Tag Archive: hope

Jan 09

The Troubled Journey: A Parable of Life, Obstacles, and Hope

This week I am excited to share a parable written by my son.  It’s an amazing picture of what I’ve observed personally in my own life and as a counselor who sits with many people on a troubled journey.

Troubled Journey

There was once a person, who sat, troubled. For this person had been on a journey, and had come to a cliff blocking their path. They saw no bridge to cross it, and saw no way around it for the air was too dark. So they sat, wondering if their journey had come to an end. After what seemed like a very long time of sitting and staring, they began to question if they need only walk off the cliff. And up they stood, with rash, to walk off. 

But then they saw something approaching them in the darkness. A spirit had come to them. The spirit seemed to have a familiar face and they greeted the spirit as one does. Then the spirit turned them around. And all of a sudden, they felt comforted by a presence that had always been with them but they had never noticed. They saw that the path behind them was light, and they saw many faces all smiling towards them. Many faces of which they knew as old friends, and many faces of which were unknown to them.

Guided by the comforting presence they walked to the smiling people and told them their problem. Then all of the smiling people walked to the edge and began to form a bridge. All together the smiling people formed a bridge and for the first time the person, once troubled, could see the other side of the cliff. So they walked across the bridge with the comforting presence. While walking across, they almost fell many times, but whenever they did the comforting presence carried them back to balance.

Eventually, they crossed the bridge and stood at the other side that once did not exist to them. The smiling people stood together with them and they began to walk the new path they saw. And through the time walking this path they crossed many cliffs where the smiling people made bridges for them, and they helped make many bridges for others of the smiling people who then frowned. But they could always tell that the comforting presence was with them, either guiding or carrying.

Written by Nathan Thompson

Everyone sees something a little bit different in this parable. Please comment below with your thoughts and reflections. Like it? Please share it on social media. There is always hope!

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/troubled-journey/

Dec 06

Peace, Rest, and Joy are the Gifts You Really Want

rest peace and joyI’ve written several Christmas blog posts over the last few years. All have been geared to help us (women in particular) eliminate stress this time of year by letting go of the idea of a perfect Christmas. To read them click here (The Not Perfect Christmas and  Hope for the Holidays)

This year, I’ve been thinking more about what I really want for Christmas:

Peace.

Rest.

Joy.

These words jump off the page and fill us with longing. No matter how life is going for you right now, whether mostly good or horribly difficult….my guess is you still long for peace, rest, and joy. You get glimpses of each throughout each day yet we all go to bed weary longing for more. 

Our experience of peace is directly connected to our ability to surrender and abide in the true vine, Jesus. John 14-17 is full of a mixture of Jesus talking to his disciples about peace but also worldly sorrow and struggle. Its interesting because struggle and peace don’t coexist in our minds very well. I wonder if we believe on some level that peace means the absence of trouble? Yet scripture doesn’t teach that at all. Here Jesus tells his disciples that they will definitely have trouble in the world. He had trouble and his biggest trouble was about to happen when he is arrested in John 18. To expect a trouble free life when our Savior’s life was full of trouble doesn’t make a lot of sense. Yet we do….deep down we long for things to go well. Maybe that’s the part of us that knows the world is broken and longs for real peace. Our mistake is seeking it apart from Jesus or seeing the pain in this world as something God has inflicted upon us..

Our experience of peace is directly connected to our ability to really surrender. Click To Tweet

True rest, peace, and joy only come from Jesus. Click To Tweet

True rest, peace, and joy only come from Jesus.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

Every other place and thing we expect to bring us true rest, peace, and joy doesn’t last. They are only a taste of what’s available when we abide in Jesus and a taste of what is to come when all things are made new.

To experience true rest, peace, and joy we must abide, remain, or dwell with Jesus. Click To Tweet

To experience true rest, peace, and joy we must abide, remain, or dwell with Jesus.

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. ” John 15:4-5

This idea is a continual connectedness. Clearly Jesus is talking to believers in this passage because he says they “are already clean” (John 15:3). So it seems that we can be saved and chose not to abide in Christ. I think stress, busyness, pain, difficulty, struggle, and selfishness are all things that distract us and contribute to a lack of abiding. Abiding is a moment by moment choice to surrender to God and not a one time thing. Salvation (justification) is a one time thing.

Abiding is a moment by moment choice to surrender to God. Click To Tweet

To experience true rest, peace, and joy we must let God's love flow in and out of us. Click To Tweet

To experience true rest, peace, and joy we must let God’s love flow in and out of us.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other. John 15:9-17

There are two parts to this: accepting how much God loves you and loving others. For many, accepting how much God loves you is really hard. We all know how broken we are and how much we’ve done that we know violates God’s law. It’s the story written throughout scripture, starting in Genesis. God loving a people that can’t obey his law. There was no one that earned God’s love. In fact, God loved us all so much that he sent Jesus to fulfill the law on our behalf. It’s a pure, sacrificial love of a unlovable, unfaithful people. That’s the love God has for you, not based on what you’ve done or not done or what’s been done to you…but a love based on the gracious, mercy of the Giver. As I reflect on how amazing God’s love is, I’m in awe. It’s this love that we pour out to others…not because they’ve earned it but because we’ve been on the receiving end of undeserved love….now we get to give it…not in our own strength but through the power of the Holy Spirit.

God loves you, not based on what you've done or not done or what's been done to you. Click To Tweet

To experience real rest, peace, and joy we must expect hard times and find our anchor in Jesus. Click To Tweet

To experience real rest, peace, and joy we must expect hard times and find our anchor in Jesus.

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”  John 15:18

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

I’m not sure why we are always so surprised by stress and struggle but we are. Somewhere we have an expectation that life should be easier than it is. Jesus never promised an easy life…but he did promise to provide us with peace in our difficult life (Romans 8) and hope for the future (Revelation 21). As we walk into a very busy, stressful season of the year, one that is meant to point us to the amazing time where God gave us the gracious gift of Jesus, let us remember rest, peace, joy, and hope. Rest that you don’t have to do anything to earn your salvation…Jesus did it all for you. Celebrate the peace you have with God because of Jesus and pursue the internal peace that comes from abiding in Jesus. Allow joy to overflow because of the love God pours into you. And, claim hope because one day all things will be made new and we won’t have to any longer choose to abide with God because he will physically be with us.

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.” Revelation 21:1-7

This Christmas, I want to give the greatest Giver of all my moment by moment surrender. Let’s not just give lip service to the idea of surrender but think about what it means to really lay down all to Jesus. The amazing thing is that as I give this gift to Jesus, he gives me what I really need….peace, rest, joy, and hope. Is it easy? No. Will I fail? Yes. Beloved, God knows our weaknesses. He doesn’t expect perfection. He is our perfection. He just wants a surrendered relationship with his beloved.

This Christmas, I want to give the greatest Giver of all my moment by moment surrender. Click To Tweet

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/peace-rest-joy/

Aug 16

Small Steps to Big Change. Pushing Past the Overwhelm.

Goals. Change.

Do you want to make a big change in your life? Do you have a goal that seems so far off that you’re overwhelmed by the very thought of taking steps to reach it? So many of us don’t take steps to our goals because we are overwhelmed by change and all that it takes to reach it.
So many of us don’t take steps to our goals because we are overwhelmed by all that it takes to… Click To Tweet
Pause.
Take a deep breath in. Slowly exhale.
Visualize your goal.
Is it growing as a person? Dealing with anger, resentment, bitterness? Healing from a past pain or trauma? Is it finding a new job? Going back to school? Improving a relationship?
Whatever it is visualize it and visualize you’ve met the goal. What emotions come up when you think about achieving that goal? Write them down.
Now imagine you are a year in the future and you’ve taken no steps toward this goal? What emotions come up?
Now write down the emotions that come up when you think about starting to change and move toward your goal?
What is one step, one change you can make this week that is a small step toward your goal?
See small changes and small steps get us to big goals. No one ever leaped over a mountain. They climbed it one small step at a time. Overwhelm is a normal experience when facing a big climb. Yet, nothing ever worth anything came easy.
See small changes and small steps get us to big goals. Click To Tweet
You can do it! You can take one small step after another. Before you know it you will be able to see your mountaintop. Grab your bravery, strength, and perseverance and take a step!
Grab your bravery, strength, and perseverance and take a step! Click To Tweet
“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:13-14
What do you need to forget? What do you need to focus on? What is the next small step toward your big goal? You got this!

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/change/

Apr 10

5 Anxiety Management Tips

anxiety management tipsSeeking anxiety management tips that really work? Tired of struggling? Worn-out and exhausted by anxiety and stress? Want something different? We all struggle with anxiety and stress on some level. Yet, some of us experience it at more intense levels. These anxiety management tips are the most frequent things I teach in my counseling practice. I’m going to give them to you for FREE! So take a deep breath, get comfortable, relax, and keep reading.

Anxiety is a powerful emotion that can develop into a vicious cycle.  It may start for one reason but the cycle can continue for different reasons.  See my previous post on anxiety to understand how this cycle starts and continues.

anxiety cycleNow, understanding anxiety is helpful but what someone struggling with anxiety really needs is in the moment help!  When in the midst of anxiety, the natural response is to escape NOW whatever situation you’ve decided is causing this response.  Unfortunately, this  can lead to increased anxiety either now or in the future.


Aaaah! So what can you do?  What does the Bible say?  What does the research say?  Is there hope?

YES!  There is HOPE for those brave people willing to try something different.  Let me tell you, I am serious about the word brave!  It takes incredible bravery to face any kind of fear head on and I am humbled by those I’ve seen take these steps.  To me, you are a real hero!  

It takes incredible bravery to face any kind of fear head on! Click To Tweet

Below are methods for dealing with anxiety that I teach in my counseling practice. These are proven techniques that are both psychologically and Biblically sound. 

5 Anxiety Management Tips

  1. Accept the anxiety. Stay with me…I know it sounds crazy but give yourself permission to experience the anxiety. Instead of trying to distract or get rid of the anxiety…acknowledge it…expect it. This emotion is trying to speak to you. What is it saying? This turns the tables on the anxious experience. Instead of anxiety being the uninvited guest barges in your house, it becomes the welcomed messenger.

    Instead of trying to distract or get rid of the anxiety...acknowledge it...expect it. Click To Tweet

  2. anxiety management tipsCalm the physical body:  The physical response to anxiety is so overwhelming that it’s extremely scary.  Fear is a physical experience because our body is preparing to fight or run. That is a natural and normal response to fear. When we experience fear:  all the blood in our body moves to our legs, our breathing and heart rate increase, and certain hormones are released. This all happens to protect us but often in our culture, we don’t need to run or fight. So how can we short circuit this physical cycle? With deep slow breathing. Take a deep slow breath in (count to 4)….Hold (count to 4)…Breathe out slow (count to 4). Repeat as many times as needed, till the anxiety comes down. Pay attention to your breath…imagine you are breathing in calm and breathing out fear. Practice this type of breathing when you are not anxious so it is easier to do in the midst of panic. Scripture tells us we have the power to calm ourselves in the face of fear.  “I have made myself calm and content like a young child in its mother’s arms. Deep down inside me, I am as content as a young child…put your hope in the Lord both now and forever.” Psalm 131:2-3

    How can we short circuit the body's response to anxiety? With deep slow breathing Click To Tweet

  3. Focus on the Present Moment:  This just means being fully present in the current moment.  So much of our worry and fear is focused around something that happened in the past or what might happen in the future.anxiety management tips

    The present moment is all we really have power over. Focusing on the present moment brings us into a space we have power in and it focuses our mind. The psychological term is mindfulness.

    For the Christian, this has two parts:

    Being fully present with yourself in the current moment.  This involves taking the focus off of your anxiety/fear and placing it onto the observable world around you.  Using your senses, evaluate what you hear, see, taste, touch, or smell.  Start describing you immediate present moment.  Name 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things you touch, 2 things you smell, and 1 thing you taste. Sometimes just observing the world with our senses can bring mental calm.  When Jesus deals with his disciple’s anxiety, He points out what He observes in the present moment around them.

    So much of our worry and fear is focused around the past or what might happen in the future. Click To Tweet

    Observing the world with our senses can bring mental calm. Click To Tweet

    “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?   Matthew 6: 25-30

    Being fully present in the current moment with God.  God is always with you no matter your experience.  Remembering that in the middle of panic is one of the ways the Bible instructs us to handle the difficult situations we encounter.  Jesus reminds his disciples of this in Matthew 6.  God calls us continually to come to Him for REST.

    God is always with you no matter your experience. Click To Tweet

    Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”  Matthew 6: 31-34

    “Be still, and know that I am God.”   Psalm 46:9

    “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him, fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices.”  Psalm 37:7

    You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.  Isaiah 46:8

    Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28

    “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

    You can read more about mindfulness, here.

  4.  Challenge anxious thoughts:  Thoughts are powerful and most of us believe whatever we think.  In addition, we develop thinking habits over time.  Do any of these habits sound familiar to you:

    Negative thinking

    Jumping to conclusions

    Predicting an outcome

    Comparing yourself to others

    Reading other people’s minds

    Critical internal voice

    Catastrophizing

    Harsh judgments of self and others

    Thoughts are powerful and most of us believe whatever we think. Click To Tweet

    If you identify with any of these thinking patterns (and let’s be honest, we all do this on some level) then let’s start here.  You may anxiety management tipsnot even realize that those thoughts are leading to anxiety….but it is! That is why anxiety must be accepted and listened to. It is telling you that something is off…often what’s off is our thinking. Learning how to challenge our thoughts and change our internal dialogue will dramatically change our experience.  

    But how?  Start by:  1) Giving yourself permission to question your thoughts 2)Journal your thoughts, 3) Question whether your thoughts are true  or balanced, and 4) Consider alternative self-compassionate thoughts.  If you struggle with this, find a good counselor who can help you.

    Scripture tells us to:

    Pay attention to our thoughts:  “For as a man thinks within himself, so is he” Proverbs 23:7

    Renew our mind.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  Romans 12:2  

    Evaluate  and recognize truthful and beneficial thoughts.  “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  John 8:32  “Finally, my brothers and sisters, always think about what is true. Think about what is noble, right and pure. Think about what is lovely and worthy of respect. If anything is excellent or worthy of praise, think about those kinds of things.”  Philippians 4:8

    Read more about challenging your thoughts here.

  5. Look at your heart:  What we are anxious about reveals what we value and treasure.  I know that’s tough to hear but it’s truth.  Matthew 6:21 tells us that “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Jesus tells people this right before he instructs them not to worry.  Our worry reveals what we value.  For some people, it is safety, for others control, for some it’s how they perform, and for others it’s the image others have of them.

    Worry reveals what we value. Click To Tweet

    What is deep behind your fear?  What are you placing at higher value than God?  Do you really trust that God is good?

    God is enough. God is in control.  God is good.  God is at work. God can be trusted. Your identity is settled.

    anxiety management tips“My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.”  Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall!  My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.  But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,  “therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3: 18-24

Cling to GRACE:  All of the above things will help you manage and deal with your anxiety.  After some consistent work, you will start to see your anxiety reactions decrease.  However, anxiety may still sneak up on you.  None of us are perfect nor will we achieve that status till God makes all things new.  You know what is awesome?  “There is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1)  and your perfect record before God as a Christian is the sin free life of Jesus! Cling to that grace! Take a deep breath and start again!  There is always hope!

Your perfect record before God as a Christian is the sin-free life of Jesus. Click To Tweet

Don’t be afraid.  Don’t give up.  The Lord your God is with you.  He is mighty enough to save you.  He will take great delight in you.  The quietness of his love will calm you down.  He will sing with joy because of you.”  Zephaniah 3:16-17

If you like what you read, please comment below or share on social media. ❤️

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/anxiety-management-tips/

Mar 08

Embracing Imperfection and Finding Freedom

perfection masquerades as goodThat’s a strange thought for me. Embracing imperfection. Several years ago, I sat in my counselor’s office and he challenged me with this idea.
Hi, my name is Aimee and I struggle with perfectionism. Anyone who knows me well will laugh at that statement…because it’s painfully true. I’m a first born, high-achiever, minister’s daughter. I grew up with eyes watching me, looking to me (or so I thought). Perfectionism was born and rooted deep in my heart.
Perfectionism masquerades as something good. Who wouldn’t want to strive for excellence or success in all things? Yet, it comes with BIG cost…insecurity, self-doubt, and lots of SHAME.
See perfectionism is impossible…
Let that sink in a minute.

 

Perfectionism masquerades as something good. Click To Tweet
No one is perfect; no one functions at that high level. We all know this deep down. Perfection is a mirage that leaves us in a desert wasteland, dry and thirsty.
Perfection is a mirage that leaves us in a desert wasteland, dry and thirsty. Click To Tweet
How can this be, you ask? How can something presumably good lead us so astray?
Perfectionism brings SHAME. It communicates, “be perfect and you’re okay”. When your humanity kicks inPerfection leaves us dry and you mess up, perfectionism shouts, “something is wrong with you because you aren’t perfect.” Cue the shame and unending self-doubt and self-loathing.
Here’s the light bulb moment….perfectionism and abuse communicate the same message.
Both speak condemning shame and inadequacy. Both shout, “something is wrong with you.” Both abuse and deceive us.
So how do we get free?
By embracing our humanity, weaknesses, flaws, mistakes, warts and all. By sharing our imperfections with those in our life. By living life fully transparent and real. There’s freedom here. Scary, vulnerable, beautiful freedom.

 

By embracing our humanity, weaknesses, flaws, mistakes, warts and all. Click To Tweet
You see perfectionism is often image and identity driven. You want others to see you as a “have it all together” person. You fear failure because you see it as your definition.
But failure doesn’t define you; it’s an experience to learn from. Identity isn’t in what you do or don’t do. Identity is rooted in something deeper; it’s who you are. We are all broken people living in a broken world with other broken people. We are human. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we fail. What’s beautiful about us IS our imperfections. It’s what unites us and sets us free.
What’s beautiful about us IS our imperfections.. Click To Tweet
Owning my many imperfections, has freed me from the tyranny of shame. Click To Tweet
For me, owning my many imperfections, has freed me from the tyranny of shame that used to beat me up mentally when I failed. I think the biggest Aha moment for me in my own journey was this thought: “If I am perfect than I have no need for Jesus.” So beloved, I will revel in my imperfections because Jesus is so much better. I will trade SHAME for GRACE and experience REST and FREEDOM. My mistakes and failures remind me of His perfection in my place. Before God, the perfection I long for is mine, not because of my goodness or excellence but because of Christ’s goodness and excellence.
I will trade SHAME for GRACE and experience REST and FREEDOM. Click To Tweet
My mistakes and failures remind me of His perfection in my place. Click To Tweet

Imperfection Gets Grace

“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” 2 Corinthians 11:30

 “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2
“Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron….For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son (Jesus) who has been made perfect forever.” Hebrews 7:11, 28
“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness (perfection) to everyone who believes” Romans 10:4
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/embracing-imperfection/

Feb 25

3 Ways to Change Your Thoughts (and Your Life)

taking thoughts captive

Have you ever stopped to think about the number of thoughts you think a day? I mean, my mind is constantly going so the number has got to be high, right? So, I do what we all do when we have a question these days, I asked Google. A brief search revealed that apparently we think about 50,000-70,000 thoughts a day. Wow. That. Is. A. Big. Number. Now I cannot verify this with a scientific study and the social researcher in me is annoyed by that…. but we can all agree on this, we think A LOT! Which means! I guess that could be a good thing or bad thing depending on what we say to ourselves. Do we stop and consider the message, tone, and implication of our thoughts? Are our thoughts helping or hurting us? How accurate are our thoughts?
Here’s something I have observed as a therapist. Most of our thoughts are opinions and not facts.
This may not seem earth-shattering news to you but stick with me. Opinions are not facts…they are debatable…there is always another opposing opinion. The problem comes when we:
  1. Treat these opinion statements as facts
  2. Incorporate them into our identity.
Most of our thoughts are opinions and not facts. Click To Tweet
For example:
We might think, “I am unsafe in an airplane”. Now that is an opinion thought. Other people can tell me how safe airplanes are. Yet, I am going to listen to my opinion thought because I’m treating it as fact and it is reinforced by a strong fear emotion. Viewing this opinion thought as a fact keeps me from flying and limits my freedom to travel.
Now imagine if most of our 50,000 thoughts are opinion thoughts that we treat as fact. Seriously, consider this…consider each strong emotion….is there an opinion thought behind it?
How often do our own thoughts mislead and deceive us, leaving us overwhelmed? Perhaps part of “taking our thoughts captive” is this recognition of opinion thoughts and their influence over our emotions and perspective.
Perhaps part of “taking our thoughts captive” is this recognition of opinion thoughts. Click To Tweet
But HOW?

How to change your thoughts: pause

How to change your thoughts: zoom outHow to change your thoughts: share

 

 

 

 

PAUSE: Consider pressing the pause button when you feel a strong emotion. Stop. Take a few slow deep breaths. Invite God into the moment. Observe the world with your 5 senses.
ZOOM OUT: Zoom out to consider if there it is an opinion or fact thought. If it is an opinion, what are the absolute facts of the situation?
SHARE: Share your reflections with a safe friend. Talking out loud to helps your brain pause, zoom out, and reflect. Plus it helps you make sense of what seems overwhelming in the moment. No safe friends available, then write about it, maybe write to God.
Our thoughts are powerful. Click To Tweet
Our thoughts are powerful. How we speak to us matters….we often are more critical and harsh with ourselves than anyone else is. What if we pledged to think about our thoughts? What if by doing so we could change how we think? What if this changes our lives? As always, if you need help find a good counselor who can help you with this process. Hang on to hope!!
What if we pledged to think about our thoughts? What if this changes our lives? Click To Tweet
change your thoughts: opinion or fact?

 

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/change-your-thoughts/

Sep 28

Deep Feelings and the Gospel

Loss hurts. Change brings fear of the unknown. Struggle is hard. Trauma changes us.
Sadness, anger, shame, and fear can feel overwhelming leaving us stuck and frozen, not knowing what to do.
“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” Psalm 42:5
“My tears have been my food day and night” Psalm 42:3
How much do we identify with the Psalmist? How much do we struggle with loss, sadness, anger, fear, and shame? How many nights have we wrestled and cried.
Frequently we think it is wrong to experience normal feelings or that somehow it means we don’t have enough faith.
Life in this fallen world hurts. Feelings don’t show a lack of faith but that we are normal humans, living in a broken world.
Feelings don’t show a lack of faith but that we are normal humans Click To Tweet
The Psalmist reminds us that our souls are thirsty for more…..
“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God for the living God.” Psalm 42:1-2 

deer2

The water our souls thirst for is found in Jesus. He is Living Water. Every other relationship on this earth will fail to satisfy.
Loss and hurt is a reminder of our need for Him.
Shame and the pain of trauma is a reminder of the deep brokenness of creation and our need for Him.
It’s not wrong to feel. It’s not wrong to be overwhelmed. It’s human. Click To Tweet
It’s not wrong to feel. It’s not wrong to be overwhelmed. It’s human. God is pained over the brokenness of the world, too. God can handle your questions. Your feelings communicate needs.
God is pained over the brokenness of the world, too. Click To Tweet
In this Psalm, the writer knows he needs to praise God and remember how faithful and loving the Lord has been to Him. He challenges his inner dialogue and reminds himself of the truth!
“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation, and my God
My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar
Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock; “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “where is your God?”
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Psalm 42:5-11
God is good. God is faithful. He has proven His love for me time and again. Remember. He loves us with an everlasting, initiating, unconditional, redeeming, restoring and rescuing love.
He loves us with an everlasting, initiating, unconditional, and rescuing love. Click To Tweet

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/feelings/

Aug 27

We Dig: The Daily Struggle with Addictions and Idolatry

“For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Jeremiah 2:13

We all do this…in a million different ways throughout our lifetimes.
Sometimes it’s pursuing good things like a job, career, or relationships with people.
Sometimes it’s pursuing destructive things like drugs, alcohol, pornography, eating disorders, cutting, or other addictions and idolatry.
Yet we dig. We dig to find water in that, which has no water. We dig with hopes that we will not remain thirsty. We dig fast, we dig hard, we are desperate!
We sweat and we strive. Our muscles ache from the digging. We stand in the midst of the dirt-covered hole that we dug for ourselves and we are mad!!
We are mad at God: mad that He hasn’t quenched our thirst, mad that our arms ache from digging, mad at the pain, mad that we are alone in this pit, mad that we are tired…
Our belief is “only I can meet my need for thirst, I must keep digging, can’t God help me find the water I need”.   We feel abandoned, alone, afraid, tired, dirty, hopeless…
We stop for a minute, weary from the digging; sweat and tears fall down our face.

“Be still, and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

In the stillness, we feel a subtle breeze, and hear the sound of water…. it’s not coming from below where we were digging but from above. We pause and listen.

“Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever, believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John 7:37-38

 “Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

We set down our shovel and take His beautiful nail scarred hand. He draws us up and out of our pit and guides us to the water we have been so desperately searching for. Here we find grace, restoration, redemption, and peace. Here we experience contentment, despite our circumstances. Here we are fully known in our dirt-covered filth and loved. For redeemed sinners, this is a daily, moment-by-moment reality. For some of us, we are deeper in our holes, we’ve decorated our holes, they are known areas that we think are havens of safety, but we are deceived. In reality, they are dirty and dry. O Lord….

 We “believe; help (our) unbelief!” Mark 9:24

We Dig

The coolest thing about Jesus is that he loves us, even when we take our eyes off him and crawl back down in our holes. He doesn’t judge us or shame us….He took all our sin, shame, and judgement on the cross. He has compassion for us. He extends grace to us! He draws us back, each time…reminding us that what we really thirst for is more of Him. The more we experience His living water, the more we want….

‘Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live;”   Isaiah 55:1-3

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Oct 10

The Six C’s for Managing Anxiety, Biblically

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Looking for Biblical anxiety help?

Anxiety is a powerful emotion that can develop into a vicious cycle.  It may start for one reason but the cycle can continue for different reasons.  See my previous post on anxiety is a more detailed explanation of how this cycle starts and continues.

Now, understanding anxiety is helpful but what someone struggling with anxiety really needs is in the moment help!  The physical response to anxiety is so overwhelming that it feels extremely scary.  

When in the midst of anxiety, the natural response is to escape NOW whatever situation you’ve decided is causing this response.  For my son, the anxiety response was caused (he thought) by our separation.  It is not the same for everyone but regardless of who you are, you know what you think is the cause.  Unfortunately, escaping the situation only reinforces the anxiety response.  Remember the cycle:

anxiety cycle

So what can you do?  What does the Bible say?  What does the research say?  Is there hope?

YES!  There is HOPE for those brave people willing to try something different.  Let me tell you, I am serious about the word brave!  It takes incredible bravery to face any kind of fear head on and I am humbled by those I’ve seen take these steps.  To me, you are a real hero!  Below are scriptural methods for dealing with anxiety that are also backed up by psychological research.

The 6 C’s for Managing Anxiety 

  • Current moment presence:  This just means being fully present in the current moment.  The psychological term is mindfulness.  For the Christian, this has two parts:

    • Being fully present with yourself in the current moment.  This involves taking the focus off of your anxiety/fear and placing it onto the observable world around you.  Using your senses, evaluate what you hear, see, taste, touch, or smell.  Start describing you immediate present moment.  Sometimes just observing the world with our senses can bring mental calm.  When Jesus deals with his disciple’s anxiety, He points out what He observes in the present moment around them.

       “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?   Matthew 6: 25-30

    • Being fully present in the current moment with God.  God is always with you no matter your experience.  Remembering that in the middle of panic is one of the ways the Bible instructs us to handle the difficult situations we encounter.  Jesus reminds his disciples of this in Matthew 6.  God calls us continually to come to Him for REST.

      •  “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”  Matthew 6: 31-34

      • Be still, and know that I am God.”   Psalm 46:9

      • Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him, fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices.”  Psalm 37:7

      • You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.  Isaiah 46:8

      •  Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28

      •  “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:4-7

  • Connected with safe people:  Safe relationships soothe, bring security, and comfort.  Anxiety and fear is much easier to face when we are with a trusted person.  This is how God wired human beings to grow.  It is part of the way we image God because God is intrinsically relational.  Counselors who specialize in anxiety use this concept by utilizing the power of the therapeutic relationship to encourage clients to face fears in a safe environment. 

    • Before sin entered the world, God knew that we would need relationships, I mean, He created us that way!  “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone.  I will make a helper who is right for him.'”  Genesis 2:18

    • God designed children to receive comfort from their parents and this gives them a safe base from which to explore the world.  This same concept can be replicated in our relationship with God and other people. “I have made myself calm and content like a young child in its mother’s arms.  Deep down inside me, I am as content as a young child…put your hope in the Lord both now and forever.” Psalm 131:2-3

    • God intends the body of Christ to take this supportive and caring role for each other.  “Instead we speak the truth in love.  We will grow up into Christ in every way.  “He is the head.  He makes the whole body grow and build itself up in LOVE.  Under the control of Christ, each part of the body does its work.  It supports the other parts.”  Ephesians 4:15-16

  • Calming the physical body:

    “I have made myself calm and content like a young child in its mother’s arms. Deep down inside me, I am as content as a young child…put your hope in the Lord both now and forever.” Psalm 131:2-3  This verse indicates that we have within us the power to calm ourselves, so what are some practical tools for calming our physical anxiety symptoms.  If you are calming your physical body and refocusing your mind, the anxiety will start to lessen.

    • Slow deliberate deep breathing

    • Slowly contracting and relaxing each different muscle, starting at your toes and moving up to your head

    • Counting your slow deliberate breaths

    • Meditating on scripture, calming imagery, or present moment awareness

  • Change negative and false thinking patterns:  Thoughts are powerful and most of us believe whatever we think.  In addition, we develop thinking habits over time.  Do any of these habits sound familiar to you:

    • Negative thinking

    • Jumping to conclusions

    • Predicting an outcome

    • Comparing yourself to others

    • Reading other people’s minds

    • Critical internal voice

    • Catastrophizing

    • Harsh judgments of self and others

If you identify with any of these thinking patterns (and let’s be honest, we all do this on some level) then let’s start here.  Sometimes, just learning how to question our thoughts and change our internal dialogue will dramatically change our experience.  But how?  Start by:  1) Journaling your thoughts, 2) Questioning whether your thoughts are true or balanced, and 3) Consider alternative explanations.  If you struggle with this, find a good counselor who can help you.

Scripture tells us to:

Pay attention to our thoughts:  “For as a man thinks within himself, so is he” Proverbs 23:7

Renew our mind.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  Romans 12:2  

Evaluate  and recognize truthful and beneficial thoughts.  “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  John 8:32  “Finally, my brothers and sisters, always think about what is true. Think about what is noble, right and pure. Think about what is lovely and worthy of respect. If anything is excellent or worthy of praise, think about those kinds of things.”  Phillippians 4:8

  • Consider your heart:  What we are anxious about reveals what we value and treasure.  I know that’s tough to hear but it’s truth.  Matthew 6:21 tells us that “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Jesus tells people this right before he instructs them not to worry.  Our worry reveals what we value.  For my son, he values his parents and the fear of something happening to them can send him into panic.  For some people, it is safety, for others control, and for others it’s the image other people have of them.  What is deep behind your fear?  What are you placing at higher value than God?  Do you really trust that God is good?  God is enough.  I’ve been following a beautiful story of a 13 year old boy who just lost his battle to cancer.  His witness of God being enough even in the struggle, even in the face of death was humbling.  I have heard this from more than one person in the midst of deep struggle.  God is enough!  God is in control!  God is good!  God is at work!

    “My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.”  Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall!  My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.  But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,  “therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3: 18-24

  • Cling to GRACE:  All of the above things will help you manage and deal with your anxiety.  After some consistent work, you will start to see your anxiety reactions decrease.  However, anxiety may still sneak up on you.  None of us are perfect nor will we achieve that status till God makes all things new.  You know what is awesome?  “There is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1)  and your perfect record before God as a Christian is the anxiety-free life of Jesus!  Cling to that grace!  Give grace and patience to yourself.  Take a deep breath and start again!  There is always hope!

    Don’t be afraid.  Don’t give up.  The Lord your God is with you.  He is mighty enough to save you.  He will take great delight in you.  The quietness of his love will calm you down.  He will sing with joy because of you.”  Zephaniah 3:16-17

If you like what you read, please comment below or share on social media. ❤️

biblical anxiety help

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/four-cs-managing-anxiety-biblically/

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