Anxiety, Biblical Counseling, Fear

Withstanding the Winds of Change

We find comfort in our routines, locations, relationships, and health. Change, whether positive or negative, brings stress into our day-to-day lives. When life is interrupted, emotions run high. When fear of the future presents itself, we have questions: What if I lose my job? What if my family must relocate? What if my husband walks out? What if Mom doesn’t recover? Left unchecked, “what if” lodges in the crevices of the heart… anxiety takes a foothold.  

Oftentimes, the struggle comes with things like loss of sleep, and even completing small tasks can become big challenges. When we aren’t careful, we can easily turn into problem-focused people. Becoming comfortable with a self-focused, “victim” identity is dangerous. But how can Christians withstand the winds of change? Thriving in the midst of change isn’t a matter of girding up our loins and doing the best we can. A sudden turn in life events provides opportunity to rely on God. Persevering through life’s changes requires that we continue asking God for help. 

“Our worries tend to imagine a future without God in it. Without God we have to prepare for those future threats on our own. Life gradually gets smaller. Our mission to trust Jesus and love other people gets temporarily lost amid our future preparations.” – Ed Welch, Author/Counselor 

What outcomes can we expect if we simply choose to resist change? Unrealized expectations tempt ungodly thoughts and words, which works to erode our spiritual lives. Resistance to change encourages bitterness. We should learn to identify the warning signs and pressures that would lead us to shaky ground. Christians ought to be careful about what goes into our minds; who we listen to and what we hear. We believe we know what is best for us, yet many times (most times), change precedes growth. Sudden life change is a time when we have an opportunity to listen to God.  

1 Peter 5:6-7 

Living in harmony with God’s word provides stability in times of adjustment. A God-focused mentality shifts our priorities. Practical ways cultivate spiritual life and health in the midst of change. Practices like initiating a regular quiet time, meditating on the scriptures, and spending time in prayer is, in fact, peace giving. Consistency in Bible reading and study strengthens our foundation during those days when Satan’s delight would have us crumble. In adversity, we have an opportunity to focus on God. 

Psalm 119:105; Deuteronomy 31:8; Proverbs 3:5-6; Psalm 33:11 

Interruption gains our attention and we yearn for absolutely anything concrete. Hebrews 13:8 is a reminder that our God is not like us: A God of permanence is one without change. His love for us will never change and we can trust the unchanging word of God. In times of transition, we would do well to pause and remember what we know to be true rather than rushing to the “what ifs.” An almighty God is sovereign over all in all times. 

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” – Hebrews 13:8” 

Malachi 3:6; Exodus 3:14-15; Jeremiah 31:3; Psalm 1:19; Isaiah 57:15; Psalm 123:1; Philippians 4:8 

Is there danger in dwelling on what once was, what we had, what we knew? Yes. Pouring over the past is a lame way to face what’s ahead. If we are not intentional to fix our gaze on Christ, the difficulties with sudden life change can knock the wind out of our sails. In confidence, we reflect not on us but upon His faithfulness in the past as a reminder of what He will do in the future. 

Healthy reflection dwells on the revealed promises of God rather than relying on experience after experience. Those internal tensions are resolved when walking by faith paramounts feelings and experience. His word brings clarity when our eyes blur in blowing winds. Through the scriptures, God is speaking to us right now. Our goal should be to hear the word of the Lord in such a way that it drowns out “what ifs.” Genuine faith both allows and requires that we trust God in times of uncertainty. 

Hebrews 12:10-11; Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 8:28; John 16:33 

Remember, the way of faith is far better than the way of sight. Ask yourself, are you living consistently reliant upon God? His love is not tied to nor dependent upon our circumstances. God cares much more about transforming our hearts and minds than leaving us in our places of comfort. Faithfully withstanding the winds of change requires we rely on God, listen to God, and focus on God. 

Biblical Counseling, Topical Study

Idols of the Heart

When it comes to broken relationships, the issue is never really the issue. We don’t have relationship problems; we have character flaws that show up in relationships. When we are God-centered, we choose to live our lives for God, resulting in doing things according to God’s standards. When we are self-centered, we choose to live our lives for ourselves, resulting in doing things according to our own agenda. In doing so, we become a product of our idols of the heart.

Psalm 119:105

2 Timothy 3:1-4

The three reasons a Christian will not obey God are a lack of knowledge, a lack of skill, and wrongful will. Essentially, the Christian can fall in three categories: They could lack maturity in the Word and not know any better, they could not have been properly discipled and don’t know how to obey, or they could choose to live in sin, with a hardened heart and refusal to obey. Having knowledge and choosing to live in sin is a result of stubbornness and rebellion.

Oftentimes, there is a choice to make in the midst of difficult relationships, and it could be that God is teaching you something about yourself through people around you; God is using them to expose who you are. Choosing to live God-centered lives requires we live by covenants and convictions: We live by God’s own agenda. Man-centered lives are based on feelings and man’s own agenda. When we choose to live for ourselves instead of living for God, we will live in slavery to sin. When we choose to live for God instead of living for ourselves, we live in slavery to God.

Galatians 5:16-25

Proverbs 5:22

Romans 6:22

Whoever controls your mind controls your decisions. When our thoughts are not in tune with the will of God, they are driven to self. Our choices are driven by our thoughts. When we are self-centered, our thoughts are dominated by lies and self-ambition. As a result of those lies and self-ambitions, our thoughts tend to be driven by and reduced to what we have been denied, what we believe we deserve, what we want, what we think we should have, or what we think we need. We become friends with the world and unfriend God.

Romans 8:5

James 3:13-18; 4:1-10

God-centered thinking is dominated by truth and wisdom. In obedience, we can focus on what God has done with a willingness to serve him rightly. We are driven by what God promises to do for us and when to expect it; we tend to focus not only on what God is doing, but also what we can be doing for others and how to do it accordingly.

Focus once more on James 3:17-18. Our thoughts are motivated by either the flesh or the Holy Spirit. When our thoughts are motivated by the sin in our hearts, we become preoccupied with issues such as whatever brings me pleasure apart from God, independence from authority (not having to answer to anyone), materialism, and entitlement. This thinking only leads to further disobedience to God. Ultimately, this leads to a guilty conscience, a fear of God’s judgment, and a desire to flee consequences.

2 Timothy 3:1-9

Proverbs 28:1

When our thoughts are motivated by the Holy Spirit, we tend to be preoccupied with a desire to know Jesus Christ, to become like Christ, and to being useful to Christ. Our focus is on not only the blessings in this life but also the life to come. This thinking leads to further obedience to God, with a desire to draw ever nearer.

Galatians 5:22-25

When our thoughts are driven by the flesh we will begin to worship our desires, turning them into the lusts in our lives. Our minds will be set on things below instead of heavenly things, leading us to make self interest a priority over God’s own will. We focus less and less on loving God and loving others. We focus more on using God and using others in accordance to self interest. We become servants of our flesh to satisfy these desires we have started to worship. Our desires that we treasure and worship above loving God and loving others are idols of the heart.

James 3-4:3

Philippians 3:17-19

Galatians 5:16-21

As we make choices according to the desires we have begun to worship, we will find ourselves on a path of difficulty and hard times; we will become a slave to that which we pursue. Sinful habits are hard to repent from and replace. Once developed, they become a result of wrongful worship and misplaced love. Reaping negative consequences of our sinful habits and pursuit of those desires is inevitable. In turn, we have a negative effect on the lives of those around us.

Proverbs 5:21-22; 13:15

2 Peter 2:18-19

Galatians 6:7-8

1 Corinthians 5:1-6

Through the Person, power, and precepts of Jesus Christ, we can turn from a self-centered life to a God-centered life. To do so, we must identify the areas of our lives where we are dominated by lies and self-ambition. This process necessitates the specifics of where this is happening in our attitudes, intentions, desires, actions, relationship patterns, and service to God. Bringing healing and restoration requires we confess and repent of these things accordingly. We must consciously decide to to make God a priority in all that we think, say, and do.

Romans 13:8-14

Proverbs 28:13-14

1 Corinthians 10:31

Areas of our lives where we become dominated by lies, selfish ambition, materialism, entitlement, and lustful pursuits must be replaced with specific obedience to God in those areas. In other words, we must guard our hearts from self-centeredness by walking in genuine love for God and others in our attitudes, intentions, desires, words, actions, relationship patterns, and service.

Colossians 3:1-25

Luke 9:23-25

1 John 1:9

Ephesians 4:17-32

Philippians 2:5

When reflecting on past choices you have made, were you self centered or God centered in your decision making? Identify thought patterns which might be rooted in lies and selfish ambition. What desires have you allowed to become a form of worship, further complicating life? What thoughts, motives, words, actions and relationship patterns, and service do you need to walk in to replace sin? You can honor God when you recognize, repent and replace, and walk in the Spirit.

For a related post see: https://debbieswindell.com/2019/09/25/whats-your-idol/

Biblical Counseling, Reading, Uncategorized

Love and Marriage

The chasm between the biblical vision and society’s view of love and marriage has never been broader. It rings true that previous generations’ view of marriage was never high enough but we have reached a low, casual attitude of both what constitutes marriage and warrants it disposable. What would seem ludicrous in generations past has become the norm. Marriage is fundamentally God’s own design, confirmed by Jesus in Mark 10:8.

He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 19:4–6). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ge 2:24–25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 10:8). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Love doesn’t come easily and as a counselor, I see women who’ve become tired and frustrated in marriage. It takes intentional work and time to model God’s good design. Much like other relationships, love is best shared when applying biblical principles. It’s shameful that many couples are no longer willing to exercise patience, preferring to simply throw in the towel. David Powlison said it best, “It’s no accident “Love is patient” comes first in 1 Corinthians 13. Patience isn’t very dramatic, but it counts.” 

If we are to be biblical Christians, God will be honored in our relationships. The book titles I refer to time and again are: God, Marriage, and Family by Andreas Kostenberger, Preparing for Marriage by by Boehi, Nelson, and Shadrach (edited by Dennis Rainey), What did you Expect? by Paul Tripp, and The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy and Kathy Keller.

Below are words penned by Timothy Keller in his book, The Meaning of Marriage. Whether you are long-time married or merely contemplating marriage, I suggest you read Keller’s book.

“Our culture says that feelings of love are the basis for actions of love. And of course that can be true. But it is truer to say that actions of love can lead consistently to feelings of love.”

“Within this Christian vision of marriage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of what God is creating, and to say, “I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!” 

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” 

“In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. So what do you do? You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions you must BE tender, understanding, forgiving and helpful. And, if you do that, as time goes on you will not only get through the dry spells, but they will become less frequent and deep, and you will become more constant in your feelings. This is what can happen if you decide to love.” 

“You can only afford to be generous if you actually have some money in the bank to give. In the same way, if your only source of love and meaning is your spouse, then anytime he or she fails you, it will not just cause grief but a psychological cataclysm. If, however, you know something of the work of the Spirit in your life, you have enough love “in the bank” to be generous to your spouse even when you are not getting much affection or kindness at the moment.” 

“Only with time do we really learn who the other person is and come to love the person for him- or herself and not just for the feelings and experiences they give us.” 

“What marriage is for: It is a way for two spiritual friends to help each other on their journey to become the persons God designed them to be.” 

Biblical Counseling

What’s Your Idol?

From my biblical counseling studies this morning:

“A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart. As I have often said, the truth and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true God. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you have not the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God.” – Martin Luther, Luther’s Catechism

Our emotions are pointers to what we worship: What controls us? What do we desire above all else? What do we live for? What are we pursuing to satisfy ourselves? What do we need? What do we feel we have to have? If we trace these questions back, we will find what we really worship. 

Perhaps it’s pleasure, control, respect, being understood, acceptance, opinions of others, being pretty, being pain free, golf, football, video games, tv, friends, family, food, exercise, shopping, to only name a few. We are all idolators and what we worship leads to our behavior.

“From this we may gather that man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols. . . . So it goes. Man’s mind, full as it is of pride and boldness, dares to imagine a god according to its own capacity; as it sluggishly plods, indeed is overwhelmed with the crassest ignorance, it conceives an unreality and an empty appearance as God.” – John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion

Consider Ezekiel 36:25-27, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statues and be careful to obey my rules.”