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,

 

Uh-oh! Patience? What Now?!

patiencePatience. Who wants to wait for it, right? In this down-to-earth post, devotion blogger and my friend Lynn Mosher shares her word for 2018. Her article appeared first here on her blog and is used with permission.

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 Patience. I’m almost afraid to post this.

I get the feeling this may be my word for 2018. I just know some event, circumstance, or pain will pop up and require patience. Though it would be nice to have patience to wait for something good, wouldn’t it?

Whatever the disagreeable situation confronting us, we always want patience right now, don’t we?

Everyone wants the end product of patience but no one wants to work at getting it.

But what is it?

What Have Others Said…

  • “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.” ~Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  • “We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world.” ~Helen Keller
  • “Teach us, O Lord, the disciplines of patience, for to wait is often harder than to work.” ~Peter Marshall
  • “God’s way of answering the Christian’s prayer for more patience, experience, hope and love often is to put him into the furnace of affliction.” ~Richard Cecil
  • “There is nothing which so certifies the genuineness of a man’s faith as his patience and his patient endurance, his keeping on steadily in spite of everything.” ~Martyn Lloyd-Jones

What Are the Definitions?

I love old dictionaries. They say it best. From Johnson’s and Walker’s Dictionaries of 1830:

The power of suffering, calm endurance of pain or labour. The quality of expecting long without rage or discontent…The quality of bearing offences without revenge or anger…not easily provoked, calmly diligent, without rage under pain or affliction.

Isn’t that a great description? And I love “the power of suffering.” The power! Think about that. Let that soak in. Awesome!

What about the Greek?

Patienthupomeno, meaning to stay under (behind), remain, to undergo, bear (trials), have fortitude, tarry behind, abide. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon also says it is to persevere absolutely and emphatically, under misfortunes and trials, to hold fast to one’s faith in Christ, and to endure, bear bravely and calmly.

Patiencehupomone means cheerful (or hopeful) endurance, constancy, a patient steadfast waiting for, a patient enduring.

What Does the Bible Say?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is…longsuffering.” (Gal. 5:22-23 NKJV) Another word for patience.

Peter said, “For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.” (1 Peter 2:20 NKJV)

And James said, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” (James 1:2-3 NKJV) Patience under trial. Oops! That’s where it grows.

Paul tells us to be “patient in tribulation” (Rom. 12:12 NKJV) and “be patient with all.” (1 Thess. 5:14 NKJV) For God is “the God of patience.” (Rom. 15:5 NKJV) Therefore, we are to “pursue…patience.” (1 Tim. 6:11NKJV)

Though we cannot see what God is doing in our maddening situation, it does not mean He is doing nothing. His watch doesn’t work like ours does; it has bigger hands! And “His way is perfect.” (2 Sam. 22:31a NKJV)

May Your Patience Overflow

Do our lives fit the definitions and the Scriptures? Hmmm…I wonder.

Whatever trial or heartache you may experience this year, I wish you power in your suffering, that patience may overflow. As does your faith.

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Friend, if you’re facing a maddening trial now, why not ask God for help? He promises to help you. If you need counseling, I encourage you to speak with a pastor or a spiritual friend, or if you’d like, contact me, and we can set up a 15-minute chat. Or, contact one of the counselors listed on Heart2Heart Counselor Directory. All are biblical/pastoral counselors and have been vetted by me and my staff. They are listed by speciality and state. Almost all of them offer Skype counseling as well as in-person counseling.

Counseling Hope to Your Heart,

 

Reaching a Child’s Heart for Christ

heartReaching a child’s heart for Christ is something every Christian mom and grandma desires, right? This honest post by guest writer Barbara Reaoch appeared first here and is used by permission.

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When I was asked to lead the Children’s Division at Bible Study Fellowship, I knew it was a great privilege. But how naïve and prideful I was to think my experience qualified me for the job. Teaching the Bible to women was good preparation, for sure, but I was unaware of the pitfalls in teaching the Bible to children.

Sadly, I was not clear about the difference between moralistic behaviorism and gospel-centered application. It seemed easy to say, “Stop sinning and start obeying.” Discipline issues were equally simplistic: “Stop acting like that and start behaving.” Kids need to learn obedience, right? And we need kids to obey for our own sanity. I was inclined to twist the beauty of the gospel of grace into a subtle deception called moralism. I needed to learn three things:

1. Moralism cannot reach a child’s heart.

It’s not hard to use Bible characters to teach a moral lesson. With the Bible character as the subject of the lesson, we can teach kids that they need to be righteous like Noah, faithful like Moses, and obedient like Abraham. Kids figure that if they live like these heroes of the faith they will earn God’s love.

But when we try to make kids into good rule-keepers, they decide one of two things. Either with pride in their hearts, they believe they have earned God’s favor. Or they see they will never be able to keep the rules and conclude there’s no use trying.

Truth: Moralism can only produce pride and fear in the heart of a child.

Moralism ends up making children think their relationship with God depends on them. If they are good enough, they win. If they blow it, they lose. Moralistic teaching breaks down when we read that Noah gets drunk, Moses gets angry, and Abraham lies. We may try to hide the fact that each of these guys struggled with sin, but the Bible doesn’t. God never says that good behavior is a prerequisite for His love.

2. Manipulation cannot reach a child’s heart.

If we simply want kids to obey, manipulation usually works. Kids respond to, “I can’t believe you would do that after what we just learned about Jesus.”

Or “You should be ashamed of the way you are acting.”

Or “Look at those people—you know the ones who ________ (insert the sin of your choice).” As if to say, “You better never be like them.”

Even worse, we use God to manipulate. “God is not pleased with you when you do that.” “It makes Jesus sad when you act like that.” “If you want God to be pleased with you, you will read the Bible, go to church, and obey your parents.”

We can easily manipulate kids because God has wired them to want to please us. Their behavior may change temporarily, but we are damaging their hearts. The only lasting and effective life changes happen from the inside.

Truth: Manipulation can only produce guilt, shame, or anger in a child’s heart.

No matter how hard kids work to keep clean on the surface, as they see their sin, they will think God can’t possibly love them. We twist the gospel when we imply that God’s favor depends on their behavior. Life changes are real when they come from the heart.

3. We reach a child’s heart for Christ through the gospel.

The gospel is the most important truth for us to teach a child. Paul emphasizes this in 1 Corinthians 15:3–4:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.

Gospel-centered teaching says our behavior can never be good enough to make us right with God. Before we deserve it, God reaches out to us in grace and mercy. He forgives those who turn from sin and trust in Jesus. We receive His mercy instead of punishment for sin because God’s justice was met through the death of His dearly loved Son on the cross.

Jesus lived FOR us. Jesus died FOR us. And Jesus was raised FOR us.

Jesus’ resurrection power gives us a new heart, a new mind, and new desires to live for God.

Gospel-centered teaching says God uses people who are weak and broken. Bible characters are imperfect. God did not choose Noah, Moses, and Abraham because of their character but because of His grace. God knows who we are. His love for us doesn’t change when we fail. His plan and His promises prevail in spite of our imperfections.

Truth: God reaches a child’s heart with the truth of the gospel.

Moralism and manipulation harden a child’s heart. But the gospel is God’s message of love and grace that transforms the heart of a child. Gospel-centered teaching wasn’t just for the Bible Study Fellowship children’s program. Something happened in my own heart as I became more amazed with the truth of God’s love and grace.

Joy and freedom are found in the discovery that God uses our weakness for His glory. He uses our brokenness to reveal His grace. This is a message of hope, not only for our children but for us all. As messed up as your life may be, there is hope. The gospel tells us this is true. To teach the truth of the gospel is to reach a child’s heart for Christ.

Counseling Hope to Your Heart,

BELIEVE God You Have God’s Favor Now

favorDo you want God’s favor?

Here’s a big encouragement I hope you embrace with all your being.

Lots of Christian women think to get God’s favor they must be good. You know, follow the Ten Commandments, read the Bible and pray daily, attend church weekly, and do nice things like feed the homeless.

The truth: Every genuine Christian has God’s favor now. You need not “get” it because you’ve “got” it. The word favor nearly synonymous with blessing?

Ephesians 1:3 says this:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.

Did you catch the phrase “every spiritual blessing”? If you have every spiritual blessing now, can you get more? 

Choose to Believe God

The way, then, to receive God’s favor — his blessing! — is simple and profound: “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31). What do you need to believe? If you are not a Christian you need to believe you need help. Self-effort isn’t enough. Relying on a self-improvement book keeps you chained to a hamster wheel, running and running and going nowhere.

Instead, trust that Christ has done for you what you are cannot do: live a perfectly holy life.

If you are a Christian who has lost her way, then I invite you to read, even memorize, a biblical truth we at Biblical Counseling Center have framed in our offices and typed on our counseling materials:

Faith is believing the Word of God

and acting upon it,

no matter how I feel,

knowing God promises a good result.

Often the women, couples and families I counsel are Christians but are thinking and acting like unbelievers.

Many have let the world’s belief systems infiltrate their thinking, beliefs and motivations. They’re hurting and want relief. God gives them something better: peace and contentment in Christ in all circumstances. Here are two pictures of women who believed.

Rahab the Harlot and Favor

A prostitute in Jericho hid spies under flax on rooftop. Brave, this woman, this harlot. Brave, this believer in the one true God. A scarlet cord danging from her window attested to her belief and saved her life and the lives of her family when the Jericho walls fell in.

Do you think God can love sex-tainted women? Or women with a past, whatever the past? Perhaps abortion, adultery, promiscuity or pornography?

Isn’t it wonderful that God is bigger than the mistakes you’ve made?

The Rejected Samaritan Woman and Favor

Many times married and living with a guy, this woman was an outcast among outcasts. Fetching water midday, scorching sun high, she met Jesus at Jacob’s well and became an evangelist. This Jesus, he spoke truth, he showed compassion, and she was changed. A new creation, embraced by God Most High. She told the townsfolk who had shunned her.

Do you know the sting of disappointment and rejection? Remember middle school? The insecurity?

When you believe Jesus, you experience peace and contentment now. Sure, you still make bad choices and bad things happen will upend you. Yet you and I can rest in knowing God loves you . . .

more than wildflowers

and sparrows

even angels

because He Is Love. 

COUNSELING HOPE: I encourage you to contact me and we can chat briefly by phone or email and see how biblical counseling might help you and give you hope. Stop by my counseling page for answers to questions you may have.

Counseling Hope to Your Heart,

How to Change Your Husband’s Mind!

husbandSo you want to change husband’s mind? Guest writer Julie Ganschow — listed on my site’s Heart2Heart Counselor Directory, for women and by women — shares her insights. Her post first appeared here on her blog and is used with permission.

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That title on changing your husband’s mind got you, didn’t it? I confess I am smiling as I think of how many women clicked on the blog because of the title.
Who among us does not want to know how to change her husband’s mind about something?
Maybe you want to obtain something, to go somewhere your husband doesn’t care to go, or to get your own way in some other circumstance. Those are rather self-centered, right? But there are also very serious reasons women ask this same question.

In counseling, a woman may ask me how to change her husband’s mind when she disagrees with a decision he has made. His decision may regard finances, family, or something else. Often the couple has fought about the issue. In addition, communication is strained or non-existent at that time. She sees her position as righteous. She may even give me scriptural support for it.

My counsel in such situations is (usually) as follows:

1. Examine Yourself

My first piece of counsel is to examine yourself. I may ask, “Thinking back on the discussion or argument, did you communicate respectfully with your husband when presenting your point?”

 In the heat of the moment it is easy to become so impassioned about the issue that words and tone of voice quickly get out of hand. I also ask,
  • “Were you speaking honestly?”
  • “Did you use the dreaded “you always” or “you never” as you interacted with your husband?”

Always? Never?

We tend to use “always” and “never” for dramatic emphasis and rarely do we use them appropriately. How true is it that your husband never does that certain thing you want him to do? Can he really always. .? 

Both of these words are very concrete. I call them 100% words. They are specific and mean in every circumstance without exception. No matter how inflexible a person may seem, rarely does someone “never” or “always” say and do the things we accuse them of when we are angry at them. So, examine yourself for where you went wrong and sinned against your husband.

Logs and Specks

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:3-5

When you find the logs in your own eye, you have to deal with your own sin through confession and repentance before God. Then go to your husband and admit your wrongs to him. It is humbling to strongly believe you are right about something then need to confess you were wrong in how you went about it. Asking his forgiveness for your sin will go a long way in gaining his ear for future discussion.

Here is an aside: I know some of you reading this are in unequally yoked marriages or are married to a man who is truly unreasonable or abusive. No counsel is “one size fits all.” It is impossible to write something that addresses every situation in one blog post. However, much of what is written here is still applicable to you. Self-examination, confessing your sin, and seeking restoration with your husband (when possible) will allow you to live peaceably in your own skin, regardless of how he responds.

2. Consider a Biblical Appeal

My second piece of counsel is to prayerfully consider making a biblical appeal to your husband. I don’t hear much about this anymore. However, I believe it is a wonderful approach to take when you and your husband are at an impasse, and you cannot let the matter go.
A biblical appeal is a request made to your husband for the purpose of presenting information that will hopefully lead him to change his mind about a decision he’s made.
A biblical appeal is not an argument, fight, or a manipulation. A biblical appeal is what a wise woman undertakes when she believes that her husband’s conclusion is wrong or sinful. The purpose is to help her husband, or to give wise counsel in aiding him to make the best and most God-honoring decision possible. It is not merely to get her own way.

How to Make an Appeal

A biblical appeal should be based on facts not emotions. Just because a wife “feels” her idea or plan is better does not make it so. Before making the appeal, it is wise to research the subject and be ready to provide concrete data to support your position. Be prepared to present the reasons why you disagree with his decision. Then propose a different plan, idea or a solution

Choosing the right timing for your appeal. You don’t want to be rushed. Answer his questions with facts not feelings. Listen carefully to his point of view and for details you may have missed in your original discussion.

A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies. Proverbs 31:10

Once you’ve made your appeal, trust God for the outcome. Regardless of what your husband decides to do, a wise woman will agree to go along with the decision that has been made and support him in it.

Support should be genuine. It should include prayer for success, encouragement, and your willingness to help. If you continually mention your disagreement with the decision, and tell him how he should do it your way, you are nagging. Don’t do that. You are only responsible for how you conduct yourself in these kinds of situations. Your husband may stick to his plan despite your appeal. In this case, trust God is working out things for your good and His glory, despite how it looks right now.

Making a biblical appeal is not easy, but it is always an option for a woman. Be wise and careful as you prepare to go forward. Pray for the right motives so God would be honored by your words and your actions.

But Never Go Along with a Husband’s Sinful Decision

In my counsel on making a biblical appeal, I am assuming that your husband is not asking you to support a sinful decisions. If your husband has decided to do something illegal or immoral, do not go along with his decision, even when told you must submit to his authority.

God is the ultimate authority, not your husband. Thus you cannot honor God by consenting to commit sin with your husband. If he intends to go ahead with a sinful decision, seek outside counsel from your pastor or other wise biblical source.

Sharing hope with your heart, 

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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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