Friday Counseling Issues: How am I Going to Get Through This!

The tearful, heart-rending question is asked often in my office:  How can I do this?  How will I get through it?  Linda, tell me what to do!  Isn’t there some way to stop it?  How am I going to stand it?

At the time, it does seem to the suffering person that she just can’t go on; that he can’t find his will to live. The pain is so deep and so heavy that it’s hard to take the next breath.  And yet, we do. We do keep on breathing, we keep on going through some semblance of living a normal life, even when everything meaningful is being swept away in a tsunami of fear, doubt, hurt and pain.

Life can be really hard.

I try not to interrupt my clients who are grieving so heavily.  In fact, I encourage them to cry, to vent.  Sometimes I’ve just sat and waited while someone weeps for half the session.  It’s a good thing I have access to a big supply of tissues!  When the pain is so acute that my clients can’t do much more than gasp and sob, there is no point in my handing them the most applicalbe scriptures I know. There is no point in throwing them cliche’s like, “Just trust the promises of God.”

Did you know that saying something like that, at the wrong time, only serves to exacerbate the misery?  The implication is clear that the person is NOT trusting God, so now he feels guilty on top of everything else.  We need to be careful about our words when we are in the presence of such grief.

Once the storm of weeping has subsided, and my client no longer interrupts me with another torrent of words and questions, I do this:  I tell her how sorry I am that she is suffering.  If it’s applicable, I tell her that her great, overwhelming anger and hurt are justified. I tell her that her reaction is normal. That she can expect to feel this horrible sense of loss, depression, anger, and confusion for some time.  Normal.  You’d be surprised how helpful it is to know that what you’re suffering is normal.

Finally, we’re able to talk, and that’s when I get down to practical help.

First I remind my client that even though he feels as if God has forsaken him, there is no truth in that feeling.  I go over again the idea that feelings change, and cannot be trusted; that truth remains the same no matter what the circumstances.

I remind my clients of God’s unconditional love; of His promise never to leave or forsake us; of Jesus’ own suffering on our behalf, and His feeling that God had forsaken Him as He hung in agony on the cross.

Then I take the person to Psalm 13, a little gem of David’s retrospection of an earlier time in his life when he felt God had forsaken him, and how in six short verses he returns to the joy of God’s salvation, even though his circumstances remained unchanged.

Now I can offer specific scriptures:  Psalm 119:165; Philippians 4:4-8; Jeremiah 29:11-15; Isaiah 26:3; Psalm 90 and 91.  As I read or recite some of these passage aloud, I often get to witness the visible relaxing of my clients’ body as the Word of God does its work.

I also like to mention Oswald Chambers.  In his wonderful little book My Utmost for His Highest, he offers this advice:  When you don’t know what to do, you pray and do the next thing.

We all have a next thing. We have to fold laundry, pick up the kids, grocery shop, go to work, make a call, clean the toilet. You get through whatever the trial is with incessant prayer and doing the next thing, whatever it may be. Put one foot in front of the other, keep moving. One day passes into another, and as time moves on, the hurt becomes less unbearable.

I know. You’re in the middle of your horror story, and you don’t think it will ever get any better. My friend, if you know the Lord, if you seek Him during your trial, I promise you that it WILL get better. Not today, or tomorrow, or next week or next month.  Maybe not even next year.  But at some point you will wake up and realize you did not cry during the night.

Weeping endures for the night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5). You have to walk through the pain.  There is no other way out but to go through it. The trick is to keep your eyes trained not on the darkness, but on the promise of Joy on the other side.

Wisdom and Prudence

Ephesians 1:8. “Wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence:”

Abounded.  Abundant.  Full to the brim and flowing over the top, with no end in sight. God loves lavishly; He gives us wisdom and prudence.   He lavishes the wisdom of His Word on us, and through it, and the blessing of the Holy Spirit, we can also abound in wisdom and understanding, prudence, insight.

Do you know someone who just seems to have a deep understanding of the Word, and who can always point you to a principle or an answer to your question?  That person has tapped into the abundance of God’s wisdom and prudence.  There is no problem for which God’s Word cannot provide direction.  It is the Word of God!

In all the ages that have passed since the first book of the Bible was written (that would be the book of Job, by the way)  evil, godless people have done their best to destroy it.  What they don’t understand is that God, and His Word, can never be destroyed. Never.  It may be suppressed in some times and places, and that effort is being made in my beloved America today.

It’s not going to prevail, not forever.  God’s Word has stood the test of time, and it always will.  It is the basis of our faith, and it will not be destroyed. God’s wisdom and prudence abound to us through His Word.  It is the best treasure anyone could ever have.

In Whom we Have Redemption

Ephesians 1:7. “In Whom we have redemption trhough His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”

All that we have in the first six verses of this chapter is through no works of our ow; it is only through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, and His resurrection that we find forgiveness of sin. It is only through the fathomless riches of His grace that we are accepted in the Beloved.

Accepted in the Beloved

Ephesians 1:6. “To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.”

The wrap-up to this incredible section of the book of Ephesians is one of my favorite verses.  Because of His glory and grace, we are accepted in the Beloved!

No power of our own could have wrought such a miracle. There is nothing we have to offer that makes us worthy of His love and acceptance; only the blood of Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection, could have worked to cleanse us so that we are acceptable to a holy God.

The only view God has of me is through the blood of Jesus!

N

Predestinated unto the Adoption of Children

Ephesians 1:5. “Having predistinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,”

Pkease notice that starting with verse 3, and ending with verse 6, it is one long sentence. This is all one topic, one thought, divided into verses not by Paul but by the translators who would later separate his words into verses, mostly for the sake of making things easier to locate. Those translators did a pretty good job, over all, but we need to read it as Paul meant it to be read and understood.  I am using the separate verses to break it down for the sake of brevity, and paying attention to the details. Tomorrow we’ll finish the sentence, and then I hope you’ll go back and read it in its entirety.

So. Predestinated. Huge word, and the basis of many, many arguments that are, in my opinion, a waste of time. Here is what I believe we need to understand:

Long before the world was made, by our reckoning of time, God chose us in Christ to be with His Son for all eternity. The entrance of sin into His perfect world did not change His purpose, which He worked out according to His own grace. This grace is available to all, unconditionally.

Have you ever watched a horde of little kids at an Easter egg hunt?  The eggs are out there, free for the taking.  Some kids seem to have perfect vision, and eagerly rush about filling their baskets.  Others tend to run right past eggs lying there in plain view, and some return to their parents empty-handed  because they just could not see what was right there.

That’s kind of the way we are. Some of us, seeking relationship with God, find it quickly and easily.  Others hunt longer because, perhaps, they had a picture in their minds of what it would look like, and they didn’t find that specific picture.  Others go empty-handed because they rejected what was in plain sight, even though they could have taken it easily. It wasn’t what they thought they wanted, so they passed it by.

Revelation 22:17 says, “Whosoever will, let him take of the Water of Life freely.”  The invitation is open to all, but not all accept it.  Once a person does accept that invitation and enters the door of salvation, he finds  written on the inside of the door, “Chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.” God always had His heart fixed on any who would open the door, but we don’t find that out until we go inside.

The inimitable D. L. Moody said it this way: ” The whosoever wills are the elect, and the whosoever wont’s are the non-elect.”

Too often, we put the whole responsibility on God. “If God has not chosen me, then I am not one of the elect and will never be saved!  That’s just not fair!”

It is also just not true.  ALL are chosen of God; not all choose Him in return. It is only when we respond to His invitation and come to Him for forgiveness and salvation that we understand that we must choose Him in response to His having chosen us.

The blood of Jesus was shed for all, not just for those who accept it.  The reason not all enjoy the benefits is because they do not choose to receive them.

So when we choose to love God and accept His invitation to eternity with Him, we are adopted, according to His predestination for us, and according to the good pleasure of His will. Adopted as joint-heirs with Jesus Christ into all that heaven holds, because we chose Him.

Bits and Pieces, None of them Related to the Other

It’s a late Sunday afternoon,a  gorgeous October day that makes my heart squeeze.  The light here in October is just perfect.  The blue of the sky intensifies, and the colors are amazing.  It’s a paean of praise to the Creator, and a reward to us for enduring the dog days of August.  I truly love fall here in my corner of PA. 

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I just wiped up the kitchen, after loading up the dishwasher.  I have a new kitchen, which any of you who have been with me for a while know all about–probably in too much detail.  I really love my countertops. Granite, in a pretty pattern called Kashmir White–or maybe White Kashmir, I don’t remember. (This is not my sink–just a stock picture I pulled of Google images, but the cabinets below are pretty much the same color as mine.) They clean up so quickly and easily, and they’re very forgiving.  Right now, I’m enjoying a cup of orange tea sweetened with a teaspoon of honey (gotta watch those carbs!) as I listen to the dishwasher  do its dreary chore for me.  This is the first time I’ve ever had a dishwasher that really works, and I love it.  I think even Terry is becoming convinced it was a good idea.  The kitchen’s not quite finished because there is lots of outdoor work Terry took care of in the good weather, but he’ll get back to it when he can’t be outside any more.

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I’m also thinking about my church this afternoon.  Our pastor and one of our deacons are visiting missionaries we support in Mozambique, so the assistant pastor and a couple of other men are filling the pulpit. We have an unusual number of biblically sound, gifted-to-teach men in our church, and I love it.  We are blessed, for a relatively small church, with so many godly men who lead their families well.  My son-in-law is one of them.

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And speaking of kids (that was a pretty good segue, don’t you think?)  I really love going into the church on Sunday and seeing three bright and shiny faces smiling at me. “Hi, Grandma!  Is Grandpa here?”   All my grandchildren hold their own special places in my heart, and they will only understand that when they are grandparents themselves, if the Lord tarries. 

We got news yesterday that our South Dakota family will be here for Christmas!  Can’t wait!  Can’t even think about it too much or I  just get too wound up.

My grands are growing up so fast!  The oldest is 18, and the youngest is almost six. There are nine of them, with a batch in the middle who are all within a year of each other in age.  I can’t wait to get my hands on them 🙂

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I’m sitting in a new chair in my office here at home.  For several months, we’ve been trying to find a chair that adjusts and supports my wonky back, since I spend a good bit of time in it.  I think we may finally have found one.  It has good lumbar support,

and adjusts to fit my stumpy little legs. So thank you, Lord, for helping us find the right one and making it within our price range. The test of how good it is?  After I’ve been sitting for a while and then I need to stand up.  So far, I’m making that manuever without sounding and feeling like a ratchet wrench.

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Along with many of my contemporaries, I’m fighting the Type 2 Diabetes scourge.   I’ve started swimming a couple of times each week, which should help my back, as well.  I’m counting carbs, and doing pretty well at losing some weight and realizing how much I was overdoing it on the carbs before.  We drove past a Dunkin’ Donuts on our way home from church, and there was a line of cars circling it like an army of ants.

“Go ahead!” I hollered, to Terry’s utter amazement. “Stuff your faces with all those empty carbs, give yourselves diabetes and a belly ache!  I’m driving right on by!”   Truth?  I’m green with envy.  I love donuts.  I want donuts. I’m not getting any donuts.  If I think about it, I get really cranky.  So in a little while I’ll go have a small apple with some cheddar cheese or a little peanut butter, and I’ll convince myself it’s just as tasty as a donut.  Yeah.

But don’t I feel better now that I’m getting some exercise and staying away from all that sugar?   I don’t know.  Maybe.  Ask me again in January after I get my next A1C number.

For those of you who are not diabetic, be thankful you don’t know what  A1C means. And lay off the donuts.

I think I’m done.  See you tomorrow 🙂

Friday Counseling Issues: Children of Divorce

“The kids will be just fine.  They’ll cope, and you need to dump the jerk you married after what he did.  Don’t worry about the kids.  Kids are resilient, and  they bounce back fast.”

Sometimes  grownups are less mature than their own children.  Some friend gives them this kind of advice, and because they are deeply hurt over a betrayal in the marriage, they think maybe the friend is right.

She’s not.

It’s true that children are resilient, but it’s not true that children of divorce wil be “just fine.” They are the most hurt participants in this tragedy; they lose the most, they have to adapt to change the most, their financial circumstances are often affected the most, they have more to lose than anyone else.

And perhaps most difficult of all, they almost always have to deal with some new person entering their lives as a step-parent, often accompanied by step-siblings.  Their whole world is rocked.

There are tons of studies that have been done on this subject.  They detail both the short-term and long-term effects of divorce on children. Some of them make for pretty dry reading.  I did some research on the topic for a paper of my own when I was working on my master’s degree, and I have to tell you that my eyes crossed sometimes while I was doing the research.

More important, though, is the heartbreak that accompanies the process and results of divorce, both for the parents and the children.  Divorce often seems like the only possible answer, but it also often opens a host of new problems.

If you are interested in reading about all this, I found an excellent paper that goes into a lot of detail supported by linear studies.  You can find it here.

The paper covers the whole range of topics that children of divorce cope with, from matters of faith to education, income and earning capacity, crime, abuse and neglect, drug use, government services, health and well-being, and so on.

Not every child will experience every problem. Some divorces actually do make the child’s life better, if one of the parents is abusive, alcoholic, drug-addicted, or criminal in other ways.  I had one young man tell me that the best day of his life was when his father got carted off to prison.  The second-best day was when his mom’s divorce decree was final.

I’m not being naive here.  I know that there are situations like that one.  However, the usual story is not like that, and children are often the victims who are overlooked in the process of the divorce, and are expected to happily move from mom’s to dad’s and back again for the rest of their growing up years.

It’s hard, and there’s just no way around that.  I’d encourage you to read the article.

If you are in a difficult marriage, please move heaven and earth to figure out a way to avoid divorce. Your kids don’t deserve to have to endure the fall-out.

Holy and Without Blame

Ephesians 1:4. “According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: ”

A continuation of verse 3, this verse leads us into the realm of election and predestination. I have to admit that I approach this passage with trepidation.  I remember the endless wrangles among the preacher boys in my Bible college concerning foreordination, predestination, free will, and so on.  You may have a different view than what I’m offering here. That’s fine. This is clearly a topic that has not been resolved since Paul penned the words, and I’m making no claims to resolve it now. You are free to comment. I would ask only that you be civil, kind, and brief.  No one is going to take the time to read a lengthy exposition.  And please, no name-calling.  We can disagree and still be brothers and sisters in Christ.  It will all be settled  one day, and it won’t be because of anything you or I have said.

God has chosen us. The truly important thing here is that our salvation is not because of anything we have done, but that God chose us before He created the world. I John 4:19 tells us that we love Him because He first loved us.  Our love for God is in response to His great love, and His sacrifice of His Son. God Himself purposed our salvation in eternity past. Jesus bought our salvation at Calvary. The Holy Spirit touches our hearts and brings us to Him.  There is no credit that we can take. It is all of God.

Before the foundation of the world  speaks of the doctrine of electionCharles Haddon Spurgeon said, “God certainly must have chosen me before I came into this world or He never would have done so afterwards.”  This concept is a problem to those who want everything about salvation to be logical and explainable in human terms.  I think where we miss the point is in forgetting that God does not operate by our human dependence upon time.  Eternity past, present and future are all one to Him. He is not bound by anyone’s clock. For God, the past and the future are all one eternal now. He looked across eternity and decided that the heavens and the legions of angels were not enough; He wanted to include redeemed, sinful humans to increase praise and glory to Himself, and to gift us with eternity in heaven.

Do I have to be able to understand this and make logical sense out of it before I accept it as truth?

No, of course not.  When is love ever logical?  This I do know, it all made sense to God, and because He is God He gets to make the rules.

Isaiah 55:8-9. “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

To be holy and without blame before Him in love is the greatest gift humankind could ever receive.

We’re just getting started.  I’m going to move through this passage slowly and carefully.  Come back on Monday for the next verse.

In Heavenly Places

Ephesians 1:3. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.”

The beauty of the earth is so astonishing that it seems impossible to me that heaven will be even better, beyond our wildest imaginings! I have seen the Northern Lights on a cold winter night in northern Minnesota.  It’s a breathtaking sight, indeed.

God is the Father of the Lord, Jesus Christ. He sustains that relationship  to Jesus, and the wonderful thing is that when we come to Him in repentance and accept Jesus as our Savior, God becomes our Father as well, and makes us joint heir with Jesus to all that heaven holds.

“He hath blessed us.  He’s already blessed us.  Hath is past tense, It’s a done deal. Right here and now, I am blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus. I obtained every blessing that God has for a redeemed sinner when I put my trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. I have it all!

It is one thing, however, to have the blessings; another things to truly make them yours. So what are some of these blessings?

Forgiveness of our sins, with justification from all things, with sanctification in Christ; a robe of perfect righteousness, with heavenly citizenship; a place in the Body of Christ; making us heirs of His riches in Christ Jesus, to name a few.

God has made Jesus to be unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

“In heavenly places.” This is why we can sing “This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through; my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue!”  Once we are saved, we are heavenly beings having an earthly experience. Our true home, and our true riches, are in Christ with God.

There is such depth in this one verse. I generally try to keep my posts  short enough not to be a chore, so I’m going to stop here.  I encourage you, however, to dig further into the meaning and the promises of this wonderful verse.

Grace and Peace

Ephesians 6:1-2.  “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:  Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Several noteable things always appear in Paul’s greetings to the recipients of his letters.  The custom of the day was to identify oneself at the very beginning of the letter, adding whatever information the writer felt important.

So the first thing Paul states is his apostleship by the will of God. Why is this important?

The original twelve were all men who actually walked with Jesus during His ministry on earth, so one requirement of apostleship was that one must have actually physically seen the Lord.

Paul did. His experience is different from the rest of the apostles, and you can read about it in Acts 26, and especially verse 16.  He was chosen by God to be the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Next, Paul clarifies that he is writing to believers. The saints were those who had accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior, and had already heard the gospel of salvation. He was not addressing a different group when he said and to the faithful in Christ Jesus. The saints and the faithful were one and the same. All Paul is doing here is recognizing the faithfulness of the believers at Ephesus.

saint is not a sinless person.  A saint is a separated person, separated to God in Christ Jesus.  If you are a born again believer, then you are a saint.  Your faihtfulness is another matter, and is influenced by the degree to which you are dedicated to living holy in Christ Jesus.

We do not become saints by saintliness, but we should be characterized by saintliness because we are saints.

Now, in verse 2, we have the apostolic salutation.  In a later we might write today, we might say, “Dear  Susan,” or some other such standard greeting.  Paul offers them grace and peace from God, Who is their Father; and from the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is His Son. This is not saving grace.  They already had that.  Rather, it is the grace to meet each day, and the grace of knowing our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

So often in this Godless culture we hear the plaintive notes of the wonderful song Amazing Grace, how Sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!  I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.” And every time I hear it used at the funeral of some celebrity, politician, or otherwise famous person, I wonder.  Did the deceased have any true idea of what it is to be saved by grace?  To live in grace?  To have dying grace, and to look forward to eternal grace?

It is a sad and solemn thing to me that we have used this beautiful song with so little thought.

Similarly, to have peace with God is to know one’s sins are forgiven, and that eternity in heaven is secure. It is to be in right relationship with Him, and to look forward to the day when we see Him face to face. It is peace in the good times and the hard times, an inner peace that passes all understanding.

Isn’t it amazing, all that Paul has to say in two short verses? That’s because it was the Holy Spirit leading his thoughts and his pen.