Friday, 12 April 2013

Emotions: Thinking About What We Feel

Betty-Anne Rees
Betty-Anne Rees wrote an insightful article for the Biblical Counseling Coalition blog.  She recognizes that most of us want to be happy.  She acknowledges that as painful as it may be; Christians recognize that happiness cannot come at the expense of holiness.
This is where our emotions can collide with God’s plan for our lives. 

So Ms. Rees suggests we question our emotions be they negative or positive, we can learn from both. It is sad for me to say but most often I learn more about myself when I’m experiencing a negative emotion.   For me a negative emotion normally signals I am suffering from a problem of the “heart”, i.e. my mind, will and emotions are out of sync with what God wants for me.

Here are some excellent questions we can ask ourselves when confronted with a negative emotion:

·       What is this ‘feeling’ telling you about yourself? About what you love or long for?  Am I upset because I didn’t get my way?  Am I not getting the respect or recognition I deserve?

·       What is it telling you about our world and the human experience?”  Am I learning that I cannot depend on others?  Am I expecting the world to live by my standards even though there is no reason to expect those of the world to do so?

·       What is it telling you about God?”  Am I accepting a lie, i.e. God doesn’t really love me or God is not all powerful, or that His way is not my way?

  How can the way you feel right now be used to move you toward God? What good change might it motivate in you?”  By remembering that even a sparrow is under God’s purview, that God is all loving and all powerful and that God wants only what is best for me.  I need to tell myself to “suck it up buttercup” and look for what the Lord wants me to learn.

·       How might Satan seek to use it to move you away from God?”  Satan is the father of lies and deception.  I know God has a plan for my life (Jeremiah 29:11) a plan not to harm me but to give me hope and a future.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The Grass Always Seems Greener

It is Sunday morning and you, your spouse and three kids are running “slightly” late for church.  The anxiety and stress levels are rising, particularly since one of the partners believes that tardiness is the “unpardonable sin”.  Tempers begin to flare and voices begin to rise.  Alas, you arrive at church, put on a smile, and walk arm in arm into the sanctuary.
You begin to think what hypocrites we are.  As you look around you see what appears to be couples who are happy and filled with joy.  Look again!   There is a reasonably good chance that what you are seeing is their “Sunday Morning Persona”.  You know the same one you walked into the sanctuary with.

Theoretically the church is supposed to be a family, a place where we can be real. The reality seems to be just the opposite.  We would never want the person in the pew next to us to know that we were struggling in our marriage that what had started out as a blissful union had degenerated into an unhappy co-existence.  Do the math.  If Christians are divorcing at anywhere near the rate of non-Christians (and it appears they are) it is probably fair to suspect that there are the same number of unhappily married couples who are staying together as in the non-Christian population.

When and where did it go wrong?  Most likely your pre-marriage preparation wasn’t as important as planning your wedding day.  Most likely the concept of a covenantal marriage was not upper most in your mind when you said “I do.”  There is a good chance that at the first signs of disharmony you didn’t seek out a Godly couple or Biblical counselor to mentor you.  Years have passed, habits have become ingrained (I think that is redundant) and the “kingdoms of self” have solidified their position.

Is there any way in the world you think this is what God had in mind for marriage?  God never commands us to do something that comes naturally and/or is easy to do.  However if we are able to be obedient we will reap the benefit.  The benefit of a gospel-centered marriage, i.e. one where God is at the center of the marriage, is unprecedented joy.  That does not mean there won’t be disagreements, periods of the “grumpies” or difficulties with finances, children or health.  It does mean that overall the love you have for one another is sustained by the love that God has for you.

 Here’s a suggestion.  Come together with your partner.  Hold hands and pray something like the following:
Father, we know that our marriage has not been a blessing to You.  We know that we are not experiencing the joy that you intend marriage to bring.  From this point forward we want to commit our marriage to you.  We ask you to help us to change our hearts with the help of Your Spirit. Amen

Monday, 8 April 2013

Judge Not

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? ...Matt.7

I don’t mind becoming old though I am beginning to not like me as much as I did a number of years ago.  Either I am just becoming a curmudgeon or I am just becoming increasingly aware of my sinfulness.  It is with this painful awareness in mind that I was particularly grabbed by several statements made by Andy Stanley in his newly released book Deep and Wide.  This is kind of a how to book for pastors.  Stanley writes:

Few things discredit the church more in the minds of unbelievers than when it holds them accountable to a standard they never acknowledged to begin with. Nothing says hypocrite faster than Christians expecting non-Christians to behave like Christians when half the Christians don’t act like it half the time.

After reading this I had three simultaneous thoughts, along with a headache.  The first thought was that I am most likely guilty of holding non-Christians to a standard they never bought into.  When I am being my cranky, critical, judgmental self, I don’t know if the person who is not living according to my rules of life is a Christian or not.  I should assume they are not.

Which made me think of those of you who profess to be a Christian who are married to someone who is not.  My guess is that much of the friction in your marriage, assuming there is friction, comes from the fact that your spouse is not living up to the Biblical role to which they have been assigned, i.e. husbands are to love their wives as much as they love themselves and wives are to admire, respect and honor their husbands.  If this is the case your non-Christian spouse isn’t seeing in you the endearing qualities that you profess to represent.  OUCH!
The third and most obvious thought is that those of us who purport to be Christian ought to begin acting like the Person we are to represent here on earth.  There is an old, trite expression that I dislike but I’ll use it anyhow, “If you were on trial for being a Christian is there enough evidence to convict you?”