by Jonathan Hart, LPC
I’m not really sure you’re even listening right now. It certainly doesn’t seem like it. I’m done. I can’t do this any more. If you want it done, you have to do it. Whatever you are doing with me, get it over with because this hurts too much.
I’m angry, and I’m pretty sure I’m angry with you. I don’t understand. I feel like you’ve turned your head and you don’t see me anymore, you’re not listening, and you don’t care. Everything I’ve ever learned about you says you are kind and loving and you want the best for me, and I’d like to believe that, but I can’t seem to bring myself to risk it. If I believe that, then it means that the hell I am living through right now is somehow for my good. I want something else. Not this.
So if you are who and what you say you are, and if you really do care about me and you really do hear me, then … I don’t know … do something. Show up. Give me something to work with. I’m tired of hurting, and I am utterly helpless. You’re all I really have, and I’m scared you’re not there. Amen.
I know a lot of people who would be scared to pray a prayer like this. It doesn’t feel respectful. It feels like asking for a lightning strike. “I can’t be angry with God! I can’t tell him I’m hopeless… Faith is always trusting him, and this isn’t trusting at all!” Yet I think there is more faith in a prayer like this than in many that are said on Sunday morning.
The thing that makes a prayer like this a prayer of faith is the fact that it is a prayer: it is addressed to God. It may be said through clenched teeth, but it is a prayer, and prayer is an act of faith, especially when it expresses doubt, fear, and pain.
God is big enough and real enough to handle our doubts. He can handle our anger and fearful lashing out. He is the kind father who absorbs the tearful, angry pummeling of his small child, lovingly contains the flailing fists, and soaks up the tears with his shirt. He is still present, he is still mindful, and he still loves his child.
So when you feel your darkest hours upon you, turn to him. Shout at the heavens if need be. He loves you as you are, especially when you are angry and doubtful. He desires relationship with you: he wants to hear your heart in whatever state it happens to be at the moment.
Do not be afraid.
By: Katy Martin, LPC
Food and body image can be intimidating topics to bring up with anyone, particularly with our children whom we want to protect. I believe that it is important to be proactive with our kids in speaking praise to their uniqueness and gifts before the world can make them believe otherwise. We have the opportunity to prepare them for what they may encounter at school, in the media, and elsewhere as they grow.
The book, “I Like Myself!” by Karen Beaumont is such a wonderful children’s book that I highly recommend. It celebrates uniqueness and embraces who we are in a silly way. It is a fun book to read but can also present great opportunities for further discussion about who we are and how we look. And it’s a great resource to begin to plant positive “seeds” of encouragement and acceptance of self at a young age.
This book is just one small tool in the midst of God’s Truth, wisdom from others, many more books, and so many other resources we can rely on.
How are you planting positive “seeds” of encouragement in your kids? Are you intentional? Is this something new to think about?
by Jonathan Hart, LPC
Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Psalm 4:4
The first two words here may be startling to many, especially among those who have spent their lives in church or religious circles. The message many of us have received is “do not be angry”, or “to be angry is to be selfish”. We take the good message of peace and forgiveness to mean that confrontation and boundaries are excluded.
But the command here is to “be angry”. Anger is not of itself an evil, nor is it universally inappropriate. If it were, God himself would never become angry. But there are things that make God angry: injustice, ruthlessness, arrogance, taking advantage of the weak and powerless. These are things that rightly inspire our own anger.
Anger is a powerful emotion, and humans are prone to abusing power. The expression and communication of anger is regulated in this verse and in other places as well. Talking about those limitations is another post altogether. For many, it will be enough for now to consider that to feel and express anger is sometimes a perfectly appropriate response.
Are you a wife of someone serving in a ministry position? Are you a woman serving in a ministry position?
By Jonathan Hart, LPC
Philippians 4:12-13 (ESV)
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
The concept of “facing plenty” has bugged me for a long time. We don’t often use the language of “facing…” when we are talking about a good thing. “I was facing a time of wealth and comfort, but I made it through by the grace of God.” But this is the language Paul uses: plenty and abundance are something to be faced, in a parallel way to facing lack and poverty. There are unique challenges in having plenty and abundance, and they can be as difficult as having want and need.
Part of the challenge, I think, comes from our habit of thinking that plenty and abundance are “the norm” and that anything less is a burden to be borne and overcome as soon as possible. I can’t imagine relating to abundance in this way. “I have too much money. I have to get rid of it somehow and get back to scraping by from check to check!” How many people are dropping into horrific debt in order to “maintain the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed”?
When we are in pain, grief, loss, hurt, or distress, we do one thing uncommonly well: we complain. We articulate our pain, we feel every inch of it and talk about it in the hopes of finding someone who can identify with it and tell us it’s OK to feel that way about it. What if we “complained” about our abundance the same way? What if we treated our abundance and surplus the same way we treated our challenges and loss? We don’t often do this because of our misconception that plenty and abundance are the norm: we are entitled to them and therefore they are not noteworthy.
I encourage many people to “wallow” in their good times, to store them up in memory and savor them richly. I encourage people to concentrate on being fully present in the joy of the moment and holding on to it so that when it passes (as it inevitably will), we can more fully recall it and taste it again in our mind. Articulate and “complain” about how good things are, much as we articulate and complain about our pain, because joy and pain alike are part of living in a broken world.
I am not talking about disassociating from joy and pain, as much of Christianity is taught to do: “Times are bad, but the joy of the Lord is my strength!! I don’t feel the pain because Jesus is so good!” I am actually encouraging us to feel the joy – and the pain – more fully.
This practice can give us much more resilience and strength to last through the difficult times. We can soothe our hearts and minds on the fact that pain and shortfall are not all that has ever been, that resources come and go, that pain, like joy, is temporary in this life. The seasons continue to turn, and life is more than this present moment; the joy of last year still exists, even though this moment is hard, and the joy that I knew then will come again in time.
This practice helps us hold on more tenaciously to times of plenty as well. We can practice the recognition that this joy is temporary and that it is a gift, rather than an entitlement. Nothing draws our attention to life more than a death in the family. Nothing raises our awareness of the value of our spouse or children than to hear that a friend has lost those most precious to them. If we can practice this mental discipline of savoring our joy and plenty because it is temporary, we will live and enjoy it much more fully.
By: Lianne Johnson, LPC
I have had the privilege to read and listen to Diane Langberg, Ph.D., on many occasions and have always enjoyed her words. Diane has been a Psychologist for over 35 years working with trauma survivors and clergy. Personally, I think she is amazing.
During one of the times I heard her speak she said, “we learn about relationships IN relationships.” This struck me. Not because of its simplicity, but because of its truth. If this statement is true, then why are so many of us looking for a book, seminar, or conference to teach us how to have relationships? Even more so, why do we tend to remove ourselves from relationships when they become hard or tiring?
What if, even in the midst of the unknowns, hardships, and tiring times, we chose to remain? I suppose if Diane is correct in saying that, “we learn about relationships IN relationships” then as we remain we will learn, grow, and possibly even enjoy.