Archive for the ‘Emotions’ Category

Loving Courageously

February 24, 2011

Suggested Bible Reading

I Samuel 17: 32-35 (NIV)

David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.

Today’s Scripture

David shepherded with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them. Psalm 78:72 (NIV)

While reading about David, I wondered what would motivate a young shepherd boy to risk his life for a sheep. If I were David, I’d have no desire to face physical combat with a lion or bear just to rescue a lamb. I would prefer to return home to my father with a few missing sheep and accept the consequence of no dinner rather than becoming someone’s dinner.

What makes my perspective different than David’s? Why does he risk his life while I’d protect mine? Because he was treasured by God, his life had significance, value, and purpose and so did his (God’s) sheep. David responded to his sheep as God responded to him; lovingly, courageously, and protectively.

When relational conflicts arise, good shepherds do not avoid conflict or dismiss people. It’s natural to withdraw from people or from situations that consume time and energy, but it may not be right. When we chose the comfort of avoidance, over the cost of engagement; neglect becomes a silent relational killer. Anger and bitterness become devouring lions snatching away relationships.

David’s aggressive protection of the sheep alerts me to the danger of devaluing people. When I value other people, I don’t allow difference of opinion to result in negativity, judgment, or disrespectful behavior. Yes, it’s natural to associate with those whose thinking and values are similar to my own, but inviting conversations to understand why others have different thoughts builds a bridge of understanding. This prevents me from living on a distant island away from others.

We all have the responsibility to shepherd relationships in our lives. When we shepherd lovingly, courageously, and protectively as our Heavenly Father shepherds us; relational enemies are defeated.

Prayer

Father, help me to lovingly, courageously, and protectively shepherd relationships.

 Thought for the Day

How does God’s love influence how you live?

Release Regret to Grasp Grace

December 28, 2010

Suggested Reading:

Matthew 26:69-75

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience… (Hebrews 10:22  NIV)

…And you forgave the guilt of my sin. (Psalm 32:5 NIV)

Sandy shared her experience of praying one morning and sensing a need to caution a neighbor to closely watch her infant throughout the day. Sandy dismissed the thought after her husband said sharing this message would cause the neighbor to think she was “loony.” Later that day, the infant died from SIDS. Sandy regretted not following through to caution her neighbor. That remorse wasn’t easy to dismiss.

The disciple Peter battled regret. Despite Peter’s claim of loyalty, Christ told Peter he would deny Him three times. When the rooster crowed a third time, Peter wept bitterly at his failure.

Peter released his regret by recognizing Christ’s love remained in spite of his denial. He knew Christ went to the cross to secure his forgiveness. A forgiveness that ignited a boldness in Peter that death threats could not silence.

 Like Peter, Sandy is releasing regret as she grasps God’s grace. In understanding God’s love she is learning to trust God’s voice and obey His instructions over the voice of others.

Prayer

Father, help us release our regret to live in your forgiveness. 

Thought for the Day

Choose today whether to live in regret in the forgiveness of God’s grace.

Prayer Focus

Receiving God’s forgiveness.

Reader Response to “Emotional Withholding”

September 23, 2010

Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another. 1 Peter 5:5 (NIV)

Today’s devotional blog post was inspired by a comment from a reader named Laurel. Here comment and my response are included.

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Dear Lorie,

I really appreciated this post (Emotional Withholding). Sometimes I think we as Christians feel like we need to be “flawless and perfect” in everyway and in that thinking we unknowingly shut out others because we seem “unhuman” to them.

I personally have caught myself behaving in a manner that instead of inviting someone to express their pain and thoughts, I feel like I need to fix it by offering antidotes and suggestions. When all they wanted was a listening ear and emotional support. And unless we let them express themselves we aren’t really listening anyway, we’re just doing our “Christian” work.

I’ve found that being honest and human is one of the most sincere gifts we can give to those we care about, all else is just checking off our “Christian to-do list.”

Thanks for your honesty and your transparency, we should all consider how we sound to those we care about.

Laurel

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 Dear Laurel,

Thanks for reading and responding to “Emotional Withholding.” Your words and life discoveries are a picture of humility. Like you, I’m shedding the false expectation of needing to provide a solution to the problems, challenges, and pain of others. Since I’m no longer the source of information, my focus becomes listening to others and seeking to understand them. I’ve released myself from playing God (there was no vacancy in the Trinity) and no longer appoint myself as God’s spokesperson.

 This new freedom helped me discover the underlying cause of my problem was fear. This fear was rooted in insecurity. To counter my sense of inadequacy, I tried to overcome it by providing solutions and direction to others. This same fear of inadequacy (lacking knowledge of good and evil) is what tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. Even as the knowledge of evil was dangerous and destructive for Eve, even so, the desire to provide solutions for others, is equally dangerous and destructive. I’m back to usurping a position in the Trinity.

 When we realize the first step of healing is discovering our pain and facing our inadequacy, we stop putting a bandage on an infection and begin looking for a surgeon. In “Emotional Withholding” I was not exposing my hurt. This resulted in bitterness and anger. Honestly sharing my hurt with my friend (without judgment) could have helped me deal with my hurt in healthy ways.  When we experience a freedom to share hurt with a true listener who responds in love we are on the pathway to healing.

 I will pray that others will find a freedom to express their pain with you and that their sharing will become first steps of their healing journey.

 Thanks again Laurel for sharing a response to my writing that hit home and inspired more writing. You’ve given me more to think and reflect on and now others can join.

 Warmly,

 Lorie Reichel Howe

 Personal Prayer

Father,

You are the Great Healer. I am not anyone’s source of healing. You have a purpose in all our pain and in everything we experience. Every situation we face, whether good or evil, presents an opportunity to know You in a deeper way.

Because You live in us, Your healing power resides within. Therefore, give me a humble heart to acknowledge my hurt and to listen to the hurts of others. Help me not to dismiss what You desire to expose. Give me Your guidance and direction in listening, sharing, and discovering Your truth that brings healing.

Reflection Question

When do I dismiss my pain or the pain of others?

When is humility present in my listening? Absent?

 Thought to Ponder

One of life’s greatest challenges is to understand and talk about our feelings.

 Quote to Consider

A genuine friend hears the message in your heart that words are unable to communicate.

Lorie Reichel Howe

Emotional Withholding

September 20, 2010

“Speaking the truth in love.” Ephesians 4:15 (NIV)

When I am hurting, the worse thing a friend can do is either dismiss my feelings or judge them. The second worse thing one can do is invite them to escalate and control me. Emotions shouldn’t be dismissed or judged; they are real and need to be acknowledged and understood. At the same time, emotions may not be rooted in truth and may have formed because of faulty perceptions. When our feelings are consuming or trapping us, we need to identify the thoughts and perceptions that trigger our emotions. Emotions need to be addressed whether they appear right or wrong, healthy or unhealthy. Some emotions can not be prayed away. When you pray for a release, and they remain, redirect your prayer on how to respectfully communicate your emotions.

I recently discovered this ugly tendency of not expressing my emotions. I was hurt because a friend was unable to attend specific events I hosted throughout the year. Each time he wasn’t able to attend, I communicated that these were important to me. Yet, what I wasn’t saying was that I was hurt when he didn’t show up.  I was withholding my hurt. Withholding blocked my friend from understanding my heart and realizing I had been hurt.

Unfortunately, withheld emotions when triggered, explode like dynamite ignited by a match. My eruption contained unkind and judgmental words. Now not one, but two people were wounded. I still shudder recalling what happened. Even so, I’m determined to learn from this episode the danger of hiding hurt. A simple statement of, “I am hurt and feel unsupported when you don’t attend my meetings” would have been a pathway inviting understanding and healing. Open sharing would have given my friend a picture into my heart and opened a door to understand the challenges my friend faced in not being able to attend.

I think when God came searching for Adam after his disobedience in the Garden, God was really asking Adam to come clean with his feelings and his actions. Like Adam I hid my emotions and let them fester until accusations and judgments poured out. I’m thankful for a dear friend, who instead of retaliating was able to communicate his hurt and open the door to explore mine.

Personal Prayer

Father, help me not to hide my emotions, dismiss them, or be ruled and consumed by them. Empower me to live honestly before you, others and myself. Give me grace to speak the truth in love.

 Reflection Question

When is withholding unhealthy? Dishonest? Deceitful?

What’s the difference in withholding hurt and withholding judgement?

Thoughts to Ponder

Emotions not faced are not conquered. You don’t have to agree with your emotions or those of others, you do have to face them in God’s strength.

 Quote to Consider

The void created by the failure to communicate is soon filled with poison, drivel, and misrepresentation.

C. Northcote Parkinson

Fears Never Faced Are Never Conquered

August 23, 2010

For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:36-39

God empowered an African Pastor to boldly stand for his belief in God. The night before he was killed by rebels who were unsuccessful in forcing him to renounce his faith, he composed the following words. May his words, the words spoken by Esther, and the stand and sacrifice they both made, inspire God’s power within you to conquer fear and live fully alive empowered by God’s love.

I am part of the “Fellowship of the Unashamed.” I have Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I’ve stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of His. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals!

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by presence, lean by faith, love by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by power.

 My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought , compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won’t give up, shut up, let up, or burn up till I’ve preached up, prayed up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ.

I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops.

And when He comes to get His own, He’ll have no problems recognizing me. My colors will be clear.

Fickle Emotions

June 15, 2010

When he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.        James 1:6

The problem with emotions is they are fickle. Even so, emotions are real and shouldn’t be dismissed. Attempting to talk someone out of their emotions is a waste of time and a futile activity. While acknowledging emotions is important, allowing them to rule makes us their slave.

When we allow emotions or thoughts that oppose God’s Word to lead us, we make them Lord and dethrone Christ. Eve gave lordship to her thoughts and emotions back in the Garden of Eden. As a result she plummeted down the slippery slope of sin. When we experience emotions we are faced with the same lordship decision as Eve…Who will you allow to rule as Lord?

There are times when we ask for forgiveness that we don’t feel forgiven. Who hasn’t felt unloved, undeserving, and insignificant? We’ve all thought ourselves to be beyond help and believed our circumstances were hopeless. I doubt Jesus felt powerful while experiencing the pain of Calvary. Whatever emotions He experienced, He never let them rule. Although His feelings didn’t disappear, dissipate, or dissolve, He chose to believe God’s Word and lived like it. Christ never let emotions direct His life or influence what He believed. Neither should we. Remember that emotions and doubts that compete with God’s Word will come. Yet, don’t forget, it’s not experiencing them that is sinful, it’s when you let them rule that you sin.

 If God’s Word says you are forgiven, you are. If God’s Word says you’re loved, you are. If God’s Word says He has a plan and purpose for our life, He does. Faith is believing what God’s Word says is true. Living out your faith will involve experiencing emotions while not allowing them to rule.

Personal Response

  • What emotions are you experiencing?
  • Examine your emotions in light of God’s Word?
  • Choose whether you will believe your emotions or God’s Word.
  • Live accordingly to your belief, not your emotions.

Recognizing Unhealthy Guilt

June 14, 2010

Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. 1 John 5:21

The dictionary defines regret as a feeling of sorrow or remorse. Regret is experienced when one carries a sense of loss for a fault or act.

We are in danger when we get stuck in guilt carrying it as a form of penitence. Now I’m not dismissing the need to recognize our failures (sins). God recognized them. That’s why He sent Jesus, to deal with them.

Guilt becomes unhealthy when it becomes a method we use to punish ourselves for our past. This positions us as a judge, jury, prosecutor, and accuser at our own trial. Without knowing it, we’re attempting to hold a place in the trinity. As far as I can tell, all three positions are covered now and throughout eternity. The danger is this makes us responsible for cleansing ourselves of sin, which only Jesus can do. This is a form of idolatry because it is self focused. We become the source of forgiveness and cleansing which we earn through our actions. This makes us a competitor to and substitute for Calvary.  The Apostle Paul gave stern warnings against this false religion. He said this belief was a pollutant that spread disease.

Healthy guilt (brought about by the Holy Spirit, not ourselves), convicts us of sin with the intention of leading us to repentance and into forgiveness. God doesn’t want us living in guilt, He wants us living in grace.

Remember, God reveals in order to heal. Revealing is a first step of the healing process. As salvation occurs instantaneously, we should move immediately from the guilt of sin into repentance and grace. The only thing delaying us from moving out of guilt into grace is ourselves, and that’s idolatry.

Personal Response

  • Do you have any healthy guilt? Immediately repent and receive Christ’s forgiveness.
  • Do you have any unhealthy guilt that you are carrying as a penitence for your sin? Immediately stop, turn away from your idolatry, and turn to Jesus in repentance. Immediately receive His forgiveness, cleansing, and grace.

Release the Past

June 10, 2010

Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead. Philippians 3:13

 Let’s face it, we’ve all suffered the consequences resulting from the actions and choices of others. Words spoken in anger, physical and emotional attacks that wound. Hurts whose stinging pain penetrates the heart.  While we’ve all been the victim, we’ve all afflicted pain on others. The memory of our actions easily entraps us in regret and the endless cycle of “if only.”

It’s Paul’s life experience that makes his words so powerful. If anyone could have been plagued by regret, it would have been Paul. In his religious zeal he persecuted the church and martyred Christians.  He was the headmaster at Stephen’s stoning, where he watched a follower of Christ courageously die while praying for his accusers.

Like Paul, we can experience the transforming power of Jesus which exceeds the power of our past. We are not to deny our past (sins we’ve committed or sins committed against us), yet we are not to be trapped by them. When painful reminders of the wounds caused by others come, we need to remember that God has the ability to heal us from past hurts. Any pain he allows, he has a plan to use and heal. He paid the full price for our redemption and healing on Calvary.

 Let your woundedness draw you to the healer. Let Christ take your pain and make you sensitive to hurting people. Allow the regret of the afflictions you have caused to  inspire you to live a transformed life. Release the bondage of the past along with the regret. Paul, Stephen’s murder, chose to embrace grace, not guilt. This empowered Paul to live and die in a way that honored God.

Don’t allow the mistakes of your past to disqualify you from the future. Let your learning inspire you to live differently. God transforming truth is always more powerful than your past.

  • What pain do you need to release and ask God to heal and use?
  • What regret do you need to release and exchange for a transformed life?