Q: An adult in my life took advantage of me and I feel ashamed and dirty. Why do I end up feeling this pain and he gets away with it? Will I ever feel clean again?
A: Your question reflects a deep soul pain that is difficult to answer satisfactorily. Yet I hear it over and over in my practice-- “is there healing for me?” God answers your questions with an emphatic “YES.” Promises are numerous in the Bible as to God’s interest and ability to heal your emotional pain and walk with you through the process of recovery.
Start this journey by admitting you have been abused and that you are in pain as a result. Your emotions may be frozen due to this traumatic event, especially if you are now an adult and have shoved the memory away. This is moving from denial to feeling.
Begin to dialogue with God. Let Him know your feelings of frustration, anger and rage.
Focus on the healing, not on the “whys” of the situation.
Read the Bible, even when you may not feel like you want to or can understand it.
Assemble a recovery team which includes a professional counselor, a spiritual mentor, a prayer partner and a support system. Make sure you only tell objective people at first. Many times an abuser is a trusted part of your family or church and you may not be believed. Do not let this fear stop you from talking; only be careful to whom you disclose.
Look forward once you have processed the event and the untruths which you believe about yourself as a result of the abuse. Shame (which you may refer to when you use the word “dirty”) is a huge part of your problem. Know this truth: a shameful thing was done to you by a shameful person-- you are not shameful. You are a beautiful creation of God and did not deserve to be treated with abuse.
Read Revelation 19. If you are a Christian, you are a bride of Christ and He sees you as clean and dressed in white, fine linen. Keep your eyes on this truth as you progress through counseling.
If you need any help in finding direction for healing, or in understanding these truths, please write or email me.
Jesus knows your pain. He has suffered. Reflect this Lenten/Easter season on His painful suffering. He was treated shamefully, yet He did not see Himself as shameful. His resurrection provides victory, not only for himself, but for all who believe that He arose victorious so that we can live victorious.
Keep it simple,
Q: I’ve been told by friends and family that I have “issues” and should find a counselor. Can’t a Christian just pray and work through difficulties privately? What do I look for in a counselor? How do I find a counselor? How long will therapy be? Please give me some input.
A: It sounds like you have good friends and family. They care about you enough to at least hint that you need someone to guide you into different behavior. When you hear recommendations to seek help, most likely you are having difficulty self-confronting your “issues.” God’s Word contains all the information needed to help you enjoy a godly life with purpose and peace. God also equips individuals with the gift of encouragement, wisdom and exhortation (Romans 12:8, I Corinthians 12:4-8) in order to help members of His Body apply the principles of the Bible to their unique life struggles.
Seek a Christian helper who understands and applies God’s Word in their practice. Godly discernment and good listening skills are necessary to help determine source and solution. If your problem may be physical as well as emotional in nature (e.g. depression or addiction), seek out a helper with training in that field.
Good therapy explores the whys of behavior (beliefs) in order to correct the behavior itself. Impetus to change comes from understanding what motivates your thinking and behaving. Correction or guidance to change comes as the therapist points out behavior inconsistent with stated beliefs. Godly discernment and good listening skills are necessary to help determine source and solution. If your problem may be physical as well as emotional in nature (e.g. depression or addiction), seek out a helper with training in that field.
Counselor, therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist are some titles or licenses that Christians have earned in order to more effectively have the tools and knowledge available to greater understand emotional health and healing. Start your search for helpers with your church. Look for support groups, lay counseling opportunities or referrals to Christian professionals.
Therapy length will be determined by how long you need support and direction to change. You will be challenged to leave behind probabilities and look forward to possibilities. You may be using phrases like “won’t work” or “I can’t”, based on previous experience which will only keep you tied to the past. Find the faith to move forward with positive statements like “I’ll try,” or “with God’s help I can.” Changes for emotional and spiritual growth are not only good, they are godly.
Keep it simple!
Q: Why can’t I keep my New Year’s Resolutions? Every year I try but fail and end up feeling guilty for not keeping my promise.
A: So, don’t make resolutions! But, since you brought the subject up, let’s see what we can say about the “why”.
Sounds like you may be attempting, through trying to do better at something, to achieve a more perfect self. Are your resolutions too self-focused, too oriented toward being perfect? Who is your standard of measure in your resolve to change: a spouse, parent, friend, neighbor, God? Do you try to achieve your resolution(s) by yourself or do you have accountability relationships to help keep you on task?
One of my most memorable and lasting New Year’s resolution was to memorize Galatians 5:22-23, the fruit of the Spirit. I picked one of the 9 fruits and resolved to meditate on that fruit all year. When a fruit is underdeveloped or rotten, He reminds me of my resolution through stress and rest. God brings to my life growth opportunities to mature that fruit and to remind me that the Holy Spirit is the gardener, not me. A resolution that Jesus demonstrated for us is found in Matthew 19:18-19, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Paul, in Romans 15:1-7 expands on ways to practice the love of God for our neighbors. Study the word “neighbor” in the Bible and ask God, who is Love, how He can guide us in a resolution to love. Mr. Rogers, our TV neighbor, writes: “All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors—in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver” (The World According to Mister Rogers; Important Things to Remember).
The best resolution to ever have is to enjoy the life God has given you and savor each day as special.
Happy New Year, and keep it simple.
Q: My sister has many fears. She is in Christian therapy with a difficult diagnosis and is beginning to see hope for healing. She is baby stepping her way to living. Along with her childhood pain, she has had the faith of a child, alternately angry at God, and struggling to overcome with His help. Is there a place in the church for her?
A: Pain is a prerequisite for Church. If a person does not suffer the pain of sin, which causes them to cry out to God for healing, they will not be compelled to seek forgiveness. Christ will not be effective in their lives. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Everyone in church needs recovery from something.
Pain is expressed in many different ways. Mental pain is very often misunderstood and those who suffer from a mental illness feel like they won’t measure up and fit in. They very often view life through the lenses of incorrect beliefs in place since childhood. When a person struggles to line up their beliefs with God’s Word, they begin to find peace. Christian therapy, medication and a support system all help to bring Jesus to the hurting soul.
Your sister needs to come to church-- worship, fellowship and serve with the Body of Christ. Jesus interacted with people who would be labeled with mental health issues today. The Woman at the well was numbing her pain with men, Matthew and Zaccheus were filling their emptiness with money, Nicodemus was using his position to fill his void and Peter had anger management problems. Jesus healed a woman afflicted with a bloody disease which ostracized her, and He brought saneness to a lonely man living among the caves of the dead. Jesus always looked beyond behavior to the heart of a person and loved them to recovery.
Woodside is a large church with many avenues of outreach. Getting involved allows her to use her talents and gifts in service to God. Woodside offers support groups like Celebrate Recovery and Women’s Issues to discuss her feelings in a safe and confidential setting. Bible studies are available to help her grow in her inner spirit and gain confidence in the love God has for her.
Paul writes in I Timothy 1:12, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service.” God gives your sister strength, just like He provided for Saul who was renamed Paul. Pray for your sister’s courage to walk forward in strength and faith.
Keep it simple,
Q: I dread the holidays. They are far from “happy” for me. Why do I feel so depressed this time of the year? Is there anything I can do to avoid this feeling?
A: Depression is often magnified when happy occasions present themselves. Everyone else seems to be having fun, experiencing cheer, recalling fond memories and having parties. Yet persons suffering from depression feel the clouds rolling in along with the snow and want to hibernate through the season. Few are fortunate enough to escape to warmer climates. The rest paste on a fake smile and dutifully go through the motions of celebrating. Feelings of depression may be present for the following reasons:
Expectations of Christmas are greater than reality. Perfect families, immaculately decorated houses, sumptuous feasts and lavish gifts are figments of retail imaginations designed to sell the trimmings and trappings of a materialistic Christmas.
Christmas provides us with sad memories of a loss of a loved one or an estranged relationship. Perhaps our family of origin was never close and we still are holding onto unrealistic hope for healing of the relationship.
Bodies are tired out from too much planning, preparing, and partying. Perfectionism can take the joy out of giving.
Absence of sun can be depressing. Seasonal affective disorder begins to manifest itself when daylight hours are shortened. The holidays occur as the depressive symptoms of this disorder begin.
Yes, you can minimize the feelings of depression. You have already begun to move out of depression by admitting that you have these feelings and that you want to change.
Ask yourself, “What do I want Christmas to look like?” So often, we measure the perfect holiday by what someone else desires it to look like. What does Jesus want his birthday to be like? God describes his son’s birth in the gospels. It was simple, with a few favorite, faithful friends, in a poorly decorated abode with a few leftovers from a local inn.
Who do you want to spend Christmas with? Have you invited Jesus to your party? Focus on the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick and prisoners (Matthew 25:35-40).
Collect Christmas books, devotionals and novels to lift your spirits and occupy your mind. Read Christmas stories aloud to kids. Sing at nursing homes.
Let go of grudges, forgive a friend or family member.
Get a physical and discuss your feelings of depression with a doctor or mental health professional. Join a support group for persons suffering from depression. A short round of an anti-depressant or light therapy may help lift the depression so you can see clear to enjoy the season’s joys.
Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth at Christmas was to provide a way we can relate to God. Focus this season on his gifts to us; peace, joy, and love. I pray you will experience Immanuel, God with us, this Christmas season.
Keep it simple, and Merry Christmas!
Q: Why can’t some people seem to take “no” for an answer? I am in a leadership position where people expect me to be available for conversations, speaking engagements, golf outings, and fund-raisers. I feel like my private schedule is open to the public. I’m tired of explaining my reasons for wanting some alone time with my wife. Any advice on dealing with the pesky public?
A: Nancy Reagan coined a great phrase: “Just say No!” Your trouble may lie in the work “explain.” Why do you feel you need to give an explanation along with your reply?
People have trouble saying “no” for various reasons. Sometimes they want to please people, maintain their reputation as a good Christian or earn points and favors for later. In your case, it sounds like interesting requests come your way and you may sincerely wish to be able to do all these things and still maintain time for yourself and family. Perhaps you overestimate your ability to fit everything in 24 hours and still leave room for sleep. Whatever the case may be, persistent people seem to be able to sense weakness and exploit it for their benefit.
Know ahead of time what your priorities, passions and goals in life are so that you can run requests through a checklist. If a stranger or mere acquaintance asks a favor you know doesn’t fit your interests or schedule, don’t offer explanations, give reasons, make up excuses, or express interest in the request. Firmly, but politely say “no, thank you.” Make sure your body language is in line with your words. Don’t look like you regret saying no.
If a request comes from a close friend or relative, and if it’s something you want to consider, always leave yourself at least a day between the request and your answer to determine if this is a best or just a good activity to be involved in. Once again, if you chose to answer in the negative, give a simple answer like: “I considered your request and I must say no, thank you.”
Jesus had to say no a time or two. He said no to a very persistent Satan when tempted in the wilderness. He told his followers “no” to their wishes that he act more like a king, or stayed away from danger. Even as he healed some of the crowd that clamored for his touch, there were many that went away with their body still broken. He often answers us with “no.” Jesus considers all requests through his life goal of pleasing his Father and doing God’s will.
Remind those “pesky people,” that even Jesus curled up and took a nap on a boat once in awhile.
Keep it simple!
Q: I feel so lonely and unloved. My guilt is depressing me and I feel too ashamed to hang around with church people. I’m trying, but how do I get over the feeling of wanting to hide in the crowd at church?
A: First I want to commend you for being in church. If “home is where the heart is,” then church is where the heart can heal. God wants to meet you and worshipping together with a church family brings people together for a common good; to build up the Body of Christ.
“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18). Find a pastor, church leader or Christian counselor you can “reason” with to discuss your guilt and shame. Guilt and shame are not the same thing. Guilt comes from breaking a law or sinning. Shame is a powerful feeling that comes from words or actions of others that end up making us feel unworthy or unacceptable. Separate your guilt from shame so you can heal from the hurts of your past. Join a small group or Bible study.
David, in Psalm 51:7, asks God to “cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” Hyssop is a plant that has antibiotic properties that was used to wash lepers. It was used in the O.T. to apply the blood and water of purification. Jesus came to earth with the purpose of shedding His blood to pay the penalty of sin, which is death. It was God who put the longing in your heart to be in relationship, both with Him and with other Christians. The cross is where we find love and release from our burden of sin and guilt.
When Jesus died on the cross, He died to forgive all sins, those we are personally guilty of, as well as the offenses others have made against us. Human guilt and shame were carried by Jesus at the cross.
John, a witness to Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, writes in I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Release your guilt by confessing it to Jesus and thank Him for the gift of forgiveness. Ask Him to live in your heart and change you from the inside out.
Enjoy the family of God, that’s what we’re here for.
Keep it simple,