From March 1998
- Discouragement (Despair)
- Deliverance (again)
- Delight (on and on and on)
- Private Prayer
- Time Alone Time in Community
- Time Away
- Scripture (en mass)
- Reassess your Routine
- Prayer with Friends
Your first pony ride. The first snowfall of winter. The first ice cream cone of summer. Your first car. Your first kiss; okay, and the second. Your first REAL job. Your wedding. Your first child. Delights all!
Do you remember when you first realized that your sins, your rebellion, were truly, genuinely, completely forgiven? Now run those feelings, those realities throughout the rest of your life.
Oh, not there yet, huh? I’m not talking about people who don’t know Christ; well, in a way I could be. Rather, I’m talking to Christians who always get stuck in their lethargy, or who never quite entrust their lives to Christ; guarded Christians.
Seriously, why would anyone want to live as a ½ committed Christian, hanging on to their ownership of who they used to be?!? That has to be one of the most frustrating, exasperating lives imaginable. Too much work, always keeping track of what you’ve said, or done wrong. No way!
Delighting in Christ, knowing the freedom to dance before God with a clean slate, is one of the most amazing realities about being a genuine Christian, instead of a half-hearted, morbid self-condemning “Christian.” How does anybody live like that? Who would want to?
Check yourself. How are you living? Like a guilty Christian or as a forgiven sinner? This is NOT just a matter of perspective: it is a reflection on how you view Christ’s work on the cross— for you. I’d rather be dancing and delighting than constantly wondering if I’m good enough for God.
An end-note— I struggle with depression. [See this Patheos article for further insight.] I’m on meds to correct the imbalance in my body chemistry; but there are some days when even they don’t work. So I’ve learned to push through, to live through, to tough it out; but not everyone can do that. In the end I wind up doing what I should have done in the first place— turning to God for mercy, healing, and forgiveness.
It is in those times that our Lord asks me—
Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.
~Psalm 41:11 (NKJV)
Delight, joy, and hope. This is a description of the normal Christian life. Get into to it.
I’ll be on the dance floor,
By now you must be wondering if the Christian life is like going ‘round in circles— deliverance, delight, discipleship, discouragement, decisions, & now, deliverance, again. In many ways, you would be right. For a life of faith is not a straight line to the future, with no kinks, knots, bunny trails, or temporary suspensions. It has all of that and then some. Maybe even a lion’s den for some of us.
No Christian is perfect. We are always in process. [Although, I must admit to being PERFECT in 2004, for about 5 ½ minutes, in April. Most of the time, I am not even close.] Our faith journeys are not set in stone, even though our salvation is. We all doubt, wander, reject, reaffirm, and celebrate over and over again. Our faith is set in the context of who we are designed to be as individual Christians, in the context of the whole Body of Christ.
So in times when we need yet another deliverance from our anguish, our pain, our sin, it is good to have fellow journeymen around you who can attest to the power of God to free you from yet another mess you’ve made of your life. Christian community…, remember?!? I’ve often wondered if we go through these cycles so God can remind us we are fickle beings and must constantly rely on Him. Deliverance has a definite recurring role in our journey of faith.
There is another side effect of deliverance. It is the reminder that we are also forgiven for our sins (READ— no condemnation!) Many of us never lay hold of this reality; instead, we wallow in the Dark Night of the Soul believing we will never get it right, never be good enough for Christ, never be worthy of heaven. Seriously!?! Can we be so stupid to believe that Christ’s work of the Cross was not sufficient to cover the price for all of our sins? Even the ones we have not come up with yet?
You ARE in a state of grace. You have been declared holy. Get used to it. Get on with it in your journey and believe that you are truly forgiven— past, present and future. No defeatist wallowing allowed.
AND, when you mess up again, again, and again…, and need the deliverance of the Father, know it is already there; and the forgiveness to go along with it as well. Seek forgiveness wherever you need it; then get back on track. Our Lord has all your bases covered.
You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble;
You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah
~Psalm 32:7 [NIV]
Rising above despair, or crawling your way out of it, is not easy. It might take more time than you initially thought. And you may never fully find yourself completely clear of it. Some pains leave deep scars.
If there is one tool in the fight against deep, enduring despair it is this— make decisions. It will require every ounce of strength and determination you can muster, and then some. And you will get it wrong sometime. Fine! Try again. Don’t let failure defeat you; learn from it; grow from it. Get mad at your situation. What did Sir Winston Churchill say during World War II? “We will never give up! Never, never, never give up.”
So also it must be with you.
At some points you will not even have a hint of what those decisions are. That’s OK. But there will come a day, a moment, a tipping point when a decision, a resolution will become clear. You must make it. Right or wrong…, MAKE IT. It’s better to be engaged in doing something than to lie there sullen, mired in your own solidifying concrete.
First, a disclaimer. I am prone to depression; to deep spirals; to feeling empty and useless. So, these thoughts do not originate from a book on counseling or self-help. They are real, just like the anguish you are now enduring.
- One, I’ve already mentioned— get mad at yourself. This will at least awaken your ire and challenge you to start fighting.
- Don’t over-analyze. Mulling the same think over ad infinitum has a way of breeding reptiles of the mind that gnaw at your soul and cramp your emotional/mental capacities.
- Pray. If you do not have faith in a God who created you and has your best interests at heart, then this idea doesn’t apply to you: but it should anyway. Call it external processing if you must. Unburden your heart to someone who can help. I vote for God.
- Seek medical help. Whether to get through your pain, or, to gain a sense of stability once again. God’s healing is both natural and supernatural; it’s hard to tell which is which sometimes.
- Eat the right stuff. Even though chocolate and coffee are essential food groups you still need a source of meat (cow, fish, protein), vegetables (fiber & vitamins), grains (bread, oatmeal, fiber), dairy (yogurt, cheese, hit fudge sundaes).
- Exercise. Brooding bloats the brain. Get out there and burn off some endorphins, stress, and calories.
- Again, talk to a wise friend. Or, pay a counselor. You need an external perspective.
- Make decisions that give you hope and a clear path of resolution and restoration.
Never give up! Never, never, never give up!
Being in love is not for the faint of heart. Loving has become a dangerous enterprise in Western Culture. Expressing love, no matter how up-front or innocent, is open to interpretations of manipulation, harassment and aggression.
Let’s start with our own love-wounds. If you have not been hurt through love, you have not loved, or allowed another to love you. Hurt is part of life: it gives joy its perspective. So if you are guarding your heart, sadly, you also have given up hope of ever trusting or loving at another time. The longer this continues the harder it will be for you to ever love, or be loved, again.
Some of those I’ve counseled have constructed such a protective shell about them that they can barely bring themselves to speak. Fear overtakes their lives and they retreat even deeper into their reclusive shell. Others shut down all and any emotion; no sadness, no elation, no joy, no sorrow. They become the living-dead.
If you are tired of feeling no pain, no joy, no love, try implementing one of these action plans.
- Find a friend. Anyone. They need to be someone with whom you feel safe, more at ease.
- Spend time in sunlight. No, seriously. Vitamin D works wonders on the soul. Take a walk while you’re at it. The exercise will rid your body of the toxins that accompany the pain.
- Talk with a counselor about any abuse. Remember, neglect is abuse too. Whether from a father, a sibling, or a bully, or a spouse, your scars run deep. Don’t let them fester and feed your dark side.
- Find an empowerment group. You’re not the only one who’s been hurt. Others have been through the same or even worse pain. Bond together with them for mutual building. [Not bitching.]
- Come along side someone who has been hurt. That’s right; in your misery reach out a caring hand to someone else. It may do more for you than it does for them.
- Cut back on sugar. Sugar is probably one of the most poisonous substances in our diet, causing everything from depression, to heart disease, to early dementia. Eat fruit. I am dead serious.
- If possible, confront the cause(s) of your pain. Not alone. Take an advocate or an arbiter; especially if the cause is an abuser. Actually, with an abuser, the best course of action may be a simple old snail-mail with no return address. If the cause is a former boyfriend/girlfriend…, well, they probably will not want to meet with you. There is always email, though. Be kind…, and truthful.
For future encounters, please keep in mind that love is always a risk, even more so in these early decades of the Twenty-first Century. It beckons you to put out a little, and then a little more. Reciprocation will tell you if you are on the right path. Do be careful. But do take the risk. Yes, you may be hurt again. But you will be wiser and stronger to handle it this time around.
On a personal note, I have been hurt by people so much in life that I have lost track. And that is a good thing. If I hung on for resolution of every painful experience in life, I would be a useless blot on the DNA scan of the Universe. So now I struggle to live without resolution, yes, but with great hope and trust in the God of my faith. He has always proven to be faithful, safe, and, for me, a little dangerous. It’s just hard sometime.
NEXT DISCUSSION: Learning to Love Again.
Healing from the hurt,
Let’s start with an article from Psychology Today, 7 Behaviors that Ruin a Relationship— August 8, 2016. Let’s use Dr Lisa Firestone’s seven points as a starting point. (Italics mine.)
- “Having angry reactions to feedback instead of being open to it.” View any disagreement with your way of thinking as an attack.
- “Being closed to new experiences instead of open to new things.” Never do anything for the first time.
- “Using deception and duplicity instead of honesty and integrity.” It is far more important that you never let them know who you really are. Living a life of honesty and integrity can expose you to manipulation and exploitation. HIDE!
- “Overstepping boundaries instead of showing respect for them. Never allow another person to be their own person.” They have no rights or boundaries. You are in control.
- “Showing a lack of affection, and inadequate, impersonal, or routine sexuality instead of physical affection and personal sexuality.” Withholding love and affection for another is the cruelest way of hurting them. It puts you in control of the relationship instead of making your relationship’s health the central focus.
- “Misunderstanding instead of understanding.” Understanding another person’s mindset or opinion is not important to you. You don’t need to understand them. They must simply obey you without question.
- “Being manipulative, dominant, or submissive.” Whether you are trying to be the passive one, or the dominant manipulative one, you goal is to be in control. This is a perfect way to destroy a relationship.
Dr. Firestone’s article nails it on the head. Keep others OUT: tower over as much around you as possible. React, conceal, stealthily rule; do not engage in any positive affirmation. Intentionally withhold love, trust, transparency, and truth. Basically, ingenious ways of wounding another person (or group) deeply.
Or, more directly, if you want to destroy a relationship, be it with your wife, lover, employer, or friend, you have the tools and spirit within you to do it. But before you do, certain things need to be in place—
- Harden your heart. Make sure you are callous enough to ignore the affects you are creating for the other to bear. Your intention is to be cold and callous, inconsiderate of any pain you are causing.
- Prepare for the consequences. Coldly treating someone may reverberate in a whiplash of vitriolic retribution against you, and those you know.
Or, you could seek forgiveness and reconciliation with the other. This is Not eating-crow, or groveling (unless a little groveling is necessary). This is admitting that neither you or the other person, or group, are perfect. It takes a much stronger person to seek forgiveness and reconciliation than to merely destroy the relationship.
Choose your course of action wisely.
NEXT DISCUSSION: Your Personality and the Way You Love: you are how you love.
Familiar with the taste of crow,