Faint Not

Galatians 6:9. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

My job may seem like a walk in the park to some people.  I don’t work hard physically.  I have a nice office, comfortable and attractive.  I work with pleasant people, other therapists who  have the same heart that I do.

So then, why do I come home on Tuesday nights completely drained and ready to fall apart?

Because I am physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally weary.  Listening all day to people who are grappling with giants in their lives is exhausting. The work I do makes me keenly aware of how we’ve turned away from God’s Word, from purity and morality and just decency. There are times when I really don’t think I can get up on Wednesday morning and go do it all over again.

And then there is a victory.  Or one of my coworkers has a heartwarming success. Or one of my clients sends me a note thanking me for all the help I’ve given them. So I go on.

I go on because at some point I get to reap the rewards of pouring my heart and soul into someone who is suffering, offering that person God’s promises and His love. Now and then I get to lead someone to the Lord.

If we don’t quit, don’t give up, keep on pressing toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, we will reap the reward of our labors.

Sowing and Reaping

Galatians 6:8. “For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”

****************

Following up in the simple principle of sowing and reaping, Paul teaches that those who never come to Christ, who continue to please their flesh and never come to repentance, will reap the destruction of the flesh. They will not spend eternity in heaven with God.

But those who, having come to Christ for salvation and begin to walk in the Spirit, desiring to please God, have been truly born again and will reap eternal life.  It’s simple, really.

Ecclesiastes 12: 13-14.

13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

Reap What You Sow

Galatians 6:7. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

Such a simple priniciple. If you plant carrots, you’re not going to get tomatoes!

If you plant rebellion, anger, and bitterness, you’re not going to get sweetness and contentment.

If you plant a critical, negative, self-righteous spirit, you’re not going to reap love and respect.

If you live in the flesh, you’re going to reap spiritual corruption and the fleshy results of living in the flesh.

If you eat tons of fat and sugar, you’re going to reap morbid obesity and diabetes. There’s just no way around it.

If  you live in the Spirit, your’e going to reap love, peace, joy, and all the other fruit of the Spirit.

One of the things I say to so many of my clients is this:  When you choose the behavior, you choose the consequence. There is no avoiding it. Even when you sincerely repent and turn away from sin, you will still bear the natural consequences of your behavior. That doesn’t mean you aren’t forgiven. It just means that there are unavoidable results of the behaviors we choose.

Friday Counseling Issues: Helicopter Moms

Before you tune out, just relax.  This isn’t going to be a post yelling at conscientious, dedicated mothers. There are never too many of those. I do want to make some observations, though, based on some things I see fairly often in my practice.  If it doesn’t describe you, you’re good to go.  If the shoe fits. . . .well, at least please think about it 🙂

First, I want to say that I think the term helicopter mom is snarky and unkind. What I know beyond a doubt is that the intentions of an overprotective mother are for nothing but the good of her child. She has invested in her child heart and soul, and what seems overbearing to her child and, perhaps, to observers, is simply her ongoing desire to see that child succeed.

Nothing wrong with that, right?

Here’s the thing: Any good thing, taken too far, becomes a negative instead of a positive.  Think in terms of sugar, chocolate, alcohol, financial success, exercise and diet, and so on. All pleasant and good until they are taken too far and become obsessions.

A mother who is obsessed with her child and his welfare has gone too far.

As a teacher, years ago, I dreaded certain moms. In their minds, the entire educational system was responsible not only for her child’s education, but also for his physical, emotional, and social welfare. If the child came home unhappy, the mom was sure to come to school the next day with her cannon loaded, looking for the culprit who caused her child’s misery.

She maybe could have aimed those cannons at herself, because the one thing she isn’t doing in her devotion to her child is teaching him to stand on his own two feet and be responsible for his own behavior. She is not allowing any difficult consequences to go unchallenged. The child will grow up to always expect someone else to bail him out. He will have a hard time understanding that when you choose the behavior, you choose the consequence.

There are a couple of identifying sentences that overprotective moms (dads,too, by the way) use whenever their efforts are frustrated:  “I was just trying to help!  It was just a suggestion!”

They do not–will not–see that their constant hovering over the child has become interference. They don’t realize that the child needs to have the freedom to mess up, make mistakes, get knocked down a time or two and learn to get back up and try again.

Some kids learn early to cope with these ubermoms. They learn to let the constant stream of warnings, instructions, reminders and questions slide off their shoulders.  Others become angry and rebellious, demanding their space and their independence of the smothering concern of someone who is ALWAYS “just trying to help.”

One of my major concerns about these well-meaning but overly aggressive parents is how thier obsession with their children affects their marriages.  There are some women who, the minute they know they are pregnant, feel that their immortal destiny is fulfilled in bearing and rearing THE PERFECT CHILD.  This will be a child to whom no harm will come; who will know that Mom always has his back, no matter what horrendous behavior he has committed; a child that the world will recognize as being something special in human history.

And while this incredible child is incubating, the father learns that he has just lost his position as first place in his wife’s life.  After the child is born, he will experience a slowly but clearly widening gap in their relationship as more and more of her energy is poured into her child or children. She just has nothing left for him. The least little whimper or gasp from the baby’s room has her flying to the rescue, and if she finds that Baby is sound asleep, she may pick him up and rock him anyway just because she loves to do it.

A little bit of that kind of thing is fine.  Take it too far, you’re going to reap the whirlwind.

The child should never be the center of a parent’s existence. Eventually, in spite of all efforts to keep him safe at home, that child is going to spread his little wings and fly, and then Helicopter Mom or Dad will have nothing to do with their time–except, of course, to send a prodigious number of texts, emails, voicemails and requests to be called.  Sometimes I think the electronic age has done more damage than we will ever know.

If you see  yourself in this short little article, take a step back. Give your child room to breathe.  You’re a well-meaning, dedicated parent, and we would be a better world if there were more like you.  Just don’t take it too far.

Don’t clip the rotor blades on your child’s helicopter.  He needs to learn to fly alone.

Take Care of Each Other

Galatians 6:6. “Let him that is taught in the Word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.”

Do you have a pastor-teacher who has and is teaching you in the Word?  Then take care of him. This verse is partly about material caring; making sure the pastor-teacher’s needs are met, that he has the time he needs to study and do other work connected with the ministry.

It goes beyond the material, too.  Are we praying for our pastors, Bible study teachers, Sunday school teachers? Are we encouraging them when we are blessed by what they are saying?

When you run across a passage that suddenly opens up with a whole new blessing for you, do you share it with your pastor, elder, deacon, teacher?

This is practical application of grace in action. We need to heed it.

Bear Your Own Burden

Galatians 6:4. “But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden.”

Paul certainly knew what it was to bear his own burden. His ministry was incredibly effective, and incredibly hard.

I think my Dake’s Study Bible explains this passage better than anything else I’ve found:

Let every man test his own work and conduct by the law of Christ and not by others, and he will find out just what he has in himslef to boast about. Every man must bear his own load, responsibility, for himself, but one can help share the burden, grief, misery, and pressure of another.

I”m reminded of the words from an old hymn: “In my hand no price I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling.”

Mountain-top Experience

Galatians 6:3. “For, if a man think himself to be something, whe he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.”

This is certainly not a picture of bearing one another’s burdens!  I like the message of yesterday’s graphic a whole lot better.  People who tend to hold themselves in high esteem are rarely going to come down off their mountaintops to lend a hand to anyone else. So impressed with their own importance they are that they don’t realize an important truth: It does no good to have a mountain-top experience if you don’t go back down to the valley to feed the people.

No one can survive very long at the peak of a very high mountain. No water. Thin oxygen. Poor growing conditions. And it’s cold.  We have those experiences, spiritually, and it can be exhilarating. But it’s useless if we can’t get over ourselves and minister to others.

Some wise soul has said that he he blows his own horn generally plays a solo.

Bear One Another’s Burdens

Galatians 6:2, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

I was contacted by a friend the other day who is carrying a huge and ungainly load of sorrow.  She just needed to talk, and to maybe get some counsel. We spent quite some time discussing her situation, and my heart is heavy for her. I did try to give her some practical suggestions, but mostly I listened, and promised her that I would lift her up to the Lord.

We can’t always physically help to carry burdens for others, but when we can, we should. Most churches I’ve been in have a system for providing meals when a member is sick. Others offer child care, or rides to appointments, or help with cleaning and laundry.   When such help is within our power, we need to offer it with a heart of love and compassion.

When prayer is what we have to offer, we shouldn’t say, “All I can do is pray.”  Prayer is the best help we can give anyone, because when we pray we go to the One Who can lift the burden completely.

Friday Counseling Issues: What If?

It’s wonderful to have in inquiring mind.  We need analytical, detail-oriented people in our world to keep everything from falling apart, including our own bodies 🙂  I just went to have blood drawn this morning in preparation for a doctor’s appointment on Monday. My tech is one I’m becoming friends with.  She knows which arm is most likely to pop a good vein.  She’s quick and careful, checking and double checking, as she should.   I didn’t even feel the needle go in. That’s how good she is.

Our doctors, nurses, techs, mechanics, engineers, pilots–this could become a very long list–absolutely need to be analytical and cautious,  triple checking every procedure. I’m very thankful for these people in my own life, because they help keep me healthy, safe, and comforable.

Don’t they ever goof up?  Sure.  We’ve all heard the horror stories. You have to admit, though, that it’s rare.

But listen:  Any strength taken too far becomes a weakness. This particular strength can drive a person to anxiety, despair, depression and darkness.

I call it the “What If Syndrome” (WIS).

One of the things I hear often from these folks is “But what if. . . .” And then they go on to give me a list of probable and improbable events that could happen if they follow the profoundly wise advice I have just given them.

For example (I’m feeling a bit wry this morning, so please pardon me ahead of time):

“What should I do if my mother-in-law asks me why I by Xbrand of toilet paper instead of a (cheaper)(more expensive) brand?”

“Kindly tell her that this is the brand your husband, her son, prefers, and that maybe she should take it up with him.”

“But (they ALWAYS  but me at this point) what if she keeps asking me?  What if she says she can’t use XBrand because she’s allergic? What if she talks to my husband and he says he’ll tell me to get her brand?  What if she cries and accuses me of not loving her?  What if . . . . . .?”

And this whole time, I’m sitting there thinking, “What if I turn off your worry button?”

But I say, “Look, most of this stuff will never happen, and you’ll have wasted time and energy worrying uselessly. If she asks you again, look directly at her and say, “Asked and answered.”  Then walk away and go scrub the toilet or something. Refuse to engage with her.  It’s a silly conversation to begin with, and does not merit all this angst.”

“But what if. . . ”

And that’s when I say, “”Okay, just stop it now. Stop it! Listen to me. You are creating the situation here, she is not. You cannot control her.  You can only control how you react to her.  Simply refuse to engage. Ask her to chop some onions or something, but do NOT continue in a conversation you cannot win and that isn’t important.”

“What if she gossips against me?”   She will.  You can’t stop her. Besides, it isn’t important what other people think of you.

“What if she lies to my friends about me?”  What did I just say? Your friends won’t believe her. The rest don’t matter.

“What if she convinces my husband. . .”  And right there I cut her off at the pass, and I say,”Where on earth does all this stuff come from?  Do you lie awake at night making up all the worst possible scenarios?   You need to elminate those two words from your thinking and your vocabulary.

“What two words?”

Sigh.  Shake my head in despair.

“The words what if!  They do you no good; they do you a lot of harm. The Bible says we are not to give any thought (worry) to tomorrow, because today’s evil is enough to keep us busy.  Look, you are an analytical, detail-oriented person, and that’s a wonderful thing.  But you’re taking it too far, and you’re going to end up in a straight jacket over what mightcouldmaybe happen. I’m going to give you a website.  I want you to watch the video every single day for a week, and then come back and we’ll talk some more, okay.  I’m sorry, but our time is up.

Restore Such an One

Galatians 6:1. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”

This might be a good time to go back to Gal. 5:22 and look again at the fruit of the Spirit: lOVE, JOY, PEACE, LONGSUFFERING, GENTLENESS, GOODNESS, FAITH, MEEKNESS, TEMPERANCE. (I didn’t put those in caps on purpose, but I think I’ll let it stand. )

So what are the identifying features of those who are spiritual?  Right there. The fruit of the Spirit=spirituality.

Notice that the verse says we are to restore the one who is “overtaken” in sin. This would seem to imply that the person did not set out to sin; was not rebellious and willful, but rather fell into temptation, perhaps through injudicious choices, that he was then unable to resist. Remembe Peter?  He had just sworn to Jesus that he would never deny Him, yet when temptation came, he was weak and unable to stand. He lied, three times; he betrayed the Savior that he loved.

I don’t know for sure, but I’m thinking Peter looked back on those moments with deep remorse and regret as time passed. I’m also sure that he knew he was forgiven, both by Jesus and by his fellow apostles and other Christians. What a loss it would have been to Christianity if they had all just coldly turned their backs on Peter for his sin!

I have learned, over many years, that harsh judgment seldom regains a fallen person. Yes, he must face his sin and confess it; he must turn around and walk the other way. But we need to always respond in a spirit of meekness, considering that we too are liable to sin. No one of us is immune, or above the pull of temptation. My weakness may be different than yours, but let me assure you that it is no better or no worse.

If there had never been a murderer or an adulterer, Jesus would still have had to die.  For me. Because my sin stands between me and a holy God, and the only view God has of me is through the blood of Jesus.