Emotions: 4 Steps to Emotional Wellness

emotionsEmotions can sometimes wreck your day, can’t they? In this brief article, you’ll learn

  1. You are not alone,
  2. Emotions — including the hard ones — assist in your sanctification.
  3. 4 steps to emotional wellness

You Are Not Alone

Meet a former counselee I’ll call Linda, who feels like a twisted piece of metal. Among her emotional wreckedness: rebellious teen, overworked husband, tight finances, loneliness.

And weariness. Deep weariness. Sound familiar?

Her teenage son is a Christian but runs with the beer-drinking crowd and stopped attending church. Linda fears he may get in a car crash. Just as bad, her husband is travels for work most of the week. So loneliness darkens her days and nights. In addition, household finances are tight, and the roof is beginning to leak.

And her emotions have affected her psysically. She sleeps poorly, gets migraines, and feels anxious all day.

I and other biblical counselors — some are listed on my Heart2Heart Counselor Directory, by state and specialies — come alongside the hurting every day, listening, giving hope, isolating the problem, determining direction, and helping them implement God-honoring solutions that result in peace and contentment, and most important, God’s glory.

Emotions Help You Grow Spiritually

Emotions tell us something about our hearts. They are neither morally good nor morally bad. Consider Jesus. He expressed emotions and never sinned.

  • ANGER: Jesus felt righteous anger while he turned over money-changers’ tables who were making his Father’s house a “den of robbers” (Matthew 21:13).
  • SADNESS: He sorrowed over the death of his friend Lazarus. (John 11:35)
  • FEAR: He feared the pain of dying on the cross. (Luke 22:42-44)

While Jesus felt a myriad of emotions and did not sin, you and I know that we often have ungodly thoughts (“Jerk, why don’t you learn how to drive?” or “No one loves me”) and act in ungodly ways (yell, pout, slam doors,  and so on).

To help you achieve emotional wellness, may I share a four-step plan (adapted from Elyse Fitzpatrick, a leading biblical counselor)? It skims the surface. So if you you desire biblical counseling via Skype or in person, check out my counseling info page. We can work together on your emotional wellness.

4 Steps to Emotional Self-Care

God wants to free you from the emotions that lead to sin. So here are four steps to emotional wellness.

1. Agree with God that your current way of handling negative emotions is sinful and cease from it. The one who changes your emotions is the Holy Spirit as you cooperate with him.

2. Be convinced that God’s way of becoming emotionally healthy are right and begin practicing them. Again, this is accomplishes through relying on the power, strenth, and grace of the Holy Spirit, who cares for you and you enables you to achieve God’s purposes in you.

3. Seek to change the way you think and become conformed to God’s will, especially in the emotions you struggle with. Yes, God is able to change you and heal your emotions. Yes, he wants to.

4. Continue to engage in your new godly thoughts and behaviors even when you fail and need to repent.

Achieving emotional self-care is never easy, and in giving four steps, I do not imply that is is. Becoming emotionally well is contrary to “the natural man.” Indeed, it means saying, “Lord, your will be done” when our easy-to-deceive hearts insist, “My will be done.”

The Good News

The good news is, you CAN know peace and contentment. You CAN put away selfishness, fear, and your need to control. And you CAN fight anger and win. Yes, you CAN fall into the arms on God, not the pit of despair. All because of Jesus and his redeeming love shown on the cross.

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. 2 Peter 1:3

May I pray for you?

Heavenly Father, this one needs your touch. She needs to know you are real and you care and you love her. You know her struggles. You desire to heal her. May your will be done. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

Facing Conflict? 6 Steps to Peacemaking!

conflictCONFLICT: No one likes it but it is impossible to avoid! So what’s the solution? In this post by guest writer and counselor Ellen Castillo, you’ll discover six steps to peacemaking. By the way, peacemaking is NOT peacekeeping. Big difference! 

Her article appeared first here on her website and is used with permission. Ellen also listed here on Heart2Heart Counselor Directory

Conflict. It’s one of those words that makes us cringe and shrink back in denial and fear.

Too often our gut reaction when someone confronts us with an offense is to defend ourselves. Even if we were in the wrong, we tend to want to cover it up. (That is nothing new, read about Adam and Eve!) We try to justify ourselves, blame someone else, avoid the problem, and the list goes on. We stand ready with excuses in hand, armed for the battle, fully intending to win it.

God offers us a better way. He offers us the way of grace. He extends grace to us and we are to extend it to others. The Bible is very clear regarding how we are to respond to conflict. We can draw from Scripture these

Six practical steps to use when we face conflict:

1. Remove the log.

You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:5

Before you engage in any discussion that will involve pointing out another’s sin, be sure that you have prepared your heart. In order to enter that conversation with proper motives and a forgiving attitude, you will need to admit your own failure in the relationship, acknowledge your own sin issues, and take responsibility for your part in the conflict. It takes two to have a conflict and rarely is there only one guilty party.

Confess, repent, admit, and seek forgiveness. Only then are you able to have the right motives for confronting someone with the goal of reconciliation.

2. Admit weakness and failure.

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Proverbs 28:13

Again, own up to your part in the conflict. You need God’s mercy as much as the other person. Total honesty prepares your heart and presents your case in a way that is much more likely to be received.

This is the way of humility. Pride in your heart will hinder reconciliation. Humility opens the doors of communication that can lead to reconciliation.

3. Don’t promise to do better next time.

But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. James 5:12

The truth is, you will fail again. You are a sinner and so am I. We can seek God to help us to deal with our relationships in a godly manner but we will never achieve perfection. Sin has messed up that possibility. You can ask for help, accountability, and avail yourself to some input. But you cannot promise to “do better” because you probably won’t.

God’s grace is sufficient for that. We are to have integrity (let our yes be yes) but there are consequences to making a promise that we cannot keep.

4. Grant grace no matter who is in the wrong.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31

Approaching a guilty sinner with an attitude of grace is critical to the healing of conflict. You, too, are a guilty sinner. It is a level playing field at the foot of the cross. We tend to forget that when we are ready to win a battle in conflict. It is easy to believe we are the innocent party as we aim to accuse and admonish someone. Whether that person has truly sinned and needs to repent or not, grace in your approach is critical and healing.

5. Offer solutions, not accusations.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16

In order to reconcile, we need to do more than simply pointing out the problem that brought conflict. Reconciliation is only possible when there is a plan put in place to work towards rebuilding relationship. That plan will be useful only if it is based on God’s Word. God’s Word has the answers to our relationship struggles.

An excellent resource for how to resolve conflict biblically is the Peacemaker ministries (founded by Ken Sande.) There you will find biblical solutions to conflict that are not only rooted in biblical principles but also practical in nature and ready to be put in to practice.

6. Purpose to be reconciled.

Better yet, to be restored to full relationship.

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

This verse speaks for itself. Do whatever you possibly can to reconcile a conflict. If the other person does not reciprocate, that is not your responsibility. They are responsible for their own sin, and you are responsible only for yours. At the end of the day, have you done everything you can to resolve conflict?

God has called us to be peacemakers, not peacekeepers. 

Peacekeepers want to avoid conflict, and will do whatever it takes to do so.

Peacemakers want to resolve conflict, and will do whatever God’s Word teaches to do so.

Scripture teaches peacemaking, not peacekeeping!

Reconciliation between believers is a picture of The Gospel. If we keep this in mind and remember it is not about us, but it is about glorifying God, we will be more motivated to reconcile. When we reconcile with people, we are also reconciled to God Himself.

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18

Is there a conflict in one of your relationships? If so, take Romans 12:18 to heart and become a peacemaker today.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

OPIOID Addiction: The Strange Case of Cecilia

opioidOPIOID ADDICTION: The abuse of pain pills and heroin is so common that you probably know a professed Christian who’s addicted to opioids. In this article, listen to the strange case of Cecilia, once a finance executive, now an unemployed mom who gets high daily.

Do you know a Cecilia? How can you counsel her? This article also appeared here at Biblical Counseling Coalition, where Lucy also writes regularly.

heartWhen Cecilia* scheduled a counseling appointment, she told our center’s secretary that she popped pain pills and needed help for addiction. This case sounded challenging, but with God I knew it would be a success, for “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).

Becoming more like Christ is a primary goal of biblical counseling, isn’t it? But what if a counselee doesn’t grow in Christ-likeness? Then is counseling a failure? We will explore the answers to these questions through the case of Cecilia.

A semi-regular church attender, Cecilia claimed true belief in Jesus Christ on the Personal Data Inventory she completed. But, months after her initial counseling visit, and as she persisted in her opioid addiction and other sins, especially lying, I doubted her conversion. So did her husband and her pastor.

As you hear the story of Cecilia, ask yourself how you would counsel her. Chances are, as opioid addiction grows exponentially in the United States and worldwide, at some point you will counsel a “Cecilia.”

Gathering Data on Cecilia and Drugs   

Cecilia is married and a 40-year-old mother of an 8-year-old girl. Early in her career in finance she received good pay and earned promotions, spending money on nice cars, fun vacations, and classy clothes. But then she lost her job. Soon after, she reported to her doctor ongoing physical pain, and he prescribed one opioid and then a second.

Her pain persisted, her sleeping worsened, and she sometimes raged against her husband, tossing cuss words like grenades and even hitting him. She sought help from a psychiatrist who gave her the diagnoses of Bipolar 2, depression, and anxiety. (Cecilia did not initially list these diagnoses and all of her medicines on her Personal Data Inventory. Later I confirmed the information with her husband and her pastor.)

After three appointments with me, Cecilia began skipping sessions. Some excuses – an ill child – sounded reasonable; others didn’t. This stop-start pattern of our counseling interfered with progress and gave her multiple times to retell her story, looking for sympathy and avoiding discussing the changes she needed to make. Would it have been best for me to get a commitment early in counseling and make skipped sessions a reason for me to end counseling her?

As data gathering continued, I learned that her medicine regime included sleeping pills to fall asleep, an amphetamine to wake up, an antidepressant, a tranquilizer, and mood stabilizers. This medicine cocktail concerned her husband – and me as well. He said as long as she followed the doctor’s instructions perfectly, Cecilia seemed to do better. However, she often failed to follow his instructions. In fact, she liked the feeling of “checking out” when she took double doses of an opioid. I filled out a consent form that Cecilia signed so that I might speak with the psychiatrist for additional data gathering.

The Husband Shares Concerns

Cecilia had said she believes in God, prays, reads the Bible, and is saved. However, on her Personal Data Inventory, she left the section “Why should I let you into my heaven?” blank. When I asked her about it, she gave what sounded like a sincere answer. But should I have asked more compelling questions to detect lying?

While her pastor was very concerned about Cecilia’s salvation, her husband said his concern was not her salvation as much as it was her abuse of pills. He feared for her well-being and their daughter’s. For example, he said Cecilia often woke up in the middle of the night and smoked a cigarette in the garage, falling asleep while it was lit.

As her husband helped fill in the blanks, I realized the extent of her lies to me. When I lovingly confronted her, she became angry and said she didn’t want her husband to join her in counseling any longer. Her husband’s presence in counseling helped her keep her appointments and tell the truth, though they often argued in the counseling office. A great disagreement was over their daughter, who Cecilia said was very ill from allergies; her husband said their child wasn’t sick. A pediatrician agreed with the husband.

Identifying the Problem

Among Cecilia’s problems are extreme selfishness, idolatry (specifically, looking to drugs to meet her “needs”), rebellion, and lying. I helped her understand her heart idolatry. For example, I used a diagram of the heart, marking the middle with “desires, motivations, beliefs” and made arrows to show that thoughts, emotions, and actions flow from the heart. Among the Scriptures we looked up together were Proverbs 4:23, Luke 6:45, Matthew 15:18-19, Jeremiah 17:9, and Mark 7:18-23.

Cecilia appeared interested in identifying and ridding her heart idols. However, she rarely did the assigned homework. Instead, she had excuses and blamed her husband for her problems. We discussed godly and worldly repentance. My hope was for her to see her need for Christ, but the confusion and lies continued. I warned Cecilia about these and other poor decisions she was making.

Counseling Comes to a Halt

At some point soon after the wording, she called her psychiatrist, who recommended that she stop counseling with me. The pastor spoke with the psychiatrist and confirmed that he wanted her to see a counselor at his own practice. And so biblical counseling with me stopped.

Reviewing her case, I concluded it was both a failure in one sense and a success in another.

Counseling was a failure in that Cecilia didn’t move toward Christ-likeness. But how could she? While she spoke “Christian-ese,” she was an unbeliever and thus did not have the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Counseling was a success in that while Cecilia remained in sin, her husband not only made a plan to keep their daughter safe (a family member moved in with them) but also now studies the Bible regularly with their pastor and other Christian men at church. And he prays: for their marriage, their little girl, and most importantly for Cecilia’s salvation. They pray that the psychiatrist or another medical doctor intervenes and, with God’s help, she is freed from her opioid addiction.

Questions for Reflection

How will you counsel a “Cecilia”? What have been your experiences with counseling opioid addicts?

* Names and identifying details have been changed.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

 

Worry? A Plan to Worry Less and Trust More

worryWorry is a continual tempation in life, isn’t it? And there are reasons to worry: ISIS, shootings, illness, mounting credit card debt, faltering relationships, rebellious kids, and on and on and on.

But God says,

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7, NKJV

Be anxious for nothing? Does this mean if you worry, you’ve committed. . .sin?! (Yes. And knowing you’ve fallen short of the mark might create even more worry, right? Ugh!)

In this short article you’ll discover. . .

  1. The good news: You’ve got company.
  2. The better news: God provides a plan to dump worry like garbage.

Worriers Jesus Loved

Martha Woes

Worry pestered Martha of Bethany. She whirled like a dervish in the kitchen while her sister, Mary, sat at Jesus’ feet, listening, learning, loving.

But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:40-42)

Peter Missteps

When Peter took his eyes off Jesus and focused on raging waves, he began to sink.

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:28-30)

Did you know a Christ follower who worries is saying to herself, “God, I know what you’re saying but I’m not sure I can trust you”? Worry is distrust of the goodness, love, and power of God. It’s makes sense, then, that he commands that you and I stop worrying.

Worry Chokes You

In Anxious for Nothing by John MacArthur, he identifies that the word worry comes for the Old English term wyrgan, which means “to choke” or “strangle.”

Just as Martha worried about meal preparation and Peter feared he’d drown, you and I sometimes let our worries choke us. Even panic attacks may jump on our frazzled nerves.

But worry accomplishes nother productive. It steals sleep. It causes stomach upset. And it even increases blood pressure and messes with your nervous system. Indeed, worry ruins quality of life!

And for nothing! Listen to Jesus’ words:

Who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? Matthew 6:27

Worry-Free Plan

First, agree with God that he gives you strength for each day. God gives you what you need when you need it. He is faithful (I Corinthians 10:13).

Second, intentionally adjust your focus. Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are of earth.” God promises to take care of your physical needs: food, clothing, and shelter. He wants to free you from misplaced priorites.

Jay Adams cautioned in What Do You Do When You Worry All the Time?

God wants you to seek to please Him first, and think about the problem of fear secondly. that is why when speaking of worry (a lesser form of fear) in Matthew 6:33 He commands ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.’ If you put anything else first–even the desire to rid yourself of a terrifying fear– you will discover that you will fail to achieve ether goal. God will not take second place, even to a legitimate concern to be free of fear.

Third, thank God that he cares for you.

To implement these applications, begin a list of how he is providing, jotting down one or two things each day for a month. During the first week memorize Matthew 6:33 and ponder it. Later in the month, memorize and ponder other verses that dump worry. Some ideas are Philippians 4:19, Colossians 3:2, and 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

I like to artistically write verses in an unlined notebook as I memorize them, adding graphic elements and simple pictures with colored pencils. You may like to do this too. Let me know how this worry-free plan works for you, or contact me and I’ll pray for you.

You can be anxious for nothing!

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

 

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

heart

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,

 

 

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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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