Friday, October 29, 2010

How long will you bear with me?

Love is patient … (I Cor. 13: 4)

Encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all. (I Thess. 5:14)

Keep loving one another earnestly … (I Peter 4:8)

I have a few friendships that have involved long seasons of enduring. It could be enduring physical suffering. It could be enduring emotional devastation from broken relationships. It could be enduring disillusionment with the Church and Christianity. For most, it’s a combination of some or all of the above. Sometimes, I’ve endured well. Sometimes, I’ve given up. “Really, you should be past this by now!” I read this excerpt today from Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb, which I also wrote about here.

We Christians are an impatient lot. We insist on gathering grain before it grows. We want to see flowers before spring and fruit before fall. When a brother or sister is going through a tough time, we insist that the Spirit’s work be obvious. Unless they speak of their trials from a spiritual perspective, we tend to apply pressure more than we dispense grace. We rarely belive that life is hidden in the barren tree. Let a friend express his exasperation with a four-letter word, and immediately we’re more concerned with his language than with his agony (oh, how painfully convicting).

No farmer goes to the orchard in winter to pick apples. Christians do it all the time. And when the fruit isn’t there, we walk off in disgust. The good farmer patiently waits with his basket, knowing he will soon fill it with delicious fruit. …

Two unwritten rules eventually surface in our response to one who hurts. First, mourning has a time limit. … At some point, we insist on victory. Second, we think there’s a proper way to mourn. Ugly battles should remain out of sight. … Church is too often a place of pretense and therefore a place without hope. When brokenness is disdained, where the real story is never told, the power of God is not felt. Where brokenness is invited and received with grace, the gospel comes alive with hope.

Crabb’s insight is very convicting to me. I get really angry when I watch other Christians give up on each other and write each other off. I hate it when I see their dispensations of grace expire on each other, and they either walk away or turn against one another. Yet, I do it too. I give up. I turn against. And sometimes, I just walk away. I like the old Kenny Rogers song, “You gotta know when to walk away, know when to run.” But much harder than running away is staying engaged in painful situations. It’s easier to write people off than endure for the long haul with a hope that transcends results I see this week, this month, or this year. Yet, that is the hope to which God calls us--a hope for ourselves, but also a hope for those around us.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. (I Cor. 13:7-8)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"Lay down your deadly doing."

I’m nearing the end of Counsel from the Cross, and this is likely my last excerpt from it. Dennis Johnson and Elyse Fitzpatrick have certainly made my blogging easy the last month. This is from one of the final chapters on The Gospel Story verses our own Story of Self Glory.

… many Christians … are “swimming in a sea of narcissistic moralism.” We think we can live happy, perfected lives if we just ferret out the right key to get God to unlock all his treasure and make us healthy, wealthy, and wise. Make no mistake: this moralism---whether for more shallow endeavors such as just having a “good day” or for nobler goals, such as making life better for our families or assuring ourselves that God still smiles on us---is, as Horton writes, narcissistic. It is all about us and all for us and our glory.

Although all true Christians recognize their need for a crucified Savior to begin their life of faith, most of them fall back into their innate belief in self-glorification once they get saved. Whether Happy Moralists or Sad, nearly all Christians believe that the answer to their problem is just around the corner. They will have it once they find the secret to their perfect life, once they throw off that distressing habit, once they find the right spouse/child/job/home/church, once they uncover their idols, once they learn how to pray the magic words, and on and on their whole life through.

The Happy Moralist will read one self-help book after another, while the Sad Moralist will seek deeper and deeper self-understanding and repentance. In fact, we are so proud and convinced of our perfectibility that even living in the light of the gospel can be twisted into a secret self-improvement regimen….

Oh. My. Word. They really nailed it with that last paragraph. The answer to all this? LAY DOWN YOUR DEADLY DOING (your deadly self analyzing and introspection that leads to condemnation and discouragement and your deadly self-discipline that leads to pride and Jesus-less self confidence.)

Utterly despairing of our ability must lead us to Christ and to trust in him to work in us and make us willing and able to serve him (Phil. 2:12). Paul prayed that God would make the Thessalonians “worthy of his calling” and the Lord would “fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:11-12).

All our obedience, every resolve to do good, and every work of faith is “by his power” and so that the Lord Jesus would be glorified because of the grace he gives.

Yes, we must pursue obedience, but that obedience must always be cruciform, formed by Christ’s cross. We must seek to obey because of the cross, find the grace to obey because of the cross, and live free from condemnation whether we succeed or fail in light of the cross. The cross must be our only story, as Paul boldly proclaimed: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (I Cor. 2:2).

The cross must be my only story. I meditate today on what it looks like at each turn of my day to rest in its shadow.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"The Gospel is the Environment for our Parenting."

Another nugget of wisdom from Counsel from the Cross, this time on gospel-centered parenting. I wrote some about this in a post a while back on discipline verses punsishment, subtitled parenting our children the way God parents His.

What does gospel-centered parenting look like? Here is how Paul put it:

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4); and “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Col. 3:21).

Isn’t it easy to see how Paul’s counsel to parents is based on God’s gracious pattern with us? We are not to be harsh or demanding with our children. We are not to provoke them to anger or discourage them. Of course, the obvious question we have to consider is what will provoke them or discourage them, and, by contrast, what does it look like to discipline and instruct “in the Lord”?

Although there are many ways we can provoke our kids in disciplining them, we learn from Paul’s expositions of grace in these epistles that we provoke and discourage our children when we forget the gospel and demand, as a condition of our approval and affection, that they obey the law that “neither our fathers not we have been able to bear” (Acts 15:10). By itself, God’s law, although it is “holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12), will serve only to aggravate or discourage them. The law will stir up within them the desire to sin because they are not able to obey it. It won’t furnish them with the power or motivation to obey us or the Lord. The law has its uses with our children, but making them good isn’t one of them. Only the gospel and God’s grace can change hearts.

The proper place and function of the law is something that we might recognize in our own lives but fail to believe when it comes to raising our children. We know that we don’t change and mature by making a list of things we need to do and then scrutinizing our failures when we don’t do them. But, amazingly, we think that’s how our children will change. But when they cry that they can’t obey, we should agree with them, although it is true that we are to acquaint them with the law’s demands.

Rather than telling them that they can and will obey, we must tell them—frankly, gently, sadly—that they cannot obey. They need help. They need Jesus. Making a list and giving stickers and time-outs when they succeed or fail won’t change their hearts. It may make them little Pharisees, knowing how to look obedient so that they can get approval, but it won’t change their hearts. We are to use their disobediences as a gospel opportunity to remind them that they are sinful and flawed, but if they flee to Jesus he will love and welcome them. We must remind them that they “do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with (their) weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as (they) are, yet without sin. Let (them) then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that (they) may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15-16).

Jesus understands their weaknesses. He knows about temptations. When we—and our children—struggle with obedience, we can draw near to the throne of grace where we won’t receive judgment and punishment, but mercy and grace to help. That is the portrait of the Savior that our children need to see. This is the image that will transform their hearts and teach them to run to him, rather than away from him, when they sin.

… The gospel is the environment of our parenting.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Naïve supporters of broken ministries

I had the chance to read an email exchange between two people that I did not know who were both associated with ministries I did not know. One person was pointing out to a staff person at a church that a ministry they supported had actually been involved in child abuse and financial bad dealings. The accusation was well documented and definitely not hearsay, and the email was politely worded. The response she received back was rude, defensive, and illogical. Though I didn’t know who the people were or the ministries with which they were associated, that email exchange did remind me of something that I’ve observed again and again since my youth growing up in conservative Christianity. Every ministry reaches a crossroads—where at some point you have a growing number of critics pointing out serious problems in your ministry. Only a precious few of those ministries will believe strongly enough in their own need to self examine and self correct (and make restitution) to do the right thing that will ensure their survival as a HEALTHY ministry. The vast majority has the same corporate human nature that we individually do. They choose a misguided notion of self-preservation over self-examination and correction. They want to preserve their momentum, so even good people who aren’t the actual perpetrators of institutional sin will attempt to minimize the bad done, sweeping it under the carpet, pacifying who they can without actually dealing with the issue. They choose to think of their critics as persecutors, which leads them to insulate from the sin of others outside their camp and avoid self examination of the much more dangerous sin within the camp. They don’t realize that the SIN WITHIN will destroy them and that their acts of self-preservation will actually be the beginning of the end for their ministry. Every leader of a successful ministry will at some point have to choose between doing the right thing (dealing with sin correctly even if it means slowing down and potentially undermining growth for a season) or the expedient thing (ignoring sin issues in your history, pretending it isn’t so bad, and that it doesn’t hurt as many people as it really does).

As I think about the email exchange I read involving the naïve supporter rudely defending an obviously bad idea, I thought about why so many of us in a ministry have such a hard time facing the obvious. Here are my observations from watching this from the sidelines with several major ministries—including churches, schools, and other parachurch organizations.

For so many of us, we don’t really believe something THAT bad is going on or is even possible until it happens to US. “Surely the people complaining are just bitter gossips. So much GOOD is happening here. How could something that bad really be true?” Sometimes even when it happens to us, we’re in denial. It’s much like the old story of the Emperor who is wearing no clothes. The power of getting labeled stupid or incompetent keeps everyone (even himself) from admitting that he truly is wearing no clothes. Our coping mechanisms for ignoring the obvious when our security is threatened are fascinating. Disturbing, but fascinating.

To build on the last point, we’re insecure. We can’t handle the truth. We don’t deal with sin because we are afraid of admitting it is even there. It threatens us. And it certainly threatens us when the sin we need to acknowledge involves people or ministries that make us feel safe from the world. The exposure of sin threatens us because we don’t simultaneously believe that the gospel is an effective antidote for that sin. We are more afraid of exposing sin than confident in the gospel's remedy for it.

Most of all, we’re afraid of undermining all the good, happy, or safe things we enjoy if we face head on the facts of the problems. We don’t really understand the nature of sin. Because sin unaddressed and unrestrained will destroy everything it touches until it is exposed.

Here is the hard truth of life. You HAVE to deal with sin. And you HAVE to deal with it with the gospel. And this hard truth applies EVERYWHERE. In your marriage, you have to deal with sin in light of the gospel. With your children, you have to deal with sin in light of the gospel. In your church, your Christian college, or your parachurch organization, you have to deal with institutional or individual sin in light of the gospel. It doesn’t matter how much good you perceive you or your particular ministry has done or is doing, you have to face its mistakes and shortcomings head on and DEAL with it. Exposing sin apart from the gospel and the hope Christ gives us for putting it to death is horrible. It destroys. But ignoring sin for fear of that destruction devastates us at a soul deep level too. Both are equally destructive. There is a third way, distinct from each, to which God calls us. Face it. Admit it. Even if you are afraid it will destroy you. Ask forgiveness. Seek to correct it. Humble yourself before those you have sinned against. Sit in the shadow of the cross for a season and meditate on how it allows you to be honest about your sin so that it no longer defines who you are. And then get up and go in a new direction in light of it all.

Naïve supporter of a broken ministry, the emperor really doesn’t have any clothes on, and though you think you’ll get labeled incompetent or stupid (or in Christian circles, rebellious) to admit it out loud, he’ll ignore his own nakedness and never put on real clothes until someone who loves him risks the label to tell him the truth.

Psalm 141:5
Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness;
let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head;
let my head not refuse it.
Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds.

Proverbs 27:6
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

“Happy people rarely look for joy.”

This is an excerpt from Larry Crabb’s Shattered Dreams that struck me as I read it this week. I once was the happy person who quietly judged those who weren’t. It took the loss of good things for me to long for better things and see the fallacy of the prosperity gospel of conservative evangelicals that I subtly believed. Crabb says it much better than I could, as I am still in the middle of learning this myself and certainly can’t lecture on it. Here’s the excerpt that stood out to me.

When blessings come, we should of course enjoy them. It’s good when children squeal with delight on Christmas morning; it’s sad when they can’t. Celebrate the good things of life. Enjoy the juicy steak, the unexpected bonus, the beautiful granddaughter.

Happy people, though they’re right to be happy, face a subtle danger. They tend to spiritually gloat, to publicly express gratitude and praise for the good things they enjoy while privately thinking that blessings are their due. They can easily slip into a concern for the less fortunate that carries with it a mood of judgment: If they were more like me, they would be given the blessings I have. We don’t easily recognize that mood within ourselves.

Unhappy folks face their own unique temptation. Publicly they tell the more fortunate how glad they are for all who are so blessed; privately they wish that the happy person’s path would hit a ditch.

Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. No command is more difficult to obey. Beneath the surface, we lament another’s joy (that’s the sin of jealousy) and feel good when a much blessed friend has reason to cry (that’s the sin of smugness a close cousin of jealousy).

Happy people do not love well. Joyful people do. That’s why happiness, the pleasant feelings that pleasant circumstances generate, must be taken away in order to be replaced by joy.

Happy people rarely look for joy. They’re quite content with what they have. The foundation of their life consists of the blessings they enjoy. Although they may genuinely care about those less fortunate and do great things to help, their central concern is to keep what they have. They haven’t been freed to pursue a greater dream. That’s why they cannot love well. In His severe mercy, God takes away the good to create an appetite for the better, and then, eventually, He satisfies the new appetite, liberating them to love.

I haven’t yet finished this book, but I have found what I’ve already read both hard and good.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Do unto your children as you would have them do unto you.

The Lord has been convicting me from this verse for a few weeks. I am long familiar with The Golden Rule, yet it’s only in the last month that I’ve thought of it particularly in terms of my children—not treating them as they ARE but as I would have them TO BE. As often is the case, God used my son's little secular hippie preschool to bring this home for me. At a parent meeting, the speaker asked parents what were their main concerns for their children’s behavior right now. Parents yelled out things like sibling rivalry, angry tantrums, hitting, general snotty attitudes and so forth. Then she asked what character qualities we hoped they’d have when they headed to college. The group suggested empathy, perseverance, and self-confidence, among others. As a believer, I would add grace, service, and love. I really want my boys to have personal confidence in who they are in Christ that equips them to extend grace to others. I want them to love as I Cor. 13 defines it – with patience, with a long fuse, not rude, not keeping a record of wrongs, giving the benefit of the doubt, and so on. I want them to serve like Christ.

Then the speaker led us in an exercise. She said, “Put your feet squarely on the floor.” She did it, and we did too. “Sit up straight.” She modeled, and we did it too. “Touch your thumb and first finger in an OK sign.” We did it with her. “Put the OK sign on your chin.” But she put hers on her cheek. And every last one of us in the room without thinking put ours on our cheek too. She had made her point effectively. We say we want one thing with our kids, but so often we model something else. And they will always pick up what we MODEL over what we SAY.

God got my attention. My son has an anger problem because I have an anger problem that I have well modeled for him. And when I get angry at him because he got angry and threw a toy, I’m not helping anything. Apart from Scripture, my default belief system is that when he sins I need to get really angry in proportion to the seriousness of the offence, that the angrier I get the more effective it will be at deterring him from doing it again. The only problem is that my anger is NOT a deterrent to him doing it again. It just models anger for him and educates him in more sophisticated ways to act on it. That’s not how God transforms me, and it’s not how He intends me to disciple my children.

Here are Jesus’ instructions from Luke 6.

31And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
32"If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

As I wish that my boys would do to me and others, I should do to them. Not do to them in a reactionary response to what they just did. It’s my job to break the cycle of act and react. I should just ACT. Stay on course. Love. Grace. Compassion. Endurance. Act on my vision of what I want them to be and model consistently for them my end goal. My angry little boy sure can make me angry. But my job in Christ is to stop the cycle, correct him, and model for him with my life as well as my words a new and better way through gospel grace to deal with conflict.

Of course, the Golden Rule transcends child-rearing. I had just never thought of it in those specific terms. It applies to my children, my husband, my friends, and my enemies. Do to them not in reaction to what they just did to me, but do to them with a vision of where God is calling them. And THAT is the essence of being salt and light in the places God has called me to function.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Things that undermine a complementarian position

This is an old version of this post.  Here is the updated one.

I am not a fan of labels, and it annoys me that I can’t just call myself a Christian and that have enough meaning to be a sufficient label. For the sake of this discussion, I will label myself a reformed, evangelical complementarian. When I use the term complementarian, I mean that my conviction is that God created both male and female in His image, He gave to each different strengths and obligations to evidence different aspects of His character, and in marriage, He commands husbands to reflect something about His Head and wives His Body, which includes wives submitting to their husbands. God has limited the office of elder to men only (and not just any man, I should add). And women need to stay home and have babies.

Just kidding on that last part.

For some reason, I am not concerned with influencing egalitarians to my position as I am with encouraging complementarians to examine theirs carefully in light of what Scripture does and does not say.  The entire teaching from Scripture on the roles of men and women is undermined when we are not careful and precise with how we treat this topic.  I have long experience with churches and groups that take a good, true Bible teaching and manage to pervert it by sloppily adding to it their own extra-Biblical notions, subtly influenced by a personal agenda they may not even recognize. If anyone really wants to think of themselves as having a “Biblical” position, they need to CONSTANTLY reevaluate themselves against the Word, because we all, me included, can be easily deceived into not recognizing the ways we warp away from the Word left to ourselves.

I love meditating on what God has called me to be as the Helper after His own heart that is suitable for my husband. I have watched the power of laying down my life in submission and speaking in my husband’s love language of respect. And I am moved by thinking of Christ’s profound love for His Bride as I watch the interplay of love and submission in my home. These are precious doctrines to me. But too often, I watch these ideas misused and misapplied by complementarians in ways that make my concerns about egalitarians pale in comparison.

So here, fellow complementarian, are some concerns I have that I think (and it is only my personal, humble opinion) undermine the complementarian position. And if you are reading as an egalitarian, here I admit that the other side does get some things quite wrong , yet I believe there is still value--really beautiful value--to those controversial words to women—help, submit, respect, and so forth.

1) Problem number 1 is calling this debate a gospel issue. Now it’s true that the interplay between husbands and wives in the home is a TESTIMONY of the gospel as it reflects the nature of Christ’s profound love for the church. But being a testimony of the gospel is not the same as being the gospel. I said in another post that the gospel informs everything, but it is not everything. And we start entering dangerous territory quickly when we are not precise in how we talk about the link between the gospel and the complementarian position.  The gospel plus anything is not the gospel at all.

2) My second big concern is foundational to the discussion-- misinterpreting the curse for women in Genesis 3:16.  Many conservative complementarians insist that "her desire will be for her husband" means that the woman will desire to rule over her husband and usurp his place of leadership in her life.  But that is NOT what that verse says.  It says she has a desire (the word indicates a strong craving or longing) for her husband.  It's straightforward, and every woman I know personally knows exactly what it means.  Apart from Christ, we are predisposed to looking to men to fulfill in us things that only God Himself can fill.  We look to men for affirmation emotionally, spiritually, and physically, and for the most part, its only when they disappoint us that we push them aside and try to do it for ourselves independent of them.

If you misdiagnose the problem, you will inevitably offer the wrong solution.  When complementarians interpret this wrong, the result is that any woman who pursues independence or egalitarian thinking is thought to be trying to take over the world from the men.  However, most of the time, if you look closely, they have no desire to rule over men.  They don't want to be around men at all!  They likely were seriously wounded by a man who let them down, and they are done with men.  The answer is not to rise up against such women with heavy handed tactics but to point them to Christ as the One who meets them in places even the most faithful, responsible guy can't touch, and in that gospel communion with Christ, the wounded woman can reengage with men with whom God has called her to relationship.

3) Advocating husbands “ruling” over their wives. I gladly call my husband the head of our home. I’m happy when he leads. But “rule” is the terminology of the curse in Gen. 3:16, not the vision presented in Ephesians 5 of what marriage looks like that is in Christ between imitators of God. I talked about it here and enjoyed the follow up discussion.

3) Denying women deacons. Complementarians undermine at least half of the arguments against women being elders when we do this. But enough was said in this post about it.

4) Denying mutual submission.  EVERYONE in Christ is called to submit (Ephesians 5:21). EVERYONE in Christ is called to love (Ephesians 5:2). If I am not called to love my husband, then that means about 50 verses written in general terms (including the Greatest Command) don’t apply to me as a wife.  Similarly, the instructions to submit, lay down our lives, and sacrificially serve one another are everywhere in Scripture and clearly transcend gender. In the marriage relationship, husbands are called to give a particular example of love, and wives to give a particular example of submission.

The word for submit in Ephesians 5 means basically arranging yourself in formation under your leader. It’s a willing movement of self in line with another. It cannot be demanded and still be called submission. I willingly lay down my life and rights for my husband. But if he demanded it or attempted to force it, that would not be submission. That’d be oppression -- when submission in the image of Christ ends and the oppressive rule of the man predicted in the curse of Genesis 3:16 begins.

Christ demonstrates this difference for us when He “lay down His life” (I John 3:16) for us. Laying down His life was so very different from having it taken from Him. The Bible makes it clear that Christ willingly gave up the ghost and laid down His life. It was not taken from Him unwillingly. The fact that He had the power and right to do otherwise is what makes His sacrifice so … remarkable? Noteworthy? I can’t think of a big enough word for it. He LAID His life down for us! It’s profound. And when I, wife of Andy, WILLINGLY lay down my rights (and it will always be willingly, for my husband though strong willed and sometimes ornery is definitely NOT oppressive) I am being like CHRIST. Like the church too. But so very much like Christ.

I value the facets of the character of God that I am uniquely equipped to reflect as a woman. I love the doctrines surrounding what I was created to be in perfection. I have gained much wisdom from understanding the curse of Genesis 3:16 and all the ways left to myself that I reflect it. And I treasure deeply God’s calling me back to Himself and reclaiming and restoring His image in me that was marred by the fall. We need get it right, complementarians. Because we undermine so much of great beauty and worth in the Body of Christ when we don’t.

(There are other sub issues where complementarians read into Scripture and impose standards on themselves that Scripture does not. But that’s not so much a complementarian problem as just a universal tendency toward legalism. So I’ll save for another post our often unhelpful projections from silence in Scripture on the topics of working women, childbirth, organic cooking, educational choices, and so forth.)

Monday, October 04, 2010

The Gospel and My Emotions

I was first exposed to Christian counseling during my college years by proponents of a heavy-handed nouthetic counseling approach. I still love Jay Adam’s simple exposition of Romans 12, How To Overcome Evil. It was life changing for me at the time. But over time, I have become less and less comfortable with a methodology that I can figure out no better term right now to describe it than simply heavy-handed. So little grace, which is odd considering the theological background of most of the writers. But I learned (sadly) a good while back that those best able to articulate the doctrines of grace are often the worst at applying it.

I also read Larry Crabb’s Inside Out way back when. That left me uncomfortable too. Too much wiggly wobbly something or other. I’ve since enjoyed a few of his later books. I’m reading Marriage Builder and Shattered Dreams right now and am finding them quite insightful. He doesn’t always follow a clear train of thought, which frustrates my personality type. But he does in the later books reflect a life experience I can relate to--shattered hopes that instead of crushing us point us to the true source of our hope.

But today, I finished up a chapter entitled The Gospel and Our Emotions in Counsel from the Cross by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis Johnson. You can read the chapter here and buy the book here. Good, helpful, balanced, and biblical! I haven’t read that much on a Christian counseling perspective on emotions, but from what I’ve read, this is the best summary I’ve found. I took away some very helpful ideas. First, don’t ignore your emotions. They are important indicators. Our temptations are to sedate them through a variety of coping mechanisms, stamp them down and ignore them, or give in to them. Instead, use them. They are telling you something. Maybe it’s something about your health – your thyroid, for me it’s often low blood sugar associated with diabetes, or perhaps a legitimate chemical imbalance in your brain. More often, they are telling you something about your heart. So often in my own life, my emotions indicate my misplaced hopes. I want my husband or children to provide me with meaning and affirmation in a way that only my Father in heaven was intended to provide. I’m angry, discouraged, or depressed because they don’t do for me what they CAN'T do for me. But there is a hopeful, grace filled answer. I sure don’t need condemnation for my emotions. I need gospel grace enduring with me as I wrestle to see how they point me to my need for Christ and all He has permanently accomplished for me on the cross. Nobody can talk themselves out of their emotions. You can stamp them down for a while. But they will always erupt. You have to face them head on and deal with them. They mean something. They indicate something. And it’s ok to figure out what exactly spiritually that is.

I was actually a little nervous when I first encountered this chapter in Counsel from the Cross. The title scared me—it’s such a tightrope to handle this topic with careful precision from Scripture. But I ended the chapter quite encouraged, glad to hear someone succinctly summarize an approach I could embrace. Even more so, I am encouraged to be honest with myself concerning my own emotions and hopefully ready to be a better comforter to those struggling with their own.