Friday, 20 June 2014

Don’t Waste Your Pain

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."  Romans 8:28  NIV

“Don’t waste your pain, that’s easy for you to say. You don’t know what I’m going through.”   You are absolutely right if that is what you were thinking.  I have no idea what you are going through.  What I do know is that I have heard that expression from two people – one I admire greatly, the other I adore completely.  The person I admire is John Piper.  In 2006 he wrote an article entitled “Don’t Waste Your Cancer.”  The person I adore is my wife who expressed the same sentiment which helped give her hope during a depression a number of years ago.

I recognize that two people does not a large sample make but the reason that both could make that statement was because of their personal beliefs.  John Piper’s words will give you a reasonably good idea of what he and my wife have in common in terms of their beliefs.  John wrote, “You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God. It will not do to say that God only uses our cancer but does not design it. What God permits, he permits for a reason. And that reason is his design.”

My guess is that this will not sit well with some of you who refuse to acknowledge that an all loving God is ever responsible for allowing and/or causing any form of calamity.  Job’s troubles were caused by Satan but allowed by God.  The Creator of the universe would not be all powerful and all knowing, which He is, if He was not able to control anything and everything.

Nothing happens that is outside of God’s ultimate will.  That is not to say that in some instances our pain is not a result of consequences of our actions but none the less they come from God.

So if your marriage is filled with much pain, rest assured God is well aware of it.  The pain is wasted if you just continue down the same road or if you were to get a divorce.  The pain should serve a purpose.  The question shouldn’t be “why God” but “what”?   God wants you to learn something about yourself.  What is your contribution to the state of your marriage?  Marriage issues are usually relational issues and relational issues are usually heart issues.  What does that mean – what’s a heart issue?

The heart, Biblically speaking, is the mind, will and emotions.  Such manifestations as stubbornness, self-centeredness, selfishness, being disrespectful, being angry, being unloving, nagging, etc. are all symptomatic of something that is not in sync with God.  In many instances it is your pain that is causing you to act out this way.  God wants you to use the pain to figure out what is causing the discomfort and deal with it in a way that will bring glory to Him.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The Truth is Always in the Middle – Part II

In Part One I shared one of the more valuable lessons that I learned in the early years as a counselor.  Simply, there are two sides to every story and the truth is somewhere in the middle.  In that posting I said that each person has their perception of reality and their accounting of it can seem incredibly real.  My point was that until you hear the story from another person’s point of view you might only have a distorted picture of reality.

In Part One I discussed cases where women and sought out the counsel of Godly women regarding their marriage only to be told to seek a divorce.  These well-meaning women had heard only one side of the story.  In most cases the counsel did not line up with Scripture. The point is that if you are asked to give advice be aware that you are not getting the full story, and be certain your counsel aligns with Scripture. 

However there is a second category which may even have the appearance of seeking counsel but in reality it is a more slippery slope.  I am referring to going to someone of the opposite gender and sharing your personal life and talking down your spouse.  You may just be seeking sympathy or you may have a more hidden agenda.  Most affairs start because of some unmet emotional need not because there is some delusion that the sex is going to be fantastic.

As in the case of what I cited in Part I, you as the recipient of such an overture must understand (a) that you are only hearing one side of the story and (b) the person sharing with you may have an ulterior motive, even if it is only subconscious.  This is double jeopardy if the person being approached is also experiencing and emotional deficit.  In such a case it is only a matter of time before things start spiraling out of control.

The more convincing the individual the more certain you are that you are hearing fact.  This is rarely the case.  You need only remember that the truth is somewhere in the middle.  In the case described above you must refuse to participate in this “adult game”.  It is hard for well-meaning Christians who want to help their fellow man when he/she seems to be hurting.  Direct the individual to a Biblical counselor and offer to pray for them right on the spot.


Monday, 16 June 2014

The Truth is Always in the Middle – Part I

One of the most valuable counseling lessons I learned, I learned early in my counseling career.  Simply, there are two sides to every story and the truth is somewhere in the middle.  In most cases the people who are sharing their story with me believe everything they are telling me is true.  It is their perception of reality and that makes it real to them.  In my “formative years” I found that if the person I was talking with was particularly persuasive, emotional, and/or articulate I would tend to accept their story as fact.  Then I would meet the ogre/witch that had been described and got a totally different picture.  I heard similar “facts” from a different perspective.  At times I still get trapped by someone who is particularly convincing, at least for a brief period.

I cite this experience for two reasons.  The first reason has to do with seeking Godly counsel.  I am aware of too many cases of women who have sought counsel from well meaning, Godly women regarding their marriage, have been told by those women to seek a divorce.  We should always check to see if the advice we are given lines up with Scripture.  In the cases that I am familiar with there were no Biblical grounds for divorce.  Equally important those who gave the advice heard only one side of the story.  One Biblical ground is unfaithfulness.  This can get dicey.  If a spouse has committed adultery, Scripture permits divorce, it doesn’t command it.  God hates divorce and would expect the couple to work through the pain and broken relationship.  Is pornography the same as adultery?  I’m certain it feels like it to the one who has been lied to and betrayed but pornography is an addiction and should be treated as such. That is not to minimize the pain and hurt it causes.  Certainly strong boundaries would have to be set, a commitment to taking all the necessary steps to gain victory over the addiction would have to be in place and the very real prospect of having to re-build trust over a long period of time is very real.

The second Biblical basis for divorce is if a non- believing spouse wants to leave a spouse who professes to be a believer, only if initiated by the non-believing spouse.  We need to be careful with this one.  It is not too unusual for the now potential non-believing spouse to have looked an awful lot like one who believes over a period of time and may have acknowledged being a believer.  Is it for convenience sake that the person is no longer considered a believer?

See Part II.