Mindfulness- An exercise for Christians.

We live in a therapeutic age. One way we see this is in the heightened focus on inner health and wellness. More and more people are motivated toward living balanced and whole lives. This has had valuable outcomes. One of those outcomes is that it has led people to recognize the need to nourish their mental and spiritual condition. Conversations about the need for mindfulness, meditation, and reflection for internal health are common themes of workshops, news articles, blog posts, and tweets.

Secular modalities embolden people to find the source of healing from within where the journey for wholeness concludes in the self. The desire people have to focus attention on mental and emotional stability is understandable. However, the world’s approaches have an orientation for restoration that come through self-actualization. While the conclusion is flawed the pursuit of internal health is not.

Christians should pursue things that lead to human flourishing but the pursuit must have a different orientation than that of secular models. Christians realize that part of understanding true health must include internal wellness. Despite the reality that the body may have ailments a person can still thrive. This is especially true in regard to spiritual wellness. Internal steadiness comes from orienting our lives to our Creator not ourselves.

With that said, methods utilized by the secular world do not have to lead to the faulty conclusion reached by mainstream health and wellness coaches. Some of the methods, in fact, are tools Christians can and should use. This is because some of these methods are in line with both how God has created us and how God has called us to live well. Two of those tools are mindfulness and meditation

Mindfulness mostly refers to a focus on the present moment in a way that acknowledges how the moment is impacting you mentally, emotionally, and physically. It is the focusing of your thoughts on a reality in front of you or. Mindfulness simply notices and intentionally recognizes how things effect you.

Meditation is thinking. When a person meditates they are focusing their thoughts on a particular subject. It is likely that you were meditating the last time you sat at a long red light. The last time you had a decision to make you likely meditated on the subject before making a decision. You thought about all the possible consequences of the idea. Meditation is not the suppression of rational thought it is a practice of focused thought.

While secular definitions may vary, believers can consider mindfulness and meditation as simply noticing and thinking.

In effort to better understand how these two things can help believers we will look at each in turn with an emphasis on how believers can use these tools in a way that honors God and encourages spiritual health and well being.

For this blog we will look at mindfulness. Mindfulness that leads to spiritual health is an intentional directing of the mind toward truth and noticing how you are impacted by your focused thought.

We see an example of this in the words of Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:21-22. In this passage we have a call to mindfulness.

“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.”

Jeremiah is mentally invoking something specific; the steadfast love of the Lord and His never ending mercies. What do you think of when you call to mind God’s unfaltering love? When you consider His eternal mercy what do you think of? What do these thoughts do to you? For Jeremiah these thoughts caused a reaction: Hope. “This I call to mind therefore I have hope.” Mindfulness isn’t just focusing on a specific truth but it is noticing what this intentional thought does to your whole being. In this case it brings hope.

Prayer is another way mindfulness can be practiced. As you bring the burdens of your heart to the Lord, you call to mind who God is as you place your burden in His care. Your circumstance have not changed because you prayed but your focus has, and this change in focus has an impact on you. The next time you pray about something notice how you feel after. Are you less worried? Do you have peace? The Lord intended that we notice the peace that passes all understanding. Mindfulness is taking the time to notice the impact that spending time with the Lord has on you.

With this explanation of mindfulness it is easy to see why this practice would promote holistic well being. The value of noticing what happens to us can help us experience more fully what we might otherwise move quickly from.

Too often we are fast to move from moments with the Lord to the daily hustle and bustle. Mindfulness means you take time to notice what you gain from time in the Word or prayer. Take time to mindfully experience God’s presence. Allow this practice to nourish your soul toward spiritual health.

 

 

 

 

Are Screens the Problem?

RaisingKids_BookCover_Small
Click to pre-order at 10ofThose.com.

Have unwanted graphic texts, violent video games, pornography, cyber bullying, sexting, or screen addition been a concern for you as a parent raising children in this cyber age?

These name only a few of the concerning vices that our screen-saturated world has brought about. Parents can feel lost in the digital landscape where their children are the technological experts and mom and dad struggle just to keep up. But keeping your child screen-free is about as realistic as keeping them from outgrowing their clothes.

If it isn’t already your reality, eventually your child will one day have that tell-tail rectangular pattern lining their jean’s pocket. Most parents are dependent on their child having a phone of some type in order to keep up with one another in a full and fast pace life. Despite the discouraging engagement that a world of devices can bring, the question to ask is this; Are screens really the problem?

Is the solution to avoid giving your child technology? Most parents have already found that is an unrealistic option. Screens enter children’s lives at the earliest ages. Pediatrician’s offices have screens in their waiting room to help the children pass the time. Libraries rent colorful tablets that are preloaded with books and games for preschoolers. Schools begin using iPads at the elementary level and many students will be assigned a device at the start of a school year.

Parents fighting for screen-free space in their family can wrongly vilify the device as the problem. But if the screen is not the problem what is? In Raising Kids in a Screen-Saturated World, parents will find practical answers to this tension. Consider the following:

“We are not fighting against technology. Phones, tablets, laptops, etc., are amoral. They are tools that can be used for good or evil. Don’t over- spiritualize activities because they either include or exclude a screen. Certainly there are times where living a life pleasing to the Lord will mean the intentional absence of screens but keep in mind that the screen is not the enemy. The frailty of weak and wandering hearts turns a potentially helpful tool into an instrument of destruction. In a world so profoundly dependent on technology, the answer is not to label devices as the problem and avoid them. Rather, reflect on what technology is revealing about what is in your heart and your children’s heart.”[1]

This approach deals with the deeper issue. Conversations must be about what is driving screen activity is more important. What is motivating what they consume, produce, and promote online is ultimately where the problem lies. The screen simply gives a platform for the heart.

Recognizing that technology or screens are not the root problem will create a avenue to see the potential positive use that screens can bring into your child’s world. Rather than focusing on the screen consider how to better understand what is drawing your child and begin to have conversations there.

[1] From Raising Kids in a Screen-Saturated World. Pre-order your copy at 10of Those.com.

Conversations for Engaged Couples

As a marriage counselor, I have seen my share of troubled marriages. While each marital crisis is unique, one thing is universal for these couples- they did not get married to be miserable. They, like you, hoped to live happily ever after. They didn’t plan on one day looking at each other and questioning the decision of “‘till death do us part.”  In many cases, the troubles these couples face predate the marriage. The marital disappointments connect to the couple’s interaction before they said, “I do.”

If you are engaged, there are important conversations the two of you should have about your current relationship. The topics below highlight key pitfalls that engaged couples can fall into that will lead to marital distress if not addressed. Building a strong marriage begins now. As you read, consider where your own relationship is and what may need to be addressed. Then share your thoughts with a trusted mentor or counselor.

Common premarital pitfalls include:

1. Expecting Your Fiancé or the Relationship to Carry Too Much

If your relationship has advanced to engagement it means you have shared significant moments together. You are likely a source of strength for each other. Your fiancé may know you better than anyone else. This is wonderful and probably a big reason why you want to spend the rest of your life together. However, if your fiancé or the relationship is your ultimate source of hope or help, it will be more than the person or relationship can bear. We are designed to be dependent, but that dependency must always be ultimately on the Lord (Ps. 62:5-8). Have you felt the weight of being the source of your fiancé’s emotional balance? Is your fiancé the only one you turn to when you need hope? Does the status of your relationship determine your happiness? Your relationship will buckle under this weight, but the Lord will not.

Couples must point each other to the Lord. You can pray together and share Scripture to encourage each other. These are wonderful habits, but you both need to personally be resting in Jesus and looking ultimately and regularly to Him. Jesus is the best savior and refuge for your fiancé; you are not able to carry that weight (Ps. 46:1). This truth must be the foundation on which you build your marriage.

2. Swimming at Only One End of the Conversational Pool

When a couple only occupies the shallow end of this pool, they ignore vital conversations. They have a lot of fun and often have great memories of exciting times. They talk about the things they enjoy doing or interests they both have. Life is fun, just like kids playing in the shallow end of the pool. But when things get difficult, talking is hard. They tend to get out of the pool when conversations go deep. They don’t have the relational stamina to swim in the deep end. It’s exhausting.

On the other end of this pool are the couples who tend to only swim in the deep end. Their conversations are often about vital areas of the relationship. They discuss their relationship, faith, family, and plans very deeply (and often late into the night). When they have conflict, they talk through all the areas of hurt or misunderstanding. Every aspect of their relationship has deep meaning, and they intend to find it. While this kind of relationship has more stamina to tread the waters of deep conversation, they can lack the enjoyment, playful interaction, and rest that the shallow end can bring. This too is exhausting.

Couples need both. You need to know how to enjoy the less deep end of life that finds joy and pleasure in the little blessings all around you (1 Tim. 6:7). You also need to have the relational stamina to go deep with one another and not drown (Prov. 20:5). Learning this balance now will greatly help your future marriage.

3. Getting Physical

Until you are married, sexual activity is stepping outside of God’s plan for your relationship. God designed sex with a purpose. Sex invites another person into the most vulnerable places of your life. It is an act of building trust. Sex is also one of the most significant ways couples experience betrayal. Sex can build or break trust in a relationship. Infidelity or adultery is when married couples take sex outside of God’s plan (Ex. 20:14). Fornication or sexual immorality is when unmarried couples take sex outside of God’s plan (1 Thess. 4:3-5). These activities are battering rams to the walls of trust in your relationship and future marriage. If you are engaging sexually now, you and your fiancé are saying, “I am willing to compromise on God’s plan of faithfulness for our relationship.” If you and your fiancé will compromise on faithfulness to God’s plan now, why should you trust that compromise in faithfulness won’t happen once you are married? God wants you to have sex. He just wants you to enjoy it the way He designed it (Heb. 13:4). His design protects your future marriage. His design also builds trust into your relationship.

As you read through these pitfalls, did you see some characteristics of your relationship? If so, it isn’t a deal-breaker but it should be a conversation starter. The Lord is a redeeming God. He is gracious and forgiving. Turn to Him for grace and consider talking with someone about these pitfalls. Seek out a wise mentor, a respected married couple, or a biblical counselor. Share this with them and begin the conversation. Having these conversations will help you now and in your future marriage.

This article was first published by Eliza Huie for the Biblical Counseling Coalition.

God’s Grace in Your Suffering by David Powlison- Video Review

This excellent resource brings compassionate wisdom to those facing trials and suffering. Author, David Powlison offers hope on every single page of this very readable book. Check out my review here and then go order it from Crossway today!

You Are Not Alone: Hope for Hurting Parents of Troubled Kids. – Book Response.

(This post was written and shared anonymously by of a mother of 5 children seeking to honor the Lord in this journey called parenting.)

Every once in a while, life surprises us by converting a seemingly mundane moment into a watershed.  The rather mundane task of finding a book at the library to help my 15-year-old with a research paper led me to a book that breathed new hope into my parched soul. The title jumped out in bold letters, You Are Not Alone:  Hope for Hurting Parents of Troubled Kids.  Instinctively, my hand reached out and picked it up.  I flipped it over to read: “You would go to the ends of the earth for your child.  So, if your teenager or young adult is in the midst of crisis due to self-injury, mental illness, depression, bullying, or destructive choices, you probably feel broken, powerless, and isolated.”  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Did this author know me?  I had been in a hard battle for the past six months with two of my adult children.  I had been reading, discussing, praying, clashing, and pleading with God for answers.  There are answers here?  In this book?  From the public library?  If you say so. . .

I was quite surprised to find this book for a number of reasons.  Primarily, I was surprised that I had never heard of this title or its author, Dena Yohe, given my own personal connections to the biblical counseling world and Christian authorship in general.  Secondly, it surprised me that it was being so predominately displayed in a public library. Though I checked it out, I actually put it aside for a few weeks thinking that it was probably not going to be very biblically sound since it was being endorsed in the public square.  But God has a sense of humor and loves to challenge our faulty thinking!

I started the book with a cynical eye, convinced that it was going to be a weak offering of self-help platitudes and feel good warm fuzzies with little gospel power.  I was wrong.

Dena has personally gone through parenting hell.  She pulls no punches; she makes no excuses; she gives no empty promises. She is self-revealing, compassionate, and full of gospel hope.

After reading, You Are Not Alone, I was impacted most significantly by the reality that there is no perfect parent.  You may be thinking, well, duh, I know that already.  But hear me:  we all start out wanting to be that perfect parent.  We vowed to not make the mistakes we saw other parents make; we dedicated ourselves to do whatever it took to bring our kids up in the knowledge and admonition of the Lord.  We believed that if I do this, this will be the result.   I used to look at troubled kids and say, “I wonder what mistakes their parent made?”  And foolishly concluded, “Well, that won’t happen to me!”  What brought the message home loud and clear was the example of God, Himself.  God is the perfect Parent.  And look how we turned out.  How does knowing this help me?  God having troubled kids is part of a perfect plan.  He is my children’s ultimate parent.  I fail.  He does not.  Yet, even in my failure, His plan will prevail for His glory, my good, and my children’s good.

I was challenged to understand that we need to let our children fail—even miserably.  They need to learn to turn to God in their failure.  We need to stop trying to fix them, their situation, or outcome.  We can still love them as they struggle, but it will look vastly different than what we may have envisioned.  It will take God’s grace for us to accomplish this.  One of the most encouraging things we can do for our child is to work on the issues in our own life that God reveals along the path of parenting, instead of concentrating on our rescue plan for the struggling child.

Dena offers practical suggestions, passages of scripture to cling to, and a plethora of other resources to help us, parents of troubled kids, navigate these uncharted waters.  Equally helpful were reflections scattered throughout the book by her daughter, Renee, giving her unique perspective on being the troubled child.  Even if you aren’t a parent of a child grappling with the difficulties of life, you can benefit from this book.  Parents of troubled kids are some of the most misunderstood, marginalized, and isolated subgroups in our churches today.  Could God be calling you to minister to them?

I am grateful that God, in His providence, had me find this hidden gem in the most unlikely of places for this, my most unexpected of journeys. I look forward to reading it again in the weeks to come.  Will you join me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want an extraordinary year? Start with the ordinary.

I am a creature of habit. So are you. We breath in and out daily routines without even noticing. What do you do when you first wake up? Not what do you want to do, or what you think you should do, but what do you do? Think about it for a moment. That is your routine. What do you do tackle first in your work? How do you engage daily with your family, your co-wokers, and your classmates? That is your routine. Where does God fit in in your daily life? Prayer? Worship? Are these things reserved for Sunday or are there ways you engage day to day? That is your routine. There is usually nothing extraordinary about it. It is…well…routine.

As a new year dawns it is an appropriate time to reflect on what ordinary things you could be doing to make the new year extraordinary. If you are like me there are probably some long-time daily rituals that need evicting. Namely, those things that seem to steal away your time. The daily habits that hijack your best intentions. They are mindless routines that are not helping you live fully invested in the weightier matters. They may not be bad things but they are keeping you from engaging in the best things. And they are shaping you. In her brilliant book, The Liturgy of the Ordinary, Tish Harrison Warren explains further, “We move in patterns that we have set over time, day by day. These habits and practices shape our loves, our desires, and ultimately who we are and what we worship.”

As you enter in to a new year take some time to take a look at your ordinary life. Do an inventory. Are there things you need to get very serious about eliminating from your day in 2018? Look at the ordinary activities that, on the surface, look harmless and insignificant but minute by minute, day by day, they are keeping you from being faithful to the call you have on your life from the Lord. Are your routines helping or hindering you from engaging in eternal things. Do your daily rituals bring value to your relationships? How are your little habits impacting your walk with the Lord?

As 2017 ends, consider the ordinary in your day. Think about the things you may need to remove but also consider the things you may need to get more serious about including. Let this be the year you finish that book, the year you read through the Bible, or the year you pursue with passion a life fully committed to Jesus. Start with the ordinary. That is where you will find what is needed to make 2018 an extraordinary year.

Practical Point

Do you want to make 2018 an extraordinary year? Share this with someone close to you and tell them what you plan to eliminate from your daily routine and what you plan to include. Ask if they would keep you accountable, or even better, join you!

 

What Disappointment Reveals

If you are like me you have lived long enough to have been through disappointment. We actually encounter disappointment often. The disappointment in missing out on an event with friends, or disappointment when your team loses a championship game, or perhaps the disappointment of not winning that latest gadget after standing in line for hours. As much as these can ruin our day this is not the disappointment I want to look at. The disappointment I am talking about is the disappointment that is coupled with grief and hurt. Broken friendships or relationships, a job loss, being let down by a leader you trusted, or a crisis of health that changes the way life looks are just a few ways deep disappointment can take us to a place of great discouragement and pain.

Facing moments of significant disappointment can be revealing. It can reveal what we believe about people, suffering, and even God.

Disappointment reveals what we believe about people.

When a relationship fails to be what we had hoped often there is significant hurt. The investment we gave can feel wasted or worse it can leave us feeling used. In moments like this it is easy to only think of the bad things the relationship brought. But in reality the fact that there is disappointment and even pain is because there was once happiness. Grief is there because there was once joy. Only if we avoid deep relationships can we possibly avoid some of the pain but we will certainly miss out on the joy as well.

We are called to be in relationships. But those relationships are not called to be life for us. They cannot bear the weight of that. We are to find life in Jesus alone. In resting our hopes in Him we are then able to enjoy relationships with people in ways that free them from bearing the responsibility of our happiness.

Disappointment reveals what we believe about suffering.

When life disappoints us our responses expose our understanding of suffering. If we are shocked that things are not going as we had hoped or if we feel utterly confused by the trials we face it may be that we need to expand our understanding of what it means to be called to suffer (1 Peter 2:21). Suffering should not be looked at only through a lens of punishment or opposition. Suffering is a refining agent that makes us more beautiful (1 Peter 1: 6-7). With this view of suffering we can know that the Lord will use disappointment to shape us into a more beautiful person if we allow it. It is good to remember that he is in the fire with us (Daniel 3:24-25). We do not suffer alone.

Disappointment reveals what we believe about God.

When we face disappointment it reveals what we believe about God. Where did you go the last time you were disappointed. Did you call your best friend? Did you call your parents? Did you isolate believing that you were the only one who would protect you from further disappointment? I have done some of those things. Calling on friends and family is not a bad idea (it can actually be helpful) but if that is the only place we go it could point to our belief about who God is in suffering. He someone to run to in trouble. Do you believe He has something for you in this disappointment?  Do you believe He will help you? Do you believe that He is an “ever present help” in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1)?

So when life brings disappointment it is important to take the time to reflect on what it reveals. Certainly there is more it can reveal than what is written here but in looking at these things it can begin to reframe how we see things. In this place we are more likely to grow and become stronger in our faith and love toward God as we trust His purposes and follow His perfect plan for us when things don’t turn out how we hoped.

 

 

 

 

How to Fight the Pull of Anxiety

Anxiety is a pulling experience. How much it is pulling often goes unnoticed. Although much of what you feel, when dealing with anxiety, is felt in the present moment it is doesn’t have its strongest hold on the present. Instead anxiety is about the future and the past.

The Pull to the Future

Anxiety pulls you into the future and throws a millions “what ifs” at you. What if this happens or what if that doesn’t happen? What if I make a fool of myself? What if I will be alone? What if my loved ones get hurt? What if get hurt? What if I panic? What if things go wrong? These questions and so many others are what anxiety asks persistently. They are all thoughts about the future. They say to you that you must prepare for the war ahead. Anxiety is the forecast of harm and danger that awaits you. Thoughts of the impending harm begins to feel very present by their continual tormenting.

The Pull to the Past

Anxiety also pulls to the past. Perhaps you have had a troubling experience that replays when situations seem similar. Maybe you have known intimately the feeling of being alone or rejected. The thoughts quickly pull you into the past and another set of “what ifs” invade. What if I fail once more? Maybe the money is going to run out again? What if my illness returns? He/she might leave me a second time? What if my family hurts me again? These thoughts flood your mind and say that life went bad before and it will probably go bad again. Anxiety causes you to look at the present situation through the shadow of past hurts and tells you things are not safe. <–Click to Tweet.

Your Body’s Response

In both of these situations your body begins to respond to future and past struggles in the present. I heard someone once explain the physiological effects of anxiety as your mind telling your body that the war is not over. Despite the fact that often, in the present moment, none of the doom imagined is actually happening the body begins to react as if it is.

Your “fight or flight response” has been triggered by the pull of anxiety. In reaction your brain begins to produce adrenaline to aid you against the perceived harmful attack. You may begin to feel your heart rate increasing. Your breathing may become rapid and shallow. You will likely experience trouble concentrating on anything other than the worry. Normal tasks you used to be able to do are much more difficult. You sense you have a shorter tolerance for frustrating moments. You may find sleep is very difficult and so you often feel tired. You might even notice occasionally trembling, numbness in hands and feet, and sweating.

Your body responds even when you aren’t thinking about the anxious thoughts. The anxious buildup from the many thoughts that have flooded your thinking are having their effect on the body. Much like a teacup that is filled to the brim, you don’t notice it is a problem until one more little drop is placed in and then the spillover comes. These physical symptoms can actually cause even more anxiety.

Stay in the Present

So what can be done with these strong pulls to the future and past? The key is to stay in the present. This can be hard for someone who is feeling the physical effects of anxiety. Staying in the present is the way out of the anxious moment. Respond to the physical symptoms of built up anxiety with physical activity in the present moment. Taking slow deep breaths is one of the best ways to fight the physical symptoms of anxiety. Deep breathing actually triggers the “rest and digest response” in your brain. By taking a couple slow deep breaths your body begins to respond to the rich oxygenated blood that is going throughout your body all the way to your fingers and toes. In contrast to the rapid shallow breathing that tells your brain something is wrong.

In the present you can begin to counter the anxious thoughts with what is true. Calling to mind helpful truths will give less space in your brain for the anxious pulls of replaying the past or the frenetic thoughts of preparing for the future. Tell yourself that you have gotten through anxious moments before and this moment will likewise pass. Think of the people who have been helpful to you and remind yourself in the moment of how they have helped.

Allow God to be your comfort and hold on tightly to his truth. You do not suffer alone. He promises to help you. It is no coincidence that in Psalm 46:1 it says that, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” The present is where your help is. He will not leave you or forsake you. Cling to that truth and stay present with it. The Scripture is full of promises from God to be with you in trouble and that he will faithfully help you. The opposite of anxiety is peace. Peace comes from knowing that God is in control when you feel your life is out of control.  (<-lCick to tweet.) Take your struggles to the Lord. Cast your anxiety on him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

*Mindfulness activities can help calm anxiety and give your brain a rest from the flooding happening in your body. In addition to deep breathing, here is a simple mindfulness activity to try the next time you are struggling with the physical symptoms of anxiety.

Caring Starts with Prayer

Prepare for the session

As a counselor I want to be prepared for each one of my sessions. I can look over past notes, consider resources, or maybe consider homework to suggest. Preparation may mean I do some reading on what the person is struggling with and learn ways others have helped people in similar situations. Preparing for a session can be very helpful both for me and the person I am seeing.

Prayer for the session

But as a biblical counselor I am convinced that as important as being prepared is, it is not the most important thing. In order to care for people well I have to have spent time in prayer with God for them. Prayer centers my mind and heart and takes the focus and pressure off me. Prayer reminds me that the people who are coming in for counseling need the same thing I need. I am not what people need. My words are not what people need. What people need is the comfort and care of the Lord. In order for me to care well for people I need to hear from the Lord, I need to be with the Lord.

Diane Langberg in her book, In Our Lives First, Meditations for Counselors, states so wisely…

“How quickly our eyes become riveted on the task and not the Master! We think somehow that our primary task is the work we do. It is a good work. It is an important work. It is even a work that God himself has called us to do. It is, however, never to become our main work. Our first task, the one that is to govern all else, is that of maintaining relationship with the only One who is needful.”

The Reminders of Prayer

Prayer also reminds me that I am not alone in counseling. God is present and ready to help those who I am seeking to care for. God is invested in their good and their needed healing more than anyone else in the room. Prayer reorients my agenda so that I can get out of the way and yield to what God wants to do in each situation.

For me, this means I must commit to praying for each person I am caring for. Most of the time this comes in a daily review of my calendar. I look at the names I have on my schedule and I take time to pray for each person. I know very intimately the struggle and suffering they face so my prayers can be very focused. I pray for help in their situations. I pray for wisdom and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s work as I walk with them. I also pray that they would know God’s love in very specific ways as we meet. I pray that I would be able to love them well and speak the words God has for them rather than what I think they should hear.

The Reorientation of Prayer

It has been my experience that the sessions where I confess my total dependence through prayer and I seek the Lord for help are far more helpful meetings than if I took a good amount of time to prepare, read, or study up on things. This isn’t to say I don’t prepare. I do. But it is not the most important thing. Prayer reorients me to the One who is able to bring healing and change to people’s lives.

Scripture gives examples of those called to ministry being called to a life of prayer. Samuel saw it as potential sin to not pray for the people who were under his direction and care. Consider what this means regarding the place of prayer in ministry.

“Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right.” 1 Samuel 12:23

All in all prayer centers my heart and positions me to give better care and counsel when I have spent time with the Wonderful Counselor.

God and Conflict Resolution

If you are in any relationship you have experienced conflict. Starting in the earliest years in your family life you began to learn how to respond to conflict. From there you may have adapted and changed but you still have a style or approach to conflict that will show up no matter the struggle. Resolving conflict is something people will have to face. Psychology tells us that there are basically 5 ways people resolve conflict. Most people will yield to one these five ways. They are:

Avoidant– A person doesn’t like to deal with the conflict and will seek ways to evade it. They may withdraw from or ignore the person with whom they are in conflict. They are usually good at pretending that nothing happened and move on with life as normal. Being avoidant can lead to continual repeats of conflict because ultimately things are never addressed.

Accommodating– This is the person who gives in when faced with conflict. The accommodating person will accept another’s ideas even if they do not agree. It is a surrender of opinion to let the other person have their way. While one person walks away happy the accommodating person is likely to begin to feel significant resentment leading toward possible bitterness.

Competitive– This person stands their ground. Their goal is to beat the other person out when it comes to a disagreement. The conversation is more of a competition of proving that they are right rather than working toward any kind of resolution. It can often be attacking and inconsiderate. A competitive person will likely gain immediate ground in conflict but in the long run their approach will prove be detrimental to relationships.

Compromising– This method of conflict resolution is more of a give and take. Both people look to consider the common ground and work toward negotiating things they each will let go of in order to meet a resolution. This approach seems like a win-win but often neither party feels they got what they wanted and passive aggressive interaction is common.

Collaborating– This is a considerate method of working together for a solution. Both parties seek to listen, understand, and discuss what their goals are for the situation. It requires a joining together to work for a solution that is better than what was presented individually. People who collaborate are usually respected and appreciated in relationships.

As you read those descriptions you likely saw yourself in one or maybe two of them. But where does God fit in this brief look at resolutions to conflict? Where would you classify his style of conflict resolution? Maybe you would put him as compromising or collaborative but there is just something that doesn’t fully fit. This is where God is not like us.

God is not afraid of conflict. In fact the greatest conflict of the world was something God planned. The conflict of the cross was by far the most significant conflict in human history. No war, civil rights movement, or historical ruling ever marked history like the cross (click to tweet). But the conflict of the cross shows us how God the Father brings resolution to conflict. He doesn’t avoid or compete. He doesn’t even collaborate. Instead God redeems in conflict. The cross brought redemption for us from the state that we were in, separated from God by sin, to where we now stand as believers in Jesus, fully accepted as beloved children. God redeems what was lost and beyond repair and brings new hope and purpose.

What does that mean for us? Certainly we cannot expect to be able to redeem every conflict. Some conflict will never fully be resolved until the last day when the Lord pronounces justice through his judgement or acquittal through the blood of Jesus. On that day he will wipe away the tears of conflict that have lasted a lifetime. Instead we should seek to approach conflict in a way that reflects our call to love one another. Our approach to conflict resolution should be impacted by the redemptive resolution shown to us by a merciful and loving God. So far as it depends on us, we ought to seek to live peaceably with everyone with a disposition of humility that reflects a heart of trust in the Lord. Often our attempts will bring peace but sometimes things will remain unresolved. When this is the case, trusting God is imperative.

If God had our backs in the greatest conflict there ever was (the cross) then he certainly will have our backs as we seek to honor him when faced with conflict. This will not be easy. We may find ourselves terribly misunderstood, misrepresented, and ultimately misjudged in a conflict with another. Despite humble and loving attempts discord may still remain. What can we do then?

Once again the cross teaches us about God and conflict resolution. This time we must look at God the Son. Jesus was right in the middle of the conflict of the cross. He was misunderstood, misrepresented, and ultimately misjudged. How did he get through that? In 1 Peter 2:23 it says, “When he was reviled he he did not revile in return; when he suffered her did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”  Jesus kept his focus on God when faced with conflict. He didn’t put his trust in his ability to defend himself nor did he hope the courts would bring a just ruling. He continued entrusting himself to God.  When we face conflict we ought to make efforts to work through it and pursue peace, but if it remain unsettled we need to follow the example of Jesus and look to God.

God knows how to redeem all of our conflict. We may or may not see it fully resolved despite our efforts to pursue peace. We must trust him and rest in the work of Jesus for us. He may be using conflict to bring about further sanctification in our own lives as we continue to look to our redeeming God.