Tag Archives: emotional health

The Envious Eye

envious eye by nirots

image courtesy of nirots / freedigitalphotos.net

I’ve been really discouraged and frustrated lately about being single. The older I get, the more it becomes a real threat that I won’t have a husband or family. I know God calls some people to singleness, but I have never felt that call on my life. In addition, the Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:9, “But if they cannot control themselves, they should go ahead and marry. It’s better to marry than to burn with lust.” And believe me folks, especially in the last few months: I’ve been on FIRE, out of control, and more than a little ticked at God about the whole thing.

For Christmas, my bosses gave me some little hand lotions and a spa gift card. Now, I don’t use conventional hand lotions because of all the chemicals, but these were really nice sets of lotions and I wanted them to go to a good home. So I stopped by a few offices on my way through the building last Friday, eager to give out these little lotions to some friends and coworkers. At the last office, I stopped and gave the last few lotions to the two secretaries that I always chat with when I visit that office. They were excited to have such a nice, little gift and very thankful that I thought of them.

As the two secretaries were sampling the lotions, another girl—we will call her Gina—came out from her private office and asked what everyone was doing. One of the secretaries answered, “Oh, Michelle brought us some lotions.” Immediately, Gina began to make a big deal about how I didn’t bring her anything, and I should have shared with her and not just these two girls, ad nauseam. When I pointed out to her that I was the giver, and she did not get to dictate who I gave anything to, she got even more incensed. I also noted to her that I had given her really nice gifts in the past, and she replied that that was “a couple of years ago.” I also pointed out to her that she had acted in this way before when I gave something to someone else—she had come in and started taking things that I had purposed for someone else. She then stated that the person I had given those things to had WANTED to share them with everyone. At this point, the two secretaries were so undone at how Gina was acting that they offered up their lotions to her. Then she made a big deal of not accepting them because that wasn’t what I wanted. The whole situation was totally embarrassing for Gina, even if she didn’t realize it or think so.

As for me personally, I was livid, really. You see, I had given to Gina in the past, and I felt it was pretty crappy and ungrateful for her to interrupt a thoughtful moment with her incredibly selfish banter. I was mad mostly because Gina is a Christ follower, and that kind of nonsense makes believers look incredibly petty—it was trial size hand lotions, for crying out loud. As I was recalling the situation and my anger to my mother, I said, “My gosh, does Gina act this way when God gives someone else something that He doesn’t give her? Because that would explain a lot!”

A few hours later, as I was stewing and trying to pray about this matter, God nudged me about that particular comment. He said very clearly to me, “But Michelle, isn’t that how YOU think? Don’t you believe that I should give you a husband and kids? Don’t you look at other people and go, they have a husband and kids, why don’t I?”

And that hurt. Because (as always) He was absolutely right.

I tend to believe that I am not all that selfish, but it’s really not true. My selfishness comes out in different ways—in fact, I act towards God like Gina did to me. I may not do it over hand lotion, but recently, I’ve definitely been doing it over getting a new job, having my own place, moving to a warmer state, and having that elusive family/husband. And though the Lord has provided so much for me—both now and in the past, I tend to interrupt any kind of thanksgiving with my own selfish banter about what I want and need right now that He has not given me. Or what someone else has that I want. And when God gave me a brief glimpse into that, I was embarrassed—this time, for myself.

Matthew 20 begins with a parable about a vineyard owner who is searching for laborers to work his fields. He hires three sets of laborers at three different times during the day, and each group he agrees to pay a denarius. The other groups are not aware of what each is getting paid. So imagine the anger of the first and second group when the third group gets paid exactly what the first two are getting paid. The owner doesn’t want to hear their grumbling. He is basically like, “Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? So then take your money and go.” But then he says something that catches my eye and rifles through my heart like a shot: “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?” (Matthew 20:15)

This is the point that I tried to relay to Gina, and it’s the point that God in turn relayed to me. Gina had an envious eye, but so do I—and maybe you do, too. Wanting something that God hasn’t decided to give me yet isn’t the sin. The sin is seeing God’s generosity in other people’s lives and being envious that those gifts haven’t been given to me. It’s okay for me to want to be married and have kids and to have my own place, etc.—as long as I don’t want those things more than I want Jesus, as long as wanting those things doesn’t become the focal point of my life, as long as those wants aren’t what compel me. Seeing others get what I think I deserve—that is the real sin. What I truly deserve is death. Anything I get beyond that is gravy!

Mostly, I need to make sure I am taking pains to pluck out the envious eye every time it surfaces and regrows in my life. Because when you have an envious eye, you’re not going to see anything the way it really is—you’re only going to see what you didn’t get or what you don’t have. And by doing so, you’ll miss out on the real blessings God is showering you with every single day.

Advertisements

Breaking Bad: The Purpose

image courtesy of sattva / freedigitalphotos.net

image courtesy of sattva / freedigitalphotos.net

Maybe you’re wondering how this all fits together.

My original desire to break bad, which erupted after a difficult year, led to a crisis of conscience in many ways. Quite honestly, for those six weeks, I was perfectly fine with falling back into all those (lust) sins that so easily entangle. It can be difficult being single in today’s world, especially as part of the church. I’m not one of those single Christian women who is going to sugarcoat how hard it is by telling you that I quote Bible verses that keep me going and bring me back on track. It just doesn’t happen all of the time. Sometimes, Scripture consoles me and brings me understanding and wisdom. But when it comes to my purity and singleness struggles, I find very little solace in the Word. I’m not afraid to admit that, because I think God meets me in my honesty. In addition, Christians in general are terrible at comforting singles. Save for one, my married friends are collectively the most terrible people in the world at understanding my single girl struggles. It’s like they forgot what it’s like to be single in a sex-crazed world. Friends who have been married only a couple of years—and who three years ago were crying next to me—have taken up spouting verses and Christian idioms at me when I struggle with remaining pure and being good. So I have stopped confiding in them about my issues, because even when I tell them nicely that they’re not helping, they still fall back on those outdated practices.

Save for one. There is that one married Christian woman who helped to bring me back from the edge of breaking bad. She listened. She cried with me. She shared her own struggles with loneliness in her marriage—not to distract or compare, but to share that she struggles, too. And she never once shared a Bible verse or beat me down with the Bible—she only promised to pray for me and to encourage me. And I know that she did—because the day I confided in her about wanting to be bad and cried with her about being single and the day she began to pray for me is the day I met God in a worship song as I cried over Chris Evans’ mercy soul.

You see, there’s this delicate balance between our sin struggles, God’s grace, and our calling. I think, in many ways, that breaking bad is where much of our PureID™ is formed and found. Our sin struggles are where God meets us, where He talks to us about our identity as He is purifying us, where He places a call on our lives to bring others to Him in specific ways. It’s where He begins the refining process, even if we’re not ready. I’m not “fine” with my sin anymore—but I’m also not beating myself up about it like I used to. In essence, I think I’m beginning to understand grace more simply by being broken for the mercy male.

I wish I could tell you what this means for me and mercy males—but I don’t know. Here’s what I do know: I know that I haven’t quite broken bad yet. I am still struggling with daydreaming and lust. But for the first time in the midst of this struggle, I have felt the Lord draw closer to me. I’ve had the Spirit intercede for me with words and groans that I don’t understand. And last night, I prayed in depth for all the mercy males I’ve known in my life, and I prayed for the ones I don’t know—like Chris Evans. After I finished, I tried to fall asleep but couldn’t for three miserable hours—and God tenderly let me know that it was because I wasn’t finished praying for them. Once I did (at 12:30 a.m.!), sleep came easily.

I want to know what’s next in my calling to the mercy male more than anyone. But I believe wholeheartedly in Luke 16:10, which says that whoever is faithful in the little things will be faithful in the large things. I also believe in the parable of the talent, that when God entrusts us with something—small or large, He is the one who will multiply it, if we are faithful and we trust Him. And though it isn’t “little” at all, I think that, right now, my job is simply to pray and intercede for the mercy male—all of them, some of them, one of them. Where that leads next, I don’t know. But I now know that if you allow God to work even amidst your greatest sins and struggles, your breaking bad can lead to His greater good.

My First Love

Success. Everyone wants to tell you how to get it. In the business world, companies that made it big want to tell you how to succeed—even if they are Christian. Recently, I have been struggling with the idea of success. A few months ago, I was doing all the things that everyone told me to do to be successful: I was doing my social media posts, I was writing blog posts, I was talking to people about my business, I was scheduling events. I had a business plan for 2015, a brand new calendar to write my new business stuff in, and a head full of steam. I was “hustling,” as a friend of mine and I started saying about ourselves.

love sky by winnond

image courtesy of winnond / freedigitalphotos.net

 

I planned a brief vacation with my mom, with full intent of “getting back to hustling” when I returned. I couldn’t work on vacation—I was in another country and wanted to be present with my mother. So I put away my cell phone, my blogging, and all the nice new habits I had acquired. When I returned, I picked up my cell phone…and some weird virus that left me mostly incapacitated for the month of November. Then my father died in early December, and I spent the rest of that month mourning and recuperating. I realized that I was exhausted. I had been doing a lot. But save for one week in November, I had forgotten how to BE.

The seven letters to the churches in Revelation are one of many lists of seven in the Bible that correspond to the seven spiritual gifts in Romans 6. As a prophet spiritual gift, the first of the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2:1-6 has always beckoned to me. I was recalling this over the holidays, thinking about where I am and what it means. Here’s what it says:

I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore, remember where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. (Revelation 2:2-5)

More than ever, this passage spoke to me. Of course God knows my deeds and my toil and my perseverance—that I have endured for His name’s sake and have not grown weary. But soon after my father’s death, I realized I had left my first love. Was I spending time in prayer? Sure. But I was spending more time “doing” God’s work than I was “being” with Him. For the same reason that I put away my cell phone while I was on vacation to be with my mom, God wanted me to put away these deeds and get back to my first love—being with Him.

So what does that mean? Does that mean PPG Ministries is no more? Of course not! But it means that I have to give up some of the “comforts” in my business for now, like posting on social media. I’m trading those things in for quality time at the feet of my Master. I want PPG Ministries to be filled with God, not with me. My business really belongs to God, anyway—so I know I can trust Him with it. And I’m finding that this is its own purity challenge—the challenge to bring holiness into all areas of my life, not just my sexuality.

Maybe you’re out there, having forgotten your first love, and you need to hit the reset button. Maybe God is asking you to give something back to Him so that He can refine and purify it and you, and make you both better than you ever knew. My challenge to you today is this: will you let Him? Will you trust God enough to give back to Him what is already His? If so, join me on this journey of purification. I don’t know where it’s going to lead, but I do know that God’s plans for us are for good and not evil, to prosper us and not to harm us (Jeremiah 29:11). And as further proof of that, here’s how that passage in Revelation ends:

To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7)

So are you ready for this year? Or more importantly, are you ready for this God? Ready or not, here He comes. 🙂

Good Grief

crying doll by Theeradech Sanin

image courtesy of Theeradech Sanin / freedigitalphotos.net

My father died today. I don’t think that there’s three points that I can give you in a blog format to help you learn more about yourself through the death of my parent. So I’m just going to unjumble my thoughts and let them flow here, and I pray that God will bless you in some way as you read.

If you’ve read my testimony, you know that I didn’t have a great relationship with my dad. Celebrate Recovery helped me do a lot of grieving and releasing, but especially with my father. It was good to grieve the father I didn’t have, the father I always wanted…to let go of expectations and begin to accept the reality of who my father was. To release my feelings of rejection and revel in the acceptance of my heavenly Father. I continued to do that for the next five years, never really desiring a full-time relationship with him for many reasons. As more and more information about the man I called “Dad” has surfaced in recent weeks, I know that God has been protecting me by removing that desire from me. Instead, I have accepted him as the flawed, sinful man that he is and loved him from an appropriate distance. I am thankful that God indeed protected my heart and gave me the strength to set healthy boundaries.

A couple of things happened as I began to grieve a few weeks ago when I was alerted that my father was on his death bed. The first thing I noticed was that I couldn’t stop thinking about this one person with whom I had unfinished business. Death tends to bring out those unresolved situations in our lives, making us uneasy with leaving loose ends. Eventually I realized that what was on my mind was, “If I died today, is there anyone to whom I would need to make amends?” There was. I guess because my own father never realized the “error” of his ways and never sought to make amends with his children, I wanted to break that cycle. I could say “I’m sorry” and I could make amends. I wanted to start a new kind of cycle—one of grace and pure love modeled after Christ. And while I had been concerned because there had been no one to talk to about my situation (other than God), I eventually realized that I didn’t need to talk to someone else about it. I needed to talk to the offended party. So I sent an e-mail today. It was hard, and I cried more over that e-mail than I have cried for my deceased father. But I felt a burden lift once I pressed “send.” Life is too short for unfinished business, unforgiveness, and loose ends.

Second, I realized that I wasn’t carrying any burden towards my father. Finding out a few really terrible things about him in the last few days, I thought I would feel heavier about things. When I confessed his deplorable acts to a friend, she assured me that who my father was is not who I am. I reassured her confidently that I didn’t feel that anyway—and it was true. I felt disconnected from that because I had forgiven him. But I also felt disconnected from that because my identity is not in my earthly father anymore. I have secured my identity as a princess of the King and a crazy but amazing pushy prophet girl, and because of that, there is no burden for being my earthly father’s daughter. Whatever heinous acts my father may have committed, they do not belong to me…I have been cleansed and forgiven. I am my Father’s child.

Third, I realized the significance of sexual sin in my generational history. Numbers 14:18 says, “The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’” I know that my grandfather and father’s iniquities have visited the generations below them and through me, and that is important for me to accept and understand in my continual quest for purity. Indeed, though I am my Father’s child, I now have some idea as to why I have struggled so mightily in the area of sexual purity. However, what grace and love the Father lavishes on us, that I can not only call myself His child but that I can receive forgiveness and cleansing from the sins of my forefathers. I am ready to break the cycle and bring forth a generation of purity. My tears have not been wasted; they have been collected by a loving Daddy who intends to use them to cleanse future generations as they walk in their PureID™. What joy that brings me!

So I stand here not crying, but instead praising! Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow, and I thank You, Jesus, for the opportunity to experience this blessed, good grief. Amen!

Physically Healthy Habits: Crying

health diagram by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

It’s been a wild couple of weeks. I went out of the country for a brief vacation, went to my favorite rappers’ concert (Andy Mineo and Lecrae), and got sick while having very little time to recover. Emotionally during that time, I saw someone that had recently hurt me very badly, and hospice was called in for my father who is expected to live only a few more weeks. A couple of days ago, I found myself sitting at my dining room table bawling my eyes out. I knew that most of my tears were me releasing (physically) the emotional trauma of seeing that person again, and some of it was about my father’s impending death. But what I didn’t expect was that I would feel so much better and lighter after crying. Physically, crying had been incredibly beneficial to me.

You might think it’s weird that I’m blogging about crying as a physically healthy habit. But I’ve found that the body needs to shed tears to be healthy. Crying helps us to be physically healthy in the following ways:

  • Tears release us. I can’t tell you how relieved I felt once I cried a couple of days ago. It had actually been a few months since I had really cried that hard, and I knew that my body was needing to release a lot of stress. In addition, I knew that I needed to release what I was feeling from seeing that “someone,” so I had actually TRIED to cry for days afterward. So this cry was a few days in coming. And when it did, I actually felt the tension leave my body: my shoulders relaxed and my breathing deepened and slowed. Psalm 56:8 says that the Lord collects our tears in a bottle. And when we cry, we release our tears and fears to Him, which in turn releases us physically from being bound by those things here on earth. Need a good release? Try crying!
  • Tears purify us. Many times, our tears come from being a part of the refiner’s fire. Isaiah 48:10 says, “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction” and to me, that means that every situation in my life has been filtered through the hands of God. He knows what He’s doing by placing me in these situations. But let’s be honest: refining usually brings tears: tears of frustration, anger, sorrow, hurt. Growing and becoming refined as silver or gold comes at a costly price that often hurts as we are stretched and shaped into more Christlikeness. Shedding tears as a part of that journey is not weakness, it’s an expected part of the affliction. As a bonus, that purification happens both inside and out: you are shedding toxic chemicals from body as you cry and bringing clarity to your mind.
  • Tears make way for joy. “Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). Once I cried this week, I was ready to move forward. Many times I’ve found that crying is the last step before I can proceed after some sort of affliction. It’s harder for me to find true joy when I haven’t gotten past something else. Even more, it’s impossible for me to grasp onto God when I’m holding on to past afflictions. I need to cry—to release and purify myself so that I can step up to the plate and hold onto God. And usually, there is something else God wants to place in my now empty hands! This time, it was some business blessings that He could not release to me until I had released my tears to Him. So if you want joy, know that tears come first!

Crying may not seem like a physically healthy habit, but it is! Even the Bible notes that Jesus wept (John 11:35)—and if Jesus did it, then we should, too! Tears can help us become stronger, better people by releasing us and purifying us so that we are free to accept the joy that only God gives. Are you ready to cry your way into physical health?  🙂

Physically Healthy Habits: Touch

health diagram by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

Believe it or not, I’m not a real touchy feely person. I tend to hug my close friends, but I’m pretty good with a handshake or slight nod to others. As someone who is not very touchy feely, there is one place where I allow more physical touch than others. I have noticed that when I visit my family, I am unusually touchy with my mother. I like to sit on her lap (yes, I am 37 and love sitting on my 70-year-old mother’s lap) and hug her a lot, and many times she will come into my room to hug me and tuck me into bed. It’s not just because I’m a momma’s girl—it’s because I physically crave that touch from my mother. And I realize that I crave it so much because of the long droughts of physical touch I experience normally.

Science has shown that physical touch is incredibly important to our health. And while some people (like me) are not as comfortable with physical touch, here are a few things to remember about this physically healthy habit:

  • Physical touch is a necessity, not a convenience. Studies show we need at least four hugs per day to survive! I don’t know how I’m surviving, because it is difficult for me to warm up to someone enough to allow them to touch me. Perhaps that is you as well. But I eventually realized the importance of allowing others to touch me in appropriate physical ways. Jesus was always touching people, and my favorite story is of Him healing the leper in Matthew 8. This man had not been touched by ANYONE in years, and Jesus could have healed him with words alone, but He chose to touch him. I believe Jesus touched this man to show how important physical touch is to us as humans. He healed him physically, but He healed him emotionally as well through touch, thus showing us the necessity of physical touch. Are you meeting the hug minimum?
  • Physical touch helps us to grow. A human infant that is born must have loving, physical touch in order to survive and grow physically. But it is not just infants who need that loving touch—it is an important part of being a physically healthy adult as well. Remember those four hugs we need to survive? Apparently, we need 12 hugs a day to grow! Neurologists claim that the more we touch others, the happier we are. This is due to a lot of physiological occurrences that I don’t understand (because I’m not a scientist). But the other day, I ran into a friend in Dunkin Donuts, and I hugged him, even though we’re not that close. That hug made me realize my own lack in this area and gave me the boost I needed to smile during traffic, be nicer to my coworkers, and work harder at my job the rest of the day. That’s growth!
  • Physical touch releases us. We are “falling” into healthy habits not to separate ourselves in these three areas but to see how intricately connected our emotional, spiritual, and physical wellness are. Touching others in appropriate, non-creepy ways can lead to more vulnerability and openness in our relationships with others. I have often been emotionally released by the touch of a loved one—like my mother or a close friend. I have seen people’s demeanors change when I’ve reached out and touched them instead of put up a distancing emotional wall. I have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit when praying while holding hands with friends. The Bible speaks of God holding our hand as we go through fearful times (Isaiah 41:13; Psalm 73:23), and Jesus was constantly touching others to create connection. So how can you break down barriers and weave tighter bonds with others using appropriate physical touch?

It may not seem like much, but the appropriate, caring touch of another person can breathe life into us, sustain us, and help us to grow as adults. If you want to be physically healthy, you must allow yourself to touch and be touched by others—and break down the barriers we have built around ourselves.

Emotionally Healthy Habits: Boundaries

health pyramid by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

I was at my family’s house for the week helping to take care of my uncle. My normal schedule includes a lot of solitude, very little television, no pets, no children…lots of quiet time for my thoughts and prayer, and always a good night’s sleep. At my family’s house, however, there is a loud 8-year old, three barking dogs, a television running 24-hours a day, and two other adults. It’s chaotic and lacks quiet—completely opposite of my normal routine. One night, after I went out and got dinner, I went into the kitchen to enjoy eating quietly. My dinner wasn’t even open before someone said, “Did you see the latest news report?” I sighed and calmly (but firmly) said, “Can I please just have some quiet time?” I was granted my request, albeit grudgingly, as they left the house. I then retreated upstairs to write and enjoy that quiet time—and the enforcement of necessary boundaries in my life.

I’ve blogged about boundaries before, so I won’t repeat what I’ve said (check it out, though!). However, in light of my recent experience, I do want to note a few positive things that boundaries do for you:

  • Boundaries keep the bad away. You should set boundaries in your life for your own protection, because while they definitely keep out things like bad people and bad circumstances, boundaries also keep out bad attitudes like anger and frustration. What begins in your mind as anger can easily build into other unhealthy emotions and actions, so having healthy, firm boundaries keeps you away from bad habits, bad feelings, and bad interactions with others. I may have waited a bit too long in my experience with my family, because I was already feeling frustrated when I communicated my boundaries. However, I knew I needed to say something, so I did and then I stuck to them by retreating to the bedroom for some solitude. When you are creating boundaries, ask yourself, “What bad things am I keeping out by setting this boundary?”
  • Boundaries allow the good to stay. Boundaries are not just about keeping the bad out. You don’t put a fence up just to keep the wild animals out; you do it to keep the kids inside the yard and out of the street. I wanted to be in a good mood for my family; I am not a nice person when I don’t have alone time or when I don’t have enough sleep and peace. I wanted to set and communicate my boundaries so that I could be in a good mood and be useful to them, instead of tired and cranky. I wanted to have joy and peace when dealing with them so I could show them Jesus. So when you are creating boundaries, it’s also good to ask yourself, “What’s good things will stay in my life if I set this boundary?”
  • Boundaries, when communicated, remove anxiety. Quite honestly, I was stressed about going to stay with my family before I even left my home. I knew that their routine and environment was incredibly different from my own, and that I might not be able to operate in the same fashion that I do when I’m at home. If I had discussed those issues with my family, set the standard, and shared my boundaries, I would have enjoyed myself and accomplished more while there. I realized that once I communicated my boundaries, I felt less anxious about staying there—but it was almost too late, because by then, I was already sleep deprived and bothered by the noise. So now I know that the next time I go to help my family, I will ask myself beforehand, “What stress can be removed from my life by communicating my boundaries from the get-go?”

Ephesians 4:15 says, “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” Boundaries involve speaking the truth about ourselves in love to others so that we can grow and mature as Christians and become more Christlike. And being Christlike means practicing emotionally healthy habits—and spiritually healthy habits, as we will begin talking about next week!

Emotionally Healthy Habits: Forgiveness

health pyramid by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

I was depressed this summer. I didn’t want to get out of bed, and I literally felt as if the entire world was weighing down on me. My brain was in a fog, my thoughts were cluttered, and all I wanted to do was cry—in fact, all I did was cry for two straight months. I couldn’t do it, I told myself—I couldn’t get out of bed and get going in life. Even though I had been on a pretty nice first date the evening before, even though I had plenty of friends to care about me, even though my life was going well (despite some rough circumstances), I couldn’t get out of the funk. I couldn’t move forward because I was holding on to some hurts that others had dealt out to me earlier in the summer. I was deeply depressed because I couldn’t forgive.

Forgiveness is a choice, and probably the most difficult choice we have to make when it comes to emotionally healthy habits. I still struggle with it! But every time I practice forgiveness, I realize three important things happen:

  • Forgiveness releases you. The moment that I prayed to forgive, I felt the burden on my soul lift. The heaviness that I was experiencing, the weighted sense of doom, the cloud of darkness that had hovered over me—these all disappeared immediately. But I didn’t just get released from the weight, I was also released to receive forgiveness from God. In Mark 11:25, Jesus says, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” In order to be in right standing with God, we are also encouraged to leave our offerings at the altar and go work out our issues with others—including forgiveness—before we make an offering to God. So forgive—so that you can be released and receive from the Lord.
  • Forgiveness heals you. Psalm 38:3-4 says, ‘…there is no health in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.” Does this sound familiar? It should—it is exactly the way I described feeling when I was harboring resentment and unforgiveness. And in case this isn’t clear, let me reiterate: unforgiveness is a sin, because we are choosing our anger and our hurt over the forgiveness that the Lord offers to us. And when we are sinning, we can’t be healthy! But once we choose forgiveness, we can begin to experience healing from the Lord. 1 John 1:9 says that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us and cleanse us from our unrighteousness. But cleansing and healing can’t happen until you choose to forgive.
  • Forgiveness challenges you. If one of our main goals in life is growth in all areas, then forgiveness meets that criteria. We don’t just want to forgive to be released and healthy, we want to grow from our experiences as forgiving people. It is against our natural desires and flesh to want to forgive others; we are carnal beings who, without God, are focused solely on ourselves. We believe that withholding forgiveness from others harms then, when really, it harms only us. That is why we choose forgiveness. It stretches us in every way to forgive—the emotional darkness within clears, the physical heaviness lightens, and the spiritual sins are cleansed. That is the challenge in forgiveness—to act against our sinful nature and choose life through forgiveness. That is also why forgiveness is always a choice and a challenge that results in your growth.

The moment I realized that I was harboring resentment and unforgiveness, I prayed to the Lord and asked for forgiveness and then offered it to those who had hurt me—without ever speaking to them about it. Sometimes, forgiveness is about them, but mostly, forgiveness is about YOU. Seek to practice forgiveness not only for release, but for healing and growth as an emotionally healthy person!

Emotionally Healthy Habits: Unoffendable

health pyramid by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

I’m extremely sensitive. In fact, for a pushy prophet girl, you would be surprised at how easily I get hurt by others. Because I’m so honest and forward in my dealings with others, people often think that it’s okay to treat me the same way—which it should be, but my sensitivity finds me taking offense all too easily. In addition, I also find myself quite hurt by God’s activity (or inactivity) in my life—because it doesn’t seem like He’s listening to my needs and wants and doing things my way. “God hates me!” is one of my favorite phrases to scream when I’m feeling sorry for myself and offended by His ways. But what I have recently learned is that in order to be Christ-like, I need to develop an unoffendable spirit.

Having an unoffendable spirit is one of the most overlooked traits in the Bible. In fact, we often believe that we have a right to be “offended” by the people and circumstances in our lives. But here’s a two things that I’m learning about being unoffendable:

We should strive to be unoffended by others. In our offense-driven, self-centered society, this is also very difficult. We tend to make things all about ourselves, and then we get offended when our expectation of a “me-focused” world isn’t met. Even Christians striving to be less “me-centered” will find themselves offended by others. In our desire to be Christ-like, however, we have to look at ourselves when we feel others have offended us. As Francis Frangipane notes, the best question to ask yourself when you feel offended is, “How can this produce more Christ-likeness in me?” Recently, I had a conflict with someone who said a few things that were quite rude and pious. I was quite offended, but because I know this person very well, I expected that response and also knew that responding to every single offense would just lengthen the conflict. Instead, I overlooked most of the offenses and only responded to the issue at hand, and I did so with love—the other person even commended me for my loving response! I chose to be unoffended, and I was able to resolve the conflict easily. This is a small first step we can practice in being unoffended by others.

We should strive to be unoffended by God. This is the biggest culprit for me. Quite often, I will have a plan in mind that I may or may not run by God, and if it doesn’t turn out the way I expected, I immediately go into prayer and question God about why this did or didn’t happen. But the Bible says that the ones who do not take offense at Him are BLESSED (Matthew 11:6). The context of this verse is that Jesus sent these words to John the Baptist, who was waiting on Jesus to rescue Him from being beheaded while in jail. It’s important to know those circumstances because sometimes, we are waiting on the Lord in dire circumstances and situations, and the only word we might receive from the Lord is Matthew 11:6. The question is, will we be offended by God or will we choose to be blessed? I’m not speaking as someone who is great at this, because I’m not. Often, in the dire circumstances, I will take great offense because God hasn’t answered a prayer the way I think He should. I try to take things into my own hands. I try to act outside of the will of God. And every time, when I quiet my soul, I feel God asking me to not be offended, but instead to trust His perfect plan.

It’s not easy, but having an unoffendable spirit is a serious step towards Christ-likeness and being emotionally healthy—because being unoffended means we are less likely to carry grudges. And if we are less likely to carry grudges, we are less likely to suffer under the weight of unforgiveness (which is our next post topic!).

What are some ways that you can practice having an unoffendable spirit?

Emotionally Healthy Habits: Failure

health pyramid by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

Lately, I’ve been reflecting on my past, particularly with my career and my relationships. I was a youth pastor for about 10 years, but not a “successful” one by any means (if you are looking at numbers, particularly). I have been a worship leader at my church, but never a “successful” one by standards that I would use to measure success. I had one long-term boyfriend, but have only dated inconsistently in the past 10 years. Even at my job with the school system, I have never quite gotten up to the level that others think I should. I often look back at my life and see that it is riddled with failure in these two areas. And of course, my two biggest concerns are whether my business will succeed and whether I’ll ever get married. I’ve experienced enough defeat in these areas to last a lifetime.

Failure comes in many forms: rejection, watching others succeed in areas where you didn’t, trying new ideas that don’t work, outright defeat. But even with its different looks, failure can be an emotionally healthy habit, if we can remember these three things about failure in our lives:

  • Failure is inevitable. Everyone fails at something, because failure is a part of life. You don’t get every job that you apply for, you don’t date every person that you want to date, and you don’t get picked for every team you want to be on! From the beginning, we are destined to experience failure and suffering. Jesus said in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation.” This means that I should expect failure, honestly. He didn’t say that we might, He didn’t say only some would—He said that we all would experience tribulation, and that includes failure. God knew that I would experience a lot of career failure, and He knew that I would experience failure in my relationships. And once we accept that failure is a normal, natural experience, we can move forward.
  • Failure does not define you. Failure is not who you are, it is what happens to you. I have failed at many endeavors, but that does not make me a failure. I have received many words of encouragement from former youth, people who felt God’s Spirit in worship experiences, and friends who felt loved by me. I know that the Lord used me in many of these instances to bless others, even if the overall impact was less than I or others expected. In addition, I realize that my identity is not tied up in the things that I do—which means that failure does not determine my identity! My identity is instead wrapped up in the person of Jesus and everything that He says that I am—and Galatians 3:26 says I am a child of God—through faith, not success!
  • Failure is a great teacher. Romans 5:3-5 says, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” When we fail and suffer, we learn a great deal about endurance, character, and hope. We develop wisdom through failure that we cannot learn through success. (I guess this means I should be really wise!) In addition, God uses those failures to encourage us and others. What have I learned from my failures? That I am a great administrator; that I work better with adults; that I should not compromise what I’m looking for in a mate. As such, my failures have contributed to me knowing my passions and purpose just as much as my successes have.

Some of the greatest successes have come because of great failure, and in order to be greatly successful in God’s Kingdom, we must understand that failure is unavoidable! But once we accept that and reject the idea that failure defines us, we can learn from our failures and thus grow in our emotionally healthy habits!