Biblical Grit – A Time to Heal

Purple Splash Cross

Remember: Don’t lift more than God can handle

Week 3: Biblical Grit – A Time to Heal 

“Hello, my name is (Name) and I am a sinner.

Have you ever wondered why addicts identify themselves by their addiction? The road to recovery begins with acknowledging our secrets and weaknesses.  Admitting our weakness takes away our secrets’ power.

What issues are on my list of hurts? Am I an alcoholic or addict?  Am I a cancer, rape, abuse or divorce survivor? Am I a victim? Or a bully? Do I struggle with the truth?  Do I gossip?  Do I wrestle with anger?  Am I in an abusive or dysfunctional relationship? Am I abusive? Is my body disappointing me? Have I been plagued with diabetes, mental illness or a chronic illness? Do my children, spouse, family or friends disappoint me? Who else has been hurt by these issues and where am I in the healing process?

Do I have support? Am I a good helper?

  1. Discuss how you react to a crisis. What problem, challenge or condition made your life unmanageable? Are you happy with the way you react? Why are you attending a bible study about overcoming challenges?

Acceptance is the first step of recovery. Acceptance doesn’t mean we celebrate bad things, declare them good or believe we can handle them.  It simply means we accept the truth, whatever that truth is. Acceptance acknowledges we are powerless over things beyond our control and ready to shed our secrets. We are ready to heal.

Denial, anger, bargaining and depression are all part of the journey to acceptance (Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, MD). Identifying ourselves by our weaknesses reminds us how fragile and precious we are.  It keeps us from slipping back into denial.

  1. List and discuss bad things out of your control.

Cancer, illness, abuse, addictions, death, poverty, natural disasters and other people are all out of our control.

By admitting we are powerless over the hurts that make our lives unmanageable, we stop pretending we are strong enough or able to heal ourselves. We put our burdens down, cry out for help and rest while we wait for our rescuer.

Read Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

God is always there to listen to our pleas. God hears our cries.

Read Psalm 55:17

Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and God hears my voice.

Admitting our weaknesses invites Jesus to join us in our suffering. Recovery begins when we give up, call out for help and embrace our savior.

Accepting things we can’t change allows peace from a waterfall of grace.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

                                      ~ Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

Read 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

“My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

  1. Turn to your neighbor and introduce yourself and discuss how it feels to admit your hurts.

“Hello, my name is (Name). I am powerless over my hurts. I admit I am weak. I am tired of pretending. I need help.”

Read 1 Peter 5:7

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Healing Relationships

Read Matthew 19:26

Jesus said, “With God all things are possible.”

 

  1. Describe a healing relationship. List and discuss comforting advice and help.

A healing relationship provides support, listens to our hurts, relieves our burdens and gives us strength. It may not heal us but it lightens our burden and provides hope.

Read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 The Value of a Friend

Two are better than one.  They are more productive. If they fall, one will lift up the other; but the one who is alone and falls, does not have another to help. Again, if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone? And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. And with God our relationships are not easily broken.

Unfortunately, most of us keep going to the same dried up wells for help and support:

  • Advice Masters: Lots of suggestions. “Maybe you should try…” No help!
  • The Fan: Lots of compliments. “You can handle it!”  “You’re strong.” No HELP!
  • Exploder:  Goes ballistic. “It’s not fair!  I’m so angry for you.” No Help!
  • Blamer: “You made your bed now lie in it.” No help.
  • Helpless: Feels too inadequate to help. Can’t help.

I’m sure we can all come up with more.  And if we are honest, we may play these roles deliberately or subconsciously.

We also may find ourselves glad when we find out someone else is hurting because everyone doesn’t get their fair share of adversity. And we are grateful to know we’re not alone.

People say foolish painful unhelpful things because they don’t know what to say.  They don’t want to be hurtful.

Scared TurtlePeople who don’t adjust well model the same ineffective techniques they learned in bad situations. The ones who disappear learned to run away or seek shelter in a crisis.  They may believe time heals all wounds and are waiting for you to magically heal. While time does heal, it isn’t the cure for all wounds.

And people who make everything worse are also doing what they think you need or want.  They want to help but don’t know how.

Rarely do we suffer alone.  Adversity strikes families and groups. It may be difficult to help each other during a crisis. Personalities clash as one may try to pull everyone up while others need more time to sit in the dust. Conflict is common during crisis.  Without intervention we may grow together or apart.

Recovery includes forgiving others for their failures.  Forgiveness heals. It doesn’t make what they said or did right.  It simply acknowledges we all have weaknesses.

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God  Romans 3:23

None of us would seek a team of cheerleaders to fix our car. We would seek a mechanic.  So let’s seek professionals for our other hurts.

The number one expert in suffering is Jesus.

Jesus suffered. Jesus was born poor, out-of-wedlock in a barn. He wasn’t attractive, popular or wealthy. Jesus was bullied, beaten and crucified. He lost friends and loved ones to death.  Jesus understands our pain. Jesus weeps for us. Jesus meets us in our suffering.

God knows our hurts. God was there when we were hurt.  God followed us into our darkest moments. God stayed with us and is still with us. Confessing our hurts to God is simply acknowledging God was there when we were hurt.

We weren’t alone when we were hurt, we’re not alone now and we will never be alone in the future.  God promises to always be with us.

  1. Say out loud together Mark 1:11 to remind yourself of God’s love for each of us. Discuss how it feels. God says to each of us

“(Name)_ you are my child, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:11

Communication is a key ingredient in a healing relationship. Healing begins with prayer. Talk to God about your hurts.

Read Matthew 7:7

[Effective Prayer] “Keep asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will open for you”. 

Every misfortune has a psychological and spiritual impact. Our emotions alter our body’s ability to heal. We rarely have control over our emotions or how we will react to stress.  We need help. We need psychological and spiritual helpers on our team.

  1. Discuss why church people are afraid to share their hurts and seek help.

Chronic pain and other physical illness sufferers are reluctant to seek psychological help because they fear seeking psychological help affirms the accusation they have a mental illness and not a “real” illness. They are afraid their affliction is not treated or respected as a “real” illness.

This attitude unfortunately perpetuates the faulty belief that mental illness is less traumatic, painful, harmful and real than having a cold, cancer or any other physical hurt. The “it’s all in your head” attitude also implies that people with mental illnesses have control over their illness and can heal themselves. Also not true, not biblical and not scientifically supported.

Family members often refuse to seek mental health support because they don’t believe they have a problem. They have the faulty belief that they don’t need help. They fail to recognize the psychological and emotional toll their family member’s illness has on their health.  They also have the faulty belief that their life will suddenly become manageable if they could just get their family member into treatment. They become so focused on other people’s problems, they lose sight of their own. And how their issues may hurt others.

Read Matthew 7:3

“Why do you worry about the speck in your friend’s eye and not the log in your own?”

God knows we can’t handle it alone and God doesn’t want us to handle it alone. God wants us to cry out for help. We shouldn’t be ashamed to admit we need help.

As a community of faith we have the power to remove the stigma from seeking help.  We begin by establishing our churches as recovery centers.

  1. Discuss your church as a recovery center. In what ways does your church help you and others?  How could it become more helpful? Discuss ways your church could remind members weekly that God’s house is a place for healing.

As a church we can offer local counseling resources.  We can share our recovery stories.

Read Hebrews 13:1-2

Loving one another.  Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some have shown hospitality to angels.

We can also show our understanding that everyone isn’t able bodied in our bulletins and announcements by explaining and giving permission for people to refrain from our church work-out routine.  Specifically explaining that we sit, stand and kneel throughout our service as part of our recovery.  We sit and kneel to show our humility, our weakness and need for a savior. We stand to praise God for sending us a savior (John 3:16). We recognize that exercise heals and all are encouraged to sway or dance to the music.  But don’t feel obligated to participate. This is a healing church.  We are all on a road to recovery. God knows our hurts whether we are standing, sitting or kneeling.  God meets us wherever we are.

Read John 13:34

Jesus says, “Love…as I love you”.

Reprogram the voice in your head. Shake off well-meaning criticisms of our quirks and differences. Shed negative false non-biblical beliefs.  Replace them with the truth. Bad stuff happens to good people. Adversity isn’t a punishment.  It is a reality of this sinful fallen world. I can’t do it alone.  I need help.

DepressionCelebrate tears.  Tears are a testimony of love.  They have healing powers. Being sad doesn’t mean we failed.  It simply means we are grieving.  If we never cry, how would Jesus count our tears?

Psalm 56:8  You record my troubles. You keep a list of my tears.

The same rules apply to being a good helper. Don’t be afraid of tears.  The best thing to do when someone is crying is hold their hand.  We don’t need to say anything or even ask questions.  It doesn’t matter what they are crying about. They need comfort. Physical presence is the greatest testimony of love.

Pray: Talk to God with and for your loved one.  Pray with them; right then and right there.  If I receive a request electronically, I respond electronically such as writing out prayer on their Facebook page if they’ve asked for prayers.  And I keep praying for them, every time they enter my mind.  Not sure what to say:

“God be with (NAME), hold them, love them and give them your grace. Amen”

Here are a few other tips to comfort your neighbor when they are hurting:

  • Keep It Simple:Grieving people are rarely looking to join a bible study, nor do they appreciate being hit with scripture or reminded of their blessings. They aren’t looking for an apology unless you caused their pain. They want comfort.   If you don’t know what to say.  Don’t say anything. Just sit with them.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV

  • Speak for yourself, not GOD. Before quoting God, make sure you know the chapter and verse in the bible.  Don’t make it up. Just admit, “I don’t know why bad things happen to good people”.
  • Speak Love:The bible is a love letter, it says that God loves them. God weeps when we weep and God wants to comfort us.

Romans 8:38-39

Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  • Look for God: God will be there.  Christ promises to weep with us, count our tears and comfort us. When chaos strikes, look for the helpers. Identify the highs of the day by noticing the helpers or the things that made you smile. Seek help. Look for the people who feed, comfort and clothe Christ.

Matthew 25:35-36

I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was alone and away from home, and you invited me into your house.  I was without clothes, and you gave me something to wear. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

  • Accept help: Our strengths serve others while our weaknesses offer opportunities to serve us.
  • Expect setbacks: Setbacks are part of recovery. It is normal to take a step back before moving forward. We all need moments to catch our breath before moving forward or time to look back to see how far we’ve come.

Recovery is a daily process.

Read Matthew 6:34

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Healing isn’t guaranteed in this world nor is closure always possible. We may never stop missing the people we’ve lost and or the person we used to be. The bible doesn’t encourage closure in this world.  We miss what we have lost and yearn to be whole again.

When Christ was crucified, Jesus conquered death and all our other weaknesses on the cross.  We were rescued from death and promised to be reunited and restored.

The tomb was empty.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference. Amen

                                        Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

Survival Skills

rock hill

Remember: Don’t lift more than God can handle

Warning:  Bad Things Happen to Good People

Week 2: Survival Steps

 

Let’s talk about stress.

The most difficult problems to accept are the ones we can’t change. We struggle, wrestle and beat ourselves up with stuff beyond our strength and out of our control.

We expect the impossible when we treat every hardship as a challenge to overcome.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Such as applying self-help one liners to every situation expecting a quick fix and being shocked when they don’t work. Only to keep giving the same advice to others that never works for us.

“You can do it”, “do it yourself” and “never give up” attitudes don’t work when we lack control over the situation or need help.

“No pain, no gain” applies to a good workout but is cruel to say to rape, murder or other abuse victims.

Not every problem is solved with a box of kittens, a tissue and a pep talk. In reality, every fight can’t be won. And most importantly, it may actually be impossible because not every issue is ours to solve.

We may not have the skills, the resources or even the control to stop bad things from happening or make things better.

  1. List and discuss bad things out of your control.

 

 

Cancer, mental illness, abuse, addictions, death, poverty and natural disasters are all major tragedies out of our control.

 

Telling ourselves or someone else they are strong enough to handle adversity is not biblical. God knows we can’t handle it alone. God didn’t create us to handle it alone and God doesn’t want us to handle it alone.
People who can do everything themselves don’t need help.  They don’t need a savior.

God wants to be part of our lives.  God wants us to give up, call out for help and embrace our savior.

PrayerRead Matthew 11:28-30 

“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

  1. Discuss Matthew 11:28-30. Why is it hard to ask for help?

Babies cry out for help.  Children cry out for help.  “OUCH” or “HELP!” is a normal natural quick way to tell people who care about us that we need help.

Is there an age when we are too old or a time when we are too able to ask for help?

So why is one of the very first lies we teach children “you’re OK, you’re not hurt, shake it off, and don’t let anyone know you’re hurt, don’t show weakness…”? Why do we put so much emphasis on self-sufficiency?

Also not biblical.

God hears our cries.

Read Psalm 55:17

Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and God hears my voice.

God wants us to cry out.

When we are weary and burdened we appreciate rest.  We appreciate help.  We notice when we are relieved of our burdens.

God created us to be social.  We are yoked, tethered and joined together with Christ in his baptism, life, death and resurrection (Romans 6). We need each other.  We need Christ.

Accepting things we can’t change is an important recovery step.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

~ Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

The path to acceptance isn’t easy. It is a journey of its own. Some people are determined to figure out how to solve all their problems on their own. Some have too many secrets, hurts, habits and faulty beliefs to get help. They are afraid and don’t have the support system to recover.

The path to recovery should never be ventured alone. Seek God, a good counselor and healthy support group.

The hardest problems to accept are other people’s problems. When we love someone, we want to protect them.  We want to end their pain. We feel responsible for them and their problems. We struggle for them.

But we have very limited control over other people and their problems, even when those problems hurt us.

Trying to change other people is futile.

The only path to acceptance is through grief.  We have to let go of our old tired beliefs that don’t work (Romans 6:6), reveal our secrets, accept humility and admit weakness.

Read 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

  1. Discuss 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. Why are church people afraid to share their weaknesses, sins and hardships?

In 1969, Swiss psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, MD identified five emotional stages of grief from personal loss or change from death, illness, incarceration, divorce or addictions. These five emotional stages apply to any stress or change in our life, including traffic.

It is important to remember these stages aren’t sequential.  They don’t work like a check list.  We go back and forth between them as we attempt to cope.

And when crisis hits a family or group everyone covers different stages making communication and progress difficult.

  1. Discuss each emotional stage. Request a volunteer to represent each stage.

Denial: Our first reaction to stress is denial.  It is a retreat when we feel overwhelmed. While in denial we refuse or are unable to believe the truth. Denial is a mask. It provides a false reality to the truth.  Denial is the furthest point away from recovery.

Denial says “I’m not sick”, “My brother isn’t dead”, and “I don’t have a problem with alcohol”.

Dysfunctional behavior flourishes in denial and denial leaves victims open to further abuse.

Read Proverbs 23:29-35

“They hit me but I’m not hurt! They beat me, but I don’t feel it! When will I wake up…”

Anger:  Anger is our strongest emotion.  It can range from mild irritation to rage. Anger emerges when we feel pushed to acknowledge our loss.

Anger is an important emotion and an important step in recovery. Anger acknowledges and protects us from the raw truth. It is a crossroad, to truth or denial.

Anger shouts, “Why me?”, “It’s not fair!”, “How can this happen to me?”, ‘”Who did this to me?”, “Why did God let this happen?”

Unfortunately, anger may stall recovery for people who are uncomfortable with conflict, afraid of anger and unable to face the reality of their loss.

And anger is destructive when turned inwards or out to others. Angry people are motivated to do something but rarely is anger productive.

Anger blames God, the addict, their family and everyone else. Anger shames the victim and is unproductive.

Read Ephesians 4:26-27

“In your anger do not sin” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

Bargaining: Everyone learns how to bargain or negotiate to avoid punishment. Bargaining demonstrates hope in a higher power’s ability to change the situation and restore their life before adversity. While bargaining offers hope, it is still far from acceptance. Bargaining is another strategy to avoid adversity. It is an effort to gain control over the situation.

Bargaining says, “I promise I’ll never have sex again if I’m not pregnant” or “I promise to stop drinking if the judge lets me go.”

Read Psalm 66:13-14

I will fulfill my vows to you – vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke when I was in trouble.

Depression: Depression hits when we feel the full weight of the situation, and know we are powerless but not ready to accept help. Shame, guilt, past memories and clinical depression may stand in the way of healing. Depression is silent, tearful and mourns the loss. Depressed people may feel ashamed or lack the energy to be with other people. They are afraid and hopeless. Depression says “I’m so sad”, “what’s the point?” and “why go on?”

Read Psalm 22:2

My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.

Acceptance:  Acceptance doesn’t mean we celebrate the bad things that happen to us or declare them good.  It simply means we accept the truth, whatever that truth may be. Acceptance acknowledges we are powerless over things beyond our control and ready to shed our secrets.

We are only as sick as our darkest secrets.

Denial, anger, bargaining and depression are all part of the journey to acceptance.

Acceptance is the first step of recovery. Acceptance leads to peace.

Acceptance says, “I know I have a problem.  I need help. Will you help me?”

Read 1 Peter 5:7

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Remember: These emotional stages aren’t sequential.  We go back and forth between them as we struggle to cope with loss. We can fall asleep in acceptance and wake up in denial.

It is important to be patient in love and recovery.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

~  Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

 

  1. Group activity: Volunteers role play how each emotional stage interacts within a family for the following issues:
  • Death
  • Addictions
  • Domestic Violence
  • Mental Illness

 

1 Thessalonians 5:11 

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Homework: Make a list of your hurts.  Identify everyone who may be hurt by these issues and identify where you are in the healing process.

Luke 12:2-3

There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, or secret that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.

Talk to God about your hurts, the people hurt with you and the person(s) causing the hurt.  Keep praying every time they enter your mind.

 Matthew 7:7 [Effective Prayer] “Keep asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you”. 

Not sure what to say:

“God restore us.  Help me accept my past, present and future.  Help me accept that I am powerless over _(my hurts)_.  Restore and heal those I love.  Help us walk in truth.  Pour out your grace upon us. Help us.  Give us the courage to accept help. Amen”

Remember: You may not know what wall is preventing you or them from restoring peace.

Beyond MY Strength

Life has guarantees but happiness, food, clothing, shelter, health or care are not among them.  At least not for everyone and not in this world. This is not a perfect world.

Bad stuff happens to everyone. Everyone gets hurt. Everyone falls down, bumps their head or knee and has to wear a Band-Aid at some point in their life.

We all experience stress. And until Christ returns, everyone dies.

Read Romans 5:12

[Death through Adam] Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man (Adam), and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—

  1.  Discuss normal stressful events that happen to everyone.

Pulling Hair outChange is stressful.  It doesn’t matter if it is good or bad. All change is stressful. Growing up, getting sick and changing schools are all normal and stressful. Choosing or changing careers is stressful. Meeting new people is stressful. Moving, getting married, having or not having children, and even adopting a cat are stressful.

Just talking to other people can be stressful.

And not everyone deals well with change, stress and challenges.  Some crave change and are instruments of change while others hate, avoid or don’t adapt well to change.  Some are tough, others sensitive. A heavy burden to one is light to another.

2. Not everyone adjusts well or quickly to change. How well do you adjust? Who taught you how to cope with change?

People who don’t adjust well make poor teachers. They teach and model the same ineffective techniques they were taught. And they are ill equipped to cope with bigger bumps in the road.

  1. Discuss some common life events or conditions that are challenging.

Unfortunately, not everyone is considered by others as equally attractive, intelligent or able.  We don’t all have the same social skills. Not everyone is strong, fit and able to compete. Some are weak, awkward and disabled. Some are bullied.  Not every family is healthy and every relationship doesn’t lead to a happily ever after.  Almost everyone will experience a major loss of someone or something they love.

And once again, we don’t all react the same.

  1. List and discuss major tragedies and suffering.

Chronic illness, mental illness, abuse, addictions, loss of a child, domestic violence, rape, assault, poverty, natural disasters and murder are all major tragedies with extreme suffering.

Sadly, everyone isn’t equipped to comfort others. Some of the cruelest things are said in hospitals, funerals and churches in the name of “love” or “comfort”.

  1. Discuss thoughtless, unhelpful and painful advice you’ve heard or given.

We’ve all given bad advice and said thoughtless things when our friends or loved ones are hurting, especially if we’re the ones causing the hurt.

Often well-meaning individuals minimize our experiences if in their opinion they aren’t major tragedies  or they think their experiences are worse than ours. Not everyone is a good helper.

Even pastors say things that don’t help like:

“God NEVER gives us more than we can handle?”

Aside from telling a grieving parent that “God needed another angel in heaven” or “At least you have another child”, “God NEVER gives us more than we can handle?” is one of the most misquoted biblical verses.

While it is empowering for normal milestones, life events, temptations or when the victim has the resources to help themselves, it is a stumbling block for anyone suffering a tragedy beyond their control. It is harmful out of context.

“Bootstrap” theology implies everyone who suffers has the “bootstraps” or power to save themselves. “Bootstrap” theology tells the victims of domestic violence, rape or natural disaster to pick themselves up and move on.  It implies God caused it and knew they could handle it.  It provides no consequence to the perpetrator, making the perpetrator an innocent agent of God’s will. “Bootstrap” theology blames rather than empowers or helps victims.

The Bootstrap advice suggests that starving children just need to eat, the poor just need to work and the homeless just need to build a house.  It implies they must have the resources but are too lazy to cook themselves a meal, find a job or build a house.

I’ve heard this misquoted at hospitals, funerals and in churches. “Bootstrap” theology drives people away from God.

If everyone had the resources to tackle their own problems, why would anyone go to God? We wouldn’t need a savior.

Therefore, it is best to check to see if they have bootstraps or the resources before recommending someone pull themselves up by them. Otherwise, you may need to lend them yours.

The verse is in the bible but as previously noted it is taken out of context when applied to tragedy. Read 1 Corinthians 10:13 

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10 is about temptation. It has nothing to do with situations out of our control.  It only applies to situations within our control.

Take note that the Jewish people were in slavery for over 400 years before God sent Moses.  Generations of Jewish people were tested well beyond their strength and lifetime. They didn’t have the resources to free themselves.  They needed a savior.

Women aren’t raped because God knows they can handle it. Teenagers don’t commit suicide because God knows their parents and friends can handle it. God doesn’t allow murder because God knows the victim can handle it. People don’t get cancer because God knows they are strong enough to survive it.

How is this misguided theology a comfort to mothers who’ve lost children or families of murder victims?

Just like happiness, adversity is not guaranteed. While bad stuff happens to everyone, misfortune is not equally distributed.  Everyone doesn’t get their fair share of adversity.  Some people are born rich, loved, healthy and happy. Others are born poor, sick, abandoned and depressed.

  1. Why do bad things happen? Does being healthy and wealthy make someone a good person? Are some people cursed? Have you ever wonder if you’re cursed in love, health, or wealth? 

Most children understand cause and effect. Children in homes that give ice cream for good behavior believe good children get ice cream and bad children go to bed without ice cream. Therefore, they begin to assume that all children who go to bed without ice cream must be bad without realizing all parents can’t afford ice cream. And they transfer these assumptions onto God assuming that their health, wealth and full tummy is a reflection of how good they are, along with the assumption that God makes bad things happen to bad people.

This assumption is carried into adulthood and passed onto new generations.

Just like telling someone they can handle adversity, this assumption is also used as an excuse to relieve ourselves of any responsibility for our neighbor for fear of interfering with God’s plan.

But the bible doesn’t support this theory.  God tells us over and over again that the children who go to bed crying without food, clothes, shelter, a friend, parent or even a bed are blessed. (The Beatitudes Matthew 5:1-12) Blessed?

How is adversity a blessing? We’ll get to that in moment because it is important to dwell on the truth that adversity isn’t a punishment from God.

Our faith is a very strange insurance policy that almost guarantees things get worse because we have the policy.

God provides a whole book in the Old Testament about hardship to good people – Job.

Job and his wife lose everything in just a few moments. Their children die. They lose all their wealth and status in the community.

Read Job 1:1, 8

Job was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. 

The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

  1. Was Job a bad guy? How did God describe Job?

 

Read Job 1:9-12

Satan replied.  “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”

  1. Why did bad things happen to Job? Who caused the adversity?

  

Read Job 1:13-19 (Summary)

One day a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen and the donkeys were stolen. Your servants killed, and I am the only one who escaped to tell you!”

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up your sheep and servants, and I am the only one who escaped to tell you!”

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “Your camels were killed and servants killed, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were at your oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind collapsed the house on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who escaped to tell you!”

Talk about a bad day but Job’s troubles weren’t over. Read Job 2:1, 7-8

On another day …Satan afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.  Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.

  1. What happened to Job?

Read Job 2:3-6

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”

 “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”

  1. How did God describe Job? Was Job a bad guy? Why was he hurt? Who caused his pain?

Job is blameless and upright. He fears God and shuns evil.  Job didn’t do anything to deserve what Satan did to him.

The Bible makes it clear that God was not punishing Job for anything he did. God wasn’t teaching Job a lesson nor did God claim Job would be able to handle everything but death. In fact, what happens to Job really has nothing to do with him personally.

Job is a difficult book to read because God points Job out to Satan.  God gives Satan permission to take everything away from Job and his wife. God even allows Satan to harm Job physically. The only thing Satan wasn’t allowed to do was kill Job.  However, like most grieving parents, Job doesn’t find that a blessing. He wonders why his life was spared to endure the agony of grief and pain.

Surprisingly, Job remains blameless throughout his torture. Even when his wife and friends tell him to curse God, Job continues to bless and praise God.

Job asks God why this happened to him; and God tells Job it is beyond his understanding (Chapters 38-40).  And in the end, God restores Job his wealth and family.

The ultimate message is God never gives us more than God can handle. Bad stuff happens to good people and God’s grace is poured out during our darkest moments when we are in most need of a savior.

Read Romans 5:18

Just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen

Remember: You’re not alone.

Homework:  Read Psalm 86. Pray for trust in God’s mercy during times of trial. Remind yourself daily that suffering isn’t your fault.  Bad things happen to good people.

Pray:  Compassionate Lord, have mercy on me.  Let me know you are near. Give me a sign of your grace. Help me hear your voice and feel your embrace.  Give me the courage to lean not on my own understanding but in your infinite wisdom. Thank you Lord for your steadfast love. Amen.

Week 1: Beyond MY Strength

Week 2: Survival Steps

Week 3: Biblical Grit

Overcoming Challenges

chalengesWarning:  Bad things happen to good people. Do you feel tired? Overwhelmed? Wonder if you’re cursed in love, health, wealth…? What does God say about adversity? You’re not alone. If you’re struggling, join me starting Monday, June 1 for this 3 week bible study Mondays, June 1 – June 15, 2015  for biblical strength and coping skills. Remember: Don’t lift more than God can handle.

Healthy Relationships 101: Healthy Farewells

Luke 10_27“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love (Name or Relationship) as yourself.’” Luke 10:27 (NIV)

 Leaving, departing, separating, moving on, moving ahead, and moving away is part of life.  We leave the womb, the hospital and home. We advance in grades and eventually graduate. We leave teachers, mentors and classmates.  We change jobs. We change churches. We meet new people, grow apart from others and lose some to death. We say goodbye to people, pets, places and things.

 

  1. Are you good at saying goodbye? Who taught you how to say goodbye? What puts the “good” in
    bye? Describe your best farewell.

 

 

Our ability or inability to let go is largely related to our personality. Specifically, our ability or inability to change. Change is stressful to almost everyone regardless of personality. Most adapt to the everyday hellos, goodbyes and developmental milestones because change is part of growing but it doesn’t mean everyone is comfortable with change.

 

We are born with a default setting to be either an initiator of change, eager to change, resistant or unable to change. Each has value and purpose. And each can be healthy or unhealthy in saying goodbye. Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-11  

 

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
        a time to tear down and a time to build,
   a time to weep and a time to laugh,
       a time to mourn and a time to dance,

        a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
   a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
  a time to love and a time to hate,
                                            and a time for peace.

 God has made everything beautiful in its time.

 

Individuals unable or resistant to change preserve traditions. They provide consistency and stability. They are loyal and faithful. They put time and effort into mending broken relationships. However, they are also vulnerable to abuse by remaining loyal to unhealthy relationships. It doesn’t make them responsible for the abuse nor does it mean they want to be abused. It simply means change isn’t easy for them and they value relationships.

People who initiate or are eager to change see change as an opportunity. They also value relationships and enjoy making new friends. They may be very good at helping others adjust to change.  And are called to create new ministries in communities of faith. They may be effective at saying goodbye. However they may be impulsive and too quick to abandon relationships.

CAUTION: Toxic people have difficulty making healthy changes and saying goodbye.  Toxic environments breed toxic habits and attitudes which become poisonous.  Don’t tell a toxic person you’re leaving. They won’t take it well. They are extremely fearful of change and any perceived loss of control. They react with violence and destruction.

You will need help, a safety plan and protection to get away. Toxic people make toxic relationships.  Both the victim and the abuser are toxic and need professional intervention.

 

So what is a healthy farewell? Healthy people in healthy relationships have healthy farewells. A healthy farewell is the healthy conclusion to a healthy relationship.

 

  1. How do we know if our relationship is healthy?

 

 

A relationship is healthy when both individuals feel loved and supported.  They know they are loved.  Love is the key ingredient in a healthy relationship. A relationship without love is not healthy.

The most beautiful expression of love is grace, mercy and forgiveness. Healthy people are able to resolve their differences or agree to disagree. Resolving conflict is the gateway to a deeper long lasting love.

Healthy people respect each other.  They appreciate one another’s gifts and celebrate each other’s accomplishments. They communicate.  They spend time together. The relationship works.  It is functional.

 

  1. If a relationship is healthy, why say goodbye? When is it time to say goodbye? How do you know?

Remember, just because a relationship becomes dysfunctional or encounters conflict, doesn’t mean the relationship must end. Conflict is normal and all relationships are dysfunctional because we live in a sinful fallen world. Everyone falls short Romans 3:23. Therefore our relationships fall short.

Dysfunctional relationships can be improved with intervention. But toxic relationships MUST end and both participants need intervention.

Our relationship with God is the only relationship that is always functional.  Even when we fall short, God provides perfect love that heals all wounds and repairs all hurts. We never need to say goodbye to God because we will never find ourselves at a crossroad with God.  Because of our baptism we take God with us everywhere, even into the darkest places of our life. Our relationship with God never needs to end.

As previously noted, there are natural farewells such as when we get married, send our children to school, start a new job or move away. It is time to say goodbye when we find ourselves at a crossroad and our paths must go in different directions.

Like Jonah, Joseph, Moses and all of Jesus’ disciples we may be called to leave our family, friends and community to bring the good news to others.

  1. Describe an unhealthy parting.

 

 

A bad breakup leaves the relationship worse than before they met. The participants are abusive, angry, resentful and cruel.  Bad breakups go on too long.  They guilt each other into staying together when their paths no longer meet.  You know it is a bad breakup when you want to throw a party when they finally leave.

Unless the relationship is toxic, it is not healthy to just disappear without saying goodbye or letting someone know how much they meant to you. Severing a relationship doesn’t make it easier or healthy.  It just ends it.

Seek help if you have trouble saying goodbye especially if your relationship is unhealthy.

Healthy Farewell Tips:Cinderella

Prayer:  God should be involved in all of our relationships form start to finish. Healthy farewells require prayer. We must be in constant prayer before, during and after our farewell.  We pray for our old and new relationships.

Remain Positive: Saying goodbye doesn’t mean there is something wrong with our current relationship or community. We don’t need to look for reasons to end the relationship.  Pointing out their flaws when we’re getting ready to leave is cruel. Everyone is flawed.

Healthy people don’t blame their departure on someone else’s weaknesses.

Read 2 Corinthians 12:9

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

When Jesus told his disciples to “shake the dust off your feet” of the towns that didn’t welcome them it was a call to leave the negative energy behind Luke 9:5.  It wasn’t permission to gossip about them to everyone else.

Separation anxiety and abandonment issues cause unhealthy people to spend too much time comparing new to old relationships. They make the old the villain and the new a hero.  This is particularly true for people changing churches. While their new church may be a much better fit for them, it doesn’t make their old church unhealthy for others.

Celebrating the Tears: Goodbyes hurt because the pain is a testimony of the love we have for one another. Being sad doesn’t mean we are making a bad choice. It simply means we are grieving.

If it isn’t difficult we probably stayed too long.

It is important to share our feelings with those we are leaving.  In each of Paul’s letters in the New Testament, Paul graciously pours out each Church‘s strengths.  Remember to always build one another up.

Stay in the Moment:  It is important to focus on who you are with at the time. No one wants to hear about how great or terrible the “old” boyfriend or girlfriend was. If you really like the way your new partner treats you, focus on what you like about them not what you didn’t like about someone else. And thank them for the things you appreciate.

Time:  Time does heal all wounds.  Grief takes time.  It sends us on an emotional roller coaster. Time doesn’t give closure.  We may never stop missing the people we’ve lost and it is extremely important to know that the bible doesn’t encourage closure in this world.  We yearn to be reunited because Jesus conquered death on the cross and we are promised to be reunited with our loved ones again.

During our journey for love, we are called to make an honest assessment of unhealthy attitudes, beliefs and habits (sin) blocking our relationships.

Sometimes the most peaceful and loving resolution is a healthy farewell. Until we meet again.

Homework: Make a list of the people in your past that you have said goodbye. Make a list of the things you liked about them. Talk to God for these people.

Make a list of the important people in your life now and what you like about each. Talk to God for these people.

“God be with _____, hold him/her, love him/her and give _______ your grace. Thank you for our relationship. Thank you for their gifts of … Amen”

Goodbye

 

Healthy Relationships 101: TOXIC Love

Healthy Relationships 101: TOXIC Love

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love __(Name or Relationship)_ as yourself.’” Luke 10:27 (NIV)

Toxic LoveI hadn’t anticipated discussing toxic relationships on Mother’s Day but I guess God had a plan and a sense of humor. Many like me have a toxic mother. So this post is dedicated to everyone who struggles with a healthy relationship with their mom.

Toxic relationships are by definition NOT healthy. They are harmful, destructive and dangerous.  They don’t work. The participants hurt each other and should be kept apart.

The good news about creating a bible study about toxic relationships is that the bible is full of toxic relationships. The hard part is choosing which ones to include in a one hour study.

The bible is the first tabloid. The bible spares no one. It reports everyone’s dirty laundry.  Mental illness, sex scandals, murder, rape, incest, addictions, betrayal, rags to riches, riches to rags, lies and all other criminal activity is described in great detail. Here are a few that hit the tabloids:

  • Adam Humiliates Eve: The first marital spat leads to the downfall of humankind. Eve despises Adam for humiliating her in front of God. She never forced him to eat the fruit, she didn’t trick him and he lied to her about the rules of Eden. She wants a divorce. But he’s the only guy. Genesis 3
  • Brother Charged with MURDER: Sibling rivalry goes wrong. An unthinkable homicide, Cain kills Abel in cold blood.  Why couldn’t they get along? Genesis 4:8
  • Bye Bye Joe: Another family feud. Hostility high, brothers sell favorite child for twenty pieces of silver but he was worth so much more. Genesis 37
  • NO Justice for Rape Victims: More rape than on a college campus. Dinah, Tamar, Bathsheba and nameless victims. Genesis 34, 2 Samuel 11, 2 Samuel 13, Judges 19
  • Bad Dads: Abraham blames God for attempted murder of Isaac. Isaac plays favorites. Lot offers daughters to be raped by angry mob. David worse biblical father ever. Solomon missing in action. Genesis 19, Genesis 22, Genesis 25, 1 Kings 11

Aside from Jesus’ relationships with his disciples and family, every relationship in the bible is dysfunctional. Our relationships seem healthy compared to our biblical family.

However before we start throwing mud, it is really important to get grounded in truth.  All relationships are occasionally dysfunctional.

We live in a sinful fallen world. Everyone has flaws. We all sin. We all fall short (Romans 3:23). Therefore our relationships fall short.

While the Good Samaritan is a great story to teach us how to love a stranger, it provides little help in getting along with your mother, brother, spouse, friend, in-laws or boss. Some people are mean. Sometimes we are mean, grumpy and difficult.

If you surfed the internet for quizzes to determine if your relationship or someone else’s is toxic, chances are it is dysfunctional if not toxic.

  1. How do we know if our relationship is healthy?

 

A relationship is healthy when both individuals feel loved and supported.  They know they are loved.  They respect each other.  They appreciate one another’s gifts and celebrate each other’s accomplishments. They communicate.  They spend time together. They are able to resolve their differences or agree to disagree. The relationship works.  It is functional.

  1. Describe a dysfunctional relationship. What makes it dysfunctional?

 

A relationship is dysfunctional when it is not working.  The participants don’t feel loved or supported. They fail to communicate, spend time together and treat each other with kindness. They can’t express their differences or come to an agreement. They may bicker, fight or ignore each other.

A relationship can start dysfunctional, become dysfunctional or have periods of dysfunction during stress or change. Dysfunction is usually related to differences in personalities, cultures, expectations and the way we adapt. Typically, a dysfunctional relationship can be improved with intervention. The relationship may not need to be ended.  It needs an adjustment.

  1. Describe a toxic relationship. What makes it toxic? Have you ever been in a toxic relationship?

Toxic relationships are poisonous and may be fatal. They will not get better on their own, get worse when challenged, they require professional intervention and separation. A toxic relationship may be physically, sexually, emotionally or psychologically abusive.

Toxic people should come with the warning labels:

CODEPENDENT: I am constantly seeking someone to complete me.  I can’t be alone.  I am either the savior or victim.  We hold each other hostage. As the savior, I enable addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement. I’m always helping, making excuses for my partner and don’t see myself as part of the problem. As the victim, I am stuck in my past, lack self-sufficiency and suicidal.  I turn to relationships or other addictions to show my brokenness. Both need professional help.

BullyAbusive: I am controlling and jealous.  I am a bully at home, school, work and on the highway. I have no boundaries. It isn’t personal. I feel responsible for controlling everyone in my environment.  I treat everyone like a servant or child.  You will have to ask permission to do anything, go anywhere, or see anyone. I will find your weakness and humiliate, blackmail and shame you. My threats are real.  I will hurt you, the people or things you love. You don’t control me.  It’s not cheating if I sleep with someone else. It is your fault I lose my temper. I will do whatever I have to do to control you; including rape or murder. Don’t tell me you’re leaving. I won’t take it well. You will need help, a safety plan and protection to get away.  I need to be incarcerated with at least three years of treatment and a lifetime of monitoring.

Passive Aggressive:  I am an unreliable liar.  I always agree with you.  Why don’t you believe me?  Just because I agreed the cat was obese and kept feeding her after you went to bed doesn’t mean I didn’t agree with you.  I always say I’ll be there but something always gets in the way. When you accuse me of being passive aggressive or simply frustrating I am extremely apologetic, confused and hurt. Obviously I didn’t understand your instructions. You wonder if you are going crazy.  You are. You wonder if I love you.  I don’t.  I find you as annoying and difficult as you find me. I am the most challenging personality to help. If the professionals can’t help me, you can’t help me. Leave. Seek help.

DISSOCIATIVE: I am cold, frosty, dismissive and distant.  I don’t show affection because I don’t know how and you can’t teach me. I dissociate.  I don’t remember the past.  I am frozen in the present and I can’t anticipate a future. It doesn’t seem like I’m here because I’m not. I will not warm up after we get married, have children or spend time together. A stone baking in the sun will give you more warmth. I need professional help.

Narcissist: I am arrogant because I am always right because I am a narcissist. I am perfect.  I give advice to everyone else. I know exactly why I am better than everyone else.  I generously share my opinions. You can’t love me more than I love myself. Please don’t remove my mirrors.  I keep myself company by talking to myself. I am snobbish because I am a snob.  I am always the smartest, most attractive, important person.  I am special. I am unique. I know you admire me. It is okay to tell me how much you like me.  Don’t expect me to love you. I’m too busy loving myself. I’m not taking advantage of other people. I am giving them the advantage of loving me. I have no boundaries. I deserve everything I have and everything you have. I don’t need help.  You do.

Toxic people have personality disorders that were either developed in a toxic environment, inherited or both. Toxic people make toxic relationships.  Both the victim and the abuser are toxic and need professional intervention.

Healthy people know when they come into contact with a toxic person because the eerie music comes on like in the movies and their gut tells them to get away before something bad happens.

CAUTION: If you are often caught off guard by toxic people or frequently find yourself in toxic relationships, you are probably a toxic person. Get help!

ATTENTION: If you are a perfectionist, controlling, rude, critical, negative, judgmental, frequently complain, angry, interrupt others, difficult to please, hold grudges, blame others, withhold appreciation, enjoy punishing others and think you are better than everyone else. You are toxic.  Get Help!

Toxic people do not know how to resolve conflict.

  1. Who taught you how to resolve conflict? What did they teach you?  Does it work?

God gave us the Commandments to teach us how to love each other (Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5). We first prepare ourselves for relationships by constantly developing our skills to love. Jesus taught us how to resolve conflict when we harm others. Read Luke 6:42

How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Jesus further advised us in Matthew 5:23-48 (paraphrased):

When we realize our brother or sister has something against us, we should immediately go, ask for forgiveness and be reconciled to them.  We should settle our disagreements quickly.  If they are not satisfied, we seek counsel.

We should seek professional help if we find we are unable to love our family, friends, neighbors or self. `

We don’t need to swear or make oaths.  We should be honest.

We should be generous with our forgiveness, our apologies and restitution. Apologize when we are wrong and restore what we have harmed.

We should love like God.  Love the people who hate us.  Greet everyone with kindness. Pray for everyone. Love.

In this way we love others the way we want to be loved.

Love is the key ingredient to a healthy relationship. A relationship without love is not healthy.  Relationships fall short when we don’t know how to love. And the most beautiful expressions of love is grace, mercy and forgiveness. Resolving conflict is the gateway to a deeper long lasting love.

Our love letter from God doesn’t advise us to pretend we aren’t hurt. God’s Word repeatedly tells us how much sin hurts.  We were born equipped with the ability to scream out for help. We weren’t taught to say Ouch!  We just did. It was a normal natural sound to tell those who cared about us that we needed help.

  1. Why is it so difficult to ask for help? Why do we avoid conflict? Why is it so difficult to express pain?

 

“They hit me,” you will say, “but I’m not hurt! They beat me, but I don’t feel it! When will I wake up…” Proverbs 23:29-35

Proverbs asks “when will we wake up”. It implies that if we are hit and claim it doesn’t hurt, we must be drunk, something must be numbing the pain. When we deny being hurt those who wish to harm us will hit harder.

During our journey for the greatest truth, LOVE, we are called to make an honest assessment of unhealthy attitudes, beliefs and habits (sin) blocking our path. The Holy Spirit is trying to lovingly shake us; to wake us up.

We are called to resolve conflict, not create or ignore conflict. Conflict resolution must be rooted in love. Remember and read Philippians 2:3

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

The first step to resolving conflict is to prepare our hearts. Read Luke 6:37

Judging Others ] “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

We must forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t mean conflict is resolved or that the relationship is completely restored.  It also doesn’t mean we allow them to continue to hurt us.

Forgiveness frees us from the anger and resentment.  It stops the hurt. Forgiveness restores our health and makes conflict resolution possible.  But it isn’t automatic.  The other person has a choice.

We must forgive them when they repent, no matter how many times they hurt us (Luke 17:4).  But we don’t have to let them keep hurting us.  Nor do we have to maintain a relationship with a toxic person. Sometimes the healthiest way to resolve conflict is to let go.

Jesus gave us the biblical steps to resolve conflict at home, work, school and at church. Read Matthew 18:15

“If your brother or sister hurts you or someone else, go and talk to them, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.”

We must be in constant prayer before, during and after our conversation. We must be ready to forgive, be open, listen, apologize for our sins and restore health to the relationship. How to respond if you have hurt them, “I’m sorry.  Will you forgive me?”

We also must be fair and realize they may not be ready to restore the relationship. Read Matthew 18:16

But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’

Once again, be in constant prayer before, during and after your conversation. Be ready to forgive, listen, apologize and restore health to the relationship.

Be fair and realize they may not be ready. They may have other issues blinding them from the truth.

Don’t speak for God! Things often get worse before they get better. Telling someone in quick sand to trust you and that everything will be OK doesn’t help.  Stay in the moment, leave their future to God.

Keep them in prayer. Pray that God speaks directly to them, that they will feel the Holy Spirit comforting them. If they are toxic and a risk to themselves or others. Read Matthew 18:17

If they still refuse to listen, don’t meet with them again without professional help; and if they refuse to listen leave them to the mercies of God and the world.

Remember we have a choice.  God doesn’t force us to resolve our conflicts so we shouldn’t force anyone to resolve their conflicts.  Sometimes the most peaceful and loving resolution is a healthy farewell.

peaceGod’s formula for conflict resolution comes with a promise. Read Matthew 19-20

“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Amen!

Homework: Make a list of the people you have hurt or have hurt you.  Talk to God for these people.  Keep praying every time they enter your mind. Matthew 7:7

[Effective Prayer ] “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you”. 

Not sure what to say:

“God be with my _____, hold him/her, love him/her and give _______ your grace. Help me restore our relationship. Amen”

Stay Focused: You may not know what wall is preventing them from resolving conflict. Your experiences may or may not be relevant. God promises to use your experiences when the time is right.  Don’t waste time and energy sharing something personal and precious with someone who isn’t capable of listening. The rule is simple: Share your story if/when they ask for it. Or start a blog so they can read it if/when they want. Amen.

Resources

The National Domestic Violence Hotline

 

Healthy Relationship 101: Loving My Neighbor

Luke 10_27“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love __(Name or Relationship)_ as yourself.’” Luke 10:27 (NIV)

Love is the key ingredient for a healthy relationship. In a healthy relationship both individuals feel loved and supported. They know they are loved.

God is love.  God loves us.  God sent His only Son, Jesus, to love us and show us we are loved. Jesus commands us to love ourselves as God loves us.  In turn, we love God as Jesus first loved us with His whole heart, soul, strength and mind on the cross.

Jesus commanded us to love others as ourselves.  We accept Christ’s love, we love God, we love ourselves and share that love with others. Love is a command.

“‘Love …As I have loved you,’” John 13:34

  1.  What have we learned about healthy relationships? What makes a relationship healthy?

We want healthy relationships.  We want to be loved and supported. We don’t have to guess how to love our neighbor because God tells us how to love our neighbor (Exodus 20, Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation).  God’s commandments provide the healthy habits for loving relationships. They provide a simple structure of respect that we all deserve. When we follow these rules we are loving God, others and our self.

God wants us to call out when we are in trouble, to praise His name or give thanks. We want to hear our name used in kindness.  Our neighbor wants us to use their name in kindness.

God wants to spend time with us. We want someone to spend time with us and our neighbor wants someone to spend time with them.  God, our neighbor and we want someone to listen when we speak.

And we are hurt when someone misuses our name, we get jealous and we want anyone who hates us to be punished.  If God wants these things and we want these things than it is fair to assume our neighbor wants these things. We love others the way we love God and the way we love ourselves.

  1. So let’s review God’s basic lessons on how to “be nice” to our neighbor. Make a note next to the ones you’d like to improve.

 Prayer

  • Serve, love, honor, cherish and respect our parents, neighbor and anyone in authority in our home, church, work or community.
  • Do not hurt or harm anyone. Protect our neighbor’s health and welfare. Feed, give our neighbor something to drink, invite strangers in, clothe our neighbor, care for them when sick and visit them in prison.  Matthew 25:31-46
  • We love and respect our sexuality. We don’t take advantage of our neighbor’s sexuality. We learn to control our sexual impulses and respect our neighbor’s choices. We don’t take advantage of the vulnerable. And treat sex as a special gift of God. We love, honor and respect our partner. We remain faithful.
  • We help improve and protect our neighbor’s possessions and income.
  • We love the truth. We speak the truth about God, our neighbor and ourselves. We are honest.  We do not betray, slander or hurt our neighbor with our words.
  •  We protect our neighbor’s property, blessings and loved ones. We never wish harm on our neighbor. We help restore what is lost or stolen.

The commandments tell us how to love. The Golden Rule to “treat others the way you want to be treated” Matthew 7:12 is another summary of the commandments.

Unfortunately, many love others poorly because they treat themselves poorly. They treat others the way they have been treated.  The Golden rule encourages us to treat others the way we want to be treated, not the way we are treated.

God has a great sense of humor because the Golden Rule comes right after Christ asks in Matthew 7:9-10, “Which one of you, will give your son a stone when he asks for bread? Or a snake if he asks for fish?”

When we take the Golden Rule literally and give others exactly what we want them to give to us, we are giving our neighbor a stone when they ask for bread. For example, Jayne washes Tyler’s dishes because Jayne feels loved when someone washes her dishes.  But Tyler doesn’t notice Jayne did her dishes because she went to rescue a puppy she hopes Jayne will like but neither appreciates their gift because of miscommunication.

Unhealthy relationships lack healthy communication.  Miscommunication reaps resentment, resentment reaps excuses which are translated into permission to treat others poorly. The Golden rule is twisted into an ethic of reciprocity or two-way rule has been used as an excuse to treat others badly. If our neighbor fails to love us, we don’t have to love them.

  1. How far do I have to go in loving my neighbor? What if my neighbor isn’t nice to me?

Jesus answers this question in our theme verses and parable.

Read Luke 10: 25-28

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you read it?”

 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

 “You answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and live.”

Our expert knows love is the one word summary of all the commandments and laws given by God (Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5). Our expert is looking for a loop hole.  Like us, he seeks permission to end his obligation to some of his neighbors.  He asks for clarification.

Read Luke 10: 29-37

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.

  1. Love All PeopleWhat does the man need from our “be nice” list? Identify and discuss vulnerable people in the news or community. What do they need?

 

He is naked, hurt, broke and vulnerable. We shouldn’t harm him any further. We should be truthful and not make up stories or blame him. We should respect his sexuality.  We should clothe and get him medical attention. We should help restore what he has lost.

Read Luke 10:31-32

 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

 

  1. Do we have priests and Levites in our society?

 

It is fun being a biblical spectator identifying the bad guy, rolling my eyes at the stupid guys and weeping over the least, lost and left out. It is story time.  We’re not in the hot seat.  Sit back and relax.

God, particularly Jesus, seems really hard on priests. Christ talks bad about the clergy, identifying their mistakes and chastising them for keeping the rules but missing the grace. What often gets lost in the translation or sermon is – love. We hear the rebuke, feel the sting and hope we never experience the wrath of God.

Truth be told, we’ve already been reformed into the priesthood of Christ (1 Peter 2:9-10). We may reject the collar but we were baptized into the priesthood. And like the priests in our story, we mess up.

Like the priest and the Levite, we are impure priests. As a congregation, we fail when we ignore the pleas of our neighbor.

Read Luke 10:33

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.

Because of this parable, a Samaritan is now considered the definition of kindness but the expert in the law didn’t have a positive opinion of the Samaritan.  The expert considered the Samaritan an inferior ethnic group. The expert would be shocked the Samaritan took pity on the man and perhaps pitied the man for being touched by the Samaritan.

  1. Identify and discuss the unlikely ‘Samaritan” heroes treated with disgust but prayerfully become our neighbors.

 Prayerfully, our children will live in an age when they can see people in the LGBT community as heroes.  They aren’t taught to be afraid of transgender.  They don’t clutch their purses or call the police when they see a person of color.  They simply lift their arms and faces to wave and say hello.

Read Luke 10:34-35

He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.  The next day he took out two days wages and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

  1. Discuss the ways the Samaritan cared for the man. Was it too excessive? Where can someone get this level of care?

 

The Samaritan believed in the same God as our expert.  He was guided by the same do good list.  He was taught   to ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. This parable implies the Samaritan must have loved himself to give the man such extraordinary care.

 

Read Luke 10:36-37

 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

  1. Notice our expert doesn’t say “the Samaritan” was the neighbor. How many people are part of this story?  How many are “neighbors”?

We all become a player in this parable, yet not everyone was a neighbor to the man.  Therefore, Jesus’ message to our expert is also to us.

 

Read Luke 10:38

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

“Love does no harm to its neighbors. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:10

  1. Discuss ways you and your congregation can love like the Samaritan.

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love __(Name or Relationship)_ as yourself.’” Luke 10: 27 (NIV)

Homework:  Read Matthew 25:31-46. Find a way to care for Jesus this week.  Read our “be nice” list adding “God loves me” before reading each commandment.

Pray:  Gracious Lord, help me hear your voice and feel your embrace.  Give me the courage to care for the least, lost and left out.  Help me to see those in need and give them comfort. Amen.