No Matter What

index.pngI will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God while I live. May my meditation be pleasing to Him; I will rejoice in the Lord. (Psalm 104:33-34)

Sometimes we praise and rejoice when we feel like it, but many times, we do it despite our feelings and circumstances.

This psalm doesn’t claim that we sing to the Lord sometimes, but “all my life…while I live.” No matter what. We praise and rejoice not in response to how we feel but often in spite of how we feel. We praise and rejoice not because of where we are but because of who God is.

Because He doesn’t change.

No matter what.

Revenge

50de6fce2b9596cfc111e5bbced8ba12We often wait a long time for revenge, to pay back what has been done to or slighted of us or someone we love.

Absalom didn’t say anything to Amnon, either good or bad, because he hated Amnon since he disgraced his sister Tamar.

Two years later…

Absalom has planned this ever since the day Amnon disgraced his sister Tamar.” (2 Samuel 13:22-23a,32b)

Through the time we wait, the revenge, discontentment, and anger takes root. It not only affects us but also others. Whether we realize it or not, what is going on inside of us spills onto others, and it’s not pleasant. It might make us feel good, but feelings betray us. We might think we’re allowing for a safety release, but what we’re releasing isn’t safe. We might think we’re justified, but taking control rarely is. Self-control that’s God led? Yes. God-control? Yes. Control based on our own limited understanding, strength, and feelings? No.

Whatever is eating at you from the inside out is too much for you to handle. But it’s not too much for God.

The Difference between Around and Among

51UocRKBhKL._SX300_Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you, for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God. (Deuteronomy 6:14-15a)

There’s a difference between being around and being among. Being around involves aloofness, close in proximity yet not closely involved or invested. Being among is more intimate. It’s more entwined, making it more difficult to tell who is not connected to whom.

That’s the way God is: among. He is invested and involved. He doesn’t come and go. He doesn’t just casually hang out.

I know it doesn’t always feel that way, but our feelings don’t make something so (or not so). We might not be able to fully grasp God’s complete “amongness,” but we can trust Him. He is trustworthy, and He is present.

Claim God’s Love

We don’t always feel God’s love. We live in the messiness of life. We don’t feel as if we deserve it, or we can’t imagine why we find ourselves in our pain, struggles, and conflicts if God actually loves us. We find a variety of reasons to struggle with whether or not God can love us.

It’s not about whether or not God loves us. He does. He is love. Yes, He is also just, faithful, convicting, righteous, and more. He loves us enough that He won’t leave us as we are, because He knows our potential. He knows His plans. He also knows everything that gets in the way, including what gets in the way of our acceptance of His love.

We can claim God’s love despite not feeling it. In fact, when it actually has to do with God’s love, not our feelings, we really can’t help but accept it. After all, God gets to define His love; we don’t. He gets to dispense it; we don’t. We can reject it, but it doesn’t diminish it. We just miss out.

Choose to claim God’s love in its purest form, as He intends, not as you understand or feel.

Everyday Emotions

What, in general, do you do when you experience emotions?

  • I push them aside and forge forward.
  • I feel helpless and am often stopped in my tracks.
  • I sense the opportunity to look at what God’s exposing about me.
  • I’m motivated to change and grow.

Emotions expose us. We can feel unmasked. Emotions enhance our experiences, as if a highlighter has illuminated what’s going on in our lives. What do you think of when you think about being exposed?

I think about being on an island. My first thought is of being on the beach. Not the relaxing resort beach where refreshing drinks and snacks are readily available. A deserted beach. The sun is beating down, and there’s little escape if some odd creature or person wants to attack. I’m visible to everyone who is in the area as well as to the elements. I don’t feel safe.

Exposure feels unsafe. It’s unsettling.

I can also feel exposed in the very depths of the island jungle, where the vines and bushes are overgrown and hide the path. It’s a different kind of exposure. It’s exposure to the unknown and uncertainty. I can easily get lost, and I consider what could be lurking in the overgrowth.

Emotions can lead us to depend on God. The small word can is critical, because emotions will not automatically lead us to depend on God.

We can also get bogged down with our emotions. We experience negative emotions and we want to turn them into positive emotions. We experience positive emotions and we want them to last forever. We want things our way, and we usually want them to be easy. But we don’t experience easy emotions, because life isn’t easy. We get uncomfortable, and we want to change. Well, let me rephrase that. We often don’t want to change. We want something to change more than we want to be changed.

Let’s take a look at some changes in Scripture.

God said to Abraham, “I will change the name of Sarai, your wife, to Sarah.” Genesis 17:15

When Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart. All these signs came true that day. 1 Samuel 10:9

You changed my sorrow into dancing. You took away my clothes of sadness, and clothed me in happiness. Psalm 30:11

Do not be shaped by this world; instead be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect. Romans 12:2

Our faces, then, are not covered. We all show the Lord’s glory, and we are being changed to be like him. This change in us brings ever greater glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

By his power to rule all things, he will change our humble bodies and make them like his own glorious body. Philippians 3:21

Now consider the following:

So God created human beings in his image. In the image of God he created them. He created them male and female. Genesis 1:27

You made my whole being; you formed me in my mother’s body. I praise you because you made me in an amazing and wonderful way. What you have done is wonderful. I know this very well. Psalm 119:13-14

“I say this because I know what I am planning for you,” says the Lord. “I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future. Then you will call my name. You will come to me and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” Jeremiah 29:11-12

That was not because of anything we did ourselves but because of God’s purpose and grace. That grace was given to us through Christ Jesus before time began, but it is now shown to us by the coming of our Savior Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 1:9-10

I hope you recognized this one: God didn’t mess up His design of you.

He’s not capable of messing up. He created you in His image. He has a plan for your life. He even knew what mistakes you’d make throughout your life, and He still loves you and wants nothing more than to be in an ever-deepening relationship with you. He will pursue you – whether you’re not following Him and need to make that decision or you’re following Him marginally or you’re passionate about Him. He designed you for more, and He will pursue you, tapping you on the shoulder, whispering in your ear, and knocking on the door of your heart so that your daily life – including your decisions, attitudes, and yes, emotions – is impacted in the purity of who He created you to be and the everyday messiness of living on earth as you move ever closer to eternity – with God or without Him. Rest assured, God did not mess up His design for you.

For a biblical study of emotions, click here to order Pure Emotion, a 10-week study of emotions for individuals or groups.

Duplicity of Mind

doublemindedJesus said to them, “Then give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and give to God the things that are God’s.” (John 20:25)

It’s not just what we give to whom but how we focus and to what we attend. We can build walls between what we do and what we think. For instance, have you ever sat in church, surrounded by an atmosphere of worship and reading of God’s Word yet let your mind wonder to something far from God’s presence? Can you listen to music or read Scripture yet get frustrated…even with God? Perhaps you even think, “I’m doing everything I know what to do to help me focus and get some problems solved, but it’s just not working!” Or perhaps a more accurate assessment is that things aren’t changing as you’d like them to change.

You can’t be productive and stagnant at the same time. But it can certainly feel that way!

You know you’re doing what you need to be doing, but if feels as if you’re stagnant. However, if you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing, you’re being productive. It might feel like the “same old thing,” but that doesn’t mean that God isn’t working. If you’re seeking God’s will, reading God’s Word, talking and listening to God…with a pure heart…even if you feel as if you’re not growing, you are. God is working even when you don’t feel as if he’s working.

Of course, it’s always possible that you’re going through the motions without a pure heart. You could be determined that you’re only growing if you get a certain answer or feel a certain way, so all the effort you put forth—reading, studying, praying—becomes a bit “stalled.” It’s as if you’re going through the motions. But it’s not about your feelings. Feelings don’t always reflect reality. And the answer isn’t always the goal. The process often provides the answer. And really, don’t you already have the answer?

The answer isn’t a what; it’s a who.

It’s Jesus. You might not know the specifics of a situation, but in faith, you simply pursue Jesus. Even when situations don’t work out the way you want, you still end up closer to Jesus because of the pursuit.

And there’s no duplicity of mind in that!

Cope with Criticism

healingthehurt“To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” (Aristotle)

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” (Winston Churchill)

If you’re not encountering criticism, you’re not building relationships, because relationships should involve value-driven discussions and daily living, which will cause friction among individuals. Of course, the friction should be handled in God-honoring ways. We should respect one another even when we disagree, but how often do we think respecting each other is refusing to disagree? How God-honoring are we when we’re on the receiving end of the criticism? Do we take it personally and have difficulty as we think someone no longer likes us, or do we callously respond as if we don’t care because we’re going to be who we are regardless of what anyone says or thinks of us?

What do you learn from the following verses?

Bear with each other, and forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)

Brothers and sisters, if someone in your group does something wrong, you who are spiritual should go to that person and gently help make him right again. But be careful, because you might be tempted to sin, too. (Galatians 6:1)

In everything you say and do, remember that you will be judged by the law that makes people free. So you must show mercy to others, or God will not show mercy to you when he judges you. But the person who shows mercy can stand without fear at the judgment. (James 2:12-13)

I give you a new command: Love each other. You must love each other as I have loved you. All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other. (John 13:34-35)

Accept into your group someone who is weak in faith, and do not argue about opinions. (Romans 14:1)

God certainly gave his children guidelines for criticizing others. We must be loving, gentle, and merciful. We are not excused from criticism; we are simply directed to criticize within God’s standards with his provision. We are to accept and respond to criticism in the same way—within God’s standards—even when people criticizing us are not adhering to the same standards. Just because another Christ-follower is bending God’s rules does not make it okay for us to bend God’s rules, thus, fighting fire with fire.

We cope with criticism with the same standards by which we’re to give criticism.

  • Be loving—by God’s standards.
  • Be gentle—by God’s standards.
  • Be merciful—by God’s standards.
  • Be forgiving—by God’s standards.

Responding to criticism by God’s standards is not the same as hiding feelings. It’s setting aside feelings for truth. God gave us feelings to enhance experiences not to distort the truth of a situation. Let God reveal the truth of a situation. You don’t need to know the person’s motives. You don’t need to know how the person will respond. All you need to know is…God. God is truth, and when you invite and trust him to guide, your motives will become God-driven and your responses will become God-guided. You will cope with criticism with God and for God. He is at the center of your life and your relationships, including criticism. Let him lead from the center.

God’s family is certainly not exempt from hurt, including the hurts that come from within. People in churches are just as vulnerable to unjustly criticize, gossip, neglect, and offend one another as anyone else. It’s true that God sets us apart to reflect his image to the world, but to believe Christ-followers are perfect representations of Jesus will, to say the least, lead to disappointment. What (should) set Christ-followers apart from the world is how they deal with one another to heal the hurt. Will they do the hard work it takes to unite or will they further divide into quarreling, backbiting, judgmental factions? Which will you choose? Welcome to Healing the Hurt, a 10-post series to help hurting communities cope in biblical ways.