as you begin to understand how pervasive technology is in their lives, you can then begin to help them learn a healthy stewardship, which will hopefully carry them through college and beyond.

Whether specifying a nightly time that your teen turns in his or her electronics or monitoring their usage through Covenant Eyes or some other protective accountability program, teens need your help navigating the challenges that face them as a result of technolteensogy, particularly in the area of discipline . Remember the undeveloped prefrontal cortex.

Technology is here to stay and invades your teen’s world at every turn. Taking it away or preventing usage is not a long-term option. Learn it and help your teen build a foundation of using technology for good and not for evil.

4. Expect Failure and Sucess

Teens want to know that you are their biggest fan and that you believe they can “reach for the stars.” But it’s equally important that you actively see them for who they are: a human being living in a fallen world, just like you.

Lord-willing, they will leave the world a better place, but they will also make some bad decisions and mistakes along the way. Let them fail, and expect them to fail.

Avoid a helicopter parenting mentality that always swoops in to save the day. Most success is a result of learning from past mistakes. Further, in expecting them to struggle, don’t forget that this includes sin. Don’t act shocked by sin, no matter how harmful or harmless our culture has labeled it to be. Don’t excuse it either.

The biggest roadblock to a teen’s willingness to share his or her struggles is the parent acting uncomfortable or mortified with what he or she shares.

  1. Begin to invite your child into your own world of struggles.
  2. Share why you so desperately want them to avoid sin because you know that it will ultimately destroy them.
  3. Let them know you understand how hard it is. Tell them you are there with them in the fight each and every day.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

 

Reclaiming the HOLY of Christmas

holy

A merry and holy Christmas to you, dear friends. This article by yours truly first appeared here at the Biblical Counseling Coalition website that reaches tens of thousands of Christians who love the hurting and the people who care for them. I encourage you to visit its website.

Who stole the HOLY of Christmas? How can we Christians reclaim it?

What changed in our hearts that many of us willingly trade the holy for the jostling in store lines and for the cyber-shopping?

Piercing questions. Yet. . .

Be encouraged that our Lord designed a peace-filled and HOLY day this holiday for you.

In this short article, let’s consider:

  1. Holy thievery
  2. Christmas restoration

Who Stole the Holy of Christmas?

The day after Thanksgiving before sunrise, the line snaked around an electonics store, with promises of deals on flat screen TVs, laptops, and smart phones. Shoppers waited, expectantly. Some cozied up in sleeping bags, others sipped overpriced coffee. Another hummed the haunting “So This Is Chrismas” by John Lennon.

Then doors flew open, people pushed, angry voices told line-jumpers to stand down. Or else.

Is this what Christmas has become?

So who stole the Christ of Christmas? One might blame stores, commercialism, atheists, or the ACLU. But it’s deeper and darker, really.

 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. John 10:10a, ESV

What happened to change our hearts from celebrating Christmas as a holy day into a commercialized experience?

Evil forces still want to swipe your Jesus joy.

Satan’s tactics today are subtle. Busyness and busyness and. . .frustration, dread, and wanting. Lots of wanting. Thankfully God empowers you to escape the temptation of replacing Christ with conterfeit desires (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Satan is a defeated foe. We are more than conquerors through him who loved us, the Bible trumpets.

We are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39, ESV

Reclaiming the Holy

To reclaim the holy of this holiday, why not find some quiet and focus on Christ? Isaiah prophesies about the birth of Jesus in this verse.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6, NIV

Doesn’t your heart warm to this real meaning of Christmas?

Christ will be called:

Wonderful
Mighty
Everlasting
Peace

What a stark contrast from today’s chaotic Christmas! Why not ponder each word and reclaim the holy over the hectic? In the pondering as God transforms your mind, expect heart change (Romans 12:2).

Wonderful

This term Wonderful Counselor suggests a presence of comfort. The babe in the manger is the wonderful promise of wisdom to we who follow him.

He is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom. Isaiah 28:29, ESV

Mighty 

The Jews in Jesus’ day looked for a mighty warrior to rescue them from Roman oppression. Rather, the King of Kings came as vulnerable baby born to poor parents. No fanfair. Just a smelly barn and hay for a bed.

And yet this Mighty God, he defeated death.

But it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 2 Timothy 1:10, NIV

Everlasting

Seated at the right hand of the Everlasting Father, Jesus offers the gift of eternal life (John 3:16) and the Father continuously and compassionately cares for his people.

As a father shows compassion to his children,
    so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. Psalm 103:13, ESV

Peace

Doesn’t your soul long for the Lord’s peace this Christmas? The Prince of Peace promises you peace as you focus your heart and mind on him, and not on the things of this world that money can buy. Consider this verse:

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

And this:

You keep him in perfect peace
    whose mind is stayed on you,
    because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3, ESV

So when the lines at Best Buy or Walmart are long, when a family member shows his mad, when you’ve run out of energy, this this:

  • Remember who Jesus is: the Prince of Peace.
  • Pray for the difficult people in your life.
  • Say “Merry Christmas” often.
  • Give generously.
  • Sing.
  • Listen to Jesus.

And ponder the promises given by the Prince of Peace.

Wishing You a Merry Christmas,

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Blended Families: What to Do BEFORE Marriage

blended families

Blended families: Ups and downs, joys and messes. If you’re in a blended family, then you know what it takes to bring together two families. It’s hard work, isn’t it?

But if you’re considering remarriage after divorce or the death of a spouse: What should you do before you marry again?

Two words: premarital counseling.

Already blended. . .and struggling? Counseling works for you too. Don’t despair. Be encouraged. At the end of this article you’ll find helps just for you.

Did you know your family is among the 40 percent of married couples with children in the US that are blended? This percentage counts full- and part-time residential step families with children under age 18 as well as adult children.

In this article, you’ll discover four main things regarding blended families:

  1. Take it slow!
  2. How premarital counseling works before remarriage.
  3. Helping the children.
  4. Encouragement for blended families.

Slow Down. . .When You Want to Speed Up 

After years of parenting alone, it’s tempting to “follow your heart,” as today’s popular mantra advises, and marry quickly. As Ron Deal of Family Life Blended says, “You cook a stepfamily slowly in a Crockpot, not forcibly in a blender! Kids need more time than adults to get used to the idea of a wedding.”

For example, consider a couple I counseled who married within months of meeting each other. Fiona and Eli (names and details have been changed) were previously married and have five school-age children. (Two of the children also live their mom during the week.)

The couple disagreed over parenting, handling money, and dealing with the ex-spouses, among other things. Both of them are Christians and declared their love for each other. However, life’s struggles created significant stress. Fiona became controlling; Eli backed away. Sometimes he moved in with buddies for a few days for a break.

Meanwhile, the children were confused and acted out.

As one spouse said, “I just want to live and make life fun. It seems that everything is a task. I’m just drained.”

Do these words resonate with you?

Did you go through pre-marital or pre-engagement counseling before you remarried? What difference has it made? If you didn’t have pre-marital counseling before remarriage, do you wish you had?

Pre-Marital Counseling Before Remarriage

First, during premarital counseling, you’ll think through the compexities of combining families and determine if the marriage is wise.

Second, you’ll discuss topics that may have factored in to a previous divorce — everything from communication and conflict resolution to parenting styles and personality differences. You won’t address every potential problem in premarital counseling but you will see the glaring ones.

Third, you’ll consider reasonable expectations between the children and the new spouse. Did you know that children cling to the hope that their parents will get back together? I did when my parents divorced when I was age eight. But when you remarry, your childrens’ dream dies. This is a loss for them.

Helping the Children

In premarital counseling, you’ll discover how to listen to the children–their hope, their fears.

You’ll also learn how to talk to the children about God’s role in blended families. Now they’ll have more people to love and support them! This includes the non-custodial parent when possible.

Sometimes chidlren become fearful that the new blended family will also end up in a divorce. In premarital counseling, you and your future spouse will develop a habit of praying with and for your children. reassuring them and each other that you choose to glorify God always.

5 Encouragements for Already Blended Families

Is your family already blended? You’ll appreciate these reminders from Ron Deal. I encourage you to peruse his ministry website, where you’ll find extra resources.

  1. SLOW your expectations of how quickly your blended family will harmonize. Deal says, “The average stepfamily needs between five to seven years to form a family identity. In movies, love between adults and bonding with children happens quickly; in real life, it happens gradually.”
  2. INVEST in your marriage relationship. It is the the new foundation for your home.
  3. BE a united parental team while building relationships with stepchildren. What about disciple? Deal urges, “Early on, biological parents should continue to be the primary disciplinarian to their children while stepparents build relationship, trust, and respect with stepchildren.”
  4. AVOID common pitfalls. For example, a child who says, “You’re not my mom, I don’t have to listen to you” is telling you about their sadness that mom isn’t here. Also, keep some holiday traditions while creating new ones. Money matters can be confusing too. Calmly discuss how you will balance your responsibilities to previous individual financial obligations (such as paying child support) while combining assets for the new family.
  5. STEP UP your faith. Spiritual resources help everyone in blended families find grace for each other and strength for the journey.

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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